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Up Topic Training / Trail and Ultra Running / A Race For The Ages
- - By The Geetah [us] Date 2015-09-14 9:10 AM
A Race For The Ages: Garth Brookes said it Best, “I could have missed the PAIN but I’d have had to miss the Dance”.

Three Days and Two nights, in the Sun. Sounds like an advertisement for a resort getaway. But it’s just my A Race for The Ages.

So in case you missed what this race was all about it was the brain child of the devious mind that thought up the Barkley Marathons, the Last Annual Vol State Road Race, The Last Man Standing Big’s Backyard Ultra and more. His name is Gary Cantrell an goes by Lazarus Lake (Laz for short). Someone recently composed a list of Ultra runners that had completed a 100 miler in the most decades and had the most time between their first 100 miler and their last 100 miler. He was lamenting how it’s too bad that a lot of the Legends in the sport of Modern Ultra Running couldn’t make the cut offs for most of the 100 milers now (he himself can no longer run due to having almost no blood circulation in one leg). So he came up with the idea to give each runner the number of hours that they are old to rack up as many miles has they could in that time. The race would end at 6 p.m. Labor Day and would start the number of hours before that you are old. Most miles in the allotted time, Wins.

It was held on a 1 mile certified course in a park an hour southeast of Nashville. The park was called of all things Fred “Deadman” park. It was described by this deviously evil running mind as “flat and fast”. Well compared to the Barkley course it is flat and fast. But for a 1 mile loop course it was neither flat nor fast. There was numerous long inclines and declines, none really steep but they added up fast. It was a very twisty, turn filled course. Including a sharp 120 degree or more turn while stepping off a curb that got taller and taller with each lap. Plus a 180 degree hairpin turn around a cone. Plus a few other 90 degree turns. Then where was a 30 yard grassy section that I and almost everyone else HATED. That was because it was a short dip down onto it when a tiny ditch at the bottom before it inclined back up all while you were trying to move forward against the grain of the dips. The unevenness of it and the grass in general made blisters scream all the more, EACH lap. Given the choice of staying on that grass for the full 30 or so yards or making a shorter hasty exit onto concrete, most of us took the concrete as soon as we could.

In the years since I set a couple of American AG records and made the U.S. National Ultra Running Team (for the 24 Hour World Championships), in 2008 and 2009, I’ve had one injury after another and one life issue in particular that have hindered and then pretty much stopped my training. The last few of years were the worst. I’d get a few months where I would build up a bit of training and then would be a bunch of months with pretty much no running. Last year was just 751 miles almost all of them in the first half then maybe 20 miles TOTAL in the last 5 months of the year. So in Feb. I started yet another comeback attempt, as I was signing up for this A Race For The Ages just as soon as I heard about it. I knew I had to be there. I managed to slowly build up through Feb., March and April, by slowly I mean for a Total of just over 300 miles. Then life and another injury got in the way and May, June, July, and August were probably 30 to 40 miles Total. With recent attempts to run even a mile or 2 making my Arthritic knee (It was scoped back in 2004 and found out it was arthritis) hurt. It would sometimes hurt while walking for a few days after a 1 or 2 mile run.

But I decided to book the flight, hotel (for the night before and the night after) and rental car and go. I just REALLY needed to check out of my life for 2 ¼ days (being 54 years old that’s 2 ¼ days I’d be racing). I even decided that I would go the whole 54 hours without even touching my phone. Plus I REALLY wanted to be there and get to do some laps, even walking, with the Legends. I hadn’t packed for an Ultra since 2012 (that was only a 50 miler) , hadn’t packed for a 24 Hour since 2011 and never went over 24 hours. So I forgot a bunch of stuff. One of which would make me pay DEARLY.

Flight was delayed 3 hours so decided to scrub the visit to the race the night before so I went straight to the hotel and tried to relax. Got up and only got to the race about 20 minutes before I was to start. Got checked in, and there were still taped off areas in the Air Conditioned building (where the kitchen/food was to be served) where I was given a thin mat to put on the floor for me to put my stuff and lay down if need be. I had everything in a big rolling  suitcase. There would be no crew for this race. Put on some SPF 75 as I didn’t even have much of a runners tan with almost no running.
Parent - - By The Geetah [us] Date 2015-09-14 9:12 AM
Went to the start line with 3 other guys who were also 54 and at noon on Saturday we set off for a little 54 Hour jaunt. The course headed down a long incline though an opening in a fence across another timing mat down a sidewalk to a sharp 90 degree curve still inclining. Then the sidewalk was a serpentine along a small river. Then it went up a long incline and this only shaded potion of the course came to an end with that 120 degree turn with a step down onto another timing mat. Then a long straight then 90 left down a long incline that curved around an outfield fence. Then another 90 left, with a long straight through a parking lot then a 90 right though another parking lot to the 180 around the cone and back through the parking lots up an incline back around the outfield fence and then a 90 left up a steeper incline followed by a 90 right still climbing then that evil grassy section then a 90 right to start inclining down again to the Start/Finish line. Shortly after the finish there was a large monitor that showed the current info (laps, miles, km, place, current lap time etc.) for those that had just went over the mat at the line. There were a LOT of tents set up all over the course. Especially the shaded part near the river.

