Just a brief (?) report on a "short" (?) 6-hour race last weekend...
I drove over to Andover, MA for the Trail Animals' 6-hour race, to run loops around the woods until we ran out of time. The loops were 3.5 miles each, which initially made me think I would be doing math the whole time trying to multiple by 7 and such stuff. I did end up doing math, but it became pretty simple.
The group of us started at 9 a.m. under a blue sky - what a beautiful day! It would be warmer than normal, but I was ready to start the heat training. As an experiment I planned to take a salt tablet once/hour from the beginning to see if that helped with the leg cramp issue. And drink plenty to stay on top of the hydration.
The trail wove around, a little down and up but no big hills, some muddy spots to figure out here and there (we had plenty of tries at each of them), and overall a fun little interesting loop. There were plenty of landmarks for time checks, including a 1/2 mile spot where we turned onto a loop and then the same spot 2.5 miles later where we merged back onto the same trail to head back to the start/finish. One guy sat there the whole 6 hours directing people, I hope they paid him a lot!
After the first lap of 36 minutes I made a goal of 8 laps plus another something - we had 2 options for additional mileage at the end, either 1 or 2 additional miles (but only one add-on, we couldn't do mile repeats until we hit 6 hours). For every lap I ran faster than 45 minutes, I would gain time for that last "something". So I only had to keep track of that extra time after every lap. I like calculating "bonus time", it's such a positive thing :)
In the second lap my left foot started hurting from a rubbing spot along the insole. As I finished the lap I asked the volunteers for a scissors and they had one (yay!) so I cut down my insole. That usually does the trick, but the rubbing never completely went away. I added a bandaid during the next lap, but still ended up with a big blister. Uurgh, that's annoying but it mostly didn't slow me down.
I ran consistently under 40 minutes per lap for a while and I started thinking I might be able to shove an extra whole lap in at the end. That would give me 50k+ and seemed reasonable. After passing the 1/2 mile and 1 mile signs a few times, I determined I could probably do the 1 mile in ~11-12 minutes. The extra 2 mile out-and-back would be not much more (the 1-mile mark looked pretty short), maybe <20 minutes if I was still running well. But I needed ~40 minutes for an additional lap. If you followed all of that, you were paying more attention that I would have if I were reading it.
Still running fine, my blister not bothering me overly much, drinking plenty of Gatorade, taking salt tablets, drinking SPIZ or Ensure every 2 laps. It started to get warm, so I made a conscious effort to relax, keep running but not push too hard, keep my running form, speed walk the short uphills, and stretch it out to run smoothly in the couple of really nice sections.
There were 2 women going fast at the start that I saw a couple times on the out-and-back to the TA, but then they disappeared (more than a mile ahead). Another woman was running with a guy, and they got a bit ahead of me but then I started seeing them in about the same place every time I ran in to the start. The next woman behind me was a little ways back but also not disappearing. I was ready to run that extra mile or 2 at the end if I needed to stay ahead of her. But mostly I was just watching and running my own race.
It was fun watching people in the out-and-back (although it would have been nice if the trail were just a bit wider - everyone had to work at getting out of each other's way), and also lapping people and getting lapped. Plus I saw Michelle a few times carrying her Log, Hi Michelle! Then there were times I was all alone and happy in my own thoughts.
The salt tablets and plenty of liquid seemed to help - no cramps this time! A couple times one muscle or another stirred a little but never made much noise. I was pleased with that. And covered in salt by the end. Gotta get me some heat training going (hot yoga?) so I sweat less of this out and maybe wouldn't need to take so much in.
In the end I had time for that 9th lap. Just as I came into the TA after 8 laps I came up behind the woman who was running with the guy. Turns out he had been having "heaving" problems so they had dropped back quite a bit and allowed me to catch up. Well, that was interesting, but mostly I was focused on how to finish one last lap in 50 minutes (I had to be back by the 6-hour mark or those final 3.5 miles wouldn't count!).
I started the last lap and carefully watched the time at various checkpoints - still doing fine, no need to rush but I can't just walk it in either. Gotta stay controlled. Halfway through, I looked back and saw the woman by herself. I joked that she had gotten rid of the dead weight - and it was really true because she could run! Sandbagger :) She took off and had time to run another mile at the end. Nicely done.
I finally relaxed and took it easy that last half mile. The best part was that it was certain I didn't have time (nor any need) to run the extra mile out-and-back, so I was finished at 5:54 with 31.5 miles. And 3rd place female, apparently! Not sure where the other woman had gone to, but I wasn't complaining.
So I'm feeling OK, the blister is healing, and I'll be ready to run again soon. Thank you to TARC for another excellent race! And an excuse to stop by Trader Joes on the way home :)