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North Coast 24hr Race

Short Version:

I ran around and around and around and around and then I walked a little

Then I did it some more

And some more

And some more….

Long Version:

Back in January, some lunatics on RWOL forum brought up doing this 24hr event in Cleveland Ohio on Sept 17/18th. Seeing some of the awesome people doing this, I thought this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. So I registered.

Lots of sharing ideas, tips and strategies in both the forum and FB

Training went well for the most part, several ultras and marathons, including some back to backs. Multiple races. Night runs, and lots of long runs.

One setback, after a couple of days off for recovery from one event, came down with a flu like bug, that kept me from running for two weeks, leaving two weeks to finish preparing for this race.

Finally after much anticipation, I headed for Ohio. Most of my gear was packed Thursday night and Friday I packed the last and hit the road at 7am. An uneventful drive, with a few pit stops and no troubles at the border, I arrived at my hotel around 2pm.

Met a few of the runners at the hotel as we headed out for an FE at the park where the race would take place.

I decided to make it easy for everyone to recognize me and dressed exactly as my avatar on the forum/FB.

Proving that straightjackets do come in tech fabric.

It was great, pizza and lots of snacks and a lot of new friends.

But we kept it to a reasonable hour, with the big race in the morning.

I managed 8hrs sleep Friday night and got up with plenty of time to get ready and eat my usual breakfast of Chicken Fried Rice.

7:30 we headed for the race site, which was only 5 minutes away, and dropped our gear at the RWBF encampment.

Picked up our swag, bib and chip and spent the next while getting ready and meeting the rest of our group, runners and crew, who couldn’t make it out Friday night.

Finally race time rolls around, we have the runners meeting, Susan, one of our group, sings the National Anthem, we line up and we’re off at 9am.

Some of the group head out fast, some decide to walk the first lap, I go out running at a moderate pace. I do the first loop in my straight jacket just for fun, and drop it as I pass through our aid station, just into the 2nd loop, running in my RunningFree short sleeve shirt and compression shorts.

There had been lots of talk about strategies, 4 and 1s, run two loops walk one, etc. I go a little more aggressively, run 5 miles, walk .25 miles. As I passed through our aid station just before the walk, I would grab one of my handhelds from my cooler for the walk break. I had two handhelds, one for Gatorade and one for Perpetuem. Which I alternated each break. After the first time through I would alert the crew to which handheld I wanted, a lap before, and they would have it ready the next time I came by.

In addition, every 3 hours I would walk a full loop, eating an energy bar from my cooler and drinking from my handheld, having grabbed those as I passed through.

The crew were great at refilling my handhelds from 2 liter jugs from my cooler. They were quite apologetic for having taken them from the cooler so that they could thaw out and be poured. They were still frozen from Friday morning. Of course it was nice having cold drinks as the day warmed up.

As it warmed up, I did a quick change to my RunningFree singlet and started drinking more from both the official aid station and ours. Also ate pretzels and later pizza (during a walk break) from our aid station.

Let it be noted when I say that it warmed up, I am referring to everywhere but the north side of the loop, where the wind off the lake kept it cool, almost cold.

At 8 hours in I made a planned sock and shoe change, no issues with the previous shoes, just wanted to change it up for the feet.

At 8.5 hrs swapped my Garmin for my ironman watch as I was getting a steady low battery warning. Forgot to turn off the Garmin and it ran for another 5 hours telling me I went absolutely nowhere (don’t think it would have lasted 5 hrs if it was still tracking laps).

As it got dark, I made a clothing change, switched to my RunningFree long sleeve shirt, compression briefs, knee high compression socks and light weight long pants. Also grabbed my knuckle lights for illumination. After a bit I only ran with the one knuckle light rather than the pair, as one provided enough light and it saved on batteries. I ran down both lights during the night, as well as one extra set of batteries.

For the first 15 hours I followed the same strategy of running and fuelling with energy bars, and the odd piece of pizza. At about his point I developed some discomfort in my left shin. As I had a scheduled shoe change at 16hrs, I decided to tough it out and leave it until then, but did increase my walk breaks to .25 miles every 3 miles. Mistake. Should have changed my shoes then.

As I did the shoe change at 16 hours my left ankle ballooned up as soon as I pulled the shoe off. Don’t know if changing the shoe an hour earlier would have prevented this, but it might have been a factor. Pulled on another pair of knee high compression socks, tied the left shoe up loosely, grabbed my RunningFree jacket and headed back out.

Now with the ankle swollen I had to adjust my running plan. For the rest of the night I would walk about two loops and run about three. Starting the walk break from our aid station and restarting the running from just past the hill as we turned onto the north loop just beyond our aid station. Sometimes on the first run loop I would also walk from the porta potties at half way to the top of the incline as we turned onto the south side. (The shin did not bother me after the first extended walk break).

During these longer walk breaks I also fuelled more, lots of potato soup and noodles from the main aid station. But his was more from a desire to get something warm into me, rather than a fuelling requirement. As the night progressed it got pretty chilly, but it was such a contradiction. As I travelled into the wind, especially on the walking loops, on the north side, I would tell myself, as soon as I hit our aid station, “I’m grabbing my heavier jacket and maybe my gloves”. But as soon as I travelled down the south side, especially while running, I was loosening off my  jacket and thinking don’t stop for the heavier gear. As the south side lead into our aid station this thinking won out every time.

Contrary to popular belief, I did sleep. During three or four of my walking loops on the north side, I would doze off until I walked off the trail. Too many curves in the trail to get a good sleep, the trail I trained on at home is straighter (the group thought I was joking when I posted on FB that I would sleep while running).

Finally with about a half hour to go, I dumped my jacket and I was determined to run through until the end. With the brightening morning and the return of many to the trails, I continued to pick up the pace. As I passed through loop 101 I was given my block to mark my stop to carry. As I passed through the main aid station I grabbed a quick cup of water, while still moving. The aid station worker asked if I wanted coffee the next time around. I said “hell no, I’ll still be running”. I passed through loop 102 with 8:56 remaining on the clock and determination to get as far around as possible. I continued to pass runners as I travelled around and as I ran down the south side I heard the 1 min countdown begin. I opened it up as much as I could, rounded the corner onto the final stretch and was 30ft from the finish when time ran out. I had managed the last loop in 10m/m pace after almost 24hrs, 92 miles and on a bum ankle and I felt good.

I finished with a total of 92.72 miles. 54th out of 186 (I lapped the guy in front of me in the standings on that last loop).

My goals had been: to break 100 miles; and although I came up short, I’m quite happy with the results, as I know if the ankle hadn’t swollen up I would have made that easily.

And to keep moving for the full 24hrs (minus, of course, the planned pit stops to change clothes and shoes). Which I accomplished.

I never had any doubts about doing this. Felt strong the whole time, no emotional swings, just a bit of frustration with my ankle.

Lessons learned:

I need to do other exercises than just running (ankle strengthening comes to mind).

Shouldn’t have gone out as aggressively. Shorter runs and longer walks to begin with.

That the RWBF runners, many of who I took time to run or walk with, are the coolest and great friends.

The Crew deserve an incredible amount of thanks for helping me and all the others get through this. They are the best. Some great friendships here too.

There was a lot of craziness out there this weekend. I had brought an extra straightjacket for the craziest in our group. I wish I could have brought straightjackets for all of them, they’re all a bunch of loonies.

One good thing with the conservative last 8 hours, was a quick recovery. After dealing with a few blisters and wearing a tensor for ankle support/protection I was able to get back out running on Tuesday. Looking good for my next 50k.

Pictures from the event:

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