Wednesday, March 30, 2011

24 Hours of Utah

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After having run several 200 mile relays (on teams of 11 people), I thought, now that I am an "ultrarunner" running for 24 hours should be a piece of cake. And thus began the journey of the FCTR Extreme Team at "24 Hours of Utah: The Run" (man, I love a race with a subtitle.)

On Friday afternoon, the Mays (minus Ean... sad face) bundled me into the car and whisked me off to Utah for the second time in just over a month. After a few hours of driving we arrived to a cold, windy campsite graciously staked out by Brian, who had been in Utah with his family all week. Man, it was cold!

Maddie helped me get my tent up and I could not get myself into my sleeping bag fast enough. Despite the fact that I brought my -20 degree bag, I was pretty cold all night. When my alarm went off at 6 am I began the first iteration of the ritual I would reenact every 3-4 hours through the night: extend one gloved hand from the safety of the sleeping bag to collect all clothing necessary; drag clothes into sleeping bag and lie on them until warm enough to touch without gloves, frantically change while trying to keep sleeping bag completely closed, emerge quickly from sleeping bag (like ripping off a bandaid), emerge from tent and sprint toward a hot drink and start line.

The race began at 7am as the sun rose over the desert. I was hopeful that the rising sun would bring corresponding rising temperatures, but the wind seemed to negate those and it stayed pretty cold all day. I headed out on my first lap around 9:30 with Cat hot on my heels. We were a few minutes ahead of our fellow Fort Collins runners, but I knew there was no way that I would beat Cat. She caught me in the first mile and jauntily said, "Man, you are hard to catch" as she disappeared up the trail in front of me.

I worked hard that first lap. The course was beautiful starting with some technical bits at the bottom, leading to a long climb on slick rock and then descending back to fun single track before dumping out on a road for a sprint to the exchange. I went the opposite direction in the second lap, and it seemed much easier. I felt that I put in less effort and managed to improve my time by a minute despite taking time to take pictures and having to walk the down hill because I got cramps (who gets cramps running down hill?!?)

The Mays greeted me at the end of each lap. Maddie ran me in, but we had an agreement that she had to run slow so that she didn't make me look bad! It was a great thing to look forward to. As I finished my 2nd lap, Micah and Maddie were super excited to show me our new "den". It was amazing.... The Perrys had brought a canopy tent with sides. there were rugs, chairs, cooler full of food. It was a great place to chill out after laps and get going before them.

After my first two laps, my pace slackened a bit. I had done the first part at marathon pace, which made me happy. Despite his best efforts, Alex couldn't pull me faster on my first night time lap, and I felt like I was letting myself down.

After a few hours of sleep, I headed to the exchange for my last lap. Rob was out, and if he returned when expected, I would have to run really hard to give Brian a shot at finishing a final lap before the 7 am finish. Fortunately, Rob was few minutes behind schedule, so my last lap was going to be the team's last lap.

As I left for the last go-round, I passed Cat. Lindsey and Celeste were going to run the opposite direction and they were just a few minutes behind me. I didn't think that there was any way that I could stay ahead of them, but I was willing to try... until I twisted my ankle... and started tripping all over the place. When I crossed paths with the other runners a little short of my halfway point, and they were flying down the hill singing Journey songs, I knew they had it. I wish I had more to give it, but the harder I pushed, the more I stumbled and got frustrated. The ankle sent a good reminder of my physical state as I continually twisted it on the way down the slick rock.

So, I opted for safety and I adjusted my pace. The other Fort Collins team, consisting of 3 runners, had done an amazing job all day and night, and they were going to pull it out in the end. So, I enjoyed the sunrise. I turned off my headlamp and ran the last mile by the light of the rising sun. I finished a long 14 minutes after Celeste and Lindsey. But I finished strong.

Sunrise start

Alex at the start line "What am I doing?!?"

Cat finishing lap 1 looking cool

Celeste taking off

Beautiful Joselyne-Rob handoff during the sunny lap

Celeste powering toward Lindsey and Wilie

The big rock we ran around

View from the top

Lindsey, Maddie, Celeste, Micah, Alex and Brian: Happy Runners and support crew
I guess I forgot that it was a race. The comradeship, fun, and beauty were the top things on my mind. I will have to learn to be more competitive and drive myself, but I will leave that for another race. For this one, I will focus on the shocked expressions of the aid station workers as Celeste and Rob did the electric slide at 4am. I will remember the fantastic determination of people the like the only female 100 mile competitor who gashed her face horribly on a very early lap, but continued to run finishing in over 29 hours. I will remember how bright the stars were when Alex made me shut my light off at the top of the climb and enjoy the darkness. I will feel good about the laps that I ran at marathon pace and recognize the need to work on night running and mental strength. I will take all of the good parts and leave the bad parts to shrivel up in the desert.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Mindy. I am totally okay with participating in "races" and not worrying at all about the competitive aspect and just enjoying the experience. It was great weekend and I enjoyed every bit of it. What a great team we all made.