TLDR – a 12h endurance run at Claytor Lake. My second year
Fall season is here and I can run as much as I want! This past weekend I went to Claytor Lake in Dublin, VA and ran a 12 hour event. They had a 6, 12, and 24 hour event. Last year I signed up for the 6 hour and while doing it, I didn’t want to stop and bumped it to the 12 hour event.
This year, I figured the 12 hour was just right event for me too. Indeed. I know I could do the 24 hour, but it would take a lot out of me – mental as well as physical toll. 12 hours were just fun. I was happy I chose it.
Those interested in reading about last year race can find my report (here) for comparison. It was fun both years.
Coming back for a second year, I knew what to expect. We ran on the same set of trails. For some reason the course felt shorter, but it was still 4 mile ish, maybe 4.2 miles. They mowed part of the trail and it took me like 5-6 loops to figure out what was changed. Because I remembered there was a part where the grass tickled my feet toward the end. There were none this year. Then it was an aha moment.
This time, I started in the day time, at 1 pm instead of 7 pm, so I became more familiar with the trail by nightfall and had every roots and rocks memorized. Last year, I only had one loop in before darkness and I kept hitting all the rocks and roots and I did not know how to avoid them, which was a fun challenge in a way. I remember how I chose running on one side and then another side, and then right in the middle, and yet I still stumbled. I tried to find which option had the least amount of rock kicking.
Not this year. There were no rocks. At least I did not trip on any. Maybe having done the MMT and fresh off the Iron Mountain, this course is childplay. This year was easy, I could partically run it without looking. I definitely grew more confident running on trails. Last year I was a dummy for wearing a headlamp that was not bright enough to see anything. I still wear the same one, but there was no need for me to see the trail this year. Really! I knew it by heart.
This was an advantage to me when it got dark, I could still keep up my pace as if it were day time. The last three laps toward the end, I could push my pace more aggressively and got my last loop in before the time expired for 48 miles. The race timing person, commented of how fast my last lap time was (47 minutes, might have been the fastest if not the second fastest lap) and I even got lost for couple minutes because I missed a turn and had to backtrack and retrace my steps.
When I was on my 7th lap, I was telling myself I would be fine if I reached 40 miles and called it a night. At that time, I was not having much fun, because of the rain and I was sick. Later, I saw I could make 48 if I do one more lap, and I had to try it with only 65 minutes left on the clock. And I did it. It was also thank to a guy/lady who was within earshot behind me, and I felt I was chased by this ghost. I did not get to see the person because I was afraid to turn around.
There were a couple “curved balls” thrown at me in this year race. Before we arrived, the RD (race director) sent us a last minute email, telling us to expect rain and lot of it. It started raining after our first loop. It got harder and a bit harder as time went on. I did not like it but soon got used to it. We had to deal with it. There were times when I was cold. The temperature stayed steady at 65 F, which generally is a good temperature for running, but when I stopped I felt cold quickly. Later the rain stopped. It remained such till we finished. I felt humid and hot without the rain during the night. The rain was both a blessing and a bane. Over all I was glad. Interesting how the temperature stayed the same but I went through both heat and cold.
The rain though made the trail wet, muddy, and slippery. I had to change socks, clothes shoes a couple times. I brought plenty sets of clothes to change. They came in handy. I kept my feet blister free. The RD (race director) commented how each lap runners kept changing clothes that it was funny to not being able to tell who is who. It was like we were playing a trick on the race director. We were bib/chip-timed so, recording our laps was not an issue.
The second difficulty I had was as I started into my secound lap, my stomach started hurting. Again, this is the third week in a row, while running I started to have diarrhea. By the third loop, I had to stop and use the bathroom, which took about 10 minutes off my clock. Luckily I reached the bathroom in time. By the fifth loop my pain came back, this time I couldn’t make it back to the bathroom. I was still couple miles away, and I prayed dear don’t make a mess. I couldn’t hold it and stuff started flowing out from the backside and flowing down my legs. Yucky. It mixed in with the rain and mud. Maybe my imagination, but that when it rained the hardest. It was a hot mess. my legs were covered with what looked just like mud, but I knew, they were not mud. Yuck indeed! On my last too runs two weeks ago, I prayed don’t let me encounter this situation out in the woods and here go, right in the middle of the race.
I had to use leaves to clean up and then ran as fast as I could to back to my car. I did not carry toilet paper on me this time. It wouldn’t have helped because of the rain. Luckily I had everything ready since I planned to camp out later. I brough extra sets of clothes and everything. We had a shower room so I rushed into the shower with my toiletry to clean everything up. This took about 20 minutes off the clock. I also hugged the toilet to get everything completely out of my system. I think the RD thought I was seriously ill (or throwing up the food he gave me earlier). I came out with new clothes, shorts, socks, shoes, jacket, completely new and fresh. All the poopy stuff I put them in a ziplock and a trash bag to take home to clean. Now I could race.
I had not figured out what keep giving me an upset stomach week after week. It doesn’t happen while I am at home. I had not narrowed down what is the common denominator. Was it my water bag, the gels I used? Something I touched? What was it? This time it came early in the run. The last two times were late into the run.
Other than that, the run was successful. I did as many loops as last year (48 miles in 12 hours). I had no more weird stuff happening to me. The rest of the run was quiet. It was peaceful and I was in the zone. I was not fast but I was steady with my pace. There were like only 15 of us out on the trail, but we hardly came across another runner. By 1:00 AM almost all of us were finished. Many left since they came from the local areas. I live the farthest, so I stayed. There were a few 24 hour runners still out on the trail. They later took couple hours to sleep too and some started at it again when the morning came. I was a bit too excited to sleep. I had my dinner and watched others coming through the aid station.
Tried as I might to sleep but my body was all spun up. I was restless until morning when a couple more people arrived to run.
We could camp near the start. In the morning, I did one loop on the trail, to honor a recent runner Eliza (from Tennessee) who was murdered while running. Many of my runner friends did a memorial run last Friday, but I couldn’t wake up early that day. I then packed up and waited couple runners to come in before heading home.
Looking ahead, I will be going to PA to do Rock n the Knob, a fun and hard trail marathon. I love the fall, because of racing. My schedule is packed with them. I am in the process of looking for more races to do for next year. Stay tune.