domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2015

3rd day - The Long Run

Waking up before 5 am to run a double marathon wouldn´t make 99% of the world´s population excited. For those 39 endorphine junkies and their crews there couldn´t be anything better in the world to do but to face the 84,4 km (52 mi). After 2 days of warming up with 10 km swimming and 423 km cycling it is just natural to run a double marathon!

Once again we got inside the Rock´n´Roll Van and headed to Clermont, the race start was somewhere close to the finish line from day 2.

It was completely dark when we got there. The temperature was much better than the previous 2 days, something about 13 C (55 F) and very little wind, ideal conditions to start a long run!

While racing on the Ironmen I´ve always had the impression that I was in a physical condition to face the first two days of the Ultraman, but not even half of the third day! Due to my body composition and athletic abilities I can honestly say that 90% of all the training I did during the 16 months prior to the Ultraman had only one goal: to finish the third day in less than 12 hours. "The Long Run" has a very unique and high dose of cruelty, very different and much worse than swimming and cycling. The bill presented to your body after the long run is much higher than the other sports due to all the impact.

We were called to make a circle and join hands again, just like we did on the 1st day. This time there was enough room for all the crews on the outer portion of the circle, there were so many special people around us! It was amazing to feel all that vibration and that positive energy! That moment seemed to pass very slowly, just like a slow motion video. Sway said another prayed and wished us good luck. Once again I felt butteflies in my stomach and my eyes were full of water. That day was the final test, I´ve never been so scared and happy at the same time, one of those things that you only have the oportunity to feel in a multi-stage race.

So much positive energy at this moment!

Little by little we lined up, everything was dark and we could only see some shadows, the camera flashes and a few headlamps. The very last countdown : 10, 9... 1, GOOOOOOO!!!

The first step of the double marathon

You can see the running course by clicking here:

The start was a light downhill. With the intent of warming up I started in a very easy pace.

On km 3 there was the 1st steep uphill. Some of the athletes started walking and so did I. I wasn´t going to attack those hills so soon, I was saving all the energy I could.

The beginning of the run was really nice, the vans were together and it was like a big party. The music on the vans were the best and everytime one of them passed by us they cheered us up.

The Crew and I decided that I´d run alone for the first few kms, this way I´d stablish a pace without any influence of anyone. After that someone from the Rock´n´Roll Crew would run with me.

After 4.5 km, at the  first dirt road, the Rock´n´Roll van finally appeared. I starter reloading with some GU Brew and gel every 30 minutes. Soon after Guilherme started running by my side and started his shift as a pacer.

Slowly the sun started to rise and some fantastic views were revealed. With 1 hour we had covered 8.7 km (5,4 mi). With all that hilly terrain the final time projection was to finish the race a little before 10 hours. We kept going our long journey that day.

We passed over the Florida Turnpike and when we looked right we were above the clouds!

So much beauty before sunrise...
... a lot o km to be run!'

We were in the same group with Arnaud and Miguel, depending on their pace we´d pass them or they´d pass us.

At km 10 there was a huge downhill, I decide to walk, I was still avoiding all that extra impact that we get on downhills. I was following Prof. Rogério Aviani´s advice: "Ultraman is slow and steady!"

Guilherme and I would talk about anything, from the houses we´d pass by to infamous jokes from the oil business (we both work in the same oil company). We´d do anything and everything to keep the atmosphere light and easy but still paid a lot of attention on the navigation and the pace.

After 10 km running beside me Guilherme entered the van while André started his shift as my pacer.

The Crew Captain in the end of his shift. 
André and I crossed finished the first half marathon in 2:26'. Steve King was there to register our passage, it was always good to see him and hear his voice, it was a sign that we had finished a good portion of the race. One question came to our mind: "How does he finds so many things to talk about?" Everytime we were close to him he was talking, telling about the athletes, the races, the times, the organizers, etc...

We´d walk everytime I had to eat or drink something, that was by the end of every km. The strategy was to have a GU Roctane gel every half hour and some GU Brew every km. It was working fine! Every hour I´d have some bread with jelly or a Powerbar.

At km 26 I had a surprise. Sarah and Marc Lavoie were waiting for us to pass! I met Sarah through the Baylors, 4 days before. She´s one of those hardcore marathon runners that wake up at 3:30am to run, They had big signs and were cheering us up! It was so awesome!
Sarah on km 26 cheering. 
We passed through some more dirt roads. The care that The Crew had was so great! André would choose the best part of the road for me to run, this way I´d have a smaller chance of twisting my ankle. When I say that they are the best crew in the world I´m not joking!

