The Solstice Challenge 2018

The Solstice Challenge – 50 miles in 48 hours

The idea behind this is to celebrate the longest days of the year by running with the ample daylight hours. I missed out last weekend, I was still traveling and then paced a half marathon 4 hours after getting back home (bye bye sleep!). The idea of running smaller runs over a period of time seemed fun, so it got penciled in on my plan as I take steps training for a 100 mile run in August.

I decided to write this up and how I felt for two reasons: 1. to share my experiences, and 2. to remember what I learned from this training and adapt. So I decided to start at 6pm Friday when it was predicted to start being “hot” outside with our excessive heat warning for Wisconsin. I wanted to get in additional heat training for my Texas race (in August) and make up time in case Sunday’s forecast came to fruition (it did). The idea was to do a bunch of 4 mile runs (two 6 mile runs) between 6am and 10pm over the weekend. 6 am, 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm, and 10 pm were the scheduled times for both days. I adjusted a few of these and ended up with this schedule:
1. Friday 6:17pm 4 miles, feels like 101°F, 10:52 average pace
2. Friday 7:53pm 4 miles, feels like 98°F, 10:39 average pace
3. Friday 9:50pm 3 miles, 84°F actual, feels like 90°F 82% humidity, 11:38 average pace
4. Saturday 6:05am 6 miles, 80°F actual 93% humidity, 13:25 average pace (running with a group)
5. Saturday 8:59am 4 miles, 82°F actual, 12:30 average pace, 12:30 average pace
6. Saturday 11:10am 3.6 miles, 89°F actual, feels like 101°F 61% humidity, 11:47 average pace
7. Saturday 3:19pm 4 miles, 91°F actual, feels like 101°F 57% humidity, 12:21 average pace
8. Saturday 5:46pm 4.4 miles, 88°F actual, feels like 96°F 61% humidity, 11:55 average pace

– big storms roll through –
9. Sunday 9:01am 5 miles, 73°F actual, 12:22 average pace
10. Sunday 11:27am 4.58 miles, 83°F actual, feels like 91°F, 12:25 average pace
– another storm rolls through –
11. Sunday 3:09pm 4.44 miles, 82°F actual, feels like 89°F 62% humidity, 11:52 average pace
12. Sunday 5:09pm 3 miles, 83°F actual, feels like 87°F 62% humidity, 9:58 average pace

So from here on out, I will refer to runs by their number to make it easier. I started out with the husband, so pace was a little higher than I wanted. Walked a few parts of hills. This was done on a new route, going down from our house to the highway south of us past a few farms. There are a few issues with this route…in order to get out of our little “hole” (we live at the base of two hills), you have to run up a steeper hill; once you are up and out of there about half a mile later, it’s ALL downhill until you have to come back ALL uphill, which most near the turn around points are gradual grades for the most part. This went well except I had to stop for a minute about 5 minutes in to relieve pressure in my calves that were crying from doing the speed work two days before. 85% of this run was in the sun.

The second run. By myself. I took my car out to a lower starting point, a junction between a crossing of the military ridge trail. I quickly learned while making a short video of my journey that this run would be hard for one reason: mosquitoes. I was covered in seconds. I took off one mile west and then going back to do one mile east. Kept a really solid pace, but at the cost of having a higher heart rate. This I’m pretty sure ended up being the highest my Heart rate got during the event. The second run was mostly shaded, if not all shaded. SHADE MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE! I saw not a single soul on this run…no one was outside.

The third run was harder to get out the door for. I had to use a headlamp by this point, and thought it would be safer to run inside our (very hilly) neighborhood. The sun sets here around 8:41pm, so it had been dark a while. I learned a few things on this run. Frogs come out at night around our house. Frogs will jump on you even if you are trying to avoid them. My headlamp hurts pretty bad without some sort of hat or buff between it and my skin. I need to gather another headlamp anyway before the big night. Another thing was I found out that my new headphones by Bose started acting broken…well finding it was broken in the end. So while trying to listen to the latest and greatest Becoming Ultra Podcasts (so many to catch up on this week), the button on the headphones would communicate to the ipod that it needed to repeat the title of the podcast continuously. Or repeat my list of playlists over and over again in alphabetical order. OR when listening to music, randomly go to the next song or pick a song in another playlist and play that, or just stop altogether ever few SECONDS. This run was mentally tough because of that. I eventually (after quite a few walk breaks) decided to just put Pandora on on my phone and carry a useless ipod and headphones for the rest of the dark run. After this run, I drank a some BCAAs. By this point, I had not carried water, nor had I had replaced electrolytes before/after runs. We were supposed to be getting groceries the next day, so no solid food except dinner which was just a McDonald’s cheeseburger and shake and fries after the second run.

