Friday, May 13, 2016

Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer (starring Kimberly Schwartz), Hampton, VA, 4/30/16 - 5/1/16

Last April, I decided to (once again), form a 24 hour race team for the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer. I would like to hugely thank Barry L., John P.,Tom G (#1)., Tom G. (#2), Rick M., Dave L., Andrew H., Zsuzsanna C., Alanna G., Juli A., and Kim S. for joining me on Team Awesome 2106.

I also want to thank George Nelsen, the RD, for organizing a wonderful event for an important cause. This race is one of the best 24 hour races around. We get to run on dirt, in the trees, and still we have a fast course. This is a race where people need to take care of themselves (or bring a crew). We get T-Shirts and Pizza donated during the day (thank you!). And at the end George gives out plaques to those who reached 50, 75, 100, and 125 miles. The photos are taken by volunteers and shared freely. This year an anonymous person volunteered to make team awards. It is a really nice event!

The point of all of this is to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  If you feel inspired please send over an donation! (Please do, every dollar helps).

At 7:00 am Saturday morning, we all set off on 3.75 mile flat dirt road/trail loop and try to run as many laps as possible by Sunday 7:00 am. The Team with the most total laps wins. 

Kim and Andrew were new to 24 hour racing. I wanted to run the first lap with them. We ran our first mile non-stop and then settled in. I shared how I divide up the lollipop shaped loop. I identify landmarks and make note of the distances they are around the course (i.e. From the start to the "V" fork is about .75 miles. The big telephone poles at the end of the open section is 1.5 miles. The footbridges in the rooty section start at 2.25 and then the port-o-potty at the start of the dirt road section is at 2.5. Once we get back to the “V” split, we know we have .75 left to go. These check points help me stay focused and not need to look at my watch very much.

I shared a few guidelines I wanted to follow.  I planned eat something everything lap and drink between 15-20 oz per hour. 

After doing some research for one of my exercise science classes, I learned that the limiting factor for fluid consumption is the rate of reabsorption. We will sweat more than we can consume. We can try to push in as much fluid as possible, but doing that means BIG problems if the body can’t absorb it all. The average rate of absorption for endurance athletes was identified as about 17oz per hour. People will vary, but I wanted to use 17 oz per hour as a hydration target to see if it helped me to not feel sick. I often end up throwing up in 24 hour races, which I have suspected was counterintuitively related to dehydration and not from anything I ate. If I stayed well-hydrated, I suspected I would not throw up.

Photo by Susan Scott

At the end of the first lap, we grabbed some food, filled bottles, and took care of other needs. Andrew wanted a little more time and told us to go ahead. Kim and I  were ready to go so we
headed out together for a second lap. 

During this lap, we tried out different run/walk patterns. By the time we started lap 2, our average pace was already about 13 minutes per mile. I wanted to get moving a little faster to get our pace closer to low 12:00 for as many hours as possible. We used a 0.4/0.1 Mile run/walk for most of the day. 

Kim and I train together as much as 3 times per week. We had not planned to stay together for this race, but since the pace felt good for both of us, we just did.  We worked as a team. If one of us needed an extended stop, the other filled our bottles. We pre-planned what we needed to do at our Aid Station on our way down the out-n-back section. We were quick to take care of ourselves so we could get back to the work of the day... moving forward.

We did great with hydration. Each lap, we were emptying our 10 oz bottles by the time we hit the water jug at 2.5 miles.  We would refill there and top off again back at our own aid station. We reminded each other to drink when we walked. We both found that the 10 oz bottle and the race vests worked perfectly. Snacks in one pocket. Drink in the other. It made it easy to have everything we needed.  

When I ate a large amount calories at one shot (a Smuckers PB&J at 210 calories with a 350 calorie Ensure, and then took 10 oz gatorade with me) I needed to walk a lot of the next 45 minutes and felt very low energy. I know this is due to the process of digestion demanding more of my energy. I would feel a lull when digesting but a surge of energy about 45 minutes later that lasted a while. When I grabbed smaller snacks (a handful of "Funyons"), I could eat while running.

