For some, the Pool would be a race-saver. This year's champion, Shan Riggs, touted the anti-inflammatory benefits of said Pool, and insisted upon it's HVAC-like qualities as he laid down in it loop after loop. A small handful of others eventually gave in to the Pool's super-powers and went for a dunk, claiming it was ultrarunning answer to the fountain of youth...and speed.
For others the Pool would merely serve as a tease, daring us to step foot into its cooling cesspool waters where all manner of sweaty runner, messy children, cheesy puffs, and blistered feet had taken up residence. Bridget N. was already fast becoming a popular addition to the group, but when she showed up with the Pool that morning, her rank as Most Awesome Member in the Universe was firmly etched in stone. Kinda like the kid who brings cupcakes for the whole class on their birthday has instant popularity, so it goes with The Pool.
I did not venture into the Pool, but I did dunk my 'kerchief in it once. It's my claim to Pool fame.
So basically, it was hot as balls on Saturday, and the mid-sixties starting temp was pure child's play. It has been reported in numerous places that it reached 94 degrees by mid-day in Bartlett, IL, where 50 toughies gathered to run in circles around James "Pate" Philip State Park for 6 and 12 hours. You may remember, even more of us gathered at this same spot back in January to run around for 6 hours in the blustery cold and snow for the Windburn Six in the Stix. Talk about polar opposites of days!!
Air pollution makes for lovely views in the early hours of the morning
After getting held up by a freight train a mere quarter mile from the park, and already about 5 minutes past when the race was supposed to start, we arrived in the parking lot to find that most everyone else had been held up by the same train, and Brian and Kelly (the leaders of the day's madness) weren't even able to gain access to the park until about 10 minutes to 7:00 (the park is supposed to be opened at sunrise, and the race was supposed to start at 7:00). So, it all worked out for everyone :)
The group (A.M. 6 hour runners, and 12 hour runners) set out at 7:30 a.m. Geof and I planned to run the entire day together, and after hanging back for a few minutes, we moved forward so as to get some room to stretch the legs and settle into some quiet.
This is what the course looked like all day...fully exposed to the sun
It became quickly apparent that this day was going to be a beast. We've done a few of the 6 hour events before, but never a 12 hour. It's a funny thing, not having a finish line, or knowing when you're really going to be done, mileage-wise. Pacing yourself to run continuously for 12 hours, and working towards a distance goal is hard stuff. I found this out this day. There are people who are good at fixed time events, and people who are good at fixed distance. I don't know which I would be considered 'good' at, but I do know that I much prefer fixed distance. I like to know where I'm starting and where I'm finishing, how far away it is, and from there determine how long it's going to take me. That's much more my style :)
Anywho, it was a blast giving this fixed-time thing a go. I had wanted to break 10 hours for 50 miles, but it, too, became apparent that this was not the day for it. I went back and forth in my head about it for about 7 hours before deciding to cut it loose. I decided I was going to be happy just being able to move for the full 12 hours given the weather. This run was a good exercise in learning how to reassess goals and make adjustments according to the day you're given. You can't plan everything, actually you can't plan most things, but you sure can be hopeful. Come race day, anything is fair game and you just have to learn to be flexible with yourself and your goals. So, that's what I did. I'll get my sub-10 hour 50 miler soon; this I know :)
For the most part, the day went very well, all things considered. I had a brief down period in maybe the third hour where I felt...off. I didn't feel bad, just not totally good. I was trying to explain it to Geof, and the only thing I came up with was that I wasn't totally comfortable. Well, duh. It was a freakin' wet sauna out there! I decided I needed the contrast of cold and hot. It was hot outside, so I really needed something cold to hold onto for that contrast. Otherwise, I just felt really uncomfortable, without hope of relief. Know what I mean? I can stand the heat pretty well, as long as I know there is something really cold coming up soon, or I'm holding onto something cold. Sounds weird, but it worked once I figured that little gem out :)
Of course, it was so hot that each time we filled our handhelds with ice, it was totally melted halfway through a loop. So, I continued to put ice in my hat, sports bra, and, eventually, in a bandana I wore around my neck. Geof and I also began soaking our shirts in the super cold water from the water pump next to the pavilion. This was amazing! It felt like an ice shirt when you put it back on, and when we got to the section of the loop where there was a headwind, the wet shirts felt cool against our skin which was insanely refreshing, as you can imagine. This 'rinsing' also helped to keep the level of funk down.
We started out with the routine of run two loops, stop at the pavilion/aid station, run two loops, etc. That lasted maybe the first half of the day. Our stops definitely erred on this side of leisurely and obnoxiously long. However, we needed those long breaks, bad. I kept trying to remind myself how much hotter it was for the folks at Badwater, or how barren and awful the Sahara Desert is, but eventually I lost all empathy and decided I didn't give a flying sh** how hot it was somewhere else, for someone else; it was flipping hot HERE, right NOW, for US! I was stomping my feet and pouting about it in my head.
