I have been hearing a lot lately about growing and improving through discomfort (ala Wim Hof, intermittent fasting, exercise, etc.). What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, I never felt like I was going to die but I believe some level of discomfort and stretching your limits will help you grow. I certainly don’t compare it to a near death experience that some have endured and that has changed their lives. But if you are looking for ways to feel alive, to prove yourself and to not feel like you are growing too old too fast (although the day after, your body might feel pretty old), would stretching your physical limits help to make you feel stronger or even younger?
A couple of months ago the Richmond SportsBackers organization was producing a lot of events to try to raise money. During the pandemic, with their normal events impacted heavily, any way to get $20 for a $10 T-shirt, and log a “Virtual Event”, helped them out. I did a couple of their smaller races and did the Richmond Half Marathon on the Capital Trail course to the sake of doing it (not as much fun as years past, the crowds and camaraderie make the event a lot more enjoyable). I also did the “7 half marathons on 7 continents” where you logged miles over a couple months and they tracked you on a global map of courses all over. It was a fun way to keep motivated to run.
One I didn’t do but found intriguing was the “How many miles can you log in 24 hours?”. It was held in February and the Saturday of the event we had some other things planned (and it was raining). Granted, I could have planned for it and gone rain or shine but it was just inconvenient enough to avoid. I did see others who logged some decent miles running that day. Good for them! I took away the intrigue and started to develop a plan.
I didn’t think trying to run throughout the day would serve me well, at least not at this point. Perhaps if I was further along training for a half or something (I have tried to weed out any thoughts of doing another full marathon from my mind – as a good friend advised during my last injury prone marathon training, perhaps my body is just not made for 26.2). But the thought of logging miles walking seemed like a good option. And rather than leave it completely open ended, I thought about a goal of 50 miles. Seemed doable and through some basic math, with accommodations for getting tired throughout the process and taking breaks, I figured I could knock it out in about 16 hours or a little more.
I shared this goal with a few people (my youngest being one) and the feedback was as expected. It seemed ambitious but not crazy enough that I would be intercepted by people in white coats. So I started to look for good weekends to try it. Ideally it would be a weekend when we had nothing else going on as it would take all day Saturday to walk and probably all day Sunday to recover. I was also looking for good weather so had to be a little flexible to pull the trigger pretty quickly if/when a good Saturday appeared.
Last week the planets aligned. We were headed into a weekend with nothing planned and the weather on Saturday, May 1st, was to be 70 degrees and sunny. I realized waiting any longer would probably mean hotter days that would make the challenge tougher. And with a couple of other weekends in May already planned (oldest moving back from school, server patching for work, etc.), it seemed an opportunity too good to pass up. I announced my intentions and as such was locked in.
The couple days leading into the weekend I watched my nutrition and hydration. Wednesday night was legs with our personal trainer but I figured I would have enough time to recover. I had a workout scheduled for Saturday but did it Friday night (some glute work but mostly back so minimal impact). Friday night dinner was pasta for the traditional carb loading and tie spent organizing all my stuff.
My planning was light heading into the last couple days but I finally started thinking more seriously about what I needed to make this work. I prepped the Camelback for water and carrying a few protein bars and a battery pack for my phone. I realized my phone and Apple Watch would probably not last the day without a recharge (I was right on both accounts) and that instead of using Strava on my watch like I normally do, I should use it on my phone since I can recharge while it is running (can’t wear the watch and recharge while out and about). Also stocked up on Nuun tablets to get the extra electrolytes in my water. I think this really helped throughout the day.
I also did a little more planning around my routes. Originally I had planned to just walk my normal running routes over and over but decided to liven that up a bit. I setup a route (using MapMyRun, which I haven’t used in years) to go out of the neighborhoods and into the industrial park, then back into other neighborhoods with an end point of Dunkin Donuts (yum!), then back again. The planned route, out and back, was about 21 miles and while I was a little nervous taking on that big of a stretch without SAG, there were a few stops along the way where I could get water, use the bathroom, etc. And knocking out this large of a chunk early would be better so I could keep the neighborhood routes for when I was more tired and wanted to stick closer to home.
The Day – May Day (or Mayday?).
I went to bed early Friday and was anxious to get up and get going. The alarm was set for 5:30 AM with the plan to start the walk at 6. I was allowing for 30 minutes of stretching, prep (for anything that came to mind overnight) and a last minute pit stop before heading out. I woke up, said “Rabbit” for the new month and checked the temps. It was around 45 degrees and I had planned for 50. No worries, changed my dress code to use a light pullover and was good to go (had to realize I was not running so the “you will warm up when your body starts working” wasn’t going to apply as much).