The BEST thing about running with Kim was that we were both solution-focused the entire day.  We NEVER complained about problems or pain (even though we had them). We did not waste a breath on reporting something bad without some plan to fix it. This is the mindset we needed to get through this race. The negative thoughts will come to everyone in a 24 hour race, but I know that dwelling on them really doesn’t help matters. This is the way we train. Sharing all the negatives only transfers that energy to someone who might be in a funk and more to susceptible to negative energy.  We just tried to stay positive.  

After the race, Kim shared that for a good part of the day, she was worried that she might have damaged her toe, that her feet were really in a lot of pain, and that she wasn’t sure what was going to happen to her out there by morning... I shared that for 18 hours of the event I was worried I would throw up, that my feet were KILLING me for all of last 10 hours, and I was certain that if I did not sit for a few minutes once it got dark, I would end up dropping from sleep deprivation. We had a lot of negative thoughts. We just didn’t give them a voice. We were positive, solution-focused, problem-solviers or we accepted the hand we were dealt and moved forward. We mostly spent the day laughing.  I am so proud of us. 

As we started Lap 3 we outlined a 50M strategy. We stuck to our plan, always felt hurried, but never too rushed. We and ended up reaching 50 miles in 11:58. I noticed the time of day was 7:01 pm. That was interesting to me. The race was supposed to start at 7:00 am. We stopped for photos and appreciated every single mile past 50!

At 7:33 pm, I hit the wall. I was so incredibly sleepy. I had slept horribly the week leading up to this race. I had food poisoning the prior Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. My stress about the race was so high I got hives and could not sleep well. I also needed to finish 7 days worth of work in 4 days time so I could attend this event. I got everything done, but I was so tired. 7:33 pm is way too early for a nap.  

This was the first moment I knew Kim was running stronger than me. I was ready to sleep and she looked fresh as a daisy. I wondered if I should encourage her to go ahead so I could take a rest. But again, I remembered some research about racing while sleep-deprived and this is often truly more of a mind-over-matter.  We get tired whether we are moving or not, but we can stay more awake by choosing to move when tired. So I decided to keep going. I also learned a lot about "Sleep Inertia", which happens after taking a nap. As a result of a 20-60 minute nap, we will often wake up feeling more tired, but over the next 4 hours we will experience an increasing level of alertness from the brief rest earlier. Knowing this, I wanted to take a rest closer to midnight so I could experience the positive impact of the nap over the hardest 4 hours of the race 1:00 am through 4:00 am, when my circadian rhythms scream for sleep.  

At this point a good cup of coffee would have been nice. However this race is No Frills. It does not provide hot food (except for the pizza that was generously brought in 2 x during the race. We missed it the second time). We were crewing ourselves with only the things we brought (PB&J, Ensure, Gatorade, Funyons, Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans, Twizzlers, Rice Crackers, etc)... So instead of having coffee, we grabbed a few chocolate covered expresso beans and made due. The next lap we got some Pepsis but we didn't even drink the whole can. I am so surprised at how little caffeine we took in during this event.  

Our pace was steady. As others were fading, we began passing people. We slowly reeled in three runners in the roots.  I decided to pass because I don’t like running close behind others when I need to see the ground. “On your left,” I say as I start to make a move and then I hear the ruckus behind me. I look back to see Kim skidding across the ground, on her face, LOL. 

She jumps up, covered in mulchy dirt and immediately points at me to declare “OMGI never fall!  YOU fall all the time!!”  

I reply “And clearly you did not learn a single thing about how to tuck and roll!  Who lands on their face?!  Even kids put their hands out!” ;)  

Two runners proceeded on while one stopped to ask if she was ok.  We could hear very little through our laughter. I tried to wipe the dirt off her face, but Kim had no time for that, “Leave it...We gotta go!…I'll get it later! .. (then a few minutes later)... I think my toe is messed up from that fall. It is going numb now, so I should be ok!” LOL. (All I could think is if Kim comes home with a messed up face and a broken toe, Mike is NEVER going to let me bring her to a 24 hour race again!

