by Bryan Hojnacki
Life is like a long distance run. Most of the time you're looking forward, but occasionally you look back at what you've covered… You know there will be obstacles throughout the journey - but deep down, you know you can handle anything that comes your way. Most importantly... you keep putting one foot in front of the other and let 'NOTHING' stand in your way!!
So all race reports start somewhere. Spring of 2010 I'm out on a trail run with The Sultan, and David Potroski. We stop at the Rock House for a break and I hear them discussing this 24 hour run in September. " It's the best 24 hour party." "You can't run a marathon for 24 bucks." Wow 24 hours, who does that? That's made for men like Dean K. and Scott Jurek.
All men dream: but not equally. "Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." TE Lawrence
Maybe I could do this. I get home and look it up. DAMN! same week we are going to Disney. Oh well maybe next year.
So January 2011 rolls around and I set 2 goals for the year 2011 miles for the year, and to run the 24 at Hinson Lake and make 100 miles.
Training is going well, I'm putting in my 36+ a week and working 50 hours a week. I'm on target until April. April Fools on me. Random Vertigo." You need to slow down, take some time off, give up coffee, cut back on salt, get more sleep." Said all the doctors.
Once I came to realize the worst that can happen is I get dizzy and fall down. I start my training again. Just when I get back up to a 13 mile long run WHAMM! I get another episode and I have to take a few days off.
As the summer ticks by I still keep Hinson Lake in sight. I know my training will never get up to a 20 mile long run or a 6 hour long run like it should. I figure I've paid; if I make 20 and bonk out I'll be happy.
So I roll through August my longest run being 15 miles. Then September long run of 11 miles where I nearly break my everything by tripping on a root. SH#$%! 2 weeks out. Maybe I can still walk 40.
Lucky I heal quickly. Do some short safe runs until Wednesday before and chill out Thursday and Friday.
Thursday the forecast starts calling for rain. I'm gonna need some gear. I request to borrow a pop up canopy to keep all our food and stuff dry. Thank you Leo and Brent for the help.
We drive down Friday. Derrick and Gabby, his daughter who has offered to crew for us. Neither one of us have ever done something like this so all the help we could get was needed. Uneventful drive out 218 to skip traffic on 74. As the GPS winds us through Historic Rockingham we are amazed at all the historical houses.
We find Tom's house and pick up camping directions and our race packet. Shirts, engraved glasses and a shopping bag all with the race logo. Cool swag and no crap from a ton of sponsors I won't visit anyway.
We get to the Moose Lodge and set up camp, help a few others with tent set up. We mingle with other runners until around 10pm and decide to get some sleep. We might need it for the run.
It was perfect weather to sleep under the stars. I started to sleep in my chair and decided the air mattress will be more beneficial than waking up with a pinched nerve.
4 am we are all awake. We kick around the camp for a bit and decide to break camp and find the Lake.
We pull in about 5ish and find a place to park. We walk around the dam for a bit and decide where to set up. Not much room to set up 2 10X10 canopies. So we set one up against a large tree to keep it from falling in the lake. The other canopy was a bit smaller so it fit. The ground was soft from all the rain so the stakes pushed right in.
After clearing all the gear from the car and setting up, Jason arrives and sets up. He brought the rain with him. Others arrive and others wake up. The sun rises and we stir around waiting nervously for the start.
You are wearing gaiters. Right? Is a question about 20 people asked. "No I don't have any and it's making me nervous I already have sand in my shoes." Good luck, the grit will grind your soles to the bone. I'm confident my Merrell Trail Gloves will cary me all day, but worried about the grit.
About 10 minutes to start I see my favorite vacuum cleaner/shoe store owner Peter Asciutto from Vac and Dash.
He has gaiters on.
" You should be selling those here" I tell him.
"I am, 20 bucks" he replies.
I run to my car and grab him a 20. Best 20 I have ever spent.
A rainy start
Praying this won't be a washout, we start. We cross the bridge and stop at our tent to get water and gel. Derrick and I take off like this thing is a 5k we are blowing past everyone. I start thinking wait a minute these people walking and kinda trotting have done this before. I better slow down. I slow to about a 9 min pace but think maybe this is even too fast. At 9:30 I had in 7.5 miles.
I start reading the ultra shirts. Umstead, Start slow then taper off, and my favorite "We are trained professionals, don't try this at home." I pass Peter and slow to chat with him a bit. Then a shirt catches my attention ' Outer Banks Graveyard 100" Wait a minute, I read race shirt etiquette. If you didn't run it don't wear it. This race won't even run until March 2012. Turns out the guy is the RD and he thought what better place to promote a 100 miler than at a 24 hour run. Turns out about 6 people had that same shirt.
