Race Report - 2010 and Inaugural Running of the Mind The Ducks 12 Hour Race

This is my second of four planned ultras for this year. I ran the BPAC 6 Hour 3 weeks ago.

Here’s a link to the official race web site.

I obviously didn’t train much at all in the last 3 weeks. I did a little walking, a little running, a little Physical Therapy (twice a week) and a visit to my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brett Greenky. I just could not get to feeling better after BPAC, so I tried everything.

PT would help me feel better, but only for a few hours, and then I was like a cripple. Sitting in a meeting for a half hour caused me to seize up like an engine run overheated without oil. Tuesday before the race, I saw Dr. Greenky for advice on knee replacement technology, etc. Dr. Greenky is a former collegiate All American wrestler and athlete, and is in terrific shape. I told him another surgeon I had seen 5 years ago told me that if I keep running I would need knee replacements. So I was here to discuss the possibility. Dr. Greenky has operated on me 4 times. 3 knees and a shoulder. So he knows me and what I do pretty well. He examined my knee and told me:

Running is good for everyone - including people with arthritis. The worst thing anyone can say about ultra running is that no one knows if it is good or bad for a person. He said I am an excellent candidate for a partial knee replacement, in many, many years. He said I am not even close to needing it yet. He gave me a shot of cortisone, said it would take a couple of days to take effect and it would help for the race Saturday, and probably for 3 months. He said to come see him anytime I wanted, suggested I add some cycling to my training, lose weight, and keep on keeping on. He fixed my knee, and more importantly, he fixed my head.

Wednesday my knee was sore where he made the injections. I was not hopeful.

Thursday I thought it was feeling better and became slightly hopeful. Thursday afternoon, leaving work, I became very congested with head cold symptoms. But that night, my best friend, Mary, told me she had entered the race. This surprised me - a lot. Mary likes to run the 5K distance, and she is very good at it. She almost always wins her age group. When training, she will run 3.2 miles, instead of 3.1 miles, and that is about it. So I was pretty happily surprised when she told me she had already entered.

Friday I could not stop sneezing and my sinuses kept filling with fluid. The more I blew out, the more they filled up. I felt really ill, but I couldn’t be ill, because my best friend needed me to race for 12 hours. We made our plans to drive up the next morning, etc.

I overslept. About 5 minutes after the time I was supposed to pick Mary up at her house (20 minutes away) she called, and woke me up to ask if I was coming or not. I had packed everything the night before, so I got in the car and headed out. On the way to Mary’s house, I noticed the head cold had settled in my chest. Raspy breathing, coughing, etc. Fortunately we had planned in enough time buffer (we both like to be places early) to get there in time.

Everything was set up when we got there about 6. We got our numbers, then lugged all our stuff down to set it up near the path, just past the race aid station. A cooler full of stuff, two camp chairs, running bags filled with all kinds of accessories and changes of wardrobe and etc. Got our chips, visited the bathrooms multiple times, lubed up everything that could chafe (having recently been instructed by 6 hours in the rain at BPAC) and got to the very back of the pack for the start, which occurred exactly on time. Started my GPS watch.

Mary and I started way at the back and we started walking. At this point, I was having trouble breathing due to the chest cold. I had toyed with the idea of reversing my run / walk strategy for the first 6 hours, by walking 2 miles, then running 0.2 and repeating. Then, at halfway, I would do my normal routine, and run 2 miles, then walk 0.2 miles. It made sense on paper...

Mary is a much better and faster walker than me. We tried to keep on a 15 minute pace. I kept fiddling with my GPS watch to get it to show me average pace per mile, and then we tried to keep it under 15:00. We succeeded in this for the first 6 hours, which was mostly walking. We were ahead of schedule, and our plan was to get 24 miles in the first 6 hours, then do more running in the second half and shoot for 50 miles. This was a good plan for about 6 hours. And after the first hour, I had burned all the congestion out of my chest, and I could talk normally, so much so that Mary remarked that I sounded back to normal, not gasping and rasping. I was starting to feel good.

Having someone to talk with while running is a new experience for me. In nearly all my training, I am alone. Much of the time I use for listening to books I want to read. Sometimes I listen to music, but it’s usually an unabridged book. Sometimes my friends will do training runs with me, but they are so much faster, that they usually "loop" back to check on me, so the only time I’m actually with anyone is when we start, when we finish, and a few loops. Most of my training is solo. And all my "racing" up to this point has been solo, save the moments when I happen to be near another racer. Of course we always exchange greetings, etc., on loop courses, but in point to point, I always race alone. The rare exception, in days gone by, was when I’d end up after half the race running with some stranger who was at the same pace as me, and we might strike up a conversation.

Having a companion prevented the need to trick my brain into not being bored. Mary and I talked about a host of different things the entire 12 hours. Mary had never entered an ultra before, in fact, nothing longer than the 15K Boilermaker 3 years before. Some may think that staying with Mary may have "cost" me a few miles. On the other hand, I happen to think that if she hadn’t gone, I would have stayed in my sick bed and not even started. Also, I may have gone out on some "rational" plan that would have prevented me from hanging in for 12 hours. Who is to say? In any case, it was a unique experience that I am very glad to have had. It may never be repeated. Next time Mary will probably kick my butt and leave me in the dust! Of course, the coaching will be over if that happens.

Thanks to Tom Perry for all the terrific photos!

