2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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  THE HINSON LAKE 24-HOUR RUN, p. 2

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

 
 

Continued from page 1 . . .

THE RACE

We were up before 6AM for the 8AM start about a ten-minute drive away from our motel. Our arrival at the park was perfectly timed, although we couldn't remember exactly when we got there last year to score the perfect parking spot. Just luck both times!

We have experimented with two ways to park and to crew ourselves at Hinson Lake.

Two years ago no one could park at the Rotary Lodge -- which is very close to the start/finish area and aid station -- until about eight hours into the race. After that runners could crew from their vehicles at the lodge only if they or someone else took 10-15 minutes to move from one parking area to the other. Since we were both running that year we just et up our table and canopy along the dam that year, as close to the aid station as possible. The location was very convenient but we had some problems with wind blowing off the lake. Some people had to take their canopies down and it was very chilly to sit or sleep there after dark unless you were inside a tent.

Most runners still set up their personal crewing stations along the dam just past the aid station. It is very cool to walk or run through this "gauntlet" on each loop because the crews are so encouraging to everyone on the course.

The last two years 40-50 runner vehicles have been able to park at the lodge during the entire race. We decided to crew ourselves from our car last year and it worked well for us. We liked the spot we had and wanted to get close to it again this time. We did.

We were happy when the Lugianos parked on one side of us (and offered to share their canopy so we didn't have to erect ours) and the Dummars parked on the other side.

It is farther off the course to use our vehicle as our base than to have our canopy and table right next to the course along the dam but it's easier to attend to Cody and have access to all of our stuff in the car. It also saves us older folks from having to drag our gear and supplies back and forth several hundred feet across the parking lot, bridge, and dam.

Having such easy access to your stuff at a small-loop course has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages should be obvious. The main disadvantage is the amount of time you can waste going to your personal crewing station too often!!


Some of the vehicles parked at the lodge before the race began; ours is the tan van in the center.

Fortunately for me, it didn't matter this year. I wasn't aiming for major miles like I have at ATY. I knew I had to walk more this year and take more breaks. I also wanted to save some energy for after dark. I love being out on trails at night. Since I'm too slow to run 100-milers now, my best opportunity to run and walk during the night at a race is in a 24-hour event.

Jim had to exercise more discipline at Hinson Lake than me and not get sucked into the vortex every loop. He seemed to do fine with that, although I didn't see him very often when I was on the course. He was always ahead of me and moving a little faster. I stopped often enough that the only times he "lapped" me were when I was taking a break or tending to Cody.

Speaking of dogs . . . the last two years Cody-the-ultra-Lab has done just fine sleeping in the van during the race (the first year we had Tater, too, and they both stayed home). We left the front windows and back door of the van open all day, as shown above, so he got plenty of air. He also got plenty of walks and attention, although most people didn't even know he was in there; he never made a peep all day or night. He's a very good boy.

The park is open to the public during the race and dogs are allowed on the trails around the lake. Both local trail users and some HL24 runners bring their dogs on race weekend. Each year several runners, including Jim, have taken their dogs with them on one or more laps after a fair number of the race participants have left the course and the remaining ones are quite spread out. (Note how few miles some folks do in this race. This year 38% of the participants ran or walked less than 50K. Many of them were done and gone by late afternoon.) Jim took Cody on only a couple laps Saturday evening because it was still quite warm after sundown this year and we didn't want him jumping in the lake to cool off (something about a large, wet dog in the car with us . . . ).

THE START

It was simple to set up our supplies this year. We opened up the back door of the van and set our supply table against the bumper. If it had rained we could have set up our canopy, too. Instead, we helped Joe and Hannah put theirs up (photo below); when our spot was sunny in the afternoon, we set our chair(s) under their canopy in the shade during short breaks.


L-R:  Susan Dummar, Jim, Joe and Hannah Lugiano socialize before the race begins.

One of the things we wish we'd brought this time was our 5-gallon cooler filled with water and ice. Although there were plenty of fluids and ice at the race aid station it would have been simpler to mix our bottles of Heed and Perpetuem if we'd had water at our table like we've always done previously at Hinson Lake and ATY. We took a smaller food cooler this time and it was adequate.

We had plenty of time to relax and visit with friends before the race. Some who entered late were a pleasant surprise:

Lynn DiFiore, who ran a few miles and then worked the aid station until the end of the race:

Sarah Lowell, who shared a lap Saturday afternoon with Juli Aistars and me after she ran 50 miles in 9:37 hours as a qualifier for Western States:


Sarah (L) and Juli run a relaxed loop in the afternoon.

