Race Report: 6 Hours in Paradise, Windsor VT

I've been pondering what to write about this race since I ran it on August 22, 2015. It was my first 6-hour race, and meant a lot to me in terms of personal accomplishment and my new love of trail running. I worry I may drone on, so perhaps Categories may be most succinct. I'm talking here about the inaugural 6 Hours in Paradise in Windsor, Vermont, put on by Dead Skunk Racing.

About the race
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.)

Loop logic
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.

Body feelings 
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.

Mind feelings
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
**I broke a cardinal rule of racing and tried something new on race day, GU Roctane drink mix. LOVED IT. It is caffeinated and has all the salts and stuff you need during a long run. I felt a warm, competent glow for about half the race, and I'm pretty sure Roctane was the reason. I started cutting it with water and Nuun midway along so I wouldn't get overcaffeinated, since that makes my stomach and brain hurt. It worked perfectly. And why Roctane? I ordered it because Magdalena Lewy-Boulet used it during Western States 100-miler, and she won, so it must be good. (Also she is a VP at GU Labs and helps develop the products.) That was my logic. True story!

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

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Fabulous!!! Congrats!! You forgot to say you came in second!! I loved the way you told this--the categories plan really worked.