- What? The Endless Mile
- When? October 21, 2017
- How far? 12 Hours
- Where? Alabaster, AL
- Website: http://www.southeasterntrailruns.com/endless-mile.html
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1241188774
|A||Move for all 12 hours||Yes|
|C||Place in the top 3||Yes|
So the Endless Mile is a 6, 12, 24. and 48 hour race on a USATF-certified 1.00203 mile paved flat(ish) loop at a park near Birmingham, Alabama. In a fit of stupidity late one night, I decided I was ready to do my first ultra and signed up. I’ll be the first to admit that I did NOT train nearly enough for this race. I did a lot of base building over the summer, doing around 50-55 mpw for June/July/August and a 92 mile Super Week with ARTC at the end of August. I raced a road half in the beginning of September and have really just been fucking around and doing a bunch of random shorter races since that. Averaged probably around 40-45ish mpw for September and October. The longest (time duration) run I’ve ever done was a trail 21k race two weeks before this, around 2:41. The longest distance I’d ever run was around 14 miles. I was severely unprepared for this race.
Because I knew going in that I wasn’t really prepared, I was very much in the mindset of “this is going to be a learning experience”. I’m doing Eagle Up in June with a bunch of internet people, so I decided to use this race as a dry run for EU so I could figure out what to do next time. Alabaster is about an hour away from where I live, so I drove over in the morning with my boyfriend who volunteered himself to crew me the whole day. Got to the park at 8ish, picked up my bib, and got all my stuff arranged on a couple of folding chairs along the side of the path. My boyfriend started to ask me what my race plan was, which caught me a little off guard. I had literally NO race plan besides “keep moving the whole time and try not to go out too fast and burn out”. Lined up at the start line with my headphones and 5 hours of podcasts lined up to burn through.
Total: 17.8 miles
The first three hours kind of flew by, to be honest. I listened to three episodes of my favorite comedy podcast (shameless plug for My Brother, My Brother, and Me). My friend made me start eating at around 45 minutes in, and I’m very grateful because I totally was not even thinking about needing to fuel. Chowed down on some applesauce, a stroopwafel, and started drinking some tailwind after every lap. I chatted with a couple people doing the 48 hour race, especially one lovely old man who cheered encouragement to me every single time I passed him. These hours kind of blended together, but I clearly remember texting my family around 1.5 hours into the race to say “surprise! doing my first ultra today!” and causing my mother to almost have a heart attack. I also posted a snapchat story right after the 3 hour mark that consisted of me dancing around like a maniac, very excited that I had hit 18 miles. This was about the time I decided to try to keep doing around 5 miles/hour for as long as I could. It felt fairly sustainable, but I was far into uncharted territory and was very nervous of bonking.
Total: 33.4 miles
These hours were very exciting to me personally, because at 4.5 hours I completed my first marathon and at 5.5 hours I completed my first 50k! After around 5 hours, I switched from podcasts to music, and I also started to incorporate brief walking breaks into almost every lap. There were two small hills on the loop, and I used them as walk breaks if I felt tired. I also started to eat more, mainly lots of Tailwind, Coke, and some sugar wafers. Managed to choke down a Hammer gel on one lap even though I forgot to bring any water or liquids to wash it down with. My legs felt tired and sore, but the discomfort didn’t seem to be increasing at all and I was mainly just worrying about getting bored. There was also a VERY large barbecue happening at the park that began during this time period, and running through the smoke from the grills began to get annoying. I was also dodging a lot of people on the path at this point, as the park began to get a little crowded with non-race people out walking their dogs and stuff.
Total: 47.7 miles
After hitting 35 miles during Hour 7, I took my first “extended break” and sat down for a couple minutes at the aid station to change socks and shoes (went from Hoka One One Clifton 3’s to Ascics Gel-Kayano 23’s). This was a mistake. One lap later, and I’m changing back into the old socks and shoes. Somewhere around this time, after hitting probably around 40 miles, one of the frontrunners in the 12 hour race dropped. Don’t know what happened with him, but he looked very grumpy. Didn’t look seriously injured or anything luckily, probably just had a bad day. The man volunteering at the start/finish line came over to my friend and told him that there were two people ahead of me, but I was close behind them, closing the gap, and I “looked better than they did”. I assume this was in reference to my constant dance moves every time I stopped at the aid station. My strategy that I developed mid-race was to make sure I was having as much fun as possible, and one way that manifested was through dancing and singing along to the music playing in my headphones as well as the music playing through the speakers. I vaguely remember posting an Instagram story at mile 40, dancing to my music as I ran along the path. I look very happy, so I assume my strategy worked fairly well. I also tried to ignore the people telling me about the two people ahead of me, and concentrated on running my own race without trying to play catch up to other people. I was still very worried about “burning out” and hitting a wall, so I didn’t want to start chasing other people and matching their paces. Not sure what time this happened exactly (sometime around hour 9 or 10?), but the man who was leading the race began slowing down and eventually was reduced to a walk. The race was now being led by myself and one other woman, who was about 5 minutes ahead of me.
