Thursday, November 3, 2016

GLIRC 60th Birthday Run, 6-Hour Duration Race, Kings Park, NY, 10/16/16

For me, there are not many events more challenging than a 6-Hour Duration race. In this event, to do well, you need to accept that a faster pace does not get you to the finish line any quicker.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The faster you go the further you get to run as your reward. The only way to make a 6-hour race easier on yourself is to slow down. A 6-hour race is fast from the gun and it just doesn't let up at all until the horn sounds, signifying permission to finally stop moving.

A volunteer from GLIRC hands me my bib. In an excited voice, she says “Your number 747! That’s a good number. You are gonna fly!” 

Photo posted on Emmy's FB page
Oh boy. No pressure.” I reply.

I am unsure about what I can do today. I really don't have a solid plan. My fall training was planned around a September marathon and everything else after that is gravy. I was surprised to have run a great Steamtown just 7 days before.

The guy standing next to me looks at my feet and says,“Nice new shoes!” (I think that was supposed to imply I was not making a good choice by wearing new shoes to a 6 hour race? I dont really know.  Maybe just small talk to pass time at the start).  I explain that "my shoes aren't actually new, they are just clean because they are road racing flats." (This was likely not a great explanation, since the course is mostly trail).  He says ‘Well, they are going to get dirty today!” I have trail shoes in my bag, but I like they way these shoes fit me. Since the course is not really technical and the weather is dry, I was sure my comfy light road flats would serve me just fine. I look at Aaron (eventual winner) and he has on a pair of Launch’s, so I know I will be ok in my Hyperions.

The race starts. Downhill we go and the pace feels good. But before the end of the first mile, I already know my legs are too tired for the 7:45 pace it would take me to try to run a 50K PR. I had wondered if a 50K PR was possible today before we took off. It took me less than 8 minutes to come to my senses, used some reason, and settle down a little.

A young kid leads. Phil is ahead. Aaron pulls away. There are two other men in front of me. I find a pace that feels comfortable.  I notice that my watch is not holding a signal. It is dropping and reconnecting. It tells me lies, reporting that have covered no distance at all or that I am moving at a 25-minute pace. For some reason, this doesn’t really bother me. I have had watch trouble this entire season and maybe this has been part of the secret to my successes. There is something to be said about listening to your body.

At the start/finish, I try to use the race clock to make a mental note of my 2.1 mile split at each lap. But, because my mind is wandering as I run, I keep forgetting the exact clock time. I think part of me just did not want to know what my pace was. Fast or Slow, it did not matter because I was certain I was making my best effort.

I decided to switch my Garmin to display the Timer Mode. I paid attention to elapsed time. I managed the race one hour at a time. Aiming to run between 3-4 laps per hour.

I did not carry anything on me, except one gel. It is a short loop. My back hurts when I carry things. I still have pain when I carry nothing in training, but I am much more likely to have pain when I have a vest, a waist pack, or even a bottle with me.

I planned to use only the aid provided. However, two laps in a row I blow past the aid station. I didn't turn back. But on the third lap, I forced myself to remember to grab fluids. I was already worried I had gone too long without aid. I swiped a cup of Gatorade from the table and kept going.

After a few laps, I had found a nice comfortable flow at a pace that was just fast enough, yet still sustainable. I even felt like I could speed up from that pace if I wanted to. I wondered if I was patient, would I feel this way later? Could I Negative Split a 6 hour?

An older guy runs up and asks, “What event are you running?” This was an odd question.
There is only one event...,” I reply.

Are you planning to run the entire 6 hours?” He asks.
Yes. That is the plan....”

Maybe you should settle down and relax?
Nah..I’m ok.”

No, really, you should consider going easier now and THEN try to reel in the leaders later, like I will!
No, really. I’m fine. I have run these before.”

Well I’m just saying … you should consider…” (Now this is getting a little redundant and I just want to focus on my running and not have to explain myself to a stranger).

“I’m really ok. I have run over 41 miles in 6 hours... more than one. I am REALLY ok … but, please, you go on ahead and have a good race.”

He pulls away (thank goodness).

The next few minutes I am left wondering what was that all about. Why so many questions? Why not just let me run my race? Was he trying to be helpful? Does he give unsolicited advice to everyone he runs up to? Was it because I am female? Does he tell men to slow down too?  

I watched him slowly pull ahead and then settle in to a pace similar to my own. I kept my eye on him, wondering when he will make his move to reel in the leaders?

As I passed two wonderful volunteer course marshals, they notice that I am leading the woman and show a lot of support. After a few laps, I ask if they know who is in second? I like to have information, not that it would change my pacing. They weren’t sure, so I just continued to do what I was doing.

At about 8 miles in I took the gel in my pocket. Why not? It was there. Calories are good. In marathons, I take gels about every 8-9 miles, so this could work here too. But I also carb-loaded A LOT for this race. I felt very energized, but a gel could not hurt.

