Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Palmer Lake 24 hour . . . Make that 10.5 Hour. . . Death Race Report


Happy Easter morning! As I write, The Palmer Lake 24 Hour Death Race officially end less than an hour ago.  For me however, it ended yesterday evening.  I'm not disappointed, recognizing that I did as much, if not more, than I possibly could.  At any rate, I'm definitely feeling the pain in my legs and feet after a little over ten hours of running.

This event is very casual affair that simultaneously bills itself as both a "death race" and a "fun run."  The setting is the .82 mile loop around Palmer Lake which sits nestled at the top of Monument Hill, just west of I-25 about 4 miles.  You could describe this event in many ways and I think they'd all fit.  It's a test of your physical endurance and personal will power as you circle the lake again and again. Or, it's a chance to run and drink beer! Or, it's a picnic interrupted by lots and lots of jogging.


I don't know if I have never approached an event of this magnitude in such a casual manner.  Don't get me wrong, I've done plenty of long runs relatively speaking (over 200 miles in the first 3 months of the year) , but definitely not to the level necessary to go a full day and night.  I also spent the first few days of last week dealing with a case of bronchitis, and while I was mostly "healed" by Saturday morning, that was still an "X" factor going into the race.

Unlike many events, such as Ironman, the pre-race preparations for an event of this length are somewhat different.  Take nutrition for instance.  For most triathlons, marathons, etc.  nutrition usually centers around scientifically formulated gels, powders and drinks.  These are designed to deliver a precise "dose" of energy to maximize performance.  The picture below shows my nutrition "plan" for the 24 hour race:

Scientifically crafted Nutrition for Ultra runners!
Uncle Kenny was my partner in crime for this undertaking, and with our gear and enough food to last a week, we headed out bright and early on Saturday morning.  The official race start time was 8:00 a.m., and arriving about 7:15,  we had plenty of time to arrive and get ready for the race.  We spent most of this time, getting our respective food and drink laid out in the back of the car which was conveniently parked just off of the trail.  We would use this as our "aid station" throughout the day, stopping on an off for 4-5 minutes of grazing (read inhaling) on a variety of cookies, chips, sandwiches, etc.

In most races, the one who covers a designated distance in the shortest time is declared the winner.  This works conversely in a race such as Palmer Lake.  The person who covers the most distance in a designated time is the winner.  Runners track their own laps throughout the day and submit this at the end of the event, and this can be different for each individual.  Some folks are out there for the entire 24 hour event, while others may only run an hour or two.  And like me, somewhere in between.  That's the beauty of ultra running, it is unique to each individual in so many ways.

The strategy that Kenny and I deployed for the race was to go slow throughout the race, taking plenty of "walk breaks" along the way.  A pace of around 14:30 or so, would result in covering about 100 miles if one were to complete the entire event.  And even though that seemed far fetched, we used that rate as our benchmark throughout the day.  Every 5 laps of the course was the equivalent of about 4.1 miles which we sought to cover within an hour.  Even with walk breaks, we did pretty well with this pace during the first 4 hours.  In fact, I don't know if I've ever felt more comfortable after running 16.5 miles.  Our pace dropped a bit during the next section, but we were never too far off that pace throughout the day.

Every four hours, as you completed a lap, the race would switch directions.  This was extremely helpful especially through the middle of the day as the wind picked up a bit.  It was a bit "brisk" at times, but it had a nice cooling effect.  The weather was pretty much in the lower to mid 60's throughout the day which was absolutely ideal for running.

I did 50 laps covering about 41.5 miles.
After a couple of direction changes and about 9 hours in, Kenny finally decided to call it quits.  He'd covered 34 miles throughout the day, a personal record by far, and earning him official status as an "ultra runner." As for myself, I'd realized two things at that point.  One, I was not going to make it through another 14 or 15 hours of running.  I wasn't completely wiped out, but the thought of still being less than halfway finished, seemed just too far to reach.  Two, I really didn't know what I had left in me.  Could I get forty miles? Fifty?  Something more than that?

I ran most of the next four miles with just a few short stops, increasing the pace and trying to pull back a bit of time.  When the 10 hour mark came, I'd covered 39 miles and something like 47- 48 laps around the lake.  I slowed down a bit more around lap 49 and as I started in on lap 50, I began to assess my circumstances.  Throughout most of the day, I'd felt good and at least okay through 35 miles.  But now, in addition to my feet starting to hurt more, I was starting to feel really, really tired.  Not just physically, but mentally.  Coming off of an illness the week before,  I was a bit worried about a relapse.  I debated finishing the lap and maybe walking a few laps just to see if I could push past.  And maybe I could have, but then I reminded myself that this is the first event of the season. And knowing that I was just a month out from my next "big" ultra race (12 hour Tommyknocker Ultras), I decided that 50 full laps was probably enough.  So after 10 hours and about 30 minutes, I turned the bottom of my race bib in, having covered 41.5 miles.  It was a lot of fun!

Feeling good . . . early on!