In this micro adventure I actually find the 312 foot ship! Here is what ULA has to about their rocketship… The R/S Rocketship, as it’s now called, is a 312-foot vessel designed specially to transport …
So I finally get to visit the Expedition Sasquatch Museum in Episode 3 of Running from Bigfoot!
This micro-adventure started out as a running adventure in interesting areas… Known bear country. But what you may not know is that there have also been Bigfoot sightings! So I decided to go for a run that ended with me at the Expedition Sasquatch museum.
I must say that this place was really awesome. It was far more than what I was expecting and the owners were really awesome. They allowed me to video footage for my YouTube channel. If you’re ever in Blue Ridge Ga. it’s a must do adventure!
In Episode 2 I travel to North Georgia (from Athens, Alabama) to an area known for bears and…Bigfoot! I visit the Expedition Sasquatch museum in Blue Ridge and run on the Benton Mackaye trail in a known bear and Bigfoot area! All in one day. Just another micro-adventure to inspire you to do something awesome.
Click here to watch this interesting micro-adventure!
I’m not going to Nepal or Mt. Everest and you’re probably not either. But there are a lot of micro-adventures that you can take near you. My desire is to inspire and motivate you to create and explore micro-adventures near you!
Many, not all, of mine are all done in a day!
Click here to watch my channel trailer. It’ll tell you all about it in 50 seconds!
This 48 hour race was part of my 100 mile endurance quest part 3!
Bottom Line: 72 miles accomplished – personal record. 100 mile goal still in play!
Here’s the skinny if you want the details!
Woke up early Friday morning for the 2 hour drive to Alabaster, Alabama, for a 9am. start time. Don’t overlook getting up early when you’re entering a 48 hour race where there will be little sleep! My intent early on was never to stay the entire 48 hours but that was the only option offered where I thought I could reach my 100 mile goal – which proved to be elusive. Plan was to get the 100 if I were capable and call it. Wishful thinking as you’ll soon find out.
Felt like I had taken the correct preventive measures to avoid the shortfalls of the Merrill’s Mile back in July. Thanks to Jacob we now had a canopy and yes it would later rain! Can’t have nothing! Jacob was a willing participant to enter this with me being a Marine and Triathlete with some pretty good accomplishments of his own in endurance racing. He would enter the 24 hour event. He too had a goal in mind that shouldn’t take take the entire time to complete. While usually running solo (not knowing anyone), having someone I knew was a big boost.
With a quick blast of a loud air horn the race started. Of course some took off like superstars while others knew the grind of endurance racing and started with a slow slog. I had never seen the 1 mile loop course before. Reason I thought I MIGHT achieve my 100 miles was the course was advertised as flat. Our first lap would prove that false advertising. I would estimate that 1/3 was a slow grinding hill. 1/3 of a mile is a long way to go up a small hill for hours and hours. When I saw that, I realized immediately that my 100 mile goal was in question. I thought about all those early mornings training with a goal in mind. I thought about all my long runs each week that were usually 20 miles. Now for those that are posers like me in the running world, 20 mile runs take a few minutes. So I’m also thinking about all the hours spent in training to realize the 100 probably wasn’t going to happen – and know it on the first lap!
All in all this is part of the mental game of endurance racing. Being strong mentally. You know when you start, at some point you’re going to suffer. The winner is usually the one that is willing to suffer the most, be it in training,the race day or both.
The course was beautiful, offering a lot to take your mind off what you know is coming – suffering! The highlight for me was the dog park. The course was in Veterans Park. Each lap during the daylight hours I looked forward to watching the dogs be dogs as I ran by. Then there was a huge fountain in the middle of a pond. While these sound simple, they help when you’re on the same course hour after hour.
