Wednesday, November 12, 2014

142 MILES AT NJ ONE DAY


So long story short i ran around a one mile loop 142 times in 23 hours 57 minutes and 10 seconds.


The rest of what you are about to read is corny but honest.

So many things contributed to this...  But the main difference going into this race is I finally shut that voice up inside my head that tells me you can’t or to aim a little lower cause you aren’t good enough.

That same voice was the reason I kept bartending after college instead of getting a job in my field. I went to Pratt which is a pretty prestigious art school but I told myself I probably slipped in under the radar somehow and there is no way you are going to make it in the real art world.  So I didn’t even try.  It led me down the wrong path and 6 years ago I started picking up the pieces.  This isn’t going to be the story of my life but I'm saying this because I’m sure there are many people who can relate.  All of your family, friends, neighbors and even your newspaper delivery boy (do they still exist?) can believe in you but if you don’t then you might as well go back to bed.
YES, I KNOW ITS CORNY! SHUT UP, JEAN LUC PICARD!
An entire blog could be written praising Michele Yates's coaching and support. The whole idea of even dreaming of running close to 140 was because she told me I could.  After I ran a sub 19 hour 100 miler on trails, I started to really believe I was capable of the things she was telling me I could do.  Michele, genuinely insisted I would crush my goal of 130 something miles.  She has carefully answered  and dealt with my barrage of questions and freak outs leading up to this event. And there were many. On top of the "psychological" guidance she has given me, my athletic training has been completely overhauled. You can be fast and train for long events like this!
Look at us run fast!
A few weeks ago when I was out in Oregon, I had the privilege of meeting up with Pam Smith for a run in the charming town of Salem, Oregon. (All this is relevant I swear.  I'm not just name dropping!)  I was super pleased with myself to be bringing Pam a Trail WhippAss singlet as a birthday gift as she had recently turned 21 ;).  She one upped me and handed me a red USA jersey. Like an actual one they give you when you are one of the National Teams.  She said for inspiration. Indeed. I had told Pam my goal of running 134 miles for a spot on the team but when she referenced the goal later she had turned that number into 135.  I corrected her.   However, the whole time in the back of my mind I had this feeling that I wasn't going to be satisfied with 130s but I was too scared to claim 140.
This is where the shirt lives.
NJ TrailSeries NJ One Day. Rick and Jennifer McNulty put on great events. Anyone who has run one of their events knows this.  That’s why they have the same people return over and over again. 3 Days at the Fair and NJ One Day attract a real special kind of person.


A Canadian, an American and a Brit cross a timing mat....

Yoshiko and I drive up Friday afternoon.  It takes us forever to get there but we see 2 beautiful rainbows and eventually a giant super moon because Yay its winter and the sun sets before 5 o clock!  We eat at a diner near out hotel because after all NJ is the diner capital of the world.  I’m not hungry.  I  barely had an appetite for 2 weeks leading up to the race which is not characteristic of me ever. Carbo-loading is supposed to be fun but it was more of a chore.

I was less nervous the few days leading up to the race though. I had gotten my major freak out episode over with early in the prior week.  Even still the race was all I could think about. Visualizing it. Imagining myself running in circles. I stalked all the females that were listed as having registered.  I had read about Mary Lou Corino and knew she had many Canadian records and had pulled out 271 miles at 3 Days at the Fair this year.  So this woman knew how to gut it out.  When I found out Sky was in fact going to race after all though I knew she was my biggest competition. I was right.

Josh Finger, the Man!
Race morning was relaxed and hassle free.  So many familiar faces.  Josh Finger fresh off an awesome top ten finish at Grindstone (which Ken Tom and I helped crew and pace). Keith Straw graced us with his presence after expressing a reluctance to race... the man I had looked up to for so many years since I first heard his name when I started ultra running in 2011. He said the only reason he signed up in the first place was so he could beat me. Challenge accepted. My closest friend Yoshiko Jo who has won numerous 100s, with a distance PR of 116 miles and has proven over and over again she has the mental toughness of a Samurai. Meredith Murphy, numerous Badwater finishes and my "sort of" brother's neighbor, was running the 12 hour.  Ferdinand, who is becoming a close friend, also showed up early for his 12 hour race just to cheer me on.


I lined up next to Keith near the Canadians and decided to start with them.  I chatted with Mary Lou and Lisa VanWolde (another bad ass Canadian) and Keith.  When I told Mary Lou my goal, to my surprise she seemed to genuinely believe I could do it even though she knew nothing about me. I thought that was cool and showed real character on her part. It was also a huge comfort to have someone like her encouraging me each lap throughout the event. I will forever be grateful of the support her and Lisa showed me on the course. 


