Friday, January 2, 2009

Freedom Park New Year’s Ultra 24 Hour: An Impulsive Adventure!

First 2 photos taken 1 hour after finishing up 24 hours of running:
1)Partial Group Shot, 2)Matt and Annette, 3)the initial preparations for an icebath.
This event was held yesterday(12/31) and today (1/1) on a USATF approximately 1 mile certified loop in a city park in the town of Morganton, NC.

Originally I’d signed up for the 6 hour…yet after much silent deliberation and a couple sleepless nights –switched to the 24 hour 14 hours before it’s start.
Was I trained to the 24? No.
Logistically prepared? No.
Have a stragedy? No.
Have a passion for doing something extravagant to honor the transition of the years? YES!
Was I willing to step back and pull out if I was over my head? (With reluctance-but yes).

My thinking-logical and otherwise is this:
Running 6 hours would already cause me to be up all night…if I ran during the day, I could watch and learn. I felt like a wimp for starting to run in the darkness and cold at 8pm. I didn’t want to be “left out” and I wanted a sensible risk to welcome the 365 days ahead. I also figured I would run much slower for 24 than 6 hours, lessening the possibility of tweaking my calf.

After talking it over with George on Tuesday afternoon and deciding I’d switch, I did some internet research on 24-hour events. I was going into this very green and wanted to learn whatever I could. I became distracted upon arriving at the American UltraRunning website and quickly learned the qualifying time for the National team is a minimum of 120 miles on a certified course and the qualifying window is July 2007-January 1, 2009. So I did the math: I would have to have an average of 12-minute miles-or 5 miles per hour. Doable-run/walking if I was smart and had a good day? Even with my longest run being 22 miles since July-I thought so.

Of course qualifying does not mean selection…or that if selected I could take the time from work and find the money to go…(even though the Championship is in Italy this coming May!) Yet I am a goal person-so I choose this as my mileage goal. I shared it with RD’s David and Rhonda and asked them to keep it a secret (I wasn’t sure how realistic/unrealistic it would be not having run long for awhile and being a “newbie” to this format)

It is an hour and 45ish minutes from Jefferson to Morganton and I left at 4:45am to give enough time to set up my tent, pick up packet and dress before the 8am start. I saw many familiar and new faces and later learned lots of names! I think there were between 30-40 24-hour starters including Byron Backer and Richard Lilly with whom I have shared many miles! I especially mention these guys because their familiarity and encouragement was very valuable!

To summarize the 1st 10 hours. Windy. 42 degrees with a wind chill of 32 degrees. Fun. Social. I met folks from all over the US and got to chat for hours with amazing humans with amazing lives!

I had no plan-yet upon the suggestion of the “Mr. RD” after a few hours, began to walk parts of the 2 tiny up hills on the course. After 8 hours or so and feeling more confidant I shared my mileage goal with runners who asked. I vowed not to look at my mileage or leader board until 12 hours. Yet somewhere mid afternoon I noticed the leader board with me being in 4th position. No worries. I knew I was at least averaging 5 mph.

At 5pm…with waning shadows, and still strong winds I changed into tights and more clothes. The challenge was to find the right combo of clothing as not to soak with sweat and hence get cold-or to be too cold. I was never warm from 5pm on. Only a few times did my teeth chatter and I get bone cold. Most of the rest of the night I felt cold and lost dexterity in my hands-even with my down mitts. The 6 and 12-hour runners joined in at 8pm. It was refreshing to have fresh legs on the course and witness people really running hard! Montrail teammate Russell Gill seemed to be tearing it up in the 6 hour…he was moving so fast and me comparatively so slow, we didn’t exchange much more than waves!

One unwelcome challenge during this event was my body being in purge mode (prob'ly from Christmas food and travel) and “stomach” cramping caused some “close calls” and no less than 15 pit stops (fortunately in a lighted heated building w/tp!-had this occurred in the woods it would have been very miserable! I don’t know if it “hurt” me by the constant breaks, or if the breaks –which were also warming-helped with not overdoing it?

I really felt good for most the day and night. Yet around 4:30ish am I started second guessing myself and fearing I’d bit off more than I deserved. I whined. Outloud a little. Inwardly, a lot! I ate grilled cheese. And things got better eventually! (I finally remembered that I tend to hit a low about 2-3 hours before dawn!)

