Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bartlett Park Ultra 2008

Well, I did it. It took me almost 12 hours but I did it. 50 miles. Wow that was tough. I feel pretty good about it but it was slower than I had hoped, but the heat kinda killed us all.

The race started at 6:30. I showed up about 6:15. I got my stuff the previous night, so I already had my number pinned on my hat and everything was ready to go. I had prepared a bag of stuff so that I could change my socks and shoes and shirt and shorts because I knew that I would be soaked through with sweat. It was a loop course that took us six times around an eight mile course. the last two miles were an out and back.

Anyway, it started at 6:30. I found myself in the probably about ten people back from the start. I knew I had to really focus on holding back for the first two or three laps. I felt like I did a pretty good job, although I probably still could have gone slower and had more at the end. It went about as expected for the first lap. The first eight miles were done in about 1:30. That is about an 11 minute mile. That is the pace that I wanted to be able to finish in. I was doing pretty good. Even though the day started out at 82 degrees It didn't seem that bad. I knew it would get worse though. Amanda and the kids were there to watch the start. They also went out to the aide station that was at mile four. It was probably less than half a mile to walk out there. The course was kinda shaped like a lopsided three leaf clover. The first little loop was four miles, then two then another two. There was one aide station that was accessible from mile four and mile six and another at the start/finish area. The family were there to cheer me on. I was glad to see them. It was still early in the race though and I was still feeling pretty good. I finished out the first lap and said bye to the family. They were leaving for the rest of the day to go see a children's museum. I can't blame them for not wanting to wait around there all day. First loop 1:28 total time 1:28.

The second loop was a little bit slower, in fact each loop was progressively slower than the previous one. I was still feeling great on this loop. I was just treating it as another one of my long runs. Slow and easy. I stopped each time at the aide station to fill my bottle with ice and water. I grabbed a few pretzels and cookies to eat each time too. I also put ice in my hat each time I saw the aide stations. That was key to keeping me cool. The ice in my bottle would keep my hands cool and the ice in my hat would keep my head cool. It was nice. Second loop 1:34 total time 3:02.

The third lap was probably my best. Not for time, but I just felt great. I knew I was still trying to hold myself back but I was into it and feeling just great. After this lap I changed shoes and socks and shorts and shirt. Everything was soaked through with sweat. I purposely put my race number on my had so that I could change shirts easily and not have to worry about switching the number around. Third loop 1:43 total time 4:45.

The fourth lap, what can I say about the fourth lap. It was on this lap that I was really beginning to be tested. I was still feeling pretty good, still taking some crackers, pretzels and such for salt, and cookies and PB&J's for more energy. This was when I really noticed the temperature. I later looked it up online and the temp for Bartlett for that day was 106 with a heat index temp of 125 or something. If I'd have heard that I might have dropped out. But in actuality, it was probably no more than about 95 in the forest. The race was 99 percent shaded. It was really good. I was actually contemplating only doing the 50k race (32 miles). Since it was a loop course you could choose to run four loops (32 miles/a long 50k), five loops (40 miles), or six loops with an additional two mile out and back (50 miles). You could choose while you were running. I'm sure there were a lot of people who started out planning on doing the 50 miles but dropping to the 40 mile or 50k. for a very short while I thought about stopping at the 50k. That quickly passed though, mainly because Amanda wouldn't have been there to see me finish. At that point I was telling myself (and others) that I was definitely doing at least 40 miles. This loop was the longest one. I saw no one for the first four miles. Then after the aide station I came across some people, but I passed them. It was lonely. I changed socks for the second time. I was now on my third pair of socks. Fourth loop 2:11 total time 6:57.

When I left the aide station for my fifth lap there was another young man right behind me. I though he might want to pass me, but he didn't. We walked with each other for the first mile. He then jogged passed me and I realized that I needed to stay with him or else I might not finish the full fifty miles. I had just called Amanda and told her that I was thinking about dropping at forty. Well I stayed with him. This guy, his name was Lee, was a life saver. We helped each other out. we actually "ran" the rest of the race together, 18 miles. At the aide station I told him how much he has been helping me. He told me that I had been helping him too. I noticed it when I took the lead for a bit. It was motivation knowing that someone was right there behind you and that you can't go too slow. When I was following him it was harder to go faster, but easier too because I just had to make sure that he didn't get out of my sight. Well, after doing this four miles with him I realized that there was no stopping me. I was going to make the full fifty miles. I had fourteen to go and I knew I was going to finish. It was tough going the rest of the loop, but we I stuck with Lee and we managed to make it. One lap to go. I changed my shoes again back to the ones I started with. I figured they'd had a few hours to dry. I also changed socks again. I knew my feet had blisters on them and I really did not want to look at them otherwise it might hurt worse. fifth loop 2:16 total time 9:13