At 6 hours, we were slightly ahead of our plan to capture 24 miles. We were not able to maintain that pace, even though we ran more in the second half. We just couldn’t maintain the walking pace. Mary started feeling her big toes and mentioned it a couple times. She changed out of her first pair of shoes into some walking sandals, but that caused blisters on the balls of her feet. Then I realized we had put Superfeet into the shoes she was using, and as her feet swelled, we should have removed those and replaced them with the original inserts. If we had done that when she first noticed the friction, she wouldn’t have lost the nails on her big toes and one second toe. My fault.

At this point, I was trying to strategize how to go through the next 6 hours. I knew our walking was slowing, and I thought it would be good to gradually increase the running content. We had been running the last 0.2 mile of every 2 miles (i.e., every 4 laps). So we were running that section (from the dirt spot just past the owl tree) to the finish line every 1 out of 4 laps, or, every 2 out of 8 laps. I decided that each hour I would increase the number of laps we ran in by 1. So in the 7th hour, we’d run 3 out of 8 laps, in the 8th hour, we’d run 4 out of 8 laps, or every other lap. Then 5 out of 8. Except, in the 8th or 9th hour, it got so hard to remember which lap was all walking and which lap was part running, that we just ran on every other lap for a while.

About 9 hours I started chafing painfully, and addressing it with body glide was not working. Realizing that I had been sweating into the same pair of shorts for 9 hours, I decided to run up to the outhouse and change shorts. This illustrated something running together had benefitted us. Whenever one of us used the porta-can, the other kept going, whether we were running or walking to the finish line, we just kept going. Then, after finishing business, the one who stopped had to catch up to the other one. This really helped us stay on our overall pace. When I stopped to change shorts, I had to run nearly the entire lap to catch Mary. She gave me no quarter.

Ben Clardy offered to have Mack make soup, which I took advantage of late in the race. It was a good pick me up. Mack had been teasing me about another runner in my "age." Not my age group, my age. Apparently there was one other runner my age in the race. After a while I asked Mack who he was. Mack pointed out it was a lady with a cowtown marathon shirt on, several laps ahead of me. Later in the race I heard her craving soup, so I asked Mack to surprise her with a cup o soup, and I think she was really happy about it.

I kept asking Mack to give me the 27th prime number in the Fibonacci series. He kept trying to dodge the issue by giving me the 27th number in the series, not good enough. I never did get that number.

For the last 2 hours, Mary and I started sitting in our camp chairs. We had been celebrating Mary’s new PRs as we went along. Her first half marathon. Her first Marathon. Her first 50K. Then we noticed when we went by 33 miles, which I had run in the BPAC. Then we set our goal on 40 miles. At 33 miles, I think, we decided to sit for a few minutes. When I got out of my chair, it fell apart. For several laps I tried each time by to fix it. Usually I’m OK with this type of repair, but I just couldn’t get the screw started. Finally the race director saw me struggling, came over, and offered to fix the chair. It turned out I was trying to put the screw in from the wrong end - a mistake I usually don’t make. But the RD got the proper tools, re-assembled my chair, and on we went.

We started sitting in our chairs for about 15 seconds each lap. It’s amazing, but this was enough relief to refresh me, at least, and I think it did for Mary too. I had been taking 1 salt stick each hour, and having Mary take one every 2 hours. She had never had them before, and she doesn’t sweat as much as I do. In fact, ladies don’t even sweat, or perspire, they just moisten. Anyway, it worked for both of us. We also used Accelerade, clif bars, the race’s turkey sandwiches, and M&Ms. Also, some kettle chips I brought from Target. I gained about 8 pounds in the race. Not my plan.

Another phenomenon during the last 2 hours was that it became really painful to walk, so we started running sooner and sooner. And we started running the end of every lap. It was mildly painful to start running, but once running, it felt better than walking. Of course, we weren’t doing more than a shuffle when we were running, but it still felt better than walking.

After we got to 40 miles, we started negotiating how many more laps we would do. We both wanted to keep going to the time limit, and we both didn’t want to run any farther than necessary. We intentionally walked a little extra the last two laps - not wanting to go one more.

This is the first race that we’ve run together that I crossed the finish line ahead of Mary. Since she started running 3 years ago, we’ve run many 5Ks, a 5 mile, a 15K and lots of training together. Part of why she entered (I think) is the notion that this was my race, and she was "paying me back" for running all those shorter races with her. So she insisted that I run to the finish ahead of her. Which I did. She wasn’t far behind.

After we stopped, Mary collapsed in her chair. After overcoming her nausea, she went up to the bathroom while Moe and another runner helped me lug all our gear up to the car. Then we drove to the awards ceremony, where Mary got her duck egg. I got a goose egg. 8-)

We drove home, and I did have to stop twice to walk into the rest area bathroom, more to wake myself up than to use it. Mary had called to wake me at 3:20, we had kept moving for 12 hours, and dropped her off at her house about 10 p.m. Then I drove home from there - 20 minutes I have no recall of whatsoever.

As for me, I had no pain during or after the race. Mary mentioned several times that she was never uncomfortable, except for her 2 blisters and her hot toenails. She was never out of breath. You may not think that’s racing, but I maintain that if you’re going to do something continuously for 12 hours (or 24), it’s got to be somewhat comfortable or you won’t keep going. No one is holding a gun on you.

That’s my story of the inaugural MTD 12 hour. This is the first time I’ve finished 2 ultras in one year since 1995, when I ran Andiamo and the JFK50 Mile 5 weeks apart. On to Cleveland!!!

2010 Mind the Ducks 12 Hour Race