Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NorthCoast 24 Hour Nationals: Cleveland Ohio Sept 17-18, 2011

On Thursday, Sid got time off from work and was able to acquire a Cessna to fly Tamra, he, and I to Cleveland, cutting out trip to 2.5 hours instead of 9 hours. It is always a treat to have Sid fly me out because when it works out, the travel stress is reduced.

I had not trained anywhere near what I planned to do in August.  I had a few nice 75 miles weeks, but I wanted them to be 100 mile weeks.  I missed 3 key long races (50k, marathon and a 12 hour run) that were required for me to feel physically and mentally ready.  I know what my biggest problem is right now.  It's finding my discipline and making running THE priority.  But the reality is, running is not the priority right now.  School, work, Sid, and Enzo are my priorities. This is ok because I like those things a lot too. :)

So how did it go?  It was really fantastic.  The RD's (Dan and Joe) have figured out how to put on a great event.  The course is fast.  September is a great time of year for a run like this in Cleveland.  The Aid Station is wonderful. The volunteers are amazing.  The shirts are cool and I am always thrilled to get a female fitted shirt for a change!  And the runners are just awesome.

I started easy and began to notice early on that my feet were feeling sore.  I expected this.  They have been bugging me for a while now.  I wake up in the morning with stiff sore arches. I have chronic plantar fasciitis, that is usually not real big deal, except last year I ended up with scar tissue called fibromas that are more painful than the PF in my opinion.  In hindsight, I should have had my podiatrist shrink the fibromas with cortisone, but I didn't want to have this done unless I felt I was trained for a good run.

About 14 laps in, I saw Dr. Lovey and I took a moment to ask him if there was anything his team could do to prevent me from dropping due to my foot pain. I told him that I wanted to prevent the pain, but the truth was the pain was already there and I wanted to prevent it from getting worse.

Dr. Lovey is a wonderful man.  He alerted his team that I would be coming in and I needed help.  Two med fellows were waiting for me.  They basically popped things in my feet back in place, worked out the knots in my arch and paid attention to any pain I mentioned.  Over the course of the night, I stopped in many times to see them and they did their best to keep me going.  Dr. Lovey was out there providing words of encouragement. I feel terrible that I was not able to get 100 miles for them. I found that each pit stop gave me a renewed sense of freshness and I was able to drop my pace down after returning to the course.  However, with each hour, the pain relief would last less and less time.  I was coming in at 10 laps, or 7 laps and finally it no longer helped.

All day long, Tamra was plugging away at her own mileage, while under doctors orders to NOT do anything strenuous.  She followed these orders, begrudgingly.   This was unfortunate timing, because Tamra had begun working very hard towards a 50k goal and only a few days prior she was told to not exert herself.  She compromised by helping me out in between walking laps. I am very proud that she logged about 25 miles and she did not end up in the hospital in Cleveland.

Sid was around in spurts, but his job has become transportation and food runs.  He dropped us off, saw us start, took some photos and then left for the hotel.  He came back at noon with some KFC that made me happy.  He couldn't pace me, so he did a 9 mile run on his own.  He returned to the hotel to take a shower and bring back coffee.  It was nice to know he wasn't bored to death with me running in circles.

At one point about 11:30 pm, Sid had gone back to the hotel and Tamra was ready to call it a night.  I was so tired I needed to get off my feet, I promised to get up after Sid and Tamra left. I had not set up a tent.  I pulled my sleeping bag up over my head once Tamra and Sid departed and within a few minutes, I felt something soft bouncing off my head. I was wondering who would be throwing things at me.  After three or four times, I pulled up the covers to see a rat's butt scurrying off into the bushes!!
Holy cow! No way! A rat was poking at my head while I was trying to nap.  I saw Ray run by and I told him what just happened.  He advised that solution to my rat problem was simple, just get up and run.  I was already putting on my shoes. 

During the entire race, I had not been keeping track except to check my lap count at the end of each hour.  Because I had no splits, I was freaking out every time the monitor would stop reporting my numbers.  I was hoping to hold about 4-5 laps per hours.  I think I had done about 50 miles in 10 hours.  I think I was about 65 laps in 12 hours.  I can't wait to see my splits.  With only 55 more laps to go in 12 hours, it seemed reasonable that I could get 100 miles since I was not pushing very hard for those first 65.  I was hydrated, fueled well, and felt energetic at the half way point.  By 11:30, I was starting to feel like I needed a nap, but the rat put a stop to that plan. I tried to stay out there, but by 2 am the aching was getting worse and by 3 am I decided I had to get off my feet again.  By 4 am, the pain was too bad.

