Thursday, October 29, 2009

My 106 Mile Journey

106 Miles in 24 Hrs. for 6th overall finisher

Oct. 24 - 25 weekend was the San Francisco One Day run. The weekend is concluded and was simply incredible, I'll be updating this little story as my memory and muscles return.

To give you a very general synopsis though here is some info to ponder:

Consumed During Event
• 10 Gel Packets
• 5 Shot Blocks
• 600 Mg. of Caffeine
• 4 Sandwiches
• 10 S Caps
• 3 Cans of Coke
• 1 Bowl of Meatballs and Pasta Marinara
• 1 Bowl Turkey and Pasta Soup
• 4 Gallons of Water
• 1 Cream Cheese Bagels
• 1 Double Shot Vente Starbucks
• 1lb of assorted soft Candy
• 2 Crew members
• Infinite = Amount of patience my crew had
• 20 Emails I received and read by lamplight while running
• 40 is Approximate number of laps I have no recollecton of
• 2 Days post race before I could walk on my own (Tuesday)

• Burned Approx. 15,000 Calories
• 4Lbs is the amount of weight I lost in those 24 hours
• 4 Shoe Changes
• 2 Clothing Changes
• 400 Right Turns (rectangular shaped course)
• 10 Minutes was the longest stop
• 0 is number of times I stopped to sleep
• 13 ½ Min./Mile Average
• 14Hrs a new 100K PR
• 22 Hrs. 22 Min. a new 100 Mile PR
• 24 Hrs a new 24Hour run PR
• 1.06 Miles is Distance of each lap
• 100 laps Completed
• 106 Miles total completed
• 106 Miles is distance my wife made me drive home to see how far it really is (Sun Valley/Burbank – Oceanside)

Post Race Events:
• Lunch = 2 Double Doubles from In-N-Out and 3 Beers
• Slept for 6 Hrs. post lunch
• Dinner = 2 Servings BBQ Tri Tip, 1 Baked Potato, 2 Slices Apple Pie, 1 Slice Chocolate Cake, 3 More Beers
• Slept 9 More hours post dinner

My 106 Mile journey….
I really can’t thank everyone enough for their support and thoughts while I fulfilled a very important personal goal for myself. This past weekend I completed a 24 Hr race in San Francisco. It was a day of many firsts, particularly that I ran (with no sleep or major breaks) 106 Miles all at once. It’s somewhat hard to give you a synopsis of the day as it unfolded but I’ll try.

I’ve been to SF many times and already find it to be an enjoyable place, and I’m familiar with most of the scenery which was good in a way because it allowed me to focus on the necessities and mental planning for the race. Upon arriving at Crissy Field it looked to be a typical Ultra, it’s a lot of the same faces you typically see and not much fanfare. If you ever get into the sport of Ultra Running and need the glitz-n-glamour of a big money Marathon… forget about it because you won’t find it at these races, These are people who look to set personal goals and challenges and it’s not about the recognition or money that’s for sure. It’s also a big reason why I love being around these folks. These are people with day jobs and see the realities of the day to day world but yet are not afraid to venture out. These are people who like a sense of family and human empathy, we help each other.

Anyways, Leslie and I get to the field no problem at about 8:00am after getting about 4 hours of restless sleep. Check-in for the race took all of about 3 minutes since it’s only 65 of us and all we got to do is get a transponder and T-shirt. Since it’s a 24 hour event nobody is rushing to get started and we still have almost an hour so I decide we’re gonna go grab some Starbucks and breakfast. We're back at Crissy Field about 8:45am and all the runners gather to listen to the RD which is typical last minute run info. No surprises he announces, we are having a perfect weather day for running and setting new Course Records (CR) which I think they had 3 broken this weekend. In addition two runners qualified for the USA 24 Hr Racing Team; Brian Krogmann and Suzanna Bonn.. Congrats to both of them!

I wade into cluster of folks with my Ultra friend Norm Haines. He’s done this before not to mention he is also a Badwater 135 Finisher, so in essence I’m in good hands with his advice and companionship for a while. Norm and I get started and run a few laps together and although we had similar goals I was still worried about getting some miles in the bank. I know that the cardinal rule is DON’T try to bank time early in the race, this should be no exception but I was going off my concern that it was still a crapshoot whether I could finish 100 miles. My theory was that keep a faster than usual pace for the first 50 miles and have enough time that if I really bonked at that point I would still have plenty of time to stop and nap or eat to recover. I’m happy to say that everything went perfect and the faster pace I took off with totally helped me and I never lost my nutrition or muscle energy.

