30 September 2012

My First 24 Hour Race: 113 Miles, 1st Woman, 3rd Overall, and a TON of PRs

The highlights: Being 1st woman; Being 3rd Overall; Running the most I’ve ever run (113 miles); On my way to 113 miles, running a 50k PR of 5:18, a 50 mile PR of 9:08, a 100k PR of 11:28, and a 100 mile PR of 20:58!!!! Plus, great volunteers, pretty course, never got boring, challenging yet not too stressful, friendly people, great schwag, and a fantastic price tag of just $24! (Take that, NYC Marathon and your stupid high fees.)

Ray K. convinced me to sign up for the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra. I’ve never been a fan of the idea of timed races, primarily b/c my mantra is, “The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.” Finishing should be the reward for running fast, not more miles.

But I wanted to visit my little sister and her adorable baby anyway, and the race is in NC, “close to your sister, maybe an hour,” Ray told me. After the plane tickets were bought, my sister informed me it was more like two hours. Nice white lie, Ray. (I’m glad he told it.)

It’s funny; I decided not to do Pinhoti or Georgia Jewel mainly because 100 milers suck, but I ended up signing for a 24 hour race in which my goal was over 110 miles. It was also my first 24 hour and I was really nervous – how would I handle the repetition, the time constraint? What would be my motivation to go fast when it didn’t mean I would end sooner?

I arrived tired at the race start, having been tired the day before and struggled to stay awake during the run. I quickly registered, set up my stuff near Shannon’s stuff, and got nervous. What was I doing?

The race is well organized. It is a 1.52 mile loop around a pretty lake. The course has some ups and downs, nothing you’d call mountains or major hills, but at the end, the Mt. Hinson sign felt appropriate. The last loop, you carry a banana with your number and once the horn is blown, you stop, leave the banana, and head on home. The volunteers were super cheerful and friendly. The aid station fare was decent for an ultra – soups and some kind of meat and PBJ an pretzels and crackers and cookies and M&Ms and all sorts of goodness, most of which I did not eat due to my tummy feeling like a nightmare.
ray and me...

motivate me!

the bridge

pretty swamp/lake

the hill

the other hill

The race is a real family affair – most people have tents and/or shade structures, and bring out the entire family, kids and dogs included. A young girl did her first marathon; a 9-year-old boy ran 45 miles. These two cute little girls liked me, because I was “the funnest” and “the nicest,” and we talked about how we liked the color pink. I was wearing a bright orange-ish-pinkish running outfit, which received many compliments, most importantly from these sweet little girls. They called me “Pinkie Pie” and made up a song for me and ran with me. They were really such big highlights in my race.

And we were off! I began running too fast, as is usual for my character. Sub 9 minute miles. I knew I should be starting out (according to Ray’s plan) at 10 minute miles, but the 8-something minute miles felt good. I ran with a nice guy Brett for a loop and then this guy Andre, who had just been one of the 19 lucky finishers of George Jewel (which he described as a “rock garden”) last week, so his feet were completely trashed and he was tired – but he impressively finished the 24 hour at Hinson!

I ran into Ray early on and he yelled, “What are you doing here?” “What, am I going too fast?” I asked innocently. He calculated my pace. “You are on pace for 153 miles.” Ummmm let me slow down.

I still kept up a good pace, feeling good and not wanting to slow down. When I got to 26.2, I looked at my watch to see that I just ran a 4:25 marathon. And then I hit the 50k march in a PR time of 5:18. And then I hit the 50 mile mark with a PR of 9:08. And then I hit the 100k march with a PR time of 11:28.

Night hit. Headlamp. Struggling to see the roots and rocks so I wouldn’t trip and fall on my face. I was about to crash. I changed my sports bra, due to ridiculous chafing from previous sports bra. I changed my shirt. The people at the shade structure next door gave me some aquaphor and Vaseline. I got up and felt like crap, even after sucking down a 5-hour energy shot. I walked up the mini hill and decided to listen to my ipod mini, which I never do in races. But I felt like I needed it now. I flipped through the songs and started “Helicopter.” “Are you hoping for a miracle? That’s not enough.” And something hit me – I was off. Fast. Everyone was amazed, especially as how I had been so cramped up and barely able to stand much less run. How was I suddenly running this fast? I didn’t know, I just knew I had to keep on pushing. Pushing. Pushing. I passed Ray. “You are phenomenal.” I tried to believe it. I lowered the music as I passed people to stay encouraging things to them.

