Running Down A Dream: 48 Hours in the Dome-August 4th-6th, 2015

Running Down A Dream: 48 Hours in the Dome-August 4th-6th, 2015


I’ve never made my goals a secret.  I know that some people like to keep their goals to themselves, but I don’t mind putting mine out there.  I feel that there is more pressure to accomplish goals that I make public.  Plus, by saying my goals aloud, I feel more committed to them and saying my goals aloud helps me to BELIEVE!  I have a few LIFETIME RUNNING GOALS, which are stated on my blog. The biggest one was to set an American Record (AR).  I looked at ultra AR’s and believed it might be possible in the 48 hour.  The AR for 48 was 234.811 miles held by Sue Ellen Trapp from 1997.  I always seem to do better the further I go.  So, I pitched the idea to try the distance/time (one time only) to my hubby.  He graciously agreed to crew and help support my crazy dream 🙂   Months after committing to the event, Joe Fejes informed me that the Indoor World Track Record was 231.408.  Holy crap, I thought!  If I run 235, I’d have an American Record and an Indoor World Track record!!  Wow, if I didn’t already have enough motivation…that was it!!  A TWO-FOR-ONE 🙂
People asked me what I was shooting for in terms of mileage at the Dome.  I stated my that I wanted run 135 the first 24 hours and run 100 miles the second 24-hours.  It wasn’t originally how I planned it (130/105 was the original plan).  I upped the first days mileage after I found out the 2014 24-Hour World Championships in Taiwan were cancelled and my qualifying spot from 2013 would be too old to count.  I found out that my 24 hour split would count as a qualifying mark.  I knew that there were women with marks of 133.4, 132.65, 131.56, and others in the 120‘s.  In order to re-qualify for the US Team/24-hour World Championship in Torino in April 2015, I wouldn’t feel safe unless I bested the top mark.  So, 135 was the new goal for Day 1.    
Prior to the Dome, I consulted Joe Fejes on training and running a 48 hour.  I have done 24 hours twice and have been out longer than 24 hours on 3-100 mile trail races, but 48 hours seemed daunting.  I don’t even think I have the 24 hour race figured out, as I have gone out too hard and died in both of the 24’s I have done.  I knew I would have to run as sloooowww as I could to not blow up at the end.  I was relieved that Joe doesn’t go crazy with mileage and can still manage to run 48, 72, 6-days, etc.  I work, have a family, and don’t have time to log insane mileage.  I built my training plan up to a 90 mile week at the highest.  My training went well, but I started to feel a little tired around the 4th of July, when I raced a 10K, and followed it up with 22 more miles after the race.  For the next 2 weeks, I cut my mileage down a little, and made sure to sleep a little more.  By the end of July, I felt good…I felt ready.  I had a lot of positive talk in my head.  

The Dome on Sunday, August 3rd

On Sunday, the day prior to the race, there was a Dome familiarization meeting so that you could check out the set-up in advance.  Afterwards, was a meet and greet.  Holy cow!  This race was a veritable “who’s who” in Ultrarunning.  Valmir Nunes (former 100k WR holder in 6:18!!), Joe Fejes, Phil McCarthy, John Geesler, Roy Pirrung, Martin Fryer,  Connie Gardner, Frank Bozniack, Zach Bitter, Rimantas Jakelaitis, Liz Bauer, and Jennifer Aradi…to name a few.  I was sooo excited to meet sooo many cool athletes!  It would be awesome to watch the race unfold.

