As you probably know, I enjoy running; specifically, trail running and longer distances.
I did not grow up a runner but signed up for my first marathon with my sister, Kathy, in 2004. I was looking for something to fill the void of competitive team sports, and running a marathon (26.2 miles) seemed like something that I wasn’t quite sure was possible. I remember being at the start line with Kathy in 2004 in Chicago, and truly wondering if I could do it.
Since then I have run 31 more marathons, 28 50-kilometer runs, and seven 50-milers. During those events, I’ve never run later than 10 p.m. I’ve never been on my feet for more than 9.5 hours. And I’ve never gone longer than 50 miles.
So, why not sign up for an event at the last minute that entails I run through the night for 12 hours, and hopefully ends up with me running longer than I ever have?
What could go wrong?
At 7 p.m. on Aug. 22 I started the “12 Hours of Road America.” It started as a cycling relay event, where teams of cyclists would ride around the 4.048 mile Road America course for 12 hours, accumulating as many miles as possible. It then morphed into a solo cycling event as well as a team event, and this year they added a solo running and team running category. Having received a discount code on the registration fee, I signed up. For the first time, I’d be running straight through the night, hoping to earn a cool belt buckle by covering 100 kilometers—just over 62 miles.
Like I said...what could go wrong?
For the first time since that 2004 marathon, I was truly wondering if I could accomplish this. While scary, it’s also motivation, and I kind of enjoy the headgames I play with myself as I tried to prepare and plan.
How’d it go? Well...it wasn’t my day. Or night, I guess.
Perhaps it was the late start or the humidity, or both, but my stomach didn’t cooperate. I thought I had a pretty good plan for the event, and kept my pace under control, and took in fluids and fuel as well as I could. I finished my first two loops feeling strong and in control. A friend of mine joined me for several loops and we had good conversation and kept putting in miles. I finished up the marathon distance (26.2 miles) in just under four hours, and at about that time, I was starting to notice that my stomach just wasn’t feeling great. It felt like it just was not emptying. I’ve experienced this before and normally some salty foods or salt tabs or just some time will turn it around. But that didn’t seem to be the case this time. I tried having a banana at this point—something different than what I was taking and something that could be considered “real food” rather than sports drink or sports gels.
It wasn’t long before that banana came back up, along with everything else in my stomach. Ugh.
I was correct in feeling like my stomach wasn’t emptying—but now it had! I had a bit of a post-puke “high” for a bit and put in some decent miles before the low spell returned. This time I just tried to walk through it. Keep moving forward, let my digestive tract figure it out. I headed out for Lap 8 and (see photo) tried to put a smile on my face. It was now about 11:30 p.m. Let’s figure it out. Fake it until I make it…maybe.
Or maybe not.
I tried taking in a Dixie cup of water and that didn’t stay down for more than 30 seconds. Now I had dropped off of any real goal pace that I had, and I was tired—and getting more tired by the moment. I decided to stop after that eight loop, after 35 miles.
All of the factors and aspects of this event that had me worried ended up teaching me many lessons. As I stated earlier, I had never attempted an event like this—overnight, in heat, and for this long amount of time. And the fact that it started in the evening rather than in the morning probably played into the outcome as well.
Nonetheless, I tried. I learned. I will try again and see if I can get beyond that 50-mile goal. Live and learn and keep getting better, one day at a time.