One Mile With A Smile – Race Report

I am training for the Yeti 100 Miler at the end of this month. As part of training, I thought finding a race to get in a longer, supported run around the end of August/early September would be good and my coach agreed. Enter: the One Mile With A Smile 12 Hour Endurance Run in Chesapeake.

Race tank top

I made the 6-ish hour drive to Chesapeake the day before the race and stayed in a hotel. I was up entirely too early the next morning to pick up ice and make the short drive over to Oak Grove Lake Park, where the race would take place. I couldn’t believe how humid it was and how warm it already felt outside (upper 70’s) as I left my hotel around 5:45 AM. I knew it was going to be a day.

I arrived at the park about an hour before the race start and was able to make just one trip from my car down to the staging area with my rolling cooler, toolbox, and chair. The race was on a 1.5 mile gravel loop around the lake, and you had 12 hours to run as many complete loops as you could. I got my stuff set up, hit the porta johns, and prepared to race.

Race set up. Even though it was going to be hot, I opted not to bring a canopy since I was at this race solo and didn’t intend to stop much.
Pretty lake at sunrise.

This was a smaller race, with around 60 runners. Per usual, people were really friendly and I chatted with those set up around me until it was time to start. A few minutes before 7 AM, we lined up to start the run. And without much fanfare we were off and running!

Race start. It’s hard to see, but the guy in front of me is dragging a tire.
Photo credit: Air Aspect

I was feeling insanely nervous before the start of the race, like to the point that I had to fight a strong urge to pack up and go home. I don’t know why I felt that way, as I was just there to get in some miles and time on feet. I didn’t feel like I was feeling any pressure. I guess chalk it up to mounting nerves as Yeti draws closer. As it turns out, it would take hours until I finally settled into the race. Right from the start, I used a 4 minute run / 1.5 minute walk interval.

I knew it was going to be a really hot day, so I took little sips of water or liquid iv on each walk break and also made sure to keep eating every 30 minutes. At the start of the race, it seemed like it was just us runners at the park. But it didn’t take long until I started seeing lots of other walkers, runners, and exercise groups at the park. It never felt crowded to me, and I enjoyed seeing all of the different people.

One of the workout groups hung their clothes in a tree while they ran laps and did other exercises. For whatever reason, I found this amusing to run by.

I chatted on and off with other runners as I made my way around the course. Occasionally, I stopped at my stuff to swap out flasks and pick up extra fuel. There was one group set up right behind me that always checked in with me and asked if I needed anything, and offered for me to use the shade of their canopy if I needed it. It was so kind of them and I love how supportive the trail and ultra community is.

Early on in the race. Photo credit: One Mile With A Smile race staff

By 11 AM, the temperature had crept up into the 90’s and the relative humidity was over 100. It was tough to manage. I started feeling really hot and nauseous, and I ended up flip flopping my run/walk intervals for two laps (about 3 miles) to cool off some during the hottest part of the day. After that, I used a 2 minute run / 1.5 minute walk interval. I also started putting ice in my bra and in my ice bandana, and switched to a sun hat. That all seemed to help me manage the heat alright.

Fake smile while suffering in the heat.

At this point, I had been running for about 6 hours and I still really hadn’t settled down. But the park was really nice and per usual at every timed race I’ve done so far, I never got bored on the loops. I don’t know why I don’t, but I guess this race format is just a good fit for me.

During the day, I saw so many people with dogs! There was a lady walking a red bloodhound which made me smile and think of Hank and Scout. I also saw a guy walking three big, gray dogs. Their three leashes were tethered to one that he held, and it made me think of Hagrid’s three headed dog, Fluffy, from Harry Potter.

Suffering in the heat. Photo credit: One Mile With A Smile race staff

I hit 30 miles around 3 PM (8 hours into the race), right as a thunderstorm rolled in. It rained, and sometimes poured, on and off for the next two hours. The temperature dropped quickly during that time and the wind picked up, which felt so nice while running. But I found that when I stopped at my stuff to swap out flasks, I got chilled pretty quickly. So I did my best to just keep moving. And guess what? I had FINALLY settled into this race. After eight freaking hours, mentally I felt ready to go.

Here is a fish sculpture that I ran by like 30 times.

During the rain, I started chaffing pretty bad on my thighs and on the inside of my upper arms. I tried to reapply chaffing stuff, but it didn’t help. It had turned into liquid from sitting in the heat in a black toolbox in the sun and seemed to be ineffective.

At this point, I was still doing my 2/1.5 interval. I probably could have switched back to my usual 4/1.5 but this felt like it was working fine and I was moving well so I just stuck with it. I ran and chatted with a lady for a little bit and her voice sounded so familiar. Finally, I said “Were you the lady in the inflatable unicorn costume at the Alvarado aid station during Dam Yeti this year?” And she said “YES!” How funny! She had such a positive impact on my race that day, and it was fun to get to know her more and run with her on and off during these later miles.

Smiley faces were the theme of the race, and several hours into the race I spotted this on one of the trees.

The last few hours of the race passed by fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was down to my last few laps. I thought I had time for two more laps, which would put me at 42-ish miles. But on what I thought would be my last lap, I realized I was going to have time for another one – awesome! The end of the race was kind of funny. There was a long, 0.2 mile straight stretch heading into the finish line, so the people in the finish area could see us runners coming from a distance. We knew we were going to make it in on time, but for them I think it was more suspenseful. They were all yelling and cheering for us to get there in time!

Finish line / timing mat area

I finished my race in a total time of 11 hours and 55 minutes, with 44.2192 miles according to the official results. I collected my race medal and finisher’s mug and then headed over to pack my stuff up and head up to the car. Just like that, all casual. After the race, I was driving 3 hours to my dad’s house and I had planned to change clothes before leaving. But once I got up to my car I was ready to just get on the road and get the drive over with so I could get a shower. So I hit the road in my nasty race clothes and rolled in to my dad’s house around 10:30 PM. I ate some dinner and rehashed my race with him before grabbing a shower and finally crashing.

Finisher’s medal

Overall, I think this race was a solid effort for me. I fought through some serious race nerves early on, and never really experienced any highs or lows during the event. But I did well on hydration and nutrition, especially given the heat, and stuck with my intervals to continue moving forward. There are definitely some things I will take from this race as I head into Yeti, and I’m grateful for the experience.

P.S. Someone please remind me not to sign up for a race in July or August ever again. Thanks!

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