48 Record Holders: Valmir Nunes, Roy Pirrung, Phil McCarthy, Me, Martin Fryer, John Geezler

Monday morning, I woke up, ate my new yummy chocolate chip bagel that I fell in love with since arriving in Alaska.  We got to the Dome about an hour before 9:00am (race time) to get my chip and check-in.  All of us were ready to go, when Zane (the RD), came over and said there would be an hour delay, as they were having problems with the timing system.  I was proud of myself, because I normally get stressed on days where I have big race goals and things don’t start off well.  Instead, I simply laid on my blow-up mattress, closed my eyes and tried to relax.  We were now thinking it would start at 10:00am, but at 9:45, Zane said they still weren’t ready and they would notify us at least 15 min prior as to when it would start.  Still, I stayed calm and rested…who am I?  I’m normally a spaz on race day.  At 10:35am, he told us it would start at 11:00am.  Ok.  Great.  Now what?  I ate 2 hours before the race like usual, and took my pre-race supplements an hour before.  It had been 4 hours…what do I do?  I hadn’t run, but I probably should eat something, I thought.  I perused the table and thought, gels are safe…Nah, I will eat enough of those.  Never having had a pop-tart in an ultra, I decided Cherry Pop-tarts looked yummy…the Keith Straw method…eat whatever looks good and your hand grabs…so, like a hand on a Ouija board, I reached over and grabbed a  pop-tart. 
11:00am the race started!  Yes!  We were off!  I knew that it would be hard to run as slow as I needed to run.  My first splits were all around 2:15-2:20 (1.028 mile/4 laps) ~ high 8”s, low 9‘s for the first marathon.  I kept trying to slow down, but couldn’t run slower comfortably.  A guy named Hung, decided to run with me.  We ran for the first 6 hours-ish together.  I enjoyed the company, and we laughed about him “stalking” me, since he always ran behind me.  Zach Bitter was flying around the track at sub 3 marathon pace.  He was fun to watch and super nice.  I had fun calculating how many laps I could get done before he would pass me again.  The first 6 hours went well without major issues.  I ran 38.036 with one potty stop and a shoe change at 6-hours. I knew the key to my 48-hour success would be keeping my feet healthy.  I still have some trouble with blisters in long ultras and the track was hard…someone mentioned it was concrete with textured paint on top.  It didn’t feel spongy like a newer high school track, but then I train mostly on asphalt, so no biggie.

Zach Bitter and the Jester-Ed Ettinghausen
K-G, me, Hung in the early hours

12 hours in, 2 more shoe changes and 2 more pit stops.  I was still rolling and had now clocked 74.787 miles…eee…I needed to slow down.  I was consuming a gel every 30 minutes and drinking water as a gel chaser.  Every 3 hours, I was taking Fizz in my water to get some electrolytes.
The next 6 hours was uneventful in a good way.  I hit 100 miles at 16:30.  I had been taking tylenol for a nagging headache that I had since I woke up that morning.  I had switched bras wondering if it was the straps, but nothing was helping.  So, I took my ponytail holder out and ran with my hair down.  Several people commented that I was now sporting my “sexy Traci look”.  I guess we all have low standards of sexy in an ultra on an indoor track 🙂  Thankfully, the tylenol, and my free-flowing hair did the trick.  My headache went away.  

From 18-24 hours, I struggled a bunch.  I was popping Immodium like candy to no avail.  Stopping for frequent pit stops, and walking on occasion.  I was still eating fine, but just was mentally in a funk and my potty stops weren’t helping my mojo.  I had 2 laps that were super long: a 23 minute lap and a 30 minute lap.  I know that one of the long lap splits was switching back to the type of bra I started in because it is the only one that doesn’t eat all the skin off my chest.  I know I had potty stops, shoe changes, pop tart consumption, and an ipod change.  Neither my husband or I know what the other stop was for.  Neither of us think that I laid down until after 24 hours, but we aren’t sure.  
I needed mental inspiration in the 18-24 hour window.  My husband told me to just focus on getting my qualifying miles in and to get to 24 hours.  It helped to think of it that way…break it down to the first goal.  Three of my best friends wrote me some notes to help me mentally if I hit a low.  I told my husband I needed a letter.  He randomly grabbed one, and I read a note from my friend Tom who told me I couldn’t look at it until at least 30 hours into the race.  Oh well, I thought…I need it now.  Tom’s letter said: think about your arms…are they still working…good.  Think about your legs…are they still working…good. Basically if my feet/hands/legs were still working, then keep going.  It helped for a bit.  There was nothing physically wrong with me except sore feet, blisters, and diarrhea…Ok…that’s nothing new for me in an ultra…shut your pie hole and run.  

Inspiration from kids-handslapping 🙂

An hour or so later, I needed more inspiration.  I asked for another letter.  My husband gave me Troy’s.  Troy and I have similar personalities and he paced me through the Grand Slam.  He knows what to say that hits home, so I was anxious to read it.  He said many things that were helpful, but what hit home was: 