The laps and miles start blending from this point. So I start thinking about how I can make this happen. Primary goal is a marathon or better. I told my wife I would go in 10-lap or mile sets and take breaks in between. After my first 10 I still felt really good so why not keep going. At that point I decided to simplify things. Don't think about it and go with the flow.
Keep it simple, drink each time around, eat when you're hungry. I grazed my table almost every lap. No need to sit still feel good. I had Gabby set me up with a half scoop of Gatorade mixed in a few water bottles. I would either carry one or dump it in my handheld. Every few laps Gabby would walk a loop with her Dad. About mid afternoon we came in to find one of the canopies destroyed. The wind had picked it up and mangled the top.
What the *^%$##. I borrowed this thing. After careful exam by me and with some help from everyone we managed to push it as far closed as we could get it. Off to the trash. We decided to take down the other one just in case.
I decided no use in dwelling on it and put my energy back into the run. I decided to change up the music and listen to a sermon. A little bit of grace goes a long way. The Power of grace carried me through the next few hours. Karl Lentz from Hillsong New York is an amazing speaker. 11 am and I hit my 13.44 A 3 hour half Marathon.
Hey, there goes Mike
Most of the laps blend together, I chat it up with runners make a few new friends. Listen to helpful advice from the experienced runners. Talk about shoe selection, what and when to eat. Other races they have done, where there from.
Popsicles, thanks I need that cold boost. Lesson learned can't run with a Popsicle. The food table was ever changing through the day. Cupcakes, gummies, chips, orange quarters, bananas, burgers, pizza, chicken, water, Gatorade, coke, Mtn Dew. The RD really puts on a world class event. Amazing this was only $24.00 to get in.
Hokas? Those things look like the anti-minimal shoe. Everyone that had them looked like they were dragging their feet. But they all say they are great. They remind me of moon boots from my childhood.
The Garmin is dead at 30 miles. Its only 4pm. I'm not sure why I was using it I guess to keep the pace. I plug it into the car charger and thought OK I'll take a nap while it charges. I sit and take off my shoes for the first time. One toe nail won't be making it and one small blister between my toes. I have Tom fill my bucket with cold hose water and soak them for a few. While I was sitting I decided I still feel good. I take a couple ibuprofens and apply some Body Glide to the feet. I lace back up and I'm off.
I decided to just run to the music. No way of really keeping pace I just went with it. On one lap I stopped to check the progress of my Garmin and found a tennis ball in the van. I did the next couple laps bouncing the ball between hands and just running to the music. It was a fun distraction. Not sure what other runners thought. Had the music cranking.'Baby Please Don't Go', 5:59, Ted Nugent, 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl', 3:37, Jet, 'Born To Run', 4:30, Bruce Springsteen,
'Pick Up The Pieces', 4:01, Average White Band, 'Who Do You Love - Medley', 6:03, The Doors, 'Soul Kitchen', 7:15, The Doors, 'Walking On Sunshine', 3:49, Katrina & The Waves
There goes Mike!
Run a bit, walk a bit, eat a bit, everything kind of blends together until dark.
I call home at 7:30 to tell my daughter goodnight, I'm at 41.25 miles. I tell my wife I'm farther than I have ever been and will be done soon to get some rest.
I eat some chicken dipped in salt and have some soup that I mix with rice I had. I hook up with Peter and were off. Oops, maybe the soup and rice wasn't a good idea.
I head back out and its getting dark. 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida', 17:02, Iron Butterfly starts playing on my I pod. WOOOHH, dude. It just woke me back up. Derrick and I just ran a lap way to fast. He sits down and says I can't go that fast again. I couldn't help myself I still have 12 minutes of this song left I gotta keep going. The drum solo blew my mind. Between the music, the glow sticks and all the reflective stripes on every ones running gear I was in a trance. Could be the start of my bonk. Another One Bites the Dust
Was that Mike?
10 PM I hit my 50 miles. 3 more laps and I have a double in. I haven't seen Derrick or Jason in hours. I get in my next few laps and then it hits. I better lay down as I have come and went farther than I should. I can quit now.
I grab a blanket and my stick and go on the porch where they are giving massages. I found a spot and took off my shoes. Blister was getting bigger. I decided to lay back with my feet up for a few and let the acid out. The massage lady asks me if I'm ready. I said why not. She works on my knee for a bit and found nothing wrong. So I ask her to work on the calves. I wanted to scream!