I did some static stretching, used the foam roller and even did a plank (it was on my workout schedule so knocked it out early). Got my stuff organized and packed. Hit the bathroom one more time and at 6:03AM I was out the door. The air was a little brisk but I was awake, rested and ready.
As I had anticipated, the early morning roads were not very busy. Walking to the industrial park on the side of the secondary roads was easy. And in the industrial park there was little traffic. When cars, or especially trucks, came down the road, I hopped off to the side to give them some room (not all of them gave me much). I made it to the first stop, Sheetz, making good time (5 miles, 1.25 hours). I got a cup of coffee and headed back out.
The next stretch was in a neighborhood so wide roads, sidewalks at points and slow cars. Coming out of that neighborhood my “MapMyRun” had me taking a short road to duck into another neighborhood but I realized this short road was actually a private driveway. After walking down it about 200 feet, the signs clearly showed they did not want anyone trespassing. Figuring getting shot this early in the walk would be a big negative, I turned around and looked at my phone for alternatives. Using the map in Strava, I scouted a loop through the neighborhood across the street that would keep me off the secondary road (with hardly any shoulder) and allow me to drop back into my original route further down. And it added about a mile to my course. Not a bad thing this early.
With some zigging and zagging I worked my way around the high school and down to Dunkin. The Dunkin app allowed me to order and provided the option to pick up. Lately I have run into an inconsistency with Dunkin mobile ordering and pickup down at the beach (one day you can pick up, another you cannot) and even though I have seen people walking into our local Dunkin recently, you never know. When I got there, the door was locked. Luckily because I had ordered through the app they brought my order to the door. I was counting on the fuel (turkey sausage and egg) and having some Dunkin coffee is never a bad thing.
Once fueled I was back on the road. Made a quick pitstop at the Kroger (it was obvious I wasn’t getting into the bathrooms at Dunkin) and then started the trek back. The walk back seemed to go by pretty quickly. I was rolling through podcasts I had queued up and the time never seemed to drag. I was feeling good physically and very encouraged that this challenge was going to be completed without too much struggle.
Around the time I got back to Sheetz my AirPods died. The constant audio was very helpful to keep my mind occupied. I looked for wired earbuds in Sheetz but didn’t find anything that would work. I got another coffee (smaller cup this time) and decided to go without audio, instead plugging my phone into the external battery to charge it back up. I chalked the lack of audio entertainment up to “self reflection” time.
There was more traffic in the industrial park than earlier but no too dangerous. I decided that I wanted to hit 25 miles before getting back home so I looped through one of the neighborhoods that I am used to running to add on the additional miles. By the time I got home for my first rest I was at 24.8 miles and it was about 12:30.
For the next leg I planned to “map” the neighborhood next to ours. I had done this with our neighborhood a few months prior, walking down every road, side street and cul de sac to end up with a Strava map of the entire neighborhood. I am sure people living in the cul de sacs that no one ever travels wonder what the heck I am doing but hopefully they have seen odder things in their life.
Our neighborhood was an 11 miles map. The one next to us, door to door, was only 8.79. But I was logging miles and still keeping a good pace. Unfortunately I was starting to feel some discomfort in my hips, my glutes (why did I do those glute exercises?) and my right calf. And of course my feet were getting tired. But knees and major joints seemed good otherwise. Total mileage was just under 34. Still going strong.
The next segment was intended to map our neighborhood again. As I mentioned, this was 11 miles. I started out and after about a mile started feeling some pain in my left ankle. Hips were hurting a little more and I realized I was probably compensating for the hips, stressing my ankle. I tried to straighten it all out and stopped several times to stretch the ankle but it kept getting tighter and I started to walk with a limp. About 5 miles in I was starting to worry that I would have to stop. I stopped a couple times just to relieve the constant motion stress on my ankle but the relief was only temporary. I decided to circle back home before launching into mapping another section of the hood.
My 11 mile segment plan was only a little over 7 achieved when I got home. I was limping pretty bad from the ankle. I laid down on the floor and elevated my feet, hoping it would help. I also elevated my hands, my fingers were like fat sausages. I took 3 Advil and sat for a bit. When I stood up I was in obvious pain. Jen made the comment that maybe I had done enough for the day. I was at 41.4 miles.
My mind started to run through options and doubt. Sure, I could stop. I had only said I was going to try this, with no real idea if it was possible for me. Perhaps today just wasn’t the day. Perhaps I need to figure out how to train for this. Over 40 miles was good, right? I sat there giving myself another 10 minutes, another 10 minutes, before I would try to stand up again and see how it felt. After about 30 minutes of rest and contemplation, I stood up and walked around. The Advil seemed to be doing its job, my ankle wasn’t nearly as bad. Overall I was stiff from sitting but I knew that would wear off once I warmed up again.
