Monday, May 7, 2012

North Coast 24-Hour USATF Championships

I'll add more pictures as I get them.


Results: 147.9 miles/24 hours. National Champion. American Record. Personal Record by 10.8 miles. Hair—messy but manageable.


Race summary: My face got a little sunburned while I was running outside, and I ate the refried beans out of 9 burritos after nightfall.


Race report: I love ultramarathons, and the 24-hour is my favorite event. It almost makes me drool: a Pavlovian response. I wanted to give North Coast my undivided attention, but school has been crazy. So I lost a lot of sleep, and I tightened my transition times within my run-library-run-library daily operating schedule to get everything done.

I completed my course work by Tuesday, went home on Wednesday, and drove out to Cleveland with my dad on Thursday: Father-Daughter Bonding Road Trip 2012.


Me: I’m sorry I didn’t pick a normal hobby, Dad. 
Dad: Ultrarunning is normal. 
Me: I meant like sewing. 
Dad: Ultrarunning is normal. 


Chiropractor: Do any of your other children do distance running? 
Dad: No, they dislike it. My son has run 40 miles. 
Chiropractor: That counts as distance running. 


(It seems we’ve adjusted our standards.)

North Coast starts at 9—a late start—but I couldn’t sleep in because I was eager to begin. I had read the entry list and considered several of the women to be untouchables (in terms of their human excellence, not in the Indian caste system sense). So my intent was to break 140 miles and hang on as best as I could.

I had to run without my engagement ring, and it made me freak out from time to time, like in high school when you get your braces off. That first week, you keep thinking, “OMG!! Where are my teeth?!” They’re still there, just no longer wrapped in metal. That kept happening with my hand.

Just before the race, Debbie Horn introduced me to Tania Pacev, the American team manager for the world championships in Poland this upcoming September. We exchanged a few words. I pre-set my nutrition on a table, hugged my dad, and headed to the start line.

The gun went off, and I fell into an easy rhythm, chatting with whomever was in stride at the moment, taking in electrolytes early and often, and doing whatever I could to not think about the event. The worst part of an ultra is not the pain itself but the anticipation of the pain that is coming, so I mentally left the scene. See you guys, later. I’m a philosopher, and I’m going to hang out inside of my head for a while. My basketball coach used to hate when I did that (with my daily brace-face basketball-to-the-mouth incidents), but here it is a virtue. Every lap, Tania cautioned me to slow down and take it easier. I hated that. I slowed down, mostly because I have trouble disobeying authority figures, but I was afraid it would result in a weaker performance overall.


I always use my watch timer in these events (even though finish time is start time) because I’m not good at clock math after 100 miles. But sometimes, time stops because most watches won’t time for a full 24 hours. My last watch stopped at 20, probably because somebody at the Timex factory decided to draw the line there. You can do fitness for 20 hours, but then I’m cutting you off. You’ve had enough. And if you don’t expect this to happen, then when time stops, you’ll think something is wrong with Earth’s gravity. Try bearing that onus after 20 hours of running: The apocalypse is happening, and nobody else seems aware.

I waited for 12 hours before I allowed myself to take in any caffeine and 17 hours before I could use an ipod. Though there had been significant carnage among the leading men, all of the top women still looked strong. We are very different in our approaches, but one shared quality is emotional control. If you ask one how she is feeling, she probably won’t say “bad” or “uncomfortable.” She’ll likely respond with something less emotionally-tinged, like, “I am doing as well as I projected for this stage of the race” or “I need to rehydrate.”

At hour 17, I felt sick. Just after 2 a.m., I paused to throw up, stumbling around a bit while listening to a Carrie Underwood song, thinking that the experience felt a lot like the way people describe nightlife at college. I picked up the pace again, hoping to receive some encouragement from my crawdad…my crewdad…my crew Dad. But it was a quiet part of the night, and most crews were napping. He had fallen asleep, all bundled up from the cold. I switched my ipod to live tracks of music. Tip for success: If you need affirmation and there is no one to affirm you, listen to live music. Every time a song ends, there is applause.

I still pushed harder from time to time, but Tania kept me in check. The first 20 hours, you tick off miles. The final 4, you race. The sun came up, and I could see people’s faces. They looked wearier than they had before. “Oh, my gosh…your face…” (Don’t say that.)

With two hours remaining, Tania stood alongside the backstretch of the course, waiting for me to pass. She told me, “Now you can go. Win this [freaking] race.”

