Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Last Race of 2012

The Self-Transcendence Ultra Classic 6 12 24 Hour Race is an annual event held at the Louis Riel Dome in Ottawa. Yes, an indoor 400 metre track.

After my trail runs this year, I was kind of looking forward to a flat, predictable run. I run better on roads and trails that are maintained although I'd rather be out on single trails in the forest at any time. Knowing this race would have a constant temperature and reliable washroom facilities made my 12 hour race seem somewhat easier to plan for.

I made a goal for myself of 65-70km in 12 hours. A few other running friends thought that 80km was doable and I actually planned to aim for that. (More about that later!). I had completed 56km in the dark in 11 hours. I did 50 km in just over 10 hours in slick mud and torrential downpours. I decided that given the nature of consistency I'd have at a track, my first goal wasn't unrealistic and knowing that I run better on such a surface, the 80km didn't seem to be too "out there" either. My only concern was that a cold had settled in my upper lungs. It didn't seem to bother my breathing but it was just "there" making me cough when I least expected it.

The morning of the race I was woke up nervous and as usual, I hadn't sleep very well. One day, I really need to figure out a way to get a good night's sleep before a race! I'd taken a variety of clothes to wear (although I have no idea why - again, the temperature and overall climate would be consistent in the dome) but I was chilled so I threw on running capris and a tank top.  I figured for sure I'd overheat at some point but right now my legs were happy with my decision. We (a running friend who was in the 24 hour race and another running friend who was there to crew for four women - poor guy!) made it to the dome with time to spare. We quickly got our aid table set up and before we knew it, the race director was calling the racers over. The starter "conch shell" went off and away we went!!Just a small issue arose after the first corner of the track. It was the start for the 24 hour race. Not the 12 hour race. Apparently, I had printed off an older version of the guidance notes when the 24 hour and 12 hour race started at the same time. This year, they had changed it so that the start times were all staggered by one hour. I chalked it up as a warm-up jog and left the track....

Actually having the extra hour worked out great. I was able to mentally get focused for this race which was one area that seemed to be missing out of my race plans all year. I changed into shorts, I visualized the turns, I decided that I'd take a bathroom break every hour, I got my mp3 player was a really LONG hour...

I was so darn ready to get going by 9 a.m.! The 24 hour participants had been going by for nearly an hour and I was chomping at the bit! A quick photo shoot of the 12 hour participants and then the conch shell announced the beginning of the 12 hour race! We were off...finally!

Now many runners, whether road or trail, will tell you that running a track is incredibly difficult mentally. Let's face it, you see the same things around and around and around for quite a long period of time.  It can get boring. It can get monotonous. And eventually, as I found out, it can hurt. A lot. But running the track taught me a lot about self-discipline and getting through the mental game. Obviously there are no hills or technical areas that will naturally slow you down, so you have to really pay attention to your body and the clock. I didn't think I was running fast until my crew member Ken was pushing out his hands at the aid station reminding me to slow down. After all, I did have to get through 12 hours. It was hard to ignore the extremely LARGE digital clock on the wall of the dome but I did manage it. I was able to have some cool conversations with people I'd never met or never had a chance to really speak with before. I really did try to make it fun for myself and it seemed to work. Earlier in the season, I mentioned that I don't smile much during a race. Well, I can honestly say that I did during this one. I just felt mentally prepared and "together".

The first six or seven hours of the race actually went very well. I was off my mark for reaching 80km by only two or three kms and I was certain I could make that up. I wasn't tired, winded, and I was doing everything correctly. My cold didn't seem to be bothering to much either. I was drinking enough, I was snacking and eating (using a new nutrition program that I LOVE), and I was still smiling and joking with people. I knew, by far, this was the best race I had been in. And then (because you know something had to happen) my left groin started to hurt. From there it was downhill (without the hills). My left ankle began to swell and I kept stopping to loosen my left shoe laces. The tendons behind both my knees began to ache. By the beginning of the eighth hour to the last lap of the race, I walked. This wasn't part of my overall race plan but there was no way I was leaving the track early either; I finished the race.

I finished with a distance of 71.6km. If my Dad were still here he would have asked what happened to the last 400m - that was my first thought when I saw my distance! All in all, I'm quite pleased with the race. It exceeded my personal goal, is the farthest I've gone to date, and it wasn't so far off the goal of 80km. I know if it hadn't been for my injuries, I could have absolutely met that 80km goal.

After physio today, I learned that I've done a number on my legs, especially my left one. Happily, it has less to do with my training and far more to do with going around, bearing left, for over seven hours. My groin is healing fine. However, the ligaments behind my knees are still swollen and they will be for another few days. They are "over-used" and need lots of time to heal (no running for three weeks!!! Noooooooo). My left ankle is actually the worse off because it took the brunt of the work from my left groin and knee. The physiotherapist thinks the entire top of my foot as well as around my ankle will bruise significantly. Can't wait to take a picture of THAT!

Oddly though, the race result and even the injuries have motivated me even more than ever. I feel like a runner. I feel like an ultra runner! My winter is going be filled with core and strength training as well as running. I know I can get better, stronger, and faster. I want to get smarter at this too. I started running to show my kids (and remind myself) that if you keep you eye on your goal, you can achieve anything. That's what I'm proving to myself and it's worth every moment!