So this is long and has some gear stuff thrown in there throughout. For those who don’t care about that just bare through it. There are some interesting things throughout and especially towards the end for everyone. I also have a video at the end.
I started this run at 6am 4-23-2016. I was the only one who was there which wasn’t much of a surprise to me. I tried to make this as close as possible to what I might experience at the Last Annual Vol State Race in July this year since this was mostly a training run for that. I couldn’t do anything about it not being super hot like the race will be but otherwise tried to carry everything I thought I would bring with during the race and as much water as I would during the race even though I never did drink all of it since it wasn’t very hot.
It was fairly cold at the beginning but I was fine once I got moving. It was a nice enjoyable run along the river in the beginning and 3 of the 4 big hills were right away. I stopped a lot to take pictures and videos to see how they’d turn out in different conditions so I know what to do during Vol State as well. I plan on taking a lot of pictures and videos during the race if I can as it kind of is a vacation on foot.
The first 20 miles or so was gravel so I wore my Altra Olympus which is my go-to long distance trail shoe. I had some issues with my medial arch on my right foot the last week and sure enough it showed up right away during the run. I figured it would go away once I loosened up but it took a good 15 miles for it not to hurt. The pain did go away though so I figured it was just one of the many times I’d have things come and go during the run like most ultramarathons.
My wife and kids (still in their pajamas and loving it) came to bring me my road shoes (Altra Paradigm 1.5) at mile 22 as the next 30+ miles were all asphalt and I wanted to use them for that since they were going to be the shoes I planned on wearing during Vol State. Yes I said “were going to be”, I think they may not be now. I had been using them for my long runs the last 6 weeks before this run and never had an issue with them but also didn’t necessarily love them like most Altra shoes I own. I got them a half size bigger since I know my feet will swell a lot in the Tennessee heat and after a couple hundred miles. I had been wearing 2 pairs of socks to both make my feet hot and to make my feet bigger as to not move around and cause blisters. It seemed like a good idea and maybe still is but I’m not so sure anymore. So I put on the second pair of socks (a size bigger as to not compress my feet too much, or so I thought) and set out. I noticed the Paradigms were firmer than my Olympus. They really shouldn’t be with such a high stack height and having 100 miles on them already. Not sure if my Olympus are just that broken in or if the Paradigm is just firmer.
Things went great. I stopped at my first water stop in Godahl at mile 33 for some food and water. Talked to the 3 people eating there for a little bit. They asked what brought me there today and didn’t seem at all surprised when I told them what I was doing. I was a little surprised by their lack of surprise. Usually I get one of about 5 responses: Why? That’s crazy, nuts, etc. Astonished that people run that far. A story about someone they know that did something once (that usually has nothing to do with running). Or they just keep asking more questions about the run. None of those came up. Anyway I love that store. It’s a super old general store with lots of character. I always stop by if I’m on that road.
Back on the road in about 25 minutes and realized I didn’t need 3L of water for the next 15 miles but whatever. About mile 45 or so the right side of my right foot started hurting. It got bad enough that I had to walk the last mile into Comfrey, my next water stop at mile 48. I removed one of my pairs of socks there and loosened up my shoes as they seemed tight. I’m not sure how much of the pain was related to them being too tight but I think it is over 50% of the cause. I’ve had issues before with having my shoes too tight and causing tendon problems. Never in this spot though. There is a retinaculum that goes from the medial side across the top of the foot and down the lateral side. It was right in that area on the lateral side that it hurt. Also right were the last 2 shoe lace loops are. Time will tell what went on. If it gets better then it’s not a big deal. If it gets worse then it’s time to get a MRI or something to make sure there isn’t a stress fracture or ligament issue. There was no discoloration and I didn’t twist my ankle or anything so I didn’t pull myself from the run at that point as I wanted to see if it would improve with the pressure off. Based on personal experience and from other runners experience it takes 2-3 hours for the pain to go away from shoes being too tight. I ate and sat for about 30 minutes and took off walking again. If it was during Vol State I likely would’ve got a hotel room and slept since it would be the hottest part of the day then plus I was hurting. But I was on the clock for this run, as 132 miles is a lot to cover in a 38 hour time limit I set for myself.
I told my wife to bring back my Olympus shoes since I would run out of asphalt in 10 miles and also bring a DQ double cheeseburger, yum! I walked the next 6 miles until she found me.
I sat for about 45 minutes with her charging my phone and watch, eating, and hearing about the fun the kids were having at my parents house. I took an NSAID as well. It hurt to get on my feet again but it always does after stopping. I told her to go up ahead to the gravel so I could see how things would go before she drove home. I walked for 5-10 minutes and then started running again. It felt good so I told her to drop the water off at the next stop and go home. I wouldn’t see her again for 26 miles.
This area is the highest spot in Brown County and only a mile or so away from Jeffers Petroglyphs. A high area “comparatively to the surrounding area” of exposed rock that has carvings in them from thousands of years ago, before any of the current native tribes were here. There is also a large remnant prairie there. There are a few spots in the prairie that they decided to dig down the 3-4 feet of prairie sod to get to rock and sure enough there are petroglyphs there as well. Anyway back to my story.
I started a run / walk pattern that was working pretty good but it was clear things weren’t getting better like I had hoped. It had been 4 hours since I loosened up my shoes and the pain wasn’t really any better. It was clear I would be walking much of the remaining course. I wasn’t too mad since walking will likely be a big part of my Vol State race too, much of it painful so I thought it useful to continue. We’ll see if that was a good idea or not. I saw a few people finishing up planting corn and some people fishing around dusk. Then I got my headlamp out since the clouds were now coming out and my plan of running by the full moon wouldn’t be happening anymore.