After a couple of laps my twin brother Anthony showed which now completed my Crew. My SUPERB CREW (and I cannot ever over-emphasis how awesome they were for me, I wish they could have gotten a medal themselves) Leslie and Anthony are now in force and working together to get themselves settled in for the long haul of 24 hours. Prior to the event I built out spreadsheet and charts for them to follow. My goals were very clear and it also provided them with some of my specific nutrition needs, and the types of encouragement I would need along the way. These charts came in really handy for me so I’ve posted a copy here… Who knows maybe someone else will find this helpful for their first hundred.

If you ever do a distance race I highly reccomend you get a crew and treat them like royalty before and after the event because they are going to take a lot of gruff from you and they have a pretty demanding job.

So anyways, the race itself was terrific and I had one of those days where everything just went right. I'm really excited at the overall outcome and also thank my good fortune that my mind and body stayed in-tact and moving forward the whole time. Running this type of distance was completely new to me since the furthest I've gone on record so far is 50 Miles (Avalon 50 '07). Which actually felt ok so I knew that 50+ was feasible, I just didn't know how much beyond that my body would take me.

The first about 20 miles or so were pretty plain as most runners settled in to the pace and did the initial set of camaraderie. This time was also taken by the top competitors to feel out the competition and see what everyone's goals and hopes are. For some of these front runners that is a well kept secret sometimes.
Although the race supplies the initial Aid Station for each lap, many runners bring their own boxes of elixirs and potions... even me. We filled up on the staple from the aid station but then as you run down the corridor of lunch boxes, coolers, tents, boxes and such, you see all the specific things that each other runner has. This is the part where non Ultra runners get a kick. You see things like Hoagies, Colas, Candy, Cheese, and a myriad of delicious food. You will even note from my list of edibles I went through a lot of food. Seeing as I have a high metabolism rate I need to be constantly fueling and so it's more important that I continue eating anything. Since the pace is slower and I'll be out there for a long time my body has time to burn that food into fuel. It's totally different from my marathon nutrition which is one of the things that make it fun.

Another amusing day time activity that helped us stay smiling and amused was the reaction of the locals and tourists. Since Crissy Field is open and attracts many of the local runners for their daily jogs we were often getting asked what kind of event was going on. The race just had some small orange cones set up and a small 8x11 sheet of paper with the words "12 & 24 hour Event in progress", and naturally people stopped us to indulge their curiosity. I never hesitated to stop and talk to people as I found the reactions amusing. One guy when I responded that we are running laps for 12 or 24 hours by ourselves he asked if this was even physically possible. I was happy to respond with "that's what I'm going to find out for myself.. I'll see you tomorrow". He then looked down on the bib to see the "24 Hour" label and retorted "I see you're in the 24 hour, that's crazy"; I think all he could do was shake his head and continue along since he could not possibly fathom the non-stop run some of us were hoping to accomplish. I don't blame him as I think I would be just as flabbergasted.
So there you have it, the day time running was pretty great with excellent weather conditions and I was able to put in about 40 miles before hitting sundown. I wanted a milestone before my first sitting break so I made that magic number 51 miles since this would represent my new longest challenge yet. When I finally sat to eat a sandwich and do a shoe change, it felt soooooo good! to be off my feet even if for a short moment of time. Something I had given my crew was rules to treat and guide me by. One of them was don't ever let me sit longer than 15 minutes. Turns out my longest sit was 10 minutes, which was at 51 miles for my sandwich. Everything else consumed was while in motion.

Nightfall was interesting now because truly many first's were being experienced here. First interesting thing to note was that all the 12 hour folks were done at 9pm and they had their awards ceremony. I thought it funny that there background ambience of their awards was the 24 hour people who kept running by. It was also great because my mom and her man Thomas actually drove up from San Jose just to watch me do a few laps. This is what makes mom's so cool, they are always watching out for you. I did not really need any aid at that point but she still brought up extra water, cookies and other food as well as hugs and encouragement. I know she was really proud of me and when she looked firsthand what was going on it just made that time with her even more precious during those laps I could see her cheering me forward, while at the same time also wondering how we are accomplishing this no stop routine of running (even I still don't know how we do it).

