Palmer Lake 24 Hour Fun Run {PDR!}

Earlier last week I saw a post about the Palmer Lake 24 Hour Fun Run. On Friday morning Paula, Chris and I signed up for it. Saturday morning rolled around and we headed south with a few bags of food and many layers of running gear having no idea what to expect.

We went in with the goal of 6 [or 7] hours at the race then heading back to real life and such. We really had no idea what we were doing and if it weren’t for Paula waiting for a ride I may have stayed in bed. The idea of showing up at a small ultra terrified me. It was a laid back event put on for the sake of getting people some training miles but I had decided I was going for a PRD [Personal Distance Record] of at least 32 miles and that got me all worked up.


24hrs of Palmer Lake: Race Video 2014 from Jerry Armstrong on Vimeo.

Turns out I got myself in a tizzy over nothing, as usual. We arrived, introduced ourselves to the Race Director, Israel Archuletta, and haphazardly claimed a place in the grass. At 8:01am the 30ish runners started their first loop around the lake.

Oh, did I mention that entire race was run around a 0.82 mile “lake” loop? Yea. That may have been another reason I was freaking out about the race and my distance goals. I have spent many mornings whining about the 2.5 mile loop around Wash Park, how was I going to survive just 0.82 miles per loop?!

The Running

I started running with Paula at an easier pace – she is completely insane and did the Crossfit 14.5 Friday night so her legs were hating her – while Chris cruised along as his version of an easy pace. He might be new to this running thing but I’m quickly losing my ability to keep up with him! As we looped around the lake area [it was a very empty lake] we talked each other’s ears off and let the miles just slide on by.

The timing system was old school – write your name on the board and mark down a tally every time you pass by. We started out stopping at every single loop to tally and play tic tac toe. Yup, we play games when we run. There was a playground set right near by so we spend the first 10ish miles being awesome at tic tac toe. We both won, then we got distracted with miles and eating. Lots of eating. Israel cooked up 6 pounds of bacon for us…I was in heaven. Bacon + chips + M&Ms + Swedish Fish = Happy Shorts Heidi!

IMG_20140329_090334897[1]
IMG_20140329_101900271_HDR[1]IMG_20140329_103429661[1]
Tic Tac Toe…and a half marathon selfie! Look how smiley Paula is 13.1 miles into her day!

Paula came to run 10 miles and called it a day when she hit 20 miles…she is crazy. Completely crazy. Chris was strictly instructed [by me] to keep his distance under 25 miles. He finished up at 27.06 miles – he’s an ultra runner! I would have smacked him for it but I may have been the one to instigate the last few miles. Oops.

They both promised me they were happy to nap in the grass while I kept my loops going…so I kept running. After the first 15 miles or so I decided to either get someone to tally for me or save up my tally marks for every other loop – the constant stopping to tally was making me crazy. By the time I hit a full marathon I had gotten into a rhythm of stopping every 2-3 loops to eat, drink and tally.

IMG_20140329_091922699[1]PL24 - Israel6
The loop…and the food!

I hit a full marathon 10 minutes shy of 5 hours, took a breather to swap out socks then headed back out to cover a 50K in just under 6 hours. Technically the 6 hour make was our “limit” for the day but I was still going strong and Paula assured me she was capable of speed showering before her dinner plans so I started looping again hoping for 36 miles in 7 hours. By the time I hit 6.5 hours I was at 34 miles…which meant I was definitely going for 37 miles, I had the time.

2014-03-29 15.02.25
Running my last few steps…then done for the day!

I finished my final loop at 7:01:08 with a grand total of 37.75 miles and 46 loops around the lake. The last 2 miles were annoying. My body wanted a breather but with a 7 hour limit I didn’t have the time so I kept running. Nothing really hurt, per say, but everything wanted to be done running. I’m glad I didn’t stop at 35. I’m really glad I made it the full 7 miles.

2014-03-29 15.29.39
Filling out my last tally of the day – 46 loops!

My last 10+ miles were the fastest of the day, on average. Actually, from mile 15 on I started pulling out miles in the 9’s and low 10’s while seeing a lot of 8:xx and low 9:xx on the “current pace” Garmin display – not entire accurate, but nice numbers! It felt crazy to see those numbers but my body wasn’t protesting – it was actually more annoying to slow down the pace so I just kept going. The last 5 miles were all below 9:10 with two at 8:5x. That’s really just a bunch of numbery stats to most people, but to me that is crazy talk…and proof that I am probably capable of running a fair bit faster than I currently do.

