After completing a half marathon without stopping and running a sub 30 minute 5k, is the next step a full marathon? No, not in my world. Instead, I decided a 12 hour ultra marathon would be the next step.
I originally heard about the Bad Apple Ultra from a high school friend. I liked the Facebook page, decided it might be a future goal, then back logged it in my head for what I thought might be a few YEARS down the road. Well, I like to impulsively undertake things for which I haven’t trained properly and when my schedule was empty on the day of this race I just couldn’t resist.
15 months ago, a quarter mile was impossible. When I moved up to a 5k, it was torture. 35 (or more) minutes of running?! I just want it to be over with! Nearly 7 hours on the Xtreme Muck Ruck obstacle course was mental brutality last June. Recently, increasing to over 2.5 hours of continuous running on a course for a half marathon was intimidating. However after running my second half without stopping a couple weeks ago, even running carrying my water through aid stations, I felt like I could go forever mentally. Take that mental barriers!
There were three time choices for this event: 3, 6 or 12 hours. I debated between the 6 and 12 hours, taking into account that I’ve already been on a course for over 6 hours before and that I have planned a few endurance challenges for next year. Choosing the long race seemed like the best choice.
The race was held at Klackle Orchards in Greenville, MI on a 4 mile loop. When I pictured the orchard, I imagined it to be rustic and rural. It was actually on the main highway going through town and less than a mile from our hotel. It was very convenient and despite being on the highway, the course turned out to be pleasantly secluded. More about that later.
We registered the night before the race, so we didn’t have to worry about it in the morning. I was slightly disappointed in the race shirt. Being my first ultra, I was hoping for something really cool that I’d love to wear. I love the logo, I love red… but I really dislike white race shirts. I think most people agree. People just don’t like wearing white t-shirts.
I organized my gear in the hotel room. All of my food (EPIC bars, bananas, apples, protein pancakes, almonds) went in one bag, then I had a hydration backpack filled with gear (gloves, mittens, headband, headlamp, race belt, extra dry socks, shirts and coat), another bag with our post race clothes and a plastic bag with two extra pairs of shoes.
The race started at 6:00am on Saturday. I ate a banana and a couple protein pancakes before heading to the race. (FYI, I made the pancakes at home with only protein powder, bananas and egg.) We arrived onsite and arranged our bags on tables under the event tent. Headlamp on, adjusted my shoelaces, gloves on and I was ready to go.
My original strategy was to run a 4 mile loop, walk a loop, repeat for 12 hours. Being an endurance race, rather than speed focused, Dion decided to keep his pace slower and we could run the first loop together.
The course started in the main area of the orchard. We ran through an area where orchard patrons would later be occupying, but it never proved to be a problem. The course continued up and down rows of apple trees, through some wooded areas and single tracks, back into the orchard. The variety in terrain and scenery was nice.
There was a low chance of rain that morning, so naturally the first two hours of the race were in a light chilly rain. I didn’t want to wear contacts that day, because I knew it was suppose to be windy. I figured with that amount of time outside, they’d get pretty dry and probably irritate me. Part way through the first lap, I couldn’t see from the rain and my glasses fogging so I had to ask Dion to take the lead (he normally lets me lead to set pace when we run together) .
After the first lap, Dion kept running and I began my walking lap. Still raining, my glasses were spotted and fogging. Since I was walking now instead of running, I figured following the course wouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. Thankfully, I didn’t get too lost. There was a section that turned to the right, then left, and left again… so I imagine Oklahoma, flip the state horizontally and you get this…
Luckily, the row I was in ran back into the course so I didn’t get very lost in the dark and rain! And I probably only missed less than a quarter mile of the trail. This is around where I met Teri. She was running off and on and we ended up by each other. Not sure how we even started talking but we discovered that our goals for the race were similar. We both thought wanted to rotate between running and walking and we both wanted to get at least 32 miles so it would be a real ultra (over 50k or 31 miles).
The second lap went by fast having someone to talk with and it turned out we had very similar back stories (formerly overweight, started running in 2012, two kids, among other things).
We checked out the mile 2 aid station on the way that I had skipped the first time through. It was stocked with “ultra runner foods” a.k.a. junk food. Apparently, ultra runners like to fuel with cookies, oreos, pretzels and lots of things I don’t eat anymore. For this exact reason, I brought my own food. There were double chocolate chip cookies at this aid station that I literally was eyeing ALL DAY. Later in the day, they have grilled cheese sandwiches (which looked delicious), boiled potatoes and a plate of salt to dip them in (YES, these were awesome) and chicken broth (I probably had about 3/4 of a cup through the day).
