Ultramarathon

55) Rise Run Shine Running Festival 6 hour race, Annandale, VA Mar 31st 2018

Distance: 40.97 Time: 5:52:02 miles Place: 1/24

I’m trying to decide whether to enter a 24 hour race in July as a new challenge. All my racing to date has been distance based i.e. run a certain distance as fast as you can. I have done lap races on running tracks and trails but it has always been to run a certain distance. Before signing up for a 24 hour race I wanted to get a feel for the timed events and this local race fitted perfectly into my training schedule.

Preparation

I had decided to treat this as another training race so didn’t really taper, but as it would be a high mileage weekend I cut back on the weekday miles (from 30 to 20) but still swam on the Friday morning (and ran a couple of miles round trip to get to the pool).

I did no specific training for the terrain, though I knew it would be similar to my usual trail running miles in terms of surface and elevation. I did do some metal preparation though – trying to imagine myself running multiple laps and thinking through the pacing. Depending on the course, I knew I should be able to run somewhere between 12 and 14 laps of the 3.1 mile course within the time limit. I decided to run the first couple of laps at a comfortable pace and use that to estimate a goal number of laps / distance.

Race Morning

The usual PB&J bagel for breakfast with coconut water, and seeing as it was Easter weekend, I also had a hot x bun in the car on the way to the race, which was only a 30 minute drive away.

I had packed a bag of supplies to leave at the start / finish area including dry gear, a change of shoes, assorted snacks (Mushroom and Cheese frittata and Fitter Food Banana Cinnamon loaf – Bringing out the tried and tested West Highland Way Race trail food), 4 x 10oz bottles filled with Tailwind (1/2 packet per bottle) and 2 x 10oz bottles with Nuun electrolyte mix (1/2 tab per bottle).

Registration was quick and runners had access to Recreation Center facilities.

The Race

It was cold to start with so I set of in a wind stopper, hat and mitts. Having looked at the course on line, I knew roughly where we were going and ended up leading the first lap as everyone found their way. I stuck to a comfortable pace and stopped at the aid station to take off my wind stopper. Only one person went past me who I knew was a 3 hour runner so I fought off the temptation to try and catch him even though I could see him just ahead of me on some of the switch backs.

Towards the end of lap three I heard someone catching me, and ran with him for the last third of the lap. I stopped to grab a fresh bottle and he disappeared up the trail. I knew he was a 6 hour runner, and again I saw him ahead of me a few times but knew that I couldn’t keep up with his pace for another 4 hours so let him go and settled in to my pace. Continuing to lap at a steady 26 minutes a lap.

I knew that to complete 14 laps I needed to run 7 laps in the first 3 hours as the pace I was maintaining was comfortable but it was unlikely that I would be able to increase it over the second half of the race. I crossed the start / finish line at the end of lap 7 in 3:02:42 and at that point decided to settle on 13 laps but to continue with my current pace for the next few to give some flexibility for the last couple of laps.

Halfway round lap 8 I overtook someone who told me that the person in 1st place wasn’t far ahead and a bit further down the trail I saw him in the distance and was back in the lead when I finished my 8th lap. I was still hydrating well and taking food every second lap alternating between Frittata and Banana loaf.

Laps 10 and 11 were tougher but I focused on not slowing the pace too much to give me some time buffer for a final lap. Some supporters (including Mrs P) arrived as I was starting lap 11 so I spoke to them briefly before heading out onto the course again. I had run the short steep hill on every lap up until lap 12 when I decided to walk it to save energy.  Finishing lap 12 in 5:22 I knew I had plenty of time to complete the 13th lap so allowed my pace to drop off a bit, finishing in 30 minutes according to my Garmin (the official time has me at 33 minutes as they stopped my timer after lap 12).

The course was lovely and very mixed terrain, mostly on mountain bike trails twisting through the woods all very runnable.

Learning points

The time went relatively quickly and the 3 mile loop was a great distance – it made it easy to break the race up into short segments (individual loops) and occupy myself with planning what to eat at each pass through the start / finish line.

I had set myself a goal of a certain number of loops and was pushing myself to complete them, partly because I was thinking of it as training miles. For a longer race I would probably take a more relaxed approach and just set out to keep running with a much more flexible distance goal (to ensure there is some motivation not to sit at the aid station for too long!

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