Saturday, December 16, 2017

Desert Solstice 2017 Race Report Overview

Every ultra race, all seven, I have run was either trying to qualify for a world championship, or a world championship, or the even loftier goal of trying to set an American record. I could stand to practice some moderation...

A huge thank you to my sister!!! Not only did she volunteer to come out to this crazy thing where people don't sleep, get exhausted, cry, and put themselves through excruciating pain, but she knew what she was doing because it wasn't her first time. In particular, at 83 miles when I fell on the side of the track unsure if I was going to continue, she pretty unemotionally encouraged me to get back out there and I had two hours of really really strong running. Also, thank you to M, A and M who my sister talked into coming out and helping! I was stunned that you three spent as much time at the track as you did. I mean, this has got to be one of the most boring spectator sports there is. I think it's interesting, because it's a predictable epic all condensed into one day. But then again a good game on TV or a marathon is the same thing, in less than three hours, although there is generally less carnage in mainstream sports.

Thank you to the Avaipara Running and the Coury brothers for putting this on! I hardly said more than "hi" all day to you guys and I was hoping to say more. Thank you to all the crew members who timed and fed us and kept the port-a-potties from overflowing! Thank you to my fellow competitors who cheered me on, who I had a few chances to cheer on, which in turn motivates me to push myself, because I see how hard you are pushing yourself.

Without further ado, here we go! My flights were delayed getting into Phoenix because Houston, where I connected, had it's 35th snow storm in over 100 years, and they clearly are not prepared for snow down there. So I missed the group dinner the night before and my sister told me that apparently I was quite a hit and people had heard of me, which gave me a laugh. Most people I know do not know anyone else who has even tried a 24 hour run, yet I know dozens, same for Mt. Everest. It's just so tangible, so possible to me, that I know I am not special. There are a thousand guys in this country that could run 173 miles in 24 hours, yet more than 990 of them will never even seriously try it.

Saturday morning the ladies in the condo started showering at 5 AM and I rolled around bed until 6 when I got up and had a wonderful breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs that my sister made! We loaded the car and headed over to the track in the crisp 38 degree Fahrenheit morning. There was no wind, and also no clouds. We arrived just after EE (the jester) and set up beside his table. Pretty standard race morning routine. I had my first cup of coffee in about ten days and I was wired. I was hydrated, and with about three minutes to go I did leg swings on the fence. I made a point of standing strait up at the start, there is no point leaning when the goal pace for the next eight hours is 8 minutes per mile.

Thanks to Z, C, K and a couple other people targeting age group shorter records I was back in 7th or so place after 50 meters, and it was fast! I checked my watch at 200 meters, and was at 53 seconds! Now I had a projected schedule laid out the first eight hours at roughly 8:00 per mile, the second eight at 8:20 per mile, and the last eight at 8:45 per mile. This is based on pervious experience, both mine and what I have read and observed. People slow down. It would be interesting to try and negative split a 24 hour race...

With the nice cool temperatures, and everyone else running so fast I thought, 'maybe this is the day, the best run of my life!' Here are the first 76 miles of Strava data. Well, it worked out well for the morning. I blew through a marathon in 3:24:53, a little faster than desired. I had set a speed limit for myself of 7:45 pace, but in my exuberance I neglected it on multiple laps as I saw splits of 1:53, 1:54, 1:55 multiple times. Now GPS overstates the distance run on a track, but it said that my fastest mile was mile 32, at 7:10, and it doesn't overstate 30 seconds per mile! In other words, heading into the afternoon, I shot myself in the legs by running too fast. There is a delicate balance of the carbohydrates that are being burned versus the fats. Run too fast, and burn too many carbohydrates, more than you can eat, and you will "crash" as the body is forced to burn the more oxygen demanding fat. I've gotten myself into this cycle so many times of crashing and recovering that I really should know better by now.

