In a Ray of Light – 3 Days at the Fair Report

This picture at the start gives a hint of how I feel inside. Can you see the ray of light around me?

At the start of a long day. I am beaming.

The venue is fantastic, good places to park along the course to set up your aid station, great bathrooms with nice showers, good tent space, 25 ft elevation change for each lap, mostly paved, well lit at night, full kitchen in the food court, a screen showing you distance every lap.

Great bathrooms with nice showers right on course:

The nice down hill:

Food court and timing area:

Tent area near my car, but you could put a tent anywhere:

Swag: a nice jacket.

I came to this race a little by surprise. As a timed ultra addict, I had looked several times at the web page for this race. But this year, with a 50k in Missouri at the end of April and a trip to Ottawa ON planned at the end of May, I just didn\’t have time to squeeze this in. But, about 4 weeks ago, my boss informed me that he was getting his gall bladder operated on and that I\’d have to go to Sheffield Mass. to do a week of training. It turns out, this week after this race. Well, now that I HAVE to go to that part of the country, I might as well enter this race. My boss gave me permission to fly on Friday, so no vacation days used (also no airfare or rental car). Sweet!

I am not really trained for a 24 hour race, but no harm in seeing what I can do. I always go into things with high hopes but am good at accepting whatever happens.

I spent nearly all day getting from Houston to Albany NY. then a 2.5 hour drive to Sussex County NJ. I didn\’t get lost for once, which surprises me. I get to the race site for a look see about 7 pm. I think I decide where I want to park and set up my chair and food. No rain in the forecast.

Then I drive 6 miles down the road to the town where my hotel is. I go to the world\’s worst WalMart; but they do a have styro cooler which I need for tomorrow. Then I find a good food store and stock up on other items. Owing to the fact that I was traveling all day, I was under-hydrated. Therefore, I slept a solid 6 hours without getting up.

In met the wife of one of the runners in the hotel the next morning. This already formed a relationship between me and husband. I get to the race site about 8. Set up my things. I am parked next to one guy who has already been there 2 days and another guy who just got there (he eventually went 120 miles in 24 ours!). We all start chatting. then I pick up my number and swag. Then I check my number and see that it registers on the tower display. Cool: every lap, my distance and time is distance and time flash on the screen. This is great since one lap is 0.85xxx miles.

The race has 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours and 6 hours. The people who started before me are on course and mostly walking at various speeds. Some just barely moving forward. Some older folks seem listing at the waist. The scene is pretty grim. Even the leader is walking, though in steady fashion. These people are determined to stay on course no matter what. I am somewhat inspired. I think, \”I can do that. I will do that.\” At 9 am, the 24 hour people start.

I follow everyone around. I notice that there is a horse show in the arenas on one side of the course. Lap number 2, I get to the back side and don\’t see any one in front of me. Sudden confusion as I need to turn but can\’t remember which place. Then, those behind me point the way. Haha, got lost on a 0.85xx mile course which I\’ve already done once.

I meet some other people from Texas. I meet with Fred, a guy I\’ve met at other ultras. I\’m working on nutrition. The afternoon gets up of high of 80F, no shade.

At 39 miles (maybe 10 hours into race), my little left toe suddenly blew up. I went from doing pretty good to can\’t hardly walk in an instant. Luckily, my car was only about a quarter of a mile away. I went there and sat down. I didn\’t know what I would do about the toe, but something must be done. A blister under the toe nail and broke the toe nail loose. I am in trouble.

I try to pop it without much luck. Other people ask if I need help. I ask if anyone knows more about blister than me. Turns out blinter man has gone home, but a physical therapist who works on her husbands feet is willing to help me. This is good because PTs are willing to inflict pain. We discuss and try various things. Eventually we get it drained \”some\” and she puts 3 or 4 more blister pads around it. I put on one thin sock and ask someone to cut a hole in my shoe by that toe. During this time, my body is freezing up. My quads start quivering. I got thru a bit of nausea. I doubt I\’ll be continuing on.

After about an hour, I stand up. Oh look, I\’m standing. Great effort is put into one step and then another. The toe hurts like a mother, but I hobble onto the course. What? Why? After about 0.25 mile, things settle down a little. As the lap wears on, things get better. As the sun goes down, I put on jackets and pants and find I am walking pretty good. Since I am beyond the point where I would normally have packed it in, each lap I finish seems like a miracle. I usually don\’t keep going. I have a hotel room to go to. I don\’t have to be out there.

There is a wedding in one area and people show up dressed to the nines. this gives us conversation about women\’s shoes. Later, it gives us conversation about drunk young couples behaving that way. There is a catered auction in another building. The restrooms suddenly have restroom attendants who clean the place up, light candles, spray freshener, put on music and collect tips. Some items at the auction are pretty high dollar. We talk about that. People inside the auction come out to smoke. The race organizers, quickly get them away from the course. We talk about that. Some drunk or well dressed tipsy people are asking who we racers are and what we are doing. Exclamations are forthcoming.

