- Dave MacLuskie
I've wanted to do a 24 hour run for many years now but timing and injuries have conspired against me.
For those not familiar with timed races, the clock starts at 7am and keeps going until 7am the next day. Whoever accumulates the most miles wins. The race is "go as you please". You can stop at any time. You can walk, nap, or go out for lunch. All that counts is the miles you go between start and finish.
Timed courses are loops for obvious reasons. I've seen them range from half a mile to 4 miles. This particular course was a 3.75 mile loop.
Like most racers I kept a close eye on the weather leading up to race day. The week had been in the mid 80's which is quite warm for running. A cold front was blowing in Friday night and bringing t-storms and rain. Running in cold rain isn't the most fun thing either.
Running for this long is new territory and I wasn't sure what I'd need. I'd packed the car the night before with about every pair of socks I own (in a red bag), every favorite cold-weather running shirt for night time chills (in a green bag), 5 pair of running shorts, a pair of track pants and tights (in a white bag), and then other random stuff (gloves, hat, head lamps, rain gear, other clothes, etc) in the big duffel bag. I had 3 pair of shoes in the car and wore a pair.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to eat, and from what I read no matter what you think you want, it'll probably change when you get into things. I had a box of home-made trail mix in handy little baggies, powdered gatorade stuff to add to water bottles, a box of honey stinger waffles, a box of chips-ahoy cookies, a bag of 24 assorted bags of chips, some flat mountain dew, lots of water, and probably some other things I've forgotten. I even had my camping stove with ramen noodle packs in case I got chilled and I wanted hot soup.
I also had a box of first-aid items. Body glide, vaseline, white tape, duct tape, polysporin, bandaids, scissors, etc.
I got an earlier start than I wanted. I was drifting in and out of sleep listening to the rain. At 4am the power went out, then came back on and went out again. I got up and unplugged the computers and TV. Heading back to bed, I saw a bright flash and heard a loud bang across the street. The power didn't come back on after that. I went ahead and got dressed, applied a ton of body glide (anti-chafe) to my feet, thighs, nipples, and arm pits and left early.
My early departure got me to the park at 5:20 am. The gates weren't promised to be open until 6am so I sat in the parking lot at the shopping center across the street and listened to the rain tap on the roof. I wasn't sitting there long when park ranger came out and unlocked the gates around 5:30. This gave me a fantastic parking spot about as close to the start/turn-around/finish line that was possible. This eased my nerves quite a bit.
Folks began showing up with growing rapidity. I noticed folks with large tents and bags heading over to the start so I put on my wide-brimmed hat and got out to see if I could help the race director set things up. It turns out those folks were setting up their team tents next to the main drag. There are quite a few people who run on teams. I think it's total mileage by all team members that counts, though there may have been a relay team option as well (only 1 runner on the course at a time).
At 6:15 I checked in and got my shirt and bib number: 222. I like numbers that are easy to remember! It seemed to amuse the lap counters too. "tu tu tu tu tu tu" was repeated far more than necessary and we all got a laugh.
I had worn my second-fav shorts and my merino wool shirt. I expected it to be raining at the start and that I'd get soaked and want to change into dry clothes after the 2nd lap. As it turns out I never did have to change other than adding a silk shirt under the wool as it got dark.
The rain stopped by 6:30 and I wandered about chatting with folks I knew. At 7:00 the race director, George Nelson, called us together and read out the rules and provided some guidance. There was a moment of silence for the folks at Boston. (I noted at least 3 people running that were in the Boston Marathon the week before.) We started running at 7:15am.
Despite 200+ people running (though I'm not sure all 200 started at 7:15am) things spread out pretty quickly. I jogged along very easily, glad to be under way
There's a long straight stretch of gravel road that parallels I-64 for over a mile and runs the entire length of the park.
At the park end (noted by the huge ditch full of water) you turn left and head away from the noisy highway and into the double track trail in the woods.
There's an occasional root or puddle but it's pretty easy running.
After a while you come to a short very rooty section and take left down "Whispering Pines" trail that bisects the woods and takes you back to the main gravel road. I mentally renamed "Whispering Pines" the "Mud Pit" because it was nothing but mud and puddles. One section was particularly wet and muddy and required a decent leap to keep your feet dry(ish). By the time I got there on lap 2 there was a palette placed over the main puddle which offered a lot of relief. Someone in front of me commented that the palette fairy had stopped by.
At the end of the mud pit there's a left hand turn back onto a gravel road that takes you back to the initial stretch along I-64. From there you back track to the start/turn-around/finish. I like having a section of a course where you see folks heading the opposite direction. You can get a feel for your placement, say high, high-five, or just nod and grimace knowingly. There were a lot of nodding and grimacing as the shadows got tall, but I'm jumping ahead.
8:43am 2 laps done
7.5 miles in the bank. When you come in from a lap you run through a set of cones and announce your number. "222!" There were different lap counters each with a range of numbers to monitor. I'd see who looked up and confirm that they got me marked, and confirmed my lap count total. I definitely wanted credit for every lap.