The Body

As soon as I finished my last lap I stopped by the aid station table, stared at the food and walked away empty handed. I expected to feel a gnawing hunger after all those miles and I was ready to take on large quantities of real food. But food didn’t appeal to me. I plopped myself down in a chair and chugged water. I wasn’t exhausted. No part of my body was broken. My feet were blister free. My muscles were tired but fully functional. And I was incredibly proud of my body for pulling off this kind of crazy, impulse racing!

2014-03-29 14.53.59
Still running smiley in the mid-30’s!

It wasn’t rainbows and unicorns the entire run but the aches progressively moved throughout my body as the loops went on. My first ache was in my lower back – it’s been a trouble spot for a long while now. A dull, annoying pain became grouch inducing even after awkward stretching but at some point it just went away. I don’t remember when, I just remember realizing my back wasn’t hurting any more.

2014-03-29 14.04.38
Self inflicted rolly pain…

After I hit the 20 mile mark my right calf got angry with me for unknown reasons. It tightened up and kept threatening to knot. After I crossed over the 26.2 mile mark [really wanted my sub-5hr marathon] I spent some time rolling it out and switched over to the Zensah Compressions socks that arrived in the mail this week. The next miles were better and after another roll out stop around mile 32 my calf had settled down. It wasn’t overjoyed with me, but it was no longer protesting. I’ve never been a devote compression wearer…after this little experience that may change, I think the added Zensah compression socks made all the difference in the world!

IMG_20140329_153024718[1]
Still smiling after 46 laps – most important part of the race!
See that “half marathon” mark up top? That’s from an 8 year old that went on to run 20 miles!

Aside from those two incidents my body didn’t really complain. I was impressed. Personally, I expected much more misery – both physically and mentally. It wasn’t all easy but I never doubted my ability to run and after the first 20 miles there was no doubt in my mind that I’d hit at least 30 miles. The course may have been flat and loopy but it was a huge confidence booster for my endurance!

The Food

We went grocery shopping at 9pm the night before the race with no idea of what we would need. It wasn’t required that we brought food but I wanted my own stash of go-to snacks, just in case. We arrived at the race with chips, Swedish Fish, Powerade, Mt Dew, espresso beans and random gels. Israel has an awesome set up with fresh fruit, cupcakes, donuts, potatoes, M&Ms and bacon galore.

I started running with a handheld + gel mixture. I hesitantly used a Clif Shot Citrus gel [not a citrus fan] and a standard Honey Stinger gel. Turned out to be an awesome combo, tasted just like sweet iced tea! Definitely buying more caffeinated citrus gels! Beyond that I had absolutely NO plan when it came to food. I’d eat whatever I was in the mood for and when I was hungry. I ate quite a bit in the beginning but as the miles wore on I slowed down my inhalation of food.

IMG_20140329_093414474[1]IMG_20140329_101746809_HDR[1]
The start/finish of the loop – Paula is marking down our tallies, the food is behind her.

I never felt very hungry or depleted of energy so I must have been doing something right but I need to do some serious nutrition experimentation before I take on Quad Rock! I at least need to have a backup plan should things go south, something I know I can depend upon. Something that isn’t pure sugar or lubed up in bacon grease. Something that doesn’t make my lips all sticky with gel residue. Something that is guaranteed to at least settle a stomach and get me nutrients…any suggestions on what that something can/should be?!

Overall, it was a crazy awesome day. Not only did I run further [and faster] than I expected I got do watch other people to crazy things. Crazy things like Chris’s first marathon, on a whim. Crazy things like Paula double her “goal distance” even after a heavy leg workout the night before. And super crazy things like 7 and 8 year olds covering 20+ miles. I was really hesitant to actually show up on race day but I am so glad I drug my butt out of bed, even if I hadn’t covered my goal distance it would have been an incredible day!

PL24 - IsraelPL24 - Israel2
PL24 - Israel4
What happens after 37 miles…I lay on the ground and whine until you cover me in jackets and hold them down with food!

The official results are in – I pulled off second place female! Yay for small races! The woman ahead of me was nearly 50 miles ahead of me so I didn’t have a chance at winning. I’ll happily accept my 2nd place status! You can see all the numbery result stuff on UltraSignup.com.

Random Side Note: My body is loving the long miles. After the 7 hours of running a Palmer Lake I took the day easy but never crashed and burned or hated myself for the distance. Instead I got up early the next morning to meet the Boulder Running Company crew for 10 miles on rolling hills at Lair o’ the Bear.

IMG_20140330_083519644[1]IMG_20140330_091337876_HDR[1]

My body did not protest until it realized I’d stupidly forgotten to bring any food with me. The miles were not easy but they were far from the most difficult steps I’ve taken so I’m calling this weekend a fan-freaking-tastically huge win!

Improvising…to make it work!

