A few weeks ago I mentioned about running the 50K fatass on Bull Run Trail with the Virginia Happy Trail people, or do a 50K on Waterfall Mountain (also their trail), or join a guy running on the W&OD trail (Day391). In the end, I didn’t do any of those that weekend (Day392). But then in the following weeks, I was able to do all three of them. I wrote about hiking on the Bull Run a couple entries back and then visited the Waterfall Mountain last weekend (last entry Day393). They all have been a blast. This 3rd run, on the W&OD was of the best of them all.
It started, unexpectedly couple days ago, I had one of the most spectacular runs (on W&OD).
Our team has been doing the circumpolar run (CRAW) around the globe as a virtual run, that is, we ran it at a place of our choosing, and pretend we are running around the world. This ‘race’ is divided into 12 regions. We were about to finish the second region.
I was not sure whether we could complete it on Monday because the miles left over were a lot for our group (twice of our daily run total). We had about 80 miles left when I went to bed the night before. By morning we got it down a bit (we have people on our team that are on the other side of the world). Then as the day progressed it was down to 60 miles and then to 50 miles. In my mind, if the group could get it down to around 20-ish miles then I and a lady could finish out the region, because she and I could do some big mile before the day is over. But through out the day, miles barely bulged much.
By noon time, I went out and did a 5K. I told my group I would run some more miles after work – gave them a number about 10-ish but I told them we should try to close the region if possible. Some put in a bit more miles. By 5PM, the last person posted to the group that there was only 32 miles left. Everyone said, they finished their posting. A few of them though did not reply (a way to drive me crazy), but I assumed they would not run any more miles since based on past history that was mostly the case. Our group is pretty low key. We rank 131 out of about 200 groups (there are another 100 groups bottom of the pile but they are really not real contenders because they usually have only have one or two people running on their team). Our group is not too shabby compare to them, but we are not really seriously able to run for a prize (there is ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ ranking price). Our team is not even a silver contender. That is true, we all agreed that this CRAW event should not become a pressure. So far, I am well-pleased with how we are doing. We are not fast and we are not dysfunctionly slow (most of the bottom 100 teams are dysfunctional – like one person on a team doing thousand of miles while the rest of the teammates are doing like 10-20 miles). Our team is mostly balanced.
However, as I looked at the remaining miles to close the region, I said we could finish it. I know we have a strong runner on our team (S), and she said she planned to run after work too, however, she is in the West Coast, so as I was leaving work, she was still working and and she did not confirm yet, and so I was not certain how many miles she would be doing or if any at all.
She had been running 10 miles the last couple days, and I did not want to over burden her to run another 10 miles today. She is a newbie ultra runner, who just said to have stepped into the ultra world of running her first 50K a few weeks back.
I asked her if she planned to do 5 miles or 10 miles. If she would do 5 miles, I would have to run 26-ish miles (marathon).
In my mind, it was game on. I was ready to run a marathon or more. I love the challenge. I told myself even if it is a 50k, I can do it.
We had warm weather. It had been cold on x-mas and the weekend that followed, but on Monday, it rised 20 degrees to around 50s. As I left work, it was still around 50 but I knew it would drop back down to low 30s when I finished by midnight. Brrr.
I was ready. I packed my hydration bag with a long pants but I had shorts on, planning to put the pants on later in the evening. I put on a double layer top, a t-shirt underneath and a long sleeves over it. I tied around my waist another long sleeves, for just in case. I hate running in the cold. Put on a glove (just the left one because I lost the right one over the weekend at the Waterfall Mountain.) I carried a hand torch and a giant head lamp on my head. I put couple packs of gels in my hydration pocket and an extra bottle of water in my vest’s other pocket.
By the time I left my work building, it was near 5:30pm. I had until midnight to count as a finish for that day. This was about 6 and half hours. I know I ran 50k in 6 hours before but tonight I had to do 32 miles (which was a mile more).
The extra half hour allowance was not that much extra time. Because, I was not in race day condition…first, it was the time of day. In a normal race, we would start in the morning. Now it was at the end of the day. The body is not as strong or fresh at night than in the early morning. Also in a race, there are rest stops and aid stations. This time, it was self-supported (I had to carry everything on me like water, extra clothes, flashlight(s)). This would slow me down. Also an important factor is race day crowd support/race director/timing device and finish line, which would have given me the extra drive. Lastly, the course. At an official race, the course is usually controlled, but this run was not. I would have to stop for all traffic lights and at street crossings, which would eat into my time. (A 10 min pace could easily become a 12 min pace by waiting for 2 mins at a crossing.)
