Sole Challenge 24 HR / Staying calm when things go wrong (early).
My wife, Jessica and I ran our second Sole Challenge 24 HR race over the weekend. The race is held at the busy Norlo Park in Chambersburg, PA, on a 1.547 mile asphalt walking path, Prior to our race there was the “Color Your Sole 5k” that was held in 2 waves starting at 8:00 and 9:00. People of all shapes and sizes lined up and were hosed down by a fire truck and ran / walked 2 laps of our course while twice passing 5 color zones. As this was going on, the 40 or so ultra runners were setting up our awnings and tents for a long day. In the second wave, a very heavy man was being coached along by another man, and he was struggling to run. As he passed us ultrarunners, we stood and cheered him on since we appreciated the obvious effort he was making. When he finished, he came over to our area and thanked us for encouraging him and said he had already lost 50 pounds and he was intimidated at first to run in front of people who were going to run for 6-12-24 hours. He told us his goal was to run the 6 HR event next year, and as he left many of us had tears in our eyes. I know we make fun of mud/tough/color runs some times, but I saw 300 people who weren’t on their couches that morning and had a fun day.
Leading up to the race I had a strong winter and spring training season and had done several 35-45 mile weekends in preparation. Jess had her strongest training yet, and had done several 22+ milers but did not do the B2B long runs due to her schedule. 18 days before the race, I stepped on a fence nail with my right foot, and after infection, medication and a minor clean-out it was mending slowly. It meant my usual taper was thrown out the door, since I didn’t run for almost 10 days, and when I started again I had to take it easy due to foot tenderness. Pre-race, foot was not an issue.
Last year, our daughter, Emily sang the National Anthem, but she is away all summer taking classes, so Jess stepped in and did a beautiful job of covering for our talented daughter (thank God the kids didn’t get my musical ability). We lined up near the back, and at 10:00 am we were off. All 3 events (6-12-24 HR) started at the same time, and as usual several people took off from the start as Jess and I fell into the back of the pack and planned on a very easy few laps. The course is dumbbell shaped with 2 circles connected by a 300m straightaway. The straightaway was nice because you could see people and talk and receive encouragement along the way.
"Dumbbell" shaped course.
In the race were a few big names including Kami Semick (Past world Champion at 50k and 100k) who, since the course is USATF Certified, was signed up for the 12 hour hoping to break some records along the way. Juli Aistars (the only woman to finish the 500k Vol State Run), and Anita Fromm (43 year old running veteran with 125 ultra finishes). The men had Jim Sweeney (14:14 100 mile PR at Umstead, and several race wins at age 34), Ron Martin (52 year old marathoner with a few ultra race wins) and last years winner Peter Morgan.
After a few laps, Jess and I settled in to our plan of keeping together for a while and then moving at our own pace. The day was humid and sunny and heating up and the course has 0% shade. After about 8 laps I was really feeling the heat (82 degrees), and was slowing. I reached 10 laps (25k) at 2:52 a bit ahead schedule but during that lap I was getting tingling in my fingers and felling a bit dizzy and had some heart palpitations. (I’ve had Hashimoto’s disease for 10 years and take a high dose of thyroid medication. Heat is not my friend, and unfortunately, I‘ve had these symptoms before.) I stopped into the medical area and saw my friend Dr. “M” and asked him to check my BP and pulse. My BP was up (for me) and my pulse was much higher than it should have been, so I sat and rested for about 30-35 minutes while Jess continued to move on. I had a chamois bandana and wrapped ice in it and was feeling better, so with Dr. M’s approval I was off at a slower pace. Now here is where the day turned. I knew my race goal (108 miles) was out of the question, I made the choice to accept my current pace and wait for cooler temperatures at night and put in the best I could that day. I actually thought of previous RR’s, including FTYC’s report from Oil Creek, and Kelly’s latest report about dealing with things that go wrong. My resolve was to make the best of the situation and enjoy the race that I had trained for. I plodded along for a few hours, resting frequently and made 50k around 6:40.
This was from last year's RR / Same course, different day. (Would have loved some of that cloud cover this year).
