Tuesday, November 20, 2012

UltraCentric 24 Hour Race Report!

"Well, well, well! Look who's running real races again!" This was the exact thought that popped into my head around the fourth hour of the UltraCentric 24HR Gold Rush this past weekend in Texas. Hour 4 was notable in that, for some hilarious-in-retrospect reason, my leg muscles decided to spasm and ball up like they just saw an early John Carpenter film. It was a bit of a struggle all day to keep them in line (and a lot of a struggle once it got cold out overnight), but the fact that they were revolting so early felt like a true welcome back into the ultrarunning world..."Hey, only 20 more hours of dealing with Frankenstein legs. That seems reasonable!".

Rewinding a bit, it was great to be back in Dallas for a race. Way back in 2008 when I was a newlywed, my in-laws braved freezing 20-something temps to crew for me at that year's disastrous version of the Ultracentric. Looking back at the photos of that race makes me realize both that I was beyond lucky to have their support, and also that there's no way they would have allowed me to marry their daughter if the sub-freezing insanity of that race had come before our wedding earlier that year. "...Excuse me, Pastor, can we just skip to the 'Does anyone object' part to save us all a little time. Some of us are double-parked."

...but 2012 was a new year. I'm older, wiser, a father, and have Jupiter's number on my cell phone to call in any weather-related wishes I may have for a race. Ok, maybe that last part was a lie...I'm not actually Facebook friends with any Roman gods, but lucky for all of us running this year's race, no godly influence was needed - The weather was pretty darn sweet for running 24 hours. Sure there was a little cold and wind, but really, who's going to complain about that after suffering through months of swamp air and 100 degree temps all summer? Not me. Not Jeffy either.  (....the 8 of you out there who are both fans of the Family Circus comic strip and also know that my brother in-law/crew master is named Jeff now think I'm the funniest person in the world.)

So, wrapping up the pre-24HR-amble here: I was so very happy to be running my first real race in over a year, happy to have great weather, and happy/lucky to have a huuuge crew of the aforementioned Jeff, my parents, and my uncle Rich. Awesome. Now let's get running!

Right from the start I linked up with Sabrina Little to say 'Hello' and trade pumpkin recipes. It took about 2 hours before I figured I should let her focus on actual running, so I pulled off for a quick stretch break at that point. She was quickly off doing her American-Record-Ability-Thing while I settled into my routine of alternately running relaxed and easy for 6-12 miles at a time and dealing with my cramping Mr. Roboto legs. No domo arigato, hamstrings, no domo.

Chatting with Sabrina early on...future friends Mike P. and "Awesome" Dave also captured here. More on them later. Photo: Sabrina Little

Chasing down Sabrina in the first lap to start chatting her ear off. ...also appreciating that lady's sweet pink-patterned coat on the right there.
Still appreciating that lady's coat, but also telling my crew (who were off to the side) that they should cheer for Sabrina all day/night too...and not just because we apparently have the exact same push-off angle on our left foot.

What Crew, you ask? From L to R: Jeff, Uncle Rich, my dad, and...
...showing off her cool tablet stopwatch that recorded all my splits, my mom!
I should also mention that my DC friend (and coolest math PhD I know) Tammy also came out for the race and shared our tent aid station set up. It's always fun to run with the Cupcake Queen!  I should also mention she rocked a high-80s mileage total by the end of the race and was probably the fastest person on the course for the last couple hours!

As the miles added up and hours slipped on by, I realized the combination of my current level of fitness and the course itself were not going to yield a 150 mile finish for me. I think the best way to describe the course is to call it "rough". The whole thing is somewhat of a nice balance of rolling hills, which definitely require work on the ups but also give you the instant reward of the subsequent downs. The real challenge for me, however, was the actual condition of the pavement. Not unlike Pauly Shore, its moment has long passed...and unless hipsters find it ironically cool to start repaving ultra courses the same way their homemade t-shirts and spray-paint tags can resurrect the careers of those like Mr. Shore, this course saw its best days years ago.  All kidding aside, if the course was resurfaced, I would definitely come back to run again. I actually enjoy 24 hour courses with a few small hills mixed in...working a different set of muscles every so often is a good thing in my mind.

One of many rub-downs from my dad overnight
Back to the race, I made my way to 50 miles in my usual 7:30-ish range, and then went on auto-pilot until mile 80 or so when, just after the 12 hour mark, my legs needed more attention than I was giving them (even with stops every hour to stretch). I switched to some warmer tights, my dad stepped up huge with warm hands every 4 miles to help rub them down, and finally by mile 100 or so I figured out I needed to duct tape a bunch of chemical hand-warmer pads on my hamstrings and calves to keep them warm and loose. This seemed to work, and since I went through 100 miles about an hour slower than I would have hoped (16:30ish) but still had a big lead, I was more than happy to take it easy the rest of the way and win the $$ for first place male (Sabrina was long gone, and I was more than happy to let her go win the overall!).

Naturally, my plan to "take it easy" the rest of the way was complicated by some dude (Mike Petruso) positively flying around the track at that point. With the official timing/results people gone for 8 hours overnight, I had no clue how close he was to me, but he was moving fast enough that I knew I needed to get my butt in gear to keep pace with him. We linked up with 6 hours to go in the race, and as it turned out, I had the most fun I've ever had running a race over that time as we stuck together until the end. The beauty of those 6 hours of our working together is we picked up a bunch of other people along the way for various stretches. Since I had a 10 mile lead, our #1 goal was to make sure Mike won the 2nd place $$, but all sorts of other fun goals popped up along the way too as we helped more than a couple people reach their PRs (one of over 100 miles!) by pulling them into our group.

