Sunday, August 24, 2014

Howl at the Moon Race Recap

This year was my 5th year to run Howl at the Moon.  The race has such a familiar feel to it and I'm getting to know more people every year that running it feels like I've been doing it much longer.  It is by far my favorite race to run.  Even though it will go faster than I realize it seems like a loooooong time away before I can run it again next year

To briefly recap here is how I've ran each year.
2010: 34 miles.
2011:  36 miles.
2012:  46 miles.
2013: 45 miles
2014: *drum roll please*.........47.5 miles!!

I missed by big goal of 50 miles. I'm SO CLOSE I can almost taste it and it bugs me!!  However, I ran such a good race this year, one which I was not properly trained for, that I can not be disappointed.  I did as I said & ran with my whole heart and left everything out on the course.  I can do nothing but be happy & proud of myself.

I left on Friday & headed over to Danville, IL where the race is held at Kennunuk State Park.  For the first time I took my 13 year old son with me.  He's been asking to go for the last two years.  He actually wants to register and run this race.  But he's not that disciplined at training and being so young I'm hesitant to let him take on too much.  So it's been a no-go on him running it, but this year I at least let him come to see how things worked.  Plus it made for some nice mother-son bonding time.  Anyway, once we arrived & set up camp we relaxed for awhile.  Pretty soon it was time to run the Baby Howl.  That's an informal chance to run the course, which is a 3.29 mile loop.  If you are a newbie then it gives you a chance to check out the course, otherwise it's just something we do for fun.  Most people walk it, a few run.  John & I ran.  Even though he wasn't racing I explained the course and how things would work through the race.  They had a nice wolf necklace as finisher awards.

This is the only night a year that I actually camp out & sleep in a tent.  I had no problem settling down and getting a good night's sleep.  Once it was light out the next morning I was up & ready to go.  John had said that he was going to sleep in, maybe until 11 or so before getting up & checking out my race progress.  I laughed & said there was no way he'd be able to sleep with 400 people milling around.  Yet, when I went to go line up there he was, still sound asleep in the tent!!

Ready to start with my Muscatine Running Friends!

The weather was cool and overcast as we started the race at 7:30 a.m.  A change from previous years when the race started at 7.  I'm not sure the reason behind the change, not sure it made that much of a difference.  I started out as usual and soon the laps were ticking by and miles piling up.  I was keeping a good pace and making very little stops when I looped around.  I did have problems with chaffing right away.  My first 3 laps I stopped at my tent, not because I needed a break running wise, but to deal with my chaffing issues.  Once I got that under control I felt good to go.  As I headed out for lap 3 I started to tell myself to slow down.  To reign it and save some energy for later.  As my mind pondered this thought I thought....No.  I want this and if I'm going to leave it all out here then I had to do so with every single lap.  That doesn't mean that I should be reckless with my speed.  To take up my 5k pace and charge forward.  But I had no need to slow down & take it easy.  I kept going and pushing at a good, but not all out pace.  By the 4 hour mark I was right on track with finishing my marathon lap.  All I had to duplicate this in the next half of the race & I'd go over my 50 mile goal.

The day continued on.  I felt pretty good the entire time.  I focused in on my running and didn't stop for much else.  I grabbed GU on the go along with a wide variety of snacks.  I've been blessed with the ability to eat just about anything I want for fuel.  GU, pb&j, bananas, Twizzlers, pretzels, gummy bears, watermelon, water, Gatorade, pop....I grabbed and consumed it all on the go to fuel myself and keep going.  In the past they had fresh bacon out the first few laps and pizza later in the afternoon.  As a food lover I dully noted that they had neither!!  John had joined me for lap 9 to keep me company.  Other than a few passing comments from other racers/people I didn't socialize much with anyone.  Partly because I was so focused on my run, plus the opportunity never presented itself.  I'm a pretty sociable person and typically welcome conversing with others, but then again I was in the zone and constantly on the go.  Lots of other runners and walkers were yelling me words of encouragement as I passed by.

Lap wise I was focused on getting in 15 laps, plus a few out and backs to reach my 50 miles.  When I headed out on lap 11 John joined me again and I had 2.5 hours left.  I was on track and my goal within a very reasonable reach. each lap ticked by my pace slipped just a teeny bit.  I began to feel the effects of my lack of training & the reality of running for several hours thus far.  The weather continued to hold in our favor, but I felt my body hit that point where my temperature was elevated and pushing myself was not helping that at all.  I began my ritual of packing ice on my body (baggies of ice shoved down my shirt and chunks of ice under my hat), taking in cold fluids, (I have sensitive teeth and do not like cold fluids.  Normally I'm ok with room/air temperature drinks, but when I overheat I welcome the cold.) and pouring cups of ice cold water over my head.  This all makes a huge difference in my ability to keep going.  Even then, I was beginning to struggle.  I felt faint and queasy.  I had the hardest time eating a banana and actually threw up part of it.  And yet I still pushed as hard as I could because I WANTED THIS!

