Although Rebecca is still new to the ultra world but has two 100+ mile 24 hour races, a 4:07 50K National Championship performance, as well as the 68 mile 12 hour Course Record at One Day at the Fair, in NJ all to her credit. Please take some time to read about Rebecca's experience racing 24 hours at Three Days at the Fair in May 2016.
3 Days At The Fair: 24-Hour Race Recap, Augusta, NJ, May 12-13, 2016
I ran my first 24-hour race at Across The Years in Phoenix, AZ in December 2015. I was killing it for the first 13 hours until I pulled my hip flexor, resulting in a major slow down. At 23 hours in, I called it quits after limping at a ridiculously slow pace for the final hours to get to 100.78 miles. My goal was 100 miles and I wasn’t leaving without that belt buckle.
I knew I could do better and wanted to try again while I still had the endurance built up from a strong training cycle. 3 Days at the Fair was 4 and a half months away and seemed like a great fit. I ran the 12-hour race at 1 Day at the Fair in November, coming in first place female and breaking the course record with 68 miles, so I had the advantage of being familiar with the course. I got my training plan from Coach Shannon and experienced one of my strongest training cycles ever.
Although the official 24-hour race started on Saturday, the Race Directors, Rick and Jen, allow runners to start whenever they choose. As an Orthodox Jew, I don’t run on Saturdays because it’s the Sabbath (I also keep Kosher and can’t eat any of the freshly cooked meals ultras are known for, including Jen’s famous chocolate chip cookies) so I opted to start on Thursday with the 72-hour runners. The Sussex County Fairgrounds are about an hour away from my house and it was nice to not have a long drive before the 9:00 am race start. I got to the fairgrounds at around 7:30, set up my stuff, picked up my timing chip and had enough time for a 20-minute nap in the car before heading over to the start.
|Rebecca in yellow tank and pink shoes at starting line|
Rick counted us down and off we went. I knew I would be at the front of the pack since the 72-hour runners were likely to start out slower. I have a tendency to go out too fast and told myself it would be bad if any of my laps were in the 7-8:00 minute pace range, especially since the forecast called for temperatures in the 80’s. I intentionally slowed my pace until it felt easy and comfortable and joined two men who wanted to get the first 25 miles of their race done “fast”. They were impressed with my pace, but I assured them I was “only” running for 24-hours. Most of the runners on the course were engaged in conversation and I was happy to have the background noise as a distraction. One thing I love about this race is the runners - they’re an amazingly friendly and supportive group.
As I continued to run the 1-mile loop course, I felt good and kept to my plan of fueling every 5 miles and staying hydrated. I had two small bottles attached to my fuel belt with Powerade in one and water in the other. Because of the heat, I refilled them a lot more than I normally would and lost time on the course as a result. This is the main thing I would do differently next time – bring a crew. I was able to get by without one at ATY because a volunteer at the aid station saw how serious I was and made it his mission to fill my bottles so I could be back on the course as quickly as possible. However, based on my experience at the 12-hour race, I knew the aid station would not have available volunteers – something I think Rick and Jen should take into consideration – and I should have been better prepared.
As the day progressed, the temperature continued to rise. The course has no shade and the sun was out with a vengeance. I continued to keep my pace within the 9:30 – 10:30 minute range. I chatted with other runners, making the miles go by faster. One runner, who kept up a decent pace, shared that he had just run a 100-miler 2 weeks ago and another one two weeks before that. And my friends think I’m crazy!!! Another woman came up next to me and asked if I run on Sunday mornings in River Edge, my favorite long run route. I told her I run there with my friends, whom she also remembered seeing with me “the guy (Glenn) and the girl who runs in a skirt no matter what the weather is (Eva)”. We’re famous! She then told me she thought I was going too fast. I told her I was “only” running the 24-hour race. She was surprised and claimed she thought for sure I was “the type” to run for 72 hours. Maybe next year.