When Sky lined up in front, I knew she was going to go out fast and sure enough she began to lap me. Lap after lap. In the first 6 or 7 hours she lapped me over and over putting more and more miles between us. It was so hard to let her go but I had my plan and I knew I had to stick to it. Patience is not my strong suit but my plan was to hold steady.   I figured at the pace she was going, she was either going to have to slow down later or end up running 150 something miles and if she did that then my hat would be off to her.  I knew deep down though this race was mine. I was not going to lose it.  I have never been so sure of anything in my life. This new found confidence kept me calm. I knew to win though it was going to have to be a 140 mile day and that goal in the back of my mind had to be a reality.
Don't be fooled by her cuteness!
My first crew shift was Dylan Armanjani aka Papa WhippAss. He had crewed me at Viaduct and his smile is infectious. He snapped photos and handed me gels and water. Later on Kat, Jun and their daughter Mariska showed up. Truly a TrailL WhippAss affair. That’s why I love those guys. That’s why I am a WhippAss. Midway through the day Ryan Schannauer showed up and was there for the long haul although the plan was for him to get some sleep once Otto, Ken Tom and Christine showed up, since his other job was to drive what he called my “wrecked carcass” home.  
You so badass, Kat.
My goal was to hit 70 miles in 12 hours. The first 12 hours were uneventful and basically felt like a waiting game. Just logging miles until the real race started. Shortly after 12 hours I had covered 72 loops and was slightly ahead of my schedule.  My plan in the next 12 hours was to gradually gain laps back.  But then my low hit.  It happens.  It lasted an hour and I slowed a bit.  My feet were killing me and I felt like I couldn’t get my flow back.  Finally I decided to switch from my Saucony Kinvaras to my Hoka Bondis. I'm not a Hoka fan but they were the only shoes I had with max cushioning. I was really regretting not getting the Altra Paradigms before the race. I had the Altra Ones but was afraid they weren't enough cushioning at this point in the game even though they are my favorite road shoe. Altras are the only shoe that make my toes happy. In the Hokas my toes felt squished. But I made do.  With fresh socks, cushy shoes and some coffee around 13 hours in, I came out of my low never to return there again. At least not during this race.  

When I finally started feeling good again, I asked how many laps Sky had on me. It wasn’t important early on but now I wanted to know.  I wasn’t sure at that point how far ahead she was but my guess had been 5 or 6.  She was 5 laps ahead.  Time to make my first surge. My next milestone goal was to hit 100 at 17 hours. (I hit it around 16:46 is my guessitmate).  My plan was to take back laps gradually by speeding up for a few laps until I caught Sky then keeping that pace for one more mile after to put some distance between us so she couldn’t take back the lap.  I didn’t want to tire myself out trying to catch her all at once and risk possibly not having the strength left towards the end in case Sky came back with a strong finish. I’m not entirely sure when I finally pulled even with her, but I remember crossing the timing mat at 100 and seeing her just in front of me. Instead of noting the time I sped up and ran a quicker lap.  At this point I was only 1 or 2 laps behind and I wasn’t going to slow.  

I felt like Pacman, mindlessly gobbling up those white dots. Mile after mile.  Sky told me later that I looked "possessed". That is entirely accurate. I was possessed. That’s what months, arguably years, of being OBSSESSED with finally crushing a 24 hours event will do.  I had tunnel vision. My world was only the road in front of me and the music in my ears.  I was merely sitting in my brain in a little captain’s chair driving my body forward with levers, pedals and switches.  I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t slow down. It was impossible even if I had wanted to.  Ferdinand, an extremely supportive friend and talented runner who was running the 12 hour event, the one who said me he predicted I would run 142 and not 135, told me not to be offended but that during the race he found me "cold'.  I wasn’t offended just a little disappointed in myself.  I try to be supportive of other runners, especially on a loop course like that when you see everyone over and over no matter their speed but I was so focused, so afraid to change anything for fear of hitting another low or breaking my flow, so I just kept running, staring straight ahead. I focused on the music from my iPod shuffle and ignored the pain.  Every step had become excruciating but I couldn’t change my gait. It was working for me so I couldn’t change anything.

When I hit 110, a distance PR (my previous being 109.93), everything became a blur (moreso). I might have been even with Sky at that point, I don’t quite remember. I knew at this point I was going to make it to 140.  Disaster or no disaster I was getting there. I was lucky to this point to have had no nausea or vomiting. Food didn’t taste good but I ate anyway.  I didn’t care what it was, I just chewed and swallowed. Mindlessly shoving chips in my face and washing it down with coke.  Gels were good because I didn’t have to chew.  The only walking I had done and did the entire time was walking with my crew while they fed me bars or chips or whatever.   I kept choking trying to eat and run so I allowed myself those seconds of walking. 

