Here’s my race report for the 2010 Lone Ranger Ultramarathon, which was a part of Back on My Feet’s 20-in-24 race weekend. Founder, Ann Mahlum, reported that this year’s event raised $250,000!! Back on My Feet is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to help the homeless build confidence through running. Despite temperatures in the mid to high 90s, the race was a huge success and a wonderful event for all that participated.
The race included approximately 250 Lone Rangers ultramarathoners and 1500 relay race runners. There was also a Midnight Madness (12:00 am) and Pajama Loop run (5:30 am) which ran the 8.4 mile Schuylkill river loop counter-clockwise to the ultra runner’s clock-wise loops.
Friday night’s packet pick-up and medical check-in for the Lone Rangers was pretty efficient. The bag of goodies included a nice Under Armor shirt, aluminum water bottle, tech running hat, and more…not bad. This was also the start of many conversations and friendships that would carry over into a day of running 8.4-mile loops in the park.
I got to Lloyd Hall around 7:45 am and the area was already alive with activity. Lone Rangers were hanging out in the Hall and lawn area. Team tents were getting erected. It was like a South Philly tailgate party before a Monday night football game (except with Gatorade & Gu). I met a few fellow 1st time ultra runners like myself – “Matt” and “Dan” and enjoyed talking to them about running. It was probably not a good sign that most of us were sweating in this early morning hour and we had yet to start running.
My race strategy was to do a run/walk combination and use Hammer Perpetuem as my main caloric intake. I packed the drink mix in baby bottle liner bags with some ClifBars, Gu gels, extra socks, first aid items, extra lube, and extra salt caps (Endurolyte). The main bag was immediately after the finish line under a tent near the results board. The ‘drop bag’ was placed at Rest Area #2 which was approximately 4.5 miles from the start.
The loop was a very nice scenic, paved running path. It started at Lloyd Hall and went around the Art Museum (Rocky statue and all!) and crossed the river. The tree-lined path provided some nice shady spots. It was also nice to gaze out onto the river back at the Water Works, Boat House row, the Regatta races, and all of the other activity going on during a busy Saturday in Philadelphia.
Running the first loop, the heat had slowed my pace to an 10:30-11:00/min per mile. All 6 rest areas were manned along the loop due to the Excessive Heat Warning and had ice cold wash clothes and water bottles for the runners. Three of the rest areas were stocked with a variety of food: pizza, pretzels, potatoes, soda, Gatorade, salt, Gu, sandwiches, chips and candy. The volunteers were GREAT. They enthusiastically greeted you and cheered you on while also ensuring that you were OK to press on.
After 4 loops, I was averaging about 1:50 per loop…about 20 minutes slower per loop than my goal pace. I was fairly certain that my 12-loop goal (100 miles) was realistically slipping out of reach. No worries…this was my 1st ultra…I was out to do what I can do and have a good time. I struck up some good conversations with Matt, Michelle, Rich, Dana and Steve (NJShoreRun.com) and played ‘leap frog’ with many other friendly runners. It’s these exchanges that passed the hottest part of the day and kept the event fun. At the end of the 4th loop, the sweat had sufficiently soaked my socks so I changed into dry socks and re-powdered my shoes. This felt pretty darn good.
It’s worth noting that by the end of my Loop 3, I was ‘lapped’ by leaders Serge Aborna & Sabrina Moran. This would be the 1st of many. It was so motivating to see their determination and consistency. I enjoyed the short exchanges and cheering them on each time they passed me by. Both would go on to set the Male (147.6 miles) & Female (125.18 miles) course records….unbelievable!!
By loop #5, I was starting to get sick of the orange Perpetuem and the ClifBar was not sitting well in my stomach. I think the combination of heat and time on my feet was starting to take its toll, so I changed my run/walk pattern to 5 minutes running / 5 minutes walking. I was also a bit concerned that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in several hours, so in addition to carrying a water bottle I started to guzzle a water bottle at the rest areas, too. I continued taking electrolyte caps at the rate of 2-3/hour. After 5 loops, both of my heels had blisters-a-brewing…so with the help of a volunteer and his Leatherman tool, I cut some moleskin, slapped it on, and started Loop #6.
On loop #6, I opened up my small cooler and grabbed a Gatorade that I had frozen the night before. Amazingly, it was still in a frozen slushy form…which was heavenly. These Gatorade ice chips gave me such a boost and kept me going for much of the loop. If I had to do it over again, I would have had a cooler of frozen / super-cold Gatorades waiting for me at the end of each loop. The sun was now setting and the lights of boat house row and Strawberry Mansion bridge kept my mind wandering away from my aching legs…which was nice.
The volunteers at the Start / Finish area handed out Nathan blinking arm bands to the Lone Rangers that chose to press on. I’m sure this helped others see me, but my 3-LED head lamp didn’t do much to illuminate those dark underpasses along the west side of the loop. The roving bikers did a great job covering that loop and while there were some stints where I saw no one for awhile, these were not that often.
The rest areas had nice light generator units that shone like a beacon on the dark backside of the loop (West River / MLK Drive). This was such a welcome sight on the latter loops and what made it even nicer is that the volunteers were up on their feet and out on the path urging you on. Like us, the volunteers were pulling 24-hour duty and yet they didn’t lose any energy as the race wore on into the wee hours.
On loop #7, my body started to quit. I guess this is understandable, given that I was 12 hours into the race and my longest training run was 6 hours…but this fact didn’t make my body feel any better. The Physical Therapist at RA#2’s medical tent noticed my limping and graciously offered to stretch out my hamstrings – what a savior! This kept me moving forward although I was doing more walking than running by this point. The Midnight Madness racers came by as I was running on Kelly Drive and it mentally got me through the last 2 miles of the loop. From the speed demons at the front of the race to the ‘revelers’ at the end of the race with the vuvuzela horns, light sabers, and glow in the dark garb (any mental diversion was welcome at this point…even if they were coming at you head-on!).
By the end of loop #7, a few of my comrades had either checked out or headed to the sidelines. I didn’t like the prospect of sitting down as I may not get up again, so I quickly re-lubed & re-fueled and headed out for loop #8. Hind sight is telling me that I may have wanted to spend some more time at Lloyd Hall to lick my wounds (so to speak).
I ‘ran’ (read: walk with spontaneous running spurts) loop #8 between 1:30 and 4:30 am. After the last of the Midnight Madness revelers ran into the finish along the west side of the loop, things got very quiet and I would only see a few fellow runners…all of which were passing me. It was also at this stage of the race where I found myself veering off the path and seeing things (are there flying squirrels along the Schuylkill?). Mike N. showed up for the last mile of loop #8 to pace me which was a welcomed sight. Sadly, I wish I could have kept going and given him the entertainment value of another lap…but loop #9 wasn’t in the cards. After checking into medical at 5:15 am for nausea & dizziness, I realized it was time to call it a ‘night’. Final tally: 8 laps, 67.64 miles, 18 hours, 7 minutes, and 57 seconds.
I always feel guilty when my family goes to a running event…thinking that they may be bored silly. But my wife and boys had a great time and were a great ‘crew’. Many thanks to Mom, Dad, Carol, Chuck, Kristen, and my ‘crew’ for coming out to see me. Thanks to Louie who was there to see me off and would have been there for the ‘last loop’ had I hung in there longer. And a very special thanks to Mike N. who came out to ‘pace’ me at 3:30 am only to find me in broken-down mode.
Great race, Ann & Team…for a great cause. Thanks!