If you've read my race reports before you may start noticing a pattern here. I signed up for this race shortly after finishing my last race-The Barkley Fall Classic (read that recap here). I have been wanting to do this race since I heard about it last year but really wanted to do it with someone. My friend decided she wanted to do it so we both signed up! This is a 6/12/24 hour race on a 1.6ish mile looped course on a private property in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Coming off of training all summer in the South Carolina heat and the mental load that comes with BFC meant I was doing this race for fun. This was my first 24 hr race and I went into it with no expectations. I just wanted to have fun and see what my body could do.
First let's talk logistics---we had originally planned on driving to Beaufort the morning of the race and setting up. This would have meant a 3am wake up and setting our stuff up in the dark. Luckily my husband encouraged us to drive down the day before, set up, stay in a hotel and get a good sleep, and then just have a 15 minute drive on the morning of the race. We actually kept the hotel through the weekend so we could shower before we went home--WORTH IT!
We got our tent set up the day before, grabbed our swag and bibs and transponders and grabbed some pizza at Hearth Wood Fired Pizza in downtown Beaufort. It was the perfect pre race meal. I slept great. Woke up and downed some pop tarts and a banana and we headed to the race.
My plan for pacing was pretty simple. Don't look at my watch or the screen at the start/finish at all. I didn't want to know pace. I didn't want to know distance. It's SO easy to get in your head about both of these things and because I didn't have a distance goal it really didn't matter. I did look at my watch and the tv after the first 3 laps but after that I stopped. I had my watch running so I could get the data afterwards but I didn't look at it after that point. It was SO hard! Also--side note about my watch. After my previous watch dying during 2 different runs that were 12+ hours I knew I needed to upgrade. lI got the Garmin Enduro 2 and after running for 24 hours I still had about 80% battery left. I even used the flashlight feature on a lap or 2 when my waist lamp went out!
My only "plan" when it came to how I would run this race was:
-bank some time in the morning when it was cooler
-survive the 80+ degree temps of the afternoon
-pick up the pace when it got dark
-keep moving even if that meant walking
The cooler morning temps were perfect running conditions. I had no idea how far I ran but it felt good. I definitely ran the first lap faster than intended but I like to get the nervous energy out and then settle in. The heat turned up really quick though and by 11am it was really hot. About 75% of the course is wide open with no shade. I found myself hugging the sides of the trail trying to take advantage of small slivers of shade. I wore my ridiculous sun hat, sunglasses and as little clothing as possible. I also had a small towel that I kept in my cooler and would put it on my face and neck every few laps to help cool me down. I was also able to keep my fluids cold and that was great. I opened a few mini cokes and let them sit in the cooler and get flat so I had a little bit of caffeine throughout the day. There's nothing like an ice cold coke during a hot run!
One thing that I struggled with early on was watching runners pass me. A lot of the races that I've ran have been in the swamps and I've been alone for most of the day. For a few laps I struggled with feeling like I needed to run faster. I didn't like getting passed. But I settled in at my own pace and reminded myself that "nobody cares"---that came to be my motto throughout the day.
My fueling plan was very similar to what I used during the Country Mile race earlier in the year with a few adjustments.
Something from my bins of salty and sweet foods that each had ~10g carbs
This provided: ~300 calories/ 70-80g carbs/ ~700mg sodium/16 oz fluid every hour. I also planned on eating some of the aid station food as well (they had pizza, soup, burgers, grilled cheese, potato cakes, and so much more) as some boiled potatoes + jerky for some "mini meals" throughout the day. I mixed my fluids in gallon jugs so it was easy to refill throughout the day. I portioned my sweet and salty foods into small ziplock bags so there would be about 10g carbs in each bag. I then put them in these bins so that when I ran by our tent I could grab whatever I was in the mood for and I knew that it was in the exact amount that I needed. This made it super easy to make sure I was fueling with what my body needed and not under or over fueling.