Being a one mile loop also kept me super hydrated. My crew was amazing. Making sure I drank, had electrolytes and food.  The only downside was I was peeing so much and getting down to the later hours I didn’t want to waste time. The weather was in the 40s so I wasn’t afraid of dehydration this late in the game.  At one point I told Otto I had to pee but he said, “You don’t have time! You are gaining 30 seconds per lap on Sky and I don’t want you to lose it.”  “Pee on the loop.” he said.  Well the whole loop is lit and there really isn’t anywhere to go unless you're a guy.  I ran the whole loop unsatisfied with any of the bushes available to me and insisted to Otto using a real toilet would be just as fast, if not faster.  I handed Otto my gloves and ran into the bathroom which was right on the course. He told me later he was timing my pee breaks. He clocked me at 20 seconds and one time even 15 seconds.  I had it down to a science and NO! I didn’t bother washing my hands.  I just put gloves back on anyway! Don’t judge!  

At around mile 126, Otto tells me I’m first overall. WHAT??! You’re kidding me?!?! I couldn’t believe it. Never in all my day dreams and fantasies of this day did envision myself winning overall.  But really at that point none of that really mattered because I was going to reach my goal of 140 miles. Nothing was going to stop me.


Christine "crewing" for YoJo.
Somewhere around 131 miles, I got a horrible spasm in my right calf that brought me to a halt. Not now! No fucking way!  I started running. Spasm again. No panic. I’m not having spasms, my legs are fine, I told myself. I stopped to jam my thumbs into my calf and massage it out.  This happened to be right in front of Josh Finger's RV. He had called it quits early on around 60 miles after he was reduced to a shuffle and had spent the night in the RV with his family resting comfortably. He was not recovered from Grindstone. I look over and see Josh through the windshield of the RV waving at me. I wave back. Damn, he probably thinks I’m doing horribly. I ran on.  Next lap I come around and Josh had put his timing chip back on and was ready to run with me. He had gone back to the start and heard the news on how I was doing.  At this point I was pretty sure at the pace I was going I was going to hit 140 maybe 141. Josh ran with me a lap and told me we had run 9:40ish. I couldn’t believe it. It felt slow. I was sure it was 10:15ish. We ran another and another. Josh said, you got 142 easily.  My best case scenario was becoming a reality.  Ferdinand’s predictions were coming true.  Keith had told me he would put his money on the Canadians any day and he was going to lose money! 

Laps 138 to 142, chatting with Josh finally brought me back down to earth and out of my crazed state. Not being in that trance like state made those last 4 laps endless though. Either that or the fact that the end was in sight and I finally had a number to count down to.  I was relieved to finish 141 with 13 minutes left to go and that I wasn’t going to have to pull an 8 minute mile or anything.  I was also relieved there wasn’t going to be 17 minutes left because then I would have had a "143 dilemma” on my hands.


Me probably telling Josh I am never doing this again.
As we rounded the last corner I saw everyone standing at the finish and it seemed surreal. Like I wasn’t in my body. Like I was watching someone else finish this race.  I crossed with 142 miles in 23:57:10. And finally, I could stop running. I almost didn’t want to stop which is weird but I did. I wanted to cry but everyone was looking at me. My brain was trying to process this, my slow ultra brain. I was first overall followed by Sky with 136 miles and Yoshiko 3rd place female with 118 miles who I did not see stop running the entire time. Chugging forward at her steady pace like a machine.
WTF!
As I look at the results for One Day right now, I realize what an amazing group of ultras runners ran with me that day. Names like Phil McCarthy, Ryan Jones and John Fegyveresi, who I fondly refer to as Barkley guy. Yes! The man has completed the Barkley Marathons.
Barkley Guy!
But what I found most astounding is the amount of runner who reached 100 or more. Out of 77 of us, 21 went 100 or beyond. 6 women and 15 men ran 100 or more.  Combined all 77 of us ran 5,491 miles!!!!!!!!!!! Scientists, check my math! You know who you are! That includes Corey Minnick who ran 19 miles in fatigues and a giant pack with god knows how much weight and Stephanie Ruzicka who reached her goal of 82 miles in memory of her father.  I messaged her to ask her to clarify some details regarding her run and her response was so perfect I’m just going quote it 
I was running 82 miles for my father.  He died at 82 after a hard tough struggle. I ran one mile for each year he was alive in his uniform shirt (he was chief of police in FP and retired USMC.). I put his picture on a chair and kissed it every mile I did. He never got to come to any of my races but loved to see my medals. The last medal I got to show him was from ROCK and ROCK USA in DC in rehab a month before he died.   The last lap at One Day I carried him to the finish. God I miss him so very much!


