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).
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.