I ran that whole first lap in a nice slow for me pace of 9:50. That was ALL the running I did in the 54 Hours. I NEVER ran again. Has this race approached I had gone from hoping to run every other lap to running every few laps to running occasionally, to this. I had decided/realized that if I had tried to run anything more than a symbolic 1st lap I would have been out of the race when my muscles gave out in probably less than 6 hours. Definitely less than 12 hours. Thought maybe I would also run the last lap but by then it wasn’t an option.

Some quick observations. HOKA should have sponsored this race. Close to 75% of the shoes worn there were HOKA’s. I had 3 pair myself. Old folk love that cushion. There were much fewer runners with music/earbuds. Old folk learned to run and race using only what’s inside them to drive them. There were much more men wearing REAL running shorts (3 inch inseam or less). The kind worn by everyone in the 70’s and 80’s and still worn by elites and others who don’t understand this modern aversion to men’s thighs being visible. You put a whole bunch of old Runners on a 1 mile course for 40, 50, 60, 70, or 80 hours and you are going to hear some amazing stories and collect a lot more wisdom than when you started.

So I started to walk with the hope that I could still get pretty good mileage in spite of being untrained just by shear dedication to forward motion. I knew I couldn’t do a 4 mph (15 mpm) pace on this course in this weather but was hoping for 3 mph or even better. I know I held that for a more than several hours, but the heat was steaming me and seemed to be steaming my feet too as I kept getting hot spots even this early. I have noticed a phenomenon with my feet, I can go an entire 24 hour race, cover 141 miles and not get any blisters, but there was more than once when I had gone well over 100 miles with no blisters only to get injured to the point that I had to walk the rest of the race and would immediately start getting blisters once I was walking. This seemed to be the case here, and it was compounded by one of the things I had forgotten, Tom’s Blister Shield powder that I usually put in my socks. Then at just pass 3 my first afternoon, a wicked thunderstorm struck. I and most others stayed out in it despite the lighting and high winds (it destroyed a bunch of the canopy tents) and torrential downpour. Many of us were surprised that we went from overheated to chilled. The course turned into a river in many places and you couldn’t help but be completely soaked.

After the rain stop (about a half hour) it started to steam up with even higher humidity. I should have stopped and changed my shoes and socks but didn’t for a few hours more. Then it was too late the damaged had been done. The hot spots turned into full blown and HUGE blisters on the balls of both feet. I finally stopped to change and another thing I forgot to bring was a blister kit. I used a safety pin from my bib to punch holes in the blisters and then put body glide on my feet and new socks and shoes. This of course GREATLY slowed my already slowing pace (due to the heat up until then). Each step became a STINGING painful experience. Finally around 10 hours into it (10 p.m. the first night for me), I had to stop and lance them again has the blisters had spread some more. This is when the first of many Quitting Crisis’s came up. Here I was only 10 hours (32 miles so I still had just over 3 mph) into my 54 hour race, one that I was so determined to finish, no matter what, and yet I was thinking HARD about quitting. Did I really want to walk on these feet for 44 more hours? The rest of this night, that was just starting, then all day the next day, all night the next night and all day the day after? I came close to quitting but I put some bandaids on them blisters and headed back out. I had faced down the 1st Quitting Crisis and beat it. For now.

