I chose the 24 hour option of this race because, well, it was the hardest and longest of the three. Ultra runners have sick minds when it comes to "fun." I also chose this race because I know Rick, and wanted to support his race. He has given so much to the community and is an overall great person so it was a no-brainer on signing up.
The only bad thing about all of this is that I tore my rotator cuff right before the race. I spent the day before in the hospital getting x-rays and being checked over. Hearing the words, "torn rotator cuff" was not what I wanted to hear at the moment, or at any moment...ever. But not for one second did I think of not running. To all of you who are reading this, this race was special in ways I cannot describe fully.
Race day was beautiful, albeit a little chilly. Temps hovered in the 40's during the morning, perfect running weather. As the day moved along it reached the 60's. The wind was strong and gusty the entire day, which beat us all up. Scott Jurek was the special speaker the night before and came out to be the official starter of the race. Before the race, Scott talked with runners and families, and even took the time to take photos. Never turning down person. We could not have had a better ambassador for the sport of running to start this race.
After some quick words from Rick, Scott, and Mike Melton (the official timer), the race was on.
My ultimate goal was to settle into a run-walk routine throughout the day and then proceed to make a move during the night as people fell to exhaustion. The one thing I didn't count on was so many talented runners piling large amounts of miles on so fast. The 6 and 12 hour runners had some serious talent, but I tried to concentrate on the 24 hour runners. And as I ran the first loop I watched Peter Morgan, Laurie Dymond, Angie Fuss, Johna Bollinger, Ryan Henry, and so many others turn on their jets and just roll. I knew from the first lap that it was going to be an awesome 24 hours. Scott Jurek was making his way around the course in reverse fashion and encouraging everyone with his positive words and his infectious smile. As I was making it up a nice long gradual hill, I stopped and chatted with him for roughly five minutes. Not only did he talk running with me, he talked life. Memories I will cherish forever.
The minutes turned to hours, and the hours slowly passed by. I had a blast meeting the other runners on the course, and making new friends. Another thing I loved is this was a looped course so every 1.547 miles I had the chance to see my wife and two daughters. Seeing their smiling faces and hearing my wife's encouraging words helped me through each lap. She also kept me in check with my hydrating and staying on top of taking my ENERGYbits. From start to finish I did not ingest one single gel, I only used my ENERGYbits. And while others had stomach issues ranging from feeling sick to actually getting sick over and over, I felt no issues at all. All I had to do was concentrate on my running. That's a great feeling to have.
Another thing I stayed on top of was keeping my feet happy and fresh. As this was an asphalt surface, the pounding was wreaking havoc on everyones feet. I chose to run in my SKORA Forms in the beginning of the race. They felt good, but knowing that they were a zero drop shoe, I watched how many miles I ran in them at once. I am still strengthening my legs and feet and wanted to be smart about going all out. BUT there will be a day where I will be able to wear them the full 24 hours.
If I am rambling on, please forgive me. This was a great event and many memories were made. I loved this course and having the time to learn about others lives. I had a plan to just run during the day and take it easy, then make a move at night when people were tiring. I took photos while enjoying this gorgeous day.
Mike Melton, who is an awesome race timer, kept us up to date on where we stood in the race. At one point during the day I had fallen to 27th place. Around 12:30 AM I started getting tired. My wife was now at home and I had nowhere to rest, so I went to the only place that was semi warm...the bathroom. As much as I wanted to keep going, I just couldn't. If I stayed out there any longer I would have called it quits. I listened to the words that Rick Meyers and Scott Jurek voiced at the start of the race..."Whatever you do, keep going, don't quit. Take a break, rest, but don't quit." I slept for a total of 3 hours on a cold concrete floor. It was quite possibly the worst place I ever laid my head to sleep...but it refocused me and I went to work when I woke up.
I started gaining on some runners and even started picking people off. As dawn broke and the sun came to see us, I felt good about my plan. I knew that with a torn rotator cuff I wouldn't be near the top where I would have liked, but I was happy with my placement. It was in the 30's during the night so when the sun came out it felt...perfect. My wife and daughters arrived around 8:15 and walked a lap with me. It gave me the chance to reflect and tell her about everything that had happened since she left.
Such as Peter Morgan, who had never run further than 50 miles. He was a ball of energy and was so nice to everyone. He went on to win the race with a total of 122.267 miles. Or Laurie Dymond, a mother of three beautiful girls. Laurie is a friend of mine and someone I look up to. She is my female running hero and inspires me with her desire and passion for the sport. Up until she toed the line at The Sole Challenge, she never ran further than 50 miles. She took 2nd overall and logged an astounding 113.087 miles. Or Angie Fuss, who topped her old record of 76 miles with 84.150. There's Ryan Henry, who just a week before ran the very brutal MMT 100+. That day he put in 103.7. During The Sole Challenge he busted out a sick 104.243 miles. The list of accomplishments and personal records go on and on.
The Sole Challenge was 100 percent about challenging the soul and proving what you were made of. New friends were made that day. Lifelong friendships were strengthened as well. I had the honor of walking the last lap in with Joseph Raines, who achieved his goal of 100 miles by going 100.607. I achieved my realistic goal of 100k by going 63.427 miles. I ended up placing 19th overall, knocking off 8 people through the night. I was 4th in my age, barely missing top 3 by a single lap.
So many of us set some sort of personal record that day. And without the never ending drive of Rick Meyers to get this race started, well, we would have all missed out on some incredible memories. I personally can't thank Rick enough. He went all out and brought in great assistant RD's and had the best aid station workers. Not to mention having a licensed medical staff who are also accomplished ultra runners. Bringing in a massage therapist who made things better at 3 in the morning when legs were locking up. Rick and his crew took care of us and made us all feel great. This was/is a top notch race that has the potential to be a National Event. I will be back year after year if I am that lucky.
A special thank you also goes out to my sponsors. I couldn't have run 100k if it weren't for Injinji Performance Toe Socks. No toe sock compares to the original...and the best. And also to SKORA Running Shoes. Even though I switched back and forth between shoes, my feet felt the best in SKORA. As well as ENERGYbits. If it were not for them my stomach would have been a mess. Staying on top by taking them kept me mentally clear, kept my fatigue in check, and my stomach happy. I couldn't have finished without the help of these great, and VERY supportive companies. That is 100 percent truth. What a great day-night-day of running! And when so many things are given to us, we all earned our medals. This one is my favorite. And this race will always stand out as my favorite.
Let the training for next year begin today. Thank you to all who read this, or ran this great event. You are all amazing and have a place in my memory. Until next time......