A 42.5-Mile Night Run

Geezer runs all night

Geezer runs all night

As I’m training for the Javelina Jundred 100-mile trail race, my training schedule has called for a progressively increasing very long run every four weeks since May. As of today I’m still on target.

A month ago I did a 40-miler, so the objective of yesterday’s run was to do 45 (maybe 50) in 12 hours if possible, but in any case, more than 40. Mission accomplished.

This was not yet another indoor track run of the type for which I have become infamous, but an all-night grind on an asphalt loop around a golf community where Gary Culver, an active local ultrarunner lives, all pre-approved by the community’s recreational events management, so we wouldn’t be questioned by the security patrol and run off as loonies.

The course is proclaimed by official signs with mileage markers along the way to be exactly 2.5 miles. Gary verified this as 2.501 miles on his bicycle. It’s all on asphalt, almost continuously curving, but very gently so the constant turning is not a problem on the legs. There are a couple of mild rises encountered in the counterclockwise direction we chose in order to run toward traffic, compensated for by long, almost imperceptible descents. It’s a perfect place to run for runners of the type who habitually get their exercise by heading out their front doors to a standard nearby location, and indeed in the early morning there were quite a few walkers and bicyclists out. Being within a gated community, traffic is was very light during the evening and early morning hours, with none at all during the dead of night. If I lived there I would probably give up my Bally’s membership and get used to the heat.

There were just two of us the whole night. Many were invited but few came, to paraphrase an illustration of Jesus. No one else could be talked into this folly.

It was not to be a routine evening. When we started, at precisely 6:00 p.m. by my watch, what I was told was the edge of hurricane John was rapidly hurricane rolling in.

We ran two loops in good time while winds whipped up angrily, blowing over our tables. Some light rain pelted my skin like gravel being kicked up because of the impact of the drops caused by the wind. Incredibly evil black clouds headed our way, accompanied by disconcerting lightning. To that point it was still runnable, but the lightning was sufficiently disturbing as to cause us to have second thoughts.

Gary’s wife Sandy showed up to share the weather report. (They live a quarter mile from the clubhouse where we based our aid stations.) Exercising prudence, we stopped our watches, packed everything in, threw it in our trunks, and went to Culvers’ house to chat, drink coffee, and monitor the weather channel. We learned that the most dangerous part of what was to come had already passed by, and while it would continue to rain for a while, it would do so fairly hard, but not torrentially or dangerously, then would clear up by late evening.

So we headed back out. The total break from the time I punched my stop button until we started again was an hour and ten minutes.

It rained hard enough to flood the streets in places. I couldn’t avoid wading through water that came up over my shoe tops, which also impeded forward progress, slowed also by the constant weaving around the puddles that was necessary rather than running the shortest path. But that and the wind served to make it pleasantly cool, and good running weather. It had been 105 during the day. I didn’t mind at all running in the rain, and neither did Gary, and while running all night in the rain seemed like a crazy thing to try at the start, by a minute after beginning our second loop it seemed perfectly reasonable. The first ten miles was some of the most enjoyable running I’ve done in quite a while.

It stopped raining around 11:30, and while it was still plenty wet, the streets drained in the duration of a couple of laps, then nearly dried off. It rained briefly again around 4:00am, but not hard nor for long. It was never uncomfortably warm.

The rest of the night I just kept on cranking, never taking a significant break except for seven minutes to visit the comfortable, clean bathroom outside the clubhouse that by prearrangement they left unlocked for us.

My lap splits slowed incredibly, to about 160% of what I started at. I