I know going in, this may not be my smartest idea ever.
I’m a coach and pacer for the Oakland Marathon training program. We do our long group runs on Saturday. On Saturday the 30th, we are scheduled to run 14 miles. Then I have back-to-back half marathons on New Year’s Eve and New Years Day (get it? it takes 2-years to run a marathon).
By doing all three, I’m setting myself up for a 3-day, 2-year ultramarathon.
I know the smart and logical thing to do is not run on Saturday, but 1) I take my role as pacer seriously, and I’d feel like I’m letting my pacees down if I don’t run, and 2) It is one of my favorite courses – running in San Francisco, from the ferry building across the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t want to miss it.
So a three-day ultra it is.
Finish this year strong, start next year strong.
I have no expectations of coming near my PR of last year (2:02:49) on the New Year’s Eve course.
Given my 3-day extravaganza, it wouldn’t even be a good idea to try.
Big Pre-Race Question
The back-to-back New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day races have what’s called a mega medal – a middle piece that connects the two individual race medals.
I’ve done these races several times and have never gotten the mega-medal on race day, they’ve always run out by the time I finish.
I still get the medal, it just comes in the mail a few weeks later. It’s not the same.
Will this be the year I (finally) get the mega-medal on race day?
The Eve and Day races are on different courses.
Eve is at Quarry Lakes. It’s flat, largely paved. It is a ‘trail’ only by the broadest of definitions. Day is at Lake Chabot on an actual trail (with dirt and trees and everything!). Chabot has hills. Lots of hills – the course climbs around 2100 feet.
The weather forecast (and the reality) is perfect for trail running. It was a bit chilly at the start (but California chilly – upper 40s – much better than the -14 my parents had at their house in Minnesota). Eve was a little overcast, but both days warmed up to the mid 50s.
New Year’s Eve
I knew going in Eve was going to be the biggest challenge of my little adventure.
I’d be tired from the day before and I’m not a huge fan of the Quarry Lakes course. It’s flat, it’s paved, it has not one, but two, long out and back sections.
Eve had the odd energy of the middle part of the trilogy. It doesn’t have the excitement of the start, and doesn’t have the finality of the finish. It feels a little incomplete.
I actually felt pretty good considering. I was tired after running 14 miles the day before, but not unreasonably so, and I wasn’t sore at all. My time was 2:09 – much faster than expected.
It wasn’t until a few miles into the Eve race that it struck me how goofy/silly this little multi-day ultra extravaganza was. Part of my brain knew it when I signed up for the races and then saw the club’s training calendar, but it didn’t really register in my brain until day two (after about 18 miles of running).
Eve Mid-Race Goal
My Eve race goal became to beat 3 ladies who insisted on running side by side on the path. They would not move over for anybody or anything.
It was a congested little path. Racers were heading in both directions, and regular people were out and about on the trail. Even so, they continued to run 3 abreast. I was annoyed on behalf of every single person who had to move over (often off the trail) to make room for them.
I wanted to pass them out of pure spite. After the last aid station, I (finally) did.
What I Did In-Between
The awkward part of back to back races is what to do during the day between the races.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Eve as a holiday so it was nice to have an excuse to not leave the house again (not that I needed one).
Generally, I’m not a huge napper. You could say I hate naps. But I found myself ridiculously tired on Sunday afternoon, so even I had to cave and take a nap.
Beyond that, I drank a ton of water, foam rolled and watched the new season on Back Mirror on Netflix.
I know. I’m such a party animal.
New Year’s Day
My 3-day, 2-year ultra is in the books! I felt surprisingly strong today as i powered up (ok, i mostly walked) 2100+ feet of climbing. My 3-day mileage total: 40.6 miles! Excuse me while i put on fuzzy pants and watch netflix for the rest of the day. #3day2yearultra #brazennyd #bebrazen #fuzzypantsandnetflix
I’ve done several races at Lake Chabot, but with one exception (the New Year’s Day half of 2012) the courses I’ve done have always been counter-clockwise around the lake or, the past few years, not a loop of the lake at all (part of the path was closed due to construction).
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a clockwise loop of the lake.
This course is tough (did I mention the 2100+ feet of climbing?). On my best day, I’d power walk up most of uphills. Given my 3-day adventure, I was not at 100%. My uphill power walking was less ‘power’ and more ‘walking.’
My only concern during the Day run was that, due to fatigue, I wasn’t picking my feet up as high as I probably should have and unlike Eve, Day was on an actual trail with stuff to potentially trip over.
I remained very aware of the possilibity of falling on my face (I didn’t).
What surprised me most about these races is that nothing surprised me – but in a good way.
I was afraid my 3-day event would cause unforeseen issues (I thought cramping was a real possibility – I never seem to drink enough in the winter).
But I was fine, the courses were good, the volunteers were their usual amazing, friendly selves.
Least Favorite Part Of The Race
All of Quarry Lakes.
But it’s a necessary evil if you are going to do the 2-year marathon.
Once A Pacer…
I tend to run at a consistent pace. I suppose that consistency is what makes me a good pacer, either for my running group or on the occasions when I’m an official pacer for an event.
Interestingly, I’ve recently had a few people come up to me after a race and thank me for pacing them, even when I wasn’t an official pacer. I was just a random civilian running my own race and others fell in line (unbeknownst to me) behind me.
It happened again today – a runner stopped me at the finish and thanked me for pacing him ‘for half the race’. The fact anyone was using me as pacer was news to me.
I must just give out a pacer vibe.
A Hint Of Running Goals To Come?
I’ve been thinking about big picture running goals lately. Getting faster does nothing to inspire me, and going longer than I’ve run before (50k is my current distance limit), isn’t terribly exciting.
As my adventure wore on, I started thinking about it as a test-run for one of these multi-stage races, since I was basically doing a 3-stage 40-mile run.
I kinda liked the multi-stage experience. I need to fine tune and formalize my training and recovery processes, but I think I’d enjoy a multi-stage race. It may have to go on the bucket list.
It’s likely not in the cards (or the budget) for 2018, but stay tuned. If anyone knows of someone who’d be interested in sponsoring a middle of the pack runner in a crazy multi-stage race, let me know!
I’ll try to work my magic and manifest a sponsor into being…
Biggest Question Answered!
For the first time ever, I got the mega-medal on race day!
Would I Do This Race Again?
I for sure would do these races again, at least the next time they are held back-to-back. Eve is usually held the Saturday before New Year’s Eve, so the races can be nearly a week apart.
I like them most when they are on consecutive days.