This is a long one but hopefully it may help you get through your lows in a race. It’s a raw account of my feelings and emotions though the race and I how I persevered to get through the pain and somehow manage to finish in 3rd place of 51 runners being the oldest runner in the event and the only one with a hip replacement.
“Last Man Standing” race, I went into this race with high expectations based on my training and fitness level but fell well short of my goals. It was the first race of this format where the goal isn’t to run as fast as you, it’s to run as long as you can with no known end time. I had practiced run/walk training for the last 6 weeks and 2 long training runs of this format with 10 hours during the day and an 8 hour run in the evening, running 4.167 miles every hour and then resting to the start of the next hour.
It took me a couple of laps to settle into the pace, the course was on trail which I hadn’t trained on, and was single track so it was important to get the right starting position so you weren’t behind other runners. The trail was in good condition with just a few areas where the hogs had worked it but very runnable. I finished the laps in around 46 minutes giving me plenty of time to rest between laps and take on nutrition sitting in the chair. The race started at 8am and the sun was up with very little shade and it was surprisingly hot from the beginning, reaching 80 plus degrees during the day, not the 40 or 50 degrees most of the previous weekends during training.
After only about 5 or 6 laps, less than a marathon distance, my race started falling apart, my confidence going into this race shattered and replaced with a lot of negativity, more than any other race I can remember. I questioned myself why I was running, I decided to quit running competitively, all the training is taking too much of a toll on my body. I wasn’t having fun, but I don’t want to blame the race for this, the course was well marked, very well organized, great pre-race communication, but for some reason I was struggling. The format was now playing on my mind, I knew I couldn’t reach my goal and looking at the strong field I knew I couldn’t win, I wanted to quit. After 8 loops at 4pm I was thinking if I quit now by the time I pack the car, drive the 4 hours back home and clean up I could be drinking a cocktail and be in bed by 10pm, it was tempting. I put on a brave face every time I came back into the shoot, this is one race you don’t want to let your competition know you’re struggling. I knew in 2 more hours after 10 laps we would be on the road and hopefully everything would be better.
I had to keep telling myself I was running to represent my fellow HipRunners, I had my hip replacement 11 years ago and started running 1 year later. This group helped me realize that it was okay to run and now it’s my turn to encourage and motivate others to follow their passion. I had also told my work colleagues about the race and didn’t want to disappoint them or my family & friends or the Clever Training group of which we had 4 other competitors running the race. You have to find something to try to get some positive thoughts and to keep you moving forward.
Yes the road was better but my mind was still full of negative thoughts and quitting. Claire had stopped during the trail loops and Al completed 1 road loop before calling it a day. It was now me, Andy and Jamie. I thought again about quitting but didn’t want to come in third in our group. Jamie looked really strong and I didn’t know if I could outlast him and to my surprise he called it a day after 2 loops on the road with 54 miles. I thought about stopping again but was hoping maybe Andy was hurting and he would stop after the next lap and I could run one more and then quit so I went out once again. The loop started just like most of the other loops, I would go out with the leaders, Andy, Patrick, Melody, Eddie and myself, then I would start my 1:30 walk break after a 3:30 run, catch them up again and it would continue finishing a couple of minutes behind the leaders.
There were still 12 people starting the loops and that was the only reason I kept going, normally I can finish in the top 10% and with 51 runners starting the race I was still outside 20%. When the night loop started I began eating my bacon, having 3 strips each lap and by the start of the third lap my mind shifted. The negativity had largely gone and I felt like I had some energy but still knew I couldn’t win and would be well short of my goal, but at least I could start to concentrate on running and not quitting racing all together. My head had been hurting for a couple of hours and would continue for several more. I don’t know if it was the effect of the sun beating down on the runners all day, lack of hydration or something else and now that was calling me to quit. I was just planning 1 or 2 loops ahead, if I could finish this loop that would be 58 miles and then the next loop would get me to a metric 100 with 62 miles and I could quit then.