Sally Squire, volunteer coordinator at the Umstead 100, who ran and finished the Lean Horse 100-miler only three weeks before Hinson Lake (note that she's 67 years old):


L-R:  Doug Dawkins, Joe Lugiano, Sally Squire, and Hannah Lugiano
wait for the final runners to come in from the "banana lap" the second morning.

Liz Bauer, who won the female division of the race this year with intense focus and determination:

And Abi Meadows, who was there in the afternoon to crew for her 15-year-old son, TJ Nagies, in his first ultra attempt. I'll talk more later about the impressive distances some of the children and teenagers ran and walked at this race. TJ's photo is at the end of this page.

One of the no-shows was our friend Pete Stringer from Cape Cod. We were disappointed to learn that he wouldn't be coming.

I had fun walking around before the start of the race talking to friends, watching the beautiful colors morph across the lake and sky as the sun rose, taking pictures, and working off some nervous energy. I wasn't nervous about the race. I just wanted to get moving. I probably walked a mile before my laps were being recorded. (I wouldn't have done that if I had been racing.)

There was quite a crowd at the start (see photos near the top of the first page of this entry). Tom lines us up on the far side of the bridge across the dam outlet and we run and walk past the timing area/aid station until the crowd thins out enough to go our own planned paces.

I wasn't in a hurry at any time during the race, even the first loop (especially the first loop), so I stopped many times to take photos of people ahead of and behind me:

I put more of those pictures on our Picasa site. That's quite a crowd above but people seemed to queue themselves up well at the start. The ones who wanted to run fast from the start were at the front and the ones who wanted to warm up slowly stayed near the back. Or so it looked to me.

By the second loop the runners had already spread out quite a bit. The next photo was taken about the same place as the one above:


A little pool of sunshine on the second lap

By the time it was dark, probably half the runners were gone and those who were left were a little lonely out there (but not as lonely as most trail 100-milers).

JIM'S RACE & THE "BANANA LOOP"

Jim was in game mode from the get-go. His goal was to maintain a steady run-walk pace of about 15 minutes per mile, including stops, so he could complete each 1.52-mile loop in about 22 minutes (or three miles in ~ 45 minutes). He did the first half mile about my pace, then picked it up from there.

The heat and humidity got to him by mid-day. Like most of the other runners, his pace slowed down and his stops got longer as the day wore on. He didn't keep track of his loops and times as closely this year as he did in 2007 and 2008. He finished the first 50 miles slower than intended, then tried to sleep for several hours before going back out.


Jim heads out slowly on the first lap (he's just ahead of the woman and boy in the foreground)

Jim didn't sleep much in the van. He was warm inside but there was simply too much noise and light in the parking area during the night. I had the same problem, but I had no intentions like he did of getting back out on the course in the morning so it didn't matter as much if I slept or not.

Jim got up about 5:30AM to run some more miles. Despite not sleeping well, he was able to get in several more loops (a total of 37 complete laps) and a partial lap (almost an additional mile) after the "banana lap" began.

This is a cool feature at Hinson Lake. When the clock starts bearing down on 24 hours, runners who want to go out one more time are given a banana with their race number on it to carry on their last lap. When the horn blows, they are to drop the banana on the course and return to the finish in whichever direction is shortest. Tom and his volunteers go out to collect the bananas and record the distances of each runner. Those distances are added to their final miles.

 
Jim walks with Tom Adair for a little bit on the first loop.
They are right behind the two runners in the foreground.

Some folks are quite content to stop after a complete loop and watch the end of the race instead of going back out for a partial lap, knowing they may have to walk or run back -- up to 3/4 mile that isn't counted.

I can see stopping at the end of a complete lap if you know you can't add much more mileage but that can mean a finish lower in the standings. Check out the results page to see how a partial lap put some runners a little bit ahead of their competition.

I was watching the "banana loop" with fascination when I noticed that there were so many runners taking advantage of this feature this year that Tom ran out of bananas! After some scurrying around for a suitable substitute, one runner left with a numbered orange. That was comical.


Late-afternoon power nap

Jim wasn't real thrilled with his pace but I think he did well considering he wasn't prepared for flat terrain, heat, and humidity after being in the Rockies all summer. He was using the same muscles over and over for the first time since ATY last December. The high heat and oppressive humidity affected nearly all the participants. Some of the guys ran without shirts all day AND night, it was so warm. It probably would have been better if we'd gotten some rain to cool things down. (I can't believe I said that!)

Because he did slow down and take more breaks, Jim didn't have any problems with getting enough fluids and calories during the race. He wasn't nauseous or dehydrated. He did not have any trouble with his feet, either.

