An epic race for me - and my level of admiration for those who run Ultras in greater adversity (mountains/deserts/etc) has increased exponentially.
That Dam Hill combined 4 events on the same course: my 24 hour timed event, a 12 hour timed event, a Marathon and a Half. The 24 hour/Marathon/Half groups started at 8:15am Saturday. We were supposed to start at 8am, but there was a technical delay (city didn't open up the bathrooms!). The 12 hour group started at 8:15pm that night, so that they finished the same time as us in the 24 hour group - 8:15am Sunday.
There were 25 of us in the 24 hour group, 29 Marathoners and 33 Halfers, so 87 of us started.
There were 9 racers in the 12 hour group; by the time they started, the Marathoners and Halfers were done, of course. And 6 of the 24 hour group had dropped out (or would drop out in a few more minutes), leaving 28 of us on the course at nightfall.
The course is a certified 1.4 mile loop around Springbank Park. It's all paved. It was not closed off to the public, and so there were a fair number of people walking/running/biking it during the day, and the odd person at night. The first loop is abbreviated (we walked about a quarter mile up the route for the start line) in order to allow all the races to end at the correct distance at the finish line.
So, my personal goal being to reach 100 miles, I had to run 72 loops of the course. There are really 2 hills on the course, each of which I walked from the beginning. The first is only about 100 feet long. The second was longer - maybe 600 feet, and rose about 53 feet. It didn't seem like much at the beginning, but it sure hurt at the end. The "Dam" is a water control system on the Thames River, which the route follows and from which the race gets its name. The path drops down to the river, and then rises up again to the finish line.
The biggest 'ouch' factor of the race was the heat, hands down. At start time, it was 18C/64F with 100% humidity. As the day wore on, the temperature climbed to 29C/85F, while the humidity dropped into the 85% range. At night, the temperatured dropped down to 19C/66F, and the humidity rose back to 100%, from 11pm until the race was finished.
I had my own aid station set up just past the finish line. It worked well. I used Tailwind the entire time, and nothing else. I had one crew member who stayed there the entire time - taking only small naps along the way. I had 3 handhelds, and all I had to do was swap them out every 2 or 3 laps. My crew always had them filled for me. I also used ice under my cap for the first 10 hours. In a baggie, with a face cloth under it to prevent brain freeze. The race also provided neat ice bandanas - little tubes they filled with ice which I wrapped around my neck. So, the routine was to swap out the melted baggie of ice every second or third lap, and the same with the ice bandana. That strategy made a huge difference in keeping me going.
I hit the 50 mile mark at 6pm, so 10 hours in. I did a blister check after 6 hours and again after 12 hours, changing my socks both times. After 12 hours, there were no blisters and no hot spots. I changed my shoes also at the 12 hour mark, which may have been a mistake. Shortly after, I felt pressure on the top of my right foot. A few hours after that, I felt a hot spot under both my feet. I ran through all that.
At Midnight, I was in some distress. I had 15 laps to go in the next 8 hours. By then, my legs were in agony. I had felt my shins hurting through the early part of the evening, but now they felt like the bones were ready to break every time I landed. That, I think, was the worst. I mean, every body part from the waist down was hurting, but I could run through that. The shins, however, were making me hobble.
I did the math, and I figured if I power walked the next 8 hours, I could hit 100 miles, as long as I didn't stop. My crew argued a bit with me re: that strategy, urging me instead to walk a couple of really slow laps, or take some time off to rest, and then go back to running. I didn't like that, since I figured if the strategy didn't work, and I wasn't able to run again, I'd lose precious time and not be able to make it up.
So, walk I did for the rest of the night. Turns out that power walking for 8 hours is worse than running - mentally, at least. Time crawls. I didn't like it a whole lot. But I did it anyway. I did try running a few times, and it was impossible. It was a pain that I could not run through.
It got pretty lonely out there too. It was nice to have the 12 hour runners. 2 dropped out pretty early, but 7 continued through the night. By 1am, with 7 hours to go, there were 21 of us left on the course, so it frequently felt like I was alone in the dark. I had heard about hallucinations, but it never got too bad. I was seeing things that were not there - mostly people, but no pink elephants had a conversation with me.
I did meet some wonderful people and had some good conversations with them during the race. There was a couple of ladies just at the bottom of the hill that set up a cheering station, and had a different sign for every lap. I was disappointed that they were only there for their Marathon friend, and packed up and left when that race was done.
At some point in the evening, when I was still running, the Race Director (who did an awesome job) told me I could win this thing. There was a 50 inch television screen that put up each runner's numbers every time we crossed the mats at the finish line. I wasn't paying much attention, because I was keeping track of where I was in my head. But he made me look ... it showed that I was in second place, just one lap behind the leader. Of course, the leader was a 24 year old who ran like a deer. I told the Director that didn't interest me - that I was only running against myself. Well, a few laps later, he got very animated and said 'there he is - he's resting - you can close in on him now'. I told him I had no intention of racing the kid - that I would be happy to just hit my 100 miles. I think he was disappointed in that, but I can understand how the Race Director would want to see a real competition for the win. Turns out that kid ran 7 more laps than me (110 miles), and the second place runner clocked 106 miles (4 more laps than me). As an afterthought, it would have been really nice to have been able to run to the end. I had not envisioned having to walk the way I did. However, my primary goal was 100 miles. That, I accomplished.
Before the race, I had told my crew that if there was time for another lap or two, even after I hit 100 miles, to force me to do it. However, the 72nd lap was excruciating. I forced myself to run over the finish line, although it was more of a shuffle, and even that took everything I had. And I was done, even though the 54 minutes remaining gave me enough time to keep on going. But my crew knew better - they could see that I was done.
I've left out a lot of the physical challenges my body threw at me in those 24 hours - mostly because they are disgusting and should not be written about. One thing I can mention, however - and I only noticed this at the end - was that my fingers and hands swelled up so much that I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Seriously - I coudn't even bend my fingers. I read up on that later - found out it's caused by the heat. That's when I discovered my feet were the same. I think it explains the shoe change error. My swelling feet likely formed themselves into the first pair of shoes. But when I changed the shoes, the swelling parts fit differently, causing the pressure points.
Whatever the cause, I finished with quite a lot of blistering on my feet. One toe nail came off right away. Another will follow later, no doubt. But by Monday, my muscles were fine, for the most part. The only lingering issue - and it's 3 days since the race - is a very swollen right foot which is incredibly painful to walk on. It was swollen at race end, but has doubled in size since then. The pain is at the top - where it pressed up on the shoe. Anyway, I've been icing it and am hopeful that it will return to normal soon.
So, just 3 of us hit the 100 mile mark. 2 got into the 90 miles, 1 into the 80 miles, 1 into the 70 miles, and all the rest 60 miles or less. I'm very pleased with how my training cycle went, and with how I executed during the race. I'm pretty sure that's it for me for Ultras, however. I'm going to set my gaze back down to the Marathon distance.