A few hours into the race, I saw a familiar face. I met fellow Creating Momentum Coaching athlete Julian at the Broadway Ultra Society 50k two years ago. I caught up with him on a lap and reintroduced myself. He was running his first-ever 50 miles on the course and I shared some laps with him here and there. One thing I knew I needed based on my experience at ATY was conversation – yet another reason why I should have brought a crew along. While official pacers are not allowed on the course, it would have been nice to have a designated person to run laps with me and keep me entertained when I felt tired.
The heat was grueling, but I didn’t let it deter me. I commiserated about its brutality with other runners, but ultimately, there’s nothing you can do about the weather so you just keep going. I’m not sure how I managed to keep up a decent pace, especially since the recent weather had been cool and my body didn’t have time to acclimate to the higher temperatures. The one thing I kept wishing for was a cold drink. Thankfully, the “ice angels” appeared. Two women who were crewing stocked up on ice and stood on the course offering it to runners. They put some in my hat and in my bottles every few laps and it made a huge difference. There were also ice pops (a Kosher brand!) at the aid station which were great.
By mid-afternoon the heat made me incredibly nauseous and the thought of eating was vomit-inducing. My gels were hot, my sport beans were hot and my usual go-to fuel option, Snyder’s 100 calorie bags of pretzels, were difficult to chew with a dry mouth. I had a cooler full of Ensure and it was my savior. At 350 calories and a zillion carbs per bottle, it kept me fueled when I couldn’t manage to look at food. Despite the heat, I racked up 65 miles during the first 12 hours, but I knew the heat would eventually take its toll and lead to exhaustion during the night.
At one point after sunset, I realized my body was covered in a thick layer of salt and despite hydrating well, I barely made any pit stops. I grabbed an instant soup from my stash and asked a volunteer to fill it with hot water so I could pick it up on my next lap. I told him my legs were starting to cramp and I definitely needed some salt. He suggested adding extra salt and although it tasted gross, it did the trick and my leg cramps were gone. While the temperature lowered at night, the humidity didn’t go away. I switched out my tank top for a short sleeve t-shirt and was still warm in that for the remainder of the race.
At around midnight, the exhaustion set in. I took a 5-hour energy shot, but it didn’t help at all. I was running with my eyes closed and felt like I could use a nap. While I was tired at ATY, it was nowhere near this level of fatigue. At ATY, I may have closed my eyes for a minute during pit stops, but this time I knew I wouldn’t make it through the night without sleep. I was disappointed by the thought of losing time on the course, but I knew it was a necessity. At first, I tried a 5-minute nap on a bench which led to more 5 minute naps during multiple unnecessary pit stops. I made it through a few more laps before I felt the overwhelming urge to sleep. I tried to push through, but realized I would just end up back on the bench or in the bathroom.
My car was parked practically on the course (another perk of this race) and I had a blanket and pillow in the backseat. I set the alarm on my phone for 20 minutes, made sure to elevate my feet by propping them up on the door and went to sleep. I was worried that my legs wouldn’t cooperate when I woke up, but this seemed like my only option. The nap helped, my legs worked just fine afterwards and I continued on. I still closed my eyes during a few pit stops and wished I had someone to talk to, but I kept pushing through the night until the sun finally rose.
By sunrise, my nausea disappeared. It was still warm out, but nowhere near as hot as it had been the day before. During the night, I felt blisters developing on the bottom of my feet right under my toes. This happened at ATY and I should have put both Body Glide and Run Goo on my entire feet before this race, but I stupidly only put them on my hotspots. As I continued my laps, the pain seemed to explode every time my foot hit the ground. I pushed through for a while then joined one of the runners I started the race with. We did a few laps together and the conversation took my mind off the pain. Once he went back to his tent, I continued on my own. As the legendary John Fegyveresi of Barkley fame passed by, he asked what mile I was at. I said 102. He responded, “you’ll keep going until 105 right?” Sure, why not? John had been cheering me on throughout the race, telling me how fast I was and how strong I looked. It was great to get one last push from him to finish off the race.
I crossed the finish line with 105 miles at 23:57:04, coming in 1st place female and 5th overall for the 24-hour race. I was happy with my performance and especially thrilled that things didn’t fall apart the way they did at ATY. But at the same time, I knew I could do more. I was trained for more miles. So I guess this means there will be a next time.