Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Friday, January 1, 2010

Freedom Park 24 Hour Full Report

24 Hours of asphalt. Man, I'm dumb. I got in 70 miles & left several hours early, but I'm OK with it. It's hard for me to write a review of this race because there was a lot I liked & a lot that was just... off. It's hard for me to say anything bad about the race because it was so well-organized & the volunteers were great, but I just didn't have a great time running it. In my last 24 hour race, I really enjoyed myself and felt like I was running with purpose. In this race, it just felt like I was going around in (cold, wet) circles for no good reason.

I walked out of the Sleep Inn to around an inch of sleet/snow on the ground. It was right around freezing- 32 or 33. I showed up at the race & picked up my packet with a nice fleece pullover, a fleece scarf & Injinji (my favorite) socks.

Everyone was really low key & bundled up at the starting line and we were off with little fanfare. The first of my 1 mile asphalt loops followed. Freedom Park is adjacent to Freedom High School & I've been there for Cross Country meets there before. The XC course is pretty nice but the paved loop has a view of a grassy field. According to, the temperature never got over 38 all day and it was drizzly and misty the whole time. I would've prefered the race be on a portion of the XC course but it would've been a muddy mess yesterday. The forecasted high tomorrow is below freezing and the overnight windchill is 5, so I guess I can't complain about the weather. Is 38 and wet better than 17 and windy? Maybe so.

I ran more on asphalt yesterday than I did in the past 2.5 years combined. I really don't know why I signed up. Around mile 8, I noticed my knees throbbing. By about 14, my ankle hurt. Around 18, my shins hurt. Those problems lasted the rest of the race. That's a long time to hurt. For the better part of 16 hours, my primary thought was, "Ow." The race director said it was OK to run on the edge of the path in the grass, but I was really the only one who did. I'd run in the mud down the slight hills & another 100m stretch. It made me feel like I was cheating, but running in the mud was certainly not faster than staying on the path. After several hours, the path I'd blazed got muddier and muddier, so I stopped after awhile.

I had to take a lot of breaks to stretch & massage my legs. I'd put on a sweatshirt, get in the back of my car, shiver, mess with my legs, and get out absolutely freezing. Teeth chattering. Shaking. Miserable. I wasted a lot of time doing this. I can't even remember how many 15-30 minute breaks I took. 5, I think. Before each of them, though, my knees were so bad, I nearly quit, so I think it was the best decision.

I was wet the entire day. For most of the race, I wore shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, a thin jacket & a hat. I took the jacket off for about a third of the race, which was a good decision. I was a little colder without it, but drier (not as much sweat). With wet feet from the mud I sloshed through, I'm amazed I have no hint of a blister.

I can't say enough how good the support was. Great food, friendly volunteers, chip timing (which I've never seen at an ultra). David & Rhonda Lee & their BMRC volunteers were fantastic and almost seemed offended if they couldn't get you something. I felt obliged to take something most times through the aid station. Seriously, they had a U-Haul truck full of food! The veggie burger Rhonda made for me as I left was the greatest thing I've ever tasted. Only hot food I'd had. I ate a lot more solid food than I ever have in a race. PB&J, potatoes, cookies, trail mix... but there was also pizza, burgers, grilled cheese, etc. I think I ate more than usual to stay warm.

No offense to anyone, but I've got a theory that trail runners are much more friendly than road runners. I went on a fairly long road run at the beach over the summer, I waved or gave a "How's it going?" to about 20 other runners. Not a single response. Training on trails, I've had people turn around and run with me for 5-10 minutes, and I've done the same. Now, I would imagine nearly all of the people in the Freedom Park do their fair share of trail running, but I just never got much of a conversation started with anyone. Some of the comments people made made me laugh.

Them: How many miles have you run?
Me: 38.
Them: Oh, I've run a lot more than that. I'm at 44. It's weird that we're running together but really I'm 6 miles ahead of you. It must feel bad to know that you're that far back.


Them: How many miles have you run?
Me: 46.
Them: I've run 40, but at my age, that's a much bigger feat than your 46. You're young. I'm suprised you only have 46.

What?! Really strange stuff. I've never had such conversations with people in an ultra. I blame the asphalt for making people mean. :)

I did meet a few people and ran maybe 2 minutes with people at the most, but that's it. I talked to some people I already knew everytime we passed, but everyone just seemed to be doing their own thing in this race. It felt like the weather and monotony of the course just had people stuck in their bubble of "I'm just getting through this." In most trail races, I befriend someone and run with them for 2-3 hours. That's part of the fun of it. Half of the people had headphones in. I have never run with an ipod, but when it got dark & started feeling lonely, I listened to the finest in 80s thrash metal and punk rock. Gave me a little company.

I got in a relatively fast two laps so I could make the ringing in of the New Year, which was kinda fun. I thought I was at 69 laps then and at that point had decided to run 74 miles (75 laps- each lap was .98xx miles) for some reason. I went to double check and was told I only had 65 laps. Hard to question chip timing. It had been about 10 miles since a break and I knew I wasn't running 10 more without a break. I got back in the car thinking I had 10 more miles for 74. As I got out, I decided to get in 6 more laps for 70 miles instead. When I got back around, they said I had 69 laps! Huh? I must've misunderstood before. I was a little out of it. I sure wouldn't have taken a 30 minute break before running 3 miles though!

I wasn't sure I could even make it a marathon on asphalt (again, why did I sign up?), so I'm pleased I made it 70. I probably should've signed up for the 6 hour option & tried to run faster rather than grind it out with all the breaks I took. I don't mean to paint a bad picture of the race. It was put together very well and most people were more than happy to get in a lot of miles on a quick paved course free of roots, rocks and mud. That's the kind of stuff I like though.

Pictures to follow.


Anonymous said...

You are sadistic, Coach.

Matt said...

Yes brother! That's funny what people said to you!

Cool Down Runner said...

Wow, running 70 miles under those condition is "unreal". I would never have made it.

Jason said...

I cannot believe you grinded out 70 on pavement. When I heard you were running this one 50 miles is what I thought you would end up running. Not because you couldn't have ran 100 if you wanted, but because of the surface.

Those comments are unreal in an ultra. I agree with you - the hard top does something to runner's emotions. Abouth half of the last 50k I did was on blacktop and I could not get a word out of anyone. It drove me crazy so I just started singing out loud. I hope it pissed lots of them off :]

Coach Spencer said...

Bill- Thanks, but you could've done 70 in your sleep. When you tell someone, "I ran 70 miles," it seems like a huge accomplishment, but it doesn't seem like that big of a deal at all. Hard on the knees. Hard on the mind, but really wasn't all that difficult. Doesn't really seem like I went 70. More like 30-40. Not very sore afterwards. Ran 3 days later with no problem. The further I get from the race, the more I think I should've stayed a few more hours and got in 90 or so in 24 hours. It was an easy decision to make at the time though. I was mentally done, my legs hurt, but I had more in me.

Jason- funny about the singing! 100 on that course would've been relatively easy for someone used to running on pavement (relatively flat smooth surface as opposed to most 100s). I had to take a lot of breaks for my legs. I don't know that I could've gotten 70 in without the breaks. But as it played out, I knew I wouldn't get 30 more in the remaining 6:30, which was another reason I quit early. Figured 86, 90, 70, what's the difference? What races do you have coming up? I don't think I can find room in my schedule for any of Terri's races. Still trying to fit one in.

Olivia said...

Kudos Coach!!!