12 Hour Timed Ultra Race Report – Minne Ha-Ha

“When I get to 50 miles, I am going to walk.”  KT’s response, “Not yet.” Me: “No. I reached my goal.”  KT: “You can win overall.” Me: “I am going to cry.” KT: “No you are not.”  Me: “Yes, I am.” KT: “That is okay but keep running.”

I did keep running for another eleven plus miles and fumed every step as I planned my upcoming divorce from the woman I loved just a mere nine hours ago.  During the last year, my running became my refuge from my anger, sadness and grief. And it seemed only appropriate to end my training season with a running race.  I decided to roll my second ultra but this time run a longer twelve-hour timed event. The race was the Minnie Ha-Ha 12 Hour Run in Fenton, Missouri hosted by the St. Louis Ultrarunners Club (SLUGs).  They did a fantastic job with professional race timing, volunteer support, and organization. Huge thanks to everyone there.

I won the women’s race and was second overall with 61.9 miles completed in twelve hours.

So what did I learn this year in ultrarunning:

  1. To quote Monty Python, “Run away!  Keep running!” I ran a lot this year.  The first goal was 50 miles a week while triathlon training.  And it kept creeping. I hit 70 and then 80 miles in a week. Eventually, I decided to race and wanted to see if I could achieve a 100 miles in a week.  After one week of one hundred, I decided to see if I could do a second week. I didn’t take any rest days but that isn’t unusual in my training.  
  2. I have a problem with DOMS.  The adjustment I have made through the years is to avoid double run or triple run days.  The pain in my legs can negatively impact the second or third run. I did do some doubles with 2-3 easy miles but only on the treadmill.
  3. Managing my DOMS was helped by back to back long run days culminating in a five hour run on Sunday morning with a three hour run Monday morning.  I also had a long midweek run as well. I had one day of short speed and one day of longer tempo per week. I focused on getting my heart rate high on the longer tempo.  
  4. Be willing to be a single sport athlete.  As the mileage grew, so did my fatigue. Once I was all in on this race, I stopped swimming and cycling.  My body feels better as a triathlete but I couldn’t roll the training I wanted without some additional rest.
  5. Test everything.  I found my Brooks Launch shoes started to hurt more as my runs became longer.  I switched to a more padded shoe in the Saucony Triumph Iso 5. They are heavy and thick but I think they helped.  I also bagged the traditional running clothes as I ended up chafed and hurting. I ran this last race in basketball shorts and a short sleeve top.  It was amazing. I didn’t feel fast but in an ultra, I will never be running very fast!  
  6. Have a plan.  You can find my spreadsheet here.  It helped to have a goal and a stretch goal.  I would have reached my stretch goal however I found out at the race they don’t let you finish partial loops.  Now I know. .1 mile short!
  7. Be willing to bail on the plan.  To make a long story short, I flew back from Hawaii at 11 pm Thursday and landed in Indianapolis at 3:30 pm Friday.  Drove one hour to Bloomington and then four hours to St. Louis. I was in bed by 10 pm and eventually fell asleep. My body was swollen the next day from air travel.  I was not surprised that my stomach crapped out on my well-rehearsed nutrition plan. After a few hours, I bagged the plan!
  8. Ironman is ultra training.  I knew from years of experience how to right the ship on my stomach and I never panicked when it got ugly.  Chicken broth, potato chips, and some PBJ squares helped. I kept the Gatorade and water going. My stomach was better but not great.  I kept the faith that I would continue to adjust and work through it.
  9. Have a team captain.  When the going gets tough, the glycogen gets depleted.  You need someone to be the brains of the operation and eight hours into a long race it is no longer the athlete.  KT kept me on track for pacing, fueling and never quitting. I couldn’t have done it without her. And on top of it, she had a raging head cold.  She is amazing!
  10. Taper.  Ultrarunning is a relatively new sport.  Coaches are still debating and figuring out the training, fueling, and racing.  I did a ton of research on the sport with articles, books, podcasts, and race reports.  I decided the best-designed taper was from the coach that knows me the best. Coach Marilyn Chychota put together a great plan and It was less than I would have done on my own.  It fell apart the last week as I traveled but I knew I was ready. A personal reminder that a great taper may only result in a slight improved performance. I decided long ago to release how I felt or the result of the taper.  My only focus is to show up on game day! How you feel has little to do with how you race!
  11. The strategy works if you execute.  There are two schools of thought on pacing in ultras; start fast and hang on as long as you can or try to even or negative split the race.  I am not sure it is possible to negative split an ultra but I decided to focus on an even split for as long as possible. To do this, I had to be willing to be at the back of the pack and climb my way through the competition.  And I did.
  12. Run the f*&%ing tangents.  People don’t take advantage of the tangents on a run course.  Most adhered to the edge of the path. You end up running so much more in terms of course length especially on a meandering loop. 
  13. Know when to walk.  The course had a steep and short uphill and one downhill.  I walked both and the aid station lane. I have to keep my walks short or my legs get very sore and seize up a bit.  
  14. I was flipping crabby.  I have never raced this crabby before.  Despite my bad attitude, one of the aid station volunteers became my personal concierge.  If I forgot my Pringles dose, she chased me down. She was wonderful and I thanked her afterward.  
  15. My Garmin failed early.  It lost the GPS in the wooded area and then the battery died completely.  I have a rule in training that when the computer stuff fails or the bike breaks, or I feel like crap that I need to keep going.  Practicing relentless forward motion in training makes it easier to wing it in racing.
  16. Despite all the running, I was relatively injury-free in my training.  I had one tendon on the top of my foot that got aggravated from a tight shoe and disappeared in my taper.  This is heretical to even me, but I stopped lifting and did no stretching during my training. My battle with DOMs is ongoing and I decided to do what it took to limit them.  I don’t recommend this to anyone else. And I will be hitting the weight room after my end of season break!  

So, I am now two for two in ultra wins.  I think I may have an overall win in me as well.  What would it take to get there?

  • More training with multiple one hundred mile weeks.  
  • An adjustment in body composition as less weight would be helpful.  The grief eating needs to stop.  
  • Some hill running.  I didn’t do much as it is riskier and I wanted to build my mileage.  
  • More eccentric work to help with quad pain.
  • Some quad focused lifting.  
  • Playing a bit more with real food for fueling.  

Sincere thanks to the following people for sharing their knowledge online, podcasts etc.

  • Courtney Duewalter
  • Dave Roche
  • Bob Hearns
  • Running Against Time – FB Page
  • Science of Ultra – Podcast

No Easy Way!

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