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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Diaz-Gilbert

My 2023 Hainesport 48-Hr Ultra Race Report: First Place Female Fueled by Cake, Apple Pie & More

Updated: Mar 2

Age Is Indeed Just A Number


At the start. Photo by Jon Gilbert.

Last year I ran the Beast Coast Productions Hainesport 24-hr ultra on a hot Labor Day weekend. I was happy with my third place female finish. (See race report). This year Beast Coast Productions added a 48-hr event to the 12-hr, 24-hr, and 100-mile events in Hainesport, NJ. I signed up for the 48hr.


Hainesport 48hr was my second 48-hr event and my 36th ultra. My first 48hr was at Across the Years on January 1-2, 2020. The cold desert air in the thirties and my frozen and sleep- deprived body, along with tired legs, propelled me to stop at a little over 44 hours with a total of 101.93 miles.


I surpassed these miles on Labor Weekend at Lazarus Lakes’s 2019 A Race for the Ages (ARFTA), where “geezers” run/walk as many hours as their age. I had 60 hours. I set a goal of 120 miles, but after a 13-hr break in the hotel to shower, eat, and sleep, and to let Jon get the rest that he needed (at the time he was receiving chemotherapy for his stage IV cancer), we returned back to the scorching hot parking lot course in Deadman Park in Manchester, TN. With three-and-a-half hours to go before the clock ran out at noon, I slipped on my Oofos and collected twelve more miles for a total of 112 miles in 47 hours of movement on the course. I didn’t meet my goal, but I was happy.


My goal at the Hainesport 48-hr was to collect 120 miles. I had a plan.


MY PLAN


I divided the 48 hours into four chunks of 12-hr runs. In August. 2023, I collected 45 miles at the Loopy Looper 12-hr ultra. Using that as my baseline, and knowing that I would be slowing down, I created the following strategy and mileage goals to hopefully collect 120 miles.


My Plan Race Weekend


12hr - 45 miles 43.8 miles


12hr - 35 miles 32 miles


24hr - 80 miles 75.8 miles


12hr - 25 miles 24.3 miles


36hr - 105 miles 99.9 miles


12 hr - 15 miles 17.83 miles


48 hr - 120 miles. 117.93 miles


I missed my goal by 2.07 miles. But I came very close to meeting my third 12-hr block goal of 25 miles. And I logged a bit more miles than I planned during my last 12-hour block. So I guess I had a negative split.


My race weekend stats are based on my Garmin. Unfortunately, as runners we didn’t know where we stood because there was no leaderboard and no splits given. But we knew the mostly flat USATF-certified course is .9913 miles.


Laps and not miles were counted. So when the timekeeper said, 10 laps, for example, it really meant 9 miles. It was a little confusing, but by the end of the race I collected 119 laps for a total of what I thought was 117.9647 miles, but the official miles on Ultrasignup reads 117.93. But who’s counting.


These miles got me first place female and 5th overall out of 27 runners. The goal of the majority of runners in the 48-hr event was to collect 100 miles (101 laps) and get their buckle. Only fourteen runners collected 101or more miles. Pablo, the male winner (we chatted for a lap and a half towards the end), collected 166.49 miles. See the 48-hr results here.


My goal was not to get a buckle or finish first female, but to collect 120 miles. I was happy to stay for the duration of the 48 hours with 19 minutes left on the clock. I was glad that I came close and that, at age 64, I surpassed my 101.63 miles at Across the Years and my 112 miles at A Race for the Ages. I guess you can say I set a PR for my longest ultramarathon distance.


With race co-director Vanessa Kline, my buckle, and my first plaque. Photo by Jon Gilbert.

QUESTIONS FROM MY FOLLOWERS


As I was preparing to write this race report, I asked my followers on my Ultra Miriam FB page and on the Running Over 60 FB page to post or message me questions they had about my 48-hr ultra. I received questions about my strategy for maintaining a ratio of running to walking miles or if I went by feel, what I ate, if I ate gels and took electrolytes, if I rested, and how I was able to do what I did for 48 hours.

