I am not sure when I decided that running for 12 hours sounded like fun, but somewhere along the way I must have. Either that or my dog accidentally registered me for a 12 hour endurance trail run. Im leaning towards the dog having a good laugh at my expense.
Fast forward and BOOM it was race week. After the disastrous Two Way Torture Test, which is a 13.1 + 13.1 that goes relentlessly uphill on pavement, that Patrick and I ran just a week earlier, I did not have high hopes for the 12 hour Alaska Endurance Trail Run. I did not even bother to set a goal, other than to keep moving for more than 8 hours out of the 12. My sister Susan said I should go for at least 40 miles, I just kinda laughed at her. She is my task master always pushing me to be better, she is everything I wish that I was 🙂 The Alaska Endurance Trail Run (AETR) is a 6 mile loop through rolling hills of our nordic ski trail at the University of Alaska. From wide trails to very rooty single track with a few down trees as obstacles. I run on this section of trail at least 2x per week as it is just a few steps from my office at the Uni.
Friday afternoon I hook up with Don, the race director, and we head to Sam’s Club to buy feed station food and post race BBQ foods. I am not sure either of us were prepared for the Sam’s club onslaut…first of the month on a friday afternoon, it was cray in there! But we got just about everything on his list and I trucked it all home to hold for after the race. Friday night, I got all of my things together. Lots of shoes, sock, and my measly food stores. I carbo’ed up with the meal of champions, Taco Bell. Yes, Taco Bell.
Saturday morning came early at 5 am with the sun already shining. In the land of the midnight sun of Alaska, this time of year it always is! The weather was looking at mostly sunny around 65-70 degrees, with an isolated shower possible in the later afternoon. OK, this looks promising. I have my early morning Cafe’ Caramel protein shake and get ready to head out the door for a 7 am check in time.
I get to the check in and see a happy familiar face, Travis from my RWB group is there cheerful and awesome as ever. EagleFire! We snapped a quick photo and I got down to business of sorting out my gear. I settled on a my clothing, went with an INKnBURN skirt and racerback tank. The skirt had two generous pockets and the singlet was nice and light. I figured if it showered later I could pull on a tech t. But the sun was starting to be nice and warm so I figured the tank was the best choice. The trails were mostly dry, which is not normally the case this time of year, with a few downed trees and some mushy spots. But nothing that could not be navigated easily around. For once my feet stayed dry the whole time 🙂
Pre-race briefing, with Don the race director and off we go! The first loop was GREAT, I felt amazing. Kept to my pace of about 11:30 per mile just to get my feet under me and to get a jump-start on the long day. I had my audio book all ready, the BBC Radio dramatized version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Somewhere around loop #2 I started to feel the beginnings of a hot spot on the inset of my foot near my big toe. So at the end of loop 2 I stopped and put some moleskin on that spot on both feet. This tends to be where I get tender and/or blister spots. I decided to keep on with my Hoka One One Speed Goat trail shoes for a little longer. After loop 3 I got a nice surprise, my running partner Patrick was waiting for me at the starting line 🙂 YAY!!! I got a huge lift of spirit when I saw him as I was running up to the line. Love this man to death, he is so awesome and always so supportive of me and the crazy schemes I come up with for us to do. He tweaked his back earlier in the week so he was unable to run or participate this year. We talked a little, and I got a bite of my Quest strawberry cheesecake protein bar and some poweraid zero.
At this point I decided that I needed to run with my handheld as it was getting warmer. So I popped a NUUN tablet in with my water and off I went. I did this each lap, drank some poweraid zero, a few nibbles of the Quest Bar and then filled my handheld with NUNN water for the running part. Lap three was mentally HARD. I think I walked more this loop than I did any other loop.
I got an amazing lift at the completion of lap 4 I had a gift left by my girlfriend Skye, who was walking the 12 hour or at least most of it. She had left to course for a little bit and brought me back a bun-less cheeseburger. It was the best damn patty I ever had. It was perfection! That gave me the energy to pick up the pace. I also took this time to take an extended break of about 15 minutes. Re-applied my moleskin, new socks and then I changed into my Brooks Adrenaline’s, these are a little on the big side and my feet had began to swell so they felt amazing. Lap 5 uneventful…more running. I tried to keep a strategy of running the first 2 miles, run/walk 3-4, and running the remainder. This seemed to work well. I felt really good the whole time so far. My motor was strong, my body felt good, other than my feet were getting really tired. Lap 6 was my last full lap.
The last 2 hours of the race a shorter course was opened up, which was roughly half a mile. This way you could maximize your mileage. Strategy is involved in that this small loop was muddier than the rest and much hillier than the big loop. I got in my 36 then decided to change shoes one more time to my old Hoka Clifton 1’s as they have the widest toe box. I drank one protein drink and decided to hit the small loops. I could have possibly made one more big one, but I did not want to chance it. Only full loops counted and I didn’t want to make it all that way to only not have it count. So off I go on the mini loops.
I did run/walk a small loop with my work and running buddy Tom. He is awesome and was doing the 6 hour version. He is a running machine. I want to be like him when I grow up 🙂 At this point time was winding down and I had made sister Susan’s goal of 40 miles. I decided to give it one more baby loop just for good measure. At the end of my final loop Stacey and Rachael were trying so hard to get me to do just one more, even offering to run it with me……but I was DONE 🙂 Extra beer stamps on my beer card were not enough to get me to run more. I finished the day with 40.50 miles. I also ended up out of the 12 hours moving about 11:05 of the time…whoa a lot more on my feet than I thought I would do.
Things I would do differently: Better nutrition. I am sure that I did not get enough calories, with 2 protein drinks and a single kid sized burger patty and a single Quest Bar. But that said, I was never hungry nor did I feel like I crashed. Better Hydration. I drank the whole race, but never once had to use the bathroom. I never felt thirsty, but I think I needed to add more electrolytes, maybe…. Tape/moleskin up right from the start my normal hot spots.
At the start I had no idea that I could do this. But it was amazing fun. And the thing is I was not as tired as I thought I would be. I still had gas in the tank and legs to run at hour 11, I figured by that point I would have been reduced to crawling. I learned yesterday that my body is capable of much more than I give it credit for.
Today I feel pretty darn good. I feel less tired today than I did after the Two Way Torture Test that Pat and I did the week before, its kinda amazing. My legs are good and surprisingly not a single blister to be found, now that in itself is a miracle.
Onward and forward to the next Ultra!