08/10/2018 Today was the first time for several things. It was the longest training run I’ve ever run. It was my first solo, self-supported marathon. Technically, at 27.5 miles, it was my first solo, self-supported ultra too. Technically. As a continue working on these personal running challenges, I like to be able to set the schedule and more so the pace. I’ve never been a fast runner. My best marathon was 4:09. I’ve only gotten slower since then, and I’m OK with that. Many would shudder at the thought of a super-ten minute mile pace. I don’t mind a challenge – obviously, but I take any kind of extra pressure off by choosing not to push myself even harder for a time goal. “Race never, Run forever”. (I think I just made that up!)
So the day started at 04:00. I was up, ate a little and stretched some. I don’t usually do more than light warm up, but my back had actually been bothering me. It was better then, but didn’t want to risk an unnecessary injury. I packed two coolers. One had food, and the other my hydration. Chccolocco Park, here in Oxford, AL, has a loop that goes around a man-made lake, and another loop segment that follows Choccolocco Creek. Combining the two gives me a distance of 1.7 miles. Knowing that I was likely to lose count of my 16 laps, I put 16 rubber bands around three of my fingers and removed one after each lap.
It was nice having my own fully stocked aid station every 20 minutes or so.I had been collecting things that I knew I would likely want. Smarties, PB & honey, and orange slices were my most preferred. What surprised me is how much I craved the Slim Jims I packed on the spur of the moment. It must have been the sodium, but I’ll most definitely be including these in the future. The granola bars and mini muffins didn’t appeal to me at all. As for hydration, I downed just over a gallon of Gatorade and Body Armor. It was in the high 80’s and humid.
As I plan longer, solo, self-supported, point to point runs, I’m really going to have to carefully plan hydration. I ordered a new hydration backpack from Teton Sports. (I quite literally wore out my last one). It has a 2L capacity. I have two other bladders I can bring, but that’s just added weight. In reality, I will need to scout out locations where I can purchase and refill my spots drink, but that narrative is for another time.
Having just run a marathon a months ago, the miles run between then and now have been minimal. I decided a more full recovery and taper were better than cramming in more miles. I felt strong and ran the first 15 miles like any other run. The course is flat and scenic. As the morning wore on I started to feel fatigue in my legs but kept the same pace. The last seven miles (over twenty) were tough mentally. I had been listening to music and podcasts, but just got a little bored, and was ready to be done. Anyone with experience will tell you that endurance running is all won or lost in your mind. On the next to last lap, I pulled out my GoPro and filmed some clips for a race review video at a walking pace. On the final lap, I lugged my two coolers out. The picnic tables I set up on were under some trees, but also nearly a mile from the car. Call it plodding if you want, but lugging those two coolers that last mile out, were hot and slow.
Normally, I’d feel a strong sense of accomplishment, but the fatigue seems to mask much of it. Half a mile down the road, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and bought a large frozen coffee. That was exactly what I needed. The load of sugar made me more alert to the fact that I was giving myself an ice cream headache every thirty seconds or so.
(8/11) As I write this follow up the next morning, my legs are very sore – more sore than I can remember them being in a long time. Maybe it was the distance. Maybe it was porting 25 lbs of supplies nearly 2 miles. Either way, I’m already planning the next challenge. Tentatively, I’ll run another marathon in October. In all likelihood, I’ll have my wife drop me off 26.2 miles from home and I’ll run the “Home Run Challenge”.
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…and until I talk to you again, I hope you have a great day!