At about 10-11 miles in I started to lose track of my lap count and my mileage. I was so much in my zone that I was not able to focus on the clock or splits… I just ran. For most of the race, I tried to figure out how to divide different amounts of time by 2.1, but really it just confused me.

"17 divided by 2.1 is…. um… 16 dived by 2 is 8, but then there is one minute left and a point one to deal with and now my head hurts…" 

Lap after lap, I just ran… I ran without any idea how far I had gone or how fast I was running. I just ran. And it was wonderful! I have never felt so good running in my life. 

I pass one of the guys who was ahead of me.  

Then I pass the guy who told me to slow down.  He doesn’t say anything this time. Before the end of the race I will lap him … twice ... and he will drop out early. 

I wanted to say, “SeeI do know what I am doing.” I wanted to say "Did you INTEND to stop early? Were you NOT planning to run the entire 6-hours?" I wanted to say, "Maybe you should have slowed your pace a little at the start and took it easy?"But I try to be kind. So I don't say anything. I think my running made my point for me. 

Just before 3 hours, I complete 21 miles (10 Laps). I try to run a little stronger. I felt amazing. I am clicking off mindless laps, while grabbing cups of Gatorade and Coca-Cola and occasionally some water. Sometimes I skipped aid because I feel great. I didn't stop long for any reason, except to take a few strides while trying to drink from the plastic cups. I didn’t need any solid food. I never grabbed any more gels. I just ran and ran and ran…

At one point I noticed the lap I was on would end about 4:03. 4:03 is my 50k PR. Even though I had no idea how far I had run, I wondered if I was close to the 50k mark so I made a push to speed up just in case I was on track for a 50k PR. It turns out I wasn't really that close. LOL. That was a lap too soon. My 50k split was 4:20, according to the lap sheet.

With two hours to go,  trying to make the race seem shorter, I tell myself that I won't need to be on this “big loop” for the entire remaining time. We get to run a small loop at the end. I wasn't sure when I would get sent over to the small. I assumed with about 30 minutes left in the race, I would get there. I wasn't sure what the smalls were like, but I was getting tired of the HILLY second half of the loop that had loose SAND with poor traction.

There is a guy sitting at picnic table on the back half of the loop. He starts talking to me each lap. He is paying more and more attention. At one point he says, “You don’t have an ounce of fat on you, do you!”… I try to say something witty, but I can’t make sentences. Each lap, thereafter, he cheers me on and tells me I look really strong. I start to look forward to seeing him.  He is my new best friend. :)

I can't believe I have run this far without stopping for any longer than it took to drink from a cup. I am overwhelmed.  


The guy on the back half asks, “How far are you running today???

Me: “I think... maybe... 41 miles?

Him: (SHOCKED!) “OMG! What? 41 miles!!

Me: “I think so. I’m not really sure. But this should be my last lap. Thank you for cheering! :)”

On the 19th lap, my legs (or maybe it was just my mind) start to get very tired.  I decide I need to walk the hill. I made it 5 hour and 15 minutes before things started to get hard.  This would be my first walk break of the entire race. I am sad that I would not be able to say I ran 6 hours non-stop… but I know I walked through aid a few times already, so I truly couldn’t make that claim. However, this was the first significant walk I took all day. I needed it so I could regroup a bit before tackling the second half of the loop, which has more hills and that loose sand that slowed me down. I had suspected this would be my last Big Lap and I wanted to say good-bye to the hill.

I come through the start/finish and the volunteers are still there, cheering loudly for me, by name. I feel like I am someone special.

Richie looks at my time and says… “One More Big!
I grumble back “Really?” (
I was hoping for smalls b/c I had already said good-bye to the hill.) 

Richie says, “28 minutes to go.  If you do it, you will have the course record!
OMG, what!? “Really?!!… Ok!” and I go for it.

It occurs to me that I ran 10 laps in 3 hours and I am about to run 20 laps with some time to spare. I am actually negative splitting this race!

The guy on the back half is gone. There are very few runners left on the big loop. I feel alone, but I am pushing myself. My legs feel dead, but I am lifting them. I come around and see the finish line… I have plenty of time. Minutes to spare. 20 laps. The small crowd cheers for me. I don't even think I had the energy to crack a smile. I was kind of in a state of disbelief. Is this me doing this?

Richie sends me to the small loop. And it is terrible. Half downhill, half steeply uphill… but I have a few minutes left and I want to crank out as many smalls as I can to push my new CR further into the distance. Minutes feel so long.  But the more time I get now the better. But I want to stop.  I am torn.  The lap is about .3 miles and every time around the small crowd make me feel like an Olympian.

And finally... there is the signal...  We can stop… 
It is over... My head is spinning… My legs are tired... My heart feels full of joy. 

I love the 6-hour race. It is good to me. It gives me a chance to fight my heart out and I did not let it or myself down today.

Time: 6:00:00
Distance: 43.16 miles
Pace: 8:20 per mile
Place: Second place OVERALL of men and women
Gender: First Female
Course Record: Women’s Course Record by 2.25 miles

My Heart is so very Happy.