John joined me on lap 13.  He said to keep me on pace.  I'm guessing at that point I looked like crap and John knew I needed the push.  When I passed my lap counter he yelled out what lap I was on.  I couldn't hear what he said (I forgot to pause my music) and moved in toward the table, unplugged my ear & said "what?"  He said my lap number again, but for some reason my brain couldn't fully hear.  I thought he said lap 14.  But that didn't seem right.  I thought I was on lap 13.  Since the number was in my favor, I didn't want to waste time arguing so I kept on going.  I recounted and discussed with John what lap I should be on vs. what I thought my counter just said.  I allowed myself to dream that maybe I was off and was on lap 14, although I knew I could be wrong.  Anyway, despite John's best efforts I did fall off my pace and slow down.  Although, knowing my past race history I typically slow down to a complete shuffle and that did not happen this time.  John did keep me going at a better than usual pace and even pushed me to pick it up when I started to walk a few times.  When I got back there was 1 hour left and I knew I would only complete 1 more lap.

I checked with my counter and this was lap 14, so I must've misheard him the last time.  Or he was wrong and realized it.  But according to my calculations this WAS lap 14 so I wasn't going to argue with what I thought I heard him say.  I would say that despite me feeling like complete crap at this point I still kept up an ok pace.  Yes, I slowed down, but I was digging deep and still giving everything I had to keep on going.  When I finished my lap there was 13 minutes left.  I headed straight to the out and back course and was able to complete 3 of those.  Each out and back lap is 1/2 mile so I added another 1.5 miles to my 14 laps & 46.06 miles.

I had previously told John that if I was really close to my 50 miles that I was going to go out and finish those miles.  Nothing has kept me from running 50 miles, it's just that in this race the clock stops and so do I.   Running for a little bit longer was going to be worth it to me if I could just get to that 50 mile mark.  When I finished John was waiting for me and he helped walked me over to my counter.  I had to turn in my out and back sticks (it'w how they keep track of how many you did) and verify my lap score.  Then I turned to John and we devised a plan for how I could finish my last few miles.  In theory I really wanted that 50 so I was going to go do it.  Mentally my brain said....yeah right, but I kept telling it to shut up I was going to do it!!  Reality took over and when I let go of John, I took one step and nearly passed out.  I could not keep myself upright or in any moving forward fashion without John there to hold me up.

After I finished.  You might think I look great, but I had to have John leave me there, hurry and take the picture and then come back to get me.  I couldn't do much of anything without John's help.  I was still fighting a lot of nausea and wanting to pass out.

 Love that boy of mine!!

Even though I was anxious to get cleaned up this was all I could do for awhile.

My boy was so good at taking care of me and doing all I asked him.

Eventually I did get to feeling better and got cleaned up.  John & I headed over to the award ceremony.  I knew what my mileage was, but wasn't sure how I did compared to the rest of the runners.  Howl recognizes the top 5 male/female finishers and then goes several deep into each age category.  However the overall winners are taken out of the age groups, which are divided up into divisions of open (39 & under), master (40-49), grand master (50-59) and superior (60+).  When they started with the overall finishers I heard them announce the 1st female.....50 (point something) miles.  What?!?!?  I was within 2-3 miles of the top finisher!  A little bummed.  Although I've never made it an A goal to be the overall finisher it's crossed my mind.  To be *this close*....ugh.  I was still very proud and happily accepted my 3rd place (female) finisher medal & hat they gave to the overall winners.  

With Daphne, one of my Muscatine Running Friends.  She placed 5th overall.  I'm holding my belt buckle, my hat and wearing my 'I Got My Ultra' medal (those who ran over 26 miles get that) and my overall finisher medal.

All of us when we were done.

It's fair to say I'm really happy and proud of my running the 2014 Howl at the Moon.  I want to keep doing this race.  And my history indicates (for the most part) that I continue to improve in this race (even with little/inadequate training).  It's just a mile here and a mile there, but I'm so close to reaching my 50 mile goal that I'm confident it WILL happen!  I guess we'll find out next year......


  1. Congrats on running 47.5 miles and being the 3rd place female! Very impressive that you were able to run for so long on that short course!

  2. I've been waiting for this recap and it didn't disappoint. The part about John running with you and helping you at the end made me cry - what a sweetie and so very glad he was there when you needed him.
    Great job on the place and the mileage - I know it wasn't 50 but still pretty dang awesome!!!