14 March 2010


Pre-race dinner and packet pick-up
I went to Decatur the night before the race to pick up my race packet, enjoy the free pre-race pasta dinner and to check out the actual race course. I knew the location of the park, but I had never actually been there. Luckily, I only lived 45 minutes from the race location. I got to the park around 6 PM and a few other runners and race volunteers were already busy setting up for the start of the race the next morning at 6 AM. I assume some of the work involved trying to clear the 10 foot wide trail from some of the water puddles that had formed as a result of the extensive rain that had fallen all week. I quickly realized that this trail would not require actual trail shoes but that road shoes would suffice. I also noticed that while the course did consist of a one mile loop, it had somewhat natural curves into both directions so it would not feel like I was running in a circle. After putting my mind at ease and deciding where to park the next day, I made my way to the location of the race packet pick-up and carb dinner that was being held at a local church two blocks from the race start. Since I got there relatively early, there were only about 20 people at the dinner and I ended up sitting with a couple of runners from Georgia, who were both accomplished ultra runners, unlike me. Still being a novice ultra runner, I was eager to ask some questions about strategies for a 12 hour ultra race. There were two things I distinctly remember from this conversation. First, never sit down during an ultra unless you are finished. Second, run a steady pace for the entire race. In other words, don't go out hard early only to fold later in the race. Instead, keep the same pace for the entire race. I took both of those tips to heart and integrated them into my race plan, if you can call it that. After dinner, I went back home to pack my gear and call it an early night. However, my mind kept thinking about the race and that led to me worrying about the amount of sleep I would get, since I would have to get up at 4 AM. One thing I had learned was to get plenty of sleep two nights before a race in anticipation of a short pre-race night, so I had that part covered.

Race morning
4 AM came quickly, but a hot cup of coffee was all it took to wake me up. I was eager to run. I did a final weather check and the chance for rain was still 40% with temps predicted to stay in the mid 50s. I shouldn't have blindly relied on this weather report. It caused me a little discomfort that I could have avoided had I packed some extra gear, but more about that later.
I arrived at the race start shortly after 5 AM and backed up my car to the race course near one of the park pavilions. I wanted to keep my gear bag in the trunk of my car with easy access from the course in anticipation of the rain. There wouldn't be any point in having spare running gear that was as wet as the clothes in was running in. I also placed a folding chair behind my car, so I could change shoes quickly, if needed. Since it was still early, I continued to hang out in my car as it was rather cold and still dark outside. Because the weather forecast had mentioned temps in the 50s, I did not pack any gloves or beanie to protect against the cold. I also packed a short sleeve tech shirt, an additional wind breaker, a spare pair of running shoes and two pairs of socks. On the radio, they were playing a Frank Zappa song. Wow, never having listened to him or his lyrics before since he was just a little before my time, I was surprised by the content of his music. Completely unrelated to running, just the last song I listened to before I made my way to the starting line. The park's bathrooms were conveniently located near the starting line and the race organizers had placed a portapotty next to the course as well. After a quick trip to the bathroom to empty my bladder one last time, I went over my race strategy in my head as I made my way to the starting line.

Race strategy
Not having done any race beyond a 50K or having run continuously for more than 7 hours, I knew I had to have some sort of plan if I wanted to have any kind of success during this race.  First, I had to set a personal goal for the race, either time or distance related. I went for a distance goal and decided that I wanted to do anything I could to reach 50 miles. I also decided to try to maintain a consistent pace throughout the race, somewhere between 10-12 minutes. I would run for 2 hours and walk for 5 minutes while taking in some food. I also wanted to make sure to keep my electrolytes and hydration in balance. I would consume one bottle of water/Gatorade mix (half and half) every hour coupled with an SCap and a gel pack. I had purchased Gu gel, Hammer gel and Accel gel. Unlike the usual gel suspects, Accel gel contains the all important protein necessary for muscle regeneration. I also planned to change shoes after six hours. Since I could not convince any of my usual running buddies to register for this race, I figured I'd have to find some extra motivation elsewhere. I realized that an event like a 12 hour race presented the perfect opportunity to support a charity. What better motivation than to run for a worthy cause.