I can’t remember exactly what I fueled with between each lap. I kind of winged it and tried to have something different every time through. I believe I had a turkey, almond and cranberry EPIC bar after the second lap and a banana. Throughout the day, I consumed 3 EPIC bars, 2 apples, 2 more bananas, a handful of almonds, a couple potato chips and about 10 M&Ms in addition to the potatoes and broth. I’d say that was pretty good given all the stuff I could have cheated with there!
Teri and I ended up running lap 3 and walking lap 4.
As we came in from our 4th lap it was 10:12am. 16 miles in 4 hours and 12 minutes isn’t shabby! We were half way to our goal and had only used a third of the time we had. Piece of cake.
Beginning the 5th lap, we decided to take it easy. There was plenty of time to finish. We ran here and there, but walked most of that lap, as well as lap 6 and 7.
We talked quite a bit and enjoyed the scenary. Also stopped a few times for pictures.
On one of the laps, we met Ben, the race director, off the trail taking pictures of runners. Of course, we were walking and had to remedy that for photos…
After lap 7, I took a good break at the base camp aid station. Dion came in soon after having just completed his 8th lap. His 9th lap happened to be a walking lap (he started rotating after 20 miles). It was likely to be my last lap and I was excited that after beginning together, I would finish with him too. Teri headed out on her own, while I waited for Dion to refuel.
At the end of the 8th lap, I decided I wanted to run the last stretch. At this point, all of my joints were aching and the bottom of my feet hurt especially bad, but I wanted to finish like I started… running.
I reached base camp at 4:27pm finishing my first ultra, 32 miles, in 10 hours and 27 minutes. There was still an hour and a half for me to go back out, finish a lap and possibly come in under 12 hours to go back out for a bonus lap. That would have given me 40 miles, but I knew that I needed to stop. I had reached my goal.
Dion left for his 10th and final lap, intending to run as much of it as possible. I went to the car for a blanket, grabbed some food and waited. Closing in on 12 hours, I began to see some people who left base camp AFTER Dion. I was getting a little worried that he may have injured himself, because if he was running he would have been back by now.
I decided to head out and see if he was coming close to the finish line. Probably less than a quarter mile out, I could see him running down the trail. I waited for him then ran behind him to the finish. He made his goal of 40 miles in just under 12 hours.
I almost forgot to mention the volunteers were phenomenal! They were in the cold all day serving the racers warm broth, making sandwiches, recording our lap times and asking if we needed anything.
The race director was awesome! He was constantly on the go, making sure stations were stocked and the race was running properly. Ben marked the course wonderfully with pie plates on stakes as well as little orange flags with reflectors. Had it not been for my darn glasses, I wouldn’t have gotten lost on the second lap. That was my fault. I emailed him for my lap times after the results were posted and he promptly emailed them to me as well as the pictures he took of me. I’ve never had a race director reply so quickly. Great job, Ben!
My first ultra experience was definitely positive and I’m EXTREMELY excited to come back next year with bigger goals. Maybe 48-52 miles next time!
I left off with Saturday morning Bikram yoga class, but don’t believe I touched much on Friday’s workout in that post.
According to my training plan, Friday is leg day. Now, I assume my trainer did this to give ample recovery time over the weekend. Saturday is abs and cardio and Sunday is rest.
Silly runner that I am, it did not occur to me that weekends are for racing and long runs, this being my first week on the training plan. It crossed my mind mid-week that I might want to do it earlier, but hey, I’m a moron rebel.
Back to Friday, I go to the gym in the morning and only make it halfway through my new leg routine. Wow, that took me longer than I thought. Decide to head back to the gym for Round 2 Friday night with my amazing boyfriend.
I finished legs and bothered him with pictures.
I’m kind of obsessed. Luckily, he understands why I document nearly everything and completely supports all of my madness. I’ll spare you more sappiness.
So, leg day completed in two sessions on Friday, Bikram yoga Saturday morning… legs TIGHT and sore after that and all night. Amazing boyfriend steps in to massage my aching legs for me without asking him to do so (I know you’re jealous now). I’m so lucky.
Sunday morning. Big race day. Seriously, BIG. I hadn’t ran more than 8 miles in a session prior to this race. I hadn’t done enough long runs or even short runs. I was sore from the weekend and definitely not prepared but figured, what the heck, I can do this.
