On Saturday morning, I got my ass out of bed and ran a race with my dad in Mifflinburg!
There were two options for this race- the Resolution Challenge or Last Man Standing. Participants of both races ran a 1.6 mile loop over and over again. Those running the Resolution Challenge had 3 hours to complete as many loops as possible. Last Man Standing was a bit more interesting: Runners had 20 minutes to complete the first lap, 19 minutes for the second lap, and so on. You were not allowed to start laps early. Winners would be the last 3 men and last 3 women to complete a lap- whichever lap number that ended up being!
This is the finish line we crossed over and over and over again!
My dad brought this race to my attention and I toyed around with the idea of doing it. But after BDR and I was not feeling that great, and the thought of doing another race just wasn't at the top of my to do list. However, last week I had some good runs and was starting to feel more like myself. On Friday, while I was lifting, I realized "Hey, I didn't run today and I feel okay... I could run Last Man Standing tomorrow."
Since I decided to run at the last minute, I got to skip my normal 3 day rest period before a race and all the other over analyzing and anxiety that comes along with pre race jitters. Instead, I got to experience all of those feelings the night before the race when I couldn't sleep. It was partly due to my mind just racing with thoughts, partly due to some major gas I was experiencing, and partly due to Paul being congested and snoring all night. I "slept" from 2:30-6:15. I say "slept" because I was waking up every 20 minutes or so. Oh my!
Even when my alarm went off at 6:15, I wasn't sure if I would go to the race. It was dark and cold out. The thought of venturing out into unknown territory (I had never been to Mifflinburg) made me miss Paul and the cats. I was tired. Do I really want to run for 2+ hours today? Do I really want to spend 3 hours in the car? It would be so easy to just close my eyes and go back to bed.
But somehow, I knew I'd regret it. I spend enough time at home doing nothing. It was time to GET OUT and get some new experiences under my belt! I also thought about how happy my parents would be if I ended up deciding to come. (I was right. When I called my mom on the way to the race she squealed "Yay! She's on her way!!!") Thankfully I had prepared every single thing I would need the day before, so I didn't even have to think in the morning. I got dressed, loaded the car, kissed Paul and the kitties, and was out the door by 6:30.
When I arrived at RB Winter State Park for the race, (90 minutes north of my house) it was much colder than it was at home. As I walked down to register, I noticed that mostly everyone was wearing trail shoes. That made me nervous. I wore my road shoes. I was sort of under the impression that even though it was trail, it was going to be more like packed dirt or the soft gravel of rail trail. But it was not, it was straight up TRAIL. Before the race, I found out the 1.6 mile loop was half trail and half paved road. Well, that wouldn't be so bad. I was then glad I wore my road shoes. I hate running on pavement in trail shoes more than I hate running on trail in road shoes.
After a short pre race meeting, they sounded the horn and off we went for our first loop in which we had 20 minutes to complete. I ran alone during this loop just to kind of focus and get an idea of the course and my strategy. My initial strategy was to just run a leisurely pace for as long as I could so I had enough energy for the fast loops. Also, I didn't want to have to stand around for several minutes after each lap. I was worried about how stopping would affect my running.
It was hard to set a goal for the race because it was a new terrain and a completely new style of racing. Before running the first loop, I thought I would aim for completing 9 laps- which would bring me to 14.4 miles with the last 1.6 at a 7:30 pace. But once I set foot on the trail I was reminded trail running and road running were very different. 7:30 on the trail does NOT equal the same exertion level as 7:30 on the road.
But I didn't worry about that 9th lap in the beginning. That lap was 2 hours away! I focused on just maintaining the easiest pace possible without finishing the lap too close to the cut off time. (They sounded an air horn as a warning when you had 2 minutes left.)
During the race, I drank water and/or sports drink after almost every loop. I had 3 salt tabs total but didn't eat anything. I had coffee and a big bowl of raisin bran in the car on the way to the race, so my stomach did not feel hungry at all.
All of the volunteers were very friendly. This was an aid station at the start/finish in which you passed every 1.6 miles. It was very convenient as I didn't have to carry any of my own water and food- just salt tabs.
