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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!