I didn’t have much mental command of my actions at that point, so I was glad to be given direction. I opened my stride and started running hard. I negative-split my 24. I felt good and free. I was so thankful that I was finally allowed to go, and I realized Tania knew what she was doing when she was reigning me in all day. I was also a bit bemused that she knew how my body would respond better than I did. Fifteen minutes later, I had the lead, and it kept growing. The faster I ran, the bolder I felt. Ultramarathoning allows me to experience a personal strength that I know in no other context.

With several minutes remaining, Tania gave me a finisher’s stick (to drop at my final location for a more accurate count). But she told me to complete another lap and make sure I left everything on the course. I did that, crossing the start/finish and proceeding part-way around the loop again. The final hour of the race, I hadn’t taken in any food or water, partially because I didn’t want to break momentum but mostly because my stomach was in a precarious state, and I feared the repercussions of the combination of heavy exertion and low-quality comestibles. That final lap, I started feeling faint. I bit my tongue to get the blood back into my head, and by the time the horn sounded, I was toasted. Tania met me there and helped me walk across the field. We sobbed together as she told me I had the American record.

As an athlete, it’s difficult to pause and celebrate things, especially since you have personal knowledge of the parts of races that you executed poorly and the areas where you could tighten up your training to live a more vibrant life. I’m trying to rest in this accomplishment for a moment and allow myself to feel excited, but I also feel joyfully compelled to continue on with greater focus and honesty in my training.

Also, I haven’t blogged this yet, but I’m going to MARRY DAVID LITTLE IN FOUR MONTHS. In March, I asked his parents for his hand in marriage in exchange for my seven finest oxen and a field of fecund cows. Is that how it happened? I forget.

Thanks for a great race! Thanks for everyone there (runners, volunteers, officials, race director Heidi Finniff, and Tania) for making it fun.

So fun.

So so fun.

I'm still uncool. Let's be friends.

46 comments:

  1. Sabrina, you're outta ya mind! Congratulations, and to God be the glory!

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  2. It was so cool watching you whip around the course while I hobbled along. Congrats! I knew you could do it and you made it look so easy.... Maybe the world record is in reach?

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  3. I am amazed by your talent and humility! Keep running, Sabrina! The other day, I was trying to add up how much running I did in a whole month, and I was like, "Dang! I don't even break 100 miles..." (Sorry, I just really like daily 3 mile runs!) But you did that -- and 47.9 more! -- in a DAY. CRAZY!

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  4. You just gave me the vapors.

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  5. Love, love, love your performance AND your writing. Amazing. I wanna be like you. :)

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  6. Baa-jeesus, girl. Crazy nuts. Congrats. On a hand and foot of David as well. I hope he knows what's he is in to. May be. Do you? :)

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  7. Emily posted your blog for us...We celebrate with you. I'm going to watch Chariots of Fire again soon and think of you. It's neat that i get to comment as i stare across at your posted verse of Col 3:23-24.

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  8. Sabrina Moran, American record-holder. Yep. Has a pretty sweet ring to it!!! And, by the way, you are the queen of the Cool Kids Club.

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  9. Congratulations! Regina gave me the link to your blog and it was fun reading about your love of the 24-hour run. I did my first on 4/28-29 and found it was well-suited to my temperament. I'm looking forward to taking a shot at my AG record sometime and now I (sort-of) know someone to use as inspiration. You. :-)

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  10. Great race report! Taking a three hour nap was essential ingredient when I started back at 6:30AM after intention to turn bib in ate some Burrito's, bananas hydrating allowed me to eventually return from stagger, to slow walk to fast walk and then passing some on my way to what I think was a 9 minute last lap. Whew! You were the only Gal I didn't pass the last 40 minutes or so.

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  11. Awesome race report. So many funny parts, but my favorite has to be your dad's exchange with the chiropractor. Really highlights the wonderfully warped perspective of those caught up in the ultrarunning community. Oh, and congrats on the record!

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  12. I took 1000+ pictures of the race a couple of hours into it. I posted them here:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/103451672865252873205/NorthCoast24

    I ended up with a lot of pictures of Sabrina because she was coming around so often compared to most of the other runners. I like the shots of her with Connie, another great athlete.

    Feel free to use my pictures. If you need the original hi-res pictures, email me at patjdooley at that well known email address yahoo dot com.

