Today’s Happy Note: See rest of post 🙂
My morning started off bright and early at 9 am…doing laundry. I had such a busy week with schoolwork, blogging, running, and the ten billion other things I do that I had not had time to wash clothes and I had nothing to wear for the ultra! Good thing we weren’t starting until noon 🙂
I started getting really nervous an hour or so beforehand. I thought, “what if I don’t finish? That would be mega humiliating seeing as I’ve already DONE IT ONCE BEFORE.” I got over it once we all met up in the center of campus and started getting nice and hype. I figured it would just be me and the boy who organized it again (Damion — he’s training for a hundred miler!!!!!!) but eleven people showed up! Insanity. Pure insanity. Not everyone had run very far though so some people only planned on going as far as they could. But somehow eight of us managed to finish! Spectacular.
BTW, this isn’t a real “race”. It’s put on by the CU Road Runners club, but there are no aid stations, no volunteers, no timing, no bibs, and no medals. Made me feel all the more hardcore 🙂
The best part apart our pre-race hype-fest? Meeting Ada from NYCollegeEats. I didn’t know she was running it until she left me a comment yesterday and I was so excited to have a “friend” there and meet her! We talked a lot; we have a ton of random things in common. We both have November birthdays, were serious swimmers in HS, and are allergic to shellfish (but only true shellfish). In case you couldn’t tell, there is a lot of time for chatting during an ultra. BTW Ada, sorry if I wasn’t too talky during the second half; as my energy waned I realized that talking was just one more unnecessary energy expenditure.
Damion took a bunch of action shots during the race. Here’s a few:
Manhattan is an island. Islands have perimeters. Manhattan is a medium-ish island with a perimeter of approximately 33 miles. Our journey took us around the perimeter of the island, following the water as closely as possible (there are some areas where there is no path along the river, so you have to move inland a bit). Because of slight diversions and such, it ended up being 34 miles. It took us 6 hours and 40-something minutes. For reasons which I will later explain though, it could have been a good bit faster.
The first 15 miles were really quite uneventful. I felt a bit tight for the first 4 or so, but no worries. One of the nice things about this route is that, starting in the middle of the island and heading north first, you hit most of the hills in the first half, some of which are serious. We slowly made our way around the top of the island. I loved seeing bits and pieces of every neighborhood; you really see New York in a way you haven’t before. Like who knew where the school bus storage area was? Or that there is a random industrial/auto park on the East side of Inwood? Or that the drivers are really obnoxious and seem to have no problem almost running over ten tired runners? Okay we already knew that part, but you get the point. I think my favorite parts to run in were Inwood Hill Park (it’s very beautiful and huge), East Harlem for its character, and the Lower East Side because the people are so diverse. Although they do tend to get in your way. But whatever.
Miles 15-20 were by no means bad, but I started feeling like, “okay, this is definitely a long run!” Up until then, my legs had felt amazing. We hit the halfway point in there somewhere, and I think that was sort of where I mentally gave permission to myself to finally feel what was really going on. I wished we could have had some sort of mileage signs; it was a beautiful day out and there were a ton of runners, tourists, and just generally people exploring. I wanted all of them to know exactly how far I was going! Around mile 20 or so, my emotions started going haywire; I experienced a similar feeling last time I did this so it didn’t take me by surprise, at least. It’s really strange, actually. I started feeling wildly upset/angry/joyful/confused/tearful at really inappropriate times. This effect only gets worse the further you go. For example, if a walker or biker got in my way, I became infuriated. It was sort of funny, I won’t lie. I wish I would have had a video of myself. I almost cried when someone in the group wanted to do something I didn’t (like stop at a water fountain or run on the other side of the sidewalk)!
Miles 20-26 were alright. You definitely don’t feel as bad as you might during that segment of a marathon, because for one thing, you aren’t trying to go fast at all, and for another, you know that you most definitely won’t be done at 26.2! It started getting painful to start back up again after even brief stops during this segment. But the scenery and people kept me entertained. Where else can you run by old people doing tai chai next to bunch of high school hipsters and men in business suits? Nowhere. New York is special.