Now to the strategy aspect of endurance racing. Strategy is a huge part. You must determine when to run, walk, jog, shuffle, sleep and eat. Nutrition is key to the success of the others. You must take in calories. Problem is your GI tract is not accustomed to bouncing up and down for hours on end. Many good racers have DNF’d (did not finish) due to nutrition issues – think throwing up for hours on end. So you want to practice with what you’ll eat on race day so there are no surprises. Wish I had followed my own advice…
I like to drink my calories with a product called Tailwind (Berry flavor). I like it mixed 2-3 scoops in my handheld water bottle. But the race would be providing Tailwind so one less thing to carry and buy – it’s not cheap! Say it with me, “MISTAKE!” I did not like the flavor, it mix mine over what the directions suggest. . The food that day never looked appealing so I got hungry. Solution? My wife Julie brought the best tasting chicken, egg and cheese bagel from Chic-fil-a that you could imagine. Then for lunch my son in law, Seth, came to the rescue with a Big Mac, cheeseburger and a large sweet tea! It was magical!
Don’t hear what I’m not saying… The aid station was number one. Lots of selection, people cooking constantly, well stocked – It just wasn’t clicking for me – totally a personal thing. The people and food were number one!
Now for the race itself… Started with my usual walk off the starting line – I mean I’m going to be out there for 30 hours and no need to show off early – I’ll save that for later of course! Then I move into my walk/run for hours throughout the day hoping the lactic acid in my thighs would hold off for as long as possible. You generally want to bank miles during the day while there is light, which is what I did. It’s important to stick to your strategy realizing your limitations for the long haul. As you watch the younger runners go by you wonder if they realize it’s a long race. Ton’s of people get beat late in the race because they started too fast. But then there are the superstars that can actually run much of the race – problem is, when people go by you don’t know which they are. So you stick to your own strategy. I’m one of those that know my limitations and race against myself trying to get personal bests each time. Which sometimes happens and sometimes not. Things pretty much went as planned. Banked miles in the day. But then night comes. And night is another beast within itself mentally for endurance racers. If you’ve banked miles for 12-13 hours you’re now tired. Then darkness sets in bringing with it in the early hours – sleepiness. Now you need to factor in how much sleep you need while remembering that you’re still racing even if your pace is down to a grinding shuffle, while the lactic acid wants to explode out of your quads. So this also means there are fewer people on the course at night. There were times between 2-3am where I was the only one that I could see on the course. Night proved to be cold, lonely and painful. The slow grind of the hill was now causing a ton of pain in not only my quads but now my hamstrings. I rarely have hamstring pain in flat races but the hill said otherwise. Grind, grind, grind. You just have to keep grinding out the miles.
Once I reached 50 I told myself that I was now half way to my goal – how insane is that? I’ve gone 50 miles and I have that many left to go. At that point I started doing the math and realized 100 miles was going to take way longer than I had anticipated on this course. Eventually the reality set in that it wasn’t going to happen. In fact now I had to determine if I could set a personal record to go past 70 miles. Grind, grind, grind. I had to just keep grinding the miles which included that stupid hill! The hill had become my nemesis! And honestly, if you went there today and saw it, you’d think no big deal and quit your whining!
During the night I slept maybe 45 minutes total in segments. And to say I slept is a stretch, I closed my eyes. But then I began to think about seeing my wife Julie and my daughter, Katelyn. They would be racing in the 6 hour race that started at 9am on Saturday. There is something awesome about watching the sunrise after being up all night racing. It brings new life. Unfortunately the morning proved to be overcast which meant it was darker longer! Again, can’t have nothing! Oh, and let’s add that the morning light brought it’s friend rain along with it. So now, you’re mentally and physically tired, cold, legs are stuffed with lactic acid to the max, and now it’s raining. Rain is great friends with chaffing and blisters.
At this point my family didn’t want me staying the full 48 hours and driving myself home for 2 hours which was smart on their part. At this point I knew that I had until 3pm to reach my personal record of 70 miles. That means I’d be racing from 9am the previous day until 3 pm the next. Makes me tired thinking about it! There were times when I was wondering if I could even beat 70 miles with that stupid hill but I eventually did! I did it in the less time allotted, collected my finisher medal and crawled into my car to rest until Julie and Katelyn finished. I did not want to take another step. I was done! But I had accomplished one of my goals and left the illusive 100 on the table for another day.
