Well, my first ultramarathon is DONE, and
out of the way! After my great performance at the Route
66 Marathon, (before Thanksgiving), I took 2 weeks off for
some "easy paced" runs, to stuff my face full of turkey
(and anything else of nutritional and non-nutritional
value) before I started training for my first
Lake 50K++. From
the beginning, I approached this ultra as a "chill" type
of race...no pressure, just get your miles in, don't bonk
and most of all...cross the finish line standing up.
Sound easy for 32 miles? Sure! :-) I got the training
in, but the "meat" of my training was in the final 6
weeks, consisting of running the Holiday Lake course,
running the Rivanna Trail in C'ville, and Wednesday O-Hill
sessions with the CAT group.
Pre race dinner: Lots of carbo-rich foods and my
favorite...cheesecake (I wish I got a second piece of
cheesecake, instead of the second piece of lasagna). So
many Patagonia jackets in this crowd of ultra-folks...i
think it's more than I've even seen inside Blue Ridge
Mountain Sports! After the pre-race briefing (where the
theme was "If you don't see yellow tape on the
course...you're LOST! And you're stupid." The race
director, David Horton, was quite a hoot. After the
briefing, he had a quick Q&A session for any ultramarathon
newbies (a lot of us in the room), ranging from topics as
what to eat at the aid station, how to keep motivated
(Horton's recom: Walk with a purpose...ie. don't stop),
and how to use the bathroom while running (I'm not making
Race morning, pre-race: The start line was LITERALLY
outside my cabin. 2 bananas, a clif bar, and some weak
coffee (sorry, I'm a coffee snob). Hit the bathroom one
more time...exit said bathroom with 2 minutes before gun
time (after the national anthem and a quick prayer by
Horton), and we're off! Race temps: low 20s, no wind.
Attire: My lucky red hat, my favorite NYC marathon gloves,
mittens, 2 long sleeves, armsocks, and shorts. I'm
thankful the predicted 15 mph wind wasn't present!
Usually, the next lines of my race reports include mile
splits, but not this time. Race morning, I decided to PUT
away the ol' Garmin GPS and just go with the trusty Timex
Ironman Triathlon. I knew the aid stations were about 4
miles apart...so it made for easy math to calculate my
average splits. I wanted to just ENJOY this one.
My fellow training buddy TJ and I were literally the LAST
two up the first hill. Horton suggested the night before
that newbies WALK that hill, from the start line until we
got into the woods. We took that advice to heart. It was
wall to wall people until 30 minutes in (from being in the
back of the pack).
Miles 1 to 4: Just trying to get the motor going. TJ and
I spilt about 30 minutes in...he stopped for bathroom
break...he told me to go on. Admiring the sunrise as we
made our way along the course.
Miles 4 to 8: The course thins out...meeting people along
the way...most of the people I encountered had done an
ultra or Holiday Lake before. I realized I'm OVERhydrated.
So, taking a nature break every 4 miles became routine
from here on.
Miles 9 to 12 - my fastest 4 mile section. Can't explain
that...many downhills (which later would become uphills).
Doing my best to not FLY down these hills, and risk
breaking something. I decided against taking salt tablets
or eating potato chips at the aid stations...rather; I
brought pistachios to eat/get my salt intake. And when I
wasn't taking a GU, taking an electrolyte capsule. The
lead runners are coming my way...they're making it look
Miles 13 to 16: I started hearing cheers from across the
lake, so I knew the end of the first loop was soon! The
course gets narrow coming in...so I stopped for faster
traffic to pass by (and made sure I didn't fall down the
side of the trail into the lake). I went off course very
briefly...when I saw the trail I was on went STRAIGHT into
the lake! Thankfully, it was only a few yards of the
course. End of loop 1: 3:06 minutes (cut off for the
first loop was 3:45). In and out, after donning a dry
shirt and refilling my Camelbak.
Miles 17-32 are just the loop, in reverse. With every
significant hill on this course, I reduce my speed to a
fast walk...and take in some fluids or eat some nuts.
Glen (my traveling buddy, a couple months out from the
completion of his 50 marathons/50 states under 4 hours
tour), runs this loop with me. He's keep me entertained
along the way...laughing....and keeping me from thinking
about what madness I'm putting my body through. I tell
him the tricks I've been doing to keep myself motivated on
the first loop...and making him aware of a some stream
crossings. We encounter lots of mud on the second loop,
which is easily cleaned up by stream crossings. Sidenote:
I POWERED through a stream crossing...literal gallop
through it. The runner behind me exclaimed "Dude! That
was hard core!!!!" Well...wearing smart wool socks
On the final mile, I catch Kathryn, a fellow C'villian. I
told Glen (and I think she overheard) that once we get to
the pavement, I'm putting the hammer DOWN and getting to
the finish. There was an orange marker, stating it was a
mile until the finish. I looked at my watch and saw that a
6 hour finish time was out of the picture (I didn't have a
time goal in mind....though a 6 hr finish would have been
After passing 55 runners during that second loop (thanks
Glen for counting...I'm still amazed!), I crossed the
finish line in 6 hours 3 minutes (and some seconds). I
wasn't beat up when I got to the finish line...I was
surprised! I finished the second loop in 2 hours 57
minutes...9 minutes FASTER than my first loop. I was
- Running without the GPS was a blessing. Not worried
about the pace. I wasn't chained to technology. I ran by
how I was breathing and how my body felt.
- Speed really does kill! As does pavement. The softer
surface and slower pace were also a blessing over 32
- Race week fueling and race day fueling plan: it passes!
Salmon and veggies early in the week and a low carb diet
until 2-3 days before the race got the old carbs out of
the system, enabling to build up a great supply for race
Things that motivated me:
- Friends and family that thought I was crazy for
attempting my first marathon 12 years ago...and even
crazier (18 marathons later, ha ha) for going for my first
ultramarathon. It was a challenge to break through to
the next level. I know many were cheering for me; despite
this crazy goal!
- This hymn, which I learned from my days in a Mennonite
High School. So appropriate: It's called Guide My
- Thoughts of my Tita Kelly, my aunt and my godmother She
died last month at the young age of 77. A massive heart
attack. For 32 miles, I carried a picture with her in my
Camelbak. When I felt tired,I thought of her and her
family...and for my extended family, as we continue to
Will there be another ultramarathon for Andrew, you ask?
Mmmmmmmm....there is a possiblity. I just won't say the %
of that possiblity. :-)