However, I was prepped and hyped. Let run this 32 miles in 6 and half hours. So I stepped out. I had a course in mind. The W&OD (Washington-Old Dominion) Trail is within walking distance (maybe a mile) from my workplace. Recently I learned someone ran a 100 mile on that trail doing a out and back from Arlington to Purcellville, so 32 miles on it is doable.
At first, I did not know which way to go, then I decided to run toward Arlington instead of Purcellville, since I could get better support (gas stations/restaurants) going into town than away from town. Also I am more familiar heading into town (Arlington/DC) than going the other way. I believe too it would be warmer by a few degrees. The suburb tends to be cooler.
The sun had already set. I could feel the temperature dropped. As I started running, I warmed up a bit but I decided to keep my second layer on, knowing it would continue to drop through the night. Let it be a bit warm now than cold later. I figured I would be the frog in the pot, and I might not notice the gradual change in the temperature. Fingers-crossed.
I decided to check in with my group every 10 miles and to keep them posted. First 10 miles I was strong. I got to Arlington where W&OD trailhead is. My group posted a few more miles by then. There are ‘only’ 18 miles left they said. The time was 7:15 then. I took a 15 minute break. Not intended, but by the time I started again it was 7:30. The night is still early and, it gave me a big boost that finishing the Region is within reached.
I had not heard back from S. I know she would not fail me, but then I would not want to put 10 miles on her. I could run 18 more miles, but I also wanted to be back at my car and not be out for that long. I did not expect the rest of my group (other than S) to run any more based on the past four months we were together (we only put like 30-40 miles per day). I felt we squeezed enough out of them already.
So I continued on toward DC using the 4-mile run trail, which was a ‘continued’ of the W&OD at a light around the corner. I felt I should give S some buffer and in case she couldn’t run, I could go back out to run. The fewer miles I have to do later on, the better.
I didn’t get hungry, but I knew this was an ultra and I need food in order to keep me going later on. About a mile, I know there was a Giant, our local groceries. I stopped there before and knew they have a foot long Italian breads, with cheese and salami. I love the salt content. I set that as my turn around point as well as grabbing that italian bread.
Around mile 15, I got a message from S. She got off work. It was around 9pm. She confirmed she could run 10 miles later that night. I took my second break at mile 17. Why is this significant? Weariness has taken in. I started to walk a bit instead of running. I had still 5 more miles to the car. I told S, she might only need to do 6 miles and at the same time updated the group of my progress. I told them that I would have 22 miles by the time I finished, basically 6 miles for S to do. I also was at the West Falls Church Metro station (our subway), and if our group had enough miles, I would take the train back to my office. No one posted any more miles. So I went on with my run.
However, during the last hour, someone (actually multiple persons) updated their miles and it was the 6 miles total needed, but neither S nor I knew about it and they did not let the group know. My team. grr. But we did not know. Everyone was aware we would be finishing the Region, yet none of them spoke up about having enough miles. S started doing her 6 miles and I did my remaining 5 too.
I arrived back at my workplace where my car was parked and told the group I did it. Entered my miles and so did S. We finished our region, 3094 miles in 73 days. We had a few miles over. (A team member on the other side of the world then started the next Region, I guess it was like 8/9AM for her the next day, which is perfect, since we do not want any time off the clock. Talk about a relay)
I did not mind that my run was not a 50k nor a marathon. What matter was we finished the region. It was a team effort. Mondays are normally my rest day from running, so the less miles I needed to do the better. Yet, there I was running a 22 mile on a cold winter night.
I was a bit miff about certain team members who did not communicate to the rest of the team of what they did or plan to do so enable better plannimg for everyone since this was a team effort. The reason is none of us want to run extra miles that do not count toward our goal. We all could run, but if we could be inside, we would choose to be in.
We celebrated the end of the region. I was happy that I finished the run at 10pm instead of at midnight. I still had to drive home, shower, and eat. I still had my Italian on me. I was carrying that foot long in one hand while running and had a bite every so and then whenever I had to wait at a street crossing. It looked ridiculous. However, now I wanted a proper meal. By the time all said and done it was midnight.
I was enjoying the run. It was as exciting as an actual race, since I know every mile I ran counted toward the team mile. I had the biggest kick (or runner high) in such a long time. I felt asleep with a smile.