-NO room for emotions! Run steady. RUN SMART!!!
-Relentless forward progress. 
-Shut down any negative thoughts! If you’re not happy figure out why. You own the race. -Back off your pace and figure why you aren’t happy! You HOLD THE CONTROL! Take back the control!  Remember that a lot of times negative thinking during a race is from low sugar or pushing tooooo hard. Just back off a few minutes and recover, get in food. 
-Remember its supposed to be fun! The pain will be worth it!
I got through the low!  Phew!  By the end of the 24 hours, I was at 135.182.  I had run 60.395 miles the 2nd half of 24 hours.  
At this point, we had decided that I would stop and have my blisters tended to, dry my feet, change whatever clothes I wanted and take a nap.  I probably laid down for 30 minutes of my hour break and slept about 15.  It felt good in the Dome, until you stopped.  Then, I got cold super fast.  I put on a short sleeve and long sleeve pullover and laid on the inflatable mattress.  The blanket we brought was thin, so I had a hard time relaxing, because I was shivering and my legs were throbbing.  But, after an hour (25 hours elapsed), my husband woke me and told me it was time to get going again.  Wow…help me up, please.  My legs felt awful.  I couldn’t get up by myself.  How am I supposed to run, I thought.  I started walking.  After 2 laps, I went from wondering if I could move to walking to shuffling to back in the rhythm of 2:35-2:50/lap.  Weird.  I never thought you could feel so crappy and just will your body to go and it would!

I ran for about 4-1/2 hours (29-1/2 hours elapsed) and started feeling dizzy.  My husband said to lie down for 10 minutes.  It helped!  But an hour and a half later (31 hours elapsed), I felt dizzy again.  I laid down for another 10 minutes.  I was back up, alternating between running and walking an occasional lap.  But two hours later (33 hours elapsed), I started feeling dizzy again.  My husband starting spewing some metaphor at me: “it’s like your pushing a car.”  “The car needs gas, and then it can run again.”  What?!  Like 33 hours into an ultra, I can translate metaphors.  I said what are you talking about.  He said he had talked to Joe Fejes (or Rich-his crew), my friends Troy and Jeff, and everyone thought I was dizzy from not sleeping.  He said sleep for 30 minutes, but then you will have to get up and run!  I said OK.  My 30 minute break turned into a 50 minute lap, as I asked to sleep 5 more minutes two more times.  I probably slept 15-20 minutes.  I got up and felt horrible…worse than ever!  My husband, Mike had done the math.  If I started running at 8:30pm, I would need to average 13:27 to get to 235 miles.  I could hardly move.  Mike told me to get walking…he said we came to Alaska to do this.  If I wanted it, now was the time.  I got the message.

Best Crew Ever, Mike Falbo!!!

I started walking, but was now stressed.  I know that 13:27 was not a hard pace, but I had been dizzy, been in the bathroom a million times…if that continued I would have to run a lot faster.  I was whining/boo-hooing/doubting myself aloud to my friend Jennifer Aradi who was doing the 6 day.  She said awesome things… “We always hit lows in ultras.  They pass…You can do this…walk with me.”  I walked a lap with her, feeling a bit better, but still mad at my husband for “making me lie down” and losing 40 minutes of time.  I had started shuffling and boo-hooed to Joe Fejes.  He said I was doing well, and it was good for my first time at 48 hours.  I could be 2nd or 3rd on the all time list and could give it another attempt in the future.  Hell no, I thought.  I told my husband that this was a one time try at this distance/time.  That got me going.  It had been about 15 minutes since I had gotten up from my last nap and all of the sudden, I was running between 2:40-2:55/lap.  I felt good again.  Uber weird!

I hit 182.12 with 12 hours left to go.  I had run just 47.03 miles in the 3rd, 12 hour block.  I needed 100 miles on Day 2.  I needed to negative split the 2nd day.  I was a little worried, but with more motivation from Jennifer, Joe, and another letter from my friend Jeff…I was positive and rolling.  

Jennifer Aradi & I
Joe Fejes, Valmir Nunes, & I

Amazingly, from 8:45pm on Day 2 until 10:15am, I ran every lap between 2:40-3:00 (257 laps), with the exception of 19 laps that were 4-6 minutes for either shoe changes or potty stops.  Crazy.  Around 9 hours to go, I was doing math.  I knew that 4 laps was a little over a mile and if I ran sub 3 laps, I would do a sub 12 mile.  That was my focus.  Just come through every lap under 3 minutes.  I calculated that 12 minute miles were 5 miles/hour and that I would hit the American Record with and hour and 20 minute buffer.    I smiled proudly that I could still do math at this point (I know it’s easy math, but still).  My plan was to “run” until I got to 235 and then walk the rest of the time.  It helped me mentally to know I wouldn’t have to run the entire time.

