MAY 24, 2014

 

The Friday before the 24-hour run did not go as planned. It was the last day of students with the last final exams given in the first half of the high school day. On top of that, graduation was at 8:30 in the evening. Graduation involved a fund-raising drink sale at the ceremony in order to raise money for next season’s cross-country teams, girls and boys. I was responsible for this.

Fortunately, I had some reliable cross-country parents to handle the sales so I would not have to be there in order for it to run efficiently. But, I planned to leave school for the race as soon after 12:00 noon for my drive to Savannah which would take about three and a half hours. I wanted to arrive at the motel and rest as much as possible for the next day’s event.

Well, from the get-go, I was delayed. I had to wait on some parents to bring drinks to the school in the afternoon. We had to have the drinks at that time in order for them to be put in coolers or iced down so cold drinks would be sold at graduation. We got the drinks. The drinks were being cooled or iced. I could now leave for Savannah. It was 2:20 p.m.

The drive was uneventful. I stopped once for a drink. Then, I cruised I-16, a straight shot to Savannah. I easily found my motel and checked in…for seven dollars more than was quoted as the rate including tax. Not a good sign.

After getting situated in the room, I drove to Hutchinson Island, the race site. I had never been there, so I wanted to make sure I could get there on race morning with no problems, and I wanted to see how long it would take me to drive the distance. Then, I would know what time to leave for the race.

It took me about twenty minutes to slowly drive to the race site. Once there, I asked some questions of a guy puttering around getting things ready at the headquarter tent. It was obvious where I could erect my three-man tent because of all the other tents, RV’s, and campers that were already there. I picked a place about midway on the stretch. It was beside a small town that was the camp for one of the 24-hour runners…as opposed to those in the 6-hour run, 12-hour run, and relay. My tent looked a little lonely beside the conglomeration that made up the runners village beside the completion stretch for a lap.

I asked if it was possible to drive the loop which was an old race course, the site of the first grand prix race in the U.S.A. I couldn’t get around it because it was still blocked in either direction. So, my first time seeing the course would be in the race itself tomorrow morning. No problem.

I had a cooler with food and fluids for the race in the back of my trusty Ford Ranger. I would place it in front of my tent in the morning for the race. That would give me about ten yards to walk from the course to my cooler for fluids. Or, to my chair right inside my tent door.

A RUNNER'S CAMP. THE LITTLE ONE OFF TO THE RIGHT - MY CAMP.

A RUNNER’S CAMP. THE LITTLE ONE OFF TO THE RIGHT – MY CAMP.

My cooler had my choices of fluids for the race that the aid station would not have on their table. I had cran-grape juice, ruby red grapefruit juice, Coca-Cola, water, and chocolate milk. I also had some half-sandwiches of sliced turkey to eat if needed. The aid station for the race had Gatorade, water, and Heed to drink from fluid coolers. Under the tent, they had a smorgasbord of choices of foods throughout the events. My favorite from the aid station was the chunks of watermelon. Later, I tried a couple of popsicles. They were good but partially melted.

Saturday morning was a comfortable temperature and was overcast but cleared later in the day. The race started at 8:00 a.m. I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare. I parked on the opposite side of the road from the runners’ camps. Everything was convenient in this general area of the start – finish line, aid station, camps, port-a-johns, and parking. I placed my cooler outside my tent, laced my shoes, and was ready to go. We herded up to the starting line at the race director’s call and waited for the countdown. After the countdown from ten seconds, we were off and running…some walking.

The old grand prix racecourse was 2.21 miles per lap. There is a slight curving hill after the first straight. It was one of those hills that is easy to run in the early stages of the race and then walking it is a chore later in the race. Everything else was flat. We had an aid station on the opposite side with water and ice under a tent. It was self-serve and in an opportune location.

THE VIEW AFTER EACH LAP - BRIDGE TO SOUTH CAROLINA.

THE VIEW AFTER EACH LAP – BRIDGE TO SOUTH CAROLINA.

I felt relaxed in the beginning stages. I wanted a very conservative early pace so I would feel stronger in the late hours. My goal was at least 100 kilometers. I wasn’t well prepared for this as is usual just coming out of coaching track. But, I wanted to use this as preparation for The Last Annual Vol-State Road Race in July which is 500 kilometers.

I wasn’t concerned about my place in the mix of 24-hour, 12-hour, 6-hour, and relay runners as I ran comfortably lap after lap. I was chugging down the cran-grape juice and grapefruit juice. Every few laps, I would drink some Coke. I took watermelon from the aid station and some Gatorade for the electrolytes.

I wanted to be close to 14:24 per mile as long as I could hold it. This would tell me about my Vol-State preparation. My first lap was 9:34 per mile…too fast. They gradually slowed after that until the beast grabbed me and stomped me down.

I first went over my projected pace at 28 miles. After that, it stayed over with a few laps dipping back under…very few. The sky cleared of all clouds, and the temperature climbed. I never really had a problem with the heat or the sun. I did wear sunglasses, which I rarely wear while running, in the afternoon. This took the glare from the road and helped me run more relaxed.

The evening brought a slight breeze on the backside of the loop. Runners were jogging, running mixed with walking, walking, or just taking a sit-down break. Some were sleeping. Everyone seemed to be on a different race plan. My plan was to keep moving through the 24-hours. But, you know what they say about the “best laid plans.” I was about to find out.

At about 53 miles, my stomach began talking to me and telling me it did not want to go along for the ride. I felt an encroaching nausea. I thought it would pass. And, this was in the cool of the evening with a pleasant breeze. Go figure.

VIEW OF THE FINISH OF EACH LAP - RUNNING TOWARD CAMERA.

VIEW OF THE FINISH OF EACH LAP – RUNNING TOWARD CAMERA.

I kept running with the nausea until my stomach made me start walking. It felt better for a while, and then that didn’t work anymore. I stopped taking any fluids to see if that would help. It did not. I was forced to take a break and lay down to see if that would help. It did. My stomach liked that. It liked it so well, that when I got up to run, it rebelled again and again. This was not good!

The miles got slower reflected with the sixteen-plus minute pace per mile. I thought that I would not make my 100-kilometer goal. In fact, I began not to even care about it. My biggest concern was my nauseated stomach. Thinking back as to what may have caused this rare condition of nausea, I concluded that it centered on the slice of pizza that I had from the aid station. That was the only thing taken out of the ordinary. That’s my best diagnosis…pizza.

I struggled through the remaining time, taking forced breaks, and jogging and walking again until I was right at the “throw-up” point. The pace climbed up to eighteen and nineteen minutes. I just wanted to finish this thing.

I was slightly encouraged when I realized that I would make my 100-kilometer goal with a little extra. This was a far cry from the level I ran the Keys 100 last year about this same time. That was 100 miles in twenty-six plus hours. But, my stomach liked that one.

I finished in 11th place overall and as the 10th male. The finish distance was 73.03 miles, which would have won my age-group…if they had age-groups. It wasn’t great, but it was ahead of my goal, so I took my stomach and went home.

Maybe, again next year…maybe not.

 

Richard Westbrook

 

 

 

 

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