I figure when you run 50 miles in a race and raise more than $1,000 to fight autism, you have to write a race report about it. I don’t really know where to start, though.
On Saturday, in Enid, Oklahoma, I ran the All Day Run For Autism. The race was put on by Glenn McDaniel, who I’d met online through Operation Jack and talked to quite a bit over the years. The race was put on primarily as a benefit for a local organization out there called 4RKids that helps promote awareness and provide opportunities for special needs children and adults in the area. I think it was also a benefit for the Operation Jack Autism Foundation. The concept was interesting — there was a six-mile loop and you had 90 minutes to get around. It started at 7:30 a.m. and regardless of what time you finished those six miles, you couldn’t start the next loop until 9 a.m. The next loop started at 10:30, and so on. The race was scheduled to last 30 hours or until there were no competitors left. If you made it in 90 minutes, you could run the next loop. Otherwise, you were out.
I collected pledges raising money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and each mile I ran was worth $20.50. Going into the race, I had never run farther than 54 miles, and I had only run 20 miles once in the previous six months, but with money for autism on the line, I was determined to give it my all. I knew I wasn’t in shape and I’d fatigue, but I was optimistic that I could gut out 15-minute miles for a while after I slowed down. Objectively, I expected to run 36 to 42 miles. I had dreams of a new distance PR (more than 54 miles), somewhere in the 70s, and even that bucket-list 100-miler. I didn’t have any reason to legitimately think I could accomplish any of those, and going in I figured I’d be disappointed with anything less than 54, but there was really no basis to think I could do that. No sense not trying, though?
The weather in Enid was great on Friday and Sunday, calm skies, mid-50s. On Saturday, it was a different story. When the race started, it was probably somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees and I heard somebody say the winds were 38 mph. It. Was. Not. Warm. I didn’t realize how bad it was the first lap and was physically in pain because I didn’t have the right layers on. I got through the lap and had about 35 minutes to wait. I warmed up insde in the tent that was there with some incredible heaters and dressed the way I dress when it’s zero degrees back home.
They did a great job with the aid station inside the tent. Plenty of all the typical ultra food you would expect and I made sure to start early with the nutrition. I’m not too experienced with ultras — maybe a half-dozen or so under my belt, but I wanted to be sure I took care of myself before it was too late.
It was a little weird starting up after a 35-minute break, and it was such a bummer to go from that warm tent back to outside! Once we got going, the cold didn’t seem as bad as it did on the first lap. Yay, layers. I was getting a headache on the right side of my head when we were running west, because the wind was coming pretty hard from the north. I started to sense that it would be one of those days that might not be all that fun throughout the day, but it would be fun to write about and reminisce about. War stories are fun to have, but not to create!
During the second half of that second loop, it start sleeting pretty good and with the wind slinging it, it stung when it was hitting me in the face. I got through the loop without any significant trouble. I discovered something that made it tough after that second break — when you go from really cold to really warm, it makes you really, really want to take a nap. All I could think of was sleep and I was only 12 miles into this!
During the third lap, it started snowing. The flakes were pretty good size, but it was better than the sleet. It was getting a little tougher at the beginning of each lap to get going after the break. One good thing about the break, though, was that I was mentally viewing each loop as a six-mile run. I wasn’t think so much about the actually total of the run. When I got around to the end of that third loop, it didn’t seem like I was 18 miles in. It just seemed like six miles. Again.
I continued to get sleepy during the break and as appealing as it would have been to take a nap, I knew that wasn’t an option. By the start of the fourth loop, though, the stiffness started to kick in. My legs felt like they do when I run the day after going all-out in a marathon. I wasn’t alone — we were all struggling to get going, shuffling for about a half-mile before our legs would kick in. It was still snowing on the fourth loop but I think it started to ease up. The wind wasn’t as bad as it had been, although it picked up at times.
By the time I was finished with the loop, I didn’t feel as exhausted as I normally do after 24 miles. I think that’s mostly because of the mently aspect, because I really wasn’t thinking about anything beyond six miles. It didn’t mentally seem like 24. I went in again and it was the same routine — text, tweet, Facebook, warm, warm, food, warm, sleepy, “one minute and we start again!” … those are the worst words ever!
