Monday, November 19, 2012

UltraCentric 24-Hour



Race: UltraCentric 24-Hour (Texas 24-Hour State Championship)
Race Results: First place overall, male and female. Approx. 135-136 miles (67.75 laps).
Race Summary: Sometimes, when farmers domesticate goats, they grind down their facial horns because goats are intractable, so the goats are left with raised stumps on their foreheads. I have one now, but it’s a bruise from my headlamp pressing against my cranium while I ran because life is complicated.
Course: Unlike other 24-hour road events, this course is distinctively not flat. It is sinusoidal, like a soup bowl. The road is also cracked and crinkly, like bran cereal. 
Ate: Turkey sandwiches, chicken burrito, Honey Stingers, Shot Bloks, Fig Newtons
Social Timbre: Conversational for the first 20 hours, but then people started running out of things to say.

Race Day

UltraCentric is a race event in Grapevine, Texas, with offerings from 6 to 72 hours. It is the nation’s oldest multiday, and it serves as the Texas 24-hour state championship.

On the starting line, I felt joyful and almost relieved to be in a race setting again—free to be outside and to compete. I visualized the day ahead. I hugged David goodbye, like I was going on a journey—as though I were Tom Sawyer and he was Aunt Polly, and I’d not be coming home for dinner.

Dan Rose introduced himself just prior to the start, and we became fast friends. He was light-hearted and fun. It was an exercise in nostalgia as we caught each other up on the lives of shared friends. We ran shoulder to shoulder for the first 14 miles before splitting off.

With Dan early in the day


I was crewed by David and his parents (Kaky and Louie), my win-laws. They kept me fed and encouraged all day. Kaky held out turkey sandwiches like batons, so I didn’t have to break my stride to eat.

100

2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 100 miles.

Just after 12:20 a.m. (15 hours, 20 minutes into the race), I hit 100 miles. It felt unforced and was an encouraging benchmark for November. I paused for a 100-mile dance. The bar is not high, but my dance moves were not significantly worse than if I’d not just run 100 miles. “You dance like a dinosaur,” my students say—not as a euphemism for the elderly but in comparison to a Tyrannosaurus.

The night was cold. There was a biting cross-breeze in the gully of the course (where there were bodies of water on either side), so David gave me sweatpants. I told him I thought I was falling asleep, so the next pass through, he handed off a small bottle of coffee. 

Eight miles later, David went to sleep in a little tent. Left to my own devices, I floundered to self-entertain. I looked up into the giant Texas skies because Dan informed me there would be a meteor shower, and astronomy class was the best part of college. Unfortunately, we were about 20 miles away from DFW Airport, so nightfall was punctuated with airplanes, not astronomical wonders.

Unraveling

The night was silent. One man bobbed along singing out loud to his iPod, but I'm not sure he knew he was doing that. The timing people had long ago departed to get some sleep, and many of the aid station workers were napping. I suddenly became exhausted. I drank another small bottle of coffee and ate a few Honey Stingers, but it was no good. I was 10-12 miles ahead of the closest racer and had little competitive impetus to remain engaged, so I just started drifting...

I began to play this game where I would allow myself to close my eyes for 5 seconds, just as long as I kept running, and then I’d make up the speed over the next stretch. But one time, I closed my eyes and they didn’t open. I slept-ran into a bush. Almost as soon as I had struck it, I was wide awake but demoralized.

I ran back to the start/finish area and sheepishly approached David's tent, the way you do when you are five and have to wake your parents up to say, "Mom, Dad, it seems my bed is wet. It wasn't me of course, but whoever is responsible for this has fled the scene." 

I told David about the bush and the 5-second nap-runs, and he let me come in for a power nap. My legs seized in the cold, but I was able to sleep for a bit. Every time I opened my eyes, I could see long shadows moving against the lights of headlamps stretched over the side of our tent. "I see men like trees, walking." I remained in there for about 50 minutes. I emerged fresh and started bounding up and down the course. My lead barely disintegrated, but the chance to improve upon my PR did. I am disappointed in myself for that.

I ran past Dan, and he motioned for me to join his group. He (the race's male leader) had somehow used his charisma to charm the second and third runner to form a merry band of marchers. Hilarious. They ran half the route and speed-walked the other half, laughing and enjoying each other's company. I declined and continued to run. Time passed, and his band continued to add group members. It was a counter-movement. 

Sunrise came. It was breathtaking. The world woke up. We bobbed along. 

(The sunrise got in the way of this photo of me, but if you squint, you can kind of ignore it.)

With race places locked, David walked the final part of the race with me. Dan and I won our genders, and we were gifted with the option of either a 1 oz. American eagle gold coin or its current market value in cash.

Post-24 Hours, waiting for the wheel to track final "partial lap" mileage.

Thanks RD Robert Tavernini for a great event. Thank you UltrAspire and DryMax socks for your sponsorship and support, and thank you Little family for crewing me! It was the best. I had a wonderful time.

Next up: The Dallas Marathon with David. I can't wait.