There were 2 huge digital clocks on each side of the Dome.  I would look at them and tell myself to just run the entire time to the next hour…no walking!  I repeated that hour after hour.  I felt surprisingly good. I was singing quietly aloud (sorry everyone) at times with my ipod.  I was happy.  What the heck?  Oh well…go with it.  I was smelling the barn, but didn’t want to count my chickens…just keep this pace and keep eating and drinking.  Time ticked away.  I kept rolling.  As I got closer to the records, the timers informed the runners that I was getting close to breaking records.  They also informed me that I had extra time (which I had already calculated), and that I needed to “run” to get at least 240.  I said “why?”  They said that 240 miles would give me the 2nd best mark ever by a woman in the 48 hour event.  There were several women who had run 239, and they thought I should get to 240 miles.  It took me several laps to get my head around running for another hour than planned…After all, walking after 235 miles, had just kept me going for the last 9-10 hours.  Everyone was super nice and encouraging!!  When I hit the records, the timers and some of the runners stopped around the timing mat to cheer as I passed the marks.  I surpassed the indoor track world record of 231.403 at 46:08:05, and the previous american record of 234.811 at 46:46:23.  
It was super emotional for me, as I took down the records.  I had Katy Perry’s “Roar” playing over and over on my ipod, as I ran (see note at the end).  When they announced the records as I passed, I started to get choked up and started to get teary-eyed.  I almost started crying, but told myself to stuff it back down.  I knew if I started bawling, I wouldn’t be able to breathe, which would affect my running.  Not the time for emotions, I told myself.  I gave a bit of a fist pump when I got the American Record.  I was soooo excited.  I was having a fantastic, dream come true, race.  
At some point after the records, the timers told everyone to get out of lane one so that I could accrue as much mileage as possible.  I apologized to many, telling them it was fine if they stayed in lane one.  After all, why is my race more important than someone’s six day race?  Many obliged the timers, and were happy to move out to lane two for the last 45 minutes to an hour.  I felt like I had been starting to list to the right for the last hour (although, my Physical Therapist who was watching the live feed said I had started listing Tuesday night).  Unfortunately, an hour before my race ended, we changed directions on the track, running right turns again. 

I picked up the pace with about 45 minutes to go, upping my pace to 2:20, then 2:17.  It felt awesome to pick it up from the 2:55-3:00 range.  But, after 2 laps, I thought…Crap, I can’t hold this for 45 minutes…slow it down.  I settled into a 9:15 average pace for the next 2 miles.  I hit 240.037 miles with 21.5 minutes to go.  The timers cheered me on to go as fast as possible and pad the record as much as I could.  I said I would go for 8 more laps/2 more miles.   I picked it up more, wanting to be done.  I ran an 8:34 mile, then an 8:06 mile (the fastest mile I had run the entire 48 hours) for the last mile.  I almost fell into the inside of the track on the last lap.  I was listing more to the right, and leaning forward horribly, my body losing control from fatigue.  I basically felt like I was a cartoon character, just moving my legs as fast as possible under me to keep up with my body for the last 2 miles to keep upright.  I finished 2 more miles and fell into my husband’s arms.  Several people were cheering for me to go one more lap to get to 390k, but I was worried about falling and was spent.  They told me I still had 4 minutes and could practically walk it.  I felt guilty, and broke down to tears…I couldn’t go anymore…I didn’t have any more.  At that point, my husband said, “she is done.”  No one pushed me to go any more.  My wonderful husband, protector, and crew, helped lower me to the ground, and later scoop me up with the help of Mike Dobies to a high jump pad where I recovered after the race.  

Mike Falbo & Mike Dobies helping me to the high jump pad

Thanks to everyone who organized the event and helped me through my 48-hour journey (Joe, Zane, Collette, Rich, Valmir, & Jennifer…just to name a few).  However, I could NOT have done this without the support of my husband, Mike Falbo who crewed me the entire 48, putting up with my crap, giving me nudges to get my butt moving at times, and keeping me grounded when I had negative thoughts.  Remember, I like apple and watermelon 🙂

Zane, the fantastic RD

Katy Perry note:  I took my daughter to the concert to celebrate her good grades her junior year on 8/16/14.  As Katy Perry opened up her concert with “Roar”, I started tearing up, but couldn’t understand why.  I mean, I like Katy Perry a lot, but not enough to cry about.  I successfully wiped my tears away without my daughter seeing (I didn’t want her to think I was crazier than she already thinks I am).It didn’t occur to me until the next day that I was crying because the song was playing when I set the records.  Crazy how something such as a song or smell can bring emotions forth 🙂