I decided to go back out and at least try to get to 45 miles. While that would be short of my goal, it would be a decent accomplishment that I could be good with. And, if I felt better later I could hop on the treadmill or go to bed early and try to get up super early to complete it before the 24 hours expired (but also realizing that it was highly unlikely I would be in any shape to do more in the morning).
I went out and continued to map the neighborhood, starting with a segment that was flat. After warming up I was feeling pretty good, the ankle wasn’t hurting as much and my posture remained pretty steady. My feet were still feeling abused but I knew that was going to be the case no matter what. I completed the next segment of mapping and decided to keep going.
Venturing into the more hilly section of the neighborhood, I still felt good enough. I could tell I was starting to get a blister on my right heel and I thought my pinky toe on my left foot may have detached. It felt like it was just shoved in the shoe. I was losing feeling in it. But, I was able to keep going and Jen delivered a PB&J to help me stay fueled.
By my calculations I was about 4 miles short of 50 when I finished the mapping. I decided to do the 2 mile loop in the neighborhood and then stop at home, planning to do the last 2 miles on the treadmill. It was getting dark and the temps were dropping. But after completing the 2 miles I decided I wanted to finish it out on the road. I also feared if I stopped I might not be able to start again so I picked up a headlamp the continued on, back tracking the 2 mile loop one more time.
With less than half a mile to go, I called Jen to confirm my calculations. I didn’t want to come up a tenth short. She did the math and I had my number. This last segment had to be 8.58. Rather than hit it on the dot, I decided to extend .2 beyond (in some part to commemorate my 52nd birthday coming up later this month, although extending to 52 miles was not at all attractive). I hit 8.78, stopped Strava and breathed a sigh of relief. I had competed my 50 miles in a day. I shot a quick text of the accomplishment to a close friend who has inspired me and played some celebratory music.
After hobbling back home (I should have planned it a little better, still had to walk a little to get home), it was time for a burger, a beer and a shower. Not sure any of them could have been more enjoyable.
- small blister on the back of my right heel. I bought a pair of “walking” shoes a few months ago for this event. I wore them multiple times to break them in but they may have been the cause of the blister. After the first half I changed into my normal running shoes just to try to see if the change in support and contact might help. Small blister is not surprising
- Left pinky toe actually has a blister on the bottom of it that is swollen and made the toe push up to the point it felt numb. This is probably the biggest pain point of all and even today (the day after) causes some discomfort. Hoping the swelling goes down soon so I can play volleyball tomorrow night.
- The left ankle pain went away after the Advil and short rest. The ankle is a little stiff today but not bad. I am amazed at the rebound from the Advil. I really thought I was done at 41.4.
Ranking this experience against a marathon, I feel better after this than I felt after the 2013 MCM. Overall, I am in better shape now that I was in 2013 and during that race I was injured (torn calf) and limped the last 11 miles to the finish. Walking really seems to wear on your feet (guess you are taking more steps than running? Per Apple, yesterday I logged almost 93k steps). I was pretty bad off after that MCM and have considered that the hardest thing I have ever done. This was certainly not easy but again, after the Advil rebound, other than the blisters, I felt pretty good, all things considered.
Compared to cycling a century, I feel this might have been harder. Granted, when my cycling group did the 100 in a day we had trained pretty well for it and kind of knew what we were in for and with this, it was pretty much an unknown as the longest distanced I had done previously was a marathon (with a combination of running and walking). After that century ride we were supposed to ride back 75 miles the next day (as part of the MS150) but fortunately a storm washed out day two of that event (the second day ride was always tough, in my experience).
Will I do it again? Not anytime soon. I think I would rather go hiking and see some sights rather than troll the neighborhood logging miles. Perhaps some challenge to combine the two would be fun. It would also be fun to do with company (at least for part of it) as I actually got tired of listening to podcasts and music along the way. My 7 miles of quiet time were good but dodging trucks in the industrial park kept me from dipping into too many deep thoughts.
All in all it was an interesting experience. A challenge and level of discomfort that makes me feel like I accomplished something, even if it is something that no one else will really care about. Do I feel more alive or younger? May need a few days of recovery for that answer. Over time I am sure I will have learned lessons from this journey and where appropriate, will share those here (with my audience of 2??).
Speaking of, if you are reading this (and are still reading this), make a comment and let me know. I am guessing this is like a tree falling the forest but I would love to be proven wrong.