For the most part I have been camped out on the sofa since 5 a.m. I got up to watch the men's marathon. I was all excited last week about the women's marathon and even more excited about the men's. I will not lie, it hurt really bad to get out of bed this morning. I guess that is to be expected after my race yesterday. It happens every year. I think my 80+ y ear old Grandma moves better than I do after I've run this race.
I have so much to tell you and, of course, a lot of pictures to post. That will have to wait though. I just am not feeling up to sitting at the desk and getting them unloaded. I thought I would just give you my written recap of the race since I am sitting here. Then through out the week I can give you shorter updates, fill in the small, funny, crazy details about my race and post pictures.
Howl at the Moon is such an awesome race for so many reasons! I strongly urge any runner to try out this race. It's just you + 8 hours. The sky is the limit. I guarantee that you will be a winner no matter what, because that is all you are really competing against. This is my 3rd year doing this race and I have felt like a champion every single time.
Never in my life did I think I would be an ultra runner. I'm not even sure what compelled me to try this race out to begin with. Part of it was that I knew that my hometown running group Muscatine Running Friends was going. Then for whatever reason I started to have this big ? mark that began to hoover of my head and I began to think, wonder, dream about what I am capable of doing. I had no previous reasoning to think I could do this type of running. I had only attempted to run longer distance less than a year before and had only completed one half marathon. Otherwise my running career, which started when I was 10 or so, really only consisted of 5k or smaller races. Another big aspect (which is hard to tackle & probably needs a post of it's own) is that I know what it's like to have ability & talent to do something yet lack the self esteem to go after those dreams. I have settled for less than what I am capable of doing and in recent years with big turn abouts in my life I decided no more. I'm going all out & I'm going to do it even if I fail or it's a total bust. I WILL try and in this case it has paid of because I feel like I have succeeded!
Sorry to get off the main path there for a minute. Those details are deep & personal to me and are pieces of the puzzle that make my running so meaningful and powerful to my personal life. I know not everyone runs (or walks, or bikes, or whatever your thing is) for the same reasons. Maybe your story is similar to mine, maybe not. Maybe you need to change your story. You might have that big ? hoovering over your head about what you could do. Trust me...GO FOR IT! At least try!!
Ok, I think I'm super sentimental right now. A mix of constant Olympic glory that I have been watching and my own personal glory & triumphs have me on one great high! Back to the race though....
Howl at the Moon is the largest timed ultra in the United States. Registration opens in late April and is limited to 350 (?) participants. I know it's limited, I"m not sure what the cut off # is, but based on yesterdays results there was 330ish some that competed this year. I know that you can't fiddle fart around because the race fills up in just a few weeks and then you are out of luck. It is hard for me to commit to a race so far in advance, but I do it anyway. It would take extreme & great circumstances for me to not actually race. I'm that way with any race, doesn't matter if I sign up the week before or months before. You can camp out the night before the race (which I advise) or come in the day of the race. My 1st year I stayed in a hotel. Not that that is a bad thing, but after camping out the last 2 years I like being there right on sight. I like getting set up the night before. Even though I'm not a tent camping type person at all I really enjoy the adventure. Oh, my do I have some funny stuff to tell you about my camping adventure this year. You have to wait for pictures though. It was hilarious!!!!
With your registration you get a Howl at the Moon bag (that can vary from an insulated tote to your basic bag, it changes each year) and your choice of shirt. They offer both a short & long sleeve option. You can get either or both. This year, for the first time, they offered a tech shirt. I don't have anything against cotton, but I have SO MANY I just don't need another one. Now tech shirts.....can you have too many of those? Haha....that is one of those "you know you're a runner when" things. Anyway, having run a lot of races, some of them "big" ones I think you get a great deal for price. The most basic registration fee is $45 and signs you up for the race with no shirt. For it being the largest timed ultra you might expect big dollar sign up fees, but I think you get such a great deal. The race directors seem (in my opinion) so real, so down to earth and see no need for big dollars to put on a great race.
Howl offers a few options when it comes to divisions for "competition". There is the open male & female for those 40 & younger. Then there is a master division for those 40-50 and a grand master division for those 50+. They also offer a walkers division (them walkers can really put out some miles!!) It is possible that no matter how you finished against everyone else to still come away with a medal. When you sign up you have to put down a goal (in miles) for your race. When they have their award ceremony the first thing they recognize is "did you reach your goal?". If you did, you get a medal. If you're a smart alec all you have to do it put down 1 mile for your goal & wha-la you win! They don't actually check what you put down vs. what you accomplished that day. In fact my 1st year I put my goal down as 40 miles, but only ran 32. Being honest, I almost didn't go get my medal. My friend Angela gave me the "you are being ridiculous" look. It was my first ultra race ever and I put out 32 miles.....of course I reach a goal, a big one and I deserved a medal. They also have other medals & awards to give out. They recognize the overall top 5 men & women, taken those people out of the age divisions then recognize the top 10 (?) distances in each division. Their awards are wicked sweet. Nice, big, shiny and usually multi functional as they double as a bottle opener.
The race is set up as a 3.29 loop. Each division is assigned a counter so each time you pass by the start/finish line you make eye contact & holler out to your scorer and they keep track of how many laps you have run. When there is 30 minutes left they open up a .25 mile out/.25 mile back loop that you can run as much as you want. Each time you complete a loop they give you a straw and you turn those straws into your scorer to add to your final score. This year I completed 13 loops & 6 out & back laps. That gave me a grand total of 45.77 miles!! That earned my 5th female overall!!!!
Based on how I felt (pretty much awesome the whole day) it occurred to me that I would in face finish toward the top of the field. It was just a hunch/feeling. It can be tricky though because you don't know who is on what lap. Someone might go flying by you looking good & strong, but for all you know they just spent the last hour resting in their camp area. I still had a good feeling about how I was doing. Even I hadn't placed so high I knew that for me this was a personal best kind of race. Personal achievement & performance really is more important and the big picture. So no matter what I was a winner.
In previous years my running was still pretty good. I think my first year was just that....my first year. My first time to ever push myself to these new limits. I remember walking or pathetically shuffling along, hitting the wall and even becoming dazed, confused and just about lost it all together. Someone came along and helped me out though, making sure I didn't pass out, got me back to camp to cool down and rest. Last year my body responded much better to the running. My biggest culprit was still the heat. I hit that wall again (but handled it much better), but still walked/shuffled a lap or two at my lowest point. I remember it being so hard and taking every once of what I had to put one foot in front of the other. This year....I had NONE of that. I never hit the wall. I never walked. I never pathetically in a daze shuffled along. I ran the whole entire time and I felt great! Now, mind you, it took effort, it hurt & I had to push to make it all happen. It seemed like it was a direct result of all my training that I put in. I realize though that my training could/should be much more structured. I've never followed any kind of plan at all. It shouldn't be that hard....you just run. What else do you need?
Overall, this years Howl at the Moon has been the best race of my life. I'm looking forward to next year to see if I can push myself even further. If you think 45 miles sounds insane, know that it is completely possible to go even further. The overall female ran 52 miles. I would love to do that!!!!