2017 Hamster Endurance Runs: 6hrs

It has been nearly three months since my last blog post and I'm FINALLY able to write a recap of the BIGGEST race I'd ever trained for! I can't believe that I wrote a weekly wrap (final training recap can be found here) for an entire 18 weeks (or 654.04 miles) of training and then left you all hanging without knowing the outcome of the race. If you didn't already know the cause of this delay...I replaced my 'title' of stay-at-home-mom with full-time Massage Therapist student. I have had the teeniest, tiniest amount of "free" time during these months and the hierarchy of what to do with this time has been the following: family, sleep, salt baths, running, reading, eating, blogging. Yes, the idea of writing any sort of blog has been on the bottom of my list and luckily I have felt zero guilt about that. I'm coming up on finals week at school which is followed by a THREE WEEK winter break which I plan to fill with running and fun family adventures.

Before the rain and starting our race!

Now, let's get to the good stuff! If you recall, my weekly wrap posts were always titled Ultra (?) Training Week #XYZ because my goal was to run an ultra distance, but I wasn't quite sure if I would make it that far. The appealing thing to me about the Hamster Endurance Runs is that you simply run as many 2.6 mile loops as possible within the 6hr time limit. For the lap to be included in your results, it had to be fully completed before the cutoff time. No partial laps/distances allowed. My goal was to run 12 laps or 31.2 miles, which would've had me running my first 50k/ultra/marathon (the furthest I'd ever raced was only a half marathon). *Spoiler alert* I did not reach the 50k distance, but I did finish 1st overall Female in the 6hr race! 

On Saturday, September 9th I woke up excited after a perfect night of sleep. All of my gear was laid out the day before and my check list was waiting for me. During training, my longest time running was only 4 hours or 24 miles, but I felt mentally prepared for those additional 2 hours of racing. (What I didn't prepare for was my wireless headphones dying after only 2 hours and I forgot to bring regular headphones to replace them. Oops!) It was cold and cloudy as I drove to Lake Padden in Bellingham, WA. As I wondered towards the starting area, everyone had bags and gear all over the place, with many people having support crew members as well. There were even a number of tents set up, but those were probably for the 24 or 32 hour racers. I simply had a dog-printed reusable grocery bag with an Orange Mud towel, pair of socks, hoodie, Nuun Performance, and rain jacket. Obviously a rookie, but what else did I really need?

Our bibs were colored according to the number of hours we were racing (6, 12, 24, or 32). With each lap finished, we would stop to get a hole punched in our bib, and  then eat some snacks or continue on our way. The race staff/volunteers had a gas grill to cook food and a table spread with Honey Stinger chews, Gu gels, dill pickles, potato chips, sandwich stuff, bananas, pretzels, plus more, and a jug of Nuun or a jug of water to refill your own bottles. It was a small, intimate group of runners and everyone seemed feisty and fun. Pretty sure that I was the youngest person there and I definitely felt like the baby when older runners would say things like, "Keep it up kiddo" or "You're doing great kid!" There would be a prize for whoever was the 1st lap winner, but my focus was to simply run steady. At 8:00am we were off for our first 2.6 mile loop around Lake Padden. Within about 20 minutes of the race it began to rain, and it rained, rained, rained the entire time.

Initially I ran without music or headphones. The places my mind goes while running is the majority of why I even run, plus I was hoping for some magical, perspective-changing experience through pushing myself to limits I'd never reached. By the third lap, I was alone majority of the time. I would pass people every now and then, mainly non-racers walking around the lake. My unintended groove of fueling was to eat a little after each lap, then later on I also needed to eat a little during the middle of each lap too. I ended up eating most of the food I brought in my vest fairly quickly (guess I underestimated my running hunger/fuel needs) and snagged a Gu or chews to eat on the go after each lap. The second half of the race I was thankful for the caffeine in the Gu's for the extra bit of energy.

 Mile # and  Pace
1. 9:58
2. 10:19
3. 10:17
4. 10:14
5. 10:15
6. 10:00
7. 10:31
8. 10:03
9. 9:58
10. 10:08
11. 10:17
12. 10:41
13. 10:55
14. 10:33

Feeling happy and strong at mile 4, only 27ish miles to go :)

...then things began to slow down.
15. 11:03
16. 11:29
17. 11:04
My left IT band flared up so all downhills had to be walked.
18. 11:48
19. 11:58
20. 12:01
21. 12:21
22. 12:25
23. 12:54
24. 13:18
25. 13:27
26. 13:04
27. 13:27
28. 14:08
29. 14:19

Around mile 20 I couldn't help but cry. I was already emotional about having to walk/run/walk/run because of my IT band and when my husband text me that he and my daughter wouldn't be able to make it, I just lost it. Normally that wouldn't be any sweat off my back, but I kept picturing them in my mind and was holding on to their presence as a way of moving forward. *Note to self, don't check your phone during an ultra race. I was definitely soaked, the rain got harder, and it was getting cold. When I was getting my bib punched after my 11th lap (28.6 miles) the volunteer asked if I thought I could push fast through a final lap before the 6 hr cutoff. They noticed that I had been limping and knew it wasn't worth me injuring myself, plus there were only 22 minutes left for 2.6 miles. I told them that I was done with the race, but was going to wonder around slowly running some more.

Top 3 females in the 6 hour race

Handmade wooden finisher award

1st Place Female Overall glass

I returned after 29.13 miles and my legs couldn't go on any longer. My muscles hadn't seemed sore until I sat down to rest/eat/drink and went to stand up again. Holy moly, I didn't even want to have to drive home! We all tried to warm up and waited til 2:00 (the cap of 6 hours) passed so they could do the awards ceremony. The overall winner finished 14 laps or 36.4 miles. I believe they announced that it was also his first ultra race. I ended up with my 11 laps or 28.6 miles and got the first place female, which included a cool engraved glass! Even though I did not reach my goal of 50k, I still ran my first ultra and didn't hurt myself to injury. I definitely plan on running the race again in 2018 with 12, or even 13, laps completed! I also am interested in running a point-to-point ultra in 2018 which will be full of many different aspects that I didn't experience in this lap-repeat endurance race. A huge thank you to Kelly Krieger for being such an awesome and supportive Race Director! Cheers to all of my fellow Hamsters! See you next year!


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