Sunmart 50K/White Rock Marathon (Back-To-Back)
"My First Double/Double"
Good Lord! What have I gotten myself into this time??? A brisk north wind was slicing thru my running gear, as I struggled up north on McKinney Avenue. It's only the second mile of the White Rock Marathon and my legs are heavy with lactic acid from the Sunmart 50K the day before. I felt stiff and slow in the cool temperatures as waves upon waves of runners passed me by.
My right ilio band was starting to act up. What gives with that? I thought I had finally licked that old problem during the summer with a heavy dose of mountain biking and long 20+ mile weekend runs. In the past, this annoying ailment usually didn't pop up until the latter stages of a marathon. At worst, it can debilitate and slow a runner to a crawl and resign him to a fate of hobbling in wounded the rest of the way. What was it doing showing up now??
I trudged along, desparately wondering how I was going to ever complete another 23 miles like this? At least my good friend, Mr. Jim "Capt. Ruby" Rubalcaba had come thru earlier this morning, by delivering my race packet to me, just an hour, prior to the start. Traveling to Sunmart and back had prevented me from attending the White Rock Expo, so Capt. Ruby was a godsend!
I try and alternate run and race walking to help my right knee out and get moving faster. I had observed, while volunteering at the recent 24/48 hr Ultracentric Race in Dallas, TX, how race walking deluxe, Mr. Marshall King of the North Texas Trail Runners (NTTR), effectively used his arms and exagerated upper body movement to improve his cadence and forward motion. I tried incorporating this technique on the fly and it seemed to work.
Now my stomach is starting to act up at mile 4 as I am staggering along thru the pristine neighborhoods of Highland Park. I had eaten heavily between the 50K and the marathon in a galliant attempt to refuel in time for todays adventure. It always fascinates me the way the riders of the Tour 'd France could recover and refuel so quickly between their long stage rides over the course of 3 weeks. Here was a unique opportunity to experience some of that.
Ultrarunner Champ Mr. Mark Henderson of Houston, TX had advised me to eat immediately after the race at Sunmart. I wasn't that hungry after the 50K, but I forced myself to eat half a grilled chicken sandwich and some fluids. On the drive back, my appetite slowly returned. I was munching on chocolates with almonds, cashews, strawberry fig newtons, beef jerkey, trail mix and even stopped at a Dairy Queen for a banana split. It was great having a license to eat! Finally, I went to bed at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening, but not before having some more Papa John pizza and rice.
The mile 6 Tri Dallas aid station came to my rescue, just in time! I didn't feel like going to the restroom before the race, but now we were getting into the Red Alert Zone!! As I sat inside that brand new porta potty, I was really getting concern if I was going to be able to finish. It had taken me 1 hour and 29 minutes just to get this far. Things weren't looking good at all............................
Sunmart/White Rock, White Rock/Sunmart.........Why do they always schedule these two great races on the same weekend??? It's the same dilemma every year at this time, having to make this tough choice.
I love "The Rock"!!! It was my very first marathon and I had run 3 in a row since that time. Then there was the Sunmart. It's is advertised as the largest trail run in the nation. I have never run it before and I was curious to see what all the excitement was all about. Not to mention the opportunity to check out all those fantastic goodies they pile in the packet pickup bags for the runners!
Well, I am always looking for creative ways to kill myself. I have heard the tales of legendary runners like Mr. Scott Eppleman and Miss Letha Cruthirds who have run both of these events on the same weekend, back-to-back. They managed to survive and certainly proved that it could be done.
I had been contemplating an attempt to run my first 50 miler at Grasslands in 2006, and I thought running a 50K and a marathon event would provide a good test and a wonderful training opportunity. By checking the North Texas Trail Runners e-mail messages, I noticed how common it was to see some ultra runners training with high milage days, consecutively, on weekends. At first, I thought this to be rather unusual, but now, I was beginning to see the logic behind it all.
I went ahead and signed up for the Sunmart 50K first. Having never been to Huntsville State Park, this event was a higher priority, in case injury or illness forced me to run only one event. Even with less than 2 weeks to go, I was still undecided on what to do. Finally with words of encouragement from Mr. Scott Eppleman, Mr. Mark(Marko) Henderson & Mr. Bill (The Geeze) Rumbaugh I submittted my registration to "The Rock". Besides, I thought, it would be a great tale to tell the grandchildren years later, if I ever got lucky enough to have some.