So I walked on into the night. With the miles passing slowly, but with the night surprisingly passing relatively quickly. That’s because I was walking lap after lap, and mile after mile with Edward Masuoka. We talked about anything and everything. Running, our lives, our histories, even our families histories. He told me that he had a habit of giving in too early in an ultra. Not always DNFing but with just stopping to push it and mailing in the end of a race. Which was having a big effect on his performance and placement. He asked for my advice on it and I told him various things I’ve done in the past. Things inside me I’ve used and other strategies I’ve used. He’s a FAST learner, he finished 2nd in the race with 180 miles. He had a HUGE and FURIOUS challenge on the last day by the guy that came in 3rd but Ed just kept pushing and held on. The BIG smile on his face was so cool to see when he got his trophy.
Parent - - By The Geetah [us] Date 2015-09-14 9:13 AM
Then we were in day 2. Almost from the time the sun came up it was getting hot and it had been humid all night. Very few clouds in the sky for a 2nd day in a row. ELSO was baking us for another LONG day (ELSO: Evil Life Sucking Orb. Known to others has the sun). I had already passed the 50 mile mark and I just kept walking as fast as I could in spite of the heat and the STINGING PAIN with each and every step from the blisters. Noon came and 24 hours was done and I was in new territory having never gone beyond 24 hours. But not new territory for miles, having done 141 miles in 24 hours before, and not being even halfway to it now. The miles were coming very slowly. I would walk for anywhere between 5 and seven miles (sometimes as little as 3 though), then I would have to stop for a break. The pain and pressure in the feet was too much and I was even having trouble catching my breath sometimes due to the effort and the heat. I would keep the breaks has short as possible, I would take my shoes off and then peel my socks off (or else they would stick to the blisters and the bandaids) , then I put my feet up on a chair to relieve the pressure (when blood flooded to them when I would lift them off the ground, it REALLY Hurt. I would usually eat quickly while doing this. I would also put on more SPF 75 sunscreen every 6 hours (and would take it off with wet wipes at night). Then I would put my socks and shoes back on, maybe trying a new pair of shoes for a while too. Then it would be right back on the course. Each time I had to get restarted it was like I was a 110 years old. I would barely baby step shuffle PAINFULLY, and SLOWLY around the course. These laps, with their stops and their slow starts were usually just over an hour.

I walked and talked with some others too, there was Christian Griffin. Quite an interesting person and runner. Built more like a linebacker with Polamalu hair. He talked about how he left a Great paying job that he had built up and didn’t have to work hard at but he hated for a job that doesn’t pay Great, and he has to work hard at but that he loves, promoting events for wounded warriors and ex-special forces. I remember when my cheap sun glasses broke he told his sun glasses story which turned out to be a parable about over valuing things. How when he was a teenager he wanted this very popular pair of expensive designer sun glasses and saved up for them and the day he brought them he was a passenger in a car and while passing another car with teenage girls in it he stuck his head out the window to yell something to them and the wind took the glasses off and put them right under the tires of the girls car. He’s brought cheap sun glasses ever since.

Finally 6 p.m. arrived that not only meant that ELSO was going to be setting soon, but it also meant that we were all down to “only” 24 more hours. We entered another night and the feet just seemed to be getting worst if that was possible. I began to notice blood in the socks but just put them back on and continued. I’m a big into history and one of my favorites to learn about is World War II and there were times I reminded myself that when those that were in the Bataan Death March couldn’t go on when their feet were to mangled, or the heat and humidity got to them, they were bayoneted so I could continue to put one foot in front of the other to honor them in some small way. Then sometime before midnight that 2nd night I was at 79 miles and wanted to continue on for 1 more lap to get to 80 before a desperately needed break but I just couldn’t go another mile and came in to get my shoes and socks off again. But this time I finally noticed something besides my feet. Both ankles were red and inflamed and swollen. The left was especially bad. They were very painful and the redness extended up about 6 or 8 inches and down to halfway down the foot. This had me very worried and I also couldn’t catch my breath. Exhaustion had completely taken hold of me. I had wanted to try to go the entire 54 hour race without sleep (plus the 3 hours before it as I woke up at 9 a.m.). But now I took Ed’s advice and laid down on his cot. I’m a VERY light sleeper (I wear earplugs every night since I was 17 AND sometimes put my head between 2 pillows). But in spite of the noise in the building, I managed to get my breathing slowed and then fell asleep. I woke up after only 30 to 40 minutes. I forced myself up and to a chair. Looking at my feet and especially the ankles I was sure I needed to drop. I was due to work three 12 hour night shifts at the power plant I work at in just 2 night hence. I couldn’t cripple myself. I Should drop, but I not only wanted to finish what I started. I NEEDED too. Finally I told myself that I had 79 miles, put your shoes and socks on and go and do 1 more mile and you’ll have 80, then you can decide. So I did.

This time getting restarted was even worst and even after the whole lap I was still not moving very fast at all. That lap with the break and short sleep and slow crawl around the loop was just over 2 hours. But  yet I still decided to do another lap. I managed to do 7 more laps taking me to 86 miles before I again was out of breath and exhausted so had to stop and lay back down on Ed’s cot. Again I slept for 30 to 40 minutes (so just over an hour Total during my 54 hour race). Then forced myself back out on the course. I’d come too far to not get the 100. This time I got another 7 miles taking me to 93 but the last 3 miles of that, the lap times were jumping up due to the pain and exhaustion. Took another break off my feet then after a short time I restarted again. AMAZINGLY that was my last break. We still had over 12 hours to go. It was still dark when I restarted but the sun rose shortly after. Another sunrise but at least this was the last one, so I enjoyed it as I love that time of day. The first few laps of that were painfully slow but then I started to pick it up.

