What started as merely idle chit chat amongst two running nerds (myself and Tommy Neeson), finally became a reality yesterday at 6:00am on September 1st. Several months back, Tommy and I were discussing various ideas to raise awareness and to promote fundraising for Team Hoyt VB (http://www.teamhoytvb.com/). We were originally discussing the ideas of how awesome it would be to run a coast-to-coast run from Eugene, Oregon, to Washington D.C, with the idea of trying to find a chapter of Ainsley’s Angels (http://www.ainsleysangels.org/) and My Team Triumph (http://www.myteamtriumph.org/) along our planned route. Tommy, being the somewhat sensible man that he is, decided that particular endeavor would have to wait and instead, suggested that we start with something smaller.
That “something smaller” came in the form of running for 24 hours, covering as many miles as possible and including as many rider athletes (Captains) as possible. Having done a few charity runs himself, Tommy suggested that we attach something that would be draw a bit of attention toward the mission. In this case, 6 world records for mileage while pushing a running chair, would be the platform.
When this idea was conceived back in Janurary, it seemed like 9 months was so far away and that I had plenty of time to prepare myself. However, how do you go about preparing yourself for something like this? Sure, there are a million and one training plans and advice on how to run a 24 hour run but, none of those plans include doing it while pushing a racing wheel chair with varying sized rider athletes. I knew that for this endeavor, my upper body strength and endurance would have to match my lower body strength and endurance, thus, it would take an unorthoxed approach to prepare my body for this.
Against all conventional wisdom, I decided to forego the high mileage training that is typical of an ultra marathon traning plan and instead add quality mileage to the tune of 20-25 miles per week, supplemented with a great deal of xtraining and strength endurance work. I wanted my body to be able to withstand the rigors of such a task and I knew that in order to do that, my body needed to be strong.
From Janurary until early July, the training was going quite well and I had more than enough confidence that I was up for the challenge. Then, a bit of a setback occured. During a training run, I get a sharp pain in my heel and was forced to hobble back to my car. Diagnosis? Turns out I had suffered from an onset of Plantar Fascitis. THIS, was a a hard pill to swallow. I could barely walk around for the first couple weeks, let alone run. WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I GOING TO DO??
If this had been a race for myself, I would have withdrawn and moved on. But, this event was not about me, it was about our rider athletes, it was about raising awareness, it was about MILES FOR SMILES!! I sulked for a couple of days, then I got back on the horse and vowed to have myself as ready as I possibly could. I may not be a 100% when August 31st rolled around but, I knew that I was going to do everything in my power to complete the mission. Despite only running a total of 32 miles over a 7 week period, I maintained fitness in the form of high intensity cross training and long roller blading sessions to keep my endurance up.
THE MORNING OF:
So the morning of the event is now upon us. “Are you ready”, “Are you nervous”? These are just a few of the questions I heard in the final hours leading up the the 9:00am start. To answer, I really wasn’t nervous and though physically I was not 100%, I was mentally ready 200% and for me, that was enough.
With the help of so many friends, the event started with a bang! Wheels were rolling at precisely 9:00 am with a little kick-off music by our on-site DJ, Tommy Bell (who stayed throughout the entire event, keeping us rolling with good tunes).
So as to not be a bore fest of watching a chair go around and around a track, we had a bounce house for the kids (and David Mick), a Team Hoyt relay (this consisted of pairing four runners with a rider athlete, each running 400m each), a Glo-Run (everyone running around in neon, glow in the dark attire and accessories). We had the local VB Fire Dept. out there with a firetruck, giving tours for all the children.
Aside from contending with the heat and no cloud coverage, the daylight hours went rather well. With so much on site support and activity, the hours flew by faster than anticipated. As per the itenarary, I would run for 50 minutes or so, then spend the last 10 minutes of each hour, switching out riders, changing shoes and socks as needed and replenishing calories.