I survived the afternoon by slowing down a little and incorporating some walking. 24 hours is a long time and the last thing I wanted to do was burnout early on. Eventually the sun went down and I picked up the pace a little. The 6 and 12 hour runners were gone at this point so there were a lot less runners on the course. I got to run with some people from Charleston that I hadn't met before. I played tag with someone. I caught 2 friends (that looked like they ran the whole thing together) at almost the same place on every lap and we always had some funny exchange. The funny part was that I had pretty much no clue what most of these people looked like until the sun came up Sunday morning. I took a few really slow laps where I would get bundled up in my blanket and take some snacks and soda with me just to keep moving.
My stomach felt great all day and even into the night. I've really been liking the Skratch Super High Carb---my stomach seems to like that more than any other fueling mix I've tried before. Around midnight I started to feel sleepy but I was nervous about taking caffeine. I don't drink coffee. In the past I've used 50mg of caffeine during longer races but I did have one training run where I tried 100mg and I felt really good so I went for it. That one dose and a few sips of coke here and there kept me going until morning. After that I never felt sleepy which was really weird. I love getting in my pajamas EARLY and love sleep. I was so worried about not sleeping but it was literally not an issue at all. I was surprised and excited. The full moon probably helped too because it was SO bright. There was also several bands that played throughout the evening and that was awesome.
Around 1am ish my feet started to really bother me. I didn't feel like I had any blisters but my feet felt like they were going to explode. I loosened my shoes up but it didn't seem to help long term. This has happened to me before and I'm not sure what to do about it. I ran a few laps and then would sit/lay down with my feet up to try to alleviate some of the pressure. It would help for a little but then a few more laps would pass and I felt like I needed to get rid of that pressure again. I'm not sure if this is normal and happens to everyone during long runs like this or if it's something I need to fix. Maybe different shoes?? If anyone reading this has any suggestions let me know!
I did end up with one blister that I felt during the last 2 hours but it wasn't bad. The exploding foot feeling slowed me down and I was mostly giving it my best serious mall walker effort at that point. But I was doing what I said I would do and that was to keep moving even if it meant walking.
The sun started to come up on Sunday and I knew the end was near. I had no clue how many miles I was at. I felt like somewhere between 50-80 maybe? I looked at my watch and realized I had just covered 73 miles! And still had some left in the tank. Not going to lie--my first thought wasn't "it's time for bed"....it was "it's time for 100 miles". My second thought was definitely "it's time for bed". I've been putting off doing 100 miler for the last year because I was scared I wasn't ready. I was scared about the overnight. I made up every excuse in the book not to do it because I was scared. I may or may not have spent some time on ultrasignup since coming home.
From a runner's perspective this was an incredible race. Tim Waz and Grounded Running do a great job making this race really fun. The food was awesome, great swag, friendly volunteers, beautiful course, live music, and a fun community vibe!
Going into this race without a goal or a plan for pacing was a really interesting experience. Part of me was mad that I spent time walking and resting---I could have went further! But at the end of the day I did what I wanted to do and I had a freaking blast. I've certainly done races where I've had goals but they don't all have to be that way. Running doesn't have to be so serious. It goes back to my mantra I mentioned earlier---"nobody cares". I'm not a professional runner. Nobody cares what I do or don't do at a race. I think sometimes we take ourselves to seriously and end up losing the joy in running. It's ok to do a race with a goal or to want a PR but you can also just do a race to do it or just to have fun. Nobody cares---do what makes you happy.
What's next for me---honestly I'm not sure. I'm taking this week completely off from running. I feel good but I also know that just because I feel good it doesn't mean that I didn't just put my body through some crazy stuff. It's felt good to sleep in and to just take a step back. I really do want tackle a 100 miler in the near future but it needs to be the right race.
Kayla Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and founder of Endurance Nutrition located in Charleston, South Carolina. She works with clients 1:1, through small group coaching, and self guided programs. Her goal is to help you fuel your body for whatever the day has in store whether it's a 100 mile race or getting through the work day.