Today was the fourth day of the Day of the Dead Series. This is a seven day series, but I’m only doing the first four, so for me, this was the last day of a quadzilla. Accordingly, I wore a Seattle Quadzilla T-shirt.
I had trouble getting going this morning. Maybe it was too many days of getting up early. Maybe it was too many consecutive days running marathons. Maybe it was both. I felt sluggish and had trouble shaking it off. (Where’s Taylor Swift when you need her?)
Today’s weather was a few degrees warmer than yesterday. It was in the upper 40s at the start and climbed into the mid-70s during the race. I repeated yesterday’s strategy of wearing wind pants over my shorts and taking them off after I got warmed up. Today, I remembered to wear a hat!
After yesterday’s race, I was concerned about my right leg. I considered wrapping my right leg with an elastic bandage, but that used to cause problems with my left leg. I decided to go with KT tape, but I kept a compression wrap in my gear bag.
Everyone has their own ideas about how to best prevent blisters. What works for me is to wear double layer socks. The brand I wear works great the first time I wear them, but it seems they’re not as good after being worn and washed. They’re fine for training runs, but for a marathon, I prefer to wear a new pair. As I packed for this trip, I only had three new pairs left. Deb ordered more, but they didn’t arrive in time. For the first three races, I wore new pairs. Today, I raced in a pair of socks that I wore once before.
As I started running, I felt surprisingly stiff. Usually, I can overcome that. Today I couldn’t. Perhaps with enough effort, I could push hard enough to break through the stiffness. I was afraid to push too hard, for fear of making my right leg worse. I could also tell I was much slower today.
By the end of my first lap, I was resigned to the fact that I would be stiff and slow for the entire race. My first lap took 26:30. That’s roughly four minutes slower than yesterday.
My goal was to break six hours. To do that, I needed to average 30 minutes per lap. I assumed I’d be walking later in the race, as it got hot. At the pace I started, I’d have to run eight or nine full laps before I could walk.
After my first lap, I started taking a one minute walking break at each turnaround. I wasn’t doing it to manage my effort. I did it so I could look forward to something. Each walking break was my reward for running another half lap.
By the end of my second lap, I was experiencing pain in my right leg. I tried adjusting my stride, but nothing seemed to help. I needed to try something different. At the end of that lap, I stopped to put on my compression wrap. At first, it didn’t seem to help. Then I adjusted it. After snugging it up a little, I was able to run more comfortably.
The compression wrap is made of neoprene, which is basically foam rubber. It covers more than half of my thigh. Between the wrap and my wind pants, my leg was getting hot and sweaty. I stopped after my third lap to take off the wind pants. By then, I had already removed my gloves and jacket.
As I started my fourth lap, I stopped taking walking breaks. I was as comfortable as I was going to be. My leg didn’t hurt, and I was neither too hot nor too cold. I needed to do as much running as I could before it got too hot.
I finished my sixth lap in 2:54 and change. On Sunday, it took me roughly the same time to run seven laps. Clearly, I would need to run much farther before I would be in a position to walk the remaining laps.
About halfway through my seventh lap, my leg started to hurt again. The wrap wasn’t helping enough. I walked the second half of that lap. I fully expected to walk the rest of the race, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to break six hours. The wrap made it difficult to walk fast. Knowing I wouldn’t break six, I stopped trying to push the pace. I was basically giving up.
My time after eight laps was 4:03 and change. I was appalled at how slow that lap was. At my current pace, I was in danger of eclipsing the 6:23 I ran at the Pike’s Peak Marathon in 2001.
I was on my way to a personal worst unless I added some running back into the mix. I decided to give running a try. Maybe after a lap and a half of walking, my legs would be well-rested. Maybe now I could run without pain, at least for a while.
I was able to run without pain. I got the sense that I was running faster than before. When I reached the turnaround, I was on pace for a 26 minute lap. The second half was tougher. It was getting hot now. I could feel sweat running down my leg. Then my right leg started to hurt again. My leg was so sweaty, the wrap started to slip down my leg. I stopped to move it back in position. I also snugged it up.