Then, a sign from above. A stray rain storm passed over about 7 hours into the race and we had about 40 minutes of clouds and light drizzle for 2 glorious laps. Dr. M said “boy you look like a new man” and he was right, the drop in temperature (from 82 to 67 degrees) was incredible.
Since I was so caught up in keeping myself in the race, I failed to notice until later what carnage the sun and heat had brought to the race. 2 (of the 10) 6 HR runners had dropped before 5 hours including the leading woman. 5 (out of 14) 12 HR runners didn’t make it to 10 hours before stopping, including Kami who dropped at 5 hours after 41 miles (records were safe). I walked with Kami for a bit and she was having the same symptoms that slowed me down. She said she had not had any hot runs yet this year and surprised by the heat and humidity.
As night was approaching, several runners were slowing down and many were walking. I however, felt like the race was just starting, and began to embrace the cooler evening. I had my headlamp on, but only used it to warn other runners that I was approaching. Before 10 pm, I came through the S/F area and the race leader, Jim Sweeney, was sitting in a chair being attended by his Mom/crew. I jokingly said “no Jim, not the chair of death” and he said “it is today, I’m done”. He dropped at 11:10 into the race with over 71 miles.
The night was mostly a blur. Jess and I passed each other, she was doing well keeping to her plan of resting after every few laps. I stopped once for a long break to tend to some small but nagging blisters on my left foot and to wait for some hot chocolate. The temperature was cool and I had a vest and long sleeve shirt on. I help sponsor the race, and knew almost all of the volunteers, and this was a great help for me when I would come to the ½ way check point or the S/F area and get a bit of extra encouragement.
Pre-dawn now, and the sun was staring to come up, and we could hear the birds chirping and a rooster in the distance, I caught up with Jess and we walked most of a lap together, and after 28 years of marriage, it’s nice to still have moment like these. A few runners were climbing out of their cars or tents after taking extended naps and the 20 or so of us who were still left were cheering each other on to finish what was started.
Then things changed again. After 20 hours, I came through the S/F area and the timer said “hey you’ve moved up to 6th overall and 3rd male (at one point, I was as low as 18th). I said “no way, that can’t be right”. He confirmed that it was right, and that I the 4th place guy was ½ lap back. The race was on! I had no idea who was chasing me, but I knew I was being chased. I stared running some of my fastest laps since the first few hours, and looking around for who might be chasing me. At 22 hours, I came in right behind a guy and saw on the TV display that he was “the one“, but instead of loosing ground, I was now a full lap ahead. The timer made a point of letting us both know we were fighting it out for 3rd, and he took off. I waited since I had the advantage and stalked him for a lap. I decided that I didn’t like the role of stalker and that I wanted to continue to run “my race“. I passed him and pushed the pace not wanting to let up. I ran the hill that we had walked the lap before and when I turned the corner, his head was down and he was walking. I kept running and was moving at a solid pace and just wanted to finish all 24 hours. My 55th lap split was as fast as my 7th lap split, and with just a few minutes to go, I picked up my stake to run as much of a final lap as possible. I make it over ½ mile in the final 5 minutes and the horn sounded and I put my ankle band on the stake, I was done.
Officially 85.64 miles (Garmin has 87.67) for 3rd place and $50 cold hard cash. Jess finished with 72.26 miles, which was a 20 mile distance PR for her. Garmin had me moving for 20:30 of the 24 hours, which definitely fits my early race rests and my long blister stop. Elevation was 3300’ which is about 60’ per lap. I’m told this is a bit high for a 24 hour timed event.
Swag Shot - "show me the money"
3 hours into a 24 hour race is way too early to throw it all away. I could have limped along or slept in the tent or rationalized it away, but this was my only event until September, so I accepted the pace that the day had given and regrouped when I had the chance. I was not the 3rd fasted male runner, I was the 3rd male runner who adapted and continued. I didn’t whine, I didn’t complain or feel sorry, and for that I proved a lot to myself about what I can accomplish. I also proved I still have a little competitive fire in me and was happy I responded to a new challenge when pushed after 20 hours.
Peter repeated the overall with 125.63 miles. He threw up 2 times and looked like hell, but he told me he really was motivated to defend his title and he is a true champion. Anita won the woman’s overall with 116.99 miles beating last year’s winner by 8 miles and setting a new woman’s course record. Besides those two, distances were way down from last years efforts.
