As usual, I’m not sure where to start with this race recap, but here goes nothing, and we’ll see where we end up. I won’t bore you with the details, but somehow I found myself signed up for 2 x 24 Hour races in a 2 week period – the Virginia 24 Hour Run/Walk for Cancer on April 30th and the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24 Hour on May 14th. Training for the last 3 or 4 months had been geared towards a solid performance at Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (also known as D3), utilizing the Virginia race as a final tune-up/long run before taper time kicks in. However, as race day loomed closer and closer, the less I wanted to *just* use the race as a tune-up, so pretty much decided to see how I felt on race day with the possibility of “going for it” if things felt good.
Race day weather was pretty much perfect, and after setting up our tent and supplies it was time to connect with Team Run4Life for a pre-race photo. Last year we racked up 834.25 miles in pretty brutal conditions for a new team record, and it would be interesting to see how close we could get to that total this year.
The early 3.75-mile laps passed by rather quickly. Pace was steady and thankfully the legs, body and mind felt pretty good. The first marathon came in at around 3 hours 47 minutes and I went through 50 miles in just about 7 hours 30. Of course, by this time I’d already convinced myself that I wouldn’t be dropping early from the race, and unless my body starting breaking down pretty badly, I was in it for the duration. My usual left glute weakness did rear its head around the 50K mark, but I’ve finally figured out that if I can battle through the discomfort for 15 to 20 miles (popping a few Tylenol capsules helps), then the problem seems to disappear somewhat. Not ideal, but it is what it is.
Tailwind Nutrition was doing the business as far as fueling was concerned, although I probably should have done a better job of mixing up the 4 gallon solution before the race. I think a lot of the Tailwind powder had settled towards the bottom of the cooler, making for quite a concentrated mix which was a bit heavy on the stomach. Lesson learned and noted for next time.
Feet were really happy in the same shoe/sock combo that worked so well at February’s Iron Horse 100 – the Topo Athletic Magnifly and Injinji Trail 2.0. It’s so comforting to find something that works in a race that you don’t have to second guess. If youre interested, there are links to both products at the bottom of this post if you want to check out the shoes and socks I wore.
Anyway, back to the race. The afternoon miles dragged on a bit and I found myself looking forward to 7pm and the halfway point. 12 hours to go is much more appealing that 16 hours to go, and once you reach that 50% mark, the hours do seem to tick by just a little bit faster. Something else to look forward to was a little bit of treatment from my Chiropractor, Dr Don Bresnahan, who had showed up to offer his support and expertise. My left glute was still pretty tight, but decided to wait until Mile 75 before getting worked on. At this point we were 11 hours 30 minutes into the race and in addition to 15 minutes on the massage table I opted to change into compression shorts and switch out my long sleeve Tailwind shirt for a long sleeve/short sleeve combo for the chillier night time hours ahead.
The 2nd half of the race was as tough as all the other 24 hour races I’ve done – they certainly don’t get any easier. Not so tough that I wanted to quit, but the kind of tough where you question what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and do I ever want to do this again. When it comes down to it though, having goals is what keeps me going and the first of those goals (reaching 100 miles) was getting ever closer. Once the 100 was in the bag (16 hours 30 minutes), I set my sights on
- reaching 128.25 miles to earn a coveted 500 mile event jacket and
- getting to 135 miles to set a new course record and 24 hour PR*.
Just after 101 miles my Garmin 235 battery died, so I took the opportunity to change my headlamp batteries and switch to the trusty Garmin 910XT for the duration of the race. The battery change went well, but somewhat frustratingly it took far too much time for the 910XT to lock onto a satellite. In hindsight, I probably didn’t need the GPS, and perhaps should have run watchless until the finish. Another frustration – chafing had become an issue in the last 30 to 40 miles, so yet another change of shorts was required and more lost time spent time in the Visitor Center toilets. I didn’t feel it at the time, but definitely think I lost focus after this extended stop which clearly affected my rhythm and determination.
To cut a long story short, the next 7 hours were a combination of walk/running with a short stop at the end of each loop to top up my handheld and grab a few Pringles when I craved something salty (which was pretty much every loop). Sometime after midnight, with just my iPod Shuffle for company, I convinced myself that to break the course record *all* I needed to do was run 12 minute miles for the remainder of the race – it wasn’t particularly easy, but it also wasn’t the most challenging 7 hours of my life either.
Now that the race is a couple of days in the rearview mirror, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t push harder. I know I backed off, and despite winning the race and ratcheting the course record up a few notches, there’s no reason why I couldn’t/shouldn’t have logged at least another 3.75 mile loop. Note to self: never settle for anything less than 110%.
* I’m also kicking myself that I miscalculated my 24 hour PR. For some crazy reason I had it set in my mind that I ran 134.5 miles at 24 The Hard Way last year, where in fact I actually logged 135.5 miles. To stop at 135 miles on Sunday morning with 20+ minutes left on the clock and the chance of at least another mile to my name is not something I’ll forget in a hurry.
On a positive note, I’m really happy with many aspects of the race, and to win the Virginia 24 Hour Run/Walk for Cancer 3 years in a row is something I never dreamed possible. Our team also performed fantastically well, logging over 900 miles between us and increasing our total from 2015. Official results haven’t been published yet so it will be interesting to see if another team managed to outscore us.
On a personal note, I’m incredibly proud of wife Ally and daughter Shannon for each logging 78.75 miles. They both get stronger every year and I’m sure there’s more to come if they want it. Finally, the camaraderie at this local race is pretty special – from all the runners and walkers to the exceptional support crew and enthusiastic volunteers, you won’t find many better ultramarathons. Big thanks to George Nelson for putting on a great race!
Now I just need to get myself together for a few miles at D3 on May 14th…
- Topo Athletic Magnifly
- Injinji TRAIL 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew Socks
- Running Etc. Long Sleeve Tee & Singlet
- Patagonia 5″ Strider Pro Trail Short
- CW-X Stabilyx Ventilator Short
- Tailwind Long Sleeve Tech T
- Patagonia Long Sleeve Merino Shirt
- Tailwind Short Sleeve Tech T
- Garmin Forerunner 235
- Garmin Forerunner 910XT
- iPod Shuffle
- Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp
- UltrAspire Lumen 170 Lighted Waistpack
- Tailwind Nutrition – Mandarin Orange