Race Report: Hainesport Endurance Run 12 Hour
In preface: I have decided to include some race reports on here for fun and to keep things interesting! I always love to read these, so hopefully you find it enjoyable too. If not, no worries. Just move on and come back next week for more health and wellness hacks!
2021 was highly unexpected in both a positive and negative light for my family. Personal application of functional medicine, nutrition, and herbal therapies have led me to some of my most solid training blocks ever. This is really saying something because I have been running for over 25 years! The result has been a newfound ability to be competitive at ultradistance events, particularly those with a timed loop format. On the difficult side, my youngest son was diagnosed with liver failure related to a rare genetic condition this summer and, as part of a two-month hospitalization, received a liver transplant. I am extremely grateful to God that this was possible and that he is a healthy boy today! Comparatively unimportant: This did derail my plans for a fall 100-miler for which I was fully trained.
For these reasons, I chose to register for the Hainesport Endurance Run 12 Hour event. It felt so good to be back out there! While I was not ready to leave my family just yet for a 24-hour event (also held at the same time), I was confident that my base and training would allow me to put in a solid performance at the 12-hour. Hainesport, New Jersey is an easy 90-minute drive from our home. The race started at 9am and ended at 9pm on New Year’s Eve, which jived well with my family’s schedule. It did not take much for me to be sold.
December in New Jersey can be miserable. Cold, rain, sleet, snow: All possible. Amazingly, the day of the day of the race dawned cloudy and 45 (F) degrees with a predicted high in the mid-50’s. I put away my winter running gear and broke out the shorts! At 6:30 am I left home with a cooler full of race food and a Rubbermaid tote of gear. A camp chair rounded out my setup. This system is pretty much routine for me and I keep much of it packed and ready between races. I arrived at the Hainesport Township Building and race start at 8:00 am and found an open area along the course, which was also directly across from the bathroom, to place my stuff. Score!
The course was a .99 mile, flat, paved loop around a park. I have done many timed and looped races, but this was by far the shortest loop in my experience. Going into this, I was a bit concerned about the monotony as well as the flatness of the course. My training is almost exclusively on rolling country roads. This is by necessity so that I can maximize my training time and still be home when my family needs me (trails are my preference and I make visits when I can!). Flat is not really in my repertoire, although this year I did log some miles on the Schuylkill River Trail during my son’s hospitalization in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to me, this was a critical part of my training for this race. You just never know how a workout will pay off!
The clock started at 9am and we were off. I was having some mild stomach issues from the beginning, which is highly unusual for me during a race. My body did not seem to want food from the start, so eating was a battle the entire time. Other than that, I felt amazing. The first 5 miles flew by at a steady 9:30 minute per mile pace that seemed effortless on the flat path. I had to rein it in a few times and resist the urge to run faster, knowing that there was a long grind ahead.
My plan was to stop for aide at my personal setup only every 5 laps at the beginning. The single mile loop made it extremely tempting to waste a lot of time by stopping too often, so I had predetermined that I would not give in to this. I even carried my handheld water bottle so that I would not need to stop and grab a cup of water. There was a fully stocked aide station with lots of great ultra fare, however I am seriously allergic to dairy and generally avoid risking unintentional cross contamination at races. For this reason, I stuck exclusively to my own supplies except for a couple of water bottle fills.
After the 5th lap I did stop to refill my bottle, grab an electrolyte cap, and a snack. I repeated this sequence for the first 20 miles with the unfortunate need for a few bathroom trips due to my stomach issues. After 20 laps, I stopped to change my socks. This is a ritual for me: Fresh socks about every 20 miles and I feel like I am a new runner. It really works! In general, around this point I get a little achy. It is such an odd phenomenon that I can predict the points in a race at which I will struggle. This makes me think even more that it is all a mind game, but that is a different blog post.
Fortunately, the course reversed direction every 4 hours. This happened to occur shortly after my sock change. Bam! I was back in business, cranking out faster miles and running light and free. The combination of fresh socks and a “new” course was just what I needed. When I reached the 50k (31 miles) mark, I remember feeling amazing. Like truly amazing. My pace was steady and solid and nothing hurt or ached. I flew through miles 31 through 50. During this time, I made a new friend which was also helpful. Anyone who has run an ultra knows that you can make some really great friends during a race in which you end up telling each other your life stories and talking for hours. Meanwhile, the miles fly by and it is a huge win. My new friend happened to be a very speedy runner who was competing in the 24 hour event with the goal of winning. His pace pushed me just enough and by mile 50 I realized that I had earned a personal best time for that distance. Someone commented on the solid series of laps that I had just put down. I was shocked and excited.
Throughout this race there was a great crowd presence which was a huge help. The course turned into a tent city of sorts with runners and their crews setting up throughout the first half and it felt like there was always someone cheering. I was pleasantly surprised that the short loop did not seem crowded even though there were a good number of runners participating. Overall, it was a great experience.
Just before I passed the 50-mile mark, night had fallen. I broke out my waist light and lent my headlamp to a runner who had not brought one. The course had a lot of streetlights throughout, but oddly most were not on. I think that the race director is planning to look into fixing this for the next event at this venue. We reversed course a second time. My stomach had finally started to settle down. I really regret the time that I wasted making pit stops due to this problem! I did force myself to eat every hour, even if it was just some dry crackers, but I usually add in quite a bit of turkey burger with roll or turkey and mustard wrap for a balance of carbs and protein. This day that was greatly reduced and I think it started to show at the end when I was dragging just past the 50th lap. My mind game was to first make it to 50k, then to 40 miles, then to 50 miles. From that point on, it was all a fun bonus! I just kept moving forward, still running, happy to be out there. I walked the second half of my last lap in with a group of others just to enjoy their company and chat a bit more. There was only 6 minutes left on the clock, not enough time for another lap, and I was done. 59 laps completed! It was 9 pm on New Year’s Eve. I stopped for hot coffee on the ride home since I was starting to feel chilled and made it in time to celebrate the New Year with my family.
Going into this just for fun, having a bit of a rough start with my stomach, and not having competed for 6 months prior… Imagine my surprise when the race director told me that I was the first-place female and presented me with a plaque. I could not have been happier! Although I still wish that I had hammered out that 60th lap because I like round numbers. It’s all good though because I will be back!