Night fell. I slept ok, but not well enough. The alarm went off and I headed out for the group run at 6am, just five minutes away by car. They took a route that went around town instead of through the trails (I had worn my new trails shoes, the lone peaks, thinking it was going to be on military ridge), I had been wearing the Altra escalantes for the first three runs. I dread running the mornings. They are always harder. I didn’t have any water beforehand, but did bring a handheld for the run. It ended up being enough for that run, using a scoop of tailwind for that run. I started with the main group, averaging 11:20 min/mi but my legs still felt pretty tight and sore, so I held back a bit. I noticed a girl in the group struggling with the heat a bit. I found out she was training for her first marathon. I stayed with her and helped her through the run. I did not care about pace, and was glad to help out. I still had a mile past when the rest stopped, so I went on and finished it off. 70% of this run was in the sun.

I came back home for a hot second. I realized how little time I had between runs to rest and regroup for the next bout of running, sometimes only 40 minutes. There still wasn’t anything to really eat in the house, so I filled up the bottle again with tailwind and drove back out but this time to the local park and ride on military ridge trail. My genius idea was to do loops out in this trail/field/prairie? In a cotton long sleeve shirt to test the idea that cotton would keep you cooler in hotter weather. So many things went wrong! It was like a continuation of the previous night! The ipod issue escalated. I was targeted by more mosquitoes. And then, the first appearance of the red wing black birds. If you don’t know much about them, the gist of it is they are ground nesters and tend to attack pedestrians and bikers who get too close to their nests going for the head of the victim (and yes, this includes the fierce predator: the runner). I got maybe four loops around, which are about 0.45 miles each time around, all in the sun, yay, before the birds started circling close to the end of the loop. I bailed, and headed out on the short single track, before realizing it was ankle deep mud. Turning around, I went back to my car and bailed on the long sleeve shirt and did a few out and backs on the dirt paths that surrounded the park and ride. About 90% of this run was in the sun.

One more run before the large lunch break. World Cup Ball was on, and I devised a special run for this one. It was going to be hot, we all knew that. So why not run from my house to McDonald’s and get a freezie drink? I did some magic and extended the course out to 3.6 miles (which is why this run was shorter). I started at the house, went up the nasty hill to get out, and headed out to the military ridge trail and out west. I took this path all the way to the park and ride and then out into the pavement to the golden arches. It was a very nice treat. I felt better on this run a little than I had been feeling. This run I did by heart rate mostly, allowing it to go up a little to account for the heat. But kept an eye out and forced it under 160 bpm (these are MY zones, just a reminder, and I know what they mean for me), and usually that number is 154 for reference. After my neighborhood, the route was basically flat. 80% of this run was in the sun.

LUNCH BREAK! I had the boys pick me up from McD’s and we headed to Dominoes (I swear I don’t usually eat this much salt in a weekend, but I knew I needed to replenish and didn’t want to really cook during this event). I had two slices of cheese pizza and some stuffed feta/spinach cheesy bread. Carbo overload!! Warning Warning! Nap time. And asleep I fell (after putting on fresh clothes for the first time, head to toe), in an awkward position while sports ball was playing on the tv. I woke up to some wicked chaffing? That’s the only word that came to mind, specific “places” had been injured and it was only skin deep, but it HURT to move. Crud. I am so thankful for my pacer, Sonja, STILL for taking care of me post 100k, and still have the diaper rash cream stored. I used that sucker. It didn’t make an immediate difference, but long term, it helped so much.

