Running the 48 Hour at Six Days in the Dome was a new experience for me venturing into the unknown by running a 48 hour race around a 443 meter (0.2753 miles) indoor track at approximately 55F and 35% humidity. I arrived in Milwaukee on Thursday and decided to join other runners doing the race for dinner at Mo’s Irish Pub. Not knowing anyone very well I hesitated to go but figured I should get out of my antisocial comfort zone and would probably enjoy it. I was welcomed into the group and sat across the table from John Vonhof, author of Fixing Your Feet. Interestingly he has written a variety of books on various topics including the pastoral search process, book marketing and niche writing. I mostly just listened to the interesting conversations and thinking to myself I am so out of my league with this type of event and no clue as to what I was doing. If I had not gone to the dinner, I would have been even more clueless since I picked up a few tips. There was also a 6 day race which started on Sunday.
The 48 hour and the first 24 hour race started at 9 am in the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. It was a little stressful getting there since the exit the GPS on my phone was telling me to take was closed but I found another route and arrived around 7:15 am. I set up a small table and chair with all my gear, not too far away since I knew I would be hauling the stuff out on Sunday and probably not feeling like walking too far. We had a prerace meeting and then started running clockwise at 9 am. The direction switched every 4 hours.
I’m a numbers person so I will start off with my significant splits and a few other milestones including sleeping. None of my splits were PRs which is probably good considering I was doing the 48 hours.
Marathon – 4 hr 23 min, 10:02/mi (95 laps)
50K – 5 hr 15 min, 10:08/mi (113 laps)
50 mile – 8 hr 59 min, 10:46/mi (182 laps)
100K – 11 hr 39 min, 11:15/mi (226 laps)
100 mile – 22 hr 10 min, 13:18/mi (363 laps) – 4 hr 7 min rest (actual sleep 3 hours)
108 miles (393 laps) – 50 min nap
125 miles (454 laps) – 7 hr 40 min rest (actual sleep 6 hours)
129.78 miles (471 laps)
For the first 22 laps, I was running each lap in the 2:40s, about 9:41 pace. Then the pace crept down into the 2:30s to 2:40s until lap 93 (25.6 miles). This seemed like a conservative pace but probably should have taken walk breaks to relieve excessive leg tension. The track stressed the muscles the same running the same flat surface. It wasn’t as forgiving as I thought it might be. My pace gradually slowed and between 100K and 100 miles had significantly slowed with several extended breaks taken during that period. I watched in amazement as Olivier Leblond surpassed me in miles while taking regular walk breaks and making it look so easy. I noticed later that when they played faster beat songs, my pace picked up. Then people started showing their displeasure when certain slow songs were played and that was quickly remedied.
At 100 miles, I was in 8th place overall and decided to get some rest. I wanted to make sure I hit 100 miles before going to bed to make sure I at least earned a buckle. There was always a chance I might not be able to continue after sleeping. I noticed when I took off my shoes and socks I had some small blisters between some toes (mainly both big toes and second toe) but decided not to worry. They weren’t causing any issues and I didn’t notice them when walking. When I came back over 4 hours later around 11 am, I was still in 8th place. My legs had stiffened so I walked. I must have looked funny since several people asked if I was okay. My right upper calf and lower hamstring area above and below my knee felt stiff. Also, my legs, especially my right one, looked like it was retaining fluid in the lower leg, ankle and most likely foot. My legs looked sunburned in areas and burned to the touch. I’m assuming I had some edema. One guy suggested I take 800 mg of Ibuprofen and I could probably run again. I’m personally against doing that sort of thing. I figure if my body is hurting there is a reason and I need to take it easy.
When I went to bed I wore my Oofos low shoes. These are incredibly light shoes with some kind of foam that seriously absorbs impact and makes it easier to walk when your legs are trashed. I changed into my running shoes when I got back to the track but since I couldn’t run I decided to change back into the Oofos after a few laps. Things felt much better and I was walking more fluidly. I think I would seriously purchase Oofos running shoes if they existed. They are amazing. Mike and Laura Eriks were there and had started their 24 hour races. Mike gave me some Biofreeze and a guy next to his table gave me some Epsom lotion and those also seemed to help loosen up the calf/hamstring area on the right leg.
For the first 100 miles, I had worn a short sleeve shirt and felt hot at times but avoided removing my shirt. Now, back out on the track, I had to put on more closes including a long sleeve shirt and jacket to feel warm. I even wore gloves for a short while. It was good to be back out even though I was moving slowly.
There was lots of excitement since Zach Bitter was zooming around the track attempting to break the 100 mile world record. I came back out when he was 2 hours into it. The 100 mile split mat was right in front of where I was set up so I made sure I was on the track when he was ready to hit that point. I ended up being not too far behind and watched as he crossed the mat. But then he kept going since he was also going to break the 12 hour running record. When he hit 12 hours he had to stop and the track was measured off.
Regular meals were served and I had no trouble eating the food. I wasn’t drinking a lot when I came back out since I was moving so slowly. I noticed my hands/knuckles looked a little swollen but there are several causes so I wasn’t sure why. I decided it could be an electrolyte imbalance. An electrolyte imbalance can cause edema which I clearly had in my legs so I think I was short on electrolytes. I had some Pickle Juice but it was too late. I’m pretty sure this was the cause since several days after the race I have craved salty foods and water tasted funny for a couple days. I think perhaps calf compression sleeves might have been useful too even though I’ve never had a desire to try them before.
I decided once I got to 125 miles, I would go sleep. It was pretty clear to me that I was not going to run again. I wasn’t getting very far and moving slower, and I wanted to drive back on Sunday. The smart thing to do was sleep and I intended to do so for a long time. Then I would go back out and hopefully walk until the end. I stopped and went to bed at 11:30 pm, getting up several times to pee which was good to keep me from getting too stiff. The blisters from earlier were bigger but not causing any problems.
When I decided to get up it was almost 7 am so not a lot of time left but I had slept fairly well even with getting up several times. While I was sleeping, I moved from 8th – 12th place, being passed by several women that could walk circles around me and must not have slept. They were all very encouraging as they passed me. I felt like I was almost the slowest person the last 2 hours but not any slower than before I slept. I didn’t think I had time to get to 130 miles as slow as I was moving and not running. Mike and Laura were still going and Mike hit 100 miles at 22:17. Laura was in the 90s. I picked up the pace a bit the last 6 loops and on what I thought would be my last one, I caught up to Laura thinking I would stop when she did. It looked like I had enough time for another loop so I told her I was going to try. I managed to actually run it in my Oofos, completing 129.78 miles.
My mileage was far short of what I thought I might end up running but I’m okay with it. Clearly, I am not cut out for 48 hours of this kind of event. No doubt my training probably wasn’t ideal either so probably expected. 24 hours would have been tolerable but 48 hours was almost insane. I didn’t have a clue or a plan for walk breaks or sleeping. I severely must have screwed up my electrolytes with the fluid retention in my legs and feet which is still not completely cleared up 4 days later. 1 – 2 days after was mostly the usual fatigue and by Wednesday I felt like a normal human being again with the brain fog finally lifting. The legs aren’t very sore but they definitely aren’t recovered at this point. There is still fatigue but nothing like before. I definitely enjoyed running most of the first 100 miles and the people I got move around the track with for the whole time. One starts to feel a sense of closeness with the runners after being with them for so long. The people who do these events are amazing and just because a track does not make it easy. It was a lot of fun. Would I do it again? Definitely not the 48 hour.