Surprisingly, I was not too beaten down at the conclusion of day 1. Yes, I ate a whole family’s worth of calories that night, combined with multiple uses of the ice machine where we were staying. The worst part of day 2 was more so the mental aspect. After covering 75 miles, I wouldn’t hit the halfway point until I was 15 miles into that Sunday morning jog.
You can train for multi day events, putting yourself in a position where stress is ever increasing each day so that you learn to adapt. I did not do a satisfactory job of this during my build up. In this instant, it was placing my body and mind on autopilot. If day 1 is a test of fitness, days 2 and 3 are a pain management issue.
My body started showing signs of potential long term damage around 20 miles in. I am no way capable of fully diagnosing myself yet, but my first semester of physical therapy school did teach me a few things. I would go as far as saying I had a grade 1 right hip flexor strain, absent right knee extension due to severe gastrocnemius tightness, right peroneus longus inflamed drastically, cramping in both of my extensor digitorum, and a potential stress fracture in my left tibia.
In a great turn of events, 10 miles later I was able to classify it more directly as intense shin splints. Yay.
I’m no David Goggins. I’m not a mental guru capable of detaching my soul from the physical entrapment of flesh and blood. I can’t do 4030 pull-ups in 24 hours, every day is just leg day. Also, I just don’t like yelling very much, which is mostly the basis of his entertainment value.
What I can do is mitigate the damage by focusing on placing one foot in front of the other. Running the mile that I’m in. Having a short term memory. These small steps can turn 1 mile into 10, and 10 into 50. Pretty soon the sun is setting and you were under the impression that it just rose an hour ago. That could also just be my rapidly declining mental state, but that’s a topic more suited for day 3 discussion.
Things got interesting about 35 miles into the day. My goal here was to at least get to 50 miles, and that was going to be a stretch by the most generous of measures. Luckily former teammate and good friend Chris McWain showed up to help drag me through a couple miles. I threw in the towel at 45 miles, completely dejected and wholeheartedly unsure if this undertaking was possible to finish in 3 days.
I had stopped near Ionia, with my initial goal of making it to my house in Grand Rapids. Well, my parent’s house that they let me sleep in free of charge on the off chance that I give them complimentary physical therapy down the road. I had another full day ahead, and my body was shutting down. It wasn’t regulating heat well, and I was uncontrollably shivering throughout the night.
As the kids these days say, I was not able to hang.
There’s no special formula for facing your fears. After running farther than I ever have the first day, the keys to days 2 and 3 were just to keep showing up. I’m a solid runner, but at any given point there’s got to be well over a hundred individuals in Flagstaff who could put me in the grave and then ask when the workout was going to start. This is something completely different, something that I think more people could actually do if they were willing.
It just happens that this willingness is dragging yourself to the edge, looking into the abyss, and sending it.
-Dylan Sykes, ultramarathoner wannabe