I was afraid to lay on the ground since the rats in the bushes were freaking me out.  I grabbed a blanket and sat in my chair.  The damp air had covered my chair with a layer of dew that made me cold and wet when I sat in it.  The wind was blowing up under my blanket and making me shiver.  I put on my Gortex jacket over my running jacket and long sleeve t-shirt.  I was still too cold to move.  After an hour of this, I was completely frozen and finally decided to move to the ground. I curled up inside one sleeping bag. I used my blanket as a pillow and the other sleeping bag went over head.  But it was way too hot like that, so I had to crack open a small hole for air.  I was convinced a rat would crawl in and bite me.  Needless to say, I did not get much rest.

In that moment of weakness, I just wanted my feet to stop throbbing and I wanted to stop being so cold.  I decided that I was not getting up until the sun rose because only then would their be a promise of the chill being burnt off the ground.  I knew the 100 mile goal was now out of reach as I pulled my sleeping bag tighter and wished I had been bright enough to change out of my sweaty clothes first.

I could hear the chatter of people.  The night time grumblings of the few on course had been exchanged for chuckles and laughter as the new day broke and more people woke or came back to the race.  I peeled back my covers and saw the sun illuminating the sky and I knew it was all going to get better from here.  I climbed from the ground, happy to be have been spared by the rodents of the night.  At 6:30,  I decided to go walk some laps.  Sid and Tamra arrived.  I was happy to walk a few more with Tamra in the morning.  

It is always great to see how things played out over the night.  My friend Jonathan was now in 2nd place.  I am sure that very early on, when the leader board did not include him and he may have felt it was not going to be his day.  He had started worrying about a blister and I know he has a condition that makes blistering painful for weeks/months after an event.  But Jonathon was smart and well trained and it paid off.  It was unclear where the 3rd guy was, but it seemed Jonathan would be holding 2nd by the last few laps and earning his spot in the Worlds!  I am so happy for him and what he was able to do all night long. 

Connie was very close, with over 144 miles, but was unable to set a new American record for the women.  Debra Horn had a great second place finish with 131.  Debra is probably my most favorite 24 hour runner.  She is so consistent and stealth.  She just shows up, runs and by the end of the day she is at the top of the leader board.  Some people (like me) drop a great performance once in a while.  Debra runs 128-131 regularly.  As a master's runner, I hope to someday be able to do what she does.  She gives me hope that I have time to figure this out.

As we came around the last lap, Phil was in the lead for the men and asked if I wanted to finish up together.  Tamra and I were jogging and Phil was running well.  I wanted to stride out the last lap, but I did not want Tamra to have any issues. She told me to go ahead and Phil and I ran together for a few tenths while he called out the time... 2 minutes to go... 1 minute to go... and then the siren called for us to stop.

It is always confusing at the end. People don't seem to believe it is time to stop. We dropped our blocks to mark our finish, hovered around for a minutes before exiting the course.  I always find the final minutes of these races so amazing.  Zombies find renewed strength and speed.  Paces drop as people find they are actually able to move again but only with the promise that the pain will end soon.  It is special part of the race that so many miss when the drop early and go home.

After a shower, Sid, Tamra and I went in search of lunch.  Cleveland was like a ghost town.  It was bizarre. We ended up at the one open pub we found downtown.  The young waitress asked what we wanted to drink.  In unison, Tamra and I said "WATER!"

The waitress took one look at me and said, "Oh boy, I know that feeling! ... Rough night last night, huh (wink, wink)?"

"Yeah, something like that," I said finding some energy to crack a smile.

(I ran just short of 87 miles. That plus the rats made the night kinda rough I guess? ;) )

Links to results and photos:  

2011 Results
Overall Results | USATF Age Groups

Photos: John McCarroll | Jen Goellnitz | Mark Shelton


  1. Shannon . . . I just love you!! You totally ROCK and you are such a fun, inspiring person. Sid is lucky!!! If I were just 30 years younger . . . !!!!!

    Triple F

  2. Two things..
    1.) Dr. Lovey helped me tremendously at ATY when I had some back pain, which was probably due to the complete lack of training I had going into it. I'm looking forward to seeing him again at ATY in 100 days, but I hope I don't see him as much as I did last year!! (BTW - any chance you guys will get there? ATY is an amazing event..)

    2.) Rats! Holy shit! Glad Alex wasn't there. She would have freaked.

  3. Thank you, Frank!

    Steve, I dont know if I can swing ATY, but it seems like a great event. If not this year, I will try for next year.

  4. Thank you, Shannon, for putting up with all my chattering at North Coast (and at Around the Lake). It was a pleasure meeting you at the latter event and to enjoy the course with you in Cleveland. Sorry that the PF problem flared up again. I just don't know how you maintain such a cheerful attitude despite all the physical discomforts you have to endure -- it's an amazing quality that I think very few humans on earth possess. I hope your feet get better soon. I have no doubt you'll eventually crank out the same type of race mileage that Deb and Connie do - it's just a matter of time. Hang in there!

    Best regards,

    Ric Munoz

  5. Great effort...dealing with the rats! (I hate them!)