Sunday, May 03, 2020

Yeti 24 Hour Challenge "Race" Report

When I last posted (you know, back in February...) I said that I was planning on writing race reports for all of my races this year! At that time, I didn't have a ton of races on the schedule to begin with, but I had plenty of things that I anticipated jumping into in the spring. And then...well, we all know what happened next. Up until that point, I had worked my way into a fairly solid training routine - I had actually gotten my mileage up into the 50s and was doing workouts and long runs regularly, although I wasn't really sure what I was training for. It was almost like I went on Boston-training autopilot despite not being signed up for the race, and I actually was having a lot of mixed feelings about that, watching my teammates get super fit and sort of wishing I was motivated to do the same but also not having a race to aim towards. But I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my eyes on my Ironman base, getting to the pool every week and working out on the trainer semi-regularly. I had planned on racing the Hampton Half the first weekend of March (which I really regret NOT doing because it would have been my last opportunity to race but didn't sign up because I ended up being invited on a work trip to South Korea that would be a week and a half before the race. Which, you know, was super exciting! Until it got cancelled the day before I was supposed to leave as the result guessed it...COVID 19. At that point I was really blase about the whole thing and would have been totally comfortable with international travel - knowing what I know now, clearly it's a good thing I didn't go! But still a bummer to have that opportunity, which was really a pretty wild confluence of events, taken away.

In the end, I signed up for the one race I promised I would NOT do in 2020, the New Bedford Half. I was pretty nervous about how I'd perform as I knew I hadn't exactly put in PR training. Then again, I've run some of my best half marathons off some pretty shitty training, so I figured there was a chance of a solid performance - conditions which always make me nervous. I almost didn't have to be nervous for too long, because the Tuesday prior to the race we found out it was cancelled. As I said to my friends, NOT what I meant when I set that New Year's resolution.  That was the week that I look back on as the turning point when things really started hitting the fan - stuff was increasingly getting cancelled, schools were cancelling student placements (still missing my PT student who I was supposed to have through June), and my clinic was starting to think about what we were going to do if clients no longer felt comfortable coming in. We ended up basically doing a full pivot to telehealth during the following week - a week during which I felt really run down and had some pretty unpleasant GI symptoms, but which I chalked up to stress and anxiety. That is, until I got REALLY sick the following week. Did I have COVID? We may never know (well, hopefully they'll figure out an antibody test that actually works and I can know someday). All I know is it was the sickest I've been in my adult life, with the worst headache, back pain, and fatigue I've ever experienced for a week straight. Not fun at all, and served to kill any momentum I'd developed with training. Once I felt better I started running again, but fairly halfheartedly. I'll admit I really went through a few weeks of feeling like everything was totally pointless. I saw teammates and friends who were continuing to train like beasts and run fast, and that somehow made me feel worse - like if I really loved running or really wanted to be the best I could be, I SHOULD be finding a way to continue to act as if I had a race on the horizon. I realized and continue to realize that this is flawed thinking and everyone needs to deal with this in their own way! And as it turned out, my own way turned out to be something completely unexpected!

The idea of "virtual" races is a total turnoff for me - I have no interest in running a solo time trial and calling it a race. Because, duh, that's a time trial, and not a race! Races involve racing, with other people, who are actually in the same space at the same time. As I mentioned, I also have had minimal desire to run fast in any capacity. But last weekend, somewhere in the depths of social media, I saw something with the hashtag #yeti24hourchallenge. I clicked it. What was this? Not a race, exactly, but sort of a personal Ragnar relay, involving running 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours. Huh. I continued scrolling, but the idea wouldn't leave me. I created a memo in my phone called "Stupid running things I have pondered during the quarantine", where I essentially planned out how I would do this challenge, if I were ever to do such a thing, which I obviously would not. No, not me. Why would I do that? It was so stupid, so arbitrary, so pointless! And yet the idea wouldn't let me go. I felt this excitement bubbling up that I truly hadn't felt in months - one of the best ways I've heard the frustrations of this period of life described is that it's stolen the big highs of life and has replaced everything with shades of gray. You're healthy, you have a job, life is OK, but where are those moments that really excite you? Hard to find. So as I kept thinking about this stupid challenge and I envisioned myself doing it, I couldn't stop. It was something in color. And so, the next day, I blurted out to my husband "I think I'm going to do something stupid next weekend..." And there was no turning back.

