Race Report: Hamsterwheel 6-Hour, Year 2

Riddle: How can a 24 hour race start at 9am on one day, and legitimately end at 8am the next day?
Answer: When it's a 24-hour race on "fall back" weekend--like the 2nd annual Hamsterwheel 24 hour race. 
For my part, I only ran the shortest option of the Hamsterwheel, which is the 6-hour race.


Just like last year, I was up before dawn on a Saturday morning and driving across New Hampshire towards a rosy-fingered sunrise.


Also just like last year, I took a Vermont Buff selfie in the parking lot, to REPRESENT the Green Mountain State that is my home.



And just like last year, I ran a total of 8 laps (32 miles) for my 6-hour race. But with one fortunate hitch... the race rules changed to my advantage this year. Instead of having to complete all eligible laps before the 6-hour mark, the race counted all laps STARTED before the 6-hour mark. So I actually started my 8th lap much later than last year, and finished my 32 miles in about 6:15. Then I was super-ready for some Coke and pizza and just to stop moving.

A few notes:

The race had about twice as many entrants as last year (about 60 people). It was once again a great mix of runners of all ages and paces. I enjoyed seeing people many, many times along the 4-mile looped course, and getting to know each other a tiny bit that way.

One thing I've learned to keep me happy on a looped course is to change something with every lap. So for my first lap I had a handheld water bottle and jacket as it was still a cool morning. The next lap I picked up some additional Roctane (energy drink), but kept things similar. On the 3rd lap I picked up yet more Roctane (I had a drop bag at the start/finish where I would pick up and drop off stuff), and took off my gloves. On lap 4 I removed my jacket and picked up a GU gel. I was wearing my Vegan Power 25K technical T underneath and I felt it brought me a surge of energy and luck! I was even running in "flow" for a little while (where ability and exertion mesh into a magical superhero feeling). I also watered down my Roctane on the theory that the GU gel would make up for it. (Bad idea it turns out.)

I had decided that lap 5 was going to be my "hard lap"--something to get through and then I'd be over the mountain (of work--the course itself is pretty much flat) and well on my way to the finish. I traded my handheld bottle for my hydration vest (full of proper, undiluted Roctane), and grabbed some pbj on white bread from the well-stocked aid table at the start/finish.

Things started to get funky on lap 5. If this were a three-hour race I would have finished in great shape, but in the next few hours I started to fall apart. That's what it's all about though. I was there to be stubborn, proud, and see what I could do long after passing the point of comfort and possibly reason. During lap 5 my hands started to swell up, exactly as they had during the Vegan Power 25k after I had also started drinking watered down Roctane. And my tummy started to feel slightly off. I decided that if my hands felt better by the end of the lap (since I had gone back to full-strength Roctane which seems to have the combo of salts and fluids and whatever that I actually need), I would keep going.

When I got back to the start/finish, a 25-time Boston marathoner looked at me and said, "Need some salt?" What was he seeing that made him ask that? Or did he ask everyone that question? My hands were definitely feeling better, but I knew salt would help. I perused a selection of chips, but the perfect thing, handed to me by the amazing Darby (read my 2015 blog!), was a piping hot grilled cheese sandwich. I took some with me on lap 6, and this seemed to be the ticket to getting my salt levels right again and also correcting my stomach issues. Yum! Also, I got to have my iPod and music. And I put my running shades on and kind of withdrew into a little world of music. I was also dealing with my legs starting to clench up and HURT.

Lap 7. People who weren't walking have started walking. My calves hurt, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, and my right foot hurts in exactly the spot where it hurt last year. I forget my sunglasses on the food table, but I do grab some more grilled cheese. I try walking, but it doesn't actually help with any of the pain. And it makes everything take longer, so I go back to running. Reallllllly slowwwwwwly. I know I should probably stop, but it's clear I'll be able to start my 8th lap before the 6-hour cutoff. And if I can start the damn thing, I'M GOING TO FINISH IT.

Lap 8. I ran out of Roctane so I mixed up some Tailwind at the start/finish. It was awful and it felt like it would have some unfortunate digestive effects so I stopped drinking it. Having started this final lap but having no cutoff time, I knew I could take as long as I wanted/needed to gut things out. Walking still hurt more than running so I kept jogging along. It was ridiculous! Also my iPod stopped working, but I was finding it hard to care about much besides moving towards the finish. I think if laps 6-7 were about me hitting the wall, Lap 8 was beyond the wall. And eventually... lap 8 ended.

I came in second woman in the 6-hour race. (Side note: I have been second or third woman in all of the (three) 6-hour races I've ever entered.)



Data: Fitbit step count from the day.





More data: Here are my Garmin results--the loop is 4 miles so you can see that at multiples of 4 the time increases because I stopped at the start/finish. You can also see that after split 16 (start of lap 5), my time gets slower and slower with each successive lap. Still, a 14-minute mile after six hours of running on brutally hard crushed stone isn't so bad. I'm still proud of my effort and my result.

For the record, here's what I would change for next time:
  • I would do more weight training. I felt that part of what helped me during this race was two strength classes I'd taken in the weeks before. If I had more time to build up core and leg and overall strength, I think that would be super helpful.
  • I'd try to lose weight. This would SOLELY be for having less to carry around, not that I care about my weight. (I DO NOT. I'm proud of my body whatever it's doing.)
  • MORE ROCTANE. I go on about this stuff I know, but it works so well for me during races. I learned I should NEVER water it down. And I should ALWAYS drink it during a race. Lesson learned and point taken. Roctane, if you need a middle-of-the-pack spokesperson, let me know! (I have no affiliation with GU, I just love it.)
After the race: My hips and knees continued to hurt for about 24 hours. I took a lot of Zyflamend, rubbed on arnica gel, and iced my left Achilles tendon which turned up sore the next day. I felt amazed at what I'd accomplished, and also thankful that my family let me lie around in bed for awhile. And after about 36 hours my hips and knees felt pretty much OK. The human body is amazing. I'm so grateful to get to do things like this.

1 comment:

Amber Gabrenas said...

You are amazing woman! My hips hurt just reading about the race!