Time: 8:56:01 Place: 4/91
The training program I’m following for #Edinburgh24 had me running 25 miles on Saturday and the same again on Sunday over this weekend so I figured I might as well do a race and this one would be a chance to practice running through the night, with a 7pm start. It was also a chance to explore the Prince William Forest Park which I’d never visited before despite the proximity to DC.
This was part of a training block so there was no taper. The goal was to run at a steady pace and attempt even splits on the two lap course, though a positive split would be more realistic given the first couple of hours in daylight/twilight.
I had breakfast and lunch as normal, then had my usual pre-race bagel on the drive to the race start, followed by a banana and coconut water as I was checking in. I decided to run with my Nathan pack to allow me to carry water and electrolytes in the bladder and tailwind in bottles. It would mean less stopping at aid stations and carrying extra weight would be good training.
There was an early start, 1 hour before the main start. I waited for the main start, wanting to run as much as possible in the dark. After a short race briefing, we started and were quickly onto single track trails. The course is very runnable with water stops every 4 miles or so and two big aid stations, one at the start/finish and one at around 12 miles.
I set off at a steady pace with the aim of getting the first 10 miles or so done before needing to turn the head torch on. I was running in a small group near the front of the field and happy with a steady pace that I felt I could stick to for the next 9 hours or so. The group gradually split and by the time I reached the 12 mile aid station I was running on my own, but passing runners from the early start.
I turned my head torch on around 11 miles in just before the first rumbles of thunder indicated a possible drenching. There was heavy rain for about 30 minutes but it was too warm to warrant a waterproof. The trails quickly turned to puddles and streams and there was no way to keep feet dry.
The lightning continued for the next few hours, lighting up the whole forest which looked amazing. The rain had also brought out a large number of frogs which just sat on the trail, seemingly hypnotized by the head torch. It took a lot of concentration not to step on them. I several pairs of eyes in the beam of the head torch but was only able to identify a couple of deer and some geese (the sound gave them away).
I completed the first lap in 4 hours 20 minutes and was feeling good. I’d stuck to my nutrition plan (tailwind, mushroom rice frittata and Fitter Food banana loaf), supplemented by snacks from the aid stations. I set off for the second lap planning for more of the same.
There were numerous fireflies / glow bugs in the trees and a couple of places on the fire road sections I was able to run with the headtorch off and take in the darkness and the flashing glow of insects which was an amazing experience. I reached the 12 mile aid station still feeling good, and glad to see the volunteers after a couple of hours of not seeing anyone. I had a cup of the legendary vegan lentil stew which went down well. Need to get the recipe! Definitely something to try for #Edinburgh24. When I got back to the aid station after completing the mini loop, I was told I was in 4th place and had a big cushion on the person in 5th. They asked if I wanted to know the time gap to 3rd but I said no as I wanted to focus on running my own pace. Sub-9 hours was looking achievable. I had another small cup of the lentil soup then headed out for the final miles.
At the next water stop I was told I was 30 minutes behind the person in 3rd and I saw him on the out and back section up to the gate turnaround. I focused on my own race though and kept a steady pace (apart from side stepping frogs) to finish in 8:56 and 4th place.
I snacked and drank water, had a protein shake, then tried to doze in the car until race breakfast was served at 5am to fuel me for the drive home. There were other runners hanging out (people who had decided to only run one lap for 25k) so there was a nice social atmosphere at the finish line.
Vegan lentil stew goes down very well after 6 hours of running.
My normal rave prep works well no matter when the start time.
For #Edinburgh24 have snacks as part of my nutrition plan to replicate US ultra aid stations.