Sunday, March 5, 2017

Riverbank 24 - My Most Successful "Training Run" Race

Well, here we are in March and I am finally getting around to putting something up on this site! So obviously, “Blog more frequently” wasn’t exactly on my list of New Year’s resolutions. However, I did write a couple articles for iRunFar, which I hope you check out, if you haven’t already. Here are the links:

Apples to Apples, Not Oranges (Follow up: Aravaipa gave Gina the extra money and Gina donated it to Girls on the Run. I decided to donate the (much smaller!) article payment to the Salem chapter of GOTR as well. Everybody wins!!!)

Anyway, if you did get a chance to check out the first article, you’ll know I was pretty burnt out after Spartathlon and 100km World's last fall, and with good reason: it was 215 miles of racing with two trans-Atlantic flights and 4 nine hour time zone adjustments in 8 weeks! (Not to mention getting back to work the day after coming home each time!). So instead of running all through December and starting 2017 in good shape, I ended up taking 5 weeks off and starting 2017 completely out of shape.

But January 2 was the day to turn over a new leaf! (Never the 1st - too cliche! And too hung over! (more from staying up late than actual alcohol these days)). Just to make sure I felt especially bad about my fitness, I did run the half marathon on January 7 that I had already signed up for. I proceeded to run a 1:32, which was a personal worst (PW) by 4 minutes! *sigh* But the good part of being out of shape is that you can only get better and the gains come quickly! And so just four weeks later, I had a strong race at the hilly Zena Road run (15k) and managed first place with a decent time to surprise myself (and a few of my running friends!).

Despite seeing good gains, being in top ultra shape takes time and seven weeks was not enough to get there. My original intent for the Riverbank 24 hour run on February 25th was to be in great shape and go all out, but I just didn’t have enough miles on the legs for that. I knew I was not in shape to better my current 24 hour Worlds qualifying mark of 143.6 miles from last May nor was I in shape to PR at 100M, and I couldn’t come up with a good reason to dig myself into a big hole physically to put up a non-PR performance, so I decided I would truly run this as a training run.

Now, I have done many ultras as stepping stone races to get in shape for more important races later on, but I pretty much run those super hard too. Even if I am not tapered or have not trained specifically, when I pin on a bib I go into *race mode*. Basically, I suck at running races at non-race effort. And yes, that 1:34 half means I was running with everything I had to get that PW! But I was holding myself to 100 miles for this one, which I knew would not be a competitive total and since it was a 24 hr race, it really didn’t matter how fast I got there: Hence, a training run race!

And I am happy to say, I kicked ass at this goal! :)

I ran at a good steady pace through 50M (split - 6:53; still much slower than my road 100 km pace), took a short break then jogged to 100km (9:09, also a road PW for the distance). Then I took advantage of catered dinner - I never get my money’s worth from the food at these long ultras, but this was the day! - and walked/ate till I hit 300 laps (12:06). I knew I could easily finish up the ~25 miles I had remaining in the early morning hours so I headed to my car for a NAP! Napping in an ultra - oh yeah, I was definitely killing it in the non-competitive department! And not just a little nap either - I was in my car for just over FIVE hours and I managed to sleep a good portion of that time. I woke up feeling surprisingly good for having 75 miles on my legs already.
Clicking off early miles with Gina Slaby right in step. I am not usually one to "push" product, even from sponsors, but I LOVED the new Injinji compression socks.
Getting back to the track at 3:00am let me check up on the rest of the competitors and a lot had changed in 5 hours. Early race leaders Gina Slaby and Chikara Omine had both suffered after the 100 mile mark. Gina was valiantly walking to the time limit while Chikara did some napping of his own before coming back to the track in the daylight. Rich Riopel and Courtney Dauwalter had steadily ticked off the laps to take over the top spots. Courtney would go on to finish with a new American Record of 155 miles and first overall, while Rich would put in 151M for the #4 spot on the 24 hour qualifying list. A few others were going strong, like Yvonne Naughton who ended up earning a spot for the Irish 24 hour team, but many others were struggling or going through lows. I took the time to run or walk laps with several of the competitors as well as RD Jon Olsen and a couple of the “spectators”, knowing that I had plenty of time to cross the 100 mile threshold.

Besides getting to 100M, my only other objective became eating as many cookies as possible. I didn’t actually mean for this to be an objective but I just got so hungry that I was alternating Oreos and Mother’s oatmeal cookies almost every mile! Pretty sure I ate near 20 cookies for breakfast! I got to 100 miles right around 23 hours clock time and ~17:30 on my feet. And then I took my chair and more cookies trackside to cheer everyone on for the last hour.

Anyway, I had a great weekend in California despite not “killing it” in the race. A big thanks  and congrats to Jon Olsen for putting on such a high quality race for people trying to qualify for the US 24 hour team. Also, a big thank to Richard P who volunteered to crew for me the first half of the day and who was on top of everything, even when I forgot all the nutrition I had packed at my parents’ house two hours away. (Who does that?!? Apparently me! OMG - what an idiot! Good thing it wasn’t my ‘A’ race!).
Only idiots are doing emergency shopping at 7 am on race day! On the bright side, all this stuff worked great. So glad Raley's carried Honey Stingers!
I am currently sitting with the #5 qualifier and top 6 get selected. Right now, it is just a sit and wait game for a month when the team gets announced, with two major qualifiers between now and then. Pouring over the entrants’ lists, my chances look good, but nothing is a guarantee and I’ll be a little nervous waiting the final results of those races. This women’s US team is going to be incredible and I hope to be a part of it. For perspective, only 12 or 13 North American women have broken 140 miles in 24 hours and we now have 6 of them lined up to be on the team. The team world record is 441 miles or 147 miles average for 3 ladies and the top US qualifiers have bests of 155, 151, and 148 miles and I also hope to go 150+. And the women’s individual record is 158 miles with Courtney and the winner of the European Championships both coming within a few miles of this. So world records could be falling in Ireland this July and I hope to be there! Fingers crossed!
100 miles is still 100 miles!