New Canadian 48h and 72h records - 6 Days In The Dome
This was one of my main races for the year, one that I had high hopes for. I only do 2-3 "A" races a year so a lot of preparation went into it.
I also had very high aspirations about what I can achieve - although I knew that they were maybe somewhat unrealistic on a first try. I still gave it a good shot.
It was pretty much an open secret in the running community what I was going for, but I made sure that only the Canadian record attempts were published in the media, I just didn't want the extra pressure. But it was hinted that there was more to it.
Getting to the race and having a crew secured was the biggest challenge leading up to the race. When I thought I solved the problem, it all fell apart. Then I thought I solved it. Then that plan also fell apart. It was never the people that failed me, but more the COVID situation - preventing my Hungarian friends to enter the US and making it impossible for my Canadian friends to come since they would have had to quarantine for two weeks when returning home. In a normal year, I wouldn't have had any issues with bringing a top notch crew.
However, it all worked out at the end. I have a belief that if you really want something, and you do everything you possibly can to make it happen, it will all come together. And that's exactly how it played out. I had a million irons in the fire, basically reaching out to everyone I knew and to everyone whom I didn't even know!
In the end the Waukesha Trail Sisters (and some brothers!) came to the rescue and they formed an amazing team! They split up the whole 6 days between themselves, they all read through the crew instructions and were the best crew I could wish for.
Some of my crew members - they were amazing!
Another iron I held in the fire was a non-runner Hungarian friend living in Chicago and she ended up coming for the whole 6 days too! Marta was also invaluable so much so that I wouldn't have broken the 72 hour record if it wasn't for her!
But back to the start. Day 1 went great and almost everything was perfect. The only serious issue I had was the frequent pee breaks and it became a problem. Stopping for 2 mins 3 x per hour is too much down time. It adds up to 2.5 hours per day that I didn't have! So it had to be solved.
I've had this problem before in races and I thought I had solved it. I didn't have an issue in the last two training races that I ran. I didn't think it was due to too much liquid - I was drinking less than my sweat rate. The part I couldn't understand was why weather triggers the problem. I'm fine in hot weather but not in the cold.
I still don't quite understand what happened in this regard, but we found a solution that worked - I just have no idea why it worked! The amazing doctor of the race, Doc Lovy solved it for us. I saw him for my ankle issues and tried to pick his brains about the pee problem too. He said I needed more salt. I insisted that I take tons of salt. If anything, then too much rather than too little. He then suggested that too much salt can also cause this issue so we reduced salt intake and it worked.
Here is my confusion though. After the race I found out that the sports drink I was taking is mislabeled. It doesn't even have half the amount of sodium that is on the label. So I was most likely not taking too much salt. I also did a test after the race to find out exactly how much salt I lose with my sweat per hour. Again, this points towards needing more salt. I have no idea what to make of all this at this point. The quest for a solution continues!
Brian: "You need to eat" . Me: "I'm not hungry."
I had one little blister the first day, I treated it and again, all was good. I tried a bunch of footwear options that I had with me for this very reason, a lot that I expected to work didn't, but I found one that did and I spent the rest of the race in those. They were just the same shoes but half a size bigger. You just don't know what will work until you get there so having all the options I could imagine was the perfect approach.
I believe my shoe choice wasn't ideal though. The kind of shoes I chose might have had to do with the ankle problems that lead to me having to drop out so next time I will try something completely different. They were carbon plated shoes which make you faster with less effort, but they also put more pressure on the ankles. I will keep using them for 24h races but nothing longer.
The first big problem came around 36 hours, the middle of the second day. That's when my asthma flared up. I hope it was due to the relative cold and very dry air. If that is the case, then in a warmer climate outdoors with more humidity I will be able to have another attempt at completing the 6 days.
My asthma wasn't so bad that I would have needed to drop out but it was bad enough that I couldn't run at the originally planned pace so I fell behind on the planned distance during day 2. I also panicked when I realized that I couldn't really breathe and developed a bad cough. But luckily I kept going and soon came to the conclusion that although it slows me down, I can still keep going - even the whole 6 days.