For the daylight hours I carried a bottle of water and some food in my pocket. I'd stop at the car after every even lap, send a quick text message, refill water, grab some food, and stuff my pocket with some additional snacks for the next lap. This pattern worked pretty well for me.
10:16am 4 laps done and getting sore
15 miles in the bank. As I came in from lap 4 I had to ask what my total lap count was. The guy marking my laps looked at me funny. I smiled and said I guessed it was a bit early to be losing track already. We both laughed. He'd mess with me about that on subsequent laps and occasionally report back "lap 1!" just to see my face contort in confusion.
I changed shoes after lap 4. I'd been wearing my Asics Fujis; the trail version of my favoriate road shoe. They are great on mud, but I was starting to feel my feet get sore (already? not a great sign) and wanted something with more cushion. I put on my Montrail Mountain Masochists and headed back out. They felt nice at first but gradually felt less cushy as the laps added up.
11:52am 6 laps done and have a sub to eat so lots of walking to do
22.5 miles in the bank. At various points one group of muscles would get sore. This wasn't unexpected. What I found amusing is that the soreness would shift around. My calves got tight/sore first, then that went away and I began feeling it my hamstrings. Then that disappeared and my right hip flexor started complaining. After that it tended to be my feet. It's like my body and mind were conspiring together; testing me to see where I'd crack.
I got into a pattern of running a certain stretch, walking a certain stretch, and trying to be consistent with it. As time went on I'd break the long running stretches in half and hold that pattern as long as possible.
When I finished lap 6 there were six-inch Subway subs at the turn around. The flavors were marked as T (for turkey) and C (for who knows what?) I asked what C meant and the guys didn't know. They opened one up and thought maybe vegetarian. I took the turkey. It occurs to me now that it was probably cheese. They make cheese sandwiches, right?
I walked most of the lap 7 eating my sandwich. I nibbled on it for about a mile then continued to walk to digest it.
1:46pm 8 laps done and it all hurts walking or running just different hurt
30 miles in the bank. At some point I got the urge for something salty. I'd only been drinking water up to this point and was peeing regularly enough that I felt on top of hydration. I rummaged through my bag of chips and was severely disappointed with the sodium count on the first bag I grabbed. (Note: I almost never eat chips.) 100 mg of sodium? What kind of lousy health food is this? I finally found a bag of Doritos with at least 200mg and crammed a bag of Cheetos in my pocket. On a subsequent lapa I found a bag of potato chips with lots of sodium and potassium. Score!
3:50pm 10 laps hurt all over
37.5 miles in the bank. After 10 laps I was reduced to walking. I knew this time would come eventually. I had hoped to run through the daylight hours but I don't have the legs for it.
My race might have ended around here because I was eating those Cheetos on the back side of the course I managed to get one crammed in my throat. I had a vision of stumbling around, maybe into that big ditch, choking on a stupid Cheeto. I could just picture them finding me on the ditch surrounded by ducks eating the soggy Cheetos floating around me. It's probably one of the few ways to DNF a timed event.
5:03pm (lap 11 finished) Bring some cheeseburgers from McDonalds
41.25 miles in the bank. I got an text from Kevin say he'd be out around 9pm to pace me and that Greg was planning to come out at midnight. My response was "Cool. Bring some cheeseburgers from McDonalds"
6:05pm 12 laps
45 miles in the bank. There was pizza when I fished lap 12. It must have arrived after I left previously because most of it was already gone. I got a big slice of cold cheese pizza and headed back out. It was good.
After lap 13, I stopped and put on my silk shirt under my merino wool. I grabbed my running vest and put that on with trail mix in one pocket and my camera in the other. I meant to take some photos while it was still light but almost always forgot. I snagged my headlamp too because I knew it would be getting dark in an hour but I didn't use it until after lap 14.
8:23pm 14 and hungry again
8:24pm Heading back out and likely back at 9:15
52.5 miles in the bank. I sent Kevin a text message so he knew when I was likely to return from my lap. With 14 laps done I was now entering PR (personal record) territory in both distance and time. It was dark for real now and I grabbed my second head lamp and put it around my waist. The low light helped illuminate the roots better (casts a longer shadow) though in reality I don't think it was required for this course. I did like having the low light close to me and my head lamp spot light shining just above it.
I grabbed my gloves and hiking poles for this lap too. I only saw one other person with poles but I had asked the race director and he said they weren't a problem. I know some runners eschew them. I like them.
I started drinking my flat mountain dew about now as well.
I was surprised to see everyone walking at dark. I thought there'd be a group of folks that continuously ran all night.
My 9:15 prediction was pretty far off. I think I came in around 9:35 that lap. Oops. I saw Vince and Dee by the ranger station and they walked with me to the turn around where I got credit for 15 laps and found Kevin was waiting. He had cheeseburgers!
We went back to my car and I changed my outer socks and loosened up my shoes some. I thanked Vince and Dee for stopping by and Kevin and I headed out. I enjoyed the cheeseburger even if it was cold.
On the far side of the course I thought I had a rock in my shoe so we stopped and I checked it out. I didn't find anything but thought the rock might have fallen out as I took my shoe off. (You should read some ominous foreboding into the paragraph here.)
