Monday, November 14, 2022

The Stinger 24 Hour Race Recap

Running a 24 hour race on a track has long intrigued me. I have done timed races on larger loops, such as Hinson Lake (1.5 miles), Merrill’s Mile (1 mile), and a few others within the 1-1.5 mile range, but never 400 meters. I liked the idea of the simplicity of it all. Aid and other runners are always nearby, you don’t need to wear a headlamp, and there’s something about “just one more lap” that makes it seem doable.

The last time I competed at a 24 hour race was in 2017. I ran one in both 2018 and 2019, but “only” did about 100k each time because I was training for other things. So it had been awhile since I got truly loopy.

I went into this with basically just marathon training and a few runs after Chicago to dial in the pace. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect in terms of mileage. It seemed a bit greedy to assume I could just roll out a 100 mile finish without the proper training. But I knew that if I had a mostly good day that it was entirely possible.

Katherine and I shared a hotel room near the race site the night before and we went to an IHOP dinner with Aaron who was staying at another nearby hotel. We crashed pretty early and I felt very rested when I woke up. I had my now-traditional pre-race muffin, some coffee, and then we schlepped all our gear to the infield of the track. 

It was the right amount of time to get everything set up, get our bibs, and relax for a few minutes before starting. In addition to the 24 hour race, they also have a 12 hour and 6 hour event that start at 8am, 2pm, 8pm, or 2am. The bulk of the field was starting at the 8am time slot so they gave a few pre-race instructions to make sure we had enough room for the 80ish people to run on a 400 meter track. If you were moving with purpose, either running or walking, you could stay in lane 1. If you wanted to pass, you would do this in lane 2. If you were wanting to chat with someone while moving, you could either stay in a line or one person in lane 1 and the other in lane 3, always leaving lane 2 open to let people pass. I didn’t find it too bad myself overall, but maybe I’d feel differently if I had a record on the line or something. Every 4 hours, we'd switch directions so as to not be constantly turning left or right all day. 

The morning was very foggy and humid. I started with a tank top, but shed it pretty quickly. We had cloud cover most of the day which helped because there is zero shade on the track. 

I stayed behind Katherine for the first part of the race, chatting as we went round and round. I knew we'd do our own thing eventually so I enjoyed having company while it lasted. We both had planned for 10 minute miles in the beginning so it worked out to run a bit together. Aaron was always close by and as we played leapfrog all day, we'd give each other a little "whoop" as we went by. 

I wore my Aeropex headphones and had music piped in at a low level for the first 12 hours. I'm not sure how they lasted that long! In retrospect, the music playing from the aid station was loud enough to be heard around the track so I didn't really even want it after the battery died. I brought a second pair and never used them. Oh well. 

From the beginning, I was pretty good about my eating and hydrating. And that often being my white whale in races, I was proud that I hardly ever felt nauseous during this effort. I used gels at first until I got tired of them and then switched to bites of other things like fig bars, jelly beans, chips, and fruit chews. From the aid station, I got waffle fries, quesadillas, grilled cheese, and about a thousand bananas (??) and cups of soup. Bananas seemed to agree with my stomach so I just kept eating them. Jae kept us fed all day and had the most energy of one person I'd ever met. He'd follow us around the track with food, taking special requests and handing out hot food with tongs right to us in lane one. I kind of don't want to tell people about it because they have to cap the field every year! 

I started without a handheld bottle, but carried it for quite sometime during the day. I went through probably 2L of Skratch and then switched to plain water for a bit. Later in the race, I drank some Coke, Dr. Pepper, and broth for both calories and a bit of hydration. 

Taylor showed up early in the day and took a few photos as the fog was lifting. That was an unexpected surprise and a nice distraction while he was there. 

I got to 50k and my feet were killing me. I started with the Alpha Fly and the soles of my feet felt extremely sore. I switched to the Carbon X2 and they still felt awful so then I moved onto the New Balance 1080 and ran the rest of the race in my heavy trainers. My soles hurt ALL DAY. No blisters, just soreness. I tried loosening up my laces and it would help for awhile, but for this race, this was my white whale. Everything else felt good! I was in a happy place mentally most of the day, eating and drinking well, and felt like I had the endurance to keep going. Ugh, lesson learned.

