|Day 1.. still fresh. Photo by Ray K|
By the numbers:
Approximate miles per 24 hour split:
* Thursday (9am-9am): 80 miles
* Friday: 30 miles
* Saturday: 40 miles
Approx. time on the course per 24 hour split:
* Thursday: 23 hours
* Friday: 18 hours
* Saturday: 20 hours
Things were pretty good for the first 100K, which I achieved in about 16 hours. Afterwards, I slowed down dramatically. In particular, miles 65-90 were among the slowest I've ever run. 90-110 went OK, and the last 40 in 24 hours amounted to a sleep-deprived deathmarch where I was unable to move faster than about 16 minutes per mile at best, and about 21 average. I finally reached 150 miles with 90 minutes to spare. I went to sleep and didn't wake up until after the race had ended.
It became obvious on day 2 that I wasn't going to reach my original goal of 200 miles. This is due to incredible amount of time it took me to get from 65 to 90 miles. I revised my goal to 150 miles, which seemed easily doable at the time but even that took far more effort than I anticipated.
By the end of the race I was in total countdown mode, repeating to myself in the wee hours of the morning "6 laps to go, 6 laps to go, 6 laps to go." This mantra didn't keep me going per se, but rather occupied my thoughts in a very difficult period for me.
In fact, through the last 48 hours I would occasionally find myself audibly saying, "this is so hard.." In fact, it occurred to me that this was so hard that the difficulty alone made it worth doing. Yes it's fun to see my runner friends, it's fun to achieve goals, it's fun to hear the hurrahs of all my non-runner facebook friends, it's even fun to be a little competitive.. but as I staggered along muttering at 2am, I suddenly realized that I simultaneously hated and loved how hard it was. I don't want to be melodramatic, but at that point things honestly sucked ass. But there was something intrinsic about the experience of attempting something so difficult that kept me going despite the suffering that would have overwhelmed the more trivial advantages.
People talk about scenery and friends and nice weather and whatever else gets them to do these things, but honestly - you can approach ATY as something so simple - running/walking - and make it difficult enough that the difficulty itself becomes the primary draw rather than the activity or mode. In other words, I go to this thing not because I like to run, but because I like to attempt incredibly difficult tasks.
That was the insight that I had from this race.
On another note, I know this was a good race for me because even thought I feel like it was a positive experience, I am also feeling completely depleted. My aches and pains are going away and my blisters are healing, but my mental state is still such that I am not interested in racing another ultra anytime soon. This will change, of course - I'm sure I'll be ready to rip off a 100-mile finish at Umstead on March 31 - but I also am unwilling to do anything before then, nor anything too soon after.