Friday, October 3, 2014

Race Report: 12-HR ATR

The 12-Hour Adventure Trail Run, put on by Athletic Equation, was my second foray into the American ultra scene. Like the first, this one took place on the beautiful forest trails of Virginia, this time in Prince William Forest Park.

The course was made up of a 6.5-mile loop, which you repeated until you run out of time or desire, whichever came first. After about a mile or so of delightful singletrack, there was a loop of about 4 miles which runners could run either clockwise or counterclockwise. Elevation gain was about 600ft per loop, which made the course fairly runnable...maybe too much so, as I would find out.

I arrived to the park the evening before and set up my tent in one of the park's campgrounds. After an average night's sleep, I got up at 4:15am to eat my pre-race breakfast. I think I had two bananas, an apple and a cheese stick. I packed up the tent and was over by the start line by about 5:30am. I had plenty of time to get registered, pin my number on my shorts, and get my drop bag set up before the 6:15am 6:23am start.

Going into the race, I had a goal of doing 8 laps, which would have equalled 52 miles. I knew it would be a stretch. Even if I fell short of that goal, I thought that 7 laps would surely be doable. Almost easy. In fact, I think I would have been slightly embarrassed if I had "only" done 6 laps, and if I "only" did 5 laps, well hmm, maybe I wouldn't even be writing this blog post. Such is the male ego, right? So anyway...I knew the math. I needed to average 90 minutes for each lap in order to complete 8 laps. Let the race begin.

The first lap felt a bit slow. I think most people were going out slow, which is good, right? And I was still waking up. I ended up clocking 1:25 for my first lap. Not too bad, more or less on target. I wandered through the aid station seeing what all was available, being indecisive, and by the time I made it out for lap 2 I had taken 6 minutes! Not acceptable. I was fully alert and alive by this point and was running very well on my second lap. Maybe too well. At one point in that lap, I said to myself, "Dude, you are KILLING it!" And right behind that was the realization that you should not be killing a 12-hour race when you're only in your 2nd hour. But I didn't care. I felt good, running felt good, let the chips fall where they may. I finished my second lap in 1:24, and that included the 6-minute aid station stop. This time I only paused about 2 or 3 minutes at the aid station. The volunteers were great. I handed my bottle off with my drink request, got my drop bag stuff (gu, drink mix), grabbed some food and off I went. My third lap was similar to the second, and I finished that one in 1:26 (including the rest).

I couldn't believe it. I had just run almost 20 miles without even really noticing it. I barely was aware of the time passing, of the miles rolling over on my odometer. Bam, 19.5 miles. Incredible.

Then it started getting tough. Somewhere in that fourth lap, I stopped running the uphills. Now the uphills on this course aren't too bad, except for the final ascent at the end of each loop. Most of the hills are runnable, and in the first three laps I did run them. But as I hit the fourth lap, I took my foot off the gas and started conserving my energy. I was feeling it at last. In fact, this was the lowest point of my race mentally. I was pretty sure that 8 laps was quickly going out the window, and I wasn't even sure that I wanted to run 5 laps. But I quickly put that thought out of my head and told myself that when I got to the start/finish, that I was just going to get my food and drinks and get right back out on the course before I could even think twice about it. So I finished the fourth lap, as expected, in 1:34.

In the fourth lap, I stopped running the uphills. In the fifth lap, I stopped running much of the flats. But while I didn't have a lot of drive to run, I was power hiking like a pro. Seriously, I was cruising at a pretty decent walking pace. I suppose I must have been glycogen-depleted, so walking (burning just fat) was all I had left. But emotionally, I had rebounded nicely and was in great spirits. I finished the fifth lap in 1:50. I probably took a little longer at the aid station, maybe 5 or 6 minutes, before heading out for number 6. My sixth lap was much like the fifth, walking about the same amount, and I finished that lap in 1:56.

Of course they position race photographers at the top of very steep hills

Looking at my watch, I had about two and a half hours to finish a seventh lap, so even if I walked the entire thing, I probably would have time to do it. So I took a nice leisurely rest at the aid station. I sat down and chatted. I put on some undershorts to help with a chafing issue. I took off my shoes to get some dirt out and saw that I had holes in my socks, so I changed my socks. I enjoyed myself! Finally I got back on the trail with renewed energy, and I easily knocked out the last lap in 2:08 (including the 15-minute rest stop). I completed the 7 laps in 11:44.

So happy to be done, I'm clapping

All in all, I am happy with the results. I achieved a personal best for distance (45.5 miles) and placed fairly well overall (40th out of 101 runners). And the race direction and volunteer support was outstanding. A good day out on the trails. I would do it again!

After-Action Report:
  • hydration: Sufficient. I carried a small (12oz) bottle to help me not drink too much. It was just right. I also used a generic energy drink mix on each lap that had caffeine, guarana, taurine and ginseng. I don't know if it worked or not, but it was cheap, it tasted good and it gave me some variety.
  • food: Hmm. I only really had an appetite for fruit. When the bananas ran out, I went to apples. PBJs for the first lap or two, but after that, just fruit. I may have been completely depleted of glycogen the last couple/few laps (which is why I could power hike but not run), but I can go forever on fat.
  • gu: It was meant to supplement my aid station food during my laps, but after the second lap I just couldn't stomach it and stopped carrying it.
  • lube: I was very disappointed with SkinGlide (by BodyGlide). The tube doesn't last long at all, and I wasn't terribly happy with its performance (not major chafing, but more than there should've been). I will go back to Sportslick, which has never let me down.
  • shoes: I wore my very beaten-in Brooks Cascadia 8s that have 500 miles on them. They are definitely on their last legs. Nubs almost worn to nothing, but I knew these trails were only mildly technical so they did the trick. I'm so happy to have a brand new pair to take back to Malaysia.
  • salt: I kept a SaltStick in my pocket at all times in case of cramping, and only needed to take one once, in the first few hours of the race. I think I took another later in the race, but it was just mental. I don't think I needed it.

1 comment:

  1. Great report, Eric. Congrats on covering 45.5 miles!!!