Warning: mini rant ahead. While most members of our group were definitely ready for this distance (they had run three or four hours at a time before or done marathons or half-marathons), some clearly were not. I really respect the determination and self-drive that it takes for anyone to push themselves through an ultra, but if you are unprepared, you risk injury or not being able to run again for a while. There were one or two people in our group who simply weren’t quite ready. I say this as someone who has spent the last seven years doing distance running, starting with half-miles, moving up to two miles, then 5ks, 10ks, 10-milers, halves, 18-20 milers, and then ultras (I skipped the marathon distance, but because my endurance was and is so good, it didn’t make much of a difference). Seven years people. That’s how long it’s taken me to get to a point where I can run 34 miles at once without a problem. Maybe it won’t take everyone seven years to get to this point, but it strikes me as slightly problematic to go from 8 miles to ultras.
Because of the problem outlined above, we had to stop. A lot. Quick bathroom and water breaks are, of course, to be expected, but they were nowhere near as excessive in my last ultra. We probably stopped for 5+ minutes at least 5 times. To me, this takes away from the racing/pushing myself aspect a teeny bit. Additionally, I find it really hard to stop and start during long runs. After 27 miles, you really want to just keep going. We even stopped for a break two miles from the end. Seriously, people? Two miles. I was extremely annoyed at that point. I suspect that I could have finished around 6-ish hours if we had not stopped/slowed down so much.
I definitely plan on doing this run at some point again in the future and we probably won’t have this same exact problem. Maybe next time I’ll be able to go for time.
To clarify, I wasn’t angry, but I was annoyed and concerned for the health of all involved. That is all. End rant.
Phew! Sorry guys. That may have come across as obnoxious. Sorry. Thoughts?
Anyways, where were we? Oh, 26.2. So we passed through the marathon mark. It’s sort of an odd feeling to hit it and then realize you still have eight more miles. I actually kind of started feeling strong and powerful on and off from here to the end of the “race”. It was surprising but also satisfying. It made me realize that I am an endurance athlete. If I can turn on the gas at mile 31, well, I think that’s pretty sweet. It also made me understand just how fit I am — I can run for seven hours (and could, I think, have gone up to 40 or so miles). That is special.
We thought and talked about food A LOT during those last eight miles. I dreamed of all the delicious things I wanted to eat upon finishing 🙂 Another thing that happened at this point is I reached the confusion/delirium state. Do I have any runners out there who know what I am referring to? Well, let me tell you, it’s hilarious! I spent ten minutes trying to figure out what 22 plus 9 was (I thought we were at 22 and had 9 left at one point, which doesn’t make any sense at all now that I think about it, because I knew it was going to be at least 33). I kept telling myself that it was either 34 or 35. Then I settled on 32. It wasn’t until several minutes later that I realized it was actually 31. After the race, I did things like try to take my cell phone into the shower (as opposed to my towel!) and shampooed my hair twice (instead of using conditioner the second time).
Last mile was painful, as expected. The finish is at the top of two staircases, which makes things tricky, but we all finished together and everyone was just so thrilled to be done.
I’m below the guy in the orange shirt and Ada is right below me.
All in all, it was a grueling, painful, thrilling, wonderful experience. How many people can call themselves ultramarathoners? Well, I’ve done two, so if anyone can, I get to (although I think anyone who has done one can too!). I feel like an endurance athlete. No, scratch that, a good endurance athlete. I have done sports my entire life — gymnastics, swimming, diving, track — but I was always pretty middle of the pack. With distance running, I feel like I’m a somebody. I feel like I can be not exactly one of the best, but good. I could probably beat 99.9% of people in an ultramarathon. It’s nice to feel like I have an athletic talent. I feel proud.
I took pictures of everything I ate today to make sure I was eating enough of the right things, but not going overboard. I think I only ended up at about 3300 calories, which is probably less than I burned during the run, but I’m not hungry anymore. I’m sure I’ll survive. Most of the food isn’t that interesting (think lots of shot blocks, oatmeal, egg scrambles, froyo, apples) so I won’t share.
I am very very very tired. Running 34 miles does that to a girl. My next running goal is to conquer 40 miles and then I want to do a 50-miler. I finally feel like I have my athletic niche. It may be obscure. It may be bizarre. It may be exhausting and draining and sometimes it feels like death. But I can run. And I can keep running for a long, long time. If I have nothing else, I have this. And I love it.