10:52pm 16 have small blister
60 miles in the bank. After lap 16 we headed to the car again and I stripped my shoes and socks off entirely. The "rock" was really a small blister. I had a couple other small (half-dime) size that I hadn't felt (and never would). My outside lower heel was rubbing too. I was knew that would happen since it does on regular runs. I've yet to find a pair of shoes that don't rub there. It's gotta be the way I move my foot. My feet no longer felt slick with Body Glide so I attempted some duct tape patches (slick side toward the blister), reapplied Body Glide, tossed on some Vaseline, then put on some fresh socks. It definitely helped (For a while. More foreboding.).
[12:08 finished lap 17]
63.75 miles in the bank. Kevin walked with me for 2 laps (16,17). I think we were moving pretty well. Nominally we were around one hour or less per lap, not counting the 15 minutes of foot care. Of course, like in any race, the clock doesn't stop.
At this point Greg met me at the turn around I said thanks and good night to Kevin even though he was still fresh. Greg has paced folks before and is experienced with cranky runners. Other than everything below my waist being in pain I was feeling fine. Again I think we made pretty good time, all things considered.
At one point (maybe near the start of lap 19) we stopped because a fellow runner had dropped his head lamp and it stopped working. He walked with us while we shined some light on the situation only to find his batteries had all fallen out. We back traced the 15-20 feet or so and found the batteries on the trail. We moved on when he got the lamp lit again. He'd pass us later on and we might have passed him back. I found it very hard to tell who was who after dark. People changed their clothes and the bright light of the head lamps tends to hide your face.
2:42am 19 laps going out for 20
71.25 miles in the bank. Lap 20 was without poles. I wanted to eat and drink more (which is hard to do with poles) and my fingers were getting cold. The temperature was dropping and I put on a fleece jacket and got my heavier gloves and hat. My pace definitely fell off, a lot. I was feeling my blistered feet and my knees and legs were very sore. The slower pace made me feel colder and things got tighter and more sore. It was a vicious circle.
This lap was by far the slowest. Greg was keeping up both ends of the conversation and I hobbled forward. We passed a small group near the mud pit. They asked what lap I was on. "This will be number 20." The response was notably jealous groans. I was only a lap ahead of them but at those speeds it's a long lap. We wished them luck and entered the mud pit.
4:00am 75 miles and going home
I finished lap 20 just before 4am. I made the call to stop and I don't regret it. Intellectually I was interested in picking up 1 more lap, or even 1 more mile. A few folks were heading back out and invited us to join them but I was done. My feet hurt, my legs hurt, my knee hurt. I'd accomplished my goal of 75 miles, if not my goal of going all 24 hours. I was pretty sure I hadn't injured anything permanently and wanted to keep it that way. I told them I was done.
I received my rather nice plaque for 75 miles. (There were plaques for 50, 70, and 100 miles.) I thanked Greg and hobbled back to my car. I texted Vince and Kevin that I was done and to not get up. Both had said they might come out in the morning.
Despite lack of big training miles an awful lot of thing went very right for me. I never felt tired or sleepy. The company very likely helped and was most appreciated.
Two days after the race, not surprisingly, I'm still sore and tight. I mostly feel it in my hamstrings and feet. The top of my feet are sore, swollen and a bit red. I suspect my feet swelled over time. Next time I'll need to bring some size 9.5 or 10 shoes to change into after 12 hours or so. Fortunately my IT band never flared up. My back and shoulders feel fine. My hydration on nothing but water (and a little Moutain Dew) worked well. I never mixed my Gatorade but did drink 1.5 bottles of the flat Mountain Dew throughout the evening and morning hours. My snacking on solid foods worked well too. (No gels for me.)
Huge thanks to Kevin, Greg, and Vince (who gets credit for being up and on his way out the door) for pacing me through the least-fun hours of the race. It's a lot more interesting when you can see things during the day. The venue was great and the park rangers very accommodating. They kept the indoor bathrooms open and clean the whole time so there were comfortable facilities and a place to wash your hands.
The weather ended up being ideal. The rain stopped before we got going. Daytime temps were in the mid 60's and overcast and it only got down to the mid 40's by the wee hours of the morning. Even with the ideal conditions I noted that several of the attempted records were not broken as predicted. Despite adequate training, the distance just isn't a given in events like this. A lot can go wrong over 24 hours. I do believe there were a course record number of 75 mile finishers this year.
A 24 hour run is definitely a different experience. My new distance PR is now 75 miles, and time-on-my-feet PR is 21 hours. With better training and preparation I hope for a full 24 next time.
Everything is back to normal. In fact I've had a couple fantastic run days lately. One post-race issue I noticed was red and swollen feet. I gather my shoes were too small for the swelling that occurred to my feet. I knew that was a possibility and I even had size 9.5 shoes (normally I wear a 9) but forgot to pack them. I find now that all my size 9's remain tighter than and the 9.5's are more comfortable. Next year I'll definitely keep swelling in mind and maybe throw in a pair of size 10's just in case.
dave.macluskie AT gmail.com