These hours were rough. I cracked open the can of red bull I had been saving and started taking a couple swigs from it after every lap or two. Hour 11 was probably the hardest hour, and I did a good bit of walking on each lap. I had passed the women in front of me when she took a break to eat and drink, but she was right on my heels every time I finished a lap. My boyfriend kept trying to motivate me by telling me I could win it if I kept going, but I snapped at him a little bit and told him that I didn’t care if I won or anything, I just wanted to do my own thing and move at my own pace. She eventually passed me while I paused to grab some Tailwind, and stayed consistently about half a lap ahead of me. With about an hour and a half to go, my boyfriend jumped in to run and walk with me for the rest of the race to help pace me. I also finally grabbed a handheld bottle to hopefully lessen the amount of stops I’d have to make so I could keep the pace up. With around an hour left, while breaking into a jog to head out on a new lap, I felt a very sharp pain in my right knee. I instantly slowed to a walk and instantly decided to not try to push it real hard and possibly hurt myself. The next couple of laps with my friend were probably around 75% walking and 25% running. In my mind, I knew I had lost the lead woman and I was content with just finishing the race and getting as many laps as I could. With 30 minutes to go, I decided I wanted to job the rest of the time, and we rolled around to the start/finish line. Here, we were accosted by a guy I’ve met a couple times before at races, who always has something encouraging to shout in my general direction while I’m struggling. He jogged with us for a bit and told me that there’s a “rule” with timed events. You have to go all-out in the last hour and give it all you’ve got. He told me he wanted to see me doing some 8 minute miles, and he was willing to also help pace me for those last couple laps if necessary. He also told me I needed to keep going, because I was on pace to break the course record and possibly set a state record as well. So when we started the next lap, I started to push. It hurt. A lot. We came through at around a 9:30 min/mile pace and as I started the next lap with around 7 minutes left on the clock, the race director shoved a blue flag into my hand and told me to stop immediately when I heard the horn blow, and to put the flag into the ground where I stopped. They’d go out and roll the course in the morning to get everyone’s final position. The man who motivated me before yelled that I could still win it as we ran off. My boyfriend ran ahead of me and started to pick up the pace. I went tunnel vision and just concentrated on keeping up with him and totally ignored everything else around me. About 25% of the way through the lap, I thought I spotted the woman ahead of me, and she didn’t seem too far away. As we got to about the halfway point, we could clearly see her walking ahead of us. We blew past her at around 7:40 min/mile pace and kept going. With 1-2 minutes to go, I suddenly couldn’t catch my breath and felt like I was choking and suffocating. I started to yell to my boyfriend that I couldn’t breathe. I’ve never had an asthma attack or anything before, but I assume that’s what it feels like. Kept running. Finally, the horn blew and I instantly stopped, caught my breath (finally), and shoved the flag into the ground. I was about 85-90% done with my last lap. I had won by probably less than half a mile. I officially did almost 58 laps, so almost 58 miles. My garmin went a little overboard, recording 60.5 miles. I assume that’s mostly due to a couple bathroom breaks and constantly dodging small children on the path.
After taking a couple pictures with the race director and the second-place woman, I collapsed into one of my chairs and started taking my shoes and socks off. My blisters have blisters. Two of my toes have blisters all around and underneath the entire toenail, which is super fun. I hobbled over to the aid station and asked Jake if he could make me a pb&j. I think that sandwich saved my life. I threw on my boyfriend’s sandals and hobbled over to the bathroom to change out of my nasty running clothes and into some comfy sweats. Luckily there was a big stall with handrails and a baby changing table, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get changed without a lot of outside assistance. My knees ached a lot, and my quads were very very unhappy with me. Getting up from a sitting position or trying to raise my legs up was borderline impossible. I went over to the race director, chatted with him about other races, and got my first-place award. I called my mother to reassure her that I hadn’t died or seriously injured myself, and she tried to make me promise to never do anything like this again. I did not promise that. My boyfriend helped me pack all my stuff up and wrestle some compression socks onto my poor legs, and we made our way to the car. We left the park at around 10 pm and drove two hours to a hotel in Huntsville, where my boyfriend was running a trail marathon the next morning (where he still somehow managed to get 3rd place overall, despite a lack of sleep and pacing me for 1.5 hours the day before). All in all, I’m super happy with how this race turned out. I definitely need to do more long runs and back-to-backs, but I’m definitely excited to see how Eagle Up 24 hr goes (assuming I actually get my shit together and train). I have a couple smaller races (13.5 mile trail race and a road 5k) coming up in November, and then I run my first “official” marathon in February and first “official” 50K in March. I’m hoping to beat my marathon and 50K times from this race, and I feel pretty good about my chances in doing that.