Somehow I survived running for 24hours around a 1 mile loop at the NJ Trail Series 3 Days at the Fair event on May 14-15. It was an amazing experience on so many levels and I was able to raise over $1,600 for colon cancer research. Here’s my after-action report.
This was my 2nd attempt at running for this duration and my first time completing 100+ miles. It felt amazing and still does even now 2 months later. It’s by far my biggest achievement in terms of the formal races I’ve done and to cap it all I ended up with 2nd place in the men’s overall 24hour group!
My first attempt was in November – I suffered a LOT. This time the physical suffering was even worse, a lot worse but mentally I was ready for it. Mentally I was committed and that’s what made the difference. Proof that the mind controls the body.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the miles:
- 0-10 – 9AM, we’re OFF! I’m last to cross the start line. It’s super fun, getting relaxed. Checking my form. Tip-toeing around. Running lightly. This is great! I think “enjoy this, because it’s not going to last”.
- 10-20 – I’m too hot. How can I cool down? Sun is blazing. I get the sense I’m running too fast. Having to stop a lot to put on sunblock. It’s 1PM by 20miles. I’m going too fast. I didn’t realise but I was pacing some of the marathoners. It’s going to be a long day.
- 20-30 – At 19-miles I passed some ladies with 2 dogs and joke that they’re a performance enhancer and can I borrow them next lap? She’s only too happy to give them to me and together me and the dogs run FAST for two+ laps in the blazing sun. I try to find their owner again but seems like I am too slow and she is too fast to sync back up. After 3 miles we find each other. Couple more miles and I’m passed the marathon. That felt too quick.
- 30-40 – 30miles now, I’m about 6hours in. 3PM. Sun is blazing. I’m nauseous which means I’m not drinking enough. I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker. Decided to force myself to walk a mile. Shoes feel surprisingly good (right-sized Hoka Cliftons). Real race has begun. I know this. I expected it. This is the grind to 50. Don’t panic. It’s all good. Frustrated that I have to keep stopping for random tasks. I’m remembering November and forcing myself to eat now. Hey, don’t panic. It’s a long day. Lean into it. We’ll get there.
- 40-50 – I’ve been noticing my pinky toes are getting squashed for the last 20miles. Ok, I brought Sauconys that are a half size bigger than normal. I’ll switch out at 50miles and start raising my feet every 10 miles. Party on.
- Disaster at mile 48 – My right pinky just exploded coming into the finish/start line. I have no other way to describe it. It’s a blister under the nail somehow that has blown my whole nail off my toe. I almost hit the dirt on the way into mile 48. Crap. I realize I have no first-aid whatsoever. Minor oversight. I limp home, go into the bathroom, grab some paper hand towel and head to my tent. I changed socks and shoes at this point, blew through my budgeted break time. My foot was a disaster and I wonder can I make it. Heck, we’ll party on, hopefully adrenaline will kick in. It’s really bad. I somehow wrap up my pinky with literally a strip of the paper, feels like a tiny painful hug in my shoe. Ok, this sucks. I’ve got 50+ miles to go! This was a bad time. I limp/walk through the next few miles and by 51 I’m running again completely on adrenaline.
- 51-60 – not sure how I got through these miles. I was so nauseous. I realise now I’m behind my goal time of 10hours for 50miles by about 45mins. It’s almost 8PM and I’m mentally distracted trying to figure out what mileage I need to hit by midnight in order to have good chance of finishing 101 in 24hours. I figure 60miles by 10pm, 70miles by midnight and for the first time I start to doubt if I can pull this off. No choice but to party on. Hey! There’s a wedding going on at the fairgrounds. They took pictures earlier. Fun fun. I try to imagine the couple starting out, think back to my own wedding and the weirdness that got me here. Let’s get 70 miles in by midnight I figure. It’s not happening. I know it’s not happening but I’m scooting along regardless. This was another dark time.
