30 Miles, 6 hours, No Problemo
So here I am sitting in my doctors office, I am getting my foot x-rayed and I casually reach out to my friend about going to our local brewery to get a new pint glass they are giving out. During the conversation he tells me they are running a 6hr trail run on Saturday. He then asks me to come, even if I can’t run to hang out with them and be the pit crew. So without hesitation I say yes! I figure even if I can’t run, being a part of someones pit crew for a long event like this would be awesome, especially for good friends.
So the good news was that my foot was not fractured or broken as I had feared, just a bruise they thought. So by the time Saturday came, the foot was feeling awesome, I had stayed off of it and rested and it felt like I could run.
Saturday comes and I decide that I am going to run if they still have race day registration. Since it was a small event, it was limited to the first 200 runners. Good news when I arrive, they allow me to sign up and I went ahead and signed up for the 6-hour run, I mean hey everyone else did, so I couldn’t not do it.
So not ever having done anything like this before, I was not sure what to expect. I knew the loop was 2.69 miles and the object was just to run it as many times as possible. For me, I initially set this ridiculous goal of 30 miles, I mean I was thinking If I could run two loops per hour and times that by 6 hours that would be 36 miles. But that was unrealistic, so I wanted to factor in stops, water breaks, eating, etc. So I lowered that goal to 30 miles. Which mean I just had to average 12 min miles. In my mind that is doable, I mean I usually can slow down to 10 min miles if needed on my training trails. Plus having this at night and running by head lamp was something new. So in my mind it was perfectly doable. I guess I never thought that I have never in my life run past 16 miles, much less for 6 straight hours.
So of course I toe the line at the front, I mean that is what we do at all of the OCR races right? Well apparently everyone else wanted to get in the back and try to avoid the mad rush and just pace themselves. For the first time I thought to myself, this is a long ass run, maybe starting slower would be the way to go.
So off we go, the herd rushing off to the trail and into the wilderness and darkness. Yeah now that you have that picture in your head, change that to nothing but dust and people everywhere. There was so much dust in fact it was actually hard to see, all the spot lights did was highlight this damn dust. Then the “hey let’s stay in the back” lasted about 30 seconds as Maynard takes off like he was shot out of a cannon. So of course I follow. We kill the first mile and start the first ascent and the running becomes a walk. Thankfully this was not that tough, we were still passing people left and right. Then May-May got caught behind some girls and I made an “On your left” pass and I thought he was behind me, I didn’t see him again until my 3rd lap.
The best part about the first lap was seeing the photographers. So thinking that they were going to be there for several of these laps, I did the serious run by on the first lap. I wanted some good running action shots! ha ha ha…then I learned my first lesson of trail racing, you need to bring your own bottle or you don’t get water. Of course I left mine on accident in my car so I just took off, getting no water. Lap one done. Watch said 2.5 miles, pace is right at 11 min/miles.
I can say I don’t really remember much, more of the same, passing people hear and there, found some guys who were running pretty good and I stayed with them. On the photo op station, I did the running Messner this time. Completed the lap and finally got some water. Lap two done, just over 5 miles, pace was still under 11 min/miles.
The funny thing about these early laps is that all I was really thinking about was the photo op near the end of the loop. What is the next pose? Will I have to slow down so there are no other people in the way? The first thing I had to do was turn my hat around and hope that my light would illuminate the trail better, nope no such luck. All I could see was white dust. So I just kept running, waiting for the next photo op. I ended up doing the Usain Bolt point to the heavens pose. Nobody was in my way, so it was a good little pose down. I ended up staying with some ultra-guys; they looked like they knew what they were doing so I just stayed with them. During the transition after lap three, I actually stopped and rested. I told myself no more than 5 minutes. During this time I had some PBJ and a lot of water. I also lost my shirt and decided to run the rest of the race without one. Lap three complete, over 8 miles done and maintaining an 11 min/mile pace.
Here we go again, there was really no thinking involved with what I was going to do for the photo op on this lap, it was straight up going to be the “Fire Jump” pose. Boom! Nailed it! The Photographer even gave me a high five as I went by, I think they were just happy to see someone having fun on the trail. Finished the lap and decided it was time to take in more. I consumed a bunch of water, dipped into my pedialite, more PBJ and took a gel and a salt tab. Two hours down, 1/3 of the way there! Lap four done, 10.3 miles and I am now at an 11:30 min/mile pace.