Energy wise I felt great after the nap and food! It was the first real nutrition I had had since the late dinner the night before. 3 o’clock rolls around and I head out the door with my tailwind/ice combo in my handheld. Oh wow IT HURTS (the weird chaffing). For the first 1.5 miles, I wanted to quit. I wanted to call it quits and have Rich come pick me up. I couldn’t move well. I was trying to take it easy because I knew I wasn’t done with what I had to do still and because the heat was unrelenting and I needed that practice. But a thought came to me: If this was my 100 miler race, would this be enough to make me call it quits? NO. It really would not be, no matter how bad it was right then. Sometimes things get better. This did with time. I wonder in retrospect though if it was because of adrenaline that kept the pain at bay later on. I pressed on and found it hard to keep going to. My legs were starting to feel it, I had basically a marathon on my legs at this point. What would be a good idea to try? Intervals. Coach Scott had me do 2 minute on one minute off when I was on the cruise, and that seemed like a good idea to try out. I had read about another fellow ultra runner, Heather, who did 1 minute intervals or something for her 100 miler attempts and it seemed to work well for her. So I thought, in the thick of the race, would this be a good thing to switch to if I got mentally bogged down with how my body was feeling? The intervals kept me moving forward because there was no longer an excuse to stop and look at my phone, or watch the clouds cross the sky, think about how hot it was…there was always a walk break and a minute is a lot of time to walk things off. If I could recover from holding 8 min/mi paces for 2 minutes and be able to recover during 1 minute walking, I could make it work really well for 10 min/mi paces. Anyway, this is probably way more in-depth than it needs to be. But I had passed the half way point. This challenge was hard, there was no doubt in my mind now. This route was the same as the first I had run and I wore the escalentes for this one. Also for this run, I tried a wet buff. I really felt no difference using it around my neck. Am I doing it wrong?

Dinner time run! I would earn dinner after this one! I switched to tailwind/ice/BCAA (blue, have to specify this). This was amazing actually. The ice basically melted before I was mile into each of my runs, but whatever, it was nice for the time being. I decided on a point to point for this run. I would run to where my husband worked. (I have to go to places that he knows he can get to without me, else he will get lost.) This was more overall hilly. I am getting really really tired of climbing the hills to get out of our neighborhood…

This run went very well. I ran a warm up mile and then stuck with my intervals for the rest of the run. I saw some spooky looking clouds on my way out and stopped for a minute to check my radar to make sure I could get through the run safely. I thought I could make it, so I pressed on. By the time I hit the walking trails near the campus (his workplace is very large), mosquitoes were making their presence known, and so were the red wing black birds…again. I had a few scares, it pushed my intervals a little faster than I wanted. I had a few circle me towards the end of the run, so I opted for the streets nearby to run on instead. I wore the escalantes for this run. This whole run was in the sun.

Dinner! Did someone order storms? So much lightening! This ended up lasting all evening. This also kept me awake that evening, so I didn’t get much sleep. I slept in a little on account of that, but woke up and promptly headed out the door. The chaffing was 75% better! It was totally manageable now. But my feet were starting to ache a lot, specifically under the ball of my right foot and I could feel a little favoritism in my stride, I want to fix this. So I switched to the torins, which I don’t normally ever run in. They’re my “town” shoes, but I wanted more cushion without using trail shoes.

I felt horrible on this run mentally and somewhat physically. Some of it was due to not being a morning person. I tried to make Guac toast, but I don’t think it helped with my energy at all…but I probably just needed more fluids (but I wasn’t dehydrated). I went out and decided to do a loops. I forgot how far this loop was but I remembered it was more than 3 miles. I could make up the extra distance if I needed around the house when I got back. I went out on what was similar to the first run but instead of turning around I went out onto the highway. Mind you, this is not an incredibly busy highway and it was early on a Sunday morning too. I probably met less than 10 cars the time I was on that stretch of road, which was probably close to 2 miles. I had enough shoulder and the shoulder was gravel and grass with no drop off, so it was safe enough. I probably would not have done it if I hadn’t done it prior. My energy and general feeling of not being in a great mood were the least of my issues, because for the next 1.5 miles I was in constant defense of the red wing black bird. I swear every 25 feet there was another bird perched somewhere VERY close squawking at me loudly, louder than the others had been, and then starting to fly up above me. I mainly kept to the intervals here, but I ignored a few just to get through this stretch of road. I made it back to a familiar stretch and relaxed a bit more. I felt with each run now I was running out of water faster and faster and the need to drink more was happening even though the runs were mostly the same length and my pace did not really change much. 90% of this run was in the sun…but it was pretty cloudy.

