Once again I would run the Ultra Marathon which began my ultra marathon running career, the Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer. This would be my 8th running of this great ultra marathon in Newport News, Virginia. If you run a race long enough you will see and experience just about everything.
I’ve run my first 50 mile race, and my first 75 mile race at this event. This race has also motivated me and prepared me for my first 100 mile finish. I’ve run this ultra marathon in wind, near constant rain, extreme cold and now in what felt like the very depths of a volcano.
I love everything this race is about. Finding a cure to a terrible disease. Running with friends. Being part of a great running community. Seeing newcomers, including kids, reach their goals and become part of the fitness lifestyle. Supporting team members as they break barriers and set course and State records. Watching as “super seniors” establish benchmarks for our most valued members of the running world. To have the honor of captaining a team that has won the event three out of four years, setting a course record of 914 miles in 2016. And to witness an ultra legend as he fights to continue doing what he loves.
(Jason K, Me, a 93 year old WWII Vet (his name escapes me),
Josh D. and Eric H. the conductor of the pain train)
BUT…this event eats my lunch nearly every year.
The First Marathon – The forecast for the weekend predicted temperatures in the 90s. I found that hard to believe after all the 757 had experienced a stormy, but cooler than normal spring. During the days leading up to the race I hoped the weather man had gotten his signals crossed up.
(At times I wondered if this was a 24 hour run or swim)
My plan early on was to hang with friends, Eric and Josh following a eight and two run/walk plan Eric produced that would give us a fighting chance to reach 100 miles. Within the first miles of the day the temps were in already in the low 70s with high humidity. I could feel the effects of the heat and knew I would not be able to keep up their fast pace for long. After two laps of chasing them around the 3.75 mile loop course I had to adjust my plan of attack. To counteract the heat and humidity I throttled back in an attempt to conserve myself for the wee hours of the night.
I passed the marathon distance at 4 hours and 45 minutes into the day.
(The loop course at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail was in fantastic shape)
50 Miles – From the 26.2 mile point forward it was getting harder and harder to keep up the eight and two ratio. I had fallen off the back of the Eric and Josh train early on. With the increasing heat of the day I simply could not run at the pace they were moving at. I dropped the faster pace for running the long segments and walking the crossover sections. This eventually gave way to running and walking as my body would allow. My walks were at a 14:30 to 15 minute per mile pace coupled with fast pit stops I was able to stay on pace for 100 miles for most of the day.
One highlight of the day was reaching my 500th mile at this event.
The heat of the day was getting to be a real factor. The effort to keep up a good pace was taxing me when I ran and the recovery time was much longer. I struggled at times to keep up the run/walk ratios, but I was still feeling confident. I turned my 50th mile at 10 hours and 19 minutes into the event at a respectable 11:14 pace.
60 Miles – If there was a point where the wheels came off the wagon it was somewhere between miles 50 and 60. As the hours drew on and the combined effects of the heat, humidity and the time on my feet mounted I began to feel the bottom fall out. In years past I’ve lost the 24 hour war at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail for physical reasons…the 2017 edition I was losing on the mental front. I’m going to be 100% honest. Just 28 days removed from my 100 Mile PR at Umstead…I just did not want to suffer again. It was growing harder with each lap to get myself back out on the trail. The laps got lonelier and lonelier as the race field got thinner and thinner and with each time I took to the trail I knew I was fighting for my race life.
I reached the 60 mile mark at 13 hours and 04 minutes into the event.
67.5 and the finish. I did something at mile 67.5 that I rarely ever do during an ultra-marathon. I sat down. On my 18th lap, 15 hours and 19 minutes into the race I was mentally broken. The heat of the day won, I was beaten. I was tired. I was worn out, hurting and soaked to the skin. I had been soaking wet for more than 15 hours. In truth I wanted to be anywhere else but there.
I was done. Sitting in camp, I had been off my feet for five minutes when a friend and former team member Lloyd said he would go out with me if it would keep me in the fight. Being two laps short of my fall back goal of 75 miles I asked Lloyd if he had two laps in him. He told me he did and we headed back out onto the trails.
I finished the race with 75 miles at 17 hours and 38 minutes into the 24 hour event. I was once and for all done.