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Running a fixed time (12-hour race)

Coming into 2022, I have not raced much. I have completed and achieved FKTs (Fastest Known Times) ranging from 26 miles to many thousands of miles. But, these efforts are unsupported and often much more unique than the thousands of Ultramarathons that happen yearly. I wanted to get this new experience of aid stations, commraderie, a defined course, and a scheduled start time. It would give structure and hopefully organizing experience that could improve other aspects of life too.

When I attempted the Arizona Trail, I felt nervous and anxious the day I was expecting to start. I woke up with no confidence and this foreboding feeling that I was going to fail spectacularly. So, instead of starting that morning, I went into town, regrouped, and began my successful AZT record the next day. This is not an option in an ultramarathon, and that part intrigued me. The winner of a race is the best/fastest person on that day.

So, I made racing the focus for 2022

I ran a last-person-standing event on January 1st, and beyond saving me from a New Years’ Eve of partying, it also was a great way to cover 120 miles systematically. It was a four mph pace until there was only one person left. And that person happened to be me. Then I ran Cocodona 250 after dealing with months of injury. I learned the meaning of feeling fresh and was able to separate the mental and physical sides of ultramarathons. One side is vastly more important than the other, and I couldn’t have learned this lesson any other way.

This continued lining up for races eventually led to my first timed event: A 12 hour trail running even called “Moonlight on Mt. Ascension.”

The 12 hour race

What intrigued me the most about this even was the timing. It started at 8pm and ended at 8am in the morning. I really enjoy night running, but it is hard to separate it out from longer events to practice. I have run the Timberline Trail at night and the Bridger Ridge by where I live in Montana at night, but never an organized event. I was excited about this new style. The route was an 11.5-mile figure 8 loop with about 2,600 feet of vertical gain on the course. The goal was to complete as many of the figure eight loops as possible in the 12-hour window.

I began with few goals or expectations but quickly adopted the mindset of at least tying the current course record, so that is the pace that I adopted. Here is how the race went.

The Race

We started off way too fast. This seems to happen in every single race. The adrenaline of a gun going off only spurs us runners on at an unsustainable pace. We charged up the hill and summited out very quickly, returning back to the middle of the figure 8, in about an hour and a half for the 7.7 mile portion. I hadn’t even had time to eat or drink enough to require stopping, so I continued onto the other section of the route. It proved a lot more runnable than I expected, and I was back at the aid station within another hour. This course was very runnable and had the elevation gain hidden throughout rather than lined up in a way that would fatigue me quickly.

It was a quick transition into loop 2. I barely needed anything, and since it was not dark I wasn’t as worried about temperature regulation. I LOVE running at night, and the cold air helps me feel comfortable compared to a hot beating sun. My headlamp system worked perfectly, and I used the Petzl Nao+ in its reactive lighting mode with a spare battery in my pack. This system has worked well for me in races ranging from the Barkley Marathons to Cocodona 250.

The miles ticked by, but I had no idea what place I was in. With the dark and only seeing the beam of other headlamps, it was difficult to discern where people were spread out and how many people (if any) were ahead of me. I was on perfect track to tie the course record, but that didn’t mean other people were not also on track for that. I put this out of my mind and focused on continued and relentless progress forward. Late in my third lap I began to feel nausea. This seems to happen in every race. I sat down on a rock and immediately committed out the orange I had just eaten. Spurred by adrenaline, I felt better for a few minutes before the further decline began.

The chance of a new course record slowly disappeared as the sun began to come up. My legs were too tired, and my stomach was not cooperating. The stretch goal was out of reach, so it was time to focus on attaining my main goal: equaling the course record. I moved forward, much slower than previous laps. I was depleted and didn’t feel good at all. But I finished lap 4 and had time for one more loop around half of the course. With two hours remaining I could choose which side to run, but wouldn’t have time for a full loop. I naturally chose the longer side and dropped the intensity to simply enjoy the rising of the sun, the beautiful terrain, and the views from the top of Mt. Ascension and looking into Helena. I came into the finish area with about 20 minutes left in the twelve hour event, but was too late to get in any more miles. I had my cup of coffee and enjoyed the morning.

Near the middle of lap 4 I was told that I was in second place. I was about two miles behind the eventual winner, but due to cutoffs and the timing, I didn’t have much chance of catching him. He set a new course record in an awesome evening of running.

What made this event especially rewarding is the lack of knowledge of the field. I simply had to push forward toward my own goal and not worry about things I did not know. It was the personal experience I wanted and a reason to push myself only to my own goals and not following the competitiveness. Ultimately second place hurt a bit, but I was very happy with the overall ability to continue pushing forward. It was an awesome race and one I hope to go back to.

Winning a 12 hour Moonlight on Mt. Ascension race
Winning a 12 hour Moonlight on Mt. Ascension race

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