Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broadway Ultra Society (BUS) – 6 hour race. Crocheron Park, Queens, NY. 3/31/12

The weather report was not very favorable.  "Feels like 35 and rainy"… predicted for ALL DAY!  Ugh!  I was not looking forward to this, but I was registered and I was trained.  Thanks to some unexplained foot injury I was even a little bit tapered.  (Maybe it was a foreign body in my foot that caused an infection; or maybe it was a blister under a callus that created excruciating pain; whatever it was, it resolved itself in 1 week but lowered my mileage significantly).

I packed tons of clothes, and socks, and shoes, and things I might need, and headed up to the race with Ray and Jon. (Once again, Ray gets credit for being present with me when I need him most!)

We arrived with plenty of time for me to select my outfit for the start: Brooks T7 Racing Flats, hot weather Dry Max socks (b/c they are thin), calf sleeves for warmth, Brooks shorts, Run Happy Long sleeve Tech shirt, North Coast 24 hour Nationals T-shirt, and my convertible glove/mittens.   I lubed up the places that usually chafe pretty badly (under the band of my sports bra and where the seams of my shorts rub btw my inner thighs- ouch!)  I grabbed my blueberry smoothie (b/c I ran out of my mango smoothie) and two almond-macaroons. We parked just a few feet off course so if I needed anything I could make a pit stop.

In hindsight, as I write this, I realize that I completely forgot to eat breakfast before I left the house.  I usually have a gluten free waffle with some peanut butter and honey and a banana for the ride.  I just had a coffee and my blueberry smoothie.   I don’t feel it hurt me at all to not eat before this race. I believe this is due to me at training higher mileage.  My body seems to be adapting well at burning fuel more efficiently than I have in the past.

As the race started, I had two plans.  First to see how close I could get to 7:45 pace (7:30 lap pace on a .971 mile loop) and hold it comfortably in order to try to set a new 50k PR if the weather held off.  Second, to bank some fast laps early because the weather threatened to turn to cold showers at 10 am and running in miserable weather will slow things down. 

My first lap was about 7:40 and this put me out front of the women.  I ran few more in the lead around 7:30 -7:40 lap pace.  I threw my t-shirt to Jon as I felt warm. It was nice to have a person around for this minor stuff.  I was starting to settle into about an 8 min lap pace when I was passed by the woman who won the NY Ultrarunning Grand Prix series 5 years in a row. (Awards Ceremony for the Grand Prix took place after this race).   A guy running with her also passed me.  I sat behind them for about 10-12 laps and let her set the pace.  I am not against letting someone else lead if they want to.

The rain had already begun and it was cold.  About 2 hours in I realized I really needed to pee and this feeling was not going to pass.  It was distracting and we had 4 hours ahead of us. I did not want to leave the small pack I was moving well with.  It was very exciting to run our first 25k in 2:05 (8:03 pace).  I knew it would be unlikely that I would be just as smooth running alone.  

While in the bathroom, I realized my hands were absolutely frozen, even when in the gloves because they were just soaked.  I ran another lap and stopped at my car, frozen and miserable.  I asked Jon for my T-shirt and that helped.  I grabbed two macaroons.  The chafe under my sports bra band was horribly painful.  I lubed it again, but it was already bleeding.  This was not going to be fun.

My hands felt better in the damp air than in the wet gloves, but soon they were too cold.  I stopped again at my car, declared that "I hate ultrarunning because it is a stupid miserable sport and not fun at all!".  I made Jon promise to not tell anyone I said that out-loud. :)  I ate two more macaroons while finding a pair of dry throw away gloves that felt so much better. 

I realized that warmer clothes and the food all helped me get back into the race.  I tried some cantaloupe at the aid station and just loved it.  It was perfect and just what I needed.  Until that point, I was grabbing a plastic cup of Gatorade every 3rd lap or so.  I began to run harder just to get to more cantaloupe.

I saw Ray and told him, that I need to walk some in the second half of this race b/c I was already starting to feel miserable.  He encouraged me first to keep running, but conceded that if I needed a walk, to just keep it short and try to cruise in the rest of the miles.  I started added a small tiny walk break about ½ way around.  Between the cantaloupe on one side and the walk on the other, I had just enough things to look forward to, which helped me to keep moving. Often I skipped the little walk and kept moving.

I hit my 27th lap (26.2) of this .971 mile course in 3:41 (8:25 pace).  I stayed moving through my 50k in 4:25 (8:31 pace).  I started 39 laps just as the clocked turned 5 hours. I knew I needed just over 41 laps for 40 miles and anything more than that would get my OA pace under 9 minute miles.