Overall a fun time had by all but let me explain in closing. I find it important to set physical goals. I’m not that superstar runner, I’m a hack at best. But it keeps me active. It reminds me that our minds are incredible machines created by God and will allow us to do more than we ever thought. Endurance racing is a mental thing. Your body is capable of way more than you give it credit for at any age if you’ve taken care of it.
Then there is suffering. Suffering is not necessarily a bad thing. We can learn a lot about ourselves while suffering. We can see what we’re really made of. We can see how mentally tough we really are. There are a lot of positive things that happen because of suffering. I think we grow stronger through suffering in many different ways but most importantly mentally. When you toe the line in endurance racing you know you’re going to suffer. The only question is when.
So here we are again! After running 70 miles at Merrill’s Mile in less than 24 hours, I felt that scratched the 100 mile itch. Riding home day of race I wondered why I keep doing this. I actually feel it was my lactic acid filled quads talking. Wow did they hurt!
But by the afternoon I was deciding what the next race would be. After a lot of ciphering I decided on a 36 hour race. I feel I need a little more than 24 hours to get the 100 in. If I’m capable at all – let’s not stick our head in the sand on that possibility.
So I have entered a 48 hour endurance race because I couldn’t find a 36 hour race. Now I need a strategy… My original goal, that remains, is to do a point to point 100 miler verses the 100 in a 1 mile circular trail as is this race. The reason I have chosen the circular is to test my time as there are no cut off times like there will be in the point to point.
Now for my strategy quandary… Run this 100 miler to see how long it takes to reach 100 and call it a day but not be competitive in the 48 hour race. Run the 100 fast and you have nothing left for the total 48 hour race but you meet the 100 mile goal.
Remember, the last time I ran 100 miles was never! The last time I ran for 36-48 hours was never. So all the strategy talk may be for naught and I have to face that. But that’s what this has always been about. What is my body still capable of at 57 years old?
Now for those unfamiliar with endurance racing at this level, specifically this race:
This will be a 1 mile circular trail.
You will run, walk, hike throughout the race. But remember you’re racing. People seem to want to tear you down when you tell them, yes we walk some, but then I ask them if they’ve ever WALKED 100 miles – seems to calm them down and put it into perspective! (In the South this is known as Shut Up Juice)
You will sleep very little if any throughout the entire race.
Nutrition is key. Your GI tract is shaken for hours and upset stomachs are common. You can be in the best shape of your life and it means nothing if you’re on the side of the trail throwing up.
Blistering and chaffing are the enemy.
In this format camaraderie is common. You’re running with people for 2 days for crying out loud. We encourage one another. I’ll start at 9am on a Friday and end at 9am on Sunday.
When night falls, those early hours are hard, but the sunrise will bring new life.
Much of long distance running is mental. Seriously, your body is capable of incredible things when you test it. Most people just never test it.
Most of my nutrition early on will be liquid with food coming later in the race.
At these times and distances there usually aren’t many entrants. These aren’t distance that you just decide I think I’ll try to run 100 miles. That means those that show up are usually good runners and competitors.
So there you have it. I’ll give a full race report soon. We’ll see if I learned anything at my last 24 hour race.
So the first part of my 100 mile endurance quest is in the books – Merrill’s Mile 24 Hour Endurance Race!
I’ll provide a short, just the facts version, as well as a full race report for those less familiar with ultra endurance racing. So you get to choose because people like choices…
Short version – I chose the 24 hour option starting at 9am Friday until 9am. Saturday. Two incredible thunderstorms in between incredible sweltering heat – yes I paid to experience this! It’s a one mile paved loop. When all was said and done I covered 67 miles and some change and finished 3rd out of 20 in the 48 hour race and 2nd in my age group – winner was in my age group!
Full Race Report – This will answer a lot of your endurance racing questions!
Merrill’s Mile is held at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega Ga, an Army Ranger training camp. Today will be a family affair! My daughter Katelyn, and my two son in law’s, Seth and Sam, will be running the 6 hour option then cutting out leaving me running a true solo race.
