At 8:00 a.m. about 50 of us were off and running around the 400m track. I settled into my prescribed 9 minute pace and adjusted my liquid and electrolyte balance to suit the warmer-than-expected dome. After 2 hours (roughly 13 miles), I noticed a strange pain in both of my legs. It wasn't muscular, but more like a bone ache deep inside. I ignored it and continued on figuring that it, along with all dozens of other pains that pop up in a 24 hour race, would just go away.
An hour later, to my great surprise, I started yawning while running. Seemed about 20 hours early for this to start happening, but I brushed it off and soldiered on. I was still running my 9 minute pace, but for such an easy cruising speed, it was becoming increasingly more laborious to maintain...and what the hell was up with that ache in my legs? It kept getting worse. When I passed through the marathon mark and finished up the 4th hour, I felt like I needed a nap. Like, really needed a nap. What in the world was going on??
Over the next couple hours, I pulled out all of my tricks that I usually save as motivational elements for much, much later in races (music, 5-hour energy shots, etc etc). On this day, all of those things would serve to give me temporary jolts of adrenaline, but all that fuel was needed just to fight and keep my pedestrian 9 minute pace.
After the 6th hour, I was so wiped out I decided to mix a recovery drink and walk a couple laps to try and do something to snap my body out of the funk. I can normally run 24 hours on a surface like this without walking a single lap, so the fact that I needed to walk so hilariously early (and after two 5-hour energy drinks!) proved something was wrong, big time.
Immediately after starting to walk, I noticed my leg pain felt much much worse than when I was running. All I could do was grunt out two laps of walking before the pain forced me to start running again. I had no clue what was going on, but I figured I'd let my recovery drink get in my system for a couple hours and see how I felt then.
At the 7 hour mark I was out of tricks, and even though my leg muscles felt good, that weird bone ache was now spreading up through my hips. When I heard my lap-counter say I was on lap #193, I figured I'd get through 200 laps (50 miles) and then try to regroup somehow. As it turned out, I hit the 50 mile mark in 7 hours 30 minutes...exactly 9 minute pace. From an outsider's prospective, you could say I ran those first 50 miles precisely to plan and was in great shape to knock out another 95 or 100 miles. The reality was, I was fighting those first 50 like I had already covered 100 miles before them. I was completely wiped out. I staggered over to my aid table and plopped on the ground for a solid hour of moaning and grunting. My body was done. Clearly, this was not my day!
So, what the heck happened? Probably a couple things: Most significantly, my body is still probably still dealing with the trauma from my 150 miles of hell on the Long Trail a month ago. I figured the flat terrain and easy pace of this race would be OK for my legs, and from a muscular stand-point, I was right. I didn't have any specific muscle pain or fatigue, just that overall lack-of-energy and the strange bone pain. Probably a result of my body needing more general recovery time than it had. Also, for the week leading up to the race, I was super-tired during the day for some reason. I had to take a 3-hour nap a couple days after coming home from work, and the night before the race I was fast asleep before 9 p.m.. Maybe I have some random cold coming on, who knows?
The bottom line is, I gave it my best effort, but my body just didn't want to play along yesterday. The lesson to be learned here: I need to space out my major events next year. I enjoy 100+ milers so much that I forget it's probably smarter to mix in shorter races between them to allow for better recovery. I hate the fact that I dropped from so many races this year, and I need to learn to plan my schedule accordingly next year to make sure this doesn't happen again. I know I have a big 24-hour run in me, I just need to learn to get myself to that starting line in better shape.
Speaking of recovery, this is officially it for 2010. I'm taking 6 weeks off, and then starting a proper training schedule for 2011. I'll come back a smarter and stronger runner from what I've learned this year, and even though I won't be sporting the Red, White, and Blue at the World Championship next year, I'll use the coming months to quietly hone my skills in training. That way, when I do make it back to the Team, I'll be better equipped to help them bring home a Gold Medal!