48 Hours in the Books at Merrill’s Mile!

Well, here we are on the other side of 48 hours of running! This post is going to be a bit longer than usual, so grab a cup of coffee or chocolate milk and let’s get started with the race recap.

 First and very importantly, I got my nails ready for the race. And even painted one of Todd’s thumbs so that we could ensure solidarity on race day(s)

Then, we packed up the car and headed to Gainesville, Georgia on Friday. Given this was 48 hours of running, we really had no idea what we would and would not need, so we erred on the side of over-packing. We ended up using about half of what we brought, so it was probably a success in terms of packing for a race like this one. We also packed up a yummy prerace dinner (we do NOT rely on fast food/restaurant options often and especially not before a race). We had some pasta, cheese, and rotisserie chicken. Then we did some crossword puzzling.

Then we got some sleep…not really hard sleep, but it was okay for both of us. We semi-slept from about 8:30 pm until 5:00 am, which was good enough for the night before a race. We always expect sleep on the night before race day to not be super solid.   

Merrill's Mile 2016 sleeping

We got up and did not fully prepare in terms of bug spray, Vaseline, etc because we knew we would have time once we got to the race and set up camp. We then grabbed some continental breakfast, which included oatmeal, bananas, bagels, and coffee and hit the road for the one hour drive to the race in Dahlonega, Georgia.

Merrill's Mile 2016 pre breakfast

Merrill's Mile July 2016 Ent

To give you some perspective on the race, it is a loop that is not quote 1 mile long, all on asphalt. I note this because to get to 100 miles, we had to run 101 laps, not 100.  It might not seem like a big deal, but when we have been running for that long, one extra lap is huge. 

Merrill's Mile 2016 Lap StartMerrill's Mile July 2016 Course

Throughout the loop, we can see all sections of the course. It is very flat (about 10 feet of elevation throughout). There is one aid station at the start of each lap. It is chip timed, so we wore an ankle transponder that records the laps every time we stepped over the start line mat. Here are some pics to help you to visualize it.

Merrill's Mile 2016 Timer
40 minutes before the start


Merrill's Mile 2016 Aid Station
Aid station


And here is our tent once we had everything setup and all of our stuff laid out inside.

Merrill's Mile July 2016 Tent Pre Race

It really felt like an accomplishment just to get to the start and get setup. We had been anticipating this day for so long and it was finally here and we were ready…all we had to do now was run and run and run! So, at 9:00 am EST on Saturday, July 2nd that is exactly what we did. Going into the race we said we would break the race down into morning, afternoon, evening, and night. It just seemed more manageable to us that way. We always get asked “how do you do it?” and we say that it is 90% mental, which we fully believe. If we look at the race as the full 48 hours, we will be too overwhelmed to even start the race, much less to keep going when things get tough – which they will. Guaranteed!

The first day was good but super, super hot. Trees line the outside of the loop providing shade in the morning and evening, but in the middle of the day with the sun overhead, there is no shade.  We kept up a steady pace for the morning and afternoon. PS – Below I am sporting one of my mom’s care package surprise. She wanted to make sure we ran patriotically throughout the race.

Merrill's Mile 2016 head gear

As evening came upon us, though, we both were struggling mentally. I know I made the promise not to cry, but I did cry in the early evening of day one. I realized that our 200 mile stretch goal was not going to happen and I neglected to set a secondary goal, so my mind just could not cope. We kept running but, around 11:00 pm, we both just needed a break.

We decided to lay down in the tent for a while and regroup. We ended up sleeping for an hour and boy did it help! We have NEVER slept in any race we have done, not even Badwater, so we did not know what to expect. We always assumed that we would wake up totally stiff and worse off than when we laid down but that was not the case. We woke up ready to get back out there, so we ran for several more hours.

Merrill's Mile 2016 Tent
Our beds


Around 4:00 am we hit another mental block and decided to lay down again. This time, we slept for about 45 minutes and then, again, experienced an amazing bounce back when we got back up. These two nighttime rests were all we needed to hit the road hard on day two. The heat got to a ton of people, but we stayed running at a moderate pace for the day. We got on a pattern of stopping to rest about every 3 laps, which turned into resting every 2 laps as we got into the evening on day two. Every 2 laps, we would rest for about 7 minutes, then every 4 laps, our rest would be longer between 12-16 minutes.

Merrill's Mile 2016 Em and P butter
Taking a break and eating peanut butter.


Sometime during day two, we reassessed our goal and decided that we wanted to definitely beat our highest mileage ever (135 at Badwater) and then we would rest some more a reassess again.

We hit the Badwater mileage around midnight on Sunday night.  We decided to sleep again, knowing we had just set a personal best for total mileage. When we woke about two hours later, we decided that we wanted to clinch second place for male and female (the first place male and female were too far ahead for us to reach them at that point). We also decided that I could break the previous female course record, 139 miles, knowing I would not have the course record because the lead female this year now holds it, but at least I have the 2nd most miles!

Another goal throughout that we lost sight of a few times was to HAVE FUN! We realized we could reach our new goals of second place and the second place female course record and still have lots of fun, so we fully let go mentally and just walked a lot and talked to people.

Oh, before I forget, a little bit about what we ate. So, on day one I had stomach issues like never before. I have NEVER had problems eating during the long races, but I had to hit the toilets 6 times in the first 4 hours of the race. I could not keep anything inside of me and knew that my calories were at a huge deficit. Also, I was having a hard time digesting the liquids I was taking in, so I feared that my electrolytes were getting low.

After 4 hours of basically no calorie intake and limited water, I finally was able to get straightened out and started eating again. For the rest of the time, I had a lot of bananas, some watermelon, peanut butter sandwiches, Bugles, cheese wraps, some pizza, animal crackers, Chex Mix, a few crispy rice treats, mini donuts, electrolyte chews, Gatorade, and water. Todd ate basically the same stuff, minus the donuts and Bugles. He also ate a lot of boiled potatoes with salt and chicken noodle soup. We really eat a lot of variety because we go with whatever sounds good at the moment. We are in no way elite runners, so I am not saying this nutrition plan is recommended, but we just need to get calories in to have energy and we want to keep eating throughout. Sometimes, the easiest way to do that for us is to just eat what looks good.   

The race was so much fun and we hit all of our reassessed goals. We did 141 laps or 140 miles. We decided to leave around 7 am because we met our goals, had a long drive ahead of us, and really just wanted to SHOWER! Overall, we are satisfied with our performance. We stayed strong through the heat and got our feet wet with the 48 hour distance. We know what to expect next time (we have not really decided yet, but I assume there will be a next time) and we got to meet so many amazing people. We learned more about ourselves and totally pushed ourselves when we wanted to call it quits. Todd and I always grow so much stronger as a couple and as Christians throughout this race. We COULD NOT DO what we do without the grace of God and the blessing of each other.

We also have to thank our family for the tremendous support. My mom’s amazing care package (that you can read about here: Super Sweet Sendoff) kept us going through many periods of super low lows. We also got a letter from my sister and dad, which provided lots of inspiration, too.

Though this is quite a long post, we really didn’t even touch on everything. There is just so much that happens to you throughout a race like this one! Let us know if we missed anything you would like to hear about from the race. Thanks for reading and supporting us!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jenny says:

    Thanks! This was fun to read. Congratulations on your accomplishment!


    1. It was a great event. Thank you and thank you for reading our blog!


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