Well, we didn't stay too long at the aide station and we were off on our sixth and final lap. After the first mile I called Amanda (like I had done on every other loop) and she had actually just arrived at the start/finish area. It would have been nice to see them as I came through the aide station, but I also was kinda glad that she wasn't there. You see, I wanted here to see me finish the race and if she had been there, she would have seen me finish the 40 mile and that would have been good enough. On my fifth lap I was thinking that, only for a short little bit, and I probably really would have kept going because of Lee, but the thought did cross my mind that if she were there I might just stop. Anyway, I wasn't a bit concerned about time for the race until about half way through the last lap. I realized that at the pace we were going, we might be able to finish in 12 hours. When we got to the aide station it was about 10.5 hours into the race. That would give us an hour and a half to finish the last six miles. Now on any given day, six miles could easily be accomplished in less than an hour, in fact on a good day I could do it in less than 45 minutes. But after running 44 miles, 6 miles seems like a really long way. We were walking most of the time anyway. We would walk then jog some, then walk then jog some. That's just how you have to move when you've gone for so long. I was actually surprised that I noticed it cool down. Then I realized how hot it was. Sure it "cooled down" but you can hardly call it cooled down when it is still 95 degrees out. Well, we had passed the aide station the second time and we had about a mile to go before the start/finish area (three miles left) when all of a sudden, another runner comes plodding along from behind and passes us. We took that as a sign and used him for some motivation. We picked up our pace a little bit and I'm convinced that if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have made the twelve hour mark. Well we didn't keep up with him completely but we did speed up. sixth loop 2:21 total time 11:35

We made a short stop at the aide station and left for the final two miles out and back. There was a sign on a tree that said Bartlett Park Ultra 1 Mile. When I was leaving the aide station I was told that I had 25 minutes if I wanted to get under 12 hours. Well, I ran 95 percent of that mile. I ran it pretty hard too. I'm pretty sure it was my fastest mile of the whole thing. It was a nine minute mile. Then I turned around and headed back and ran the final mile in 9:30. Wow, who knew that I had it in me. I really didn't think I had that kind of speed in me at that point. Lee took off in front of me from the aide station. I was trying to just catch up to him, but I couldn't do it. I came in about ten seconds behind him. And the other guy that passed us, we were both within fifteen seconds or so of him. mile 49 9:04, mile 50 9:30, total time 11:54:08.

After the race I sat in a chair for just a few minutes before walking over to the car. I changed into some cry clothes and took my shoes and socks off. I had some flip-flops to wear to let my fee dry out. My calves felt like they might cramp up at any moment, so I had to keep my legs stretched out and relaxed. My feet had blisters on them too. I knew it from about mile forty. From that point on every time I stepped down I could feel the sharp tingling of the blisters. It kinda went numb after a while, but I could still feel it. I would feel it again when I started running, but then my heart would start racing and my body would tell me I couldn't run, so I would walk. It's the same loop I was talking about earlier.

Anyway, now, a day later, I feel fine. We went and saw Graceland here in Memphis today, then we went down to Beale Street, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, then went on a bus tour. It was really hot. Hotter than I remembered it being yesterday. My blisters are bothering me and I am limping around because of that, but it's not too bad. My legs are just a little bit sore and I really only notice the soreness when going up or down stairs.

I know that whatever my next 50 mile race is, it will be faster than this one. The heat really killed me. I feel good about finishing my first Ultra marathon. I'm hooked. When is the next one? Where will I run? Who Knows? Right now I'm on vacation. I'll think about it later when I can think a little more clearly. Maybe I'll look it up tomorrow night when the kids are sleeping.

And now for the photos: Here is the start of the race. I'm somewhere in there, I promise.

Here I am just a few seconds after the start. I look great.

This is coming in to the aide station at mile four. Only 46 more to go.

I'm enjoying some snacks here.

Here I am coming into the start/finish area at mile 8. Still feeling great.

I'm getting a quick snack before I hit the trail again.

Here are my kids in front of the sign showing the map of the trails we were running on. We did most of the trails shown here.

Okay, here I am finally coming into the start/finish area at mile 48. On the left side of the picture is Lee. He was trying to get out of the way so he wouldn't be in my photo. He's the one that kept me going. Thanks Lee.

Alex is running faster than I am right here. I just think it is cute that we are both looking back.

Coming into the finish at mile 50. I'm finally done!

I like this one because you can see Alex start running after me.

The aftermath: this is my right foot about twenty minutes after the finish. You will notice how wrinkly it is.

Here is my right foot a day later. It's not wrinkly anymore, but you can now see the blisters on my foot. I think there are five. The ones that hurt most are towards my toes. They are long and skinny, you can't really see them in the photo here.

Here on my left foot you can see the long skinny one really well. There are two just like this on the other foot.

Wow, that was one long post. Sorry if that bored you too much. I hope you enjoyed my little report. If you didn't then you shouldn't have read the whole thing.

Just to finish off I'd like to thank the race staff and all the volunteers for being out there all day in the heat and for putting on a great race. They really did a great job. I think everything about this race was great except for the heat.