I got through those loops and a couple of runners had stopped, now it was down to about 10 runners. Selflessly I wanted people to quit but at the same time I wanted to put up a big number for Florida, there were still a lot of talented runners in the group and we would have had more if the day hadn’t been so grueling. I had texted Leo leading up to the race about my goals and didn’t want to let him down, I had RSVP’d to a Super Bowl party I would still be running and I had taken Monday off and told my wife I may not be home for Valentines Day dinner but instead sleeping in a hotel room, but now all of that was dreams and it would take everything for me to line up every hour. At the end of every loop so many people were cheering as I came in and telling me how strong I looked and how I was a metronome with my pacing, little did they know what my mind was going through and how badly I wanted to quit.
As I ran alongside some runners I wanted to chat with them, ask how they were doing but didn’t want to share my negativity with them and to put doubts in their minds. This race it’s so important to stay positive and to cast negativity aside, the least I could do is not dampen their spirits. Now Michael didn’t make it back in time from one of the loops and I know how badly he wanted to win. The day had taken the toll on a lot of strong runners with high ambitions. Joe may have been next and then to my surprise Patrick then didn’t start a loop and we were now down to 4 runners, me, Eddie, Andy & Melody.
We set off again and the 3 of them looked strong and pulled away from me. Eddie had mentioned he got a few minutes sleep in and he was tired and sure enough he didn’t start the next lap. Andy had been able to take a couple of naps and have his crew wake him up, but as I was screwed (Self Crewed) I had to stay awake and watch the clock to be in the coral for the next loop on time. I ran 2 laps with Andy & Melody and even though I thought I had seen kinks in the armor on a couple of laps, they were short lived and were as strong as ever. I could now see I was limping on my hip replacement side, as the light dipped to one side every other step. These 2 laps took a minute or 2 longer than the others and I had been having stomach issues for a while, completing each lap and having to go to the bathroom. I knew I could run a few more and probably make a hundred but wasn’t sure I’d make the cutoff on the trail. Given that I had a 4 hour drive ahead of me and I didn’t think I could win, I decided to call it a day after 87.5 miles and try to get a short nap in while it was dark. I congratulated Andy and Melody and wished them luck, thanked Leo for the race and Mike for the timing and went to pack up.
I got in the car and tried to sleep but my hip was now complaining strongly and I couldn’t get comfortable on either side, I tossed and turned for 30 minutes or so but then decided to start my drive home. I had only been driving for about 20 minutes when I started hallucinating seeing strange creatures at the side of the road. I knew I needed to find a gas station to pull off and get some sleep before continuing and that’s what I did. I woke up about 40 minutes later feeling a lot more refreshed, my hip was a little calmer and I went inside to get a coffee and bagel. There was on and off rain for the remainder of the drive and when I got home jumped in the bath and had a shower. After that my hip was feeling a lot easier and I rested, taking our dog Molly for a short walk in the afternoon to stretch my legs.
I’m still not sure what went wrong, I had a good taper so why were my legs so heavy? Was it my nutrition, I had 3 gallon jugs of water, 1 plain water, another with Tailwind and the third with Science in Sports Electrolyte and Re-Lyte. I remember thinking that I had no idea how much I was drinking, I had handhelds which I was saving for day 2 but I may have been better using them so I could gauge what I was drinking. I was eating mini blueberry muffins, something I never eat but knew I should take on calories and was saving my real food for day 2, I had 3 pounds of cooked bacon prepared, a home made banana bread cake and a rotisserie chicken, in addition to a case of Gatorade, 3 more gallons of water, 8 chocolate milk, 4 oranges and 3 bananas and another jar of pickles, I was prepared. I had no idea of my heart rate as for some reason my Garmin Fenix 6 doesn’t want to accurately measure my rate on my left hand, I didn’t want to wear it on my right wrist and also didn’t want to wear my HRM strap. Maybe I was outside my training rate and didn’t know, who knows.
After 48 hours to contemplate, I’m still not sure if I’m going to race again, but at least I’m not where I was and 100% giving up. I think it will take a couple of weeks to come to terms with this race and my disappointment, the mental challenge in addition to the physical challenge and pain. It was a race of mainly downs and lows but somehow I still managed to pull through. I think we all know running isn’t easy and it’s as much mental as physical and this was certainly one of those days.
Many thanks to Leo for a great race and all the volunteers. Congrats to all the runners that all went through their own struggles until they had enough. It’s a different type of race, very challenging but something you should try. Good luck to Andy and Melody representing Florida in the Silver ticket race in May.