Today was the day I officially became an ultra-marathoner. This was my first race ever over 26.2.
Blake and I left Havasu Friday morning around 8:30, caught the Catalina Express ferry at 2:00 and were on the the island in the cute town of Avalon around 3:00. We checked into our hotel and took a quick walk around town. It's very small so didn't take long. We then went back to our room, got our drop bags together, and went and picked up our race bibs and dropped off our drop bags. We had dinner at the Lobster Trap and naturallly had fresh caught lobster. We then retired to our room and settled down for a good night's sleep.
We awoke at 4:15 and got ready. The race start was right outside the front of the hotel. It was way low key. We weren't even exactly sure which way we were supposed to run until we asked another runner. Exactly at 4:59:50 (I was looking at my satalite watch.) We quietly heard a man saying 10, 9, 8, 7... and the race was underway at 5:00:00 exactly.
I've never run this far so I'm not sure what kind of pace to run. A few guys shot off fairly quicklly, but Blake and I just ran a nice easy pace like we were going out for a nice easy long run. It was dark, so we were all using lights to see. From the first step we were heading uphill, not too steep at first, but by mile 2 it was getting steeper and steeper. We ran most of the first 5 miles of climbing, but in some spots it was too steep so we power walked. I think it took over an hour to do the first 5 miles. (My watch froze up at mile 46.3 of the race and I lost all my data.) We then started downhill and it was still dark. At this point I dropped Blake. I run in the dark on trails all the time, he doesn't and he didn't put fresh batteries in his light, so he didn't feel comfortable running fast down the hill. Basically I ran, and ran, and ran, and also did a lot of power walking up steep hills for a long time by myself. Once the sun came up around 7:00 it was beautiful to see the island and the ocean.
I don't think there was any part of this race that was flat. We were always either going up or down and quite often it was REALY steep. Some of my miles were in the 17 minute range and a lot of my miles were around 7 minutes. Blake planned on not running the whole race. He went out about 20 miles and then went back to the drop bag station (around mile 34) and waited for me. It was great to see him and at that point I was still running strong, when I was not having to walk because of the steep hills. I left that aid station in 4th place! Crazy, my first ultra and here I was at mile 34 in 4th place. I was pretty excited. Then at mile 36 all the steep hills caught up with me, and both of my hammys cramped. I haven't cramped running since my very first mararhon in 2004. I guess it is only fitting that I cramped in my very first ultra.
For the next 3 miles I could only walk. I tried to run a few times and the hammys would cramp right back up. Wow, I forgot how painful that is, and how much it locks your legs up for a while. During these 3 miles I was passed by a number of runner. About mile 39 I gave it another go, running super slow at first and then gradually picking it back up. Blake did a good job reminding me to keep it slow. We were running with another guy at this poing who had done this race a number off times. He told us that if we could get to the last aid station by 12:00 we had a chance of finishing under 8 hours, but the next few miles after that aid staion were really steep uphill. We arived at that aid station at exactly 12:00 to the second. I downed some coke (it was the only thing I could stomach at that point) and walked on. I didn't think we were ever going to summit the mountain, but when we finally did, I knew the last few miles were all downhill...steep! I took off leaving Blake and ran as fast as I could down that mountain. ( Was running right around 7 minutes I think. ) When I finally saw Avalon I was so excited. I ran hard to the finish and crossed the line in 7:56:14 and 13th place overall.
Blake came in a few minutes later and we went and stood in the ocean for about 15 minutes to ice our legs. It was cold. Thanks Blake for sticking with me and helping me finish that race when I was cramping and didn't know if I would make it.
I really enjoyed doing the ultra and hope to do many more.