All that spells "s-u-c-c-e-s-s" in my book.

MY RACE

I already mentioned how casually I took this race. I ran and walked fast enough the first seven loops (10.64 miles) to average 16 minutes per mile, including stops. Then I just walked the remaining miles. I still had a decent 19-minute pace after 15 laps (22.8 miles), when I took my first long break.

After that, I'd do two or three laps and stop for a while again again. I spent more time at the car resting, mixing Jim's drinks, walking Cody around, and visiting with people. As other runners began slowing down, I started walking with some of them at a pace at which we could talk. That made some of my slowest laps go the fastest because I was so engrossed in conversation. 


The other end of the Leath footbridge was a good place to take photos of the runners' faces.

I saved some energy to do a few laps after dark. I didn't hear the frog chorus across the swamp on the far side of the course this time (near the bridge above) but I sure did enjoy the night time hours out there. It was a beautiful night in the park.

I almost didn't need a flashlight because the moon reflected so much light off the nearly-white surface of the trail. However, there were just enough roots for me to trip over that I kept my light on most of the time after it got dark. Some runners like Laz, who have better night vision and more coordination than I do, walked or ran without any lights. (I'll have more to say about Laz, one of ultra running's more colorful characters, in the next entry.)

It takes 21 loops (31.92 miles) to get at least 50K (31.2 miles) at Hinson Lake. Since I don't know where the 50K mark is, I recorded my time at 21 loops as 12:15 hours (8:15PM). I went from an overall 19-minute pace per mile at 23 miles to an average 23-minute pace per mile at 32 miles. That's a reflection of all my down time, however; I was still walking each 1-mile loop in about the same time.


One of many photo ops along the course . . .

I took a break after reaching 32 miles. I had plenty of energy left to go more miles but the bottoms of both feet were blistered and very painful.

I don't think the blistering was caused by a poor shoe or sock choice, but other factors. I began the race in my comfortable Asics 2140 trail shoes, then changed into a wider pair of Asics 2140 road shoes when my feet started hurting well before I'd gone even 20 miles. My toes were fine in my Injinji toe socks but they don't always prevent blisters on the outsides or bottoms of my feet. What was unusual was getting blisters so early in the game this time.

Part of my problem with running at Hinson Lake is the trail itself -- not just the fine grit that works itself in even with gaiters on, but the slant of the trail. I will never be able to do major miles on this course because of my unique biomechanics. I already knew that from my two previous runs there but these were the worst blister problems I've had at Hinson Lake.

My problem is that most of the trail around the lake is canted down to the left -- toward the lake -- as we go counter-clockwise in the race. We never change directions in 24 hours. My left ankle is very unstable from unsuccessful surgery to repair the peroneus brevis and longus tendons that I severed in a bad sprain at Western States in 2001. Even when I wear my ASO ankle brace, that ankle splays outward and anyone who ever follows me when I'm running wonders (or asks!) why I run so funny. My left foot needs to be higher than the right, not lower, for me to have any semblance of a normal gait.

I think that factor, plus the fine gritty surface, high humidity, possible dehydration and consequent swelling of my feet, no preventative foot taping, AND my lack of training all combined to destroy the bottoms of my heels. Other folks reported more blistering than normal, too.


A welcome, tempting sight at the end of each loop: our car!

So I'm sitting in my chair enjoying some hot soup about 9PM and Laz (Gary Cantrell) walks by . . .

Laz and the friend he rode to the race with were parked near us. I told him I was probably done. He had been going slower than me and was one or two laps "behind" me. I think by then he'd also exceeded his expectations in the race but he wasn't ready to quit. Something he told me spurred me to get back out on the course for two more laps. I'll talk about the lesson he taught me in the next entry.

Those two last loops were actually more comfortable than the two before them. I changed into my Keen Venice 2 sandals, which pretty much eliminate my unstable ankle problem.

I've done this before; I wore them the last two hours at ATY last December. Although the Keens don't have enough arch support for lots of miles, my heels fit so low and securely in them that my left ankle doesn't flop to the outside. Unfortunately, the open sandals get so much trail debris in them that I use them primarily on pavement. They are so comfortable that I'd love to wear them more on trails. I didn't have any problem with the grit at Hinson Lake those last three miles, however, and wondered later if I should have put them on even earlier.

At 10:45PM I really did call it a day and withdrew from the race. I had gone just shy of 35 miles, which was a stretch at that point in my training. Any more miles and I could do my body more harm than good.