By now the trail is pretty much the same thing over and over. Flat, downhill, flat, uphill, downhill, flat, uphill, flat and on to the finish. I was wondering what to do on this lap. It seems even though I am jamming to my tunes, the only thing at this point on my mind in what to do in the pictures. Well, okay, there were a couple of conversations I had from time to time with people I need to have them with, you know like practice if you will. Should I do a cartwheel? Maybe walk on my hands, no I was too scared for that, I was afraid my legs would give out and I would look stupid. I ended up just doing the “Jet” pose. If you are a Dallas Maverick fan you remember the jet and his pose after a 3-point basket. Oh well, it wasn’t that exciting. Finished the loop and I was starting to get tired. My feet were starting to hurt some. The downhill pounding on the rocks I think was starting to take its toll. Lap Five complete, 13 miles in and now around a 13:30 min/mi pace. The stops at the transition were adding time.
What can I say about lap six? Really nothing I remember other than, now what am I going to do for a picture? It seems kind of stupid they are in the same place every lap and three photographers at the same spot? But no worries because they were not there this time, I guess they just were going to do the first three hours. Kind of a relief but then again, it was a great land mark because they had a light and it wasn’t much further until the festival area. So my feet hurt a lot right now. It feels like there is no padding in my shoes. I tried to think of running on pillows or clouds, I’m a cat, YES! I am a cat, landing soft on every step, no pain here. Well crap, I am more like an elephant and every step feels like I am clodhopping my way through the dark. When I get to the transition area I decide to switch my shoes. I am going to put on the ones with slightly more cushion to see if they help. I am half way there, not really tired at all, but things are starting to hurt. Lap six complete just over 15 miles, pace is dropping, now at 14:30 min/mile. This is also factoring in the transition stops.
Well it was bound to happen, I could feel my feet dragging slightly and I had tripped over several roots, I started thinking of how great it was that this lap was almost over and then boom, I rolled the bad ankle. It wasn’t a huge deal, not a bad roll, I actually caught myself and I was able to avoid putting any weight on it so it didn’t hurt at all. Just as I wipe my eyebrows with a “whew” moment, I hit a stump right in the center of my foot. I came down on it so hard that it felt like my toes touched my shin. It was like a reverse hyperextension. That smarted some. It felt like everything popped and stretched at the same time and of course it was my bad ankle too. Lucky for me there were just a few more turns and then the straightaway to the finish. Lap seven complete, over 18 miles complete, pace is dropping to the mid 15’s. Took a good 5 minute rest at the aid station and I did what I thought you should do, I started taking in sugar. I took two glasses of Coca-Cola, water, pedialite, PBJ, gels and salt tabs.
So I have to admit I am effing tired. I have never run this far in my life and everything hurts. I mean everything. My feet, my knees, I think if you took video of my I would look like an old man hobbling around. So I start off on the next lap. I have been walking for the first ¼ mile on the last couple of laps to start the next before the big downward descent. So I am going along and something is not feeling right. I get to the bottom and it is the flat part, usually where I make up my time. But I’m cramping, seriously I am cramping? I never cramp, OMG the sharp pains shooting through my stomach. Is this what you women go through every month? Holy crap I love all of you then for putting up with our shit when you are experiencing this. Wait, what is going here, do I need to take a dump? I can’t do that out here, what if it is diarrhea, I can’t wipe, I am going to have fire ass the rest of the race, I can’t run with fire ass. OMG this pain hurts and I stop and I am doubled over in the trail. Now that I am bent over my back starts hurting, yes my low back. Now everything is failing…WTF!! My groin hurts in the creases so I start stretching that area out, I then do some lunges because my legs have joined this pity party and while I am there I might as well crack my back. Ahh okay better. Okay the cramps are going away, thank god.
Okay T (that is what I call myself in my head), you have to get moving to get the laps in, you can’t quit yet. So I start off and instantly I feel this fire in my crotch. Okay no sugar coating it, my balls are on fire. I don’t know what the hell is going on, but it is like they are rubbing against my legs and trying to start a fire. The pain was like a 7 at least. Holy crap that is not the burning sensation a man ever needs to feel period. No clue at this point what that is but it slowly goes away. Then I start with the gas. All I can think after the cramping is oh God please let these be farts and not sharts. I don’t want to be like that guy who has shit all over his pants during a race. I think it is just gas, it must have been, because I have to tell you, this lap my times were back in the good. The mile after all of this was a 14:35. Those had to be my jet fuel farts!
So I come into the aid station again and basically collapse. I am taking on all fluids I can and trying to get stuff in me to live. I tell Mike (Mike Boone saved my life by giving me a water bottle and then having it filled on every lap! Thank you brother!) this is going to be my last lap, I don’t think I can physically do it. I drink more Coco-Cola and a handful of M&M’s, more pedialite, water, salt tabs and gels. Oh yeah and then there is Maynard sitting in a chair cheering me on. “Good job” he says, “you got this” he mutters and then as I am drinking and eating, he asks me if I want bacon and pancakes. Oh yeah, he is there with a full plate just mowing down. He stopped at 6 laps because he was cramping. Good thing we have this love/hate relationship because I wanted shove that bacon down his pie hole!