My stomach became a wreck and I had trouble eating basically everything. I ended up finally stomaching Saltines and then was finally able to run faster. I was up and down but a lot of up.

Throughout the race, I was tied with another woman for 1st place. When I came in around 22 hours, they told me she had fallen behind. I pushed. I ran into Ray who told me she wasn’t in contention and that I should go for the record. 114.6 miles. Could I get it? I pushed, I ran so much faster than I had been running. Fast, push, fast, fast. I was tired, but I still had it in me.

I was so close, but I missed. But oh, how I pushed at the end. I ran so fast, most everyone was walking and they just stared at me, “You are a beast.” Um, thanks.  I guess I’ll take that as a compliment. Most of the time, the runners gave each other kudos and other positive feedback. It was hardly boring because you were constantly passing/being passed by other people

After, I was presented with a super awesome sculpture and money for being first woman, and I hobbled back my rental car. I felt better than I had after a 100 miler. Yes, this was fairly flat (compared to the other 100s that I’ve done…), but I pushed myself like I hadn’t before. It wasn’t a competition thing, really, but a goal thing: I wanted to run more than I had ever done before (The most I have ever run is 104 or 105 miles, which I did after getting lost at Cajun Coyote last year.) – so the main goal was 110. When I saw I had the potential to get PRs for various other distances, I was inspired to push it, push it harder. And when I got those PRs, I was so happy. I almost cried when I realized I had done what seemed to be almost impossible for me – to break 21 hours in a 100 mile distance. I hadn’t set out to do that – and doing so was just absolutely enthralling and wonderful.

Running 24 hours is a mind-body thing. You need a strong mind to complete such a task. I am definitely hooked and want to see what I can do next (especially if I went someplace flat…hmmmm….). I do need to figure out my nutrition better, and organize things better because I found I spent too much time at aid stations and at my drop bags. Changing shoes into sneakers a half size bigger is crucial for me. I also need to stop using body glide and starting using something that doesn’t leave cuts and welts and chafing all over my body. I need to learn how to adjust things when the pain gets deep. I need to figure out how to deal with the nausea and what I can possibly choke down.

But next? Yes, I want to run another 24 hour. Which ones? I’m hurting, but really, the endorphin high is soaring me high, high, higher.


Triple F said...

You were DEFINITELY focused the whole race! AND remained happy the whole time! Such fun to watch you dig down deep the last few hours! The rest of the scorers and I were so very happy for you! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Flat you say you want...? How about another trip to NC...?


Good job at Hinson, you looks stong the entire time


Steven Tursi said...

Congrats Cherie. Thrilled that you enjoyed the experience. I'm always happy to see skeptics try timed races and find that they like them after all.

stephen said...

cherie you're awesome!! you're like a running superhero!

Dave DeSilva said...

Cheri, great run. The only slow lap I saw you do was after we dropped the bananas and walked to the start/finish. Congrats. Dave D.

Joe Fejes said...

Pink Lady congrats on a great run. My daughter Alyssa and Kelley Wells daughter Haley had so much fun meeting a new friend! Kelley was tied with you much of the race until bonking late. We weren't sure who you were until we found out that the pink lady was running great! Best wishes on future races! Joe Fejes

V said...

You're awesome!! So proud of you, Pinkie Pie :) And that's the best part - think of how inspiring you were/are to those girls. Keep running!

amosmotor said...

Awesome job out there! You were rockin it every time I saw you :) Congrats on a strong finish! BTW - The 12 year old marathon + a few girl is my daughter and the 46ish mile 9 year old is my son - the kids love this event and it's people like you that inspire them :D Congratulations!

phyllis neriah said...

I saw you a couple times on the course, Cherie, but had no idea about the ups and downs you persevered and pushed through. Very impressive feat. Ray K was telling me the amazing things you did during the banana lap. Congratulations on your back to back wins!

phyllis neriah said...
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Anonymous said...

Seeing your bright outfit out on the loop definitely brought a smile to the miles. You ran a great race, congrats!!

Anonymous said...

You rock! Reading this is really inspiring, thank you for sharing. I found your blog on a brooklyn runners group and saw that you organized the Burning Man Ultra. I wish I hope to run that some time, as soon as I can afford to get out to BRC again ;o)

Shane said...

Did anyone else immediately need to listen to "Helicopter" after reading this? Awesome run, crazy inspiring!

redcoalcarpet said...

You are awesome.