My Running White Whale – 24 Hour Race – Moby-Dick – Ultra Racing


My Moby-Dick…the 24 hour race.

UPDATE to the UPDATE: 24/25 Sept 2016…THE WHITE WHALE IS DEAD!

new24hours

There will be singing and dancing in the streets.  They will write stories about braving the beast.  They might even name a town….okay maybe I’ve gone to far.  But let it be known to all that read this post.  A post that until this historic day had only been filled with my short comings at 24 hour races.  In the midst of a sweltering heat wave (heat index of 106f) I ran the entire 24 hours and logged over 96 miles to finally slay the beast.

2016hinsonresults

There will be more to this race report in the upcoming days…I’m going to sit back bask in my glory, my sore legs and enjoy the V I C T O R Y

UPDATED: 20 Sept 2016, It’s four days from the 2016 running of the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race and again I’m faced with my white whale. This post was originally written weeks before the 2015 running of this same event.  Unfortunately, the whale won again when I quit at mile 66 with more than 8 hours left on the clock when I got dizzy.  Being 4 hours from home, alone and combined with a case of vertigo earlier in the year and I got scared.  This dizzy bout made it easy to give up and before I knew what happened I was in my car heading home.

ORIGINAL POST from 2015

This year I hope to finally slay this monster….#100milesorbust.  I WILL not stop until I reach 100 miles or 24 hours whichever comes first.

moby-dick

I first ventured into ultra-running at a timed race, The Virginia 24 Hour Run For Cancer and the results were a mixed bag of success and failure laced with an introduction to ultra-running. The success I found was running 52.5 miles in my first voyage beyond the traditional marathon distance with very little ultra-know how. The failure was in that, I could have done more. I suffered greatly in the later stages of the race after “going out to fast.”  I failed in that I did not get past the 17 hour point. In that first timed race outing I did not make the 24 hour finish line and that failure has followed and haunted me ever since. I’ve run six 24 hours races and have yet to reach the clock established finish line. The 24 hour race is my Ishmael, my Darth Vador, and my Wile E Coyote

In less than one week I’ll toe the starting line again with aspirations and hopes of running the complete race. I feel prepared for whatever lurks beneath the surface and for whatever the dark of night brings. I want to be running at the 24 hour mark, I want to be in it for the length of the event.

To have success I’ve had to ask myself…why? Why have I failed to reach the 24 hour finish line for these timed races. I’ve had to compare that answer with why I’ve been able to run and finish two 100 mile races in under 24 hours?

UPDATED:  My 24 hour race results:

24hr2012(Reached my 75 mile goal)

2009 VA 24 Hour Run / 52.5 miles, ended the day when I ran two marathons (wanted to run 24 hours, but really had no idea what that meant)
2010 VA 24 Hour Run / 50 miles, set a much lower goal and just did not have the drive to run any farther (never intended to run 24 hours)
2012 VA 24 Hour Run / 75 miles, reached my goal (never intended to run 24 hours)
2013 VA 24 Hour Run / 72.5 miles, massive blisters (failed to reach 24 hours)
2014 VA 24 Hour Run / 71.25 miles, massive blisters (failed to reach 24 hours)*
2015 VA 24 Hour Run / 82.5 Miles, Achilles pain (failed to reach 24 hours)*
*Ran and finished 100 mile race in the month prior
UPDATED: 2015 Hinson Lake / 66 miles…a case of dizziness came on at mile 66, gave me reason to quit.
UPDATED:2016 VA 24 Hour Run / 56.5 miles…plan going in was to only run 50 miles, I had the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run two weeks after.
2016 Hinson Lake / 96.192…the whale is dead.
TOTAL/ 528.75

If I had to sum up why I’ve failed at landing this whale…there are the two tipping points that I believe have worked against me.

#1 The repetitive nature of the course dishes out a pounding – Most timed races are conducted over short, closed looped courses. The VA 24 hour race is set on a 3.75 mile loop course. It’s very flat and an easy trail to run. The problem is that over the course of 50, 75 or my PB of 82.5 miles you’ll run 30+ laps over the same terrain. I’ve had to bail out of this race two years in a row for blisters. I’m not talking little blisters or even multiple blisters; I’m speaking of massive on the scale of the Grand Canyon layers of skin ripped away from the balls of my feet blisters. 2015 I had to drop with intense Achilles pain…pain that felt like two knifes being stabbed into my left Achilles with every step, running, walking, shuffling or otherwise.

achilles(Oh the pain…)

In both cases the sheer pain pounded me into submission. I believe that since most timed races are run over looped courses the repetitive nature of the race finds a weak spot in your running game, body, or form and beats it into submission.

#2 No one puts expectations on you – With races of defined distances…everyone knows you’re running a predetermined, well defined, carefully measured and certified distance. If you run 25 miles in a marathon, or 5 miles at a local 10k your family, friends, Social Media followers and maybe co-workers will know you came up short. With a timed race the objective is to run whatever distance goals you have established for yourself. Simply put, there is no finish line. If you run 50 miles you still finished, if you run 75, 80 or 100 its a finish, there is no DNF.

That finish line is such a motivating factor for me… For my first 100 mile race at Umstead, I downloaded every Umstead 100 finish line photo I could find. During the months leading up to the race that image was burnt into my mind, it was the mental picture I focused on from the very first step. In timed races there are no true finish lines…everyone has a finish line of their own. For some that is great….for me it makes it so easy to quit at my second tier goal. It also makes it easy for me to give up when it gets really ugly out there.

In less than a week, 26/27 Sept 2015, I’m set to once again board the Pequod and do battle with the 24 hour leviathan of a whale at the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra Classic. Physically I’m in great shape…I’ve been logging solid miles the last two months, I’ve been able to put the few injury/illness issues of the spring behind me. I believe my body is strong enough, and rested enough to withstand the miles and the repetitive nature of the challenge. Mentally there is nothing standing between me and the 24 hour tempest but me. Will the 5 inches between my ears hold up? Will my drive and mental strength be enough to reach a finish line that is only defined by the slow movement of the black hands on the white dial of father time. Will I finally be able to stab the razor sharp barbs of my running harpoon into the tormenting flesh of the white monster?

MY GOAL for Hinson Lake, 100 Miles or lost at sea…Call me Ishmael


  • Ken Polleck

    Good luck at Hinson. I’ll be there, but not for 100 miles. Let’s hope the weather changes from the current (rainy) prediction!

    • Brian Burk

      Good luck, say hi if we cross paths…which we should right!

      Brian