Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On March 22nd, I had planned to cycle 40 miles on a cycle (bike) trainer indoors and then run and walk 40 miles outside.  I was doing this to celebrate my 40th birthday which was on March 23rd.  I wanted to leave my 30s with a bang.

If you want to know more about why I chose this and what was happening two weeks and the days before, please click on the links.  You will learn that the last two weeks did not go as planned and that I was sick. As a runner, when things do not go as you imagine, it can mess with your head very easily.  Also in the last post before this one, I discussed my nutrition so if you want to see what I planned to eat along the way.

Lets be clear on one thing...I know what I was planning was not some new type of event or some miracle work.  There are hundreds of obsessed runners who do "birthday miles" every year.  However, here is how mine was going to be unique:
  • Adding 40 miles on the bike before running.
  • I also wanted this distance to be the furthest I had ever run.
  • I wanted to complete this on my own.  No running partner, friend, etc.
Night Before:
After little league practice I had dinner with the family.  Chicken and sweet potato was on the menu and exactly what I needed before Saturday.  After dinner I reviewed my list of accessories and food to have ready and I packed up what I could.  I went to bed at about 9:30.  I set the alarm to go off at 3:45 am.  I fell asleep pretty quickly, probably because I was still somewhat sick so I am glad I got my usual 6 hours of sleep.

Morning Of:
I woke up with a resting heart rate of 52 which is exactly what I see when I am well rested.  The plan was to be in my basement by 4:45 am riding my bike.  This would ensure me that with bathroom breaks I would be done by 7 am and on the road running by 7:15 am.  This would have been after taking care of the dog, drinking coffee, picking a Trainer Road 2 hour workout, active stretching and adjusting the air pressure and resistance on my bike.  Everything went smooth and I was on the saddle by 4:47.

Bike Session:
Leading up to this event, I had not been on the bike for much more than 95 minutes or 32 miles.  I never wanted to reach 40 miles while following the plan, but I did want my saddle time to get close to 120 minutes since that was going to be my goal on March 22nd.  However, due to never being able to physically and mentally adjust to sitting on the bike for so long, my time never got close to 120 minutes.

So I expected the bike portion would be a bit of a struggle.  When I chose the 2 hour workout, I wanted one that would challenge me a bit, not boring, but I also did not want to overdo it since I had to run 40 miles on the same day.  While having that run on an old laptop, I was also viewing the first real MLB 2014 game of the season being played in Australia.  This helped make the time go by fast.

The bike portion went perfect.  Well almost...I was surprised a bit on how high my heart rate was during the hard segments, but it got me the results.  I completed the 40 miles in just under 2 hours.

On To The Road Running:
After quickly changing and packing, I was out the door by my goal of 7:15 am.  However, the bad part was I had no idea where I was going.  My wife, Mom and friends were asking me through Friday what my route was going to be and I just kept telling them I had no idea.  I really didn't.  (Note: Avoid this if possible.)

When I was packing, I realized I left my good wired earphones in Tulsa during a business trip.  I was going to have to use some new ones my wife found on sale 2 Christmases ago, so I grabbed those and brought my Bluetooth set as backup (glad I did).

The expected temps were to be in the low-mid 20s with the wind chill.  I dressed accordingly.  Yep, that meant long sleeves, winter hat, thin vest, thin winter gloves and tight pants.  I also put on the hydration vest my brother bought me for my birthday.  I was looking forward to not having to hold or stop for water because I had 2 liters with me.

As I left my driveway, I decided to get out of the neighborhood and just go east. Not sure why, but I was like what the heck I will just go that way.

I ended up heading to and down Route 72 (Higgins Road) and traveled east.  This is a 4 lane busy street that goes across a lot of suburbs.  (For the first 2 miles it was on sidewalk, the next 5-6 miles were on shoulder of Route 72, then off to a side road and back to some sidewalks.)  A couple of things that I noticed right from the start...the wind was not as bad (so I thought) as they were predicting (up to 25 mph) and it felt a lot warmer than low 20s.  I was tempted to head off of this main road and head to my mother in law's to drop off one of my long sleeve shirts and the thin vest I was wearing because I was getting warm.  However, I decided against it but I did take off my winter hat and gloves and slid them in my vest pockets.

