Today's Mighty Oak

Eagle Up 2019



Race information

  • What? Eagle Up Ultra (24 hour)
  • When? June 8-9, 2019
  • Where? Canal Fulton, Ohio
  • Peak MPW: 60
  • Longest training run: 34 miles
  • Strava link

Goals

GoalDescriptionCompleted?
Mandatory AHave fun with the team!Yes
Mandatory BThank the volunteersYes
Mandatory CGet some sweet high fives and hugsYes
A50 milesYes
Stretch100K (62 miles)Yes!
Don’t leave without50K (31 miles)Yes

Background

The last two years, I’ve volunteered at Eagle Up with the Reddit meetup crew (as well as volunteering in Las Vegas for this year’s Meetup at the Jackpot Running Festival). I’ve really enjoyed crewing, but also wanted to try my hand at running an ultramarathon.

I’m generally a pretty private person, and tend not to talk about my goals too much (for fear of somehow letting people down, I’m working on that in therapy), and I had decided to run EU in the fall. Some of the meetup crew decided to go back to Eagle Up, so since I had already started my training, I was super excited to have a lot more friends there to pace and cheer me on!

Training

I slightly modified a training plan from Relentless Forward Progress: basically I just swapped two weeks to coincide with the Pittsburgh Marathon.

As is normal for me, there was a lot of day swapping inside of each week, but aside from my planned miss of a long run due to my regional Burning Man event (during taper, but subbed in with tons of time on feet), I attempted to run everything else, and was generally successful. I had some issues with four weeks in the middle of my plan (see knee issues, below), but that still left me with a good base.

Knee issues

I had to take two weeks off/down due to some IT Band issues, followed by one healthy week, and then took two more weeks off due to some other underlying knee problems. I ended up rallying back and having my biggest weekly mileage ever the week before the Pittsburgh marathon, so no taper for that.

When I was younger, my right knee had some chondromalacia patella (the kneecap goes sideways instead of up and down) and during this cycle, my left knee decided to get in on that action, right after I got past the IT Band issues.

Being diligent about my stretches got me back in working order, and as much time as they take (although sometimes it’s a good excuse to watch some Netflix), they really are necessary for me it seems. But an additional silver lining, is I was able to help a fellow Frontrunner with his knee pains from all my experiences!

Travel to Canal Fulton, Team time

The drive to Canal Fulton is fairly easy, and was even easier with a friend in the car, so that was pretty awesome. Eagle Up has grown in popularity, and even getting to the park as early as we did, we were pretty lucky to find a parking spot.

I loaded up my little red wagon with team supplies and as we made our way across the field, a smiling face surprised me, Matty had flown in from Florida to join the team and see me run! There were a lot of hugs (including a wonderful double-take hug) and I think I’m still grinning from being able to share the time with him.

The rest of the day was filled with hanging out with the team, packet pickup and lunch, milkshakes, passing out pizza and meeting the neighbors.

Pre-race

Woke up early at the AirBnB, had a Clif bar with peanut butter, generally was nervous, and headed to the park.

Having crewed enough of these events, I had practiced in my training at being pretty self-sufficient by keeping a small chart for me to check off after each lap so I wouldn’t forget things. It wasn’t a perfect system (as I did forget a few things, more below), but it worked fairly well. I will apologize to the most amazing crew though, between my chart and my demeanor (always smiling), I was told I was tough to crew for since they never thought I needed anything, but the crew and the rest of the team were lifesavers!

Miles [0] to [20]

I did a halfway decent job at going out slow, which, has been something I’ve been working on! Spent the first part of the loop with Russ and we chatted before we got separated. In the second loop I met a new friend, Matt (who is currently cropped out of my facebook profile picture), and we had some great conversations about family and queer theory. We found each other Sunday morning to congratulate each other.

As I came into the team tent each lap, whoever was there was great at seeing what I needed and filling up my handheld for me. I would check off that I ate some food, drank some water, took a salt tab and then I had a few optional boxes to see if I needed to change/add sunscreen, lube, shoes or clothes. After the third lap I got to chat with Erica briefly, she and I crewed together the last two years so that was a nice boost.

For most of loop four I was inside my head doing some work, and I gave that loop the codename “Ghost Lotus.” While it wasn’t necessarily the conclusions I thought I wanted to come to, it’s probably what I needed, as is the nature of these things.

These first four loops my fueling was mostly denser and somewhat sweeter things, but as the temperature climbed, that was the end of that for me.

Miles [20] to [40]

The temperature rose and this is where things got tough. I took in some more salty foods (Pringles), and headed to the main aid station where I discovered my new favorite ultra fuels: PB&J sandwiches, and hummus inside a tortilla.

I did notice that for as much as I was drinking, I was not peeing nearly enough, so I started downing some iced tea each lap to try to get things moving. The temperature spiking also threw my stomach into knots which pretty much stayed with me the rest of the race, so I started adding some ginger ale as well as some sitting breaks between loops to try to settle it down.

During loop 6 (I think, or it might have been 5), I caught up with Colin and we chatted as he finished up his race, and Dan was kind enough to pace me for lap 8, which gave me a great second wind and I cannot thank him enough for that. I also ended lap 8 with the traditional Nuggies, a very perfect ultra food.

Miles [40] to [62]

More miles, just keep churning them out. I tend to approach a run as ‘my purpose’ for the day, so just knowing that this was what I was doing today, kept it from being too daunting.

Loop 10 I was paced by Nate, and we were silly out on the course, made some friends and were told we have great calves (I mean, we do). This was also the lap where I forgot my handheld at the tent. I filled it up, but forgot to take it with me. My chart might be great, but it’s not fool-proof! This was also the lap my Achielles started to give me some trouble. Not too painful, just ‘crunchy’ in a way that it reminded me it was there.

Loop 11 was another lap inside my head, this time codenamed “Gerry,” it was just starting to get dark, and so were my thoughts, but again, good things to ultimately contemplate. This is also the lap where I found my new, new favorite ultra fuel: peanut butter and honey in a tortilla (sorry hummus).

Finishing up loop 12, I had been leapfrogging with a woman the entire day. I finally introduced myself to her, and she told me she was on her last loop. At the last water stop, about a mile from the finish line, I just told her that I was running her in, and that gave both of us a new wind. We chit chatted, but only a bit as she was now determined to run it in. I peeled off at the team tent to let her sprint the final straightaway, and as I passed her on my way to my final out and back, I gave her a fist bump.

The out and back is of course, way longer than the two miles it actually is, compounded by the bugs dive bombing your face if you turn your headlamp on, but the congratulations and smiles you get on the way back are worth it.

Came around the last bend and saw the lights from the finish line and kicked it into what felt like high gear. Passed a couple teammates out on a loop or their last out and back, and the rest of the team had all gathered to cheer me on. Crossed the line and got some hugs and a buckle.

Post-race

More hugs, tried to stretch, ended up on the ground as we cheered for Russ to finish his 100K as well! We headed back to the team tent and I sat for a bit before heading back to the AirBnB to shower and nap. During this two hour nap, I woke up three times to pee, so I was hydrated well, but I still need to work on that management I suppose.

We headed back to the park to watch the end of the relay (our teams did amazing), and then break camp before we went for breakfast at the local diner that’s become the tradition.

Back to Pittsburgh, just in time for Pride

Brooke and I drove back to Pittsburgh to head to Pride (and the ever-popular Golden Girls Live) and the Three Rivers Arts Festival. I saw a bunch of friends, but as usual, after an Ultra, the sheer number of people gets to me and we headed home after a bit.

What’s next, mental health and lessons learned

In the grand scheme, I have things pretty easy. But I will admit, training for an ultra is hard. And training for an ultra as a single person household is hard, too. There’s a lot of minutiae that needs done (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, yard work), on top of work and family obligations. I tried my best to make sure I took time for myself, but I failed pretty hard at that.

I had two weeks off, followed by one week on, and then another two weeks off, due to injury. During those times, I really had a tough time mentally, not only because exercise helps me keep better control of my emotions and mental health, but also because I put far too much stock on the number my scale says. Yes, I still have a bit to go and need to continue working on being healthy (with a holistic approach, not just a number), but after losing a significant chunk of weight, I’m realizing I have a more complicated and messed up relationship with my body than I care to admit, and I need to work on those things.

I have a much easier time controlling my weight when I’m running at 40 mpw, any higher and the runger takes over and I gain weight. It’s good that I found that out this time around.

I spent a significant amount of time towards the end of my training cycle and during the race thinking about ultra running as self-harm. Combined with my complicated relationship with my body, I realized that if I’m not careful, this could easily turn into something very unhealthy. But I’m more cognizant of that now, and I recognized my tendency to go that route. So that’s progress, and something I’ll keep exploring and working on.

I can’t thank PRorER Ultra Team, PRANK and the Pittsburgh Frontrunners enough, having such amazing running families has taught me so much and brought me so much joy. They put up with my crazy shenanigans and I’m so happy to have them all in my life!

I ran a bit the week after EU, and that helped to stretch things out, although I’ve taken more rest days lately to let my Achilles fully get back to normal (as well as due to a weird schedule this week). My next goal race is the Philly Half Marathon in November, so for now, it’s just some easy running over the summer with a team event and the ARTC Moose League, as well as a few charity 5Ks, sprinkled in. I’ll be crewing again in October at Sleepy Hollow, and I’m torn between running EU again next year or running it, I think that will depend on who else is doing what, and if I can be useful to the team if they’re going for records, but for now, I’ll enjoy a bit of time off before jumping back in again!

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