WEATHER & GEAR

No one asked about the weather so, I’ll start with that. The weather, which we can’t predict with accuracy and can’t control, is a big part of any race day. When I ran the Hainesport 24hr in 2022, it was super hot, sunny, and at times humid. Not a drop of rain. This October weekend’s forecast called for sun, some rain, clouds, temps in the 60s and much lower overnight temperatures through the morning. How we prepare for the unknown and how we respond to all kinds of weather is important. I packed the following gear plus, two pairs of Asics and a pair of hiking sandals.

I packed pairs of running tights, capris, and compression shorts. I packed two long-sleeved running shirts, one turtleneck, several running bras, a couple of underwear, one skort, seven pairs of socks, a rain jacket, a windbreaker, a fleece jacket, a beanie, a running cap, a pair of gloves, and my Dawn to Dusk to Dawn track ultras blanket.

I began the race with a long-sleeved running shirt under my singlet and compression shorts. Then it got hot and I removed the long-sleeved shirt. Then I put on my pink rain jacket as winds picked up, accompanied by a light rain for an hour or two. Colder temps and clouds followed. I added layers, wrapped my headband around my head and crowned my head with my pink Dawn to Dusk to Dawn track ultras beanie. Eventually, blankets became my companions in the cold night with temps in the 40s on both nights.


I also changed my first pair of Asicis Gel Nimbus with a second pair, and for many laps I walked in my hiking sandals. I wanted to give my numb and burning toes some relief. I have permanent numbness, nerve damage, and neuropathy on both feet and toes as a result of being diagnosed too late in 2009 with myelopathy of the spinal cord due to severe B12 deficiency.


After a few miles in them, I put my Asics back on. Under the bright sun and blue sky, and in the cold Monday morning air, I finished my miles in my Asics, my Old Nay polyester-filled vest, by headband, and my pink T-Mobile gloves that I got at the 2022 Run Show Boston. I'm an ambassador. I hope to see you in Boston in January. Get your free tickets here. Use code MIRIAM.

I was as prepared as I could be to tackle my miles in all kinds of weather and gear; definitely, one of the reasons I was able to keep moving. And food also kept me moving.


FOOD FOR FUEL


While many runners fuel on gels, gu, caffeine, and food provided at aid stations, I cannot. Since 2022, I have had to prepare my own food to take with me to ultra events. Because preservatives, additives, food coloring, antibiotics, hormones, steroids in meats and poultry, and pesticides and insecticides in fruits and vegetables are harmful to my esophagus and are the cause of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), I need to make my own food without these chemicals and as organically as possible.


The food I prepared at home and packed was also key to logging my 117.93 miles. I packed homemade bread, freshly made fettuccine pasta on my pasta maker with chicken and Shiitake and oyster mushrooms, fettuccine with ground beef, chicken and cabbage soup, chicken and beans, apple pie, slices of Jon's yellow birthday cake with dark chocolate icing, and bacon and eggs -- all free of chemicals. And I stay hydrated with Key Nutrients electrolytes every mile. Every ten miles or so, I consumed a Salt Stick chewable salt tablet and experienced zero cramping.


Before heading to the race site, I had bacon, eggs, beans, and a slice of bread at home for breakfast. I began to eat slices of bread and Jon's birthday cake slices after the sixth lap or mile five. I'd alternate between the two. The first hot food I ate in less than a minute was chicken and beans on Saturday afternoon while standing up. My first sit-down dinner of fettuccine, chicken, and mushrooms, and apple pie was around 9 pm on Saturday, twelve hours after the race started.


Next, I had chicken and cabbage soup around 1 am Sunday morning and slices of cake and bread in between dinner and soup while on the course. Jon went home, about twenty-five minutes away, around 6 am to let out our hens Faith and Gracie from their coop, have them forage, and feed them.


He came back with bacon and eggs. I enjoyed breakfast at 9 am Sunday morning. I kept eating slices of bread and cake. I stayed hydrated. And I had fettuccine and ground beef for dinner Sunday night.