I tried to keep things quiet around the RAW clubhouse, but "news seemed to travel fast in the terroritories". It was interesting to observe the different reaction people were giving me after they found out. Mr Joe Luccioni gave me my last rites. Mr. Duncan Stewart shook his head and told me he was afraid for me. I was called an "animal" on several occasions despite wearing deodorant and being clean shaven. Then there were those who told me to go for it, like "The Geeze and "Marko". Mr. Scott told me not to be limited by what your mind thinks you can do. Miss Liz Johnson, President of Tri Dallas sent her encouragment and Miss Gail Spann of the Greater Dallas Bicyclists wished me well.
A bright red shiny Toyota King Cab pickup pulls into the Exxon Station. It is Mr. Byron Benoit, my good friend at RAW. He has come to my rescue again. We had traveled and roomed together at the Marine Corp. Marathon already this year. We were about to do the same for the Sunmart. It's not cheap to sign up for both events like this, so any "dinero" saved was counted as a blessing.
"Good Grief!! Your not bringing all that stuff with you???" he exclaimed. "It's only for one night!!" That was true, but I'm still glad he bought his pickup. On road trips, I learned it's good to be ready for just about anything and reduce the energy loss to stress as much as possible.
As far as clothing goes, it good to be prepared for any type of weather, especially here in Texas, where the conditions can change so suddenly. I was also packing a lot of snacks and munchies. I have learned that the eating habits of others can vary drastically. Refueling adequately before and after the Sunmart would be critical. In addition, I brought along my favorite Papa John extra large pizza, "The Works" along with a pot of rice as a back up.
It was a great cool morning to run at Sunmart. The beautiful course lined with pine trees was made even more spectacular by the gorgeous blonde runner who was pacing me the first 6 miles. You need things to help keep you motivated and this was one of my tricks I had happily learned. Besides her pace was strong and steady.
I can see why the Sunmart is so popular, especially as a first race for the beginning trail runner. It had a very generous cut off time of 12 hours for the 50K, wonderful aid stations, very forgiving trails when dry, and wonderful volunteer support. I have never been loaded down with so many goodies at an Expo before. The black Sunmart duffle bag was definitely a keeper!
Having a good night sleep at the La Quinta Inn really helped. We even lucked out and got the room for free when the plumbing backed up around 10 p.m. We had to take care of the problem ourselves with a plunger and some towels when the motel manager apologetically informed us there was no maintenance man on duty that evening.
I was experiencing some minor discomfort in my left ankle and right ilio band beginning on the 2nd loop thru Huntsville State Park. The first 18 1/2 miles had gone well, but now I decided to slow the pace. Drinking flat cola seemed to really help when I arrived at the next aid station. I had learned about that from Mr. Joe Luccioni, just last weekend, and I continued to drink more cola at each successive aid station.
I enjoy observing what other runners like to eat. I have had been studying what snacks are the most popular at the RAW clubhouse and had recently worked the food tent at the Ultracentric in Dallas, TX to get a better idea what they were serving the competitors during a 24 and 48 hour runs. The legendary "buffet" at the Sunmart was simply incredible. Just a wide variety of delightful treats that could please just about any runner's appetite. You name it, they had it. Everything from PBJs, cookies, chips, fruits, candy, colas, sports drinks, etc.
It's early afternoon now and I am pushing really hard the last 6 miles. That great long sleeve shirt that was handed out at the Rockledge Rumble was really comfortable to wear. I love the partial zipper upfront, that allowed the turtle neck to open up for venting body heat. I didn't wear gloves, because I like running cold. My left ankle was feeling much better, but there was still a slight dull ache in my right knee. This would come back and haunt me the next day at the White Rock.
I manage to avoid tripping and falling on any tree roots until just several miles from the finish. Fortunately I tumbled into some really loose sand. My landing was soft and there was no major damage to that wonderful Rumble shirt either. I picked up my new Nathan water bottle and dug hard the last several miles to the finish. I love this bottle. I first saw it at the Rockledge Rumble, being used by one the Montrail sales represenative, Miss Krissy Sybrowski. She is the youngest female at age 28 to ever complete "The Slam". It comes with a sharp looking, marvelously designed hand held strap that features a handy zipper pocket. Also the spout closes securely, minimizing annoying leaks.
The sun finally decides to fight through the morning overcast as I make my final sprint toward the finish. The time on the race clock reads 5:23:55. but my journey is only half complete. Another 26.2 miles still awaits for me back in Dallas, TX some 300 miles away. The starting time for the White Rock marathon is 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.........
The celebration for completing my first Sunmart 50K is short lived. It's about 2:30 p.m. now and both Mr. Byron and I are back on the road in his shiny red Toyota King Cab pick up zooming north on Interstate 45 toward Big D.
