Monday, February 18, 2008

Some thoughts on my first ultra-run

Soooo, aside from the pithy comments, what was it like?
It was a bit of returning to childhood. These were the types of woods I used to run around in as a child growing up in Hoover, Alabama (we left when I was 14.) I was a kid again, running amok 31 miles through the woods with seventy or so other folks for a little over eight hours. For the first 24 or so miles, and the last two, that's what I felt like. A kid running amok.

There were those long, 4 or 5 miles toward the end when I wasn't sure that I was going to finish.
About two miles after I left the aid station at mile 22.4 (which my Garmin claimed was mile 19.8) I reached for a gel, but all I found were pockets of empty wrappers. Gels would have meant continued running with confidence and feeling good. Empty gel wrappers meant stumbling along, out of fuel and mumbling to myself.

The next aid station around mile 26 was unmanned, with water and watery gatorade and a family of three on horses who were staring, astonished, at the people who kept stumbling, one-by-one, out of the woods and across the small river that ran in front of the unattended gatorade dispensers and asking "what mile is this?" because they had NO idea what was going on. "Mile? Mile of what?"

I filled up on watery gatorade but of course, it didn't have nearly the calories that I needed. I cheered myself up by reminding myself that every mile after 26 was the furthest I'd every gone on my own two feet in my life. But mostly, I stumbled along another 4 miles or so mumbling over and over again,
Oh, I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble. Trouble trouble trouble. I don't know where I am. I don't know how far I've gone. Am I even on the right path? Where's the next aid station?

Then Terri caught up with me and asked me if I was okay, and gave me a gel she had in her pocket, and that helped me to trudge to the last aid station, where there was coke-cola.

Have you ever had a coke?
I mean really had a coke?
You're really having a coke when you're blood sugar is so low that you notice that your head is getting closer and closer to the ground, even though you're standing up, and every time you see the path in front of you going upward, you stop, and you sigh. Then after you sigh, you take a few deep breaths and crawl up, using your hands for help.

I don't even like coke. I almost never drink it. But I loved it that day. I gulped it with relish, there at mile 28 at the Black Warrior 50K.
I took a mouthful of coke-cola and swished it around in my mouth, hoping to absorb some of the sugar under my tongue. I gargled with it, swallowed it, drank about 6 ounces, and poured another 10 ounces in my bottle and took off, running.
I felt the effects almost immediately and I don't care if part of that was a placebo, I felt rejuvenated. Maybe it was also the "only 2 and a half more miles to go" that I heard. I took off running down the last part of the trail toward the finish line along with Terri, who was still with me. Terri has been doing these for over 20 years, and she thought I did pretty well for a first-timer.

All - in - all, here's what I did well, and what I could do better next time:
  • I did well with lots of gels but next time, carbo-pro.

  • I carried tp with me, guessing that I might have to avail myself of the woods. Next time, I think I'll bring wetnaps instead. I drank, drank, drank, drank.

  • I never got dehydrated. Go, me. I carried two Nathan quick-draw bottles. As an added bonus, when I slipped on the mud and fell, the bottle broke my fall and may have prevented a sprained or broken wrist.

  • I brought sports-slick in my drop bag, but next time, I think I'll carry it with me.

  • Race-ready long-distance shorts rock. I wore them over some regular running tights, and in them I carried gels, tp, my Garmin, an inhaler, and my ipod. For my next marathon, I'm going to get a pair of their fitness shorts which are meant for "people who chaffe".

  • My injinji socks and Brooks adrenalyn shoes kept my toes dry, baby.

Next up: The Grasslands Marathon in Decatur Texas. Baboo is doing the 50-miler; I'm doing the marathon.



  1. I had the coke experience after chicago hellathon. I stumbled into a sandwich place panting, "coke, coke, coke." People got out of my way. That was the best coke I've ever had. You rock.

  2. Fantastic job! That post bring a whole new meaning to have a Coke and smile :-)

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your very inspirational! Keep up the great writing and good luck with your training!

  4. I know exactly what you are talking about with the coke. I had the same experience on a bike ride and the coke was a miracle.

    Great job on the race!!

  5. Thank you for your great report and ,as always, great advice for newbies. I think I have read every race report you have written.

    I ran my first two trail runs (a 21K and a 30K) at Pacifica, and Sacramento CA last month and had a blast. I feel drawn to the 50K, your report and advice gives me hope that I can train for and complete one of these.

    I know everyone says it, but you are a true inspiration and I for one thank you. Thank you for helping me change my life from an overworking slug to an active, healthier person.

  6. ahh, Coke there's nothing better when you are bonkin. :)

  7. Ah yes-coke-my favorite "get me outa the gutter" drink! hey-can I be a copy-cat and get some of those shorts? They are really cool!

  8. I hope you're really REALLY proud of yourself - that was a huge thing to do

  9. That's what it's all about...the adventure part of it, like going into the forest without the parents....FUN!

    And yeah, I have been SO depleted that when I have gotten sugar into my system I swear I could feel the particles surging through my veins!

    Yeeha! Great job (again!)

  10. Sounds like an adventurous run! That coke can be a lifesaver at the right time - bonking is no fun whatsoever.

  11. Congratulations! Great report- I'm amazed. You are awesome.

  12. Congratulations! That's an awesome accomplishment!

  13. I was once saved by coke, too!
    I kept asking the volunteers "what IS this stuff???", and it was Sam's Cola - not even "real" Coke-brand coke... But I can remember it absorbing into my cells as clearly as if it were yesterday. I can still hear the zing.


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