For 17 hours, I couldn’t be more pleased. My body was holding up better than anticipated, my nutrition and hydration was on point (thanks in part to all those who kept ensuring I drink and eat even when I didn’t want to), I was listening to many stories from both the riders and as well as from those who were running along beside, pacing me. The tunes were blasting from the DJ booth, there were smiles galore. Everything was great and THEN…
It was about hour 18, I started to feel my ankles getting tight and a throbbing pain started to set in. My first measure of maintenance was to get my ankles taped, which helped a bit, then I decided to try some anti-inflammatory gel…then, despite everything that I stand for, I broke down and consumed some Ibuprophen (if you know me, this means things has gotten bad).
From here on out, I knew it was going to be painful, but I would keep pressing forward. There were high and low points during the next 3-4 hours. At one point, when the pain was really bad, the young girl I was pushing said “It’s amazing that you are using your running ability to help us who can’t run. I would really like to run a martathon someday myself, though the doctor’s say I can’t”. That comment got me through the next few miles, to say the least.
Finally, around hour 20, my run/walk combo had turned strictly into a walk only. Granted, I was still able to walk a decent pace, but each step was excrutiating. It was around this time that I put together one last attempt to try and get me through the remaining few hours. Another tape job, some more Ibuprophen and some more anti-inflammatory gel. None of which would end up working.
At hour 21.5, I needed just 10 more miles to get to the 100 mile mark but, it just wasn’t meant to be. The swelling in my ankles was so bad, I could not longer walk. I took a 30 minute break to ice and treat them, hoping with all hope that I could get just a couple more hours out of them.
Finally, closing in on the 22 hour mark, I had to make one very tough decision. With medical advice from Dr. Wittenburg and counsel from my wife and friends, I decided the mission would end, 2 hours short of the overall goal.
Though it has left me a bit heavy hearted, knowing I did not finish what I had set out to, I can rest easy knowing that I gave my all. I couldn’t walk another step (still can’t walk).
As the rest of my Team Hoyt VB teammates and family lined up to head to the start of the Rock N Roll half marathon, I had a tear in my eye, knowing that the last 22 hours was in fact, not a waste and, that the goal of “Total Inclusion and Awareness”, was met.
The things I learned during those 22 hours was this: 1.) Support from family and friends mean everyting. 2.) Love, compassion and smiles can fix just about anything. 3.) The human body and mind is capable of much more than you would ever think possible. 4.) Selflessness is the greatest of gifts.
In order to thank everyone who had a part in this, I would have at least 12 pages of content. So, I will instead thank many as all inclusive groups. Thank you to:
1.) Our Team Hoyt VB family and Ainsley’s Angels
2.) Our friends who were with us throughout the entire journey, especially the ones who kept us going in the darkest times, running countless miles throughout the day.
3.) The Virginia Beach Police..WOW! (these guys/gals came out and supported us in a way I would never have expected..even joining us for a few laps with their motorcyles, their horses and even a few of them on foot).
4.) To the complete strangers who came out to support us and run a few laps with us.
5.) To the entire medical staff and crew (Sentara, Dr. Wittenburg, Mrs. Peggy, Matt Bolton).
7.) Our amazing DJ
8.) The city of Virginia Beach, the Mayor, the City Commisioner and Beach Middle school for allowing us to have this event on your wonderful grounds, in your wonderful city.
9.) Most importantly, I would like to thank all of our rider athletes. Without them, none of this would have been possible, nor would it have had any purpose or meaning. I truly hope that each and everyone of you know just how amazing these individuals are. Throughout the day, we had 20+ different riders. During that time, we had nothing but smiles and laughter from each and everyone of them. In fact, I have never heard so many laughs and giggles in my life.
As I sit here, with my ankles swollen to the point of needing crutches to walk, I can’t help but to think about how much it was worth it. To see the awareness this event raised and to experience the love and joy that surrounded it all, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and pride.
Again, thank you all for everything! Now, to start planning for next year’s grand event! 😉