On Aug. 14 I ran the “12 Hours of Road America.” It is a fundraising event for a great organization (My Team Triumph) that has people complete as many “laps” at Road America, either on bike or on foot, or as a combination of the two, from 7 p.m. on Saturday night through 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. I attempted this event last year and it did not go well. After about five hours of running, I stopped, went home, took a shower, and went to bed. I was not prepared with a plan, and my stomach wasn’t happy, and so I quit on the run. This year I came in with a different plan and a new mindset and I managed to finish 15 laps of the four-mile course, finishing with 60 miles and an incredible experience.
Lap 1 was spent with a running friend, Scott, and we did our best to keep the pace easy and catch up on life. I knew that if I was going to reach my goals for the event, I needed to keep it slow!
Lap 2 was the highlight of the event, with the exception of finishing that brutal final lap. I had my pacer join me. Eddy was a constant supply of questions about the course (where is the King of the Hill segment?), comments on running in general (when can I try run an ultra?), thoughts on the course (holy cow this is a steep hill), and of course the inevitable how much longer (less than a mile to go, Buddy). Lap 2 with Eddy was a lot of fun and I look forward to more miles with him.
Laps 3 to 9 were spent with Chris. Chris was looking for the same goal I was, and we spent time talking and talking and thinking and then talking some more. We saw some other running buddies along the way as well (Matt, Brad, Jeff, Mel). It’s a fun community of kind of crazy people, and we joked and enjoyed the interactions.
Lap 10 is when the Sleep Monster jumped on my back. It shows in the lap time. My four-mile laps had been between 35 minutes and 39 minutes, up until lap 10, which was 48 minutes. I was tired, my stomach was not happy, and I was just thankful to get back to the Start/Finish Area and complete the loop. On to Lap 11…
Lap 11 began and ended with me walking pretty much the entire time, and also I had some GI issues from both ends that set in. Probably the lowlight of the entire adventure was throwing up in a portapotty. I don’t need to go into details. Lap 11 took me 71 minutes.
After Lap 11 I decided to take a nap. Oh, and I puked about seven times. That too. Once again, I actually puked into the hole of a portapotty... one star, I do not recommend.
At this point, I thought of last year where I quit and went home. This year, I didn’t want to quit...but I needed to rest/reset. I wanted to get back out on the course and reach my goal of 50-plus miles (I was currently at 44). So, after getting a jacket and a vest from fellow runners Chris and Matt (they noticed immediately I didn’t look great and was obviously cold), I went to my car and rested/slept in the back seat. Lap 11 had needed me to walk almost all of the four-mile loop. I decided I needed about 2.5 hours of walking to complete two more laps and reach my 50-mile goal...so I set my alarm for 5:30. In my addled mind, waking up at 5:30 would give me 2.5 hours to walk before the event ended at 7. I know...the math doesn’t quite work out. But I guess that gives you an idea of my state of mind at the moment!
At about 4:15 a.m. I woke to a text, and I was feeling awake, and my stomach was doing better. I then realized my math error from earlier, and I got moving. If I could be out on the course by 4:30 a.m., then I would have 2.5 hours to finish my two laps and complete my goal.
Lap 12 was recorded as taking me 2 hours and 21 minutes. That’s the total of my rest/reset/nap and also actually completing that lap. Upon completion of that lap, it was about 5:15 a.m. A great friend and mentor, Tony M., was waiting for me at the finish line. I updated him on my plan to just complete one more loop...reach my goal of 50-plus miles...and call it a day. And Tony being Tony, he simply said, “You have time for more than one loop. You have time for two more...maybe three.” Tony is a great friend who has terrible ideas. But I’ll never forget that moment, and how it kind of changed everything inside me. Why settle for 50-plus miles? I have time. I had not quit on the run...I had chosen to rest and reset. And here I am. And he was right. I had time and had the capability for more than I thought. So I set out to do just that. I was capable of more than I thought I was. We all are.
Lap 13 and my mind was back in the game. And my body was listening. Keep a pace...walk the hills...catch that sunrise! Lap 13 was done and I was back on pace.
Lap 14, which I began at about 5:40 a.m., was my fastest lap of the entire event. I knew that if I could be back at the start line at 6:20, then that left me 40 minutes for the final four-mile loop, and that means I could grind out 10-minute miles to the finish. I ran more of the hills on Lap 14 that any other loop. I had music blasting loud in my ears. I had moments where I wanted to cry, but I kept my emotions in check. It was a profound moment, to say the least. I ran this loop in 34:39. Who would have known that was possible?
Lap 15, as you’d expect, was the toughest one for sure. I said to myself over and over again “Shut up, brain” because I knew my body was capable of finishing it, but my brain kept saying that I should just stop, or take the shortcut back to the finish line, or just walk it in. Shut up, brain. As I was about one-fourth mile from the finish, Tony and his crew saw me and cheered me in. I finished at 6:58:30 a.m., 90 seconds to spare, 60 miles completed. Thoroughly wrecked but fully satisfied.
After having a rough previous Friday night and Saturday night emotionally and mentally, I was actually pretty pessimistic in my abilities going into the event. Before starting the event at 7 pm on Saturday, Ellie had said that this experience would be good for me. “Feel the feelings. Shed some old skin.” That I did. I’m thankful for the talks with her and the support.
Growth and change aren’t fun...but you can either not have fun and not change, or you can not have fun but go through it and experience it and reap rewards along the way. And there’s fun in that. That’s life.
I can’t thank Tony and his crew—along with the fellow runners and the volunteers—enough for their support. Coach Tony got me to 60 miles by planting a seed with seeing something I didn’t see in myself. You’re capable of much more than your brain thinks you are. So every now and then, go for it. What a 12 hours of living.
This weekend, Sept. 18, I’ll be in Marquette, Michigan for another terrible idea—the Marji Gesick 50. It’s actually more like 62 miles, and there are no aid stations. Luckily, once again, I have a couple great people heading up there with me who will likely see something in me that I may not.
You can do more than you think you can. Surround yourself with people who help you see that stuff, and that includes in your health care choices!