This is my sixth running of Howl at the Moon 8 hour. It’s run on a 3.29 mile loop and although the trail is not difficult or technical, it is completely exposed to the elements so each year the results are reflective of the weather. This year was no different and although I could mention it was hot and humid (there I just did) and the warmest Howl to date I need to remember, it could always be worse. The draw of the event is the large field of runners and walkers. Marc turned away 250 entrants this year and so he said at the awards ceremony that if anyone complained or bitched about the event, they were not invited back because he had another 250 runners/walkers who wanted in. The other draw is the party after the event.
My run was not spectacular but I was thrilled to be back at the event. In 2008 I set the female course record. In Crawford fashion, I went out too fast and fizzled at the end only to dig deep in the last hour so as not to let my first place finish dissolve after seven hours of hard work. My good friend and talented runner Ellen brings out the competitor in me so I ran until I fell in a heap that year. The event works like this; walkers must walk (no running) and for the last 45 minutes they can either go back in to complete one more 3.29 mile loop and risk not finishing therefore not counting any of that final mileage or they can begin walking the ½ mile out and back. Runners start the out and back with ½ hour remaining or can attempt another loop but again, they would risk bonking and losing mileage if the loop was not completed when the horn blows.
I started out pretty slow because I’ve had some recent issues with my piriformis and of course the hip hurts when I hammer the miles so I was running about two loops per hour. Normally, I run 2.5 loops per hour. Since I have been working in the heat and training in the heat, it didn’t bother me at first. My piriformis started barking at me within the first hour. Crap. The piriformis pain started to make its way down my leg to my knee then after a few hours, the whole leg just hurt. Whatever. I planned on dropping after 10 loops. I finally lapped Ellen but she was just beginning to feel good. I did my best to keep her in my sights and we ran together but she would pull ahead.
Enter hour six…it got hot. Felt like your skin was bubbling and it seemed everyone was walking except for me and Ellen and a few runners who would run a few yards only to give in to the heat. In my opinion, it felt cooler to keep up a slow steady jog to generate a breeze. I stopped to change my shoes which I never do in an ultra but my feet were hot so I put on my NB100’s. My toenail must have gotten hung up somehow when I changed shoes because after a mile I had a stabbing pain in my foot and realized I just ripped off a toenail. OMG it hurt badly so I stopped to rip off the rest of the nail but then Ellen got away so I sprinted to catch her and thank goodness, she wanted to take a walk break. Then, my toenail bed wore through and THAT pain was worse than the toenail ripping off. Seriously, I almost cried it hurt that bad. I limped for a bit and then Ellen, being the super awesome runner she is, pulled away. Eeeeeeee. Pain is temporary Crawford.
With 1:15 left to go in the event, we decided to walk the last loop together. I don’t know if Ellen just felt bad for me or was feeling bad herself. Since she likes competition too I assume she had enough just as I had so we strolled along. But then, we both decided we needed ONE MORE LOOP because WE HATE OUT AND BACKS. The out and backs are run on this narrow stretch of grass which is rather like an overgrown driving range. It’s the worst. So we picked it up (but refueled first-since I was in pigheaded mode and forgot to take in calories for a long time) and ran the last loop fast enough where we had time for one dreaded out and back. I finished in first and Ellen in second. I just love a good race. She looked much fresher than I did in the end. After the run I bathed myself in ice and drank copious amounts of Mountain Dew before indulging in fried chicken.
If you would like to join me next year, let me know. The race fills in just a few days but since I was inducted into the “Hall of Fame” I can talk to the RD for you. Ha, just kidding, I have no special privileges despite my hall of fame status.