We are over 4 hours in; I have 21 miles down and averaging about 15 min/miles. Once again I head out into the darkness.
You know that saying “The Struggle is Real”, well it was absolutely real here. Lap nine I am barely upright, my knee hurts so bad I think that something was terribly wrong with it. My feet are killing me, my left calf is starting to twinge a little, not cramping yet but it really wants to that bastard. So I start moving again, I have to get back closer to 5am then to 5:30am if I am going to have a shot at two more laps. I know, I know, I said I was done, but screw that I set 30 miles a goal, “go for it fucker” you are so close. I start my run hobble, and then no shit, like ½ mile in it all hits me again. The cramps, this time it is worse, I actually fall to my knees on a bench on the trail. You know I haven’t even pissed since I started this, which I thought was odd, but dang it, why didn’t I try to crap back at the bathrooms at the aid station. Seriously I can’t go in the woods. Okay I am a dumbass, it’s the Coca-Cola. It didn’t start until you drank that crap. So I started breathing to myself and it went away last time, you just have to move no sitting. Then the fire balls decided they wanted back in on the action. I mean how can you only hurt part of the time? I seriously think I could start a campfire with the heat down there right now.
Onward damn it! We have to get back, have to steal the last lap. If nothing else I want to get that damn 26 miles in, it would be a marathon…kind of. So the rest of the lap is my hobbling around in the dark with a shitty headlamp, going extremely slow downhill because if hurts to take a step down and trying to just keep moving on the straightaways and power walking up the hills.
Thankfully I had plenty of motivation. No need to give shout outs, but there was someone who I wanted nothing more then to make them proud of me. I was inspired to do this just because it is way out of my comfort zone and sometimes you need to do that to prove to yourself you can do EPIC shit. So I had to finish what I started even if it killed me. I make it back to the aid station, it is 5:25 and I slam a water bottle, grab a second headlight and I head out into the darkness. Lap nine completed 23 miles down, still working about a 16 min/mile pace.
The rules are if you are out of the aid station area by 5:59:59, then that lap will count. So All I have to do is get back quickly. I was watching my pace I was watching my pace a lot and it varied from 14:30 to 15 depending on which section I was on. So I had already done nine stinking laps, I grabbed the extra headlight because I wanted to light up that damn trail because I was tired and I knew I was going to push it, I was going to give it all I had to get back to get the bonus lap which would get me 30 miles. Guess what no cramps! Eff You Coca-Cola!! Never drinking you again!
At this point all I can say is that everything is mind over matter, pain will go away and I am not going to die so I need to do this. I have to do this. I put down the first ½ mile and I was feeling good considering, I was at my target pace and then the wheels fell off. My right foot slammed hard into a tree root stubbing all my toes seemingly at the same time. Then the left foot followed suit right beside it and slammed hard into the root. Somehow I didn’t fall but it was a good trip. The pain was so intense I took a knee. It was here that I knew I was finished. I couldn’t run, my toes were not working, and the pain was so much it hurt to just take steps. I told myself to just move, so move I tried. I wasn’t going to make it and I was extremely bummed. I felt like I had a chance.
Now my music is telling me to “don’t give up”, “One more, just one more”, “you’ve got to move it, move it” oh hell shut up already, if I could move it, move it, I would damn it. Now the burning balls are back. Apparently they only burn when I am walking or moving slow, so the last two miles sucked righteous ass. I hobbled for two miles, until I got to the road, then I decided to run, it had to be about ½ mile left but I was tired of walking and I wanted this to be over. So I did my best and it was ugly and painful.
I finished at 6:16:10 and officially ran 26.9 miles. I should take pride in my accomplishment, but I still shake my head thinking about what could have been if I would have been able to go for it. I learned a lot about myself, in the dark running on a poorly lit trail with a crappy headlight at 3AM. I would not trade this experience for anything either, I ran farther than I have ever done in my life and it felt good.
Toes – So I ended up draining my ring toe on the right foot with fluid under the nail, on the tip of my toe and on top of the toe. That little guy hit hard.
Fire Balls – were a result of extreme chaffing from the mesh in my shorts. So yes, I won’t ever wear those kind of shorts ever again. Some lotion and the boys are all fine.
Knee – resting it for a few days seemed to do the trick.
Feet – I learned to not wear two pair of socks, I think this caused my feet to cram into my shoes and made the whole experience hell in the later miles.
My name is Travis and I talk to strangers