I did my best to push the pace for the rest of that lap. Despite stopping to adjust my compression wrap, I ran a 26 minute lap. That was huge! It was faster than any of my previous laps. With three laps to go, I only needed to average 30 minutes per lap to break six hours.
Yesterday, I was able to run 30 minute laps with a mixture of running and walking. I wasn’t confident I could do that today. Earlier in the race, my running laps were taking 29 minutes.
I noticed a slight breeze on the way out. It wasn’t strong, but it was enough to keep me from overheating. The second half of each lap, by contrast was ghastly hot. I decided to run to the turnaround, while I had the benefit of the breeze. If I took walking breaks, they would be on the way back.
The first half of that lap was faster than my previous lap. That gave me the incentive I needed to keep running on the way back.
Coming back, the heat was getting to me. I regretted wearing a short sleeve tech shirt. It was awfully hot. Since I started the race with a jacket, there’s no reason I couldn’t have worn a singlet. I felt sweat dripping from underneath the compression wrap. I wasn’t sure if it was slipping, but it seemed it could be a little higher on my thigh. I stopped to adjust it again. My pace deteriorated in the second half of that lap, but overall, I still managed another 26 minute lap.
With two laps to go, I needed to average 32 minutes per lap. I was pretty sure I could do that with a mixture of running and walking. Because I was starting with the breeze, I once again ran all the way to the turnaround. My pace for the first half of that lap was slightly disappointing until I realized I had over 51 minutes left to do a lap and a half. In my previous three races, walking a lap took 34 minutes. At that pace, I could walk the last lap and a half. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that pace today. The wrap made it difficult to walk fast.
I knew if I ran the rest of this lap, I could walk the last lap. That was enough incentive to fight through the oppressive heat. Then I realized what an idiot I had been. Every time I paused at the aid station to drink a glass of Gatorade, they asked me if I needed anything else. I always said, “No.” They had ice at the aid station. I could have been managing the heat by filling my hat with ice. I thought of that a little too late.
As I finished my 11th lap, I stopped one last time to snug up my wrap. I wanted to be absolutely sure it wouldn’t come loose again. With the wrap tighter, running took more effort, but I had less discomfort. I think I was experiencing pain earlier in the race because the wrap was too loose.
I checked my watch. I had 37 minutes left to do my remaining lap. I was pretty sure I could walk a lap in 37 minutes, but it wasn’t quite the slam dunk I was hoping for. It would be safer if I kept some running in the mix.
I walked the first quarter mile of that lap. Then I ran a quarter mile. After another quarter of walking, I ran to the turnaround. Now it was clear. I had plenty of time to walk the rest of the way. I didn’t need to push the pace, but I did. Every quarter mile, I checked my progress. It became more and more clear I would break six with time to spare.
I finished in 5:55:06. Four laps earlier, I didn’t think I had any chance of breaking six. Of course I never would have imagined I could run three laps non-stop in the late morning heat, while maintaining a faster pace than I was running at the beginning of the race.
After finishing, I picked out another medal to complete my collection.
Why was it so important to break six hours? I viewed this as a test. At the end of the month, I’ll be doing the Seattle Quadzilla. The last two races of the Seattle Quadzilla have time limits of six hours. I needed to prove to myself I could break six hours, even on the fourth day of a quadzilla.
I learned after the race that Clint plans to shorten this series to two days beginning next year. That means it will no longer be possible to run a quadzilla in New Mexico. When I scheduled these races, I had aspirations of running quadzillas in as many states as possible. I don’t know if I’m still going to follow through on that. Still, I’m glad I ran a New Mexico quadzilla while I had the chance.
A few months ago, my race schedule seemed daunting. It was possible, but it took a healthy dose of optimism. Now it actually seems like I’m going to do it. With these four races, my lifetime marathon/ultra total stands at 297. I just have three more races to reach 300. Each one will be challenging in its own way, but I really believe I’m going to do it. After that, I still have the Seattle Quadzilla, but one goal at a time.