Running the same loop several times was helpful in developing a strategy for myself and knowing what part of the course was a little difficult for me and what part I could make up some time on. The first half was trail, but it wasn't technical trail. It was relatively flat at first, then it gradually went up hill. The last 1/10 (ish) of a mile on the trail climbed a little steeper. So for the trail section, I tried to go out fast where it was flat and naturally slow down during the climb as to not tire myself out. The paved portion was gradually downhill, so it was easy to make up time simply due to the change in terrain let alone the fact that it was net downhill.
Clarification: I know I mention there being "climbs" in the trail portion. These were not REAL climbs, just climbs for ME, the girl who hasn't run trail in 9 months and runs relatively flat loops around her neighborhood! Real trail runners would seriously laugh at me calling that section a climb.
The first lap I finished with about 4 minutes to spare. The bathroom was right near the finish line so I popped in to pee. In fact, I peed after every loop without missing the start of the next lap except for my last lap- I didn't pee before that one. It was strange that I ended up with a headache after the race (dehydration!?) because I was drinking and peeing regularly. It didn't make sense that I would get dehydrated... but more on that later.
Dad and me finishing the first lap. I walked it in because I had lots of time to spare and I was worried about all the stopping and starting.
Me sucking back some water and a salt tab at some point during the race.
The next several laps, I continued to run at the easiest pace possible without missing the cut off time. My dad had the same strategy and so did his two buddies- Clayton and Brenden. In fact, several people during and after the race (including the 2nd place female) told me how they were sticking near us because they liked our pacing strategy. That is a great compliment!
Our crew finishing a lap.
We continued to finish the first 5 laps with right around 2-3 minutes to spare. These laps were relatively easy as we could all talk and laugh while still maintaining the pace we needed to. The trail and woods were beautiful, but I mainly was enjoying running with OTHER RUNNERS. I have run alone for so long, I forgot how fun it is to run with a group! The day reinvigorated my love of running with a community.
This is dad and his biking/running friend, Clayton, who I finally got to meet at the race.
We all ran most of the laps together.
It was cool to see my mom after each lap because she always had words of encouragement for all of us! She was an awesome cheerleader, and even though she hates the cold, she stood out there for 3.5 hours for us! Sure, we were running, but we weren't cold at all until we were done running. She had to be cold the whole time! It is hard being a spectator, and I am being completely serious when I say that!
Posing with Mom between laps.
Lap 6 was not too bad, but the second half of the trail section was getting more difficult, and the downhill paved section started to feel not so downhill anymore. My dad pointed this out to me after the race, and I laughed and agreed with him! Lap 7 proved to be harder, even though I finished roughly around the same time as I did with Lap 6. I would always have a lot of time to make up on the paved section due to slowing down at the end of the trail section. "I have one more lap in me," I told my dad. I knew he had at least one or two more left in him. His buddies Clayton and Brenden, well, they were just getting warmed up and were contenders to actually be the last man standing!
Brenden, Clayton, and Dad getting ready for a lap.
Including me, only three women started the 8th lap. I knew if I completed it I would at least get 3rd place overall. There was one girl that was running at the front of the pack the entire time and she ended up placing first. The second place female ran close to me for most of the race (we chatted a bit) but she pulled ahead on the last lap. I did not even consider trying to pass her because I could just tell she had enough in her that if I attempted to pass her, she would kick it up a notch. Plus I seriously mean it when I say I was content and proud of myself for completing that 8th lap and coming in third!
I cheered my dad on as he crossed the finish line for his 8th lap at a sprint. He was spent. I was spent. We decided to run one more lap as a cool down and not race it. At this point, my muscles were very tired and I knew I did not have 1.6 more miles at a 7:30 pace left in me! Part of me didn't want to give up (because not attempting it is essentially giving up, right?) but I would characterize it more as just being very realistic. I had just run the course 8 times at various paces. I knew what was in store and I knew how my body felt. Racing a 9th lap was just not going to turn out well! (I don't know if the other two girls attempted the 9th lap or not, but according to the results, they didn't complete it in time.)
