The first mile was way too fast as I came through in 8:39. I would be done by mile 10 at this pace as the temps were hovering near 94 with the heat index. As I hit the C&O Canal towpath I hit a nice stride and zoned out with my music. I took the time to relax my mind and NOT worry about the distance I was going to try and cover. The early miles clicked off relatively easy, which I was happy about. I would pass mile marker after mile marker while trying not to pay attention as to what mile it was. Then I hit Dam 5, roughly 8.25 miles in.
I tapped into my ENERGYbits and drank some water. I lost less than two minutes before continuing on. I kept telling myself it was just "another long run" to keep from coming unglued. The one thing I truly had in my favor was the fact that I train alone 99.9 percent of the time. I'm used to being out there for hours on end by myself. But knowing that it was going to be extremely hot out, I had a friend join me for some miles. He met me around the 12 mile point and had water for me. My pace was steady as he rode beside me. It would have been nice to have him the entire time, but life is life. We parted ways about four miles later. He snapped a photo of me, gave me my camera back, and headed back while I continued on.
I was so happy to be on the Rail to Trail. For as much as I run on the Canal, it's not my favorite place to run. I was now within ten miles of my turn around. My pace was laboring and I could feel it. Then it hit me...I was running steadily uphill. Nothing major, yet enough to make you feel it. I kept telling myself to stay on top of hydration and to keep taking my ENERGYbits. As rough as it was, I tried to look around and smile. I would do anything to keep positive and focused. Every few miles I would take my camera out and snap a photo, sip some water, and keep moving steadily up the rail trail.
I started getting pumped as I began passing walkers...yes, I am now within a mile of my turn around! It couldn't have been better timing, as I began to run out of water and was in need of real food. The entire way up was fueled on nothing but ENERGYbits. And even though they kept me going mentally and physically, my stomach was telling me to fill it up. Unfortunately this was Hancock, and real food is hard to come by. Such a cool town...with nowhere to eat! I eventually ate just one slice of pizza, which was only half good, and started making my way back.
As I began to head back "down" the rail trail, I kept thinking I didn't want to run the Canal back. I started hitting a low point from that thought so I started thinking alternate routes. I called my wife and told her to map out the road home to see if it was quicker. I clicked off some more miles while she checked. And then with two miles before my turn off to the Canal, I got the call. Good news: Somewhat quicker. Bad news: A very nasty and dangerous road that is super hilly/steep. The road it was!
Once I hit the road and could see all around me, I felt revived. Even with the massively steep inclines, which I speed walked, I felt good. I was now 35 miles into it and was still holding a HUGE PR time for this distance. I stayed strong and maintained 9+ minute miles. When I reached the top of a long incline, I would haul tail down the other side to make up for my walking. I'm glad I wore my SKORA Form's because as my legs began to tire, I knew it wasn't because of my shoes.
Another reason I was happy was because traffic was limited. That's a good thing because in my area, especially in the area that I was in at the moment, it can be deadly if a car doesn't get over for you. As you can see from the photo below, I had NO shoulder to run on. And with the blind spots from the constant curves, bad things could happen in a second.
At 45 miles I knew I was going to run the fastest I had ever run 50 miles in, as long as I didn't fold. I had busted tail all day long, never once turning off my watch so I could get a "real time" result. I eventually turned off my last back road and hit the Canal for a little over a mile. I came into Cushwa Basin still in good spirits AND over 50 miles. I walked my last big hill and struggled my way home. I was at the point of pure hunger. I had gone 8+ hours with one slice of pizza and over 100 ENERGYbits. I earned a big meal. I hit our front door in a time of 8:13:18, besting my 50 mile PR by well over an hour. I covered a total of 53.02 miles on Canal and roads. I'm happy to report that I had NO blisters! Thank you Injinji! I spent all day pushing myself to see what I could do. Even though I was alone, I was fine with that. The best way to train for a long distance race is to go the long miles by yourself. I found out that I am not a quitter. I could have slowed down and blamed the heat, the hills, or a thousand other things...but I didn't. Like Ice Cube said, "Damn, it was a good day."
Thank you to those I run for and promote. SKORA Running, Injinji Toe Socks, ENERGYbits, I couldn't have finished with that time if it weren't for your help. Your products help me push the limits, and then some. You rock!!