We were actually planning to do a different race in the Upper Peninsula, but plans had to change due to some car problems I needed to deal with. Ironically the race that ended up being the same weekend, the Capital City River Run, was a race I had hoped to do 3 years earlier. Summer of 2010, I thought I would go to the gym and start running and lose all this weight and run a half marathon. Well, that lasted like two weeks and I fell off the wagon again. Whoops. It was sort of spectacular that it was going to end up being my first half after all.
This was my first race with pacers, which was really convenient. I decided to start off with the 10:30/mile pacer. It looked like all of the pacers were actually pairs of people, I assume to have a back up. Pacers dressed in costumes (pirates and hockey players were a couple) and they had little signs to hold up through the race, as well as signs pinned to their costumes.
And a quick pre-race selfie…
Dion started the race next to me, but quickly moved through the crowd after the start to join the 9:00/mile group.
I didn’t develop a race strategy until after the race started. I decided to run to each aid station (which were all about 1.5-2 miles apart), take a short walk, drink some water and then run to the next. I had a map of the route, folded in my armband and referenced it every now and then to know how far I had to go.
I felt really good for the first half of the race and my strategy was going well. I even ran the first 6.2 miles (10k) faster (1:07:30) than my only 10k finish time (1:10:31). At the midpoint though, my legs started aching. It was starting to get really difficult to run. I averaged about 10:30-40 miles for the first half and I was proud of that. Now, I was slowing way down though. Walking a lot more. Hurting and feeling like this race would last forever.
Then I’d talk myself up and say, “The more you run or at least speed walk, the faster you’ll reach the finish line.” So I walked a lot, fast, and ran as much as I could.
Another good distraction was signs placed throughout the course with science facts on them. Pretty fun to keep your mind from focusing on the pain.
I tried to think of the race in intervals still, breaking it up by aid stations. Just make it to the next. Then the last one was less than a mile from the finish, heck yes!
I made it most of the last segment running. I knew I just wanted the race to be over and have that medal around my neck.
All I could think after I crossed the finish line was Medal. Banana. Water.
My goal was to run it under 2:45:00. Unfortunately, I again missed a goal, but at least it wasn’t by a whole lot. I finish at 2:49:58, at 12:58/mile. To meet my goal, I would have had to average 24 seconds less per mile.
Overall, I’m happy with the finish. It was my first half. I should have prepared more with longer runs. I shouldn’t have done Bikram the day before or leg day two days before… BUT you live and you learn and I have a whole lot of shoulda, woulda, couldas in my past. I’ll have more half marathons and hopefully all of them are faster than my first.
Let me start by sending a big thank you to my friend, Angie, for inviting me to
invade visit her home this weekend! She was a wonderful host, cook and chaffeur. I am in love with Ann Arbor now and seriously jealous of all the health food and fitness stores and walking paths and bike routes. Oh my gosh, heaven.
We went to the People’s Food Co-Op, Trader Joe’s, Plum’s Market and both Whole Foods Markets (twice to one of them!). If you live near a Whole Foods, seriously, GO. Go now. It’s AWESOME. Everything is colorful, beautiful and organized. It’s OCD, whole food, organic paradise.
I didn’t get any pictures of the fruits, but they were perfect too. I only got a few pictures at Whole Foods.
Since it was Saturday, all of the stores were sampling products. I tried some new things, pretty proud, especially since they were seafood items which I don’t eat all all. Last week, we tried Ocean Perch fillets and I was a little repulsed. My hesitation was a little high. However, I have been wanting to try Salmon for a while. It looks more like MEAT than the flaky white fish. I tried a Salmon Spread, Smoked Salmon and Scallops. YUM! Smoked Salmon is UNBELIEVABLE, but so expensive. (My next post will be about the my grocery purchases, promise!)
Maybe my rose colored glasses were on too, but it seemed like everyone who worked there had an appreciation for the food. All the demonstrators especially were super friendly and really into what they were doing.
Saturday evening, we reconnected with another high school friend, Dillon, and did some window shopping before dinner.
Then, we ate at a vegetarian restaurant. I thought eating there would be fairly easy. Vegetables, right? Wrong. Luckily, I looked up the menu earlier in the week and decided what I was going to order or I would have been overwhelmed with the non-paleo ingredients: cheese, beans and breads. I’m going to go ahead and say vegetarian places are harder to eat at than regular if you are going paleo. It was even MY idea to eat at a vegetarian place.
Since I never go to Ann Arbor and don’t get to experience these places, I did deviate from completely eating paleo. I won’t lie. However, I didn’t go wild (like when I really really wanted the fresh fired pizza at Whole Foods).