The cause
As I found out later, there was a runner raising funds for the NTSAD, an organization that provides support for research and families affected by Tay-Sachs disease. One of these families is RD Eric Schotz, whose family is directly affected by this disease. John Nevels ran for 24 hours for a total of 100 miles. What an amazing accomplishment for a very worthy cause. I encourage everyone to email John or RD Eric Schotz, if you would like to support this cause. Since I was not aware of this effort, I decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Their Team ACS program allows people to quickly set up a website for the charity event of their choice. Since the Delano Park 12 Hour Race was not an official Team ACS event itself, I checked with the race directors, who quickly responded that they had no problem with me using this race as a charity fundraising event. Aside from being a very important person in my life, my grandmother is also a two-time cancer survivor and this would be an opportunity for me to show my support. I had set a goal of $1,000. In order to accomplish this goal, I sent out emails to most people in my address book asking them to donate in one of two ways. First, they could donate immediately on my fundraising website. Second, they could pledge to donate one dollar for every mile I'd manage to complete during the race. The night before the race, I had reached the halfway mark of my original goal. Adding these pledges to the donations already received, I am excited to say they I actually slightly surpassed the original goal. Thanks so much to everyone who got involved. Expect an email from me shortly. If you have not pledged yet, you can still donate by visiting my Team ACS webpage.

The race
I arrived at the starting line right before 6 AM, still trying to figure out which direction we would run. After seeing a couple of people pointing in the same direction, I decided to face that way. The way we all lined up was interesting to say the least. Everyone was actually still huddled up in little groups chatting away and facing various directions when a loud horn sounded to officially start the race. And off we went. I really didn't know or recognize anybody, so I just focused on my Garmin to try to settle in my target pace as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse than burning yourself out in the first mile of a race. By the second lap, I had slowed down enough to hit my target pace. The weather decided to continue last year's theme.  As soon as the race got under way, the rain started, first just a drizzle, soon a steady flow, but never really heavy. The sky stayed cloudy and the temps were much lower than I anticipated. While my upper body was warm enough with a long sleeve tech shirt and a wind breaker, my hands were freezing. In case you're wondering, there is nothing worse to me than running with cold hands. Everything else usually warms up somehow eventually. Hands will stay cold forever. Enough whining and on with the race report.
At my target pace, I would complete between 5 and 6 miles every hour. After two hours, 12 miles were in the book and I ate half a banana and half a PB&J sandwich during my first 5 minute walking break. Afterwards, I picked up where I left off, trying to recoup some of the time lost during the walk. After 4 hours and 23 miles, it was time for another 5 minute walk break and a banana. During this time, I stuck to my routine of an energy gel and SCap accompanied by a bottle of Gatorade per hour. I would continue this hourly ritual for the remainder of the race. Hours five and six were the toughest of the race. But I was able to get a new 50K PR of 5 hours and 31 minutes. I knew my first pacer Mike would arrive with lunch (4 Mc Donald's cheeseburgers) around noon and I wanted to get between 34 and 36 miles in the books by then. However, I started to slow ever so slightly between hours five and six so I barely hit 34 miles by 12 PM. I started to think a little too much, worried that I would tire too early, that my pacers wouldn't show up, etc. In addition, the weather started to take a little bit of a little toll on me. My hands were freezing and the weather continued to play tricks on the runners. It would rain followed my strong winds which really gave people chills. All of a sudden, the clouds would part and the sun would warm and dry us up. Then it was time for rain again, and so it went for the entire race. Thank god for the baseball hat I was wearing. It did a great job keeping the rain out of my eyes. I had no need for the sun glasses I packed, though. When my first pacer and running buddy Mike arrived with lunch, I decided it was time for a clothes and shoe change. I had no sore spots on my feet yet, but my clothes and shoes were soaking wet and cold. Mike was kind enough to let me use his long sleeve shirt he had brought just in case. I had only packed short sleeve shirts and it was just too cold for that. The shoe change required me to detach the racing chip with plieers before reattaching it to the dry new shoes. Bending down to do anything near your feet gets really difficult after 6 hours of running. After 15 minutes and one cheeseburger, I started to walk again while wolfing down a second cheeseburger. Now, I was no longer running alone having Mike running along with me as my pacer for at least an hour or so. Afterwards, my other running buddy James would join me for a couple of hours. As Mike and I continued to run, the weather continued to mess with us. Rain followed by wind followed by sunshine. As we completed mile 39, the rain stopped just long enough to lure my next pacer James onto the course. We continued as a group for one lap before Mike peeled off to head home. If the weather hadn't impressed some of the runners yet, that was about to change. After running with James for about an hour, it actually started to hail, yes hail. I had run in rain and snow before, but never in hail. After doing the math while running with James, we figured I'd have about 2 miles left to complete 50 miles after he'd leave. That would leave about 2 miles for my fiancé Anya, who would join me on my final laps of the race until I reached mile 50. After James left, I reached the 50 mile in 9 hours and 35 minutes. This was my original goal and I was ecstatic to have reached it in less than 10 hours. At this stage, I still felt fantastic and knew I could continue for the full 12 hours. However, after we completed mile 50, I decided to add another 2 miles for good measure and to stop after. I completed mile 52 after 9 hours and 57 minutes and decided to stop after that. It was a great feeling to have completed my first 12 hour race and 50 miler all in one day.

