168.12 miles run and 12.75 miles biked and 6409 meters swam in races in 2019 races
Race: Perpetual Motion 6 Hour
Place: Grapevine, TX
Miles from home: 216
Weather: 50-60 degrees; bright sun; warm
I haven't technically done an ultramarathon in years. In fact, the last time I ran over 26.2 miles in one shot was when I broke a course record in a 50k April 2016 - and finished second. Granted, I did a relay that had me running 40 miles the week before that April 2016 race and earlier this fall I raced an interesting format that had a total of 37.2 miles, but neither was a straight shot of running. I wanted to end that streak with this race.
If you don't know what a race where you run for time and not distance is about, I wrote an article for Runner's World a few years ago about this. Basically, instead of trying to run a set distance in as little time as possible, you are running as far as you can in a set time. Slight difference but world's apart in preparation and execution.
|Super hot in 2007|
The last time I had done a race here in Grapevine was in 2007 and it was a similar style race. In fact, I think it might have been the precursor to this race that new management took over. That 24-hour race went poorly for me mostly because of warm weather. It was also the race where, in the middle, I learned of my father's worsening health. To say it was not a good day would be an understatement. The forecast looked much better this time and, well, my father has already passed away so at least he couldn't do that again.
A 9 a.m. start meant a casual morning but it also meant that I would, eventually, be running into the warmest part of the day. We were scheduled to have mostly 50 degree weather, Unfortunately, the course had virtually no shade, no buildings to block the sun, or anything else which might shield runners from whatever the weather might have in store for us. We were indeed exposed and had to hope for the best. Situated mere feet from a large lake also meant would could be dealing with some wind. That was something I had experienced a great deal of before in the 2007 race but it looked calm for us today.
I felt relatively well-trained even if I hadn't done anything close to ultra-specific training in a long time, as mentioned above. But I told myself all I had to do was left, right, left for 360 minutes. However far I went, giving all I had, was all I could ask for.
The loop we were running on was half of a mile and mostly flat. I say mostly because it definitely had a smile rise and drop each loop. We began running in a clockwise direction (which would change to counterclockwise after four hours) and went up a 14-foot hill. Who cares about 14 feet? Well, I can tell you that if you are running for six or twelve or 24 hours, that hill begins to loom a little large when you run it every half mile. In fact, when we ran the other direction it was slightly steeper and many were cursing it after a while.
I felt I had a fairly good shot for an overall win but I had to stay in my zone. Three-quarters of the
As we ran, the temperature raised a little but, more ominously, the clouds started to dissipate. I was not a fan of that development whatsoever. As the first hour counted down, I noticed I was about half of a mile ahead of where I needed to be to get my goal for the day. I felt good. I didn't feel like I was pushing it and all systems were go.
It was clear to me from the beginning that if Aaron was going to maintain this pace, he was going to be running roughly 46 miles. I did not have 46 miles in me today. As such, he was not a concern for the first hour. My feeling was he was either going to crush me or come back to me. At mile 8.5 I passed him for the first time. Now my goal was to maintain this pace as long as possible. I found myself, however, speeding up. I made a mental note to make a concerted effort to slow down a touch. Ignore all the others around you and just run your race, I told myself.
There were roughly 60 people running all the races, which began simultaneously. Most were quite pleasant and supportive. A few, however, didn't seem to feel any need to concede the inside portion of the path to faster runners. Even more grating was when a few would walk or run three abreast. Without a doubt, every runner who paid their entry fee is entitled to the full amenities of the race and is allowed to run wherever they would like. But certain race etiquette would seem to indicate that you try to be as unobtrusive as possible to fellow runners. Hardly the biggest pick to nit, but when you are trying to run as far as you can, you don't want to run extra uncounted mileage. Some of the runners were so nice to almost jump out of my way as I passed. I tried to let them know that it was beyond appreciated but in my shortened breath it probably came out "thkuvrmch!"
Beginning the third hour, I was a mile ahead of Aaron. Barring any major problems, victory would be mine. (Huzzah). Next for me to be concerned about would be how far I ran and if I might be able to take down the course record as well. My loops were beginning to go faster than 8-minutes per mile. I had to keep pulling back on the throttle. There was way too much race left to be running this speed just yet.
I zoned out for a few laps and next thing I knew I had to go to the bathroom again. But now I was over 15 miles in and feeling like everything had settled. The clouds by this time were gone, though. The sun was directly overhead and heating everything up. I still wasn't drinking as much as I should be and I needed to change that. I couldn't afford to bonk in race I was doing so well in.