I also realized the headphones I was wearing were useless.  I just couldn't hear anything so I unplugged them and went for about 8 miles without listening to anything.  I just didn't want to take my Ultraspire Hydration Vest off and put on my Bluetooth headphones since that would waste time and momentum early in the running session.  I also didn't think my Bluetooth headphones would block off the noise coming from the 4 lane busy street.

The other main note I took was my heart rate was high within a quarter of a mile.  This was extremely disappointing and aggravating since I had trained so well to ensure my heart rate would not go above 141 when running a 11-12 minute pace which was my goal for an endurance event like this.  However, I decided to ignore it and just run on perceived level of effort.  When I would spot check it, it was around 145-150 most of the time and but sometimes high 150s or low 160s (not good).  Why was it high?  I still have no idea, but it was beyond disturbing and started casting doubts.  The only good thing was that the plan for the day was to run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes for every 10 minute session. So naturally I would drop my HR at the end of every 8 minutes.

I ended up going east for almost 17 miles to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.  I just wanted to go long enough that when I headed back I could run/walk the miles at the end close to home in case I was struggling. (Boy was I glad I decided to do that.)

Around mile 12 or so, the inner portion of my right leg (psoas area) was hurting.  At the end of every 8  minutes or so I would stretch my legs via the warrior 2 yoga pose.  It would feel better but the pain would attack with a disturbance pain when I started running again.

The pain got worse and worse with every mile.  Which resulted with the pace getting slower and slower.  The walking time increased as I headed home.  The pain was killing my confidence that day and possibly ever becoming a real ultra marathoner.  After mile 19 or so, the pain was bad and I was limping even while walking.

Now people will ask (as I did to myself 100 times), "Why not just stop?" Well my thought was the pain was a hurt and I didn't think it would be something causing an injury.  I did not want to quit and at the same time I was trying to be as smart as possible.  (However, when you are in ultra event you are not always thinking in a smart way.)

With the phone in my pocket, I was tempted to call my wife to pick me up at mile 20 and maybe just do the other 20 the following day.  Every mile after that, the temptation grew but I soldiered on.  I knew I would not be able to run much, but I just kept moving forward.  I just figured I would walk 15+ miles while listening to podcasts.

The other bad part of going home...the wind!  I guess the whole way there, the wind was going against my back.  (Who knew!?)  The wonderful sun also got covered by clouds.  It got cold.  I put the hat and gloves back on. Many miles to go, against the wind, cold, limping...boy this was not going to be fun.

To conclude this already long story, the next 15 miles were long, boring and very challenging.  I tried to stay as strong as possible.  I even did a mantra and I never do those. (I will conquer this one step forward at a time.)

The End:
I took off my gloves, pulled the phone from my pocket and sent a text to my wife around mile 30 and told her I was coming home to walk/run the last 6 miles on the treadmill because the pain in the leg was becoming overwhelming and the wind in the face was not helping the situation.  I came home, stretched as much as possible and got on the treadmill.  I changed my settings so it would pick up my foot pod, but for some reason the pace on my watch would slow down when I ran and was way off, but when I walked the pace matched my treadmill.  Therefore, to save energy (and pain) I decided to just walk all 6.

Oh my gosh, I am not sure what was worse, walking outside against the wind or walking on a treadmill for 6 miles!!!  Either way, I painfully got through it in a unique un-eventful way. So after almost 10 hours of walking/running,  I collapsed on my basement floor and stretched and yelled, "I am done, lets order some pizza!"

The pain in the leg was bad after I was done.  I was limping very bad on Saturday night.  I finally put ice on it around 8 or 9 pm.  When I woke up, the pain was pretty much gone.  (Whew, no injury.)  However, I was limping because my left foot was hurting a LOT.  I am not sure why either.  I remember on one turn I almost twisted that foot and I remember slipping a bit on a couple of stones along that main road, but that's it.   Either way, it is Wednesday now and I am still limping but it has gotten better.  I am just hoping it is sore and not a stress fracture or anything.

A couple of people asked me, "Was it worth it?"  Well it was, only because I learned how mentally tough I could be but at the same time how weak I can be.  There is a lot to work on, physically and mentally.  If I had not done this event, I would not of grown and seen my weaknesses and strengths.  Now, I just need to execute so I can become stronger, when I run again.

