September 21, 2009

Swing and a miss

When it got hard, I pushed. When it got really hard, I quit.

Did I set myself up for failure? Armchair quarterback answer: yep. Even with training my butt off for the past six months, the idea of 100 miles in 24 hours isn’t so realistic for me any more. Neither, probably, is my lifetime best of 90 miles. A reachable goal? Probably 80 miles – especially on this 1.52-mile loop format that allows for SO many options to call it a day if you're a little slow or need a little break.

Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic is such an interesting challenge. Soft, most shaded, nearly flat surface. Cheerful volunteers. Some 170 starters this year, so a lot of different people to pass and be passed by, at least until the 11-hour mark when it gets dark and the course gets pretty darn empty.

Want to know a way to make Hinson Lake a REAL mental bear? How about this: When you friend Bob asks if – rather than the more traditional method of pacing whereby he would start with you at, say, dark -- you think it’s a cool idea if he pays the paltry $24 entry fee and then run three loops with you, then sits one, and then repeats that the whole 24 hours … you answer, “Dude. That sounds PERFECT!”

What makes this insanely hard is when Bob decides at, oh, about 2:18 a.m. that he has had enough, that he’s got 50 miles in and that he’s calling it a night. And that he’ll get his sleeping bag out and hang until you finish.

(Enter that little voice in your head, the raspy one that is telling you to have mercy on the poor dude, who you know can’t sleep in a sleeping bag and who also cannot find his way back to the hotel without your help …so that you should just be a pal and stop now, too. That same voice, a bit more insistently, points out that you have clearly missed both your 100-mile goal and your 91-mile goal. Same voice questions what, if anything, is the value of walking the final 5 hours for, what, another measly 15 miles?)

As I said earlier … when it got hard, I pushed. When it got really hard, I quit. Fast.

Upsides: No stomach issues, even in heat that has often turned my gut to stone. Succeed Caps are a definite winner! Also was great seeing Suzanne, Doom, Laura, Ray K., meeting Christian, chatting up the vaunted Gary Cantrell and sharing an early-morning walk lap with Hinson RD Tom Gabell, a stud runner and a genuine guy.

Aftermath: It’s Monday and – thanks in part to taking this day off from work! – energy levels are soaring back in the direction of normalcy. So are legs. Did a 25-minute run/walk to keep The Streak alive at Day 942.

Hinson last year, I went out way too fast and blew up at 63 miles in 14.5 hours. This year, out much more slowly, a lot hotter, and a final tally of 70 miles in 19 hours.

Disappointed in myself? Yes. Devastated? No. A bit more wise than before? I’m a slow learner.


Mike Bailey said...


Well you were right. Only in ultra running could a man/woman run 70 miles and consider their run a failure. 70 is still a nice round number. Longer than a 50 miler, or 100k, and far enough for a "normal" person to think you're crazy. If you'd like another fun challenge, you can always do the 24Hour Run for Cancer in Hampton, VA. It's a 3.75 mile loop. Very flat and fast near a lake. Probably runs as fast, if not faster than Hinson. It's in April and proceeds benefit cancer research.

Walk the hills, run the flats

Rick Gray said...

Bill, Even though you did not reach your goal, you ran a heck of a long way. Congratulations on making that accomplishment. I have never run a 24 hour loop run, but I would imagine that it is even tougher than running 24 hours in the mountains. Coming back around every 1.5 miles has got to work on your mind and that says nothing of those other runners who have stopped and are now either sleeping or having fun. Take the run for what it gave you and what you learned from it. Pat yourself on the back. You certainly deserve it. Rick

ultrarunnergirl said...

You are just awesome Bill.

When I ran Vermont I purposely did not study the course map because I didn't want to know where I was. I have to mentally believe I have to finish to get home. :)