Another detrimental problem surfaced around 44 hours and that was my ankle injury. I have anterior tibialis tendonitis that I treat with physio exercises but sometimes it still comes back. This race was on a track so the constant same movement on a perfectly flat surface, even if it was soft rubber, put too much demand on my ant tib. I later learned that this is a very typical injury that a lot of 6-day runners face. The female winner of the race, Sandra Villines-Burruss and the 2nd place man, Joe Fejes both battled with the same injury during the race. It is just that because they are more experienced in 6-day racing, they knew how to handle it while I didn't. This was the first time I faced this problem in a race. I think I will be able to handle it next time around, I've learned a lot about it from those two competitors.
Already inured but still smiling - breaking the Canadian 48h record
I broke my own 48h Canadian Record by a half marathon. Improved it from 325km to 346km (202 mi to 215 mi). I was quite happy with that, especially knowing that there is still a lot left in me to better even the new record. I think in the next 2 years I would really like to run a pure 48h race in ideal conditions, maybe even here at the Dome (they have a 48h race too) and raise the bar to the absolute best I can do which I estimate is somewhere in the range of 370-380km (230-236 mi).
After the 48h mark I was very tempted to just quit because of the ankle injury. However, the Canadian 72h record was already insanely close, I only needed 90km (56 mi) more and I had 24 hours to do it!
So we decided (crew plays a HUGE part in these decisions) that I should go down for a 2h nap and then we can make a call on what to do once I had a little sleep.
Up to that point I had 1h of sleep at 36 hours, plus a 5-minute and a 15-minute power nap. So I was very much looking forward to this break.
And here comes the importance of the crew. Before the race, we talked about it a lot, that they can't let me just pull out. That it will be tough, we all know that, but if it was easy, everyone would do it. Marta was the one who came upstairs where I was sleeping to wake me up. I immediately told her that I was done and that I want to sleep more. Of course I do! I haven't slept in two days!
With Marta - if it wasn't for her, there would have been no 72h record!
But she also remembered, that her most important job is to get me back on the course. And so she did! Which I will forever be grateful for. She said "just come down and see what happens" and she had a point. She later admitted that her mission was just to get me downstairs and it worked! I started slowly walking around the track and realized that even with the ankle pain, I could still find a shuffling move that was reminiscent of running and could move me forward at a fast enough pace that I would even be able to break the 72h unofficial world record if I could keep it up! That record stands at 458km / 284 mi.
I was happy again and moving relatively well and thinking once more that I could actually complete the full 6 days. These hopes vanished around 65 hours when unfortunately my ankles just got much worse. Not sure what exactly happened there, I guess running on injured ankles might not be the best thing for them. Suddenly they just got so painful that I couldn't keep running. First it was just sudden pain shooting up so I would be shuffling around and every now and then a grimace and me picking my ankle up painfully would indicate something wasn't right.
That lasted only for a little while until I could barely even walk from the pain. That killed my hopes for the 72h World Record, however, once again, the Canadian record was insanely close - I only needed 16kms (10 miles) and I had 7 hours to do it! But I could barely stand let alone walk. I would sit down after almost every lap for a few seconds.
I had great help with my maths. My crew told me that I had 10 minutes to do each lap and I would still break the Canadian record. That is 10 minutes for 400 meters (quarter of a mile)! No matter how broken I was, I wasn't going to let that go. A snail could walk that in! So I did... Slowly, painfully, with lots of sitting... Just putting my head down and keeping at it, moving forward. And eventually I made it! I broke the Canadian record at 70 hours. It stood at 436km / 270 miles.
Two national records: 48h and 72h Canadian
I decided that 440km (273 mi) would be a nice round number so I just kept moving at this insanely slow pace and put another 4km / 2.5 mi on the record. It was obvious that I can't possibly continue to finish the 6 days which I was very sad about but it wasn't even remotely achievable. It took weeks for my ankle to recover, I was in a lot of pain and couldn't even walk or stand up for the first week. I had to ask for a wheelchair at the airport for my flight back. Luckily I was picked up at the airport, many times I just drive myself - this time I couldn't have driven home.
I was disappointed after the race that not only I didn't put up great mileage at my first 6-day race, but I couldn't even finish it. I put so much preparation into this race that not being able to run for 6 days was really disheartening. On the other hand, I still broke two national records, so I was very happy about that. I was also glad that I believe my plan was well thought out and very much doable. I would definitely like to give it another shot next year. As I mentioned, it is also the case that both the 48h and the 72h performance had a ton left in them. So I hope I can break those two records again, as well as the Canadian 6-day record... and maybe even some more!
"I haven't failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work" (Thomas Edison about discovering the light bulb) - I guess I have a few thousand more shots before I call it a failure!