Tulsa Area Trail and Ultra Runner’s (TATUR) Snake Run is timed event. There is a 3 hour and 6 hour division. The goals is to run as many miles, all on single track trail, as you can in the time allowed. The course is a 3.75ish loop, with 1 smaller 0.5 mile optional loop to run around. The course is relatively flat, mostly smooth trails. I don’t typically like flat courses, loops, hot weather, or timed events...so of course this was the perfect one to do! The only reason I chose this one was TATUR. They are just quite simply awesome people. They can make a mountain runner want to run flat pancake loop trails for 6 hours at sea level, in temperatures and humidity she hasn’t seen... well, since her last summer trip to Oklahoma.
We had headed to Oklahoma for spring break, and I needed a long run. Snake Run lined up nicely. My coach Eric Orton and I outlined a plan for this race. He said, “you won’t be rested”...the understatement of the week. We wanted to see if I could be conservative enough to have my last hour of racing be as fast as my first hour. This challenge is huge for me. I never ever ever have been known to start a race too conservative. This would require a huge dose of patience and trust...and humility. We also wanted to be super tight with hydration, salt, gels and see how that might benefit me, or at least work out some of the kinks in my fueling. I almost always struggle with nausea after about 3 hours of running. Ok, that last sentence left plenty of room for my non-running friends to make 50 thousand jokes about someone who runs for 3 hours complaining of nausea. Anyway, 4 years of struggling with fueling, I have never completed an ultra without big stomach issues.
I had driven 17 hours to Oklahoma 7 days prior to the race, and ran plenty (45-50 miles) the week of the race, including some speed work. I was tired. I was to drive 17 hours back to Arizona following a shower after the race. I started to dread my decision a few days before the race. I didn’t know how I would possibly do it. 6 hours is a long time to run in circles. I was afraid it would be plenty of time to contemplate how tired my legs were, how long the drive was going to be, how hot and humid it was, and so on and so forth. I was afraid I might quit. Fortunately, good friend David Newman agreed to come to the race. Just knowing he was going to be there, I could never quit. I couldn’t disappoint Newman. He had run a 50k the weekend before in really raunchy weather conditions and mud. I couldn’t imagine he was doing this race for any other reason than to encourage me. I know I wouldn’t have. He also paced me at Mogollan Monster 100, so he’s seen me ugly, slow, and dirty. It’s always comforting to have someone who has seen you at your worst. He ended up having a really good day, logging over 30 miles himself...on a recovery week?
We started the race together, bemoaning our decision to do the race in the first place. We caught up on friends, and life in general. After about 2 laps he got bored with my conversation (of course not!) and backed off a bit to find his own rythm. There were 2 girls ahead of me. I settled in, and keeping my heart rate much lower than I usually do, and cruised along. I focused on fueling, starting at 1 hour in...gel, 200-250 calories per hour. Water, about 1 700ml bottle every 45 minutes. 2 S Caps per hour. This course allowed everything to remain steady, and it paid off. By 3 hours my stomach was happy, no swelling, no nausea, no dizzy, no sloshing/bloating. My energy better than the first hour. I kept my heart rate in zone 2 the first 2 hours pretty consistently. The day was warming up and I was feeling good, so I allowed myself to drift up into zone 3, as long as it still “felt like” zone 2. By this time I had passed one of the girls in front of me. And the next girl was probably 5-10 minutes ahead.
At 4 hours I was sure I could pick it up just a little and still have a last hour as fast as the first. I also saw the lead female. She was starting to slow just a little and this was too much to resist. I felt great. I continued the fueling, hydration, salt and I stayed steady in zone 3 to 4a. I’d back off when I hit 4a (HR 159-163), but still feeling like I had plenty of energy. A little after 4 and a half hours and 27 miles in, I passed the lead female. I cranked it up a little more knowing very well that I could maintain a higher effort for 90 more minutes. My HR was more zone 4a and a little 4b (HR 164-167) when I came through the last big loop at 5:31. I knew I couldn’t get another 3.75 mile loop in, so I headed straight for the ½ mi loops. These little loops are a little rockier and little ups and downs. I was feeling fantastic though so I cranked it out, bringing hr into zone 4b-5a (HR 168-173) and finishing 5 more loops on the ½ mile course. I ditched my pack and ran free and fast those last 20-30 minutes and felt fantastic, huffing and puffing all the way! I knew I had negative split the course and accomplished our goal. That was the most gratifying feeling, to accomplish that goal I have chased for years. The goal that no one else could accomplish, no one else could chase it. No one else could be patient for me, no one else could trust my ability, no one else could give me a negative spit. No one else could race hard for me those last 2-3 miles. It was mine to be had, I had to take it from those inner demons and ego that holds goals and dreams hostage…. I got it! So take that! ....And then I got the flu and ended up in bed for a week.....C'est La Vie!