THE PEOPLE

I think I've made clear throughout this entire web journal that one of the reasons we love attending  ultra marathons so much is the people that run, crew, direct, and volunteer at them. Even as we slow down and have increasing difficulty finishing the darn things, we still enjoy being involved as participants and volunteers at races.

It was the people we expected to see at Hinson Lake that really compelled us to attend the race this year. As expected, we had a great time talking to old friends and making new ones. It always surprises us a little when people come up to us and say they feel like they know us from this web journal, even though we've never met before. That happened several times at this race. I love that!


These guys lapped me a lot: Ray K (on left) and RD Tom Gabell (R)

One lady amused us when she told Jim that she reads our website and basically asked him if that was OK!  I know I get pretty personal sometimes (about us, not other people), so maybe she was feeling a little voyeuristic?

A woman from Atlanta commented to me that I was the one who introduced her to ultra running back in 1996. I don't remember that specific conversation thirteen years ago, but I remembered her and I've certainly talked to lots of other runners about my passion for the sport. After all, that's how I got into ultra running myself -- the influence of runners like Janice Anderson and Rich Schick that I knew when I lived in the Atlanta area.

Although Jim and I have influenced some other folks to accept the challenge of ultra running, we are also constantly inspired by others in the sport -- not just the "legends" like Laz and Ray K, but also very young runners, runners who are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, ultra newbies, runners who beat the odds or overcome various handicaps (some of which aren't visible), runners who go above and beyond to help others find success in the sport, runners who hang in there long after others have ended their running "careers" because they are well beyond their peaks . . .

You get the idea.


Hinson Lake is perfect for runners of all ages and abilities.

The group of runners at Hinson Lake that most impressed me this year, even more than the success of many of the older runners and the near-flawless run of Jonathan Savage, who appeared just as fresh after finishing 132 miles as he did before the race, is the youngsters.

How young?

Try seven years old. That would be Evan Baxley, who completed five laps (7.6 miles). Two eight-year-old girls got six miles (four loops) around the lake this year: Mary Fogelman (who also ran last year at age seven) and Carson Roman.

Nine-year-old Thomas Walsh finished nine laps for over 13 miles, while Nathan Fogelman, also nine, stayed out long enough for nineteen complete loops, almost 29 miles -- definitely an ultra! Nathan wore a bright orange shirt and red shorts, making him easy to spot. He amused many of the grownups with his competitive surges during the race. I enjoyed several letters from runners to the ultra list who commented on Nathan's ability and personality.


Nathan and one of his older brothers head into the woods after crossing the Leath Bridge.

Nathan is also cunning. Last year his brother David, who is one year older, beat him by about six miles. This year Nathan decided to run one more lap than David after the now-10-year-old dropped out with 27+ miles and left the park with some of his family members to go to a wedding or something. That's pretty funny. Nathan is shown above with another older brother, Brad I think, who ran 57+ miles in the race this year.

Those Fogelman kids definitely inherited some good running genes (environment has a lot to do with it, too). Both parents also participate in the race.

Even more astounding was the performance of eight-year-old Peter Luljak from Maryland. He circled the lake with his father David for 33+ loops, a grand total of 50.84 miles!!


Peter walks with his dad Saturday afternoon. He did quite a bit of running, too.

Although Peter needed some time off during the night, he got back out there in the morning and even went out on the "banana loop" to squeeze out another 2/3 mile. He was the talk of the race. Peter has obviously inherited some good running genes and acquired a lot of mental discipline, too. His father has run 156 miles in 24 hours previously. I haven't been able to confirm if that is or was a record of some type (age group, national, etc.) but it's an excellent performance.

There were several other youngsters and teenagers in the race, too. One in particular who charmed the adults was Abi Meadows' 15-year-old son TJ Nagies, who ran almost the entire time by himself. He increased his previous longest distance of 30K to 50K, waking his mom up to join him for the lap where he reached that benchmark.


TJ (curly hair and black shirt) stands behind two ultra veterans
before the race begins:  Byron Backer (L) and Bill Keane.

Although I didn't talk or run with TJ, other runners commented on what a polite and determined young man he is. Abi is very proud of his accomplishment, as I'm sure all running parents are when their offspring voluntarily begin running for the sheer joy of it and not because of parental pressure.

This is an excellent venue for parents whose kids want to run or walk a few laps with them. It's safe, casual, and fun. Most of the older runners are accommodating, if not outright happy to have them along. There are lots of teachable moments and all the runners, younger and older, seem to have a great time.

Are you beginning to understand why this race has grown so fast? It has something for everyone.

You can see this year's full race results here.  For more pictures of people and scenery from the race, check out our Picasa photo-sharing site.

Next entry: lessons from Laz

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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