At nightfall though I think a lot of the 24 hr runners were hitting their pre-determined milestones and began to create what I thought of as the "path of carnage". After crossing our timing mat and then the one aid station, we had about maybe 75 feet of a single track width path, which was littered on both sides with all the runners gear and personal aid tables and stuff. Getting into late night hours and wee hours of morning this path also started to accumulate runners sleeping and just too tired to move on. They laid in awkward positions with some looking like they planned to stop and had bundled in bags and blankets, while others just simply had not anticipated the possibility of stopping and you could see those folks scrambling for warmth anywhere they could get it and usually ended up curling into a ball. Many of these returns did not continue any more even when the sunrise, whereas some came back to life and notched out another few hours of running.
It was a site to see but also made me long for the chance to stop and do the same, I had to really push myself to go forward. This was the other rule I gave my crew... "No Sleeping!" Whenever I complained about wanting to stop or rest, they were to allow me a chair but never for more than 10 minutes. I'm so lucky though that they never had to push this rule too much because I had been consuming so many products with caffeine that I could not sleep no matter how much I tried.
With about maybe 10-15 runners left going through the night we were all reduced to a jog or shuffle just to eek out whatever miles we could until the sun came back up. I don't think I have ever longed for the sunrise more than during those 8 or 9 hours of solitary darkness. The course was just long enough and far enough from city lights that you really did feel alone , aside from passing or being passed by another runner. I opted to also use a headlamp which I'm glad I did if for nothing else to make sure the Raccoons were a safe obstacle. I never realized how big and scary they are at night, and always in a pack of three or four. When your mind is not functioning at full even Raccoons are an odd and somewhat fragile obstacle to find.
Up to this point I had Anthony doing a bunch of laps with me which was nice to have some company. In fact when it was really awesome was right before sundown when I could not find any Espresso gels and he veered off and ran to a sporting goods store, returning by the next lap with a bag full of goos and gels! Awesome! As much that I hate taking these gel packs I knew that the calories and caffeine were really needed.

Now that I'm engulfed in night-time, my body and soul is reaching new places for me. I was going through frequent bouts of being happy, sad, frustrated, disbelief and who knows what else. Though my crew really wanted to help out at this point because they could apparently see the shift in mood and attitude I had to politely explain I needed to be alone. So for the freaky night hours I re-invented myself and though of all those people and my running club that surrounded me in thought. It was a really nice chance for me to feel whole again and see what life was all about. No matter what feelings I went through I know I had to go through it and there were no shortcuts tonight, it was time to work it out and I'm thankful for the opportunity and experience. I knew that friends were thinking of me and really pushing for me. I had friends that wanted to be there but had other priorities, I knew though the whole time they were with me in thought. Word of advice to others is that it really did help to share my goal. I was quire reluctant to share such a loft commitment for fear that I may not do it or they would lack the understanding and personal importance to me. Turns out none of that is true and all the people I shared my goals with were completely excited and genuine about wanting me to do well. The important part was that I realized they did not care about what I actually did that day and night at the race but would be behind me no matter where I ended up in mileage totals. To all those friends and family that sent the emails it made the difference between me quitting and moving forward so my hats off to you for keeping it going. I hope that each of you can take a small moment of pride in knowing what you helped make possible.

The really rough part for me I guess was post imagination/hallucination time. I'll try to give you a visual. I think before I really got used to my headlamp it was hard to make out the shadows until you got right up next to whatever the object was. I'm sure when you hit fatigue and tunnel vision, both of which I clearly had by now, your mind starts taking that space of your brain you can no longer think with and fills it in with make believe. My most interesting moments were when the trees became giant people and they were crowding along the sidewalk cheering me on. On one side I was thrilled to have all these people cheering for me, and since no one else was out there I knew it was just for me. It did seem odd to me how big these people were but I did not want to complain since any cheerleader is a good cheerleader. The other oddity that I can't quite possibly figure out was the cement wall that was erected over the waters of the bay that blocked all shipping container access to and from the SF harbors. It was weird but I guess you had to be in my head to really understand that one, that image held me for several laps by the way. For many of those laps I had tried to figure out how did they build that so quickly since it was not there this morning.. and how in engineering marvels did it suspend above the water. About this time I can realize I'm emotionally breaking down (ya' think!) and really thought many many times of quitting, especially because I had convinced myself it was not possible for me to get 100 miles in. In basic terms I think you could just say I was wasted at that point physically and emotionally. It took absolutely everything I had to even want to continue no matter how slow that would be.. just keep moving forward... I profess that to my club runners all the time so it was high time I took my own verbal medicine and dig in! For several hours during the day I kept trying to force my crew to go sleep or at least take a nap in the tent. Finally Leslie did go back to the hotel for a few hours of rest and although Anthony claims to have taken a nap in the tent which we used our aid station, I don't think he really did. He knew it's what I wanted and tried to honor it, but I know he most likely saw me every single time I went by and had a silent moment of "Go twin bro go!"