I eat and hydrate heavily on the way back. Upon returning home I have one last large meal before turning out the lights. I wanted to arrive at the American Airline Center early to get a good parking space. It's 8:30 p.m. now and the double alarm clocks were set for a 4 a.m. wake up.....................
I emerged from the port potty feeling much better and much lighter! The short break had rejuvenated me. I find Tri Dallas President Liz Johnson and give her a hug and thank the volunteers at mile 6 as I head off toward White Rock Lake. Tri Dallas Rocks!!!!!!!!
The right ilio band is still bothering me as I make my way past the old Granada theater, where the full and half marathoners split. I discover though, that if I stop and flex the knee several times, I could still run for about a 100 yards before having to repeat the same process. It wasn't pretty, but I was still moving faster than a lot of other runners at this point in the race.
My next goal was the 10 mile mark, where I knew all my running buddies from LGRAW (Lake Grapevine Runners and Walkers) would be volunteering to man an aid station there. As a psychological ploy to keep me going, I had also told several friends, ahead of time, to look for me at the aid stations they were working at miles 18 and 25. I was determined not to disappoint them!
I hear a voice in the distance. "Hey Ray, here comes T.O.!!!" The RAW station was a sight for sore eyes!
Limping around the turn I was greeted by the lovely Miss Staci Rivero and Mr. Marty Metzger. I then proceeded to get mobbed at the aid station. It was so wonderful seeing so many familiar and friendly faces!! K2, Scott, Alan, Tony, Felice, and so many others. Someone took a quick picture and the flash made me see stars. I noticed even my good friend, Mr. Byron Benoit had managed to wake up early after that long drive from Huntville, TX the day before. What a trooper! I grabbed several cups of poweraid and some snacks after visiting for a minute and then waved goodbye to all of my well wishers.
That was the turning point. I was still having to stop and reset the knee, but I was really moving better now. The lactic acid in my leg muscles had finally been flushed out so I motored passed the half way point and cruised south on the east side of the lake toward the White Rock Lake dam.
Along the way, I passed another runner wearing a Sunmart tyvek jacket. Good grief, how many other folks are doing a double, double? It turns out this lady had done the 50 miler the day before! She was really struggling now. I told her to hang in there and wished her good luck.
I had a credit card in my race ready short pocket. I had planned on using it near mile 18 at a 7 Eleven store on the corner of Garland and Lawyer to purchase an "Hostess" apple pie and a coke if I thought I needed an extra boost.
Turns out I was feeling pretty good as I passed the dam and proceeded to the next aid station manned by my cycling pals at the mighty Greater Dallas Bicyclists. My friend Miss Gail Spann greeted me with a loud cheer and a great big hug. Again I got mobbed by well wishers! I was offered a ice cold beer. Boy did that taste good!! This was also the "Cliff Shot Zone' and I was handed out so many, I felt I like I had just hit the jackpot from one of those one-armed bandits in Las Vegas!
Only about eight miles to go! But the dreaded hills (The Dolly Partons) were next, followed by a steep climb of several miles, back out of White Rock Lake. In the past, I had always had problems with leg cramps here. This year though, I was using electrolytes supplements, Succeed and E-Caps, and they were working like a charm.
The run thru the hills were surprisingly easy. So was the long stretch along Swiss Ave. What a strange White Rock marathon this was! In the past I have always started off too fast and ended up crashing toward the end. It was the exact opposite this time!
Were getting close to the downtown area now. I continue to try and pick off runners while still stopping to reset the knee every 100 yards.
At the mile 25 aid station, manned by members of the Northwest Bible Church, I am greeted by my final friend, a lovely co-worker from Baylor Irving, Miss Kristin Albani."Your going to do it, baby, only one more mile left!!" she exclaimed. I give her a big hug, grab some pretzels and jammed my way toward the finish.
Fatigue is starting to really set in now but the journey is almost over. The timing chip triggers the alarm and the clock reads 5:16:11. A 50K and a marathon back-to-back!
I thank the good Lord for this moment and think about all the great help I had received from so many generous people who had unselfishly contributed their time and enegy to make this all possible.
It's important not to be afraid to set your goals high. Mr. Scott Eppleman keeps reminding me that our minds places "artificial" limits on what we think we can do. Personal goals are for each individual to set. Like my friend Mr. Bill Rumbaugh of the NTTR, wisely pointed out, there will always be faster and slower runners. Quit comparing yourself to others! This is about you, where you are now, where you have been and where you are heading. Go for it!!
Thomas (T.O.) Okazaki
"Iron sharpeneth iron;"..............................Proverbs 27:17