Did I mention it was hot?
We were one ripe smelling group before long. The hot aroma of sweat, Body Glide, hyper-melted gels and chews, sticky Gatorade, defizzing Coke and watermelon boiling in the sun.
So how about I stop complaining about that heat and tell you a little about the day, eh?
I subsisted on Gatorade, ice water, Honey Stinger Waffles, S!Caps every hour, and sips of fully fizzed-up Coke. My stomach was the winner on this particular day. I am very, very pleased with how well it held up in the heat and how consistently good it felt throughout the day. My hands were never puffy, so I was definitely hydrating well and on top of the electrolytes. I stayed on schedule with the salt, and paid close attention to my fluid needs. This run was a very good lesson in problem solving, and a very good opportunity to get more in tune with things. When I had my brief low spot early on, it was very easy to tune in and see what the deal was. "How does my stomach feel? How do my hands look? When did I last take salt? When was my last Waffle? Am I stumbling at all? Do I feel tired? Do I need to pee?" etc. It was kinda fun to solve each 'mystery' as they popped up throughout the day :)
As the temperature crept up, we began to incorporate walking breaks more and more, and eventually we took to stopping at the pavilion after each loop. I could feel some gnarly blisters starting to form and I was worried about messing my feet up too much to get back to running the following Monday, so I suggested stopping early to Geof. He was quiet for a moment, then made a very strong argument for continuing for the full 12 hours. Basically, it was, "We came here to run 12 hours." That's all I needed to hear.
Around 9 hours in, Geof hit a low spot that he decided he needed to rest for. His stomach was really off and he felt generally not totally awesome, so he laid down on a picnic table bench for a short bit. I was feeling really good, and after a sock change (where I did NOT look at my feet...I didn't want to know!), I put on the iPod and headed out for a fast loop to get the legs moving and some blood pumping. That loop felt awesome! When I returned, my baby sister, Tilly, was there to greet me. Woohoo! She was all suited up and ready to go, so we set out for a loop together catching up on the day and all sorts of sisterly stuff. By the time we finished our loop together, Geof was feeling a little better and the three of us set out together to walk a loop.
Tilly peaced out after our walking loop, and Geof and I continued on for the remaining hour and a half. The sun had moved across the sky and we were fueled by the hope of dropping temperatures. Though, I'm pretty sure it was still in the low 90's by the time we wrapped up the day :)
Around 4:00 or 5:00, the sun shifted, obviously, and some glorious overgrown somethin-or-other on the back side of the loop cast a lovely shadow for about 20 yards. It was delicious.
There was just a small handful of us still remaining in the 12 hour, and three others running the P.M. 6 hour run, so it was pretty quiet in the Park. The afternoon BBQ had ended, the kids running around had all gone home, the food sat baking in the heat, the Pool sat empty of bodies, but full of gross water, and the few sitting under the pavilion waiting on us runners chatted quietly and cheered loudly whenever runners went by. Birds fluttered around chirping, the bugs stayed away, the sun baked, and a nice breeze was blowing in from the south. It was a perfect summer afternoon.
I knew I had a shot at winning the 12 hour for the women, though it was going to be close. Winning was my whisper goal for the day :) Hey, a girl can dream, right? Of course, I thought getting my 50 mile goal was going to be easier than my whisper goal, ha! All in all, I ended the day with 48.8 miles, and Geof with a little more than 44 miles. I landed first woman, and 4th overall for the day. Shan Riggs was our superstar overall winner with a disgusting 65.34 miles under his belt. That guy was movin'!!
And: scene. Very happy runners :)
With James, the Sunburn/Windburn series "Stanley Cup" trophy, and Brian
Overall champ, Shan, with James and his handmade medallion
My very own medallion for my efforts...handmade by Tracy Thomas
So the day wasn't a total bust by any means. In fact, it was pretty great. I didn't reach my original goal, actually not even close(!), but I did reach a different goal, and also learned a little more about tuning into myself on the run. My fluids and nutrition were spot on, cooling efforts worked wonders, I kept moving, and I made sure to enjoy myself. Can't argue with that! All in all a success.
My feet, however, didn't get the memo. I actually had flashbacks to Rio Del Lago when I saw my feet after taking off my shoes and socks after finishing. I even considered leaving my socks on so that I wouldn't have to deal with my feet. Okay, so they weren't Rio horrible, but for me they were pretty painful. One between my toes, and one on the inside of each big toe. Those suckers hurt because they push on the nailbed. Ah well. I mourned the pain for a few days, vocally, much to Geof's dismay :)
I am very happy to report that I had almost zero muscle soreness from this race! I only had a touch of soreness in each glute, but I'm not entirely sure it isn't from my squat/lunge day on Friday :-) Who does large quantities of squats and lunges the day before a race?! This chick.
So that's the long and short of it. And next week begins a new training cycle, yahooooo!
P.S. All photos are courtesy of Kelly and Brian Gaines :)