I wore Altra Olympus shoes the whole race and only had problem with blisters on the left foot. I changed socks 4 times, due to moisture, and wore Drymax. I managed my nutrition and hydration pretty well all day. I used Tailwind for about 13 hours and switched to water and electrolytes after because I was tired of the taste. At that point I was using some sold food and I also had 2 Slimfast’s (has always worked for me) at some point.
I was 194 pounds before the race (6’ tall) and 191 when I got home (5'8" ). Jess lost 6 pounds, and had a few low points with her nutrition when she said she “just forgot to eat”.
Still not sure if I like these 24 HR things, but I do like the camaraderie and support that you get by seeing your fellow runner over and over again around the loop. All I know is I won’t be running on asphalt for a while as I head back to my true love, the woods.
Congratulations! I'm not sure about these 24 hour things either, but I think I'll do a few more and see if I can figure them out. I think when factoring the conditions, you really had a great race. I hope you have a fast and full recovery.
Nice work to you and Jessica. I'm glad you stuck it out and finished.
Are we there yet?
I think there's a few lessons in there for me. Thanks for sharing and congratulations!
2016 Goals: Exceed 100K in a 24-Hour race, run more trail races (2 currently scheduled)
Thanks, Kelly. I thought of you during the race because you would knock this course right out of the park.
Walking steps and moving pretty good today, and no signs of injury / damage.
George, I know you are worried about the heat for your race. The icey bandanna worked beautifully. I was pretty good on hydration, but should have throttled back the pace earlier than I did. I also should have had one more sock change / foot check, because the sweat was running down my legs and socks got a bit wet.
Great job, especially with those conditions! The past couple days of heat have been VERY rough for me and I haven't even run more than 8 miles at a time. Good job pushing through and placing 3rd!
My Blog: trailsandcocktails.com
I Run for Oiselle
Hyner 50k: 4/18/15
Laurel Highlands 70M: 6/13/15
Thanks, Jon. DW said I only recovered because I was mad she was ahead of me. She's might be right.
Thanks, Dani. Your weather is pretty much the same as ours, except we cool off a bit more at night. I do better when acclimated, but still don't tolerate the heat very well. That's why I usually just run 50k at Labor Pains because that race always seems to be hot and sticky (that and it gives me more time to drink beer at the Liederkranz).
Great job, AT. If was fun watching you and your wife. You both seemed to be smiling the whole time and there was a lot of sad faces going on. Rick said he thought you were done after 3 hours and you really surprised him with your comeback.
running under the BigSky
Congrats to you and your DW! Heat and humidity (luckily humidity is not usually a problem here) are killers for me, I need to make an effort to train more in the heat of the day- it's just sooooo hard
I think I know what Kelly would be doing with the $50 after the race! just part of the recovery
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”
It is amazing to me how a rain storm and a drop in temps can totally change your day for the better. Heat gets me, too. But I live in the right place to conquer it. Congrats on your race. You did very well to stick it out.
Thanks. Yea, Rick told me when he saw me in medical area that he thought I was a gonner. I was happy to prove the RD wrong.
mtwarden and LB2 - Thanks. In retrospect, my thyroid condition probably alerted me sooner than some of the other runners about overheating. I know my heat symptoms well, and for me, it always starts with tingling in my finger tips.
The rain was amazing. The drop in temperature gave me a boost like I had taken in caffeine.
The $50 will go to dinner tonight. DW and I are going out for wings and a beer or two. A good friend showed up with a hour to go in the race and helped us pack our stuff, so we're taking him out as well.
(Is there a way to highlight multiple quotes in a post?)
Follower of Forrest
Wow, that race report had a little of everything. I liked that you were willing to drop your mileage goal when confronted with reality. Awesome comeback. Great job demoralizing 4th place...I'm sure when you charged up that hill he knew his day was over. Congrats on the big $$$ too...nothing beats cash! Very cool that your wife set such a big mileage PR, you guys need to find a couples 24 hour and compete as a team (if that doesn't exist it should). Congrats and thanks for the RR!
6/21 - Manitou's Revenge 54mi
A man may never run the same trail twice for it is not the same trail and he is not the same man