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Race Report: The North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run

On September 18, I ran the North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run.  This race was the National Championship, which means the top 3 men and women who run at least the national standard (135 miles for men and 120 miles for women) earn the right to compete on Team USA in the World Championship.  Dan Horvath, the RD, did a great job putting on a fantastic race under what I assume was a tremendous amount of pressure.  Thank you Dan!

The race was held on a 0.9 mile asphalt loop in Edgewater Park in Cleveland, Ohio.  To most people, and even some runners, the idea of running all day on a short loop seems incredibly inhumane.  However, I find the short, flat, traffic free path ideal for a 24 hour.  I appreciate that it permits access to aid more often than needed.  The flat, fast course has tremendous record setting potential.  The short loop also makes for an extremely spectator friendly event, allowing even those participating the chance to watch the excitement as it unfolds.


It was not until mid-July, that I discovered my foot pain, which had shut me down at almost every ultra in 2010, was from an actual treatable condition.  I had two plantar fibromas; two marble sized masses of scar tissue on my plantar fascias.  These little lumps made walking uncomfortable and running ultimately painful.  About 2.5 weeks ago, I finally had the fibromas injected with cortisone.  A few days later, I was suddenly able to move without the foot pain I had been living with for most of 2010.

Unfortunately, two weeks of pain free running would do little to make up for my lack of higher mileage training.  Intellectually, I understood that I was insufficiently trained for a great 24 hour run.  However, I tend to believe that anything is possible.  Accordingly, I devised my pace plan for 120 miles.  My goal for this race was NOT to run as far as I could in 24 hours.  Rather, I wanted to run as far as I could on pace for 120 miles in order to collect data about my pain, fatigue, hydration, and fueling.


Crews at races on short loops are seem unnecessary unless you are trying to set some type of record, even if it’s a personal record.  I enjoy the company and my crew consisted of Sidney and two wonderful friends, Tony and Jim.  They put up with a lot from me, like me yelling stuff at them each lap.  (“I need my shirt, mashed potatoes, two Endurolytes and a bottle of water on the next lap!”)  At one point, I overheard a guy say, “Wow, she’s demanding!”  I am sure I am while racing.  After all, it’s a race and if I am going to have a crew, I am going to tell them what I need.  Crewing is hard work and I can’t thank Sid, Jim and Tony enough for helping me have a great race!


When it comes to pacing, everyone has their own plan.  I can’t resist my urge to run just a little too fast for a few loops before I settle down into my pattern.  The fast loops help me burn off some nervous energy, get a lay of the land and decide where I want to walk.  It may not be wise or efficient, but it is what I do for now.

After a few laps of running too fast, I started to focus hard on slowing down.  It is incredibly ironic how I fight to slow down while knowing at some point it will become too hard to run fast enough.  I planned for 6 loops per hour for the first 12 hours and then a fade.  Several hours in, I had already banked about 30 minutes.  It was getting hot and I was feeling dizzy, so I decided to cash in on some of that time.  I took a seat to eat, drink, and assess my needs.  Once I stopped moving, I discovered just how dehydrated I was.  In one swig, I drank a 16 oz bottle of water and then whatever Sid, Jim and Tony handed me.  I believe there was some iced-tea, OJ, a gel, and two Endurolytes.

Suddenly, among the gels, bottles, and candy all spread out on my little table, I noticed the pop tart.  I am sure Sid was eating this before I came though, however it looked good so I took half with me and walked about a 15 minute loop since I was just too full to run.

That break was the best thing I could have done for myself.  Once I started to run again, my pace had gotten back down to the low 9’s per loop.  It was at that moment, a new plan was born: Five loops at 9 then one loop to eat, drink, and walk it off with a pop-tart.  If I kept that pace, my walk breaks would tap into my banked time and by 12 hours I should be just even with my pace plan.

This pattern kept me extremely happy.  In fact I found myself smiling the entire time.  After 8 hours, I could see people starting to suffer.  Still, I was feeling like I was flying on a combination of a pop-tart sugar rush and a runner’s high.  At 9 hours in, I hit my 50 mile split.   At 10:54, I saw that I surpassed the 60 mile mark.  I already did much better than I expected I would do.


It was at about 10 hours in that I started to feel an odd twisting sensation in my right knee.  The twisting was causing pain which led me to plant my foot in an unusual way.   By 11 hours in, pain was shooting up to my lower back.  After12 hours, I stopped to fix a blister and my crew urged me to see the medical staff.

The medical guys were amazing.  My stinging blister was repaired with some diaper rash cream.  My back pain was stretched out of me completely.  I eventually met Dr. Lovy, who stretched me out, assessed my situation and determined that I was exhibiting signs of low potassium.   He suspected that the low potassium was creating the weakened knee, so I was given some potassium, a pep talk, and then some test were done on my knee.  Unfortunately, it was found that my ACL was overstretched due to a combination of low potassium and pressure from the small loop we ran only in clockwise turns.

After a few slow loops, the doctor gave me an insert to adjust my gait.  A few more loops with the insert and it was too late.  By this point, any pressure from walking or running created sharp relentless growing knee pain.  After spending so much time with the medical staff, I knew I had to run 4 loops per hour to reach 100 miles.  I was walking just slower than that pace and still had pain.  The pain was slowly increasing with each step.  So I stopped at just under 75 miles.


In the morning, as I watched the last of the survivors incredibly pushing themselves into the World Championships and personal bests, I became inspired.  I saw there was about 15 minutes left of the clock.  I decided go out for just one more lap to see how much damage I did to my knee.  I tried to run a little and it was still quite painful.  This confirmed that stopping was a good decision.


In these races, there is nothing better than being on course at the sound of the horn.  It is as if the entire park collectively breathes a huge sigh of relief as all the little blocks of wood are dropped to the pavement marking the final place each runner stopped.  The tortured grimaces that were worn by those fighting for every last step twist into painful smiles. Runners, no longer in competition, turn to give out sweaty hugs and pats on the back to each other.  Everyone then hobbles like zombies to some chair somewhere in order to feel the sweet reward of finally removing their shoes.

At breakfast, only minutes past the horn, runners reminisce about the race, which now seems like it started forever ago.  Just when you think people are going to swear off racing forever, conversations turn to “So what’s next for you?”…“Oh, you’re racing that one too!”… “See you next weekend!”

For me, I plan to meet many of those I raced with last weekend at The Hinson Lakes 24 Hour this weekend.  Depending on the knee, I may run a few laps or try to beat 75 miles.  If I can’t run, then I will crew for Jim who will get to repay me with his own ultra demands, most likely for Nuun tablets, his homemade ice bandana, and possibly bacon.

Results from the NC24 can be found here:

Congratulations to all those who made team USA!

[photo by James Plant]



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This post was written by:

- who has written 6 posts on Run It Fast®.

I started racing during the later phases of my cancer treatment in October of 2006. I have logged over 200+ races and I'm most proud of my 24 hour 110.67 mile race, my 3:15 marathon and my 4:15 50k at the 2011 Nationals for 8th OA Female :). I have become a certified long distance running coach and currently volunteer with TNT. I help others reach their own personal best online, individually, or through the charity running program "Run for the Books" ( which raises money to help provide books to pediatric oncology units.

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One Response to “Race Report: The North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run”

  1. Tony Mollica says:

    I would like to point out that it was another runner and not a crew member who said she was bossy! I like knowing what the runner wants, and I’m not guessing like I am with my wife.

    I enjoyed crewing for you Shannon! I would have liked to see you get your planned mileage; but you were smart to stop. You’ll get 140 someday!The drive home was rough. I had to pull over seven times to get out and walk around to stay awake.


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