Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pickled feet: 6 hours of . . . fun?

"Why are you running in circles?"
"You PAID for this!"
"Ferry to crazy town leaves in 5 minutes"

These were just a few of the signs posted on the 2.5 mile loop that people signed up to run for 6, 12, 24, or 48 hours.

When I first heard of this race, I thought it sounded nuts, and I thought there was no chance I would do it.  The idea of running the same 2.5 mile loop over and over for hours on end did not sound remotely appealing.  Part of what I love about trail running is never quite knowing what you're going to find around the next bend.  In this case you would eventually know exactly what you find around each bend, and this sounded extremely monotonous, and not one bit fun.  Not to mention that it was FLAT! What kind of a challenge is that?  I enjoy measuring runs in elevation gained rather than miles.  Thus, after hours of toil, this run would add up to about ZERO using my measurement of choice.

It turned out I was wrong on all accounts!

This race ended up being one of the most fun races I have run.  Rather than monotonous, the 2.5 mile loop was really cool in several ways:
-2.5 miles is short enough that you hit a well stocked aid station (I'll get back to how well stocked in a bit) every 20 to 30 minutes, eliminating the need to carry any water or food.
-2.5 miles is long enough that the mileage seems to add up quickly.  6 laps around I felt like I was still just getting started, but I was already 15 miles in!
-Since you could run the loop in either direction, you end up passing everyone a lot of times.  It's a small enough race that by the end you recognize everyone you pass and get to cheer each other on a lot.  It was super inspiring to see some of the 48 hour runners clicking off laps at a faster pace than me!  It was also super inspiring to see the wide range of folks out there getting after it, and seeing what they're made of!  There were people of all ages and sizes running the race.  Big people, little people, old people, and young people.  The youngest was a 7 year girl who managed to click off 23 miles in the 6 hour race, amazing!!!

Eating 7 year-old dust!
When my foot that I injured in the Wilson Creek 50K finally got well enough to run on (albeit with some extra cushy shoes) a few weeks ago, I decided to sign up for the 6 hour race to give myself a short term goal to train for.  True, I'd only have a few weeks to prepare (all the while trying not to re-injure my foot), but hey, it's a flat course, how hard could it be?

To train, I forced myself to do at least a few of my runs on flat, non-mountainous courses.  The longest run I did to get ready was about 12 miles.  This was woefully inadequate to prepare for a race of this length, but once again I relied on my ignorance to tell me that the course was flat, and so would be easy.

The night before the 6-hour race I volunteered at the course aid station.  The 48 hour runners had already been going about 24 hours at that point.  It was fun getting to know them as they came around. Their race was long enough that most of them didn't seem to mind stopping to chat for a couple minutes as they ate, before departing on another 2.5 mile loop.  One guy named Sam was running in a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and a lei.  Another guy named Tony would stop to chat for awhile each time around, and would then zip off with a giant camera around his shoulder, only to reappear amazingly fast for another break.  He was speedy, even though he stopped to take lots of pictures!  Then there were the real speed demons, Davy, David, and Jayk, who would come blasting through the aid station at breakneck speeds as if they were almost to the finish line (and I suppose they were almost at the actual finish line, every time they came around).  Jayk ended up running 184 miles, with David in 2nd at 164.  Amazing!

The aid station food that we were serving was pretty awesome!  In addition to all the usual stuff (Gu, PB&J, M&Ms) we served lots of fresh sliced fruit (pineapple, watermelon, banana, strawberry . . .), about 10 pounds of Chinese Food, and even an awesome cheesecake from DaVince's!  Supposedly breakfast burritos were served in the morning.  The thought of a nice sunrise followed by a breakfast burrito after running all night is almost enough to make we want to sign up for the 24 hour race next year . . .

An all-you-can-eat buffet!
When I started my race I ended up running the first 4 laps (10 miles) with a guy named Eric who was about my same pace.  Up to that point we both felt pretty good.

Feeling good after lap #1

At some point I realized that I'd made a mistake and forgot to tape my nipples.  In a too-little-too-late effort to solve the problem, I had Thy bandaid them at the aid station, but I was too wet from sweat and rain, and the bandaids didn't stick.

For the next two laps I was running on my own (although passing lots of people who began to recognize me).  At one point I made a wrong turn, and got some extra unofficial distance in (click the strava link at the bottom of the page if you want to see this on a map).  I caught back up with Eric around mile 15.  We were keeping pretty good time, and other than my ever more painful nipples, I seemed to be in good shape.  Eventually Eric's friend met up with him, and the 3 of us ran together for awhile.  Then we started alternating bonks and walk breaks.  At first Eric needed to stop to walk (around the time we passed the Marathon distance), and I kept trucking.  Then I got to the aid station and was pretty tired, so took a break and Eric passed me.  We kept alternating between running together and separating as one of us bonked for awhile.

From about 3:15 to 4:30 was pretty hard for me.  It still felt like there was a long way to go, but I was already pretty tired.  My leg muscles, and particularly my hip flexors, were very tight from repeating the exact same motion over and over.  This flat running wasn't so easy after all!  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other though.

At about 4:30 I got a second wind, knowing that the "short course" would open in only 30 minutes.  I wanted to get two more laps in before moving to the 0.29 mile loop so I picked up my pace a bit.

At about 5:25 I entered the short course, after completing 13 laps on the long one (32.5 miles).  At this point I was worked, and commenced a run-walk to get as many extra laps in as possible.  I lost count of my laps, but with 10 minutes left picked my pace up a bit.  With 3 minutes left I thought I was on my last lap, so tried to run it faster, and found that I completed the lap with 90 seconds still to go, so I pushed even harder and just barely managed to squeak in extra lap before time ran out!

Final tally was 34.8 miles.

Feeling a bit more tired as I near the finish line for the last time

The price of a good time.  In addition to my gruesome chest the finish line party resembled a college rager in that everyone was staggering, incapable of walking a straight line, and there was someone puking in the bathroom.  Good times!

So stoked to be back to running and climbing!

My assumption that flat runs are easy was just WRONG!  In fact, I thought this run felt harder than the Wilson Creek 50K, which had 7200ft of vertical gain and loss, and which I completed in about the same amount of time as this run.  I guess when you are gaining and loosing a lot of elevation you at least get to switch up which muscles you are using, but in a flat run you keep hammering the exact same muscles over the same range of motion!

I'd like to give a shout out to another group of hard-core people at this event, the race directors who put it on!  Holy cow, they staffed this thing for the entire 48 hours, rarely stopping to even nap, and somehow kept everything running smoothly and had smiles on their faces the whole time!  I would say that this was by far the funnest race I've done, and it was all due to the them and their upbeat attitude!

Emily, one of the RDs, gives me a hug as I get my medal.
Also, I can't forget my wife, who came out and stood in the rain to help me at the aid station at 39 weeks pregnant!  I AM the luckiest guy on earth!
My beautiful wife


  1. What is the name of this event and where is it?

    1. It's called the Pickled Feet Endurance Run and it's held in Eagle Idaho.