At km 28 I unzipped the long sleeve jersey. the compression shirt and the arm coolers were enough at that temperature.

André ran with me up to km 31, that´s when Carol took over her shift and walked with me to the top of the hill we were. At the end of the hill there were my parents and the Baylors. Carol got inside the van and Dave started his shift.

Dave Baylor is "Mr Marathon Man", he´s got more than 20 marathons under his belt and always a good atitude to face these challenges that always seem to come up during these long races.

With these guys cheering us up it´was  a lot easier
to keep smiling all the way to the finish line..
Between km 31 and km 41 we had the company of my parents, Patty Baylor and Sarah and Marc. There was a lot of people there, Jessica, Edwin and Fiona were also running along. We passed by the shore of Lake Minneola, one of the most beautiful sites of the course. By then the sun was hot and merciless. In one of the refueling stops Carol put the sunscreen and I put the cape on my hat to protect my neck from all that sun.

Close to Lake Minneola.
We crossed the marathon mark with 5:05'. There was Mr, Steve King again with the microphone wishing us good luck. The final time projection was still close to 10 hours and I was feeling very good and very satisfied with that pace. I was being very careful were I´d step, specially when going from the sidewalk to the road or back to the sidewalk. We were keeping the same nutrition strategy. I love to play mind games on races and after the marathon mark I stopped counting up and started a countdown.

"Mr. Marathon Man" e I crossing the marathon mark.  
After km 44 I started drinking Red Bull. The GU Brew and the gels weren´t enough and I was on the edge with all that heat. I was partially worn out from running the 1st marathon and I needed something stronger than the sports drink. I´d have half a can of Red Bull every 2 km (1.2 mi).

At km 45 I caught the Brazilians Diogo and Renato. It was nice to see them and their crews were always encouraging us to keep going. Diogo´s legs seemed to be very stiff but he kept fighting.

Dave stopped for "maintenance" and André took over the shift just before entering US-27. That road has 4 lanes and it was hard for The Crew to give all the support. In order not to need someone crossing a 4 lane road André ran that part carying one bottle os sports drink.

Soon after the first uphill on US-27 I passed Jonathan, he seemed exausted. He was sitting on a chair with his crew giving him all the suport. He was in bad shape! We stopped to say a few encouragement words and kept going through the up and downhills of US-27.

After 5 km after we left the highway to a dirt road full of ups and downs. I ran on those roads the monday before. It was a road surrounded by orange trees with short and steep uphills. After 54 km running any small hill is a good excuse to walk a little and replenish the thirst with cold Red Bull or some cold sports drinks.

It was too hot, the temperature went all the way up to 28 C (83 F) and there wasn´t any sign it would get cooler while we were still running. It was so cold during the first 2 days and on the most dificult day (for me) it was so hot! I really hoped it was the opposite, hot during the first 2 days and cooler on the last. I was lucky that I trained a lot during the Brazilian summer at lunchtime with 35 C (95 C).

At km 55 The Crew took an extra shirt and my hat and soaked it in the cooled with ice cold water. That helped me a lot to cool down my motor and not overheat.

With the support of Ultrafriend André, 25 km to the finish line.
I also thought that Florida was completely flat.
On the Ultraman there are various time limits on the run, you have to run the first marathon under 6 hours and the 63,3 km (39 mi) under 9 hours.

The last cutoff, 63.3 km, I passed with 7:44'. That was a big relief to have more than one hour to spend in case things went wrong. When passing this point I felt there was nothing that could make me not finish it, even if I hit the wall and a bear crawled on my back I´d finish that last half marathon! So far, so good and my average heart rate was 119.

Guilherme postponed his shift as much as he could but André was already working extra hours and it was time for the Captain to step in.

From km 63 untill km 74 I was suffering in a paralel universe. I started to feel weak and even though I´d try to run I could only feel my legs heavier and heavier. Alessandro Muknicka passed me, we were running close to each other for the last 10 km. In one of the stops I made to drink and refresh he passed me with a very consistent pace. We only met again at the finish line.

We started running in a very nice neighbourhood and I couldn´t stand to try to run and feel so miserable. I decided that I´d walk untill I started to feel better. While walking I could enjoy the view of that neighbourhood, nice houses, lakes with fountains, wide sidewalks and nice backyards, a really nice place. While walking I had an extra gel, some bread with jelly and some coke. After 15 minutes I was already feeling better!

By the time I re-started to run I had only 10 km left. The Rock´n´Roll Crew decided to make smaller shifts as pacers. I started to push the pace a little and my heart rate went up to 130 bpm. The music in the Rock´n´Roll Van was loud and they played the best of Classic Rock"

Miguel Angel, one of the Spaniards, was just in front of us in km 9 and he was having a hard time. His crew would stop their van every 200m to give him support. We stopped a little bit to encourage him. His crew was out of the van talking to him, they all wished us good luck when we left. This kind of "Ohana" spirit is very hard to find in other races.