We stayed moving (and mostly upright) until 11:32 pm. Kim and I are Streak Runners. We run at least one non-stop mile each day. Kim has over a year now and I have over 4 years. Kim’s fear (before this race even started) was that she was not going to be able to get her Streak Mile in for Sunday. I was exhausted, but I had a plan. I needed a 30 minute break to close my eyes. Then we could get up and run a non-stop mile after 12:00 am Sunday to keep our streak alive. She agreed with this plan, although she really did not need to sleep. 

At this point my stomach was feeling so queazy. Oh boy. Crap. I knew I could not eat when moving any more. I had to eat as much as possible, then rest so I got some calories digested. We both pounded Ensures and some other snacks. We pushed in some extra hydration. We changed out of our sweaty clothes to warm up before we rested.

Rather than go into the warm building to rest, where it would be too easy to just stay in, I recommended that we wrap ourselves in our blankets and rest out in the cold. I did not want us getting too comfortable indoors. This worked. It was in the 40s so we were not too cold. It was 11:32 pm. Someone at our aid station set an alarm for us, but both Kim and I actually were up just before12:00am. I rested better than Kim. Oh how I needed those 28 minutes off my feet with my eyes closed. Kim was awake the entire time. I was in a half sleep state where I could hear people and the traffic, but I needed to just close my eyes and shut down my brain.  

Photo by Dean Wewetzer
It is hard to get started again, but having that Streak Mile to run helped us have a reason to run when everything else about how we felt said "walk".  Miraculously Kim’s Garmin was still running, so we had that to measure our mile.  We started “running” which was hilarious. 

I could not believe we were actually running non-stop and I started to exclaim “They Are Working! I cant believe my Legs are Working!!!... we must have been "running" a blazing 15 minute pace in the middle of the night in the woods.  As we loosened up, we tried to speed up to break 12:00 mins (b/c the Unbroken Streak Challenge is to run at least one continuous sub-12 min mile each day). We failed! We ran our mile in 12:24... oooooh so close!  But we were ok with the non-sub-12:00. We maintained our streak but we did not meet the Unbroken rules.

Once the mile was over I needed to walk because I was very concerned I was going to puke. The food I ate was not fully digested. Kim forbids me to throw up by declaring "If you puke now I will make me eat it like a dog” OMG, it was the most hilarious and most disgusting thing she could have said. I almost threw up just from those words alone LOL! 

Then she says "Sorry, I don't know why I said that!  That is so disgusting!" LOL.  I later saw a T-shirt that said "Sorry for what I said to you at Mile 20"  We need one that says "Sorry for what I said to you at Mile 60" :)

From this point on I was in pain management mode. I had changed from my Hoka Tracers and put on my older Brooks Launch. The shoe change felt good, but my feet still hurt. I needed to get off my feet for just 5 minutes at the next stop.

We realized that we could truly get 75 miles or more. This was Kim's "Reach Goal." This is also when I learned that Kim becomes a Math-Magician in the middle of the night. At 1:30 am, deprived of sleep she begins to demonstrates her complex mental math skills:

Ok so this is lap 17... 17 x 3.75 Ok, so 17 x 4 that’s 68... but we got to take off the .25... so that's a quarter of 17 let's see, that would be four and a quarter... we got to take that from the 68...” At this point I wondered if I was dreaming. Who does this?!  I can't multiple 17 x 3.75 in my head ever! “Ok when we finish 17 laps we will be 63.75 Miles. That means we need three more laps for 75.”  Whoa, OK. Whatever you say, sister!   (But really, she could have told me 17 x 3.75 is 4 and I would have believed her.) 