- 60-70 – By 12:45 I hit 70miles. Ok, panic over. We’ve got a shot now. I just need 80miles by 3AM to have a great chance. That’s 6hours for 20miles. My feet are destroyed. I’m starting to get a pressure bruise kind of thing on my left foot. Run softly.
- 70-80 – I think it’s 4AM now. Roosters and chickens are sounding off. It sounds like they’re being murdered. I’ve been drinking (water/ginger ale) like crazy. Trying to get some salt too but I’m still nauseous. The roosters don’t sound real. It sounds like someone’s in the barn having a joke and just hollering at the top of their lungs. Can’t be real. I run/walk my way to 80 miles. At different points I’m running for a slow 10count, then walking for a quick 10count. Trying to take each mile on its own. Each piece of the course on its own. Run to the garbage can. Run to the tree. Run to the next garbage can. Run to the crack in the road. Oh, this dirt bit? Run that. Run to the corner. Run to the bottom of the hill. Turn for home. Let’s start over.
- 80-90 – Feeling….meh, “o”…”k”. Christ we have a long way to go still. These are slow miles. Why’s it taking so long? Oh yeah because I’m trying to run on a piece of raw meat. Not being able to run means I’m walking and it’s putting pressure on my achilles and parts of my foot that don’t like it. Things are falling apart. I meet some great people and try to encourage others as a distraction. I’m doing my run/walk/shuffle business. It’s pathetic but we’re traveling. No way I won’t make it now.
- Boom! Another blister on the same foot pops and I almost go down for a 2nd time. I limp over the line and head to the tent. I would end up losing 5 toenails and all the skin on my right foot.
- 90-95 – I change socks and try not to look at my foot too much. The paper has somehow fused to my skin. It’s a horror show. I hope a change of socks will help. I get back running but these fresh ones are even more uncomfortable now than before. No more food. I’m still nauseous. I force myself to run knowing that’s the only way to get back on track. Walking’s not going to help. Push on.
- 95-100 – Feels like these miles are counting down but not actually counting. I keep mentally flipping back and forth – 96 miles, that means 4 left, ok. Crap I need 101. That means that 4 is really 5. It’s so hard now. The pain is crazy but I’m so close. I see Bill Gentry and he’s running we shout at each other and I’m back shuffling. I partied on through 100, saw Bill again and brought home my century.
- 101 – I headed out without stopping for 101. I don’t remember much but I think mile 101 was about 12mins. It felt unlike anything I’d ever experienced. All these runners around me grinding towards their goals and here I was achieving mine. I felt like telling everyone but that wasn’t fair so I just ran filled with tremendous sense of accomplishment. Came home it was 8:30AM and I was done. Done. Done!
Here’s What I ate; I ate whatever I could think of at whatever time I could think of it.
- 1 Cheeseburger
- Couple of bites of veggie burrito
- 3 cups of boiled potatoes
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups white rice
- 10+ cups ginger ale
- 200+ ounces of water
- 128 ounces Tailwind (1 scoop per 20 ounces)
- 2 honeystinger waffles
- half cup wheat thins
- 4 bananas
At various times in the night I thought about my father. I’m not spiritual or religious but I was able to bring back vivid memories of spending time with him. It was pretty amazing and I felt him very close and still do. Love this about running.
Things to remember for next time:
- Don’t panic.
- Eat more and better – baby food (thanks Monika for the tip!).
- Look after your feet – Hoka’s worked great but I need a wider toe box.
- Repeat #1
Overall this was a tremendous experience with amazing people and even more amazing race dirctors and family. Thank you McNultys for another fantastic experience. I want to do a bunch more races like this and you’ll see me on the NJ Trail Series circuit. Strange as it might sound with all the focus on running I feel like I’ve neglected my overall fitness. I want to get back in Goruck shape, improve overall strength/conditioning. Swim more.
I put a lot of pressure on myself leading up to May to accomplish what had eluded me in November and now it’s time to have some fun. I’m not ready to hang up my road shoes just yet but I’m gonna take a break and get back to running informally, on the trail, in the woods. Wherever it takes me.