Though it actually got a bit cool that night and I was moving so slow I had put on a long sleeve shirt, once the sun rose it heated up Quickly. It was going to be another scorcher. So just before starting lap 99 I went into the building to my suitcase to look for another singlet to put on. As I rummaged around in the mess of my suitcase trying to decide which one I wanted to finish the race in, I saw it. My uniform singlet from the U.S. Team for the 2009 World Championships in Italy. I thought, yeah, you’re not that guy lately but Yeah. It was like donning that uniform magically brought new life. My lap times immediately went way down to where they hadn’t been in many hours. Plus like I said I never took another break. I hit the 100 miles, then 101 and 102. During the night I had just wanted to make it to 101 or 102 (because so many people quit at 100, I knew that 101 or 102 would make a big difference in standings). I had planned to take it VERY easy after that and only do an occasion mile the rest of the day. But I was moving so well and people all noticed how strongly I was moving again and starting commenting on U.S. National Team shirt and being on the team, so I just kept going.

Lap after lap my times were getting better in spite of the heat and pain. In fact I think that after having Stinging Pain with Each step for over a 100 miles, my brain just started to say, “ok this must be the new normal. It still hurts but we’ll deal with it”. I started moving up in the standings. That drove me even harder. I decided I REALLY wanted to hit 120 miles, but knew I had to speed up so I started really focusing on my form even though I was walking. I sped up and racked up a bunch of laps pushing it. They took their toll in the heat (we did have a runner go down, and taken away in an ambulance, due to heat exhaustion I believe), so when I realized that I could slow, slightly, and still get the 120, and there wasn’t any chance of 121, I slowed a bit. The last hour finally arrived and we all couldn’t be happier. Finally with just under 5 minutes left I crossed the Finish Line for the last time. I could FINALLY STOP.

I finished with 120 miles and 43rd (pretty much top quarter of the field).

After some cheering and clapping by everyone that we had finished, and handshakes and hugs with those that I had done so many laps with during that 54 Hours, we all went inside. There was a post-race meal being served. I sat down completely spent to the point that I didn’t really even want food, let alone didn’t want to stand in line to get it. People offered to get it for me but I declined. I just sat there, and almost drifted off to sleep. They handed out awards and I went nuts over Ed’s 2nd place finish. Finally I decided I didn’t want any chicken, I wanted a steak, figured I’d earned it so would go out and get one after showering. I got my 1st ever Buckle for the 100 miles (I have gone over 100 miles a bunch of times but never actually entered a 100 mile race before so hadn’t gotten a Buckle till now). I figure that though there were a lot of runners that had achieved 100 miles in this race, that A Race For The Ages 100 mile Buckle has got to be one of the rarer ones to have (and since Joe Fejes was the only one to reach 200 miles, that 200 mile Buckle is one of a kind, currently).
Parent - By The Geetah [us] Date 2015-09-14 9:16 AM
Post-Race: Feet were uglier than I thought, I don’t usually lose toenails (only once when I kicked MANY roots in a 24 hour trail race) but I had blisters under my toenails on one toe on the left foot and 2 toes on the right that were so big they pushed up the toenail completely off the bed and they are now black (and the end of the toes were red and purple). The Ankles were so bad that it is now Monday, a week later and they (especially the left) are still swollen, though it’s going down finally. I couldn’t walk to well due to the blisters on the balls of my feet for close to a week. Luckily they took it easy on me at work those 3 nights.

So as I said I wanted to do this race not only for the experience of being in it with so many Legends from the birth of Modern day Ultra Running, but also for my 2 ¼ day escape from my life. I was successful on both counts despite the only 1 mile running and all the blisters/ankle problems and PAIN. I am of course am back in my life of 60 hour work weeks, week in and week out, year in, year out. I’m supporting beside myself, and a 14 year old (youngest son), 4 other Adults and 2 households. This race probably will help me change that some. For during the 54 Hours of thought that it gave me as my life was reduced to just doing whatever I could to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I realized something. I have put off dealing with some things I should have taken care of YEARS ago. All it’s done has resulted in making many things worst. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be HARD and sometimes complicated and Painful. But so was this race, and yet I got though it by just putting one foot in front of the other. I just have to do the same thing back here in my life and it will be just like this race was, Worth it in the End.

Running wise, I think I’m going to make sure I’m all healed up and then see if I can try another slower comeback. Near the end of the race one of the Legends that saw me all weekend and then hammering right to the end said “If you can do what I saw you do here completely untrained and injured I would hate to compete against a healthy and trained you.But I would love to see that guy race”. I told him “I’d love to see that guy compete again also, maybe someday”.

Doing this race was one of my better decisions. What a Wonderful Adventure I’ve added to my Collection.
Up Topic Training / Trail and Ultra Running / A Race For The Ages

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