Lessons Learned at the St. Pats 6 Hour Run

I signed up for this race mainly as a test of my conditioning leading up to Desert Solstice. 16 days and 30 days prior to this race I had surgeries to connect a nerve stimulating wire next to my spine as well as the battery device that controls it on the left side of my lower back. This device I was told would be too small to ever be noticed. Lies!

My training has been relatively consistent despite the surgeries averaging 85-100 miles per week. However, my strength training was hindered a couple months ago when I took a nasty downhill fall and busted a few ribs. There would be no more planks, push-ups, crunches, or bridges. Even one legged squats were impossible. Then, even as my ribs healed I sort of allowed myself to get out of the routine of doing strength every other day or two. To be blunt, I was really slacking. Having back surgery didn’t help with the glute strength either.

To make matters worse, I decided I needed a break from keto. I started eating cereal, bagels, gummy bears, full sugar Frappuccinos, pasta, and all the Reeses peanut butter cups my heart desired. I thought, maybe it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference as long as I keep the calories coming in during an ultra. Wow, do I feel stupid! Did I forget that quickly how I couldn’t even consume 900 calories during the entire 100 miles at the IT100 in 2016? To my credit, my memory was probably affected by my stroke in 2018 so yes, I did forget.

Anyways, on to the race. I didn’t really have any specific goals for the 6 hour other than to get a good long run in as preparation for Desert Solstice and to enjoy the day with friends. However, I had the overall record of 43.3 miles in my head and thought if all goes well I would give it a shot. However, after my surgery two weeks prior and the swelling that occurs after every run, I wasn’t exactly confident I’d even get 40 miles in.

Surprisingly, my back never really bothered me during the race. I started off leading all the runners which was nice as I got to see three of the cutest baby deer on that first loop before the stampede of runners scared them off. They were a precious site.

My watch told me my first two miles were just under 9:00 pace yet I felt like I was running sub 8! This sort of messed with my head a little, but then I came around to the start/finish in only 24 minutes for a sub 8 minute pace. I was relieved and realized that I couldn’t really depend on my watch.

 I tried to make myself slow down but continued at around 24 minutes per lap for the first 50K (got a PR for my trail 50K in either 4:06 or 4:08). It was at that 50K point where my hamstrings began to hurt, especially the one on my weaker left side. I stopped for the first time (other than 3 bathroom stops in the first 18 miles) and rolled them. They began to cramp up a little as well. Why were they giving me hell right now? Because I had slacked on my strength training! My glutes had gotten very weak forcing my hamstrings to take on a much bigger workload.

Somewhere around mile 35 I hit a root. I was actually surprised I lasted as long as I did before my first and ONLY fall! But it was a hard fall, landing on my shoulder, side and hip and knocking the wind out of me. A couple other runners came over to assist me as it wasn’t one of my more graceful falls where I could pop right back up again. I needed to walk for a couple minutes before thanking those who helped me and went off on my way covered in dirt.

I didn’t realize until after the race that I only consumed maybe 300 calories during the first 40.3 miles of the race. I was drinking Nuun throughout and took two salt tabs. I ate two sweet potato fries, about a quarter piece of bacon, a couple blackberries, a small pouch of apple banana baby food, and half of a Perfect bar. On lap 13 (miles 37-40) I realized my mistake. First, I wasn’t keto and could no longer switch over to burning fat easily to maintain my blood sugar. Second, I didn’t eat enough to keep my blood sugar up. I crashed hard and had to walk several times as I became lightheaded. Up until that point I was confident I’d easily make the 43.3 miles. Now I could barely maintain consciousness.

I shuffled into the start/finish area begging for sugar. Stephanie sent me on my first out and back and said she’d get me something. I wanted Pepsi. I knew that would perk me up. I didn’t think I could make an out and back without something to get my blood sugar up fast. I knew the record was now out of reach so thought, “What is the point in going on? I’ve had over 40 miles so I’m good.” But I walked a few out and backs. Then Stephanie gave me the Pepsi and I gulped that down in a hurry. She also gave me about 3 peanut butter ultra balls which tasted so good! I was kicking myself for not keeping up on the calories. I know if I had I would have finished strong. I perked up after the calories took effect and I realized I could still hit 42 miles so I ran the final couple out and backs. I finished with 42.05 miles and the overall win, but missed the record by just over a mile.

I learned some very valuable things during this race. I realized how beneficial the keto diet is for me and this was the kick in the butt I needed to get myself back on track before Desert Solstice. I learned that I should never, ever complain again when Stephanie tries to force food down me. I also realized I need to  really hit the strength training hard the next eight weeks leading up to Desert Solstice.

There will be far fewer meals like this one:

I absolutely love this race. It was so nice being able to see friends throughout the day running their own races. The support and love runners give to each other no matter how fast or slow is why I love this sport more than any other.

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