Well the temperatures in the afternoon rose, first to 68, then 72 and 73, all in direct sunlight. Fortunately the humidity was very low, but direct sun can still increase the heat index 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Like an idiot I made the mistake of not slowing down nearly enough to compensate for a heat index in the upper 80s, mistake #2. I did slow down, but I was probably averaging 8:05 pace or so, I haven't seen the official splits yet. I'll make a more detailed lap by lap review of my race sometime over Christmas when I have five hours to dive into the data.

Hourly Splits for Desert Solstice 2017

Once I fell off my projected pace, things went downhill, mentally as much as physically. Around miles 65 to 72 I had my first crash, although I was still moving rather well. Around here I changed shoes, I had been wearing Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% and I switched to Saucony Kinvara 5s, which I've worn in every previous 24 hour race without any foot issues. This was around 5 PM to 6 PM so the sun went down, I was dehydrated, hadn't been eating enough. It's worth mentioning that I bought some Maurten 320 a few weeks ago and I tried it and I like it! Although it really needs about 20 oz. of water per packet because it really is too thick with 17 oz. of water. Also, I could feel my muscles were damaged and so I was eating little pieces of sliced turkey, and they tasted great! Not too sweat, because after two liters of sugar water my mouth says, "please no more sugar water". By this point I realized was not going to make the American record, but a solid 160s finish seemed in the bag.

However, about two hours later I had my second sizable crash, and this time was harder. Between 8 and 9 PM I only did 13 laps on the track. At one point I collapsed on the track beside my crew. My sister was really good about getting me back out there, first doing some basic massage on my left hamstring/psoas that was awfully tight, getting me to eat and drink a little. I genuinely did not know if I would stop or keep going. Once I realized I was not going to make 173 miles, mentally I was not super excited about another 12 hours of suffering out there on the track.

I took an ibuprofen, one of about 30 that I take over the course of a year, and the only one I intended to take all race, and I had a little Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso. Early I was leaving the aid station when a gust of wind caught me and I started shivering uncontrollably. After a quick clothing addition I was pulled back into the race first by EE the jester, then JE from the UK, and then I was on a high, and I seriously could not feel any pain. I was hitting 2:03, 2:04 laps and I remember TO standing by the start line clock and at one point he said, "it looks like he just started running!" and I remember thinking, 'WOW! I feel amazing! Where did this come from?' Well it came from ibuprofen, caffeine, fluids, calories and the temperatures finally cooling down. At this point my sister really proved how good she is because she was trying to get me to drink and eat more, but my stomach didn't feel like it really wanted anything so I basically kept refusing, and that was my downfall.

Shortly after midnight I crashed for the third time. I was craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so I took one, ate two bites, and was too dehydrated to get it down. It tickled the back of my throat, and from there I threw up, except there were only about 100 calories in my stomach. It's funny peanut butter and jelly is exactly what made me throw up in Italy in 2015, so I think maybe it's off limits in future races. Once I threw up I knew that I had about 15 minutes before I totally ran out of energy. So I walked out the lap and stopped just after 1 AM.

The post race 'I'm a failure' depression has set in, but it's not nearly as bad as it has been previously. I've never gone for an American record before, and it is an honor simply to do that.  Plus I met a number of very nice people, including a couple single ladies (who I'll probably never hear from again, sigh) and it was nice to share this with my sister and friends. As I said when I announced this attempt a month ago, I really only thought I had a 30% chance of setting the record, and thanks to a slightly warm temperature, and some other people like CH setting a buch of records, and a number of age group stars who unintentionally convinced me to run a faster pace, it was not to be.

As I said in the introduction would like to do a non qualifying ultra this like, like a trail ultra, maybe Leadville 100. However, I'm also thinking about some 8000 meter peaks I would like to attempt, which would be cooler than any little 100 mile trail race. I don't know. My 2018 is not written. I do not know what I will be doing, aside from finishing my private pilot's license. As I mentioned before I will write a more detailed hydration, nutrition, and splits post when I have some more time to analyze the data.
The Vaporfly's or the Kinvara's?

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