2013 Croatan 24 Hour
I ran the 2013 Croatan 24 hour race in Eastern North Carolina, finishing in third place with 106.8 miles.
1 The Race
The Croatan 24 hour race is located in a small national Forest near the Outer Banks in eastern North Carolina. It is a 1.36975-mile loop course on hard packed dirt paths and bridges. The course is mostly shaded, but there are some stretches of full sun. As you can see from the course map below, there is a large main loop, connected by a short note on back to the headquarters loop. This headquarters loop is where the aid station is located, and is the only place where aid can be provided.
2 What Happened
My race was pleasantly uneventful, and I rapidly found a sustainable rhythm. I had my drink located on a table at the entrance/exit to the headquarters loop, and would walk this 100 yard (100m) section while drinking, then I run the rest of the loop. After I hit 100 miles I changed socks, and walked the last few laps until the end. I had a section of tent next to the timing tent that I shared with the other competitive runners. Valmir Nunes, the elite Brazilian ultrarunner stopped after just over 100 miles with nausea and vomiting. Connie Gardner also had nausea problems after about 90 miles and had to lie down for quite some time. She managed a remarkable comeback to get up and continue running, winning the women's race. Cheryl Yanek had problems with blisters, but it kept going to take second place.
3 Food, Drink, and (lack of) Nausea
I've had a few races recently that have been destroyed by Nausea, so one of my main goals for this race was to try and find a solution. Normally, I follow the best practice of "drink to thirst", which is a recommendation for preventing Hyponatremia, a potentially life-threatening condition. For this race however I intended to hydrate rather more aggressively. On every loop I took a drink, and I found that if I started to drink, I would consume rather more than I expected. Overall, I drank about 2 gallons of my Go Juice and 2 gallons of my DIY Electrolyte Drink. I probably would have drunk more of my go juice, but I didn't bring enough as I radically underestimated my need. During the night I also started to drink Coke, as I've seen Mike Morgan run remarkably well on it. It seemed to work well, which surprised me until I worked out how much Caffeine I was getting. I also ate some cake, cookies and potato chips, but most of my calories were from my drinks. While this fluid meant I wasted some significant time stopping for the toilet, I had no digestive problems or nausea at all.
4 Performance and the Ketogenic Diet
As those of you who follow my training know, I have been following the Ketogenic Diet since April 2013. While a discussion of the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet are outside of the scope of this race report, I have become concerned that I am a slower runner on the ketogenic diet. For this race I took on a lot more carbs to see if the combination of a routine ketogenic diet combined with carbs during the race time would work better. This combination seemed to suit me quite well, but my performance was still far below what I would expect. I don't see any other obvious explanation other than the ketogenic diet for my lack of speed. My training leading up to this race was solid, putting in a regular 100 mile weeks, with a 200 mile overload week and a good taper. I've also been doing Downhill Training, Altitude Training, and my weight has been close to optimal though I did put on a few pounds during the taper.
5 What Worked and What Failed
As always, I like to document what worked and didn't work for a race. For this race, things that don't split into worked/failed cleanly, so the list is a little more nuanced.
- Fluid and Fuel. I was pleased with how much Go Juice and DIY Electrolyte Drink I drank, and the absence of Nausea.
- Downhill Training. It may seem strange to do a lot of Downhill Training for a relatively flat race, but it paid dividends. I had no quad pain during the race, and my quads were as good as they've ever been after 100+ miles. Doing 26 mile Treadmill runs on a 10-12% decline provides valuable adaptation.
- Crew. My oldest son Luke acted as my crew, and he was both a practical and a motivational support. He was also able to help a number of other runners, and several people expressed their appreciation after the race.
- Sunburn. I wore my UnderArmour HeatGear Top during the day, which kept me cool and prevented sunburn over my upper body. However, I didn't protect my lips, which did get a little sunburned.
- Hokas. I've found that the Hoka Shoes generally reduce how sore my feet get, but on this race for soreness was a major problem, and I'm not sure what was different.
- Entertainment. For this race, I listened to music for an hour or so, and then finished off the last 10 lectures on the French Revolution. By this time it was late in the day, so I listened to music until it was fully dark, which helped keep me motivated. Typically sunset is a tough time mentally. I then swapped to listen to lectures on the history of espionage until the battery on my Clip Zip died about six hours later. I swapped to a backup player, and listened to music until the end of the race. The lectures occupied my mind, which was good, but my pace was a little better when I was listening to music.
- Community. Ultra running is one of the friendliest sports I've come across, with a great sense of community. Ultrarunners are cooperative and supportive more than they are competitive, and small loop course is like this provide ample opportunity for runners of vastly different ability to support and encourage each other. The Croatan 24 was a great example of enthusiasm and corporation, with runners taking time to encourage and advise each other.
- The Stars. The clear night sky and the lack of light pollution resulted in an amazing night sky. It was worth stopping for a couple of minutes to admire the spectacle.