So I ran Ultra #7 of the year a couple of weekends ago and I wanted to take a little time to reflect on it before I wrote about it. Going into the race, I had really low expectations. I had been dealing with some injuries, I didn't get a lot of training miles in leading up to it and I was still bothered by my performance in June's race. The race that I was doing was a different type than I had done previously. It was a race governed by time and not mileage...i.e. it was a 12 hour race, so I would have to run as many miles as I could in that amount of time. The course itself was set up as 6.6 miles or something to that affect and it was pretty much all single track. Going into it, I was thinking that I would just do my 50k and be done with it...I also figured that would probably take me 8 hours or so given how I felt going into the race.
I had put together my plan for the race, which was simply, run a loop and take 15-20 minutes to eat, drink and do some foam rolling. If I needed to change socks or shoes, than do that as well. Being that I have been taking a keto based fueling approach, nothing really changed in terms of race snacks, but I did add in some Smart Sweets gummy bears and a Quest cookie. I wanted to break up the cycle I had of just FBombs (which I love) and pickles/pickle juice.
I had never done a shoe or sock change, but it was a standard practice on long road marches in the army and that worked, so I thought I would try it out to see if it worked in this type of event.
So I started the race in my Altra Timp and then after the first lap I switched to Altra Superiors. I was concerned about the breathability of Timps and I didn't want to get swamp feet. In hindsight, I should have just stayed in the Timps because the Superiors are the complete opposite in terms of cushioning. If anything, maybe I should've started in the Superiors and then switched to the Timps after a lap or two. That being said, I have another couple of pairs on Altra's with more cushioning like the Timps on the way....or so I've been told. As a heavier runner, I feel that the more cushioning in the shoe benefits over the course of longer distances and I will test that theory in some longer races in the next couple of months. For socks, I went again with my trusted CEP Compression Merino socks. I alternated two pairs, which was probably unnecessary.
Everything else was the same. I used the Salomon Sense 8 vest and Hydropak sent me new tops for my water bottles (which had all cracked), so there were no hydration issues. The only problem I had in terms of gear, was the zippers on the side of the vest rubbed the inside of my arms pretty raw. Now that the vest has been pretty well broken in, I like it less and less than when I wrote my review of it. The interior mesh has become pretty coarse and scratchy, which is not something that you want 8 hours into a race.
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about the race itself. I ended up running 45.5 miles or so in the 12 hours. I didn't stop after I hit the 50k mark...it was weird, around mile 35 or so, I felt strangely energized again and sore feet weren't really bothering me. It was all kind of numb, but not in a bad, tingly way.
After my 4th loop, I realized that part of the course was on the Iron Belle Trail, which is something that I want to try to run/fast pack when it is completed. It is a trail that goes from Michigan's Upper Peninsula all the way to Belle Isle in Detroit.
The main thing that I wanted to discuss about the race was the people. The race organizers were amazing and the runners were so friendly. It was the first time I've experienced an environment like this. I met a lot of different people with varied backgrounds, abilities, and with inspiring stories. I think that was one of the reasons that I was able to go as far as I did. Everyone there was great.
There were also random signs posted along the trail to encourage people or to lift their spirits. At one point during my third loop, I heard an ice cream truck...or at least the song that you would hear from one. I thought that I was hallucinating...maybe dehydrated, but we weren't far from some busy roads so it wasn't outside of the realm of possibilities. So I kept running and at one particularly hard climb, I'm running with a few people and as we get to the top of this hill, there's a race volunteer with a cooler passing out popsicles. They had a little speaker playing ice cream truck music. It was little things like that, that made this race experience truly unique.
Seeing that I was able to go further than expected and farther than I've ever run has me reinvigorated and ready to take on Ultra #8 in a few weeks!