2 km later I caught the Jeep that was supporting Hans Siemelink. I was very focused in maintaining that pace and I was enjoying every minute of that last stretch of the race. Every time the van would stop they´d give me some coke and soak my hat and the shirt in iced water to keep the motor cool.

1 more km and we ran into Hans standing on the side of the road waiting for the last red light. Some volunteers were there to help. We exchanged a few words and he said everything was fine. We both were happy to be so close to the end. A little later Carol entered the van and Dave started his last shift as a pacer. It was such a good feeling everytime they´d stop, that loud music and it felt like a party.

Dave and I talked a little on those few kms. It is amazing how some few word can have such a big meaning. He told me that before starting that day he felt that his limit was the marathon, but after spending the day running with us he was starting to feel that the marathon wasn´t the limit anymore. "Maybe there´s something else to be found beyond the marathon, Mr Marathon Man!" - I said.

I was thrilled and couldn´t believe that. Dave was the guy that introduced me to road running when I was 12 in a 7 km run in North Park, Pittsburgh-PA. I ran the first quarter mile and dragged myself for the rest of it and I was completely exausted in the end. Now he was telling me that he was thinking to go beyond the marathon?!?! That was mind blowing!

We made the last curve and entered the final 3.4 km at Lake Butler Blvd. a very calm street with no traffic. It was great to spend those last moments with "my" crew. We spent those days together in a very intense way, not only that but they also followed my training through all the phases and donated very generously their time, care and love in a journey that made me able to cross the finish line that was just a few kms from there. Aloha, Ohana and Kokua are really the best words to express what you´ve done for me and various other ultramen.

With 2 km left the Van took a left turn because it was a dead end for cars. Carol stayed with me for the next km. The van appeared again and Patty Baylor took the wheel. I had the whole crew running by my side.

The thrill to get to the end of that mission was amazing, my legs were moving by themselves, it felt like I was floating on those last meters. For 16 months I trained hard, went to bed late and woke up early, overcame my laziness, didn´t meet a lot of friends, didn´t travel and made a lot of sacrifices to be able to put all this volume of training.

During the training  I imagined that moment many times and I could (almost) bet that I would end up crying but that didn´t happen. I can´t explain why I didn´t cry. I was thrilled and it felt really good to see those four running by my side, I felt in peace with myself and it was a moment of fullness, impossible to describe in words. Together, we made an impecable work, we fought a good fight and we kept the faith. No, we weren´t the first ones to go through the finish line but we made the best we could with our gifts... and best of all, we were a few meters from the finish line!

And we finally were able to see the finish line. We could hear Mr. Steve King´s unmistakable voice once again and that was one more time the sign that stage would be over soon. Carol handed me the Brazilian flag that we bought months ago specially for that moment. As I wrapped around that flag I thought about all the people that were far but at the same time were so close to me during all the battle against many elements of nature, cold, heat, wind, uphills and, more than all of them, the battle agains that voice inside my head that says "Don´t do it. Better to not even try. It´s too hard, too long. You will fail!"

I stepped on the green carpet and...

I can only imagine if I had a chance to go back in time and talk to myself in 1993, I was 13, and started to race in triathlons. Would I believe if I was told back then that I was going to finish and Ultraman? Not only that but I´d finish strong? I don´t know if I´d believe if I was told that. But that´s exactly what happened. Those were 3 days that brought back that same magical feeling that I had when I was getting to know triathlon.

After crossing the finish line I could finally give everybody a big hug and thank them for everything they´d done for me. It felt so good and the party only got bigger every time one more finisher would cross that finish line.

Bernardo had a fantastic run, he was the fourth place overall, he was waiting for us on the finish line for a long time. Muknicka was on the massage table. Renato came soon after me, finishing in seventh overall. Diogo got the seventeenth place. It was very nice to see all of them finishing strong, some pains and muscle cramps but we were in a pretty good overall conditions.

When there was one hour left, Mr Steve King asked those that were able, to meet the athletes that were still on the course and cheer them up, encourage them, because some were going to come very close to the 12 hour cut off. Guilherme and André left running on their new assignment. I told Steve King not to worry, I sent two of the best men and they would take care of everything. Luckly not only them but lots of others also anwered Steve King´s call. Watch below Jonathan Oldfield crossing the finish line. He was the closest to the cutoff of all the athletes, since Ultraman started in 1983!

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