My friend Sarah and her dog Ike had accompanied me on this trip and were wonderful spectators. Ike was hugely popular with all of the runners and received many head pats and chin scratches. It was nice to be able to see them, and my liquids, every half of a mile. Too bad I was not drinking the way I should. So I began stopping for ten seconds, grabbing a swig, booping a snoot (Ike's not Sarah's) and moving on every few miles.
I had put even more distance between myself and Aaron. As I passed him one time, I told him that his shorts and shirt were covered in white salt from sweat. Having seen this many times on myself, I mentioned he might really want to look into making sure he was getting electrolytes. One problem with a short loop like this is that you can forget to drink. Heck, I had done just that for like two hours!
I knew at the end of this hour we would change directions. I wasn't exactly looking forward to climbing the steeper hill but I used that change as something to break down the race into a smaller portion. With just three loops to go before we implemented this switch, my friend Jennifer showed up from nearby Flower Mound. She had sweetly brought me a Mountain Dew as well! Normally, I drink Diet Mountain Dew but in a race like this, the high-octane stuff is my elixir. It served me well when I ran my 350 mile race up the coast of Oregon and many other events as well.
I changed shirts, lubed up parts that were beginning to chafe, toweled off my body, and talked to Sarah and Jennifer. I downed the entire bottle of Mountain Dew and grabbed a handful of pretzels. I didn't dilly-dally for what felt like a long time but before I knew it, ten minutes of sitdown time had passed. I bade farewell to Jennifer and decided to walk one loop to let all the liquid and pretzels settle down. It was actually a bit surprising how few calories I was doing this run on.
Doing the math it looked like I was going to end up with an even 80 loops. The course was actually slightly longer than .5 of a mile but I wasn't sure how long. I began doing math in my head and I thought that given what I thought I would do in these next two hours would leave me about half a mile short of the course record. I was actually a bit bummed about this. So close. I don't blame the sitdown "lost time" because without it I wouldn't be moving forward again as quickly as I was now. Unfortunately, now instead of 4:10 laps, my laps were closer to 4:30. Each loop was pushing me further and further from the goal.
I was hot. The temperature was well over 60 and the sun was bright. I was beginning to feel the tell-tale signs of dehydration in places like the crook of my arm. I remember how after my first ever marathon I was astounded how sore my arm was but when you hold it in the same position for four hours, that is what happens. I was stopping every few laps for a quick drink of water now instead of powering through. Knowing it was going to take everything I had, and maybe things I didn't, to break the course record meant the last hour was going to hurt.
The start of the final hour lifted my spirits and the first two miles were right what I needed. But then
As the last quarter of an hour beckoned, my legs were heavy. I was drenched in sweat. I was running faster than everyone else but it was no longer people I was trying to beat. I saw that with three loops to go, I had to do it in 12 minutes at a 4 minute lap pace to break what I thought was the course record. Unfortunately, I had 11:23 seconds to do it and wasn't anywhere close to four-minute lap pace at this point.
As I approached the timing mat, I told the timer that I wouldn't need a flag. I was going to stop at this lap and call it a day. I could tell I would finish this loop and still have about two minutes of running left. But I didn't think it was enough for me to get the record so there was no point in using those extra minute.
I decided to walk a little bit and this allowed the aforementioned harasser one last time to bother me. Tis a shame that this will always be a part of this memory for me but I used his abrasiveness to spur me forward. I picked up the pace, ran hard down the final hill, and came in with the victory.
When I asked how long the loop was, I was stunned. I found out the loop was longer than I thought it had been. My stomach dropped. Had I sabotaged myself into not getting the course record because of bad math on my part?! Did not running the full six hours keep me from getting the course record? They then totaled up the miles and let me know that I had run 41.16 miles
I beat the course record by .04 miles. That's 211 feet. Oy vey. That's way closer than I would want it to be.
Was super nice to have my friend Sarah there to cheer me on. This was the first time she had watched an ultra marathon event and she shared with me a list of things she learned about runners, especially ultrarunners. It was hilarious how spot-on it was.
This was the furthest distance I had run since 2015 when I ran the Salt Flats 50 miler. To get the win and course record as well was just icing on the cake. With my newest book, Ignore the Impossible coming out this week, I can say that I too live by the title of the book.
I hope I have showed that you can as well! If you want to grab a signed copy, simply email me at email@example.com