Part two of running to husband’s workplace, but this time the other direction around. I had done part of this point to point in the group run, which I did not look forward to the gradual hill half way through the run. I switched to my Olympus trail shoes by this point looking for more cushion (this seemed to work more). My feet would hurt for the first few minutes of the run, but then they would get better and better to the point I wouldn’t notice. Weird. These shoes I had had for over a year and have served well on the trails taking me through my first (also mountain) 50k that I happened to sign up for as a training run for a mountain marathon back home in Virginia (WHO DOES THAT?). So they could stand to be on pavement without feeling sticky or hindering or that the lugs would get shaved down (they are almost gone anyway). I mixed my water with the red BCAAs. I started walking up the darn hill in front of our house by this point, I was so tired of trying to run it, spiking my heart rate within seconds of my run…feels bad man! Ran through downtown, hit the lights and had some stoppage time (hah world cup joke), which I knew would happen and why I have generally avoided this (that and the military ridge trail bypasses all this and is TRAIL y’know). I got about 2.8 miles in and called Rich. I was running out of water now. I needed more than I was getting and it was too late to replace it. I needed him to meet me now and get me out. By the time he a) got the message, b) remembered to grab water for me, c) drive to me, I had reached over 4.5 miles. Goal achieved! But I was out. I found out the red BCAAs made me way more thirsty I think (which has happened on general workouts before but never put two and two together), so let’s not use those again. 70% of this was in the sun if I recall. The sun came out the last half of the run.

A quick and wind swept storm came rolling in after this, and cooled the air slightly. Slightly. But it kept me from running for a while since there was lightening associated with it. I don’t mind rain, but I want to be safe.

2nd to last run. Ok motivated was increasing. I actually did not think I would get in all the runs, either due to excuses, or weather, or injury or someTHING. I did the route that I did the first run again with some additional neighborhood running (in case it started to storm again). I knew this route was safe from the birds. I got my role in my own Hitchcock film don’t you know? Temperatures rose back up, but not without the wind picking up too. This was pretty nice. I did some blue BCAAs this time for water, and because I had eaten lunch not long before, I decided to forego the tailwind. Was fine. Ran the first 1.7ish miles and then started my intervals to motivate me to get back up the hill without walking the whole thing. (Although I did walk up the first hill out of the neighborhood….AGAIN.) The sun was back and happy, better than ever! Kept this run close as well in case more storms popped up. 90% of this run was in the sun. Used the Olympus shoes for the rest of the runs.

LAST RUN, which is super motivating and I had worked up enough “miles” that my last run was only 3 miles and not 4. I quickly computed a quick loop on garmin (which ended up being short when I ran it? I have had this issue with every run where garmin cuts my routes shorts when actually tracked by GPS, where as on garmin connect it’s longer?). I found a perfect loop, with the exception that it started at our house and I had to END with going up this big hill heading INTO our subdivision complex…very steep and accounts for most of the elevation gain in my runs when I’ve had to head up them – another reason why some runs were “point to point”…to avoid that hill. I would do it anyway, there wasn’t much time to argue since I needed to get this run in before 6pm, the 48 hour mark if I wanted to stay true to the challenge. I was going to give it all I had. I started with walk-run intervals up our hill to get out of the neighborhood, and then bombed the downhill out of the subdivision (quad performed beautifully still) to make up some time I knew I would lose going back UP that hill later. Hitting downtown, I avoided stopping at lights by taking all inside turns to the left. My mile splits were fantastic. It elated me, because by this point, I would never dream I’d hit sub 10 min/mi under any circumstance. The route headed back out into the sun, and the final stretch of gradual uphill until it hit “the” hill back up. I maintained my pace, and even sped up a little (very little). I hit the hill and jammed in an interval. I pushed the rest of the way. I was very happy to have finished.

A lot went wrong, but I learned from what went wrong (hopefully), and a lot of things were tried out without real consequence. I am very tired now and a little confused. Confused in that I feel like I did this huge thing, and I stuck with it, and never gave up, I trained in the heat and trained hard while pacing each run the best I could without really knowing how to do this whole challenge and take it on, but feeling unaccomplished because I have run 100k, and in that I finished a 50 miler straight in much much less time. I realize that a 50 miler altogether would have trashed my body complete and recovering from that would cost me a lot in several ways. Right now I am just tired, mostly from lack of sleep, but my body is fine for the most part, needs a little healing in time, but nothing extreme. The 4-6 mile runs were perfect for recovery. I got to test food between runs, and see if something bothered me (running and heat wise), try and recoup anything I’d lost and see if that worked too. For runs that “short” you don’t need excessive nutrition; you don’t need gels or chews…just water and electrolytes. So in that respect it’s quite simple. It’s complex in that you have to keep planning and adjusting each run to your needs, and you may not know what those needs are right away. For me, I needed a different route each time, and it waned on me that I needed to find new places to run the same distances at that I may not be able to drive to due to time constraints between runs. Otherwise, this was really fun to try out, and would probably have been very hard by myself and without posting 100 millions times about it on social media.

I hope this was interesting to read!

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