Because of the nature of this challenge I had the opportunity to pick my start date and time, and believe me I pondered what the optimal setup would be. Would I rather run at 1 am or 3 am? Would it be more advantageous to put the night legs in the middle or at the end? In the end, I decided to start on Friday at 5 pm, after work. This would put my night legs in the middle which seemed to make sense to me, and would also make it so that I was really only messing with one night of my life, not two. I became very excited about planning my outfits and even did a race braid (Andrew made fun of me for this but YOU KNOW's been 3 months since my last race, I need to make sure I still remember how!) I didn't have a strategy other than completion, so was basically aiming to run easy pace throughout. The clock struck 5, and off I went!

5 pm, Leg 1: 5.14 miles, 7:42 pace
It was 60 degrees and humid when I headed out for my first leg, which was unfortunate mainly because we're all being forced to wear masks outdoors at the moment and I'm not enjoying it in the the best of times, let alone when temps start to rise. But I was psyched to be out there and starting this ridiculous challenge! I chose one of my favorite 5 mile loops to start and this basically just felt like an everyday run - which it was! I felt like I took this lap out a little hot and kept trying to warn myself to slow down or I'd never make it through all the miles ahead. With my weekly mileage typically around 35 over the last month I wasn't really sure how 31 miles in 24 hours was going to go. I also have barely been running under 8 minute pace recently, so 7:40s felt like OMG SPEED lol.

Not bad at all (also yes I do own 6 different buffs and coordinated them with my outfits for each leg...why do you ask?)

As soon as I got back, I drank a bottle of strawberry kiwi nuun and ate 2 buffalo chicken tenders and 2 slices of pizza...FUEL OF CHAMPIONS! I wasn't quite sure how the whole eating thing was going to work but my stomach is generally pretty solid and I figured 3 hours was long enough to digest as long as I didn't overstuff myself. Watched 2 episodes of Fringe with Andrew, drank some more water,  ate a couple of Clif chews, and got ready for leg 2.

9 pm, Leg 2: 5.36 miles, 7:48 pace
This was the loop I was least certain about my route for. It was obviously dark at this point and I actually rarely run from my house in the dark...almost all of my winter evening routes are commutes from work. Most of my home routes traverse more poorly lit areas and bike paths and I couldn't really think of one that I was totally comfortable with. So I ended up doing a double loop of the two major roads near my house, which ended up working out perfectly! This was actually the loop that I had anticipated enjoying the least, partly because of the boring route and partly because it was a night-ish leg but not a true night leg. However, it actually ended up feeling smooth and delightful, and felt like it went by very quickly. Weather was still very humid and actually raining on and off at points. I wore my reflective vest but didn't turn the lights on...I wasn't going to be crossing many streets and I wanted to walk the line between safety and drawing attention to myself as an insane person roaming the streets after dark. I only saw like 3 people on this loop and it was delightful to be able to go mask-free for also gave me the opportunity to yell the "FUUUUUCK" from the song Rockin' The Suburbs out loud which gave me a good laugh.

Pseudo night leg complete, also very what is humidity??

When I returned from this leg, my two primary goals were hydration and sleep. I drank a bottle of Skratch because I figured some calories would be a good idea, and then tried to sleep. Luckily, as my Reach the Beach teams will attest to, I am GREAT at falling asleep in short bursts as needed. I was able to sleep from 10:00-12:30 and woke up with my alarm HYPED for the next leg...because....NIGHT LEG! I was also absolutely starving and ate about 3/4 of a slice of pizza before heading you do.

