Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
Six days from today I’ll be running my 6th ultra event: Hallucination 24 hour, somewhere in the woods north of Charleston, SC. For me, this race is simply being used as a (very) long run in preparation for Knock on Wood 100 in May.
My goal is simple, in theory: stay on my feet for the duration for the 24 hours. Of course there will be a few sit downs, for things like shoe changes and port-a-potty visits (ultra reality: the “hover over the seat and pee” technique doesn’t work as well after 10 hours or so, your exhausted quads just laugh in your face.) But I’d like to keep going, without quitting or stopping to sleep, for 24 hours. I hope to use this as a sort of mental preparation for the 100 miler, which will surely take more than 24 hours.
All of that said, some of my most favorite people on EARTH will be joining us for Hallucination this upcoming weekend. A few are running the relay (6 hours each), a few are running 12 hours, and a couple are just coming to volunteer, crew, and pace. Almost all of them are “ultra virgins”, so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to prepare them for what will inevitably be a side of their friend/coach that they have never seen. You know, the “hot ultra mess” side. Per usual Heather fashion, I figured a blog post will do.
Here are a few things you need to know about crewing/pacing for me during a 24 hour event. Please take heed (though not the drink, I prefer tailwind) and remember these tips in the wee hours of the morning when we are ALL questioning our sanity.
1. Remember that movie “The Gremlins”? Remember how the boy was told under absolutely ZERO circumstances could that cute, fuzzy, little Gizmo get wet or be fed after dark? But he did both, albeit accidentally, and next thing you know there were dozens of ugly gremlins plundering and pillaging the city? Well flip that scenario around, and you have ultra-Heather. For the love of all things, feed me. Water me. Constantly. ESPECIALLY after midnight when I try to convince you that I do NOT need to eat or drink anything…because I will. I know it sounds counterproductive, but for whatever reason when I start to get really tired, I decide I don’t want to eat anymore. But you absolutely have to force me to eat, because if I don’t, I’ll turn into an ugly gremlin that will make you want to run and hide in a tent as you simultaneously block me on Facebook. As the plaque hanging on my kitchen wall states: “I’m sorry for the things I said when I was hangry.” Really, I am.
2. Feet are essential. Possibly tied for #1 with adequate calorie consumption. I frequently tell my running clients to let me know about any pain or discomfort…no matter how small. Because what might start as just a tiny nagging feeling can eventually turn into a raging case of plantar fasciitis, or a stress fracture, or worse. But if we catch it soon enough, maybe we can avoid those ailments. The same goes for feet in an ultra. What starts as a tiny nagging blister can turn into one of the raging, ugly, hanging flaps of skin that people love to post pictures of in the TAUR group on Facebook. Sooo, please inquire about my feet often.
3. I’ll definitely cry. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Because my feet hurt. Because the animosity on Facebook over politics these days makes me angry and sad. Because I only brought regular potato chips and now I want sour cream and cheddar. Because I want to go to sleep. Because of the color green. Because I love you guys, so, so much (said in my best drunken-frat-boy voice). Because I love running. Because I hate running. Because my left sock is out to get me and is plotting my demise with my right hydration pack strap. I’m not sure. But the tears, no matter how ugly they get, are temporary. Make me push through them.
4. You’ll likely see more of me than you ever imagined. Much like childbirth, there is a point in an ultra where shame goes out the window. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to get THAT up close and personal, but I can’t promise you that at 4:00 am when I have to pee and I’m nowhere near a port-a-potty, you won’t accidentally see my lily white ass peeking out from behind a bush just off of the side of the trail.
5. I’ll probably say things I’ll later regret. See the quote above “I’m sorry for the things I said when I was hangry”. I promise to try my hardest to NOT let my blood sugar crash, but as anyone in my immediate family, my husband, my kids, and all of my past boyfriends can tell you…when I crash, I crash immediately, without warning, and hard. Oh the stories my father STILL likes to tell about a 5 year old Heather melt down in Epcot Center circa 1987, with nary a grilled cheese sandwich to be found. The best thing you can do is shove food in my face and force me to eat it. (See bullet point #1) Please ignore the snarky, snotty tone that may or may not come out if this happens. Again, it’s not you…it’s my metabolism. I’ll most certainly apologize as soon as the glycogen stores are replenished.
5. Take care of YOU. This probably should be bullet point #1, but you know, food is huge in my world. Seriously though, make sure YOU are eating, drinking, resting when needed. Pacing is an intense job, some may say almost more difficult than the one the runner has. Sure we have to run for 24 hour straight, but with an awesome crew like the one I have, I’ll have so many other people looking out for me. I appreciate your sacrifice more than words can say, but if you bonk/get a gnarly blister/ get lost in the woods/etc, now we have TWO hot messes to tend to, instead of just one (me). I don’t mean for that to be snarky (it totally sounds snarky) but the point is, please make sure you are taking care of yourself in addition to me.
6. I’m really excited to have you by my side (or in front of me, as it may be to those of you pacing in the wee hours of the morning). It’s an incredible feeling to know that I have the support of so many wonderful friends as I continue to attempt ridiculous feats. So even if I don’t say it much during the race, please know that I genuinely appreciate you, your friendship, and the time you’ve scarified to watch me run circles through the woods for 24 hours.
I can’t wait to share this adventure with you.
(currently not hangry) Heather