The 6-hour race was on a repeated trail course loop that was about 2.2 miles long. There was a Start/Finish station (a convenient park pavilion with roof and water spigot). Every time I passed the station on a loop the race coordinators would note it down, along with the time. The point is to complete as many loops as you want/can in the 6 hour time period. It is totally fine to stop and rest between loops, because it's all up to you! I managed to complete 11 loops in the allotted time, which was actually only 5 hours 33 minutes. (Since I was averaging 31 minutes per loop I didn't think I could get in a 12th loop within 6 hours, so I stopped rather than make myself sad.)
Running loops is interesting. For instance, there is not really a "back of the pack" in a loop. It's a circle... so everyone's in front of me! And also, everyone's behind me! Over the course of 6 hours I ended up passing or being passed by almost all the other runners, especially since there was a "lollipop" section (a mini-loop that had a shared ingress/egress) that meant I'd come across other runners on the "stick" of the lollipop even if they were basically going my same speed.
I also liked that I could "program" the loop in my mind. With an out-and-back race or point-to-point you don't get to know the course very well. But here, as I did circuits and got to know the trail, I'd decide which was my fast part, which was my eating-fruit-ball part, which was my favorite section (quite a long bit became my favorite!), and which part was my microclimate of dread. Then I would replicate that program each time, "Here's where I speed downhill," "Here's the hot & sunny part so get through it quick," "Here's where I power-walk, but only until that tree." I am particularly proud of the microclimate of dread invention. It's something I discovered on a looped training run. When I started to get a nervous feeling of "I can't do this, what am I doing, this is TOO LONG," I could assign the feeling to THAT SPECIFIC part of the trail, and then run away from it. It ends up serving as a way to compartmentalize the discomfort of a very long run, and it worked well for me.
My left ankle hurts over distances, but it stayed the same throughout the race and didn't get worse. In the second-to-last loop I started to feel peculiar, like I was getting chills, but I told myself it was the effects of endorphins or adrenaline or... science... and decided to ignore it. I was fine.
The "microclimate of dread" trick mentioned above helped me keep my inner complaining and naysaying to a minimum. I also tried a "swish and smile" technique gleaned from "How to Build Mental Muscle," a Runner's World article. My personal take on this article is that if you swish your sports drink (or even water) around in your mouth before swallowing it, the body-mind interprets that as getting extra nourishment and energy. Then, swallow and smile broadly—this smiling tricks the mind into thinking you're happy. Did it work? Well, I had a great race and felt competent and happy almost the whole time.
I have not been compensated for any brands I mention, they are just what I like.
- Knee-length Athleta running shorts with handy side pockets for fruit balls
- 2 super-light shirts (I changed from one to the other halfway through)
- Columbia visor (I also wore my hair in 2 braids Michelle Yates style, represent!)
- one Pro Compression sock on the left, and one Darn Tough sock on the right (I found out during training runs that I need this combo since two compression socks make my right foot numb, but zero compression socks make my left foot hurt)
- Hoka One One Challengers (like running on a cloud!)
- Ultimate Direction Jurek Grip hand-held water bottle (NEW! YAY!)
|New hand-held bottle to replace the cursed waist pack. |
Long nozzle means I can drink and watch the trail at the same time.
Nutrition & hydration
- Fruit and nut balls (focus for hours 0-2)
- Two Thermoses of Ramen soup (focus for hours 3-4)
- 3 bottles GU Roctane drink mix in tropical fruit flavor** (hours 0-4)
- 1 bottle Nuun Pink Lemonade flavor (random)
- 2+ bottles of water (random)
- Extra random packets of applesauce-type stuff and nut-bar type stuff
- Watermelon chunks--I'd typically grab an unwieldy handful and head off into the woods slurping it
Plans for the future
I liked this new type of race so much that I signed up for another 6-hour race in November. Maybe 6-hour races are my new 5k! I found it so much more enjoyable and worthwhile than an all-out effort that feels awful and ends in 20+ minutes (i.e., a 5k). I loped along happily at a 14:30-ish pace, chatted with fellow runners, stopped for a snack after every single loop, and I felt great. And turns out I also ran farther—24 miles total—and longer than ever before.
|Awesome finisher's glass, first filled with Dogfishhead 60 Minute|