This was my first fixed-time race and took place on Nov 12-13, 2016. It was a spur of the moment thing for me as I was hoping to get a qualifier in so I could apply for Spartathalon next year. I needed 180 km in 24 hours which for this course turned into 83 laps and 112.56 miles, which was more than I needed but the way it worked out due to the 1.3562 mile course.
The course itself is basically running a loop at Chaplin Park in Wichita, KS. I’m pretty sure it is an old landfill near the river that they turned into a park with a large dog park and model airplane park included in it. It is a gravel path with a little bit of sidewalk. The path was greatly eroded in some places where you were running on the geotextile fabric that is under the path. So because of that there were areas of uneven footing. There is a max rise and fall of about 20 feet. You climb up this gradually once and then go steeply down and steeply up right after it (basically crossing a drainage ditch between 2 areas of the old landfill the best I can tell). There are also some gentle 10 foot hills you go down and up each loop. Overall I’d say there is about 70 feet of elevation gain and fall per loop. Not bad as far as trail running goes but was much hillier than I expected from a 24 hour race on a measured course. The 20 foot hill was advertised as such but I wasn’t aware that you’d go up and down it twice each loop plus the other hills. They’ve had the race at a different park other years so it’s possible they may go back to that one.
The event itself was greatly run. The timing chips worked flawlessly as far as I could tell and they posted all the loop splits after the race which will be nice for future fixed-time race planning. There were port-a-potties literally along the course. There was lots of grass along the course that you could set up your own gear/aid station which I did. You could even set up a tent if you wanted. The weather this year was great. Just a little warm during the day for me and nice and cool at night. It did get close to freezing at the end of the race. The aid station could make you food, although I didn’t realize that until later in the night. I think ham and cheese, PB&J, don’t know what else. They had pizza once during the night.
So my race went like this. Started off at 7am and it went really good for about 50 laps, stayed with my pace or ahead by as far as 14 minutes. The next 14 laps went OK, hanging on but not feeling great. Then it flat out sucked. I ended up walking most of the last laps and only ended up with 77 (104.4 miles). I had time for 1 more but I had second place locked and wanted to get going home. Anyone over 100 miles in 24 hours got a buckle so I got one and my second place plaque. The race directors and everyone congratulated me but I felt so disappointed. I let myself and everyone else down that had helped me do this race. My parents watched the kids for a couple days, I spent gas money and hotel money, spent 2 days away from my family, and for what? I guess some lessons in how much Vol State and Superior races linger. I just hadn’t recovered enough and therefore trained enough to get 112 miles.
So what went wrong? I had finished a 100 mile race in under 21 hours just 2 years ago in Kansas with more elevation and hotter temps. That race was just 5 weeks after a hard 50 mile race. I didn’t even get to 100 miles in 21 hours at this race. I got like 97 or something. I probably could’ve really pushed it to get to 100 but that likely would’ve been the end of the race for me. I would’ve crashed even harder. My legs hurt! My toes hurt which didn’t slow me down but it was a sign something was different than normal. My quads, IT band, and even my hips hurt like I was doing a difficult trail 100 mile race. In fact my IT band hadn’t hurt for 4 years until this race. The pain is what really slowed me down. I’m sure this is due to under-training. That under-training is due to having too many hard races this year that took a while to recover from. The people that told me it could take 9 months to fully recover from Vol State are probably right. I also seemed to not have the energy I wanted. Partly that could be nutrition but more so from fighting something my kids had given me. They had fevers 6 days before the race so even though I was only getting a sore throat from it, it was obviously draining me some as well.
I really hope none of my failure was mental. Spartathalon is a race in which you cannot waver. It’s much longer than this race. I set up my early splits fairly fast to simulate what is needed during Spartathalon to stay ahead of the cutoffs. That race has cutoffs at the very first aid station. So if you have to poop at the beginning you better hold it and go fast to the next aid station to allow enough time to go before the cutoff. They have a zero tolerance policy there from what I hear. I’ve heard from a friend that has finished 4 times that you just can’t quit. You can’t even think about it, no matter how bad you feel. Of course it helps that he’s much faster than me and can make up time when needed. I guess the best thing about not getting my required distance is I can put this out of my mind for a while and concentrate on my next race which is Arrowhead 135. I’ve been dreaming of this race for years and it’s in a few months now. This winter will almost certainly be colder than last year so it is sure to be a challenge.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do a 24 hour race again. I’ll likely just find a flat 100 mile race and do it under 21 hours which is another way of qualifying. Going around a loop is boring. I know that doesn’t seem surprising to most people but I didn’t think it would be that bad since I had music to listen to. I still may do a 6 day race at some point though. Yes I know I just said it’s boring but a 6 day is different. You’ll be walking a fair amount later in the race and can actually talk to people to pass the time. I didn’t talk to anyone for more than 20 seconds at this race since I was never going the same pace as anyone else. Also at a 6 day you can stop and rest/sleep whenever you want without ruining your game plan for the race. You also just eat real food since you have time to absorb it. Even with a 3 day race you can’t plan on sleeping much if you want to do well. A 2 day race you really shouldn’t be resting more than a couple hours or at all. All 6 day races I know of are on very flat courses which would make them more enjoyable as well. Perhaps 6 days at the fair near relatives in New Jersey someday.
I made my own gels this race which worked out fine. I made them too thick though so once it got cold I couldn’t get them out of the tubes anymore. I didn’t add any flavoring either so that would be good if I decide to make them again. It’s kind of a pain in the butt making them so I may not try it again (my wife would say it sucked way worse, sorry honey!). I never really hit a wall this race. My split times were within seconds of each other with a gradual decay, unless I had to stop to reload water or use the bathroom. I slowed down for sure but I never felt like I had to walk until the last 5 hours or so which wasn’t nutrition related. My gels were just a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin and fructose based on research of how much you can absorb through the various glucose transporters. The sweetness was just right for me. Not as sweet as honey so they went down just fine. I just need to add more water next time to thin them out more.
I ended up cutting off 2 toenails after this race. I haven’t done that for years. Same style shoe I’ve worn all year and fairly new but not brand new. Same socks and taping job I always do. I’m not really sure why they got so bad. I mean I did Vol State without a problem, and then going on a pretty easy course for 24 hours wrecks them? The only good thing is that I made my sister puke in her mouth a little when I texted her a photo! Maybe the race was worth it after all.