Upon arrival we set up camp. This race is known as a timed event. This just means you try to cover the longest distance in a specified amount of time as possible. So yes, you can walk, sit, run, or whatever. So, many people set up a campsite with a canopy and chairs and if running the 48 hour version then some pretty elaborate campsites are set up on the infield of the loop. The advantage of timed events and running in circles is you get to go by your camp every loop. This means you can provide your own nutrition.
Nutrition plays a BIG factor in ultra racing. Food has a hard time digesting when your digestive system is shaking up and down for hours on end. Ultra race directors typically provide excellent food at aid stations. Excellent food if it rides well on your stomach that day! Otherwise you find yourself throwing up every so often, and do that enough and your day is finished as you must have the calories. Or worse, you may find yourself melting! You want to avoid a rumbly in the tumbly at all costs on race day. These calories can be gotten either through liquids like Tailwind, GU gels or real food – or any combination thereof. So it’s important that you practice your nutrition before race day as it has the biggest impact on performance. Be the best athlete in the world, in the best shape of your life but find yourself throwing up and having diarrhea every so often and even I’ll eventually pass ya! So nutrition is big!
So I decide to go the minimalist route with just a Rubbermaid tote and a cooler with water. I decided to use my cooler as a chair. In my tote are 3 changes of clothes, another pair of shoes, Tailwind Powder, Bread, Peanut Butter and Honey, Stax potato chips, a light jacket, a rain jacket, Saltines, Black Diamond headlamp and extra batteries, body lube,a buff for my head, and a few other essentials like band-aids, chap stick, handheld water bottle, etc… My decision with this setup will cost me dearly later.
I try to set several realistic goals for every ultra I enter. One that will stretch me a little and eventually one that stretches me a lot. For this race… To still be able to walk/run at 9am. Saturday. To race farther than I ever have, which meant anything over 50 miles. Then the one I really hoped to accomplish – to make it to 65 miles. Then the last was 75 miles.
We are called to the starting line. We’ve all been given a bib number that has an embedded chip on the backside so our laps will be electronically measured. For this race we also have ankle bracelets that also track our miles and I heard that live tracking was available for this race. That means you can log on and track a runners progress throughout the race – but I didn’t know that until after the race. This will also means you can see where you stand on a large flat screen monitor on each pass. Oh well. I need to take a break in the action to discuss Ultra racing strategy now that we’re about to start…
In ultra running strategy plays a key role. I’m going to be running a long time, at least for me – 24 hours. Every runner has to have a strategy, or I think they should have. Yes, you’ll need to build in some walking, but you need to walk with purpose – remember you’re racing. Get your walk/run/rest strategy out of wack and you lose. Then there is the heat and sleep deprivation. Do you want to take it easy during the hottest part of the day and then haul the mail at night? Possibly. Or would it be better to bank miles while it’s early and your legs are fresh? Will you have set timed rest breaks? How many? That’s why there is so much strategy involved in the Ultra world.
Back to the Race without Interruption
The funny part of an Ultra start is that when the starter yells go, some start running while others start walking – it’s back to strategy. I decide to start at a really slow running pace and just make myself stop and walk later. The biggest error made, in my opinion, in ultra running is starting too fast. So the saying goes, walk early and walk often and that’s what I did – I mean 24 hours after all.
And it was all going so well until it wasn’t. We start in sweltering heat so you are quickly drenched – no problem I heat train regularly by intentionally finding the hottest days I can to run. I also rain train, trying to run in pelting rain when possible. When you’re ultra trail running (over 32 miles) point to point, you must continue moving forward regardless of conditions.
