Hinson Lake guest post
Hi there! This is Katie, Mark’s crew chief extraordinaire. Mark gave me permission to guest post about our experience at the Hinson Lake 24 hour.
We had been planning on arriving late because Mark had to work Saturday morning and I had gotten drafted as a volunteer Fortunately his event got canceled very last minute due to rain and we got to pick up our other crew member, Shuriah, and head down hours earlier than expected. We arrived just before 11 AM, Mark grabbed a number and started running. Because of the schedule conflict and other things Mark hadn’t actually trained for a 24 hour and was planning to use this more as a long run.
Shuriah and I set up towards the end of the loop, before the rotary building and the check in/aid station. It had the benefit of being very close to the car. For an ultra I really liked the set up here: a 1.52 mile loop around the lake, with some nice views and a mix of sand, hard pack trail, and boardwalk. The aid station was setup after a bridge and one of the lake and was also near the rotary building with indoor bathrooms.
The good part of the short loop is you see your runner often, there’s much less suspense in between visits then a longer loop or point-to-point. This could probably work against a fast runner like Mark in some cases but it ended up working out pretty well here. He stopped almost every loop for a swig of coconut water and a bite to eat. Mark has a tendency to underfuel so fueling has been one thing we’re trying to work on, but he did great here taking almost everything I offered for the first few hours. I was happy about that because it meant a lot less stress than worrying if he was eating enough and if he was going to crash.
Mark has been running shorter but faster runs lately so he went out really quickly. Much too quickly for an ultra, maybe even if you’re not doing 24 hours. We kept telling him to slow down and he said he was trying to listen but he busted out almost 32 miles in 4.5 hours (all times super approximate, I don’t keep super strict track during the event). He stopped to use the bathroom at this point and then we walked a lap while discussing strategy. At that point we agreed 90 miles would be a good upper limit.
I did enjoy the ability to walk a couple laps with him. The trail was nice in the daylight. It was perhaps a little narrow for the number of runners present, crew and what not. All places were sufficient for a runner to pass a walker provided the walker was paying attention. Which we tried! Its really just wide enough for two people in many spots so it does require some mindfulness to let the fast people pass. Also the sand was annoying at a walking pace, gaiters are a good idea for this race. It seems like it would still be good in the rain if the sand drained ok too.
At the end of the lap we walked he went out and started cruising even more, stopping to see us less. The walking lap made him feel a lot more energized. Shuriah and I passed the time very companionably. We hadn’t met previous so we got to know each other and I told her pretty much everything I know about the fine art of crewing for an ultrarunner. I’m still learning but it was probably an astounding amount of information nonetheless. She’s a non-runner so we had to cover fueling, hydration, temperature control, and how to tell when things are starting to go downhill.
We also chatted with runners coming in, offering a little encouragement but mostly laughing and joking. The entire race was very personable and this was a fun environment. I was glad to have company, so Shuriah, the runners, and Mark’s fast laps made the hours pass very quickly. We were quite fortunate that it didn’t rain the entire time we were there, although we did have a tornado watch and some distant lightening.
Around 68 miles Mark and Shuriah walked a lap, it was already dark. We had been able to see his form tightening up, after 55 miles or so it suddenly looked a lot less smooth. The second walk loop didn’t have the impact that the first did, and after some more running he walked his final two laps for a grand total of 80.56 in about 12.5 hours since we had arrived. We endorsed his decision not to press on a bit further given his form. The point of this race was to get some miles and not wreck him so bad he needed weeks to recover. Anything over 60 miles has generally resulted it a longer recovery time.
Overall it was a very enjoyable race. Mark did struggle not to get caught up in the competition and excitement of racing, but overall I think this experience will fit in very nicely for his next A race. It was nice to see him having fun at a race for once too, often as a competitive ultrarunner the last miles are a grim sort of determination. I know he really appreciate all the shout outs from you blog readers that were there too, he often gets caught up in the task and focusing so please don’t mind if he’s not super cheerful at the next race you see him at – he’ll still appreciate it and make an attempt to catch up with you after. I was proud of his performance, but then I always am.
I think I prefer a distance race to a 24 hour race, I like the whole being done when you’re done and not just counting the hours. Still, I did really enjoy this particular race and I’d be happy to crew there again.
Mark will probably post his own version of this race report later. Meanwhile, if you do ultras, tell me what your crews pack to eat while they wait on you. I get so sick of sandwiches and since I’m generally traveling to his races its whatever we can buy the night before. I also hate leaving to run and grab something so I like to pack and settle in for the duration. Any ideas?
Thanks for reading!
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