Last night I ran in the Summer Solstice 6 Hour (SS6H) Run in Abilene, Texas. This is my second time to run in the event - and I just love this race. Well organized, super friendly volunteers, a great aid station and awesome shirts and hats - what else could you ask for? The course is a 1 mile loop that you do over, and over and over. Now, before you start grumbling about how boring that is I'll confess that I was right there with you before I had participated in a timed event. I didn't "get it" or understand why anyone would run around in circles for hours on end - it just didn't make sense. After the Summer Solstice 6 Hour last year I was hooked and have really enjoyed other timed races (Run From the Ducks, Run Like the Wind).
Last year the SS6H race greeted us with hot weather - oh boy was it hot and with an 8pm start we still had sun for our first hour or so. This year I was happy to see that the start had been pushed back to 9pm - no sun - which would surely mean cooler temps, right? WRONG! At 9pm the wind was blowing and the temp was still over 100 which gave you the feeling that you were standing looking face first into a hair dryer. Rather than lap counters, this year we had chips to count our laps - so I strapped on my chip - listened to the pre-race comments and lined up at the start with a larger crowd than last year.
My goal this time around was to keep a steady, even pace throughout. You know, that's always easier said than done :) I took off and kept what I thought was a relatively conservative pace - but after the first few laps and looking at the start/finish clock I realized I was clipping along fairly quickly for someone that's typically a tortoise. Nevertheless - I running - I wanted to see how long I could keep a relatively quick pace. The heat and low humidity were definitely a factor - on the stretches that we ran into the wind I would feel my mouth completely dry out. I drank as much water as I thought my body could process, took a good number of S Caps and gels, and hunkered down for a long night.
The toughest stretch for me was somewhere around mile 17 for about 1.5 hours. I could still run - but I just didn't have the ability to turn my legs over quickly enough to keep up with my previous pace. I slowed down a little and really focused on eating and drinking and sure enough - a little later I had my legs back and was able to knock off a good last hour for a 2nd place 36 mile finish.
What do I like about timed races?
1) Even though you might not have long conversations with other runners, you're really out there battling the elements and the course with them. You almost feel like you know them just by association!
2) Every timed race I've done has been a mile loop. No getting lost!
3) I like setting up near the course so I have access to additional supplies (a new hat, more body glide, etc)
4) If you have a crew - you see them often which is always a boost! (and lots of photo ops!)
If you're looking to give a timed race a shot - consider this race (either the 3hr or 6hr). Not only do the proceeds go to benefit a great organiation (Autism) - but the race is a ton of fun and fits nicely into a somewhat scarce June race calendar in TX.