1 am, Leg 3, 5.31 miles, 7:35 pace
In my Ragnar experiences, the legs that I always dread initially and end up LOVING are the night legs. There is something so bizarrely wonderful about running around in the middle of the night! Of course, in a Ragnar, there are hundreds of people around doing the same thing as a solo running challenge, not so much. I feel very comfortable and safe in my neighborhood but there's still a certain element of risk to running solo in the dead of night, and so I think there was an extra layer of nervous energy going into this leg. I had also planned a couple of treats for myself as a tribute to my RTB team, and so had a beer waiting as a "rest station" on my porch (a good use of this random watermelon beer that's been sitting in the back of our fridge for ages) along with a light up thunder stick which I planned to take for my last part of the leg. My route for this leg was simple, boring, and the safest I could think of: laps around my block. Not exciting in the least, but it got the job done! As the laps progressed my mood also progressed from mildly nervous to happy to downright giddy with delight. At one point I was really startled because I saw what looked like a human figure standing in a window. On second glance, it was a huge STUFFED BEAR! I stopped for some beer with about 1.5 miles to go and ended up turning the rest of the leg into a progression, stopping one more time to grab my light up thunder stick. Shout out to the bus driver who definitely saw me sprinting around the block with my light up stick and probably thought I was on drugs.... This leg was also magical because as you can imagine, I did not see a single human...which meant NO FACEMASK and it was a glorious run of freedom for that reason alone.

This is so stupid, this is so fun. 

I drank ~half the beer, ate the rest of my slice of pizza, and calmed down Topper who went NUTS when I returned home at 1:45. I was pretty wired from the night leg giddiness but I knew I needed to get some more sleep, and again my talent shown through. It took a little longer to fall asleep this time but I'd estimate I got another couple of hours, 2:15-4:30 or so. Just had to pretend I was lying in a random field in NH, just like Reach the

5 am, Leg 4 , 5.40 miles, 7:46 pace
This was definitely the most mentally challenging leg. The 4:30 am alarm was...ugh. I don't know why I thought it would be light out by the time I left for this leg, but it was very much not, and I struggled to find what I needed in the darkness. The temperature had dropped overnight from the 60s to low 40s, so I ended up wearing a long sleeve, which I had to find. I was also trying not to wake up poor Andrew, who had most DEFINITELY been woken up by Topper's alarm barking after my 1 am leg. I had originally selected a pure out and back on the bike path for this leg, but upon realizing how dark it still was I decided to stick to the main road for the first section and then join the bike path as it got lighter. My legs were definitely NOT awake for the first mile of this run, and when I saw my first split was 8:08 I was like, oh, yup, OK, here it comes. This was more the pace I had been expecting to run all along! Turns out, it was really just the fact that I was running slightly uphill, into a headwind, and was still half asleep, because things started to feel a lot better as the run progressed. I've been mainly avoiding the Minuteman bike path lately because it's been SO packed with people that a mask is definitely required and I find myself just getting annoyed with people's lack of social distancing. But at 5 am on a Saturday? Not a soul in sight! It was really lovely and peaceful...maybe I should run at sunrise more often? Downhill + tailwind + waking up = picking it up the second half of the run. I got a particular kick out of the fact that the last song on my playlist was called "Here Comes the Sun" (not the Beatles song) came on just as I turned into a vantage point where I could actually SEE the sun glowing orange over the horizon. It was fantastic.

Warning sign about social distancing with the glory of spring trees at sunrise. I definitely think I was adequately distant from anyone else

This is definitely the photo where my lack of sleep is most evident lol. 

I originally thought maybe I'd just stay up after this leg, but within about 10 minutes of getting back it became evident that that would NOT be the case. I pulled out a bagel to eat later, drank about half a bottle of nuun, and then crashed - think this was the hardest I slept the whole time, from about 6-8 am. Woke up, took the dog for a walk, ate my Iggy's bagel with butter, drank a tiny amount of coffee, and got ready to head out for leg number 5.