The fifth lap got us past the marathon distance of 26.2 miles, so that officially made it an ultramarathon. If memory serves correct, it was still a little windy, but the snow had stopped. When we got back to the start/finish, Glenn was there and slapped me a high-five and said, “Congratulations! You went ultra for autism!” I spent most of my time running alone and had plenty of time to think about what I was doing and why. I knew I wouldn’t have been out there if not for Jack and the long, long journey we’ve been on with him and Operation Jack. It just felt different and special to hear him say that. It was about 2:30 p.m. at that point and even though I was 30 miles in, I knew I still had a long ways to go. I went through the same in-between-laps routine and got back out there.
My legs really felt stiff when we got going for the sixth lap and as I was telling people I was communicating with, I knew that this was the point where the breakdown and fatigure would probably start to happen. Even if you’re in shape, you’re going to start feeling things after 30 miles. And the starting and stopping made it difficult and the weather wasn’t great. The wind had died down to less than 10 mph at this point and it was warming up a touch, maybe high 30s or even 40, and I actually was doing better than I thought I would be. I got through the lap fine and was pretty optimistic that I’d be able to get past 54.
After another break and more nutrition and hydration, I dragged myself out for a seventh lap. It was starting to get a little tougher just because that tent was so warm and I kept getting sleepy! I was moving around and felt like I was slowing down, but felt like I still had a lot in me. I was having no troubles all day staying below 10 minutes a mile, so I knew that I could go for a while and stay below the 15-minute pace I needed to beat. But about two miles into that loop, I could feel some problems in the IT band in my right knee. I was 38 miles into my day, and I knew I was untrained, and what was happening was, unfortunately, not a surpise.
The issues with my knee were coming and going, but I was moving OK and I knew I’d get in with plenty of time to spare. I wasn’t confident that I had more than another lap in me after that, but I knew I’d go out for at least one more loop. The loops were actually 6.1 or so miles, so I got in and was was 42.85 miles into my day. I’d earned $861 so far. One more loop would get me a bonus mile because of the extra .1 and change and put me at $1,004.50 from my pledges. I was kind of thinking that this was the way it was going to end up, 49 miles, about $1,000, done for the day. That was what I was telling myself just being realistic, although I was also hoping that maybe I could find a way to get to 55 and get a new distance best.
When that eighth lap started, I was stiff, like I had been for the start of the previous four or five laps. But while I eased into a 9:30 pace within a half-mile or so of the start of each of those laps, the second mile of that eighth loop took me about 13 minutes. I knew I was done, that I would just enjoy that lap, because it was going to be my last. My knee was getting progressively worse, and while not tremendously bad, I didn’t think there was a whole lot left in it before injury. The snow melted and the course was getting pretty squishy.
About two miles into that eighth lap, I was running north and got an incredible sense of peace. The course was along dirt roads surrounding farms and when you were alone (which was pretty frequent over the final three or for loops for me), all you heard were cows and your own footsteps. The sun was setting off to my left and it was a nice, bright orange/red. I knew I was done and just started talking out loud to myself. I told myself that I tried hard and while it wasn’t necessarily the best I’m capable of, it was the best I was capable of that day. I would have loved to have quit after 30 miles, but I pushed on because I was raising money. I felt like I pushed myself and didn’t feel any shame for what I did that day.
I was also extremely grateful for being able to be in the position to be out there. If not for the work for Operation Jack I’ve put in over the years, using running to fight autism, there’s no way I would have been able to experience that serene sunset in Enid, listing to the cows and being able to enjoy the peace that comes when you’re completely alone on a run. There were times when there wasn’t a person within a half mile of me and I really enjoyed the calm. I had a very long week as a parent and it was nice to get some perspective time.
I got in to the finish, a football field shy of 49 miles, and went back out just a little bit to hit 50. It’s not very often I get a chance to run 50 miles (this was only my fourth time ever), and I knew I would have kicked myself for a long time if I called it quits at 49!
So, in all, 50 miles, $1,025 miles raised for autism. I would have loved to have done more, but I was grateful just for the opportunity to be out there and participate. It was a great event, very well done, especially for an inaugural event. I’d love to get back out there next year and run it again. Individually, I just feel so blessed that I’m able to get out there and run and make something happen, not matter how big or small.
That’s all, I guess. Thank you for reading, and if you were one of my donors, thank you for your support![subscribe2]