Any good 24 hour runner knows to never stop at milestone number, so I wanted to have at least 30 minutes at the end to run a few extra miles. If we started these last three laps at 2 am and planned to complete them by 6 am, that gave us 4 hours to use.  We needed to maintain a strict 1:20 minute per lap plan (with all Aid Station stops included).  This gave us an hour extra for short loops and mishaps. We were covering laps in 1:10 minutes at that time so I knew we could do this.  I would even have 5 minutes to get off my feet between laps. 

At the aid station, I took off my shoes and rolled out my arches with this device I got from Roll Recovery. It was awesome! We decide that at 1:50 am, we wanted to be out for the next lap, 10 minutes early. We were in at 1:45 am. We were so great about time. 5 minutes meant 5 minutes.  At 1:50 were up and ready to go.  Zsuzsanna wanted to join us for this lap, but I was in rush mode. She was so great to hurry to get herself ready to go and we were back moving at exactly 2:00 am. 

Our plan was realistic and achievable. We came around a 3:10 am. I took a few minutes off my feet again. We were back out by 3:15-3:20.

I am crashing hard while Kim is getting more hyper. I can't see straight. Shadows are playing tricks on me. I think I see animals in the bushes, but there is nothing there. I am no longer able to speak in full sentences. I just start grunting as a sign of acknowledgement to things Zsuzsanna is saying.  Zsuszanna asks me if I am ok.  I grunt at her.   

My entire digestive system has been rebelling on me for mostly the last 12 hours. I feel like I need to stop at every bathroom we pass, but then when I stop, I really don't need to.  My body is just flipping out from the stress of the event. I try to ignore it since we are almost done. 

Where is the Sun!!! I need to stop using this lamp. The shadows are killing me. I feel like I need a dramamine.

4:30 am and we are back at our Aid Station. Off my feet again for few minutes. And by 4:45 am we are back out on our 20th loop. Once we complete this we are at 75 miles!  I cannot wait to secure that 75 miles plaque. 

Kim is hilarious, almost giddy from exhaustion. She is wide awake and picking on me. Unable to form words, I am completely unarmed.  She says she is going to be Amy this time and try to talk me, as Shalane, out of my funk (like I tried to "annoyingly" to do her at the Central Park Marathon when she looked like she was having some heat issues).  She emphatically adds "How do you like it now!"  LOL 

All I can I remember thinking is "If I just had any energy to lift my arms, I would push you in those bushes ... Wait, WTH is that?… a Monkey?!!… No, just a shadow!" My brain was shutting down completely. 

It is past 5 am and I am DYING to see the sun rise. I just need to feel awash with light. The birds are chirping. I know it is coming.  We are both clock-watching.  It is 5:15, where it is... 5:20, Come on? Shouldn't it be up by now? I can see the sky turning a deep blue. This is taking SOOOOO long.  It is like watching grass grow in the dark! 

My stomach is feeling terrible. I am pretty sure that if I start running I may actually crap my pants right there in the woods. My body is simply done for the day. 

Finally, the sunrise comes as we start our 74th mile and it is perfect!  

Kim takes a quick bathroom stop at the porto-potty. I skip it. Why? Who knows?  Because I was too tired and didn't need any more tasks to add to my exhausting "to do" list of lifting my feet one at a time.  My body and mind have been playing tricks on me for hours. I decide to just use the bathroom at the end of the loop to "celebrate" 75 miles. Yes, in a 24 hour race, getting to use the bathroom becomes a reward for a job well done!  We had talked about going for 76-77 miles.  We had plenty of time for that. I did not feel rushed at all. 

But Kim is like a freakin' superhero on meth… she jumps out the potty and declares "Ok, I really just want to run!  Let's go!

OMG. What? Is she serious? We have an hour to go. Is she trying to kill me!?

I don't know if I can run non-stop for an hour. But we have been out here for like DAYS together. Kim wants to run. This is her first 24 hour. She is blowing her goal out of the water.  She is so excited. I would hate to not finish with her.  Kim wants to run… so I run. 

We come to our Aid Station at 6:11 and we discard a few layers. We hurry to the lap counters. We report "Big Lap" (since some are running smalls). Our counter says "I got you both!"  