But then, the rain came and came and came… Athens Alabama had not provided me the luxury of training in rain like I was experiencing and it was hitting me in the chest so hard it felt like piercing needles – and no I’m not being dramatic – it hurt! Normally you could see the entire mile loop from end to end but the rain had now blocked that type of visibility. 48 hour people could spare a little time and found cover in their camps with their canopies. I had no canopy and furthermore if I opened my tote to get any nutrition it would have filled up with rain water – lesson learned, I’ll have a canopy next time! I can’t afford the time to get out of the rain as I have no idea how long it will last. Then comes the lightening, where am I going to go? So I just keep racing. Then it lets up and what a relief not to have the rain pounding and pounding for I’m sure over an hour. I wait for the humid sun to return to bake me again and it does not disappoint! This means I will have time to change into dry clothes because I couldn’t be any wetter if I’d jumped into a pool. But by now my worst nightmare was transpiring…
My feet were soaked and so were my running shorts, then blisters on my feet, and chaffing of my inner thighs had begun. Don’t under estimate the pain of chaffing of your inner thighs. Oddly enough this is all part of the allure of Ultra running – whoever is willing to suffer the longest finishes the highest. You just have to deal with problems. Running in the North Georgia mountains as I did one year, and have a problem, there is no one there to help you when you get blisters or chaff or diarrhea or throwing up – you just have to deal with it. So I dealt with them by getting into new socks, shoes, shorts, etc… And so all was good again, and I was feeling fresh! Until…
Until the torrential rain hit again a few hours after the first monsoon. Now I’m in the same predicament again. I’m soaking wet, blistering and chaffing but I can’t change because it’s still raining cats and dogs – if I open my tote all my gear gets soaked – again note to self about bringing a canopy! Plus, I can’t forget I’m still racing and others are in the same boat. But if I can suffer longer then I might get ahead.
Nutrition at this point is stellar. I decide to drink Tailwind for my calories and use an S-Cap periodically for my sodium intake. I’ll later start eating some real food while drinking Tailwind. Worked like a charm the entire race and I must admit I had he best aid station food of any I’ve ever had – kudos to the RD. Food included watermelon, freshly cooked grilled cheese, humus burritos – really good and I’m not usually a humus fan, Ginger Ale (helps settle your stomach) etc…
The rain eventually quits and I get into my dry clothes once again. I’m feeling pretty good with my walk/run strategy and slowly clocking miles. But nightfall quickly approaches and the track is not lighted. So out come all the headlamps which looked really cool around the track. I haven’t stayed up all night on purpose since Jr. High and was wondering how long before this too goes south. I’ve decided not to sleep or stop during the race but keep moving forward no matter how slow it gets. I have also decided not to run using music just to make all aspects of the race mentally as hard as possible – ever tried running in a circle for 24 hours? Me either at this point. Surprisingly it goes pretty well, in fact better than expected as far as the night goes. My legs, not so much…
Somewhere during the night my quads get trashed. They have filled with lactic acid is my guess. So now I need to sit for the first time during the race. I know it’s going to be painful – little did I know how much. I get the the chair Katelyn has left me – that I didn’t think I needed – I was wrong and lesson learned. Problem is the chair sits really low and I’m tall. I can’t tell you how excruciating the quad pain was as I stretched them trying to sit down. Then I used my leg roller and tried to roll the pain away. They felt better after sitting about 10 minutes. But then…
Then something happened that I can’t explain, the chaffing started immediately as I started walking again. By the way, when the early morning hours came there was more walking than running, everything was so painful now. Oddly enough the chaffing quit after about 5 minutes of walking or at least I no longer felt the pain. But now whenever I thought about needing to rest, which I did 2 more times for about 10-15 minutes, it became a mental thing knowing the pain I’d feel while trying to get into the chair and the chaffing pain after getting back up. In total I sat down only about 3 times during the entire race.
Late into the race it became apparent that I would make my 65 mile goal. When that came and went by a couple of miles I was done! I was spent. To give you an idea, I like a 10 minute and 30 second mile. In ultra racing I like to start at about 11 minute pace and settle in on about 12 minute pace late in the race. On my last few miles I was clocking a few 30 minute miles and was personally impressed I could pull it off with all the quad pain, blisters and chaffing! I decided to leave an hour and a half on the table and take my 67 miles and take it to the house. I wrestled with just doing whatever I could for that hour and a half but felt I had made a good run at my goals and was satisfied, called Julie and Katelyn to come and pick me up and I said goodbye to Merrill’s Mile feeling this might just be the race that helps me retire from ultra running.
What I’d have done differently
Canopy, chair that sits high for my height, moleskin for my blisters, starting even slower than I did, walk more during the heat to run faster at night, long poncho so my shorts didn’t get as wet, take care of issues sooner than I did. Other than that I think for my first 24 hour event I got it close to dialed in.
