“Great job Papa!You’re an ultramarathoner!You’re also the best Papa in the world!XOXO Gaigai”(from a card she made me after the race)
The morning of the race dawned cold and misty, with a beautiful fog rolling through. To pick up my bib, I wore arm sleeves and gloves, and was still chilly. Having forgotten the antibiotics I needed to take while on the course, I walked back to our camping spot, for more time with the family and the appealing warmth of the RV. Knowing the day was going to warm up, I decided to jettison the warmer gear and head to the start with minutes to spare.
True to something needing to fail on race day, my Garmin turned on and then immediately off, which was both good and bad. Without the watch to fall back on, I could not look at my wrist every few seconds to gauge our pace. Kim and Rachel were both wearing watches though, so I kept track through them. Beyond the Garmin, I wore my Brooks PureFlows, Compressport calf sleeves, Brooks Sherpa 2-in-1 shorts, a Brooks tech tee, Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, a Compressport visor, and a GoLite hydration waist belt. Everything excepting the Garmin worked really well and were good choices, though there were times I wished I had a sleeveless shirt (it got warm!).
Kettle Moraine is comprised of endless hills, prairies, and beautiful wooded areas. We ran on an incredible variety of surfaces, ranging from mown grass to soft sand to ostrich-egg sized rocks (and bigger!). It kept things interesting and on our toes. Well, most of the time–we all took some tumbles, stubbing toes on exposed roots and rocks, falling ass over teakettle.
The first 13 miles of so were a pleasant interlude, as we got to know each other and enjoyed the incredible scenery we were running through. At one road bend, I ran into Brian of New Leaf Ultras, who I had never met before, but recognized from Facebook—he was there to support his wife Kelly, cheering her on with his son. Heading into the second third of the race, I developed a pain in the ball of my left foot. At the 16 mile aid station, I re-laced my shoe, took my antibiotics and pain reliever,, and hoped for the best. It temporarily seemed to do the trick, but the pain soon returned, adding some sharp knee pain as well. Not good. By the 22 mile aid tent, I was alternating running and walking, and the pain went from knee to calf to ball of foot, just a dull ache that would not stop. I continued alternating running and walking, allowing Kim and Rachel to get ahead before running to catch them—after awhile, it hurt just as much to walk as run, so I ran as much as I could.
There were times I really felt like stepping off the course and not finishing. Knowing that Laima and the kids were waiting for me at the end of the race was one of the things that kept me going and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I also felt like I owed Kim and Rachel a full effort, as we had supported each other so much during the early stages—they were so strong, really impressive! The other thing was that, apart from the leg pain, I felt really good, somewhat tired, but not struggling. At the aid stations I ate bananas, brownies, and potato chips, with some water, Nuun, or Gu Roctane, so my fueling and hydration seemed to be okay. So, on I went, and we all finished together, which was as it should be, having started together.
While waiting for the Kids Race to finish, I started feeling lightheaded, so I walked over to the Medical Tent, where they gave me a bag of ice to put on my neck and a chair in the shade. Not long after, I threw up some water, ate a banana, and felt a lot better. Laima and the kids collected me, we walked back to the RV, and I lay down for a while until it was time to make dinner—well, collect dinner, as we had pizzas delivered to the campground gatehouse. It was a nice celebration.
If you had asked me if I planned to run another ultra on Saturday, either during or after the race, I probably would have answered no. By Saturday evening, I was starting to reconsider. In a bit of serendipity, I am reading Ed Ayres’ book The Longest Race, about ultrarunning and human endurance (among other things, a great book, a must-read for aspiring or current ultrarunners, review forthcoming). The knee and leg pain may have been just bad luck, but I believe it was more a case of not having enough deposits in the bank, not enough miles in my legs to actually run this race. I think the Smart Marathon Training Plan was a good one, I just did not execute it to its fullest, and will definitely use it going forward.
I can see the appeal of ultramarathons, at least the ones run in beautiful surroundings, with the testing of oneself and the conditions received. Next year Laima and I are planning on the Chicago Marathon, so I will make sure to get in plenty of longer runs before then. Healthier eating is also a must, as is weight loss – at about 40 pounds overweight, I ran this ultra as if I was carrying an extra toddler! Really displaying grace and endurance, Laima ran an amazing half marathon on Sunday at The North Face Endurance Challenge, her first trail race! Read all about it at Women’s Endurance Gear!
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