The third pilgrim in our Chaucer-like group of travelers was a man so cool no one name is good enough for him. Sure, his legal name is Dave, but we alternately called him "Awesome Dave" and "Big Mike" throughout the night. Of the many stories I could tell you about him, here's the one thing you need to know about Awesome Dave:

Shortly after I started running with Mike, he told me Dave was running great with him earlier in the day, but had been sleeping in his nice warm truck on the side of the course for the previous 3+ hours. Upon hearing that, I said, "Well let's get him back out here!", and proceeded to knock on his window and shine my headlamp in his face the next time we passed his truck. "Dave! Wake up! Get back out here and run with us!".  Now, the normal human response to having a complete stranger wake you up in such a jolting manner at 3:00 a.m. would be to do anything other than what Awesome Dave did. Rather than yelling at us or rolling over and going back to sleep, in about 4 second's time Awesome Dave focused his sleepy eyes on us, processed what we were yelling at him, and happily said, "Ok!". Sure, he had one glove on, and maybe an untied shoe, but he jumped right out and joined us. It was possibly the highlight of my running career right there....and not just because he didn't punch me in the face for waking him from his happy slumber.

In the end, all went as planned for our Canterbury crew. I grabbed the big $$ for first, Mike did the same for 2nd, and we even got Awesome Dave to a 90 mile PR distance by the end.

Happy times back at the end awaiting our feast at the Tabard Inn. From R-L: The back of Awesome Dave, me, and Mike (rather than explain why he's positioned like that, let's just say the story is one of dozens of others I could tell about the hilarious last few hours of this race).
Sabrina and I enjoying our spoils. I really have no idea how many miles either of us ran, but it was something like 128 for me and 134 for her...mind you, she also slept for 45 mins, so you know, there may be some talent in those legs. I look forward to being beaten by her for many years to come.

Oh, one more shot of the same scene, zoomed out just enough to show my sexy duct-taped legs. It's going to be all the rage on the Paris runways come Spring, trust me.
Many thanks to basically my whole family for all their support on this one. Finding the time to train was obviously much easier before I became a daddy this year, but there's no way in the world I would trade what I have now with my wife and Sammy for anything else. Regardless of what races I'm able to run in the future, having the kind of fun I had in this race only edifies my knowledge that I always want to be part of the ultrarunning community, no matter my shape or finishing position. As always, my hat is off to all of the amazing ladies and gentlemen who I had the privilege of running with this weekend. You're all awesome, thank you for the fun and inspiration!

Oh, and one last shout out to the good folks at Drymax for their continued support. Not only did I once again walk away from a 24HR race with blister-free feet, but their USA flag socks have now won me two races...I think that officially qualifies them a "Lucky Socks"!


Kim said...

I do like the RWB socks you were sporting there in the early photos!

See you at Reverse Ring? (Or maybe MLK weekend in VA)???

Oh, and congratulations too!!!!

Casseday said...

Congrats on a great run Dan. It's pretty cool that you seem to be able to bust out a 24-hr run just about any time the mood strikes you. Very impressive. I'll be looking for the patented duct-tape pants in all running stores for the 2013 Holiday season.

Dan Rose said...

Kimba, No clue about races for next year, but the RR is usually convenient for me...and I really would like to make a run at a sub 14hr time...we'll see! MLK is out for me since that's inauguration weekend here in DC and I'll be stuck working. Boo!!

Adam, I think you'll find caring for Vernon 24/7 makes running a 24hr race seem like a vacation. Your sleep deprivation skills will never be as strong as they are right now. Sign up for one of these things and find out for yourself!

davidrenfro said...

Dan, Thanks for waking me up and letting me tag along with you guys.Its not everyday I get to run with such a great runner and person. This was my first 24 hr event. I really like how you get the chance to meet people you normally wouldn't have the opportunity to meet. Even though you was 30 miles ahead of me we still got to run the last 15 miles or so together. Really cool!! Congrats on your win and good luck in all future endeavors. Hopefully we will cross paths again someday. YOU ROCK!!

David Renfro

Dan Rose said...

I look forward to running with you again, Awesome Dave. Be sure to return the favor and wake me up if you ever find me sleeping on the sidelines in a race. I promise I'll do my best to be as nice as you were when we shined the perp light on you at 3am. You the (awesome) man!!

Amelia said...

I totally would have punched you in the face if you woke me up at 3 am, as Joel can attest. GREAT report, as usual! And how did you and Sabrina look so normal - even photogenic - at the end of the race? You could have been doing a spread for Runner's Magazine.

Ric Munoz said...

Congratulations, Dan. Great report and great victory!

Dan Rose said...

Thanks, Ric! Great to hear from you, shoot me a note and let me know what you're up to in 2013...I'd love to run a few miles with you! Maybe the 24HR Championship in October?

Byron said...

You want to get "back to the low 2:40's"? Eh gads, man. Is there nothing you can't do?!

Dan Rose said...

Byron, you know you can kick out a 2:40 if you want to...I mean, I did see you finish the final 70 miles of a 100 miler with a freshly broken hand, right? Pain is no problem for you! Will I be seeing you in OK in October at Chisholm's race? Hope so!