I had planned on writing a number of posts to chronicle/process/evaluate last weekend's run on Ganghwado, but will instead endeavour to get it all done in one fell swoop. Before I get into the details, I want to say how much the experience exceeded all expectations - of the humbling effects of distance, of the sense of camaraderie in the small but devoted band of Korean ultrarunners, of the levels of discomfort I knew I would feel, of the sheer pride I felt in her as Deanna ran twice as far as she ever had before, of the sense of accomplishment in moving forward for so long, and of the anticipation I now feel for future long races, in Korea or otherwise.

And in an editorial flourish, and since that was one of the most ungainly paragraphs ever written, I'll go newswire style from here:

- "Ultramarathon Festival" means just that in Korea. From the organizers to the volunteers, from the spectators to the other runners, everyone was very warm and went out of their way to make sure we always felt supported.

- Covering 100km was hard. Doing it overnight was really hard. I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kinda guy, and have been for as long as I can remember. At 9:30, my usual bedtime, I still had miles to go before I slept.

- I massively overpacked. In my small running backpack, I crammed the following: my phone, my ID, a wad of cash, some ibuprofen, a flashlight and spare batteries, a stick of BodyGlide, four PB and Js, a huge bag of homemade Trail Mix (my recipe - heavy on the M&Ms, light on the nasty raisins), two bananas, a package of chocolate-covered espresso beans, a pack of tissue, two bottles of Gatorade, and a bottle of water. I needn't have bothered. There were more aid stations - each well-stocked with a goodly range of food and drink - than we thought there would be, and I ran past dozens of convenience stores.

- The organizers of this race have a fundamentally different working definition of the word flat than I do. On this particular flat course, I estimate that roughly half of it was legitimately flat - that is, flat according to my definition of the word. I usually don't require scientific precision in my choice of course descriptors, but flat to me means something between a tabletop and a slightly lumpy pancake. I'd have gone with mostly undulating, with periodic spikes of madness. There were rolling hills and plenty more rolling hills, and according to the road signage, five gradients of 7%, two of 10%, and then the heartbreaker at the 93rd km - 30% grade up for 2km, then 40% grade down for 1.5km. My dearth of hill training was very apparent.

- The three weeks of rest before the race seemed to be exactly what my knee needed. The first 22km of this run was flat, and I didn't even feel a twinge. Even as I walked up and down the hills through the night, my knee ached, but more from the distance and not from injury, I think.

- Of the 100km, I reckon I walked half and ran half. I actually sat in fifth place, just metres behind the leaders at the 22km aid station, running at the 58-60minutes/10km pace I knew I could hold for at least six or seven hours. The hills kicked in at 22km, and I crumbled like a stale cookie shortly thereafter.

- Carrying a phone and checking in with Deanna to see how each other was doing was an excellent [her] idea. We chatted plenty, and it was more than a bit of solace to know that she was dodging the traffic on shoulderless roads as adroitly as I was in the dead of the night.

- My legs hurt on Sunday and Monday, but by Tuesday felt no different than they do a few days after a marathon. I do know that I need to get back into the gym to work on my overall strength and flexibility, particularly my hamstrings and thighs.

This was the best running experience I've had in the fifteen years since I ran my first marathon. I liked how the distance negated the need to hurry. I liked that I had so much time to focus on nothing more than taking another few steps. I liked that the runners took time to take pictures, to chat, to eat, to laugh together. I liked that Deanna and I did this run and the training for it together - well, technically not side by side, but certainly together. I liked the challenge and I liked feeling small in the landscape. And I liked thinking about how to get ready for the next long run.


Lauren's Dad said...

Lee and Dee - you guys rule. Combined, you ran more in one day than I have in my life. You are the first Sea Bass Ultrmarathoners. Well done.

Lee said...

Thank you, my brother.
One day we do this together.

Nicole Lee McCord said...

You guys are really encouraging. I hope and anticipate when I can run a long race as your last one. Keep up the good work Smith.