It is 6:12 am. I hit the timer on my Fitbit because my Garmin is dead. We want to run a full mile and we want a sub-12.  We complete our first out-and-back and NOW I realize I absolutely MUST stop to use the bathroom. No joke.  

My heart is breaking. Kim is RUNNING. Really Running. I tell her I need a break for a minute and to go if she wants to. I can't ask her to wait. Not now. This is a race. She says "No, I'll wait" (Thank you!).  I notice I forgot to stop the timer at the end of the first short loop mile. It was now 11:24 for that mile plus a little more distance. (We got our "Unbroken Streak Challenge done!)

We take off and start to do more math. We have 35 minutes left. (OMG…We have 35 MINUTES LEFT and we are going to run this non-stop after logging 76 miles in 23 hours 25 minutes.)  

How many miles can we run in 35 minutes after being on our feet for almost a full day? Three seemed reasonable. If we could run 3 more miles, we are at 79 miles.  But runners NEED round numbers.  Kim asks, "Think we can get 80???"

Could it be possible?… Maybe, but more likely we won't have enough time. We beg our sore feet and tired legs to move faster. We have to try. It is like running in a dream when you trying to run fast, but you just can not move. We already know we are going to use every single second we have left in the race to try for 80 Miles!  We finish mile 77 in about 10 minutes. 

Ok 25 minutes to go for 3 more miles. Darn it! 10 minute pace is too slow for 80. Kim throws her bottle to the ground. She means business. We head back out to the half mile mark.  We are moving significantly faster than anyone else around us. It makes us feel like we are extra fast. We hit the half mile mark at 4:15 on my timer. We finish Mile 78 in about 9:30. This is better, but not fast enough.  

We have only just over 15 minutes left as we start out for mile 79. 

We conference. Can we really do this? Kim does some more mensa math, because I can no longer subtract 9.5 from 25 in my head. If we are running as hard as we can at about a 9:30 pace and we have about 15 minutes left to run, we are only going to have about 5 minutes left to complete mile 80. We know we can't likely run the 7:30 pace needed to make this happen.  Oh man… our hearts sink a little… 5 minutes is definitely NOT enough time for a mile.  7:30 pace for 2 Miles is unrealistic too. It does not matter. We run harder.  We have to try!  

BUT WAIT!  I remember way back to what feels like last week… at  50 miles the time of day was 7:01 pm  (12 hour and 1 minute past 7am when the race was supposed to start)… but the "GUN time" on my Garmin for our 50 miles split was 11:58, 2 minutes before 12 hours… This means we started late.  OMG! THE RACE STARTED LATE!

"Kim! The race didn't start at 7am!  It started late2-3 minutes after 7 am! That means we have more time! This might give us 8 minutes for the last mile, not 5!!!  We can do this!!" 

Kim digs so deep she looks like she is going to puke. Ha! I get my revenge. "Who's Shalane now?!If looks could kill, I would be struck dead. I could read her mind. "Stop it! Not! Now!" 
Final Miles
Photo by Zsuszanna Carlson

The small number of spectators who remained were there cheering and it helped so much.  We are racing hard. I start calling out to anyone we pass, "How much time is left?" but we were running so fast we could not get an answer. 

We finish Mile 79. I yell to the crew of lap counters "How much time!!??' 

Peter's excitedly replies "9 minutes! You going for one more?!" 

Kim and I swing a 180 around the S/F cone and I yell out "YES!" 

We are sprinting! Full speed. Out to the .50 mile sign. We tag the sign and then race our hearts out all the way home.

I turn to Kim and say "You are going to cry, aren't you?" She says "I want too.. but I am too dehydrated!"

We hit the finish line and Peter says "One minute left."

80 miles side-by-side.  
We tie for 9th female OA
We tie for 21st place of 217 total runners. 

Congratulations Kim!  You should be proud of this day for the rest of your life. This is how to run a 24! 

Donation to the ACS:

Photo by Dean Wewetzer