So now came one of the highlights of the full journey. Keeping in mind I was pretty much mentally done, I came around for yet another lap and spotted the tent with Anthony and Leslie standing there. I had convinced each of them to take a nap or quick sleep because I knew somewhere along the trip I would really need them there for me. Well now was the time I guess because when I rounded the corner to see them after a few hours of complete solitude, I went straight over to Leslie for a big bear hug and just welled up with tears and gratification to have this kind of person and support in my life. From then on I just decided to kick ass and take whatever laps my good fortune would let me. I felt almost refreshed (well as much that you can be after about 80 miles) and picked myself up off the floor figuratively of course, and started running... I kind of had a Forrest Gump moment and just kept running for no particular reason, I just felt like running. Wouldn't you know it that after having so many miles I could still pick my feet up and actually produce a non-shuffling run. I was stoked! My other good sign was that in just the next two laps after seeing Leslie and Anthony I spotted four shooting stars and decided to run a few miles without my headlamp letting the sky direct me. Wow!

The rest of the laps were slow and just simply waiting for the sun to come up. I think it was right around that time I knew that my 100 mile goal was completely realistic and boy did I want that bad. When I crossed the lap counter and had 99 miles, I told my crew to sit tight because this moment was all worth it and I continued to simply walk that entire mile for no other reason than to savory one of the sweetest victories I've had to date. I completed 100 Miles in 22 Hrs. and 22 Min. A new PR for sure. Of course with victory laps comes the turkey head. I promised my Ragnar team the Turkey would make a presence and indeed he did for both miles 51 and 101, both victory laps in their own right. Anthony and Leslie also joined me for the 101 victory lap and I'll never forget how amazed all three of us were at that moment what had just been accomplished. It was a very emotional lap for all three of us but somehow I know they were holding some of it back.. but it was there and the best part is that space in time of that one mile lap is a memento I will have forever and will become fuel the next time I think of quitting. They were saying things like "I knew you would do it", "I can't believe it"... This race produced many moments that I can never convey probably but for the three of us there and even the rest of the runners.. they know... we are all family.

And now comes in the final rule I issued to my crew. If I was lucky enough to still be standing after 100 miles and had time on the clock, you were absolutely not to let me stop no matter what! 100 Miles was an awesome goal but I still had to know if I had it in me to run for 24 hours. With the sun coming up you get a whole new inspiration and renew of energy, it's an incredibly welcome site. Getting to watch my second sunrise come up over the Palace of Fine Arts and being mesmerized by the beauty of Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge they did not have to work too hard to convince me I could totally surpass 100 miles. When you have the combination of believing in yourself and others believe in you, feats of grand scale are accomplished... But first, you MUST want it for yourself because nobody can do this for you, this is all you!

For the last hour and a half I picked up the pace if you can imagine that and slugged out another 6 miles. I completed 24 hours of running while also accomplishing a new 100K PR, 100 Mile PR, and my first 24 Hr run which of course also makes a PR. This was good enough for 5th place Male and 6th place overall of 63 finishers. It also got me listed in the Ultrarunner website as they post the top 5 Male and Female finishers! Woot: How frikkin' awesome is that icing on the cake.
My most memorable moments of the race were that the race had a system setup where anyone could email you and as you round the lap counter they hand you email. I received Email from about 5pm Saturday - 2am Sunday and had some doozies in there! They were all perfect and some had "Wise" words of wisdom and Coaching advice, while others were great for entertaining with their jokes and riddles, plus even a new Chuck Norris joke I had not heard yet. Then others were the perfect level of cruelty like "I think I'm drunk now", and "I'm gonna snuggle up with a nice IPA and book". The emails of course will be integrated into my personal 'Running Wall' at home. Make sure next time your over come and check it out.
The other memorable moment was completely underestimating how quickly your legs can seize from being able to move or bend. Due to the gravel I was getting a lot or pebbles that had to be shooed out my shoes (see 106 miles and I can still joke, I made stops to take them off and check the toes were still there. Also I was getting some aches and pains in my feet and had to switch up the shoes several times to give my arches a break. Problem is that after 60 or so miles any stop I made whether to grab food or change shoes I found it almost crippling to try moving my legs again. I swear that each time I left from a completely stop I looked like a very badly oiled Tin Man from Wizard of Oz.
Quick pieces of advice for me or anyone else that wants to experiment:
* Monkey Butt powder in the socks and on the foot. Great moisture wicking and a nice dry lubricant to ease the burden of blisters
* Caffeine
*Over pack! I took a lot of clothes and really glad I did
*Gators if I do this again
*Ginger candy

Well that about sums it up so until next time Happy Trails out there,


Alaskan Assassin said...

Great job out there!!

106 miles is incredible.

Vivek Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vivek Kumar said...

Awesome - congratulations. 106 miles is insane. I was just happy with my 52 miles -