We have our reasons for doing these crazy things that we do, like run in one mile loops for 24 hours or subject ourselves to the gnarliest trails possible in the worst conditions.  In this particular race, Stephanie's reason was her father. I guess I have a lot of reasons why I do this. I mean, duh because I love it but it definitely goes deeper than that. The one thing I do know is I was 100% confident I was going to succeed. It may sound cocky but I knew that was my race. Really believing that was the only reason I was able to let Sky pass me again and again.  It's why I was so vocal about my goal mileage (even though I was too afraid to say 140). It's where my mind needed to be to perform like I did.  There was no room for doubting. It's my guess that I won't be hearing from that little voice in my head that tells me I can't for while or maybe ever again.


One Day plus One Day equals TWO DAYS!
What's next? Maybe the 24 Hour World Championships in Italy in April. Nothing is in stone yet but I think I have a pretty good shot at being there. 


Ottolamming


Here are some statistics that have been brought to my attention and it might sound braggy but I get to brag. So rarely is it appropriate. Its funny how the statistics get skewed. According to my mother I was number in all of the world of all ultra runners.  Or maybe that was just according to her.  These are some stats as the stand now:

#7 Best performance by an American female in the 24 hour event of all time
#1 Performance by an American female in the past year
#4 Best performance in the world in 2014 so far, #1 on road (the other 3 were on track)

One last interesting statistic.  The top three women at NJ One Day, Yoshiko Jo (118 miles), Sky Canaves (136 miles) and myself (142 miles) are all coached by Michele Yates. All ran PRs in distance and all 3 of us PRed the 100 miler while we were at it. 


396 Miles.


THANK YOU SECTION!
Words can't express my gratitude for all the people who have supported me and helped get me through this race.  Thanks Headsweats, I really did have a headband or visor for every condition. I love the new women's thermal headband. It kept my ears warm without over heating. 

 Trailtoes, my only complaint is you didn't add Novocain to your formula. Think about it, Vince. But seriously, Trail Toes works!  Rob Goyen, you have been so supportive and I hope I made our Team TROT proud. 
Chris and Otto
 Rodney and Karen, thanks for coming out late at night and dressing in bizarre outfits for the sake of Yoshiko and I. It was definitely memorable. Dylan, for dropping everything to squeeze me into his tiny bit of free time while he adjusts to a new job and travel schedule. You make me smile.  Kat and Jun. I'm a WhippAss because of Kat and that whole sub 19 hour 100 miler was your idea!  Elena Makovskaya, so happy to see your face and thanks for answering my questions always. Ken Tom and Christine Tom, the King and Queen of ultra crewing.  How did you guys find each other? You are two peas in a pod. 
The Toms and there's Meredith too.
Otto! Otto! Otto! He was like a superman when it came to crewing. You met me at the timing mat and would be ready with numerous food items, reminded me exactly what I needed, kept track of my competition, and of course timed my pee breaks.  Tiger and Dwight, you guys supported and cheered me on, you both helped stretch me out and even massaged my butt at the end. What friends I have! I really looked forward to seeing you guys every lap.

Tiger is either stretching Sky or trying to resuscitate her.
Tommy, thanks for offering encouragement as well even though Sky and I were racing. Afterall we are one big happy running family. Zsuzanna Carlson and Helen Clark, you guys are fab! ;) I hope you know that. The McNulty's, thanks for keeping my ass in check. Without you guys, the "perfect storm" would not have been possible. 

Family affair.
 Ferdinand, thank you, thank you, thank you. You know why. Mom and Dad, (my roommates) had to put up with my stressed out meltdowns numerous times. But then again they have no choice :). Thank you for your support and offering to come out and cheer me even though I forbid you.  I get too stressed that Mom is too cold or uncomfortable at these races. I know you worry but at least you had Ken Tom and Ryan to update you. At least you will see me in Italy... hopefully. Thanks, Ryan Schannauer for handing me water and gel in that order and for driving me home and letting me train on the trails with him. You are such an expert at everything. 
Karen, Rodney, Wyatt the dog, Christine and Mr Expert.
Not to be forgotten, Yoshiko Jo, you have taught me more than you will ever know.  I will forever be in awe of your accomplishments.  We have many more races together as you will live to 120 and I to 105.  Lastly, Sky Canaves, GGGGUUURRRLLLL, YOU GAVE ME A RUN FOR ME MONEY! Not one single second of that 24 hours was boring and it was mostly due to you.  Can't wait to see what you do next....in ITALY!


Rick and Sky







7 comments:

  1. Simply amazing! Congratulations Maggie! Good luck in Italy!

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  2. Fantastic accomplishment!!! - So impressed!! Congrats

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  3. Great work Maggie!! And you better be on that plane to Italy!

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  4. Wonderful race report! You are amazing. While I was not there due to other obligations, it was great to track you online.

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