I laid back down and fell . I woke up frozen so I wandered around for a few got a hoodie out of the car and some long pants, and another blanket. When I woke up around 1:30 or so another runner was getting ready to lie down a few feet away. I throw an M&M at him but miss. He looks over and I asked him if he had been looking for me. "No" he says. I decided I would get up and see how I felt. I took my stuff over to the runner while he was stretching. I put the pillow down then went to hand him my Stick.
He looks up and says "Whats this for?"
"Oh shit, you're not Derrick"
In my altered state I mistook him for my running partner.
Well, that was a bit odd. Now I'm awake. Maybe I can put in some junk miles. I put on some dry gear and lamp up.I decided to keep the long pants on and go with a LS top. I had some chicken broth and and dug into the cooler. Half a block of cheese and a chicken breast with a few chips. Chatted with Kenny for a bit, then we ran a lap or two.
I asked a girl I had met early in the day if I could keep her company. And we were off. We finished a couple laps and I had to explain to her I couldn't hear well. My hearing aid was wet and kept beeping. This happened a lot through the night. During the day it was easy to run and not talk because I had my iPod. Overnight I didn't want to use music, its scary enough out there when someone passes you and you hear them shuffling along.
As I stop to get a drink, Alyssa was sleeping without a blanket. So my next lap I grab one out of the van and covered her up. My next lap I grab a sleeping bag out for Gabby who is in the tent freezing. Imagine that me crewing for my crew. But where is Derrick? As I finish another l look for him on the porch. Sure enough this time I know its him cause he's sleeping on my stuff. I wake him up and chat a minute to find out he had nothing left in the tank. I change my shoes and batteries. My left foot was hurting again so time for some cushion. I decided on the Nike Frees. This was good and the pain went away.
Then I hooked up with Jason and Katie they were just heading out. I think we did 4 or 5 laps together. I told them about my light stick games. Try to touch each one when you run past. The I got the idea to count them - 131. Number 100 hung right in the middle of the path. This became my beacon I knew when I saw it I was almost back. For some reason the body was working well. I started looking at the lap chart and doing some math. 4 hours left and 2 laps per hour I had a chance at 70 miles.
Hey Mike! Nope Jason.
Sometime about 6ish I came in and the girls were awake. I asked Gabby for her phone number so I could call her as I was coming in. I wanted her to get some pics of me. When I came back in I asked Alyssa if she could pace me a couple laps to get my goal of 70. I look at the lap chart again and see I have been looking short. I need 3 to go over 70, 2 more will only be 69.9.
So we head out I'm pumped to have someone to run with. She held nothing back for me. We did 2 laps in the time I was doing one alone. I thanked her and asked if I could take my last one alone. I grab a glass of Coke and a water bottle. I wanted to call home it was around 7:20. We talked half way through the lap. I could tell my daughter felt proud and my wife thought how will he ever recover and why was this a good idea.
I finish the lap about 7:45 and Katie is saying 'you gotta do this'. Tom gives me a banana and explains the rule - drop it when you hear the horn. " But wait I just wanna eat this I'm hungry" I pass a couple. He is running backwards holding 2 beers for them like a carrot in front of a rabbit. We laugh a bit but I keep moving. I pass another guy dragging it out and I said let's do this together we can make it all the way. I keep looking at the time. Walk some run some.We pass a few others. I tried to motivate them Then the horn. 1.38 out of 1.55 almost made it.I finish by running it in. DONE 71.44 + the banana lap.
After some cheers and a banana to eat I sit. I finally remove the shoes. As I was sitting I see them dumping the coolers from the aid station. I had them fill my soak bucket with the rest of the ice and I filled it with some water WOW! that's cold. It was like an ice burn more than bath. I joke with Jason about my blister. I decided to name it Troy. Just because it was bigger than him.
I look around and the only thing left of out set up is me, two chairs, and an ice bucket. Derrick and the girls had everything packed up. Thanks.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. It’s not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. - ...Muhammad Ali
Nothing in pre-race training and planning can define why I went so far so long. I think taking the don't think approach helped. I'm happy with my shoe choice. And the grazing plan worked well.
Now as I'm sitting here thinking the pain in my left foot may be a stress fracture. I'm debating next year. What can I do better, what did I forget to pack. Can I ever find a better crew and pacer. The Lashway family were amazing. I was told Alyssa even paced with Mike for a while. Thanks to Jason and Katie for the overnight motivation. Thanks to the people at the aid station and scoring table that made you feel welcome, and like a champion after every lap.
Oh speaking of Mike for those who don't know who he is. He set a course record with 163.9 miles in 24 hours. This is second year winning this event. He made it look easy.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction."
- William James, Philosopher
"do or do not, there is no try"