Saturday I ran the ICY-8 Hour race put on by Alex and Scott. The race consists of an 8 mile loop or a 4.7 mile loop. And racers run any combination of the loops to try to maximize your mileage in the 8 hour time limit. Every time you come to the aid station you shout out whether you did a long loop or a short one and then at the end they tally it all up. Really, the only rule is you have to finish the last loop before the end. No partial laps will count.
In the few days before the race I had dissected the past results, records and the course to see what it would take to win it and what it would take to beat the course record of 54.1. I thought the course record was well within my potential and that I’d give it a try. If I ran 7 large loops, I’d do that no problem. Simple enough.
The weather lived up to the name of the race, and I had icicles in my beard throughout the entire race. Alex sent us off at exactly 7:30 am and a group of 6 or 7 of us ran pretty much the entire first loop together. Everyone opted for the 8 mile. We had to run the first loop clockwise but after that it was a free for all. Any loop, any direction. Also in the lead group was a kid named Brian Q who is friends with my little sister and wanted to get into ultrarunning. He’s 18 and a senior at Brooke Point. He’d never run further than 20 miles before and thought he’d come out and see what he could do.
When we got back to the aid station I grabbed some gels and left within about 10 seconds. I ran alone the rest of the day never knowing what loop anyone what doing, who was leading, where I was in the standings, etc. I’d pass people throughout the day, sometimes going the same direction, sometime crossing paths, but the entire day was a mystery. All I could do was run hard for the allotted time, stick to my plan and hope it worked.
I finished 4 long loops adding up to 32 miles in about 4:17 and came into the aid station feeling good. I shoved my face with a bit of pb and j so I didn’t get hungry and bolted back to the trail. About a half a mile from the aid station I realized I hadn’t grabbed any gels. It was a stupid mistake and I shouldn’t have made it, but I wasn’t about to run back to the aid station and sacrifice that time. I had to decide whether I would still run the 8 mile loop and risk getting behind on my nutrition or if I should just run a short loop and then get back to the aid station sooner. I opted for the short loop.
The whole time I was running that loop I was doing math, trying to figure out in my head if I stayed on the current pace, what I’d have to do to still run the mileage I wanted. I figured that upon finishing the short loop I was on, it would be about 12:30, meaning I’d have 3 more hours on the nose until the end. If I could run two more long loops and one more short loop, I’d snag the mileage I needed.
Everything seemed to be falling into place. I wasn’t fatiguing, I was running steady, the weather was cold, but not bitter.
The last long loop took a few minutes longer than expected but at that point I had run 52.7 miles and had 35 minutes to cover the last 4.7 mile loop. I reached the aid station and bolted without grabbing any more water or gels. I wanted to go as light as possible for a final push.
After running pretty hard all day, the mid-section of the loop was difficult for me, and as I started to calculate what I’d need to do, I knew it was going to be close. At the “one mile to go” sign, I had 4 minutes before 3:30. I’ve never run a 4 minute mile and quite frankly, I’m not sure I ever will…especially after running (at that point) 56.4 miles. At 3:30 on the dot, I realized that lap wouldn’t count so I stopped sprinting and even walked a bit, finishing the last lap 4 minute over the cut off.
I had a fun day out there and cannot say that I didn’t try hard for it. 57.4 miles in 8:04. 52.7 of those miles counted landing me in second to a guy who’d done mostly short loops and ran 53.6 miles. Should’ve stuck to the plan. It’s bitter-sweet but in all it was a good day and a good training run for Massanutten…even though it was pretty flat comparatively and not technical. Alex and Scott put on great events and I’ll definitely be back for more.
Plus! My friend, Brian Q, ran 38 miles for his first ultra-distance event! He seemed to have fun too, which is even better.