On both cold nights, I had chicken and cabbage soup to keep me going. By dawn Monday morning, I just kept moving and didn't need food but stayed hydrated. Eating good calories, staying layered, and taking naps were all key.


According to my Garmin and not counting the miles I logged and the calories I consumed while my Garmin was charging, during 94.12 miles of my 117.93 miles, I burned 9,472 calories.


NAPS AND A HALLUCINATION


Down for a nap at about 10:15 pm Sunday night. Photo by Jon.

Going into the race, I was well-rested. Two weeks before the race, I made sure to go to bed extra early and get good sleep. I took my first nap at about 4 pm on Saturday while Jon went home to take care of the hens and to bring my vest and another blanket. This is a special blanket. It was made by one of our granddaughter's teachers. She made blankets for relatives of students who were tackling cancer. At the time, Jon was undergoing grueling radiation and chemotherapy for recurrent stage IV cancer. I am happy to say he is in remission. Please don't forget to get your colonoscopy. After my nap, I was reinvigorated and went on to collect more miles wrapped in the blanket.



My longest nap on Sunday night was about an hour and a half. Jon took his nap alongside me. But as I slowly logged my laps, he napped as much as possible. Sometimes I wonder which is harder -- running an ultra or crewing an ultra. Both for sure require patience and sleep deprivation.


The more miles I logged as the temperature dropped in the darkness of the cold night, I felt the need for sporadic five- to ten-minute cat naps, followed by another slice of cake. Both got me moving again ever so slowly covered in layers and wrapped in the blanket. On both nights, the roar of the generator lights kept me awake. I also tried to stay awake with my earbuds as I listened to my Spotify music and an episode of The Golden Girls on YouTube TV on my iPhone.


I also had one big hallucination. I saw an old lady in a hospital gown tied in the back. She was pushing a walker on the edge of the course. I was scared for her and thought she might have escaped from a local nursing home. I was worried for her because it was in the 40s. In my hiking sandals, I tried to walk faster to help her somehow. As I got closer, I realized I was clearly hallucinating. I realized that there was no old lady in a hospital gown pushing a walker. It was Crystal (second place female) walking in her cape-like poncho with her walking poles.


I power walked up to her to tell her about my hallucination. We both had a good laugh. And she told me there is a nursing home nearby. We shared our ultrarunning hallucinations stories.


RUNNING AND WALKING


At just about every ultra event, I get compliments on my fast walking. A couple of runners at this ultra told me the same. "You walk so fast." "I can't keep up with you." I'm a fast walker when I am not racing, too. Including power walking in your training is important. Sometimes you will cover the same distance or more power walking faster or just as fast as you would if you run the distance slowly.


I never start out fast. In the past, I've walked three minutes, then run ten minutes, then repeated. As I get older and slower, I've discovered that including more walking when tired and more running when energized will get the job done.


In this 48-hr ultra, I walked the first lap at a 14:05 pace. Through the first twelve hours, I ran some miles at paces ranging from 12:35 to 13:01 and logged slower miles at paces ranging 15:31 to 17:54. According to my Garmin, at 13:27:53.8, I logged 46.82 miles at an average pace of 17:16. Once upon a time, I ran faster.; my 50-mile PR is 11:14:18.


Sometime Sunday morning, my Garmin died after recording 17.03 miles in 5:58:31 in paces ranging from 17:43 to 40:09 for at an average pace of 21:03 due to cat naps, changing clothes, socks, bathroom breaks, and fueling.


After my Garmin was recharged, a few hours later my Garmin recorded 23.30 miles in 11:29:16 with paces ranging from 19:13 to 55:32 for at an average pace 29:34 due to bathroom breaks, eating, napping, and moving slower.