Best joke was when I was walking with Fred. Another man comes out of the men\’s restroom and says, \”Hey Fred, when was the last time you were at an ultra with bathroom attendants?\” Fred and I bust up. It is ludicrous. Mostly, we use bushes and portas at races.

About 10:30 pm, I am walking along the back side of the course. Up on the highway, I hear the screech of brakes and a loud bang. My hands involuntarily fly to my head. Soon, I think I hear screams. Not long later, sirens. I decide to keep walking until the drunks get home. Its much safer destroying my feet and legs on a track than driving. lol!

I walk for 13 miles. But I find I have no goals. My original goal is gone. Now, I am just walking. I hurt enough that I don\’t think I need to walk all night. I wonder which lap will be my last. I walk with a woman and we discuss the \”why\” question; as in why do we do this. Neither of us know. We just know that pretty soon, we\’ll be clicking submit and doing it again.

I finish a lap and look at the screen. I have finished 2 marathons: 52.xx miles. I have been at this for 15h45min. I realize that I am done. I\’m not willing to just keep hurting and causing myself more injury. 2 marathons is a good. I tell the RD I\’m leaving so they don\’t wonder where I am. she gives me a look like, \”You should keep walking.\” I know that other guys hurting much worse than me are in fact still shuffling around. I don\’t really see why I should continue to beat myself up. At 1 am, I head for the hotel.

I can\’t sleep. First, I am too wound up. Second, my body hurts in too many places. I find that I am damn glad I stopped when I did. I\’m happy with what I did. My bladder is working great so I find myself having to get up. Walking 15 steps to the bathroom is difficult.

Two weeks ago, I finished a 50k (31 mile) race. Now, I see how much more damage is caused by 50 miles. The difference is significant, a step change.

Now, I just drove 3 hours through beautiful New York State to the little town where I\’ll be doing business this week. I realized something different about myself. I don\’t feel like a failure because I pulled the plug on my pain and didn\’t stay out walking til the bitter end. I have felt bad about that in the past. Now, I don\’t feel like this is a flaw in my makeup that needs to be fixed. I just realize I am different. I don\’t have to be like the others. I can be happy with the chance to go 52 miles and almost 16 hours. I\’d never do that by myself, which is why I go to these races.
Good food: Primal fuel mixed with Heed, Vanilla soymilk in little purple boxes, Starbuck\’s bottled lattes, Oikos strawberry yogurt, gala apples, Cuties mandarins, Raw Revolution lemon bars.

OK food: Clif double espresso gel, veggie burgers on pita, Bolton Farms vanilla chai protein drink.

Forgot: cranberries, Luna lemon bars, Almond nut thins.

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Travel Day – 3 Days as the Fair

I am in Houston Hobby airport. I got here early because there are usually long lines to check bags and get thru security. So I have been walking around the Southwest terminal. It is 900 steps per lap. I know this because I have a pedometer issued by my work place. The goal is 10,000 steps per day.

I am up to 5,153 today.

But wait, I am starting a 24 hour race tomorrow. I shouldn\’t be walking at all! I\’ll get to walk alot, without the heavy computer on my back, starting tomorrow at 9 am.

Ultras hurt. I admire those who ignore the pain. I know I give up at some point. Given the current situation with my body, I don\’t know how long that will take. No matter how slow, I hope to stay on course.

I am staring at a black hole. I don\’t know what will happen. I signed up for this race almost because I have to work nearby the following week. So the trip is free. The race will be an exercise in letting go, but moving forward. I seek endlessness. I will play with my thoughts; watching and dismissing.

Ultra-ACIM – 3 Days at the Fair Preperation

I am thinking about practicing hard core \”A Course in Miracles\” (ACIM) for my upcoming 24 hour endurance run.

Usually, during races, I come up with some phrase which is filled with light and love and peace. This time, I am thinking I will use lessons 9, 10 and 11 during the race. The purpose of these is not to cater to a romantic ego, but instead point out its delusional thought system.

\”I see nothing as it is now.
My thoughts do not mean anything.
My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.\”

For non-ACIM students, here is the punch line of lesson 9. \”…It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms. Yet that does not preclude applying it. No more than that is required for these or any other exercises. Each small step will clear a little of the darkness away, and understanding will finally come to lighten every corner of the mind that has been cleared of the debris that darkens it….\”

The reason I think these phrases will help me with my endurance run is because: they are true. But also, if I remember \”each small step will clear a little of the darkness\”, then I\’ll be a winner. To make meaning out of a worldly delusion is purely an ego exercise. I dare to let it go, to walk 75 miles without swag.

My last load of laundry is done. The trash is taken out. I\’ll now go upstairs and count out the undies and socks.

