More than 50 Miles (and two blisters)

A week ago (October 25th) I participated in a 12 hour run/walk around the lagoon (1.067 miles per loop) at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Why did I do that? Well, I figured I could cover more than 50 miles (my previous longest distance), and hopefully get in a double marathon (52.4 miles). Alternately, as I said to some random passerby who asked, I’m crazy. Plus it was the last event in the Pacific Coast Trail Runs Mini Prix race series, and I had already completed the other three.

There were 125 people signed up, and slightly over half of them were even more insane than me—they signed up for the 24 hour event. I set up a chair and cooler a few feet off the course, mostly debugged my iPod Nano (which I hardly ever use), and waited for the 9am start.

My plan was to keep a low heart rate, roughly in the 120’s, for at least the first several hours, walking as needed to make that happen. I managed to keep to that up for about 1/4 of a mile. After that I still kept things pretty low, but definitely not as low as I planned, running most of the time with occasional walk breaks. For a few miles I felt like I could keep going like that all day, but after two or three hours I started having to walk more and more. The good news is that I found that I was walking faster than I expected—around 13 to 14 minutes per mile—which wasn’t all that much slower than I was running. Okay, so walking it is, now with only about 10% running.

It kept up like that for a majority of the day. Most laps I would grab a piece or two of potato from the aid station, and every couple of laps I would stop briefly to refill my water bottle with the Accelerade from my cooler. The key was to keep moving. I listened to some podcasts on the iPod, but mostly I just kept moving forward.

The weather was clear, and surprisingly warm for late October in San Francisco (the forecast was for a high of 78°F). That probably slowed me down a bit compared to what I would have been able to do if it had been 10 or 20° cooler. I had used a new sunscreen (Elta Block), and it seemed to work well, lasted all day, and should reduce my risk of skin cancer compared to what I have been using. And despite the easy and almost completely level course, there was gravel that sometimes got into my shoes. I stopped twice to clean them out, and should have stopped more or (better) worn gaiters.

The other participants varied dramatically, from a couple of families with kids (walking and taking more breaks) to a runner or two I overheard talking about competing at the Badwater Ultramarathon. Talk about crazy.

As the day wore on, I slowed down a little bit more, and I was surprised that my quads could get quite that sore from walking on level ground. But other than the shoe cleaning breaks and one extended bathroom break, I kept moving. When it got dark, I grabbed my flashlight, though I didn’t use it continuously until it was really dark. And the darkness brought substantially cooler temperatures, which let me actually start to run a little more than I had been.

My wife Connie had come by twice earlier in the day, and she was there for my last three laps. On what I knew would be my last lap, I left the water bottle behind and started actually running, with the goal of running the whole way around for that last lap. I wasn’t sure how hard that would be, and I found that it was only moderately hard. Which of course means that I could have run more earlier. I’ll try to remember that next time, though I suspect that’s much easier said than done.

So how did I do? I did better than my lowest goal, but not as good as my higher goals. The bottom line is that I finished 48 laps, which works out to 51.2 miles, with almost 9 minutes to spare. And that last lap turned out to be my fastest, at 10:45/mile pace, with the first lap being the second fastest at 11:40/mile. And those rocks in my shoes? I think they contributed to the blisters I developed on both heels, which I didn’t even notice until I got home. I will definitely be buying gaiters.

People have asked me if it was boring. The short answer is yes, it’s certainly more boring than covering the same distance over a variety of trails. But there’s also a little bit of a Zen thing, and I can look at the boredom as a different kind of challenge to overcome. So it’s not all bad. I can see doing more fixed-time events in the future.

For those who like numbers, I’ll leave you with all the lap times. I figure that lap 27 was when I took the bathroom break.

Lap Time Pace
1 12:26.920 11:40
2 12:46.810 11:59
3 12:48.714 12:00
4 14:04.669 13:12
5 13:30.496 12:40
6 13:29.576 12:39
7 13:29.551 12:39
8 13:40.676 12:49
9 14:13.279 13:20
10 13:50.928 12:59
11 13:38.896 12:47
12 13:47.239 12:55
13 13:59.831 13:07
14 14:04.191 13:11
15 14:06.391 13:13
16 13:00.249 12:11
17 14:27.587 13:33
18 14:06.697 13:13
19 17:07.912 16:03
20 14:25.863 13:31
21 14:51.123 13:55
22 14:33.632 13:39
23 15:39.819 14:41
24 14:36.282 13:41
25 14:42.786 13:47
26 14:26.150 13:32
27 19:17.552 18:05
28 14:25.025 13:31
29 15:15.247 14:18
30 15:20.042 14:22
31 17:03.868 15:59
32 14:45.035 13:49
33 15:18.131 14:20
34 17:05.125 16:01
35 15:03.868 14:07
36 15:11.272 14:14
37 16:37.154 15:34
38 15:22.772 14:25
39 18:16.399 17:07
40 16:10.126 15:09
41 16:41.106 15:38
42 14:23.647 13:29
43 14:47.825 13:52
44 15:15.032 14:17
45 15:30.387 14:32
46 15:52.753 14:53
47 16:02.780 15:02
48 11:28.452 10:45
Total/Average 11:51:09.865 13:53

2 Responses to “More than 50 Miles (and two blisters)”

  1. George Miller Says:

    Way to go Mike! Congratulations on another good outing and maybe next year you’ll be twice as crazy and do the 24! Best wishes and I look forward to meeting you on a CRC run one of these days.

  2. pureh2o Says:

    Mike, nice job. That’s a good way to face the ‘boredom’ – tackle it as an added challenge, a Zen experience. And, nice job completing the Mini Prix PCTR series. That’s not an easy group of races!

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