Friday, September 7, 2012

Merrill's Mile 2012


Camp Frank D. Merrill, an active Army Ranger base.

Course Description
A one mile crushed gravel loop.  Flat, except for 10 feet of gain. (And after awhile, you knew exactly where that ten feet of gain was).

Run the one mile loop as many times as possible in a 24 hour period. Which leads to the obvious question....

1.  I hate flat. I hate nice crushed gravel paths.  I can't think of anything more mentally challenging than running in a one mile circle for 24 hours.  And there you have it.

2.  The race was on the one year anniversary of my ACL surgery.  It would be a nice way to thank my surgeon.

3.  Willy Syndram knows how to con people into running his races.  He put that darn donkey on the t-shirt.  And plus he's a nice guy who puts on good races.

My race

There's not a whole lot to describe, as my race consisted of running 93 laps around the one mile track.   So I'll break it down into Bad Things and Good Things

The Bad

  • The repetitive motion of running in flat loops trashed my quads.  I hurt pretty bad at 20 miles.  At 50, I was upset, not knowing how I could go much further and thinking I would go home with less mileage than I made at BMM three months earlier with my knee still hurting.  After a long visit to the chiropractic tent (what a luxury) I was able to shuffle along.  Two more visits in the night kept me going.                                          

  • It was 88 in the shade with high humidity.  We were not in the shade.  We ran in full sun most of the day.  A thermometer sitting on a chair along the course registered 100.  I was soaking wet all day. I couldn't use my iPod because there was nowhere dry to put it.  Eventually I stuck it in a plastic bag and stuck it in my sports bra.  Great.  Another place chafed.

  • Blisters under each of my big toenails.  Enough said.

  • Porta-potties in the full sun at the hottest part of the day.  Not a welcome sauna.

The Good

  • The aforementioned chiropractors, without whom I couldn't have finished.

  • The well organized race, encouraging race director, and extremely helpful and patient volunteers, especially those who kept up with my laps.

  • Running most of the night with just the light of the full moon.

  • After a bad year with my knee, hitting the 90 mile mark and trying not to cry because my knee didn't hurt.

  • Finishing with 93 miles, 2nd female, 3rd overall and a nice pair of Leki trekking poles, perfect for my next adventure.

  • Raising over $1100 for the Butterfly Fund.

  • Having the perfect crew member take care of me.

Here's a video of the start

How do you run 24 hours?

I have had many questions about how you go about running one of these races.  So here's my own how-to manual.
Step 1:  Set up camp.  There are rules about setting up camp.

1.  It cannot be comfortable if you plan to run all 24 hours.

2.  Spend hours contemplating everything you might need and pack it. Then spend a long time worrying that you didn't pack the right things.

3.  Camp cannot be complicated because you have to break it back down and carry it to the vehicle after running 24 hours. Unless you do Step #2.
Step 2:  Marry the perfect crew member.

      At the hottest part of the day, Tony went to town and bought a mister to spray me down to cool me off.  He  brought me a hamburger and listened to me complain. He brought ice cold Pepsi's and root beers.  (Well, those were supposed to be for him, but they were so good.) He videotaped me so I could see my progression from a straight up strider to a crumpled shuffler in the the heat of the day.  And he broke down camp for me.

Step 3:  Make sure there are activities nearby to entertain your crew member or they will get bored and  no longer be a perfect crew member.

Step 4:  Annoy the lap counters by double checking them every other lap.  It turns out that these lap counters were spot on , but there have been issues at other races.  The last thing you want is to have a lap or two missed.  I've even had to correct one who had given me an extra lap.  (Yes, that was a real moral dilemma).

Step 5:  Figure out what your stomach will handle.  In the extreme heat, my stomach likes GUs, pudding, my new favorite Honey Stinger waffles and pickle juice.

Step 6:  Put one foot in front of the other and don't ever think about how far you have gone or how much farther you have to go.  "Yay!  I've run 12 hours" is immediately followed by "Oh, I have to do that again." In fact, when people ask me what I think about when I run that far, I really don't have an answer.  I think hard about not thinking.  I think about if I need to eat.  Or take a Succeed.  Or if I am drinking enough.  Or too little.  Or why I haven't needed to use the restroom.  Or what is off enough in my system to make my fingers swell some.  Or if I should change shoes.  Or "Ow, that hurts." Or where did Tony go?

Step 7:  Send your crew member to a hotel at night so there is no chance of you getting in the vehicle and quitting. Make him promise not to take you back to the hotel even if you really want to go.

And that's it.  Pretty easy, in theory.


AlanInDahlonega said...

It was great being lapped by you the first 12 hrs....when we returned to pick up our son (24 hrs), you were still looking strong...just not smiling as much..Your story is inspirational..Great tips!

MamaRunsFar said...

I remember running Hostelity with you when you were recovering from your knee and using your hiking poles and walked every lap. Your story was inspirational then and it is now. Great job. I found your tips helpful.

mkirk said...


Nice write-up! Love the tips. Congrats on a great run.