All images courtesy http://www.runners.photos/
This was to be my 8th and final time running the 12 hour. I think I’m actually going to miss it. This race holds a special place in my running heart. The first year I ran it, I was ramping up to run my 1st 100 miler. I did almost 60 miles, gave it all I had, and couldn’t walk right for days. It was the first time I’d ever run that far or for that long, and after the race was over, I knew I could finish that 100 miler. Well, I was pretty sure I could! I’ve improved my distance nearly every year, which is always one of my goals. Last year I was just shy of 75 miles, and I was in the best shape yet due to my training for Western States. I knew that would be a tough number to beat this year.
As usual with family, work and pets vying for my attention all week, I threw my gear together at the last minute, the night before the race. My needs are pretty simple at most races, even more-so at this one with its 5 mile loops. I use an Ultraspire Proton belt to hold my water bottles because my noodle-like arms could never make 12 hours even with the smaller 16 oz size, and it gives me a place to stash a few small items. Also I feel like I run much smoother without anything in my hands. I wear the Brooks Launch for all my runs of 50 miles or more unless it’s muddy. I’d like to be able to wear a little less shoe but my feet are too sensitive. No race drop bag is complete without a few Little Debbie Nutty Bars and peanut buttercups, they’re a nice break from gels. I also had to make sure I didn’t forget my new SRC-Brooks team singlet. This would be my first race as an official Brooks-Seattle Running Club team member.
I rolled up to the race in the family minivan around 5:45 AM. Normally I like to relax before the start, but today I would be shuttling runners from the park and ride to the start. I’ve been shuttling runners since they outgrew the trailhead a few years ago. As with most trail races, parking at the trailhead is pretty limited. The race directors, Chris Ralph and Tom Ripley, are great people and even better race directors, so I’m glad to help out in any way I can. I think every runner should volunteer at a race each year. It’s actually fun, most of the time.
After I finished shuttling there were barely a few minutes to get ready. I hit the bathroom and then went through my drop bag. I had my Blue Steel lube, extra water bottle, gels, salt, snacks, extra clothes for the forecasted rain, but no duct tape. Damn! No time to fix that now. Hopefully I could get some before my nipples started to bleed. I figured I had 6-7 hours to remember to ask at the aid station.
During the last minute race instructions, Tom announced that he and Chris would not be hosting this event next year. There was a simultaneous groan from about 85 runners. Then he announced that the race would continue on and that I would be the new race director, at which point there was an even louder groan but only from about 80 runners. I could really feel the love in the air as most of the runners I passed during day gave me a big congratulation on my new endeavor.
The 5.375 mile loop makes planning really simple for me. I take one bottle and one gel every loop. I mix in some aid station food once in a while, normally a chip or a pretzel, sometimes a piece of fruit. My realistic goal was 70 miles and to keep moving with a strong effort for the full 12 hours. Since this isn’t an ‘A’ race for me, it was also important to stay injury free.
I love the start of most ultras. Everyone acts like middle-school kids, all hopped up on sugar, laughing and joking around. We all feel we can run forever. We all think today is surely going to be a PR day. And at this race you never know who’s planning on running for 12 hours and who’s just out for a quick 50k before they go about the rest of their weekend. After a few loops, everybody’s race plan becomes apparent. At the start, I held back the best I could but the first two laps were still a little fast, just like in the previous seven years. Some people don’t like loops or timed races but I love seeing all the runners that you never get to see during a fixed distance or non-loop race. I love giving and receiving so much encouragement. Even if it’s just a grunt later on in the race, it can snap you out of a funk and get you back on track. I was the most inspired this year by Bob Stoyles. At 84 years old, he did over 16 miles. I hope I can do that at 84. Another reason I like the 12 hour is it seems to get harder as the day goes on. I love the extra challenge of not having a fixed finish line. After 6 or 7 times up, that small hill now seems like a mountain, and that short loop can seem like it’s twice as long as it was last time. It takes a lot of focus to continue giving more effort for the same result. Then, out of nowhere, the opposite happens and you can’t believe you’re done with the loop already.
Eventually, around 30 miles, I remembered to ask for duct tape. No bloody nipples today! As the day wore on my fitness ran out, somewhere around 55 miles. I did a good job at pacing and fueling, I just didn’t have the training volume needed to sustain the pace. Every year there’s a loop sometime after number 9 or 10 that I give all the extra effort I can muster to try get a faster lap in because I know I’ve been slowing down, only to finish the lap 30 seconds slower than the previous one. This year the last 3 loops were like that. I stopped a few minutes early so I could watch the timing system in action.
I accumulated 70.595 miles in 11:48. I finished 1st in the over 40 year old age group. I’m normally rather critical of my performances, nearly always thinking I could have done better, but this year I’m happy with this result and look forward to building on it for my summer races.
I’m excited for 2014 when I can watch all the crazy runners go around and around and around. The new website for the race is wp12hr.com.