[The title, "12 Hours of J.B. Hunt Park," is already filled in. Beneath it is the white rectangle I stare at now. What is there to write about running 53 laps of nothing? What is interesting about that? I don't know, but I will try to find something.]
Running is the least expensive obsession I've ever had, but it still gives my inner gearhead some room to frolic and play. Today I was trying out some calf compression sleeves from Zensah, the lightweight running jacket I bought before the Heartland race, and a remarkable fuel belt from Salomon which will be the Cool Product Pick of the Week whenever I get around to it. I packed two Clif bars in the center pocket and mixed equal parts Plain and Strawberry Banana Gu in the two small bottles, which is delicious, by the way.
It was slightly warmer than forecast, but still below freezing at six in the morning. I started with synthetic hiking pants over my running shorts, a long sleeve tech T-shirt, my bright green T-shirt from last year's Winslow race, my beloved Windwall fleece, gloves, and a knit hat. Walking one lap and jogging another got a nice sweat going, so I swapped the fleece for my new running jacket. Total comfort! Three hours into it, I made a long pit stop at the trunk of my car, which actually overhung the path by several inches. I ditched the pants and the jacket, which felt pretty good, so I also ditched the gloves and the Winslow shirt. Most importantly to me well-being, I lost the knit hat and dawned instead my iconic Tilley hat. Finally, I felt like myself. That would be my uniform until sundown and my last few laps when I grabbed my jacket again. Everything worked.
As always, my first hour was pretty rough, especially not having had a serious run in nearly five weeks. A knee, an ankle, a shin, I went through one pain after another. This always happens, and the fix is always the same: Land gently on the forefoot, with the knees slightly bent, every single step. Arms swing on a plane parallel to the direction of travel with the hands low and relaxed. Jaw loose. Pelvis level and spine just so. Total efficiency. Nine hours later, that would still be the fix for every pain, every pain but one. More on that later.
The Wildlife Officer:
About eight o'clock, two hours into it, I gave the first of many thumbs up to a very large man walking clockwise on the same path (I went counter-clockwise the entire time on the rationale that the steeper uphill sections and longer, shallower downhill sections would allow me to run more and walk less). He wasn't exactly walking. He had spring, a lightness to his step--not enough to cause both feet to leave the ground, which would be running, but enough to say he was doing more than merely walking.
Around and around he went.
At ten o'clock, longer that I ever imagined he would last, I saw him sitting in the Wildlife Officer truck which had been parked at one of the ballfield parking lots. The door of the truck was open and he was cleaning the earpieces of the headphones he had been wearing. I veered off the path to wave and give him a "Great run!" which was very embarrassing because I would later discover that he was not in fact done running. I passed him again on my next lap, still in his tights and heavy fleece jacket. I was sweating in shorts and a T-shirt.
Around and around he went.
At noon, after six hours for me, four for him, I noticed the Wildlife Officer truck was gone. I don't know if he was on duty or not, but I hope he was. I could not think of a better way to spend my tax dollars. I've never seen a person that heavy work that hard for that long to improve his own health. He wasn't the most friendly or outgoing guy, but I believe that is because he was in real pain. I may have run three times as long and many times as far, but his effort was greater than mine. The man is a hero.
On Female Proportion:
As always occurs at parks in the more affluent neighborhoods, mid-morning brought out the ostensibly desirable women for whom restricting caloric intake is the most important tool they know to increase their sense of worth as human beings. They walked correspondingly skinny dogs and were good for one or two laps at the most. Frictionally speaking, I've never understood what difference a woman's body proportions would make, but what do I know? I've only been with one. Perhaps I don't know what I'm missing, but I digress. The lunch hour brought out several working women of more average proportion, some of them in scrubs who must have come from the occupational health clinic just down the road. They smiled more and seemed happier.
At hour nine, 43 laps into it, I was shocked to still be clicking off twelve-minute laps just as I had been half a day earlier. I'd settled into a perfect rhythm, running about three fifths of the track and walking the rest. Whenever I noticed some pain, I corrected my running form and the pain would subside. One pain would not subside, though.
I love my Brooks Cascadia 7 trail shoes, but for some reason, usually after five or six hours of running, I get a bad hot spot on the ball of my left foot. Not my right foot, only my left foot. Finally, I decided my hot spot had turned into a blister and needed to be dealt with. Removing my shoes and socks, I saw that it had not actually become a blister yet, but it was going to. I taped it up, put on fresh socks, and after some consideration, decided to switch shoes as well.
My Pearl Izumi trail shoes were a bit of an experiment. I bought them on clearance because the cushioning in the forefoot felt luxurious and wonderful. The upper did not feel luxurious or wonderful, but I thought I could get used to it. Let me tell you, you can't get used to uncomfortable shoes! Still, I ran my crazy 82 laps at Tontitown Park in them, some 29 miles, and have trail run in them several times, and they always felt okay. They did not feel okay after 34 miles at J.B. Hunt Park. They hurt like hell.
My blowup was mental, not physical. I could have switched back to my Brooks shoes. I could have smeared my foot with Vaseline. I could have done any number of things to keep running. My legs were tired but had been working just fine before I stopped to check the blister. Instead of forcing myself to run, though, I did the easy thing: I allowed myself to feel satisfied. I became happy with my effort. I decided it was enjoyable to just walk, so that's what I did. I walked the last three hours.
I have four goals in mind when I plan these adventures: Challenge myself, learn something, don't get injured, have fun. Obviously this was a challenge.
The lessons of hour nine are rich but will take some time to absorb. The most surprising revelation from the run is a technical one: Never, under any circumstances, embark on a long run without calf compression sleeves. They are wonderful!
Don't Get Injured:
Changing shoes was the right thing to do. I was going to get a bad blister if I did nothing, so I did something.
I ran 42.3 miles, establishing a PR for twelve hours and tacking five miles onto my PR for longest run. What better way to spend an unpaid day off!
[I guess I filled the rectangle. Thanks for reading!]