Post race
After taking off my shoes and putting on some flip-flops and a dry t-shirt, I decided to rush home real quick for a shower before returning to the post race dinner and awards activities. I had a great time catching up with some of the other runners and hearing about their race. In particular, I'd like to thank Liz Bauer and Margaret Curcio for their great advice and some excellent conversations about running before and after the race. Liz, you ran an amazing race. 71 miles and third overall is just fantastic and inspiring. Next, I would like to thank the race directors Jon Elmore and Eric Schotz for an amazing event. The aid stations were fully stocked and the volunteers were extremely helpful. My special thanks go to Eric's mom Louise for cheering me on by name for my first few laps. I did know or meet her prior to the race and I wanted to point out how great a feeling it is to hear your name as you are lapping. It gives me an extra boost of energy, so thanks again. Next, I want to thank my three pacers Mike, James and my fiancé Anya. Without them, I would have never reached my goal of 50 miles. Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have chosen to support the American Cancer Society by donating and pledging your support during this race. I will definitely be back next year.

Final pain assessment
When I laid down for the night after the race, the pain really hit me hard. It literally kept me from falling asleep. The next morning, things didn't feel much better. I finally took a full assessment of my feet as well, two blisters on my right foot but nothing too bad. Checking on my muscles, I quickly realized that almost every part of my body is sore. And I am not just talking about my lower limbs, my upper body as well. Even my ankles feel beat up, very strange. I started managing the pain with Ibuprofen. I am hoping to get over this quickly, but a recovery run in the morning is definitely out of the question. Maybe Tuesday?


  1. Hey Martin, great race and wonderful race report! You should share this with the RD. I had a great time at the pre and post race dinners talking about it. Hope to see you soon at another one. Stay well!

  2. mann mann..der ultra-kraut ist ja n verrückter^^
    schöner blog...habs endlich mal geschafft vorbeizuschauen.
    greetz from plopptown, your little bro

  3. Great report Martin. thanks for coming out and putting forth such a great effort. One of the best parts of directing this event is seeing people run longer and further than they ever have. Eric

  4. Margaret, thanks for the kind words. Maybe I'll see you at the Strolling Jim.

    Andy, ich hoffe es ist alles klar bei dir. Ich komm bald mal wieder nach Deutschland.

    Eric, you guys put on a great event. I finally have the confidence to train for my first 100 mile race thanks to your race.



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