T Minus 3 – 3 Days at the Fair Prelude

It is Wednesday morning and I am at work in my Texas chemical park. On Friday morning at this time, I\’ll be at Houston Hobby getting ready to board my Southwest Airlines flight for New Jersey. Saturday morning, I\’ll begin my 24 hour trek.
It will be a journey of mind and emotion and pain. I can\’t leave the pain out because I know that feet do hurt after you\’ve been on them more than 50 miles. I don\’t know how far I\’ll go. I don\’t have a goal other than to stay in the game as long as possible. I\’ve been resting my legs this week; but there could still be problems that can\’t be ignored and I have to quit early.
I have a positive feeling about the race. But I also find myself strangely silent. It is as if I anticipate changes as a result of the journey. I hope for changes in the depth of my being; that is, I am able to know myself at a deeper level.

Race Preparation – 3 Days at the Fair

I am preparing for a 24 Hour Race. It is out of town, so that takes a bit of head scratching and an extra bag.

Chair, 2 pairs of shoes, socks, special undies, shorts, rain suit, long, short and tank shirts, vest, ball caps, gloves, buffy, first aid supplies, flash light, Bio-freeze and pain rub.

Food going with me: soy milk in little boxes, Blue Diamond Cheddar Nut Thins, Cranberries in little bags, Mentos sugar free spearmint gum, 5 hour energy, Raw Revolution lemon bars, Primal Fuel, Heed, spirulina, Myoplex Lite cinnamon flavor bars, Luna lemon bars, shaker bottles, some Clementines that would go bad if I left them home, Clif double espresso gels (caffeine needed).

This is just the running stuff. I\’ll also be carrying all my work stuff as I\’ll be working in Massachusetts all  the following week.

I\’ll buy some stuff there too. Most notably, a cooler, apples and veggie patties. WalMart is very close to my hotel on Friday night.

Then there is the issue of hotels for Saturday night and Sunday. On Sunday, I\’m supposed to drive about 120 miles from the race site to the town where our facility is, as I am working there during the coming week. On Saturday night, I don\’t really need a hotel room because the race goes from 9 am Saturday to 9 am Sunday. But the last time I did one of these races, I quit after 20 hours. If I wanted to quit this time, it would be good to have a hotel to go to. Or, commit to not quitting and just lay in the car if I need a nap. What it will come down to I think is: what kind of car do I rent and would the hotel grant me a checkout time of at least 1 pm. These questions will need to be settled on-site.

I have decided to \”taper.\” I\’ve got a sore heel that just needs some rest. So today, I did 2 hours of easy non-painful, non-aggressive cross training. I\’ve only done one other 24 hour run. I got to 80 miles and decided that was enough pain. So, while I need daily exercise for well being, it doesn\’t have to be running. The more healed I go into a 24 hour run, the longer I will last. So, let the running go.

I am looking forward to a good long endurance run. I always meet nice people and enjoy a good community at these things.

Silence is the Message

Runners obsess about the weather at their next race.

Here is the weather for Augusta NJ next weekend.

Today, in Texas, I am in a quandary. I am back to wanting God without the documentation. I am back to wanting to listen and hear The Voice, without any propaganda from this world.
To do that, I have to understand silence and wordlessness.
My next race is a 24 hour race. It consists of a 0.8x mile course. No tricks. Just go around as much as you care to in 24 hours. I don\’t think I\’ll have any swag since I won\’t make it to 100 miles. It will be just me and my thoughts. It won\’t be pretty.
I did a bit of running today, on top of a 2h40min cross training session Friday night. I have some aches and pains that need a break from running. So I will attempt to rest this week. the graph with the numbers will have to grow more slowly this month. I only have 38 miles this week. Ha! Not much of a rest after the last race.
Silence. Oh Jesus. You have spoken in my heart with your love.

Ultra Insanity

Incredible. Unbelievable. I\’m sure I am crazy; for running at least.

So, I have wanted to enter another timed endurance run. I can\’t completely explain why. Being on your feet for 24 hours does hurt. But, well, sometimes you just should.

I am going to a 50k endurance run in Missouri this weekend. I signed up for that because I wanted to see what shape I was in and to remember what it feels like. Then I planned to train all summer for a 12 hour endurance run in September.

But, I found out yesterday that I am scheduled to go to one of our plant sites in Massachusetts in May. Then I remembered that there was an endurance run nearby which I had figured that I didn\’t want to do since I am short on vacation and I am going to Canada at the end of May.

But, my boss said I could fly on a Friday and of course my air fare is on the company. So, why not go to an endurance run. It is not like I wouldn\’t spend all weekend running anyway. It is my only chance for a 24 hour run this year. My foot is a bit sore, but undergoing good treatment. But if my only goal is to remain on my feet for 24 hours, why not?

So, I\’m now all booked to go to \”3 Days at the Fair\” although, I\’m only in the 24 hour race.

It is my chance to feel the community of one of these endurance runs. It is my chance at extended running meditation for this year. I love the thought: Just go around the loop, thru night and day. Peaceful. Connected to the others. Miles piling up.

Here are some pictures: