"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014's Long Running Meditation #3: The Sri Chinmoy 12 Hour Race

Conditions were excellent for the Sri Chinmoy 24hr race. The problem was, I wasn't doing the 24hr race. Not anymore. After the big switcheroo, where I did my 24 in April, it was the 12 hour event I was geared up for. So why weren't the conditions so good for the 12hr event, run at the very same venue?

Well, to start, there's the small matter of it being a night race. Yup, it started at 10pm. Physically, considering circadian rhythms, we diurnal human beings are best suited to run mid/late afternoon. Starting at 10pm was a great boost for the 24hr racers on the track, as we brought fresh energy out there. But running through the night, despite the fact that I don't suffer sleep monsters at all, surely cannot result in my best performance.
Looking towards the start line with scoring team and aid station

Then, there's the matter of temperature. For the 24hr race, it was pretty good overall - no hotter than 18 degrees, with limited sun. By 10pm, temps were down to 10 degrees and continued dropping to a chilly 6 degrees. My crew was wearing all her mountaineering clothes! I didn't need to rug right up, but I still needed to wear arm warmers and gloves throughout. Fortunately, I kept moving well to avoid getting a chill. More clothes means more weight to lug around the track! The cold also meant more toilet stops as the blood retreated to my core to try to keep me alive.

Third, the crowds. I always knew that joining 34 half-spent runners on a 400 metre track was going to pose a challenge. There were 14 other 12hr runners, too. That meant that until anyone quit or had a little snooze in their tent, there could be 49 people on the track, mostly vying for lane one. The race became a bit of a video game, dodging around people and between talking people travelling side-by-side. By my rough calculations, veering out into lane 2 (sometimes lane 3) 15 times per lap could cost 5 metres. No biggie, though 5 metres x 333 laps = about 1.5km. So that kinda sucks.

Another unique challenge created by the start time was that I normally do an "alt" carb-loading program that requires a sprint the morning before the race, then fueling up on carbs, whilst limiting fats and fibre, of course. But I had 36 hours. That was a lot of eating. I'll just say that the result was too much bulk! Next time, I'd sprint at night to stick with the 24hr loading timeframe.
Food on top, mine (Perp, water). Food below, crew (including the Coke!)

Having all day of race day free presented a HUGE mental challenge. I had all day to chill. All day to hang out, not wanting to spend time on my feet in adventures. I'm not a tv person, so that left a whole lot of time for my monkey mind to play at me.

Boy, my right QL feels tight. Why are you doing this? This is stupid. It's going to be so hard. You can't do it. Should I take my beetroot juice yet? Ahhh, my neck. The pillows in hotels are terrible. My neck hurts. Where's my tennis ball? Is it too late to roll my QL? I'm thirsty. Should I drink more? But I don't want to have to pee a lot during the race. But I don't want to start dehydrated. How am I going to stay warm before the start? Did I pick the right shoes? I've never raced with my Compressport full socks before. What if I have to change socks during the race? There go the splits!

Given all this, why on earth would I actually sign up for this 12 hour race, then? Well, despite knowing that it wasn't quite exactly perfect conditions in some ways, there were so many positives that made up for it.

The Sri Chinmoy team put on an excellent event. They are a passionate, lovely, caring team of runners who cheer endlessly for everyone. They make us all feel like superstars. There was one volunteer who shouted, "Go Bernadette Go!" such that I felt it right to my bones! The vollies come right out onto the track with cups of hot soup, mashed potatoes, and such. They even take orders for hot drinks whilst you're running! Although I just stick to my Hammer Perpetuem (seriously, 6, 12, or 24 hours, with pears as well, that's my thing!), it's lovely to see the caring and attention to detail brought by the team.
Wonderful volunteer offering takeaway!

I was also looking forward to sharing the track with people running 24 hours, because it's just darn inspiring! I love the camaraderie of a track race. Though I'm a "no talker" during races, and in fact enjoy the opportunity to try to not think for hours at a time (a running meditation), I enjoy watching the spirit of the event unfold. Runners band together to encourage each other. Going past people, I'd get snippets of conversations where people were talking about their goals, their revised goals, and their challenges, and getting support from others who, in fact, were their competition! What other kind of race is like this?? Runners were heard on their phones walking, talking to partners and friends about their progress, saying goodnight to friends and family. 

"Don't you get bored at a track race?" people ask. If you're bored at one of these events, you're not paying attention.

So round and round I went, staying on target for the first four hours, running 12k/hr. Though from hour 2, I was struggling. The heart rate was fine, but I developed...dare I say...pre-menstrual cramps and low back ache. (That was like whispering, hee hee!) I then developed neuromuscular spasms down my right leg. Related or not, I'm not sure. I had to focus intently on maintaining my gait. At pace, my right leg started wanting to do the boogaloo. I worked really hard to try to stay on pace, but every time I brought it up to where it was supposed to be...Boogaloo! Leg doing its own thing! So I settled into a slower pace where I could manage to keep getting enough signals between my brain and leg at the right timing that I could run smoothly. I waged a mental battle against quitting. Just get to the marathon mark. Just get to the six hour mark. Your crew came all this way and gave up her weekend and is staying up all night for you.

Hours 4 and 5 saw 11.2k each, and then I yielded more to this "boogaloo struggle" and settled into a more workable speed that allowed for the faulty wiring. The pace dropped to 10.4k/hr. And that's essentially where I stayed from hours 7 through 12. There was no slowing. I could run that pace and keep system malfunctions at bay :)

The "A goal" for distance disappeared by hour 6. I held steady, though, and when the clock hit 11.5 hours, I decided what the B goal would be. I yelled out to my crew. "Push me! I want 133k!" Although the A goal was gone, and the Australian record to break was 131.3k, I wanted to know I had left the track having given it my best. I felt 5k in the last 30 minutes was achievable and went for it. And we did it! 

Given the cards I was dealt on the day, I have no regrets and feel I achieved the best I could. I may target another 12 hour in a year or so. But we'll see what other exciting challenges I find to compete with that idea :) 

It's been an incredible 4 months of racing for me. In this race, I managed to break the Canadian W45 6hr record  with 70.288km and the Canadian and Australian W45 100km records at 8hr 47min 54sec (all to be ratified). When the gun sounded, I set new Open Canadian and Australian 12 hour benchmarks with my 133.535km total.

Once the new records are ratified, I will hold the Open Canadian 6hr, 12hr, 24hr, and 100 Mile records and the Open Australian 12hr, 24hr, 100 Mile, and 200km records. Plus many age group records. It remains surreal what I have achieved. I don't rant on and on about my sponsors - at least I don't think I do - but I respect these products and their support and I want to extend my gratitude here for what has without a doubt helped me achieve what I couldn't have even dreamed two years ago. This is my version of a virtual handshake. Maybe even a hug where appropriate.

Hammer Nutrition - my favs include Perpetuem, Espresso, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter Gels, Endurolytes, and Recoverite.

NTP Health Products/Flora - my fav daily good fats anti-inflammatory dose is Udo's Oil on my cereal!

Compressport - holding my muscles together, my favs at different times for different reasons include the full socks, full legs, trail shorts, trail shirt, arm warmers...oh, heck, all of it! :)

RaceReady - pocket shorts rock. Where else do you carry your pear? And the breathability of the shirts is second to none. 
Night turns to day and we spin the other direction!

UpBeat - go vasodilating rocket fuel! A pre-race loading must.

Mainpeak - the family owned and operated outdoor store with amazing, quality gear for adventures and cool staff who know adventuring. My favs from them include Icebreaker gear (at the 12hr I was wearing Icebreaker gloves and undies!), Montane jackets and pants, my Leki poles. As I head into trail season in the northern hemisphere, I'll be cramming a lot of Mainpeak gear into the suitcase!

Langer Chiropractic - sports chiro Jon Tan has had a key role in keeping me in good form and as an athlete himself, he gets it. The sad part about going overseas for me every year is that I lose the skills
of people like Jon to keep me tuned up.

In addition to these supportive sponsors, I am grateful to my supportive running mates, who keep me honest, bring laughter and challenge to our adventures, crew for me, and help in myriads of other ways so that I can keep doing the training I do. My massage therapist is a demon in all the best ways and I truly miss him when I compete away from home, too. My family gives me great sarcastic encouragement, including my mum who recently asked me what it's like to be an alien. My partner, well, I just won't even try to find words there to do justice to my gratitude.
333 laps. Ultra runners like 'even' numbers ;)


  1. So you know being an alien just means you are out of this world and beyond comprehension right : )

  2. Amazing performance... especially given the circadian upheaval, and other issues associated with a 2200 start, the colder weather etc. I had an abundance of toilet stops in the Perth Marathon in cold weather here in Perth also, and after reading your post I think I probably contributed to them by taking walk breaks (drop in body temperature) ... Congratulations on the pending new records...

  3. Fantastic Bernadette, great running (and writing).
    Kicked the boys' butts too, and we don't even have things to whisper about. ;)
    Good luck with your next adventure,