Monday, August 4, 2008

Finding My Groove at Cool

Results can be found here

I was a little nervous as I joined about 85 runners at the Cool 12 Hour Night Run Saturday evening. I watched the sun get closer to the horizon and it felt weird to be lining up to start a race. Never the less, after Nancy's pre-race speech, we headed off down the dusty trail.

Nancy giving the pre race briefing
Robert and Linda Mathis waiting to count laps for runners
This race date fell on one of my shift days but I decided to work until 4:00 then head over the summit down to Cool. I gave a lot of thought to what Gretchen wrote about last year regarding pre-race meals. It's a little harder to manage when the race starts at 7:00pm. But since this race (and I use that term loosely) was to be so low key for me, I decided to not sweat it and picked up some McDonalds on my way out of Reno. I figured I'd be running so slow that I wouldn't have any tummy troubles and I was right. Besides I'm with Steve, I try to eat right but I'm no purist. I eat my fair share of junk food so I would hate to shock my system by eating too healthy :)
Runners getting lined up for the start
Now with the disclaimers. After Big Sur, I didn't run the entire month of May and June. July saw only a few runs, nothing over a few miles. So my expectations for Cool were pretty low. My leg would hurt sometimes but didn't seem to get better when I didn't run and wasn't getting much worse when I did. So I figured what the heck, may as well run. I thought about my goals and first of all, I just wanted the experience of running in the dark, at least halfway thru the night. I wanted to test hydration systems and lights. Mileage-wise, I thought it would be great to do 4 laps for 36 miles but didn't know if that would be realistic. I would be happy with 3 laps, disappointed with just 2.
An old burn from earlier this
On the first lap, I brought 2 bottles and my lights, just in case I couldn't finish the first lap before dark. It was warm, as expected in that area in August. The trail was loose dust and it didn't take long before everyone's legs were covered in thick dirt. Before the start I saw Peter Lubbers and the Abbs (I'm still working on recognizing people and putting faces and names together). One thing nice about this format is I knew I'd be seeing the front runners again as they lapped me; I just hoped it wouldn't be before I finished my first loop!
My leg felt pretty good right from the start. I kept my pace slow but was surprised to find my heart rate climbing much higher then it should. Wow, it hit me just how out of running shape I am. I walked the hills and ran the flats and downhills easy. It was an enjoyable pace but tough for the competitor in me. It didn't take me long to realize 4 laps probably wasn't going to happen.
3.2 down, 5.8 to go, Lap 1
I reached the 5.5 mile aid station just as the sun was setting. This is the aid station where Norm and Helen Klein commit themselves to taking care of runners all night long. What amazing people and we're lucky to have them in the ultrarunning world.
Say Goodnight
Norm and Helen ready the aid station
I started on the last 3.5 miles back to the start and was surprised at all the uphill that I had to walk. It was more than I expected but then we got back up into the rollers and it was a great run back to the start/finish. The sun had set and it was getting dark but my eyes were adjusting and I didn't need my lights yet. Some other people were using theirs but I was able to (stubbornly) complete the first loop sans light.
I announced my number to Robert and Linda Mathis then some wonderful volunteers filled my bottles and made sure I had everything I wanted to eat. One thing I had heard about Nancy Warren's event was how wonderful the food is and I wasn't disappointed. I changed out my hydration pack for a fuel belt with 2 smaller bottles and one hand held bottle so I could use my other hand for my flashlight. It was completely dark when I headed out for lap 2 and I was feeling great. I wasn't sure how I would deal with the dark because strange noises and things that go bump in the night make me a bit nervous. Ok, I can be a scaredycat. But I was exhilarated running the trails in the dark, listening to the mysterious night creatures moving about. At one point a large mouse ran out on the trail in front of me. I think he was confused with my light so he kept running in front of me, looking back occasionally. Finally he got off the trail to see what had been following him. He was the only "wild animal" I saw but I heard plenty more rustling in the bushes, nothing big tho. No wild goats or skunks, thankfully.