After writing out my survival plan for Quad Rock 50 I dug up a legal pad and wrote out the dates of all the weeks leading up to the race. They all fit on one side of the paper. Uh oh. That is not very many weeks, for the record. I am well past the point of freaking out about my barely there training plan. It’s been decided that I am going to make the most of the time I have left, which requires a little creativity.

I have befriended two-a-day runs and even taken on a few three-a-days just for fun. It has become rather “normal” to get up early for a country road jaunt, pack up running clothes for some Wyoming runching and then stop by a trailhead on my way home for a few extra miles. It’s not perfect but it is getting me miles on tired legs so I’ll take it!

Early Bird Running

My morning runs are the hardest to get going with – it always looks so dark and my bed is so cozy. – boring, overused excuses. I’ve talked myself back under the covers a few times because I know I will be able to run on my lunch and after work…so a few intended three-a-days became whiney two-a-days.

IMG_20140320_063235463IMG_20140320_065422703
A nearly full moon morning + a thumbnail moon morning

But when I do get myself outside to run in the morning it is always worth it. I run a long a gravel road in the country with chirping birds and barking dogs. The sun is rising ahead of me, the mountains are lighting up behind me. You really could not ask for a better setting for an early run, I should probably get myself out of bed more often!

Runch Time

If I’m feeling ambitious at work [or lazy in the morning] I’ll swap out an annoying underwire for comfy spandex and head outside to run along flat Wyoming roads. During my first lunch run it took approximately 0.34 miles for me to decide that any run in Wyoming wind counts toward hill work. Good grief.

IMG_20140313_141111201IMG_20140326_131937177
Takes me 2 miles to find a hill in WY, but it comes with free range hamburger cows!

Wyoming is kind of known for being windy and a steady wind is bearable but the random gusts of wind that nearly knock you off your feet are demoralizing! Over the last month I have acclimated and get excited when the forecast calls for *only* 20mph winds. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped whining about the wind, but I’ve at least figured out how to run through the gusts without tripping myself!

Sunsets + Dark Trails

The even runs are kind of a gamble. I am on a mission to explore all the trails Fort Collins has to offer but have struck out more than once – a lot of the trails are closed due to mud or flood maintenance. But not all of them…I took the advice of a few co-workers and have been playing around in Poudre Canyon, namely on the Gray Rock trails.

IMG_20140325_191142169_HDR
IMG_20140325_191212619_HDR

They are exactly what my training needs – steep and technical. However, they are also a bit of a drive up the canyon so a headlamp is required. I’m figuring out how to run down technical descents in the dark, without dying. Or even face planting. Yet. *knockonwood*

IMG_20140327_185916395

I have even managed to get a few miles in at Horsetooth Reservoir…one of the parks the Quad Rock 50M goes through. That counts as legitimate training, right? I met up with a new friend and after our trail run she drove me up the road into the park on a rather steep paved road…then told me there is a race that goes up said road. I may or may not have Google’ed the Horsetooth Half immediately after that drive.

Weekend Miles

Much to the dismay of the cats – who are still living among many unpacked moving boxes – my weekends back in Denver have been eaten up by miles on the trails. Chris is ramping up his CPTR 25M training so one day is dedicated to his long run. The other weekend day involves more miles on my part, hopefully. Some weekends I succeed, other weekends I pretend to succeed.

IMG_20140322_094649994_HDR
Staunton State Park – near Pine, CO

This past weekend I semi-succeeded on a 12 mile jaunt turned 6 mile hike at Staunton State Park courtesy of a flattened bike tire [Chris was riding, I was running] but made up for it with an 18 mile run around Buffalo Creek [where North Fork, my 2nd 50M, will be].

2014-03-23 12.06.50
Along the Nice Kitty Trail at Buffalo Creek – near Pine, CO

To add a little extra fun to my weekend running I somehow talked Paula into the Lake Palmer 24 Hour Fun Run…then I talked myself out of it only to have Paula talk me back into it. We are dangerous #runablers who live in a vicious cycle of crazy. We’re only hanging out for 6 hours because of other weekend plans but I am hoping for at least 30 miles of circles. At least. And if that doesn’t work I’ll just sit down and eat all my “fuel” [aka, candy] while watching other people get dizzy!

In other very related news there is a new ultra series pulling its grassroots together so it can take its fatass races to the next level. Take a second to check out the Human Potential Running Series – a company truly dedicated to the “old school” style of ultra running.

1358998448

And by “old school” I mean the race director goes out of his way to make the races more difficult, not easier, so that the runners really do need to depend on their mental mojo and each other to survive. An interesting way to built community, but I really like it! They are about half way through their Indiegogo campaign – if you want to donate, fantastic. If not, no hard feelings at all, but every single share this campaign gets makes a difference. So share your little heart out, pretty please!