Speaking of food-I ate almost none of my usual ultra food. Just Clif drink and 1 Clifbar, but no shots or blocks or even fig bars. Part reason is that due to the cold, my hands wouldn’t work enough to undo wrappers…and other, because I was running such a slow pace and it wasn’t hot I really didn’t deal with traditional nausea or other food issues. I consumed no less than 3 pieces of pizza (with cheese and pepperoni removed), 1 grilled cheese sandwich, 2 handfuls of peanut m&ms, 1 canned boiled and salted potato, 4 sandwich cookies, 5 hard candies, 5 cups hot cocoa, 1 cup hot cider, 2 cups chicken broth and one “champagne glass” of sparkling grape juice at midnight! I mostly drank Clif drink or bottled water-at times coke looked appealing-yet it too I couldn’t open!

The volunteers kept a hot kitchen going for nearly 18 hours! Yum, yum and thank you! The support at this event was exquisite. I felt like a rock star-they attended so well to everyone!

Anyway, as not to drag on this post-I know I am sleep deprived and babbling…I ran (unofficially) 121.97 for 2nd place overall and Matt Chaffin from near Syracuse, NY almost 126 miles. Results will be verified and posted ASAP at:
I do plan on emailing Roy Pirrung tomorrow who is in charge of the men's and women's 24 hour teams and making inquiry...and see what unfolds!

I left the race area, ate breakfast with the runners and RD and crew, and drove to a parking lot. Slept 2 hours. Drove 1.5 hours home and sat in an ice tub for 10 minutes. I am holding onto handrails as I limp downstairs. My legs are swollen and I have a painful lump on the top of my left foot… Lack of training wasn’t necessary obvious in the race-yet I fear it may be during recovery!

In summary, somewhere around 5:30am this morning another runner asked me if I still felt half human. We both said we did and wished each other well as we continued to slog along. I thought about the question as I plodded on in the predawn cold. I didn’t feel half human. I felt never MORE wholly human! Existing and living in the moment, experiencing the elements, companionship, celebrating with others, sharing stories, disappointments, self-doubts. It was a beautiful star filled night with the foothills visible in some directions. I am privileged to have had this experience. My thanks to RD’s David and Rhonda Lee, all the volunteers and all the 6, 12, and 24-hour runners for a fabulous New Years Eve celebration!


Thomas Bussiere said...

"...longest run being 22 miles since July..."
Very amazing with 121.9 miles and 2nd place. Hope recovery goes well.

Rick Gray said...

Annette, I thought you were going for a nice short stroll for six hours and you end up going 24 hours. Running almost 122 miles and qualifying for the national team selection. You are one amazing lady and I am so proud of you. Rest up so that the bathtub does not become your best friend. Congratulations, Rick

Bob Miller said...

Annette -

You'll be happy to know that my arms are back to their normal length now that I'm out of the wind back up here in Michigan. :) Congrats on the great result!


Sophie Speidel said...

WOW Annette!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Muchas Congratas!! You are such a "gamer". I love your "what the heck" attitude and your guts. I hope the World Cup people know that---that would be sooo cool to run for the US in the 24 hour (check out Meghan Arboghast's World Cup 100K report on my blog---love her photos from Italy).

I wish we lived near one another as I would love to run every day with you :-)

Happy 2009! This is gonna be a good one, I can tell!

Paul DeWitt said...

Hi Annette - great job and nice report! Maybe you've found your new distance/event! I also have had an injury-plagued year and a half but hope to get back to racing in 2009, even if it is less serious than before.

- pauld

Coach Spencer said...

Wow! 122 miles on that training?? Impressive stuff!

Jamie Donaldson said...

You Rock Annette!
Congratulations--Italy will be so much fun!

Marlin Yoder said...

Awesome Annette! I love your spirit! Truly inspiring after all the injury stuff you've had to deal with the past year!

Anne Riddle Lundblad said...

Annette -- great run! I am so happy to see you running healthy and strong again. All the best for the new year -- you've certainly gotten off to a terrific start! :-) Anne

The Geetah said...

Congratulations Annette. Welcome to the Team and it'll be Great to have you in Italy (hoping you can come and it'll be great to have a full womens team this year).

I REALLY know what you mean (and feel the same way) when you stated " I didn’t feel half human. I felt never MORE wholly human! Existing and living in the moment, experiencing the elements, companionship, celebrating with others, sharing stories, disappointments, self-doubts."

I also know what it's like to be struggling back from some injuries and then nail a good one.


Bill Allen

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