At 12:09 am on a freezing Monday morning, my Garmin recorded 6.97 miles in 3:53:04 with an average pace of 33:27. When my Garmin died, I gave it to Jon to have it charged. Both tired, cold, and exhausted, we sat in my car with the heater blasting. After a little warm up, I got back on the course and just kept moving slowly, ate chicken soup, nibbled on apple pie and more birthday cake, and took an occasional cat nap at the end of a few laps the next seven plus hours.


At about 7:30 am under blue skies and sun in crisp cold air, I realized I didn't have my Garmin, which I had given to Jon to charge. When I asked for it, Jon said he forgot to recharge it. By now, I was moving at about two miles per hour. I moved a little faster the last two laps knowing the end was near. I knew I would place first female. I finished with 117.93 miles at about 8:40 am. I was done.


I'm an ordinary ultrarunner. I've never had a coach. I run alone and sometimes Jon joins me as he rides his ElliptiGO bike. I've been racing every year since 1989, except for 2009 when I was unable to walk normally and run due to severe B12 deficiency. I've been racing ultras since 2005.


In fixed-timed races of 24 hours or more, you're going to be subjecting your body to physical exhaustion and your mind to mental fatigue. You will suffer sleep deprivation and possibly hallucinations. Practicing common sense, applying experience, patience, and persevering are essential to get you to meet your goal whether it be getting that buckle at the 100 -mile mark or to collect as many miles as you can or want. Mixing walking with running will get you there. And sharing the course with runners at all skill levels will inspire you to keep moving and share running stories.


COMPANIONS ON THE COURSE


Ultrarunning is a solitary sport, but runners are never truly alone at an ultra event. Runners have patient and caring crews who feed them, drain their blisters, change their shoes and socks, and more. Runners have race directors, volunteers, and friends and family who show up to cheer them on in person or virtually. And runners have companions on the course. They have each other, especially when the course is less than a one-mile loop.

Counterclockwise: With Lisa, Shina, Bob, Yen, Kimberly, and Ali during walking breaks.

At Hainesport this year, I was reunited with runners I ran with at Hainesport last year and with runners I've run alongside in other ultras. I shared the course with runners, young and old, running Hainesport for the first time. There's something about ultrarunners. We feed off each other. We're a patient and happy breed of human beings willing to subject ourselves to joyful suffering if only for the duration of the ultra event.


HOW I GOT IT DONE


I set out to tackle my second 48-hr ultra and 36th ultra with a plan, good homemade food for fuel, my crew and best friend of almost 43 years Jon, and all kinds of weather gear and layers for use on a paved loop of less than a mile.


I executed the plan well but missed my goal by 2.03 miles. But somehow, not meeting my goal rewarded me with an unexpected first place female win. It helped that I was the only female runner whose goal was to collect more than 100 miles. Maybe if I had some competition, I would have run faster but not placed first.


But one thing was for sure. I signed up and paid for a 48-hr ultra. I was going to get my money's worth in miles. I was in for the duration, for the long haul in sun, clouds, wind, rain, and the cold nights. And along the way, sharing the course with fellow runners helped me to keep going.


And I could not have done it without my crew, my best friend of almost forty-three years and the man who forgot to charge my Garmin toward the end. But he made up for it by promoting my book, Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. If you think my book might be of interest to you, order your copy here. Thank you.

Photo by Vanessa Kline.

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER


The average age of the twenty-seven runners in the Hainesport 48-hr was 53.1. The average age of the top 10 finishers was 48.7 years. The oldest runner in the top 10 was 84; the youngest was 24. Age is indeed just a number.



If you train, stay focused, have a plan, set a goal, make it fun, and are willing to subject both mind and body to the elements, exhaustion, a hallucination or two, and getting out of your comfort zone, you too can run, walk, and move along at a 48-hr ultra at your pace, and collect as many miles as you want. But I suggest you work your way up to a 48-hr beginning with a 12-hr ultra followed by a 24-hr. And once you hit the 100-mile mark, you will get that belt buckle. And don't forget to keep smiling.


Here's a video Jon and I made.



Thank you for reading my race report and watching our YouTube video


2023 Hainesport Ultra Runs Results on Ultrasignup


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