Not my most glamorous race pic!
My dad is such a strong runner. Most of the laps he finished before I did. He doesn't have the nickname "White Lightening" for nothing! Due to the fact that the men's field was so competitive, he didn't place. It's weird, he and I basically ran the same race but I won an award. I hope when I am fifty-effing-five (as my mom would say!) I can run as well as my dad. But that basically means I can't lose any fitness at all between now and then HA!
I am so lucky I get to run with my dad!
During the cool down lap, I ran very slowly. My body felt achy and creaky. I opted to walk up the hills while my dad ran ahead. I turned my ankle (not bad) on the trail section and congratulated myself for stopping the race when I did. I was fatigued, and trail + fatigue = falls, injuries, and ankle twists! My knee caps hurt but my IT band felt strong the entire race. It didn't start to ache until the drive home.
The top contenders preparing for one of the final lap- #11!!!
Off they go!
I wasn't hungry at all after the race, but I did get cold pretty fast. Even after the men completed their winning laps, we still had to wait about 30 minutes for the awards ceremony. Normally I wouldn't have hung around for that, but obviously since I was getting an award, I did! Luckily, there was a great post race food spread, plenty of coffee, and a huge fireplace in the pavilion to keep us warm.
Brenden got 2nd place!
Clayton got 4th place and clearly had the coolest beard there.
The last men standing! 2nd, 1st, & 3rd place males.
The winner completed the last loop at a 5:42 pace!
Clayton, Brenden, and his mother, Beth.
My award was decorated by a special needs gentleman. Each award was decorated by a different person and their picture and bio are on the back. Mine was hand decorated by Willie, who enjoys "relaxing with friends over coffee, or dancing to any song with good rhythm. Everyone wants to be his friend." I'm going to hang it in my classroom.
The medals were wooden- so cool! The beneficiaries of all race proceeds went to
Here are the stats of my run according to the results page.
Lap 1- 9:58
Lap 2- 9:58
Lap 3- 9:26
Lap 4- 9:23
Lap 5- 8:55
Lap 6- 8:31
Lap 7- 8:16
Lap 8- 7:36
Lap 9- This lap was not raced. I ran it as a cool down.
I added up my total running time for the 8 laps I ran during the race and the 9th cool down lap. The total running time was about 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was the longest duration and mileage I have done in quite a long time and I was feeling it. After the race, my toes/toenails hurt pretty badly (could have been my fault or wearing cute grey boots after the race), and my knees hurt. Not my IT band but like right under my patella! I thought this was strange as half the course was on trail and the soft surface is good for your knees, but almost 3/4 of a mile of each loop was on pavement that was a gradual downhill. Pound. Pound. Pound. Pound...
Luckily, I did not suffer from a side stitch or calf cramps during this race like I did during my last two races. I wore compression socks during the run to try to deter my calves from getting angry. When I was in the bathroom changing after the race, my right calf seized up for a second as I tried to take off my running tights without taking off my sneakers. That was my own fault for attempting to contort my body that way prior to stretching! It wasn't a bad seize but it was a reminder that I need to figure this calf thing out!
And just to touch on the dehydration thing I mentioned earlier (Warning: Poop talk ahead!) I am wondering if I am dehydrated before I even begin a race and spend the entire race trying to catch up. I pose this question because I poop 1,000 times before a race. I wish I was joking, but I am not. Do you think this depletes/dehydrates me before I even begin a race? Just wondering... Because the headache I got during the last two laps lasted the entire rest of the day and I really did think I hydrated well before and during the race considering the amount of times I peed.
All in all, this was a GREAT RACE and a wonderful day with my family and other runners. I emailed the race director to tell her how great the race was. I urge anyone in the area to run the Last Man Standing or the Resolution Challenge next year!
Thank you to Elizabeth Miller, who took most of the pictures included in this post!
Have you ever done an unconventional race? I once ran a marathon relay UNDERWATER!
What's your opinion on whether all my bathroom trips are leaving me depleted before I even begin running?
Ever decide to do a race last minute? I think this is going to be my new strategy!