9 am, Leg 5, 5.20 miles, 7:42 pace
Leg 5 was by far the worst my legs felt throughout this entire challenge. I think it was probably the running -> sleeping -> running -> sleeping and not doing a great job of stretching or really doing anything to promote recovery in between, but the muscle fatigue and stiffness were very real starting off on this leg. I kept trying to internally remind myself again that I could slow down? But no matter what I did 7:30-7:40 seemed to be the order of the day. This leg was also somewhat unfortunate in that the route I selected was relatively popular and so I ended up having to keep my mask on the entire time, which was slightly miserable. It was only about 50 and sunny, but felt WAY warmer, and I swear having something over my face triggers my whole body to be like "OMG we are hot! Need to sweat more! Need to tell her we're hot!" even when it doesn't need to be that way. It was a good route for the circumstances though; an old morning route (because I never run in the morning now lol) which I could basically do on complete autopilot. I thought a lot on this leg about how grateful I am to my years of cumulative running to be able to do something like this basically on a whim. It's pretty cool that I could just wake up one day and decide to do this ridiculous thing at a pretty good pace, and know that my body would handle it. This run also reminded me why 5 miles and change is my FAVORITE bread and butter run distance. It's just long enough to feel like a real run but short enough that even if you're not feeling great, by the time you start to feel meh you only have like 2 miles left, which feels like essentially nothing. The amount that I love 5 milers is definitely problematic when it comes to marathon training and I SHOULD probably be running 7-9 miles every day, but you know what, they've gotten me this far and I'm OK with that. The fact that the distance of each run was 5 miles was actually one thing that drew me to this challenge! 
I really nailed it on the coordination of this outfit (and you can't even see my socks, which literally are from the same set as the singlet...I'M SO COOL lol)

It almost felt like I had a ridiculous amount of time after this leg without that whole "sleep" thing to worry about! I ended up drinking some iced coffee and just lounging around reading for awhile. I also placed an order for beer delivery so I would have some treats following my final leg. I think I ate 2 more Clif chews? Finally, it was almost 1 pm, and time to head out on my LAST leg of the challenge!

1 pm, Leg 6, 5.15 miles, 7:24 pace
By this point the temperature was approaching 70 degrees and sunny, and I was nervous about how my legs would react given how shitty they'd felt on the preceding leg. I mean, not that it mattered? But now that I was 5 legs in and had only run a solitary mile over 8 minute pace, I was sort of stupidly invested in keeping that way. And so, I did the logical thing, which was to run my last leg FASTER than any of the preceding legs, because I am dumb. It did not feel easy in the slightest. I kept reminding myself that even though it was a different set of circumstances than a straight race, this was STILL the furthest I had ever run in a 24 hour period and it was not super surprising that my legs were like WTF is wrong with you. The route I chose to finish with is my new standard 5 mile loop, which runs down Marathon Street about a half mile from the end which I thought was appropriate. About halfway through the leg one of my friends called (while also on her run) and so I finished the challenge feeling like I was running with a friend - a feeling I really miss, by the way! And so, many hours and many miles later, I was done!

But wait...because I am ridiculous, and my total distance in the "official" section of the challenge was 31.6, and I REALLY wanted to run my age...I went inside and got Topper, and ran another half mile to finally finish things off. It was a pretty anticlimactic "finish" but I was pretty happy, especially with how consistent I'd been throughout the whole challenge. And then I spent the afternoon reading and enjoying a beer on the porch! What a great day.

In summary, I LOVED this experience! It was completely different from anything I've ever done before, coming the closest to a Ragnar relay but without the teammates to keep you motivated. I definitely felt better physically than I expected to given my current training load so that was a nice surprise - I may not have much in the way of speed right now, but I'm not lacking for endurance! While I'm not really counting it as such this was technically my first ultra distance event since I rounded the miles to a full 50K. And I have to say...the thought of trying an ultra seems a lot more tempting now than it ever has in the past. For whatever reason the idea of running faster than ever just isn't that interesting to me right now...but the idea of going further? I think I can get behind that.

Yeti 24 Hour Challenge
32.15 miles, 4:06:56 moving time (7:40 avg pace), 21:55 elapsed time