In summing up our weekend at the 36 Hour Holston Endurance Challenge, I just have to say “It was our best race effort ever.” Hands down, we pushed ourselves harder than we have in any other ultra, ever. We ran with our hearts and our heads. We had a blast but also suffered a LOT.
The race started at 8:00 pm and we worked on Friday, so we woke up around 6:30 am. Given we drove to Bristol, got set up, and ate, we really did not get much “down time” before the race and also were not able to squeeze in a nap. By the time we finished on Sunday, that meant we were literally running on almost 50 hours with no sleep. All in all, the sleepiness was the toughest part of the race for us.
I struggled with tummy troubles from the start until about midnight on Friday. For these hours, I took in only gels and water. I just could not tolerate the electrolyte drink they had at the race. It made my tummy feel sloshy, so I ended up drinking only water throughout the race (and some good old Mt. Dew on the second night for caffeine purposes).
During the heat on Saturday, I made sure to take some salt capsules to ensure I was getting my electrolytes. Todd’s tummy was better and he drank a lot of the electrolyte drink. Finally my stomach settled and I was able to start eating and drinking. On Saturday, I ate a lot of Honey Stinger waffles and bars, bananas, and watermelon. Todd was eating salt potatoes, chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Later in the evening on Saturday, they had hot grilled cheese sandwiches at the aid station, so we were both partaking quite regularly in this delicious goodness. I also had peanut butter (no jelly because I was sick of sweet stuff at that point), and we both had a slice of pizza each once the RD ordered it around 9:00 pm on Saturday night and it was a wonderful treat.
Weather-wise, we counted our blessings that it did not rain except for about two minutes of light rain at the very beginning of the race (literally from about 8:00-8:02 pm). Otherwise it was warm and humid, humid, humid. We, along with most, runners struggled with chaffing issues due the extreme humidity – no matter what “chaff prevention” method you chose, the likelihood of sweating the method out of effectiveness was very high. I had two wardrobe changes and three shoe changes. Todd had one wardrobe change and two shoe changes.
We did not sit down (except to potty and change our shoes one time) for the first 90+ miles. Around mile 95, we had a 5 minute sit down for the pure mental break of it. Then, at mile 100.5, we took a thirty minute break to do a Wet-Wipe bath, change shoes and clothing, reapply said chaffing preventions, and generally not think about moving. Throughout the last 35 miles, we sat down for about 5 minutes on average every 3 miles. In these races, we just get to a point when our mental ability to keep on our feet dwindles and having these breaks it what we use to motivate ourselves onward.
We ended our race once we hit mile 135 (90 laps around the 1.5 mile course) with about 1 hour and 40 minutes remaining in the 36 hour event. Midday on Saturday, I verbalized the idea of shooting for 135 to say that we did our Badwater mileage for the second time this summer (the first time being at Merrill’s Mile which you can catch in this post, in case you missed it 48 Hours in the Books at Merrill’s Mile!). Todd WON for the males, and I was second for the females. One female beat us, Megan, and she is aiming to make the US 24 hour team in a race she is doing next month. She did 150 miles. She was awesome and we wish her the best of luck.
The people in this race is what makes it just truly, truly exceptional. The Race Director has our hearts. She is giving, encouraging, selfless, funny, and just right down good folk. She also picks the best of the best for the volunteer staff and timing crew. The people actually running the race are simply adorable. EVERYONE there would gladly give you the shirt off their backs if you said it would help you to continue running. The encouragement, the determination, the grit that you see in the faces out there on the course and nothing short of humbling. Congrats to Netta of Dancing Donkey Racing for putting on another exemplary event. Congrats to all the racers out there who gave it their all.
I will end with saying that WE LOVE THIS SPORT. Thank you, God our Father, for the blessing that we have in being the UltraRunCouple.