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  13. Congratulations on the fine race and record. Even in the darkest hours, I never saw you look anything but strong. Thank you for the inspiration.

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  14. Congratulations on your stellar performance on the way to the record. It didn't go unnoticed at the aid station how those bean burritos kept disappearing. Great report. It reflects the class and compsure you displayed on the course, as well.

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  15. You are probably still smiling:) I learned a lot from the determination and toughness you showed that last two hours! Wow! You killed it! Hopefully both our paths will cross in Poland where we can bring both our teams home a gold medal!

    Jon Olsen

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  16. Your entire blog is hilarious! You are out of your mind. And awesome.

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  17. You are the coolest. Congrats, congrats, congrats! Enjoy the glow. An American record doesn't happen every day but I'll bet it's not your last!

    And congrats on getting hitched! See you at the races.

    Scott

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  18. Congratulations Sabrina! You looked strong all day and night. I did notice the bean burritos disappearing quickly at the aid station. :)

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  19. Oh, my God, you're out of this world, girl. Congratulations, champ!

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  20. Great job Sabrina! I'm hoping someday you publish a paper on your various mental tricks to keep from getting bored or going crazy during an ultra - to me the mental part of this is the most amazing achievement. Congratulations!

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  21. You are an incredible inspiration and I always get a kick out of reading your blog. Major congrats!!

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  22. Unbelievably great job . . . American Record!! Wow! And an equally awesome blog! Just imagine what's ahead for you (besides that marriage-thing!)!

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  23. Once again, a fabulous race report. I laugh, I nod in agreement, I am overcome with emotion. You're a fantastic writer.

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    1. PS one of my best ever races, LH70, was fueled by bean burritos.

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  24. American Record – amazing performance!!! Congratulations!

    Jim Blandford

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  25. you're a true inspiration. as i sit at my desk reading this to kick off my morning, i'm truly impressed and ready to take on the unknown. congrats!!

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  26. Congratulations on a great run Sabrina!! Your love of being dedicated to this sport shines through in your efforts. Once again you have created your own reward!

    Ray K (not really anonymous-just not very techie)

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  27. Add me to the list of congrats! I can't remember when I found your blog but it is so refreshing and awesome that someone so good is also so humble and hilarious to read. I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg for you

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  28. Words fail me... except "congrats" and "Wow!"

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  29. As usual...AMAZING work! Love it, and love the writing. Congrats on the engagement too :)

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  30. Chiropractors are leading the wellness revolution because of our focus on maximizing the integrity of the nervous system, the underpinning of true health. By reducing subluxations that distort our ability to adapt to our environments, we each have a better foundation on which to enhance our health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

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  31. Congratulations on the record. I loved reading about your experience.

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  32. Totally [freaking] awesome!!! Amazing performance and brilliant write up!

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  33. Wow. That's really all I have to say.

    Great job! :)

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  34. Amazing!! Once again a splendid report about another tremendous accomplishment. You are so inspiring!! Best wishes in the upcoming months!

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  35. Sabrina-
    I was there watching friends and as those last 3 hours ticked by it was amazing to watch you open up and own that race! You were amazing! congrats!!

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  36. Congratulations Sabrina! You are awesome! That many miles is so amazing. I was proud of my 60 in Hampton in April. LOL. You only beat me by 87.9! :)

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  37. Outstanding. Congratulations. You are an inspiration. Chris Kelley - Framingham

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  38. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Congratulations, wow!

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  39. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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  40. Congratulatons on the American record. You could set your eyes on Jurek's mens record :)

    I just listened to your interview on Ultrarunner podcast which was after Rocky Racoon. You are such a great role model! Your parents must be ultra proud! I laughed at the bit about the conversation between dad and chiropractor

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  41. Congratulations on a great race! It was an honor run with you or behind you in May even if you finished 68 miles ahead of me. Not sure if you took the much needed 3-hour nap I took at 3:30AM.

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  42. I just stumbled across your blog and am getting even more obsessed with ultra-running than I already was :) It is perhaps nuts at this point... I just ran my first 10 miler 3 days ago... but I'm going to be a cool ultra runner one day too. Not as cool as you - because you kick ass - but hey, we can't all be you ;-) Way to go on this race!

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  43. You are incredible truly. WOW I can not even explain in words how in awe I am. I have a blog and I am a 15 year old male XC runner but both seasons I have gotten hurt. My body cant even handle our short distances. But you got a new follower here!

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