Lessons Learned

  • Expect things to not go as planned.  When they don't how will you handle it?
  • Train with equipment you will run with.  I had not trained running with the vest.  Running with a weighted vest or the water pack would have helped.  I felt like I had 30 lbs on my back and when looking back maybe that contributed to the HR increase?
  • Even if you are using Maffetone or aerobic zone training, train to adjust to the situations.  Ask yourself what you will do if you are not in your aerobic zone as long as you wanted?
  • I need to find ways to become physically stronger.  I am tired of feeling and looking weak and flabby.  Somehow I need to adjust my training to overcome this.  I will continue to find solutions to this problem.
  • Continue to listen to audiobooks and podcasts to learn from others.  There is so much free knowledge out there that you can listen and read.  Use it all and apply what works best for you.
  • Adjust training plan to include more back to back LONG runs.  For an ultra event, I really think back to back long days will do wonders.  In my schedule, I did long runs on Saturdays after about 15 miles on the bike.  Then on Sundays I was on the bike up to 30 miles and then run about 4 miles.  Overall, I concentrated a lot on Bricks, but I think I needed to make some of my Sunday runs longer.
  • You do not have to pay a race entry fee to run an event.  I did this on my own, I won in my own way and I did it for free.

What Went Well?

  • Nutrition.  Besides one small stitch pain, the nutrition was fine.  I drank water every 10-20 minutes.  I ate one of my all natural nutrition bars every 45-60 minutes.  I had raisins and nuts every 90 minutes or so.  I had some pretzel M&Ms during the 2nd half every hour or so.  I got lucky and never had any stomach problems, something a lot of ultra runners can't say.
  • Focus on the solution and goal, not the problem.  The problem was the pain in the leg.  What were my solutions?  Walking, enjoying the podcasts was the first solution.  When that was not good enough, I came up with using the treadmill as my final solution. 
I know using the treadmill may seem weak and I am not proud of it, but my goal was to run/walk 40 miles so that is what I did to get it done.

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  1. That's inspiring stuff, Fred. I've dome some ultra running, but I've never covered 80 miles in a day without a car! No matter how you think you did, how well it went, or didn't go, when I (and people like me) read your story we're inspired. It makes us want to train harder and try to achieve more, to be the best we can at what we do. We all owe you thanks for doing something incredible and allowing us a peak at what it takes to do it.

  2. Awesome event, execution, completion, and retelling of the tale, Fred! Inspiring. Keep going, man.

  3. Such a tough goal to set. You DID it, and don't let anyone tell you finishing on the treadmill makes it less... that takes way more mental strength than I can muster!
    I bet your foot is somehow related to your psoas issue. Not sure how, but I bet it's either the cause or the effect.
    Heal well, friend and hopefully you will be ready to go again soon. Congrats on your giant accomplishment!

  4. Fred, I read “My 40/40 For 40th Recap” many times, and every time I do, I get more and more details that make me live the experience right next to you.
    Thank you for that, and thank you for being an inspiration to me. Without knowing, you brought me back on track 6 months ago, when I was about to give up because I didn’t see the results I wanted and expected. That said, when one of this little voices of giving up surround me, I picture your positive attitude & determination and I repeat to myself “You can do it Omayra, FOCUS”!!!
    Remarkable it was to read and re-read:
    Why not just stop?" Well my thought was the pain was a hurt and I didn't think it would be something causing an injury. I did not want to quit and at the same time I was trying to be as smart as possible. (However, when you are in ultra event you are not always thinking in a smart way.)
    To conclude this already long story, the next 15 miles were long, boring and very challenging. I tried to stay as strong as possible. I even did a mantra and I never do those. (I will conquer this one step forward at a time.)
    "Was it worth it?" Well it was, only because I learned how mentally tough I could be but at the same time how weak I can be. There is a lot to work on, physically and mentally.
    I’m pretty much a junior runner, but I have/had similar thoughts while I run long distances!! When I did the half on February, I started crying on mile 10 and desperately I asked to myself: Why are you doing this Omy… I immediately asked God to help me to remain FOCUS to finish, and believe it or not, suddenly, I saw a kid holding a sign that said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” that was an electrifying moment, so I cleaned my tears, started breathing deeply, I raise my head and keep running.
    Those feelings Fred!! Those feelings that go above and beyond of success and satisfaction…that reward of knowing that we have the unlimited potential to go, do and be anything we picture in our minds… is as simple as perseverance, discipline, courage and love to ourselves!!
    My respect and sincere admiration Fred (now “mi compadre”)!!!