What is it like to put in 100 miles of running and walking in a day? 165,585 steps taken and 11,263 calories burned. HARD! I can easily say this was the hardest run to complete in my life! In this blog I share my experiences, what I learned, and describe how my day went.
My day began at around 1:45am. I began by drinking some water to hydrate and then started applying anti-chafing wax to my feet and other body areas that would be prone to rubbing. I slowly and carefully began to put on my gear which included my anti-blister socks, calf compression sleeves, shorts, a couple layers of shirts, arm warmers, shoes, chest phone carrier, night time lighted visibility vest, gloves with hot hands packets and my ear warming head band. I then made sure I had a few running gels, electrolyte salts, and two bottles of water on me. Lastly, I put on my watch and began to loosen up and stretch out a bit. If you are wondering, I did not eat any breakfast or food and I did not have a morning bowel movement which made me nervous. In fact, I did not have a bowel movement until I came home about 24 hours later!
My run began at my house. Just me. No one to see me off. It was quiet, dark, and chilly. Most people would rather be inside their warm home sleeping a few more hours. That sounds nice to me too but something in me fights against doing that. So, here I was laced up when a lot of people are just going to bed to attempt something I knew was going to HURT. I’ve learned through all those lonely training runs early in the morning that any great thing I want to achieve doesn’t just get handed to me. It takes more than just “desire” or “passion”. It’s great to have desire and passion but you have to put in the dedicated and consistent work. Be persistent. I was about to find out if my training and character was going to get me through this.
Ultra running isn’t just physical. You have to be strong mentally. However, it isn’t all mental either. You have to be very strong and fit physically as well. Both are critical if you want to make it the distance. Some runners may think the jump to ultra running will be easy because they are fast. If you can easily run 5 to 6 minute miles for a 15k, half marathon, or even a marathon you might assume running 9 or 10 minute miles for a 100 miles is very doable. Yet, just the shear distance of using the same muscles again and again to pound the pavement or trail wears downs the muscles even if you think you are taking it nice and easy. Therefore, what seems like a nice and easy slow 9 minute miles become painful and difficult mile to run when you legs are shot or gone.
In really long distance running your legs can “die” very quickly. You could be running just find and suddenly your muscles are “done”. They begin to tighten up and they might even start cramping. Yesterday all of this happened to me minus the cramping part. My legs never really had any cramping issues because I did stay on top of hydration and taking in electrolytes all day. Honestly, I started too fast yesterday. I should have ran many slower miles at the beginning and mixed in some walking or short stretch out breaks before my muscles began tightening up.
I ran by myself until my friend Rebecca met up with me on her bike at mile 15.5. She was super positive and encouraging all day during the times she was with me. We all need positive and encouraging friends. She understood in the times I was struggling most that I needed positive thoughts, to focus my pain elsewhere, and she did a great job quoting Scriptures. She has the first 3 chapters of James memorized!
My high school teammate and friend Sam joined me about 30 miles in and ran the next 37 miles with me. It was so awesome to see him and to run with him again. He was speedy! We need friends who can set the pace and push you. Sam did his part and kept me on pace. My legs unfortunately wasn’t there for today.
At 50 miles I was well under 7 hours and 40 minutes and on pace to beat my 16 hour goal. However, I could tell my quad muscles in my legs were starting to feel “beat up” . By mile 57 I couldn’t hold a sub 9:30 mile pace anymore and then by mile 66 I was ready to quit. In ultra running they say you have many ups and downs. You have to weather the storm when you get in these low times because they do pass. I was about to bust out in tears when I saw Beth at mile 66. I felt so emotional and it was so great to see her. For a moment my thought was I had done enough and it was time to call it quits. My right knee was beginning to have sharp pains. This was the knee I had injured really badly in high school and had surgery on in college. It is also the knee that a couple of different surgeons told me I should stop running on and that my running career was over. As my quad muscles were tired out they couldn’t support my knee like they should and it was giving me major problems. Every step was intensely painful. I needed a break to warm up, get in some calories, and get a pep talk from Beth.
So many times in life things happen or come up. The pain that comes with these life events can be so intense and they never seem to go away. Every step like every moment is so discouraging. It’s torture. I think we all have the thoughts of quitting. Thank goodness for our spouses and friends who believe in us. It wasn’t just Beth who helped keep me going on this 100 mile run. From about mile 50 on I had the amazing support of so many different people from our church. I can’t put into works how much I am truly thankful for their support on race day. I hope they know it meant a ton to me!
Every few miles I had Beth meet up with me as the mobile aid station, and there were other incredible friends waiting to cheer me on. I can’t tell you how much I did look forward to seeing everyone. Wow, in the last 20 miles those aid stations seem really far apart. By then I was trying to cover the miles in the darkness and in the cold again. Every step was painful. My feet were aching so bad and my knee just wouldn’t cooperate with me to run. I had different people walk with me in those final miles. I’d say that was the greatest part of the whole day. Those moments I got to share with friends and the meaningful conversations we could have.
Mentally, overall, I knew I was going to finish. My mind was really strong. I never “bonked” or had nutrition issues. I also didn’t have any digestive issues all day! What a praise! In my planning I should have packed more solid foods but I didn’t know that I would crave and want solid foods because of my pace slowing down. I never felt nauseous or weak either. Literally the only issue that slowed me down was my right quad muscle giving out to the point that my knee couldn’t run.
I knew that this run was about way more than just me hitting a time goal (which didn’t happen). It was about finishing. I kept thinking about the child that God would have for us to add to our forever family. So many times I kept pressing forward for him or her. I was ready to go the distance! So many times I thought about all the people who were praying for me, who have supported us in this adoption process, who were waiting at the intersections ahead of me, who were following this event live on Facebook all day, and everyone who would be inspired by this run. I knew I wasn’t going to quit.
I knew I had it in me. I believe you have it in you to accomplish many of your goals or to fight through the hard times or trials that come through life. You can do it! No one runs 100 miles because it’s easy. In fact, we do it because it isn’t. What seems impossible is possible. Have faith my friends. Believe in yourself, believe in others, and most importantly believe in God who gives you ability and strength.
So final question. How do I feel post race the next morning? Great! I thought I would be cramping or wake up to really sore muscles but the soreness is far less than I had planned. I am walking around just fine. I am still taking the day off to rest but I’m already itching to run again. Maybe not a 100 miler this week but I can’t wait to run another one! Shhhh. No one tell my wife Beth.