Inaugural Running of the Candlelight 12 Hour Nighttime Ultramarathon

Since I was in western NY and it looked like I would be done with the paint job in time, on Tuesday I decided to enter this new race. It sounded like fun, being run from 7 at night until 7 in the morning. So I paid the fee, rented a car, and reserved a hotel room. I would drive to Rochester Saturday, sleep until time to go to the race, run all night, go back to the hotel for a shower, get some breakfast, and drive back to Dunkirk.

There were 82 entries, of which 4 were relay teams. I finished 24th, with 3 of the relay teams ahead of me, so I was the 21st individual finisher. I was also 4th out of 5 in my age group. I ran most of the first 8 miles, walking just the 3 steep uphills. This took a couple of hours. After that, I started just walking. I was walking about 18 minute pace, and I was in 42nd place overall. I figured I would climb in the standing via attrition if I just kept going. I had not trained at all for this race, and hadn’t run more than 6 miles at a time since running the
Phoenix Marathon on January 17 in 4:59:25. So, I was not prepared at all. I wanted to see what I could do on no training. The course turned out to be very much more difficult than other 6, 12 and 24 hour races that I’ve run. This was advertised as a cross country course, and that was pretty accurate. The loop was 1.07 miles long. About 1/4 of it was paved. The rest was pasture and tractor roads around pastures with plenty of potential for ankle turning. There was a long downhill around a meadow, followed by a longish steepish uphill around the 3rd side of the meadow, then a brief down around a koi pond, a short steep up to the pavement. Then past the timing mats, down through some paddocks, and then up along the tent city where we all had our personal stations.

My running friend Mary had some trouble getting started. She wasn’t familiar with cross country running, and turned her ankles several times on the first lap. She decided to quit right there and sat out the 2nd lap. When I came by our chairs, she had decided to run every other lap with me. She sat out the 2nd, 4th and 6th laps, after which I decided to just walk, and she stayed with me. This is the first time in many years I’ve been ahead of her in an ultra, or any other race for that matter.

After it got dark, we put on headlamps. I saved battery by using mine only when off the pavement. When the moon rose, it was very dark, and the moon was a huge dark red luminescence rising above the trees. A big, kidney-shaped blob of blood. We could see it on the long paved path heading north, rising above the trees in the valley to our right. When we ran down the meadow, it dropped below the horizon. I got to watch that moon rise at least 3 times. As it rose higher in the sky, it faded to a bright white. It didn’t give off enough light to run by in the meadow, but it was nice to see in the sky. There were no clouds, and we could see all the stars.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and was getting pretty hungry. I tried satisfying that with fig bars, oreos, M&Ms, chocolate covered coffee beans, icees, but nothing really gave me a sense of satiation. One time coming by the aid station I asked Egils, the RD, when the pizza would be getting here. He said he had just ordered it. In another lap, it was there, and it was terrific. I wolfed down 5 slices while on the run [walk] and it did the trick. Along with a couple of cokes, I was ready to go. I had no trouble digesting it, despite not having trained to eat while running in a couple of years. Somehow, my body remembered what it was to do. And this was part of my experiment - to see if my adaptation was still effective. And it seems it was.

As the night wore on, and I maintained my pace, I started doing math. I wanted to hit my reach goal of 40 miles, and I couldn’t figure in my mind if 37 * 1.07 would get me there. I didn’t think I could do a 38th lap. I did the multiplication in my head dozens of times, and got several different answers. Ultimately, I reached the usual point of realizing it didn’t matter at all how my math skills performed, I was not going to make 38 laps, and I would be glad to finish 37. Which I did. 39.59 miles, 11 hours, 51 minutes. Not enough time for another lap, and this race format counts only complete laps.

Next to last (36th) lap