An hour or so later a truck drives by and stops to turn around. I knew this sort of thing would happen. These county line roads are pretty desolate in most of the county so to see someone running on them makes people stop. It was on of the fisherman. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was running and was just fine. He said he ran 12 miles that day but would never think to go over a marathon. I told him it’s not as bad as you think, if you just train for it. Anyway he saw my pack and said it looked like I would be fine and then drove off the opposite direction. Yep he drove 4 miles the wrong way just to stop to talk to me. That wouldn’t be the last time that happened during the night.
Dogs. So up to this point there were zero dog encounters. Really there were hardly any houses along the route to even have dogs but now for some reason they were everywhere. I carry mace in my hand at all times when on strange roads and brought my dowel rod I use for rolling out muscles as a quick weapon for the times the wind would be the wrong direction to use mace. I only had to get the rod out once for a St. Bernard that was thinking of crossing the road to me. She backed off with me telling her to go home about 5 times and shining my headlamp on the bright setting right in her face. Then the farms got so far apart and so far from the road that I couldn’t see any of the dogs, I’d just hear some bark.
Well the wind hadn’t let up one bit and it was getting towards when I’d have to go right into it again when I turned East. It was after midnight and I was pretty much just walking at that point. I’d try to sleep in the ditch but it was too cold. I left my sleep sack with my wife at 7:30 since the ditches had such sharp plant stubble in them that they would’ve completely destroyed it. I’d stop out of the wind when I’d get to a grove which was about every hour or so. Once there was a cat that kept trying to sneak up to me when I was resting in the ditch and I’d look at her and then she’d run away. We repeated this about 5 times before I left. Another time some very large bird took off from the tree above me. I’m assuming it was a vulture by the size of it. It looked black but then again it was night time. Scared me pretty good. It had the sound they always use in the movies for large angel wings.
My wife called at 1am saying she was going to bed. I thought she already was in bed. I told her I was only walking for the most part now and would never make the 8pm cutoff time to finish the route but would try to keep going. I wanted to make sunrise at least since then I’d be going mostly with the wind and then I’d be protected by the trees in the river valley once more and it’s really pretty there. Well by 2am I was regretting that and wished I had just had her come get me as she’d be here by now. I finally had a mile jog in the route where I went kind of with the wind and found a farm place with a grove on both sides of the road. I went in his field and found a spot that was calm. I laid down and kind of slept for about 15 minutes. I don’t know if I ever fell asleep though.
I awoke freezing cold and called my wife and tried to tell her to come get me through my chattering teeth. I knew it would be close to an hour so I kept walking. Then at about 3am a crew cab truck drives past and stops 50 feet ahead. Crap, here we go again. A guy gets out with a beer in hand. Sure enough people still go jagging around here. For people not from MN or Ohio (the only 2 places I know for sure call it that), that’s when you drive around on gravel roads drinking with a bunch of people. At least they were in their early 30’s. Maybe that’s worse though? Whatever, I was actually surprised that was only the second vehicle with drunk people in it I had seen that night on the gravel roads since it was Saturday night and Prom night in several towns. He asks what I’m doing. By now I’m up to the truck and can see all the drunk people in there with the windows rolled down curious as well. I explain what I’m doing and they are fully impressed. I’ll admit I kind of like when drunk people are impressed with me. I had plenty of experiences like that in college. They’re so friendly and seem genuinely impressed and amazed. They shook my hand and asked if they could help me cheat by driving me up the road. I said no and really I don’t know where I would’ve fit anyway, although at least I’d be warm. So they left.
Jessie got me around 3:30am. I went 80 miles. My legs weren’t even close to being tired and were pretty pissed at me that we weren’t running. With a little caffeine I wouldn’t be tired either. Stupid foot! An hour later, I was showered and in bed. Later that Sunday when we got up I could walk normal with a little pain. That pain got worse Monday once all the NSAIDs were gone and things swelled a little but still all just in that right foot. No muscles problems at all which I guess isn’t too surprising since it’s such a flat course and I walked probably 20 of the miles.
I learned a few new things for my Vol State race. I tried honey for the first time during a run and loved it. It goes down much smoother than gels and isn’t as sweet as I thought it’d be. My pack will work well and nothing fell out. I packed things in a pretty appropriate way as well and didn’t have any issues finding things or getting to them without removing my pack. Fully loaded with food and water I was about 10.5 pounds. I should be able to reduce that some as I carried way too much food and may not need to always carry 3L of water with me during the race. I didn’t even notice the pack when I quit after 22.5 hours so I guess that’s good. I chose the Ultimate Direction Adventure 3.0 pack. I’ve been working and adjusting it for the last 6 weeks and like it. I don’t totally love it but I doubt I’ll ever find one I love. It is much better than all the 2.0 packs they carry as they finally have an easy way to fill up the water bladder. I’ve mostly destroyed my Jurek 2.0 pack. In training I tried to use my hard water bottles from the old pack. They fit but after about 5 hours start digging into my chest so I went to the soft water bottles UD sells now. They cost more but are supremely comfortable. They only carry 0.5L each but they are much lighter. I just hope they last a long time. I’m not sure how puncture proof they are. I saw some people had the same pack at the Race That Must Not Be Spoken so perhaps they are tougher than they look.
So if everything heals and the Vol State race is still a go, I’ll write another blog about my goals and thoughts about how I plan to do the race. I’m sure all plans are gone within hours of the start but I’d like to have an idea of what I’m doing beforehand and be prepared as best as possible. If I hadn’t done this run, my Vol State race would’ve been over very quickly if I first found out then that my shoes sucked.