At the end of the day
Was sore for the afternoon after the race, but was pretty good the next day as far as being able to walk. Blisters on feet are healing and all is good. The following day I was already thinking about my next race and how I’ll do it differently. Finished the Merrill’s Mile with 67 miles with a 3rd place finish out of 20 in the 24 hour race overall and 2nd in my age group. Shout out to the race directors for having the best aid station food I’ve ever experienced. Only wish this race was in the fall!
So I lost and entire week of training. More on that later…
So the dream or nightmare continues. My quest to attempt a 100 mile endurance race. Notice that it’s a race and not just a run, so yes, walking is part of the strategy.
Step one of my plan is to do a 24 hour timed event on a 1 mile closed course – a 1 mile track. Part of the challenge is to fight off the boredom of running in a one mile circle for 24 hours – with no sleep. Then, once I can determine my athletic condition I will determine my next step in the quest. Most likely that would be a flatter 100 miler somewhere in the US.
So back to me losing 1 week of training which also slows things down for the second week of subpar training… I joined Strava and a few virtual running clubs to gauge my training efforts against other local runners each week. I was logging great mileage for several weeks. I was somewhat competitive on Strava. Until…
Until I decided to be my usual self when it comes to extremes. I love to run on the hottest and coldest days I can find just to see if I can take it. It’s a mental thing as you never know what race conditions may be on any given race day. On this particular day I thought it might be a great idea to run in the heaviest monsoon rain I could find. For about 7 miles, puddles and all. Thought it would be great training as I have often run races in adverse conditions. Weather can change a lot in 24 hours. The run went well as it rained harder and harder.
Then it happened…A couple of days later I developed an intense sinus infection. Now I’m not saying that there is a cause and effect thing here but… I’m pretty sure running in the rain COULD have contributed to the infection. I got so sick, lost sleep, felt so tired that it shut down all training. It got so bad I even went to the doctor, I know, I know. I lost an entire week of training. I was logging some pretty good mileage – for me, until then. But if that wasn’t bad enough, now I need to slowly ease back into some high mileage days, and race day is quickly approaching.
In case you’re wondering what high mileage days look like for me… I subscribe to the one long run per week mentality. You run quality miles during the week but you real effort is put into the long run on weekends. My long run is 20 miles each week. Just in case you’re wondering. For a 225 pound guy that’s a lot of miles!
So I’m back on track. I’ve officially registered for the 24 hour race and now working on nutrition and strategy ideas. More about that in another post dedicated to just that.
If you’ve read my post on my Walter Mitty Life then you already know I go past what some believe is normal. I think that’s up for debate! I will say that there are times that I question myself as to some of the things I attempt to do. This could be one of those.
Wondering how anyone would even consider getting into ultra running – distances that typically start around 31 miles. You can read about how I started in my post Ultra Experiment.
Ultimately I feel that the shorter races are a young man’s game, it’s all about speed, which left me long ago. But as the distance increases to the ultra distances, strategy and nutrition slowly works their way into the equation. You see, it’s an endurance race, which means there is a combination of walking and running. You need the best combination of each dependent on the course to be successful. If that weren’t enough, then enters in your nutrition. You can be in great shape, have a great plan, but have your race nutrition go south on race day and your day is over. A lot of factors play into endurance racing. It’s a game of strategy.
My longest race to date was 50 miles. I often get asked if I walked any of it. Many seem disappointed when I say yes – it’s an endurance race, not an endurance run. Walk or run in the wrong ratio and you lose. Remember, it’s about strategy, how much do I walk to hang on for hours of being on my feet verses running. Then I ask if they’ve ever tried to just walk 50 miles. That seems to bring it back into perspective! You can see a light bulb go off…
So before I retired from running a couple of years ago, I had been obsessed with toeing the line for a 100 mile endurance race. Once again, some would say not normal. Again I’d say that’s up for debate. You see I believe the mind/body is capable of things that many never tap into. I think this could be one of those things.
So, my quest to run a 100 mile endurance race begins…