Sunday morning was race day. The weather was beautiful and the predicted rain held off all day. I think the temperature started in the 40s and topped out at 61°. Glorious.
We picked up my race packet on Saturday to avoid the early morning frenzy. It was nice being able to roll in about 20-25 minutes before the race.
The streets were full of runners, over 2000 people attended.
This race was the first time (other than obstacle races) that I didn’t run with my phone for music. I have to get used to not having that luxury because I can’t have it during my triathlons. Unintentionally, I forgot my heart rate monitor, so I was unable to check my pace on the watch either. I was running “blind,” but the route was challenging (lots of hills and turns) and there were tons of people. Basically, lots of things to distract me instead of needing music.
My last run was 33:35 and the goal for this race was under 33 minutes. Well, we thought my time ended up being almost exactly the same as the last when we checked out the race clock at the end. However, there were so many people, I didn’t cross the start line until a little later than the gun start, so I’m going by the chip time from when I crossed the start and finish. That time was 33:14! Not quite my goal, BUT this course was full of hills whereas the last was completely flat. I’ll take it! And I have another run at the end of the month, so another chance in March to get under 33 minutes. As long as I keep improving and moving forward, I’m definitely happy.
Tomorrow or maybe this evening, I will get my grocery list and pictures of my haul from this weekend posted and finally figure out how much I spent. Pretty sure I went over $100, but I went somewhere I never go and stocked up on some things too. I’ll get to see what I need to work on though.
Anyone else have a race this weekend or soon? What are your goals?
The day after the Alumni Soccer Game, I ran in my third and final mud run of the year.
Scott decided he wanted to do this one too. He told his friend, AJ, and he thought it sounded cool, so he ran it as well. His girlfriend, Kheri, came along and we all had a great time together. In fact, they had such a good time, they decided to run and camp with us at the Xtreme Muck Ruck! That will be another story though.
The week leading up to the race, we had 70 degree weather… on race day, we topped out at probably 45? Maybe less. And luckily enough, the first obstacle was a slide into a water hole. The water was in the 30s! So flippin’ cold.
I only have a few pictures of me during the race, but I also found some pictures of the different obstacles from the Barry County United Way Facebook Page.
After hitting the water, I was so numb, I could barely run/move. My only complaint was that it was far too cold for that kind of water obstacle in the beginning of the race at the end of October. Otherwise, we had all had a blast.
After the race, they provided some lunch for free: hot dogs, chips, coffee, hot chocolate, pop.
After the race, I was talking to Kheri about why I like to race. I don’t run races to win. I don’t think I will ever be the fastest or best athlete. That is completely okay with me. I sign up for races to keep me active, pushing toward my goals and because of the “high” I get afterward.
When I finish a mud run or a race, I feel like I’m on this awesome high the rest of the day. Now, I have never tried drugs, so I really can’t compare, but I think the high I get from racing is better than any drug could ever be. I have a small obsession with watching Intervention and I always feel so sad for how pathetic these people act while on drugs and how much they hurt their families and friends in the process.
Why do drugs when you can race? I feel invincible.
The last week has been tough for me. I’m really lacking in energy and motivation. How do I battle this?
I have a few things that work for me.
- Workout Buddy: A very dear friend who lives just down the street is my running partner. We text each other every night and decide on what time to run in the morning. Occasionally, we run in the evening when morning doesn’t work. Knowing that I have to meet her gives me the push to get out of bed at 4am.
- My Before Picture: Looking at this terrible picture really gives me a boost.
I ask myself… Did you enjoy looking and feeling that way? Do you look good naked? Well, put the damn shoes on and get out the door then!
- Fitocracy: This is my new motivator. It’s a site that allows you to track your workouts and earn points (for what, I don’t really know, bragging rights? I don’t care I just want more!). There are support groups for specific things like Couch-to-5K (c25K), weight lifting, cycling, swimming. You can give people props for their accomplishments. It’s very user friendly and fun to use.
If you are interested in joining, it’s free (there is an upgrade available, but I haven’t looked into it much) and currently has an iPhone app. They recently announced they are working on an Android app, so I’m anxiously awaiting that release.
Another blogger that I thoroughly enjoy is lauraMUSTloseweight.
Could I please look like that someday! She’s single and younger than me, so honestly I think it’s a little easier for her to do what she does. Not that she doesn’t KILL it when she works out, but as a mother of two young boys and wife to basically a man who should be considered a teenager, it’s really really tough sometimes to please everyone and myself. I follow her website, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. Basically, I think she rocks.
And I’ll leave you with this, because I love this episode of “How I Met Your Mother”…