As I ran, I did not see the first place woman anywhere.  I thought about asking others if she was still out there running, but decided that I did not want to know.  Instead I wanted to know how many laps to 40 miles.  If run a good race, chances are I will win.  If don't win with a great effort, I am ok with that.  I was running so hard that I was feeling dizzy.  I was running my best.  My body felt tired, nothing hurt, but the fatigue was tough.   Someone asked "This isn't as hard as a 24, is it?" I recall responding, “Oh, this is very hard!”  I found Ray again and confirmed that 41 and change is what I needed for 40. 

As the final hours ticked down, other runners started to compliment me and tell me how great I was doing?  I wondered if this meant I was winning?  Where was that first place Female.  I continually scanned the course for her but could not see her while I focused on the laps.  I was still sub-9 for most laps.  I knew 11 minute laps would get me 40 miles and change.  I wasn't running that slow, but it hurt.   I realized that 9 minute pace is exactly 40 miles, so anything over 40 miles gives me a sub-9 pace.  That seemed surreal to me!  The marathon I ran in November was just sub-9. Many of my 7-12 miles training runs I do are 8:30 pace, but longer runs are always slower!  How is this happening?!

People asked me questions.  I grunted at them.  Once I even forced out "Cant... Speak.... Sorry."  I was so tired.  When I passed those girls again, one said cheerfully, "I know! You cant talk! It's ok!" :)

I wanted to start the small loop after I ran 41 laps, but since my 41st lap was about 9 minutes, they sent me out on the big one for my 42nd lap.  I was terrified about not making that lap in time, but I knew if I made it I had over 40 miles, so I pushed the pace.  I ended up with three minutes for the short loop and just kept moving as the clock ticked down.

I didn’t see the first place woman and thought I had a chance at winning this thing.  When the command to stop was issued, I notice that  she has stopped behind me.  I didn’t know if this meant I was ahead of her or her ahead of me.  She reported that she had done 2 plus some more of the small loop.  I had only gotten 1 plus some more of the short loop.  We both ran 42 big loops. Ohhhh, so close!

She ended up just about .18 ahead of me to take the OA Female Win.  Only about 900 feet separated us.  I would like to think that had I known I was gaining on her, that I would have dug to catch her.  However, had she known I was right behind her, she may have done the same.  The reality is I was hurting and working very hard.   I was dizzy and unable to even focus my vision as I ran.  I was very depleted by the end of the race. I ran a great race and so did she!  Two women over 40 miles in s 6 hour race is a great race!

I never expected to run 41.15 miles in 6 hours.  This calculates to 8:44 pace.  I am tired, but nothing hurts.

As I walked to my car, I thought about how people always seem to be working hard on the superfluous details of racing that they feel will help them get a better time, get an edge, or simply maximize their potential.  Salt caps, advil, chia seeds, pace charts, special shoes, heart rate monitors, garmins, or other fancy gear.  I have done and still do stuff like this, myself.  However, I seem to be discovering that there is one thing that I can do that makes the impact of all these other additions less meaningful and that is high volume training.  I am just 4.8 miles short of 1000 miles.   The more I run, the better I race.  I don't need to monitor much.  I eat and drink and run.  If I forget to eat, I get moody.  I don't need to worry about much except to try to run as fast as I can sustain.

In this race, I took nothing but a blueberry smoothie before the race, 6 macaroons total before and during, some Gatorade and cola, as needed and tons of cantaloupe as I felt hungry.  I didn't change shoes or socks.  I wore 4 oz flats that other people limit to 5k's. I didn't wear a garmin.  I didn't have a plan.  I just ran.  I ran tired.  I ran my butt off and I thank the miles and miles I run each week for giving me the gift of strength and endurance to tolerate another great (for me) performance for my personal log. 

Thank you for reading my report.  Your comments, feedback or varied opinions are always appreciated!


  1. Great job Shannon! I love this quote: "declared that I hate ultrarunning because it is a stupid miserable sport and not fun at all". I certainly felt that way during my second loop of the 50k last weekend - a change of shoes and some extra food and I was feeling renewed and ran the last lap well.

    I'm amazed at how many miles you can run in a week with everything else you. Keep it up!

  2. LOL. If you race with me enough you will find that at the 1/3 -2/3 into a race I will suddenly hit that point where I hate it. Usually those turn out to be best races if I can figure out what I need. I needed calories today and cantaloupe was the answer!

    Thank you for reading my post here and commenting!

  3. Hi Shannon:
    When you say "I am just 4.8 miles short of 1000 miles. " Is that for the year?


  4. I just found your blog, Shannon, and think it is super. You are an engaging writer. Amazing that you already have 1000 miles in this year.

    Also, I didn't know you were so Diane Chambers-ish with all the certifications and degrees. You are one amazing person. I'm glad we're friends.

  5. High volume training? Go figure :) ;)

    Great race - wow, 41+ in 6 hours is quite something. Awesome Shannon, awesome. Congratulations.

  6. I thought that I would see you at the Indian Trails 15K the next day. I was there and I walked most of the race. I still did not finish last. It was a nice recovery "run". The steep downhills were actually the most difficult.