Things started to get tough physically the second part of lap 2. The downhills were a killer and my right knee was bothering me a bit. I wasn't looking forward to the third lap. I check in with Robert and Linda again just before midnight and headed for my drop bag near the aid station. I've never done a race with a drop bag before and I had to laugh and what I did. After the first lap I had put my drop bag on a chair and got what I needed. It wasn't until I was a mile or so into my second loop that I realized I had walked away from my bag without putting it back with the others. I couldn't even remember if I had put my stuff back into it and closed it up. Brain fart. I was pleased to see I had zipped it back up and it was still sitting on the chair right where I had left it.
After getting more food and drink (and 500mg Tylenol) I headed out for my 3rd loop. My body was definitely feeling the miles but I was really enjoying myself. The second and third loop were run pretty much by myself. On the second loop, I was lapped by a handful of front runners who were already on their third loop including Bev Abbs (currently third overall) and Peter Lubbers. Everyone said something encouraging and I tried to reciprocate. I had my MP3 on by this time but I always made sure to pause the music when another runner went by. Everyone was so friendly and I didn't want to separate myself from that. I also stopped the music occasionally just to listen to the night sounds.
The Tylenol took the edge off the aches and pains and I was able to run quite a bit of the third loop. The downhills were painful but I was still enjoying myself. And I guess this is where I admit to everyone what I was listening to. I saw Mamma Mia a couple weeks ago and love it. I've already seen it 3 times and will see it again Wed with my mom. I got the soundtrack to the movie which is all ABBA tunes plus ABBA Gold and downloaded it. So, at 2:00 in the morning, pounding out the last mile of a 27 mile night run, Meryl Streep belting out "Winner Takes All" had me racing to the finish line. It was fantastic. I know, dorky. And I wasn't even 10 years old when ABBA debuted so all this music is new to me.
I was happy to finish up my third and final loop. I could have completed a fourth loop but I had already accomplished what I came here for. I had run my first ultra since the beginning of April and was feeling pretty good. The leg had held up and I was sore but not destroyed. It was a good time to stop. I visited with some other runners then had to change into warmer clothes. The temperature stayed warm while running but quickly cooled if you stopped. I stopped the shivering with some hot chocolate I had brought in a thermos. Finally, around 3:45am I headed home. Luckily, it's only about a 40 minute drive so it wasn't long before I was showered and tucked into bed.
Pat had to go on shift in the morning and I never heard him leave. Next thing I'm aware of is my 4 year old gently combing my hair. She then brought me breakfast in bed, 5 strawberries on a plate. My 2 year old was kind enough to play quietly in her crib so I was able to get a solid 4 hours of sleep. Luxury.
It's now been 2 days and I'm feeling pretty good. I did an hour long open water swim this morning and I'm feeling more comfortable with my swimming (that's good for my upcoming triathlon). I think the slow pace and running on trails helped me feel better than I did after running the Big Sur marathon. I'm also taking Hammer Nutrition supplements and I followed the regime for ultra events and recovery and I think that also helped.
I'm looking forward to getting on a running routine again. I have some events coming up this fall that I really want to do. If my leg continues to hold up I should be good to go. The results from Cool aren't up yet but when they are I'll add a link. I want to thank Nancy Warren and her merry band of volunteers for putting on a fun, low key, but very organized event. I would definitely like to push my limits a little further next year.
Anyone interested in stats:
Loop 1: 1:57:26
S/F Aid: 15:43
Loop 2: 2:17:43
S/F Aid: 20:43
Loop 3: 2:22:16
Total time: 7:13:44


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Congrats on making finishing 3 laps!

btw, without even seeing Mama Mia, I had this dream about a week ago that I was hanging out with 2 of the 4 members of ABBA and kept hearing Knowing Me Knowing You and Dancing Queen. So we must have some psychic connection.

Sarah said...

Sounds like the mystery injury is behind you! Congrats on your run.

I've never seen Mamma Mia....but I do have some ABBA on my iPod. : )

Peter Lubbers said...

Hi Catherine,
It was great to see you out there. Sounds like recovery went well, so keep it up and good luck with the triathlon.

Catherine said...

Mark, I hope it was the two girls and not the two guys in your dream! Good luck this weekend.

Sarah, I highly recommend seeing Mamma Mia with your best girlfriends, leave the guys at home!

Peter, congrats on a strong finish.

Darrell said...

This sounds like a really nice way to ease back into ultras. Besides what could go wrong at a place called Cool.