David came much earlier than I had expected and was a huge help in crewing and keeping me motivated. I didn't expect him to help out with any of my stuff as I assumed he'd just be crewing Katherine, but he helped all 3 of us and likely some other runners! Even just filling my bottles or asking me if I needed something was extremely helpful.

Somewhere in the 40-50 mile mark, I started feeling great. I knew I still had a long day and night ahead, but I was feeling deep in a happy ultra trance just ticking off loops. I ran with Kelly for a few laps and fed off her positive vibes for a bit.

It started raining in the late afternoon, but I was feeling a bit relieved as it had been pretty warm even with the cloud cover. I stopped shortly at my setup to tuck away some gear to make sure it was kept dry. 

Hanna showed up with the clutch Dr. Pepper and fries and though I couldn't enjoy all of it in one sitting, I did spend the entire evening sipping that soda cup. Plus, it was great to see her and get a few laughs of our stupidity of running in circles.

From past experience, I was hoping to get to 50 miles in 9ish hours and 100k by 12ish hours and succeeded in both of those goals. I didn't want to death march it in, but knew that as long as I could still do some walk/run, it was entirely feasible to get to 100 miles. 

Getting to those checkpoints was motivating and I started thinking of how to break up the hardest part after 100k. I decided to call Adam at mile 70 and then would walk a lap every 2.5ish miles after that to eat and take a walk break. 

I was probably in the best spirits I've ever been calling Adam at mile 70. In previous races, this has been kind of a melting point. But I felt confident that I was going to get it done at this point. He and I chatted briefly and then I got back to the task at hand.

I can't remember exactly what time Alfonso came by in his T-Rex costume with Waffle House waffles and more Dr. Pepper (!!), but I think he perked up the entire field. He and some other crew members started doing sprints on the football field while he was wearing the T-Rex costume. Instant entertainment after we'd been running in circles!

As the temperatures dropped, I went from being the only one without a shirt to layering up like the Michelin man. As long as I was still running a bit, I didn't feel too awful and honestly, the cold probably helped to numb the pain. 

Breaking up the last chunk of mileage into 2.5 mile blocks was perfect. I was running these somewhere a little slower than 30 minutes. I'd run 10ish laps and then get something to eat and walk a lap. Then repeat. As I got closer to 100, I broke it into different amounts, but this was giving me something to look forward to and making sure I was still eating. 

I heard the first few people get their name shouted out and their buckle presented when they got to 100 miles which was really cool. I loved that they gave it to you while you were racing! I was giving updates to David aloud as I was coming around. 10k to go, 5k to go, 1 mile, 1 lap!

I managed a 2:45 400m for my 404th loop to cross the 100 mile mark in 20:24:34.

They handed me my buckle and then I kept on trudging for a bit. I wanted to walk a couple of laps and planned on running a bit more to see how far I could go given that I felt pretty okay all things considered. But after walking, my left groin seized up on me and I could barely walk. It did feel okay enough once I was moving, but I couldn't run any more. I was in no man's land. A PR wasn't going to happen and it was far too cold to sit for another few hours. So I just walked very slowly like the zombie that I was. 

Aaron crossed the 100 mile mark shortly after me though they sadly missed calling him out on the loudspeaker. Then Katherine was on the countdown and I had to hobble quickly to make my way back to the arch to watch her earn her very first buckle. 

Aaron found some sort of superpower after his 100 miles and spent the next few hours whizzing by me. It was crazy impressive to watch. Katherine took her victory lap and then took a well-deserved rest. 

As the sun started to come up, I was relieved to know that we were getting closer to finishing. I kept thinking I should just stop as there was no point in me continuing to walk. But it seemed silly after all that time to stop so I just kept going. Once we were getting close to 8am Sunday, Aaron slowed down to walk with me for the final two laps, wrapping up our race days in a very nice way. 

Incredibly grateful for this finish and pretty cool that all 3 of the Rippedtents team made the podium. Aaron came in 2nd male, Katherine was 3rd female, and I was 1st female. Having my training buddies out there definitely made this day much better. I was motivated to keep moving because they were and I think we all pushed each other a little more.

I’m sure there are details and people that I’ve left out which I will currently blame on ultra brain fog. Just feeling really thankful for all the support to go do these crazy things!

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