July 27, 2013 was the third year my running club has held the Endless Summer Six-Hour Run. In previous years, I either had other events, or just wasn’t up to that kind of mileage.
They allow both relay teams of three and solo runners. Some of my friends did the relay, but I was more interested in the personal challenge. And with the North Face 50K less than two months prior, I felt my body was in good enough shape for distance. I didn’t train specifically for this event, but I had to give it a shot.
I was on the fence for a while, until I saw a Facebook posting that they were counting down the remaining spots before closeout. Only 14 left! I jumped off the fence and registered that day.
The race is held on a paved trail through Quiet Waters Park. There’s a loop that’s slightly over four miles long, and you run as many loops as you can in six hours. Sounds horrible, right?
I usually hate loop courses, but I really wanted to do this for some reason. And it actually wasn’t bad. In fact, I had a really great time! I was a bit nervous going into this race, but I’m glad I had nothing to worry about.
It probably helps that it was a small race, and that I knew many of the racers and most of the volunteers. You’d check in at the end of every loop, and stop to refill water and snack at the well-stocked aid station. After my first loop, a chocolate chip cookie called to me, but shortly after I realized that wasn’t the best fuel choice. Tasty, but didn’t feel the greatest. I stuck to watermelon and bananas after that, and took Gu a few times around the midpoint of a loop.
We got lucky with great weather. The previous week was a heatwave, but it was in the 70s and as pleasant as we could hope for in late July. The park is mostly shaded, too, with just a few short stretches in the sun. Sure I was super sweaty most of the day, but I wasn’t too terribly uncomfortable.
I kept my pace easy from the start, and walked up the biggest hills. For my first five loops, I had three walking sections. After that, I added a few more! Where did those new hills come from?
Still, even as I fatigued, I kept a fairly steady pace. My times slowed as the loops increased a minute or so at a time, which will be attributed to extra walk breaks and longer aid stops. I felt strong, even to the end. When we were on our last loop, we were given a small flag with our bib number on it. When time ran out they sounded an air horn, and we put our flag in the ground.
The race volunteers measured our partial mileage to give us totals for the full six hours. I heard that last year, they didn’t count partial loops. I was glad for the change back to the first-year format. I still had 30 minutes left after my last full loop, and managed to run another 2.36 miles!
Official total for the day was 31.41 miles and seven full loops (Minutes for each loop: 43, 43, 45, 47, 48, 50, 53). My Garmin was only slightly ahead, which is pretty good considering all the tree coverage. There have been times Garmin has lost a couple miles in this park when only doing one loop!
That’s a 50K and a little extra, folks. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from my body! Well, it would have been nice to finish eight loops, but I’ll take it.
I had such a blast. There was no ‘wall’ that usually happens during a marathon. I’m not sure if it was the break every four miles, the extra fueling (I usually take one Gu per hour and that’s it), or the fact that speed didn’t matter to me (some people may have been trying for faster, but I was mostly concerned with pacing myself for the hours!). Maybe that made it a little mentally easier.
How long’s the race you’re running? However far you get in six hours!
I even put my first-ever running sticker on my car. Not sure why I never got into the distance stickers, but I really like this one. And I’m proud of my race!
Will I do it again next year? I’m not sure. I haven’t figured out my 2014 plans yet, but if my legs are up for the mileage, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. It was a great experience!