This morning, I'm basking in the afterglow of sore legs and a wobbly, sore right knee following the completion of my first ultra: the Flatlanders 12-Hour Run in Fenton, MO (suburban St. Louis). The goal was 50K, since my training didn't have enough miles per week to ascend to a higher mileage total (topped at 35 miles/week). I did have very good training runs that produced a good heat acclimation (not hard in this summer's stifling heat in the St. Louis area) and helped me adjust to the tedium of a loop course by doing 2-mile loops in my neighborhood, 2-4 hour treadmill runs, and circled a 12-lap/mile indoor track 156 times. Plus a 20-mile run in 5 hours a couple of weeks ago. Since I did 3 solo 12-hour walks for Relay for Life events several years ago (30 pounds ago, covering only 20 miles each time), I thought I could get to 50K if the weather cooperated. It did, thanks to Isaac.
In the first hour of the run, Isaac dropped a soaking deluge on us--then gave us a couple of other showers in the first 6 hours of the event. That helped keep my thermostat cool (when it wasn't raining, it was cloudy and breezy) and my energy level up. Otherwise, if the temperature had climbed into the low 90s in the absence of Isaac, I don't know if I would've reached my goal. During the downpour, I was grinning from ear to ear--it was like being a kid again, splashing around in puddles without a care in the world.
So, I covered 12 miles in the first 3 hours. I had a strategy of running for the first 45-50 minutes of an hour, and walking the other 10-15 minutes for as long as I could. That lasted for the first 4 hours--so I started alternating walking and running/shuffling according to how I felt. I ate Clif bars every couple of hours, and took long drinks of grape-flavored Nuun beverages after each lap. I did feed a guilty pleasure, and it worked beautifully--I bought two Amp energy drinks when I picked up a bag of ice on my way to the venue. OH DOCTORRRRRR!!! Those ice-cold Amps went down great, and they lived up to the names on the cans, as they gave my legs a lift that lasted over an hour. I drank one of them at the 4-hour mark, and the other at 8-hours.
18 miles were covered in 5 hours, and I reached the halfway point with 22 miles under my belt. I had a Neil Armstrong moment at 8 hours, passing the marathon distance at 26.6 miles and into the ultraworld. Even though I was steadily getting slower, I still covered 30 miles in 9 hours and was in the envious position of needing only one more mile in the last 3 hours to reach my goal. I know stockpiling miles early is not the right thing to do, but it luckily worked out for me because I wanted to take full advantage of the cool, rainy start. And, even when it started to get very warm, the breeze was still evident to keep the conditions somewhat comfortable.
My goal was reached at the 10-hour mark, running my 23rd 1.4-mile paved loop to reach 32.2 miles. At that point, I was becoming too tired to get overly emotional, but it was extremely gratifying to exceed my goal in my first ultra. Especially when the training that I was able to accomplish paid off nicely. A vastly different vibe than worrying about bringing up the rear in a marathon and being picked up by a collection wagon.
With about an hour to go, my shuffle was barely distinguishable from a walk, and my right ITB band outside of my knee continually barked for the last 2-3 hours. My wife was able to find a knee brace that provided enough stability without being too bulky, so I slowly chugged along with her and two of our kids watching for the last 2 hours. At the 11th hour, I reached 35 miles and my feet were killing me--I have neuropathy that produces tingles and burning sensations when I walk on good days, and after 11 hours I was ready to cash in my chips. Two of the lap counters convinced me to keep going, so I tried to push the pace with an accompanying light shower until 30 minutes were left. At that point, with darkness descending at 7:20 in the evening, runners were given little flags with their race numbers on them, and we went up and back along a 1/8th mile track as fast as we could until the siren sounded. I started that back-and-forth scurrying with 37.8 miles, and I somehow was able to add 2 more miles to my total before the end of the race.
I didn't know exactly how many miles I had in that last half-hour. With all the runners streaming out-and-back, it was too difficult to call out everyone's mileage. I was very pleasantly surprised when the final total was 39.8. There were various eats afterward, but I wasn't too hungry. I wanted to get my medal and hurry home to get an epsom salt bath and relieve the tightening pain in my legs.
I had no problems with hydration, no problems with bonking or anything like that (plenty of Gatorade, water for my Nuuns, Coke, and even light beer--along with various snacks and fruit). There were 3 other water fountains along the loop, so you didn't go more than a half-mile without getting a drink. And, all of the runners and race officials were very welcoming and complimentary of my efforts. All told, a near-perfect first ultra!