Yesterday, I ran the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas. It was actually the Cowtown Ultra Marathon - a 31-mile race. In the world of ultra marathons, 31 miles is the shortest distance to still be considered an “ultra.”
I signed up on a whim about a month before the race. It was late January, and I saw on the website for the Cowtown Marathon that the race was February 28th. To myself I said, “You know what? I can do a marathon by then.” I had not really been running much, but I figured I can power through it.
I’d been doing a lot of lifting, not a lot of running. But I figured within the 31 days or so I had to train, realistically, that only gives me two to three weeks of hard training. But I’m pretty mentally tough. I can do it. I faced 12-hour challenges. I’ve done 24-hour challenges. I can survive what’s going to be anywhere from a four to a six-hour ultra marathon.
The days leading up to the race, I wasn’t particularly nervous, nor on the day of the race. It was just kind of another day for me. Not a big deal at all, I just know it was going to be a hard day. It was going to be a challenge, but as long as I kept my feet moving, I will survive it, and I had to complete the course within 7.5 hours. As long as I did that, I’d be in pretty good shape. So there was very little for me to worry about, and so I didn’t worry too much.
About 20 minutes before the race, I was going to go pee, but all the available bathrooms had gigantic lines. The 10-minute warning, it became apparent that the line for the porter potty was still too long. The 5-minute warning, it became clear that I was not going to make it into and out of a porter potty before the race started. So I went up to my corral and peed all over my leg and just let it whiz after the national anthem because I would never pee during the song.
The race started, I turned on my Strava, I turned on a great audio book called Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler. I listened to that during the race...the story was so good that around 4 hours into the race I felt as id I’d barely been running. I was pushing probably 8:20 splits for the first 20 miles or so. A breeze of a pace, barely breaking a sweat.
I could feel my legs cramping pretty badly by around mile 21, and I knew that I was going to struggle finishing the last bit of the race. It’s an interesting feeling when you’re 21 miles in, and you know you still have another 10 miles to go and your legs are cramping. They feel like bricks, and people are dropping like flies all around you. Also this is by far the loneliest part of the race. No pacers, no groups around you. Just you, your thoughts and a body in pain.
Ultimately, I knew that one way or another, I was going to finish. I knew it was going to hurt, and I knew I didn’t have any permanent injuries. I knew my legs were getting tight. I knew that they were in pain. I knew I was cramping, and I knew I was going to be sore when the race was over. And I knew my stomach actually wasn’t doing very well.
I didn’t do a good job of practicing my fueling during a race, so I was a little bit underprepared, not when it necessarily came to the running, which I was a little underprepared, but that was just due to the time in between when I signed up and when the race actually occurred. [Note to self: Sugary treats are good for about an hour. Bring real food.]
After the race – anyways, I ended up pretty much walking from somewhere around mile 21 to a mile 31, which of course added a substantial amount of time to my completion time. But I got through it in around 5 hours 35 minutes. Not sure of the exact time quite yet, but I got it done, completed the race. It was a few hours of pain. It ended. Came home, took a nap, fueled up, and went to bed.
But all in, it was a nice, hard day. I accomplished something.
I have no qualms about doing it again next weekend if I had to or two or three days from now. I just need to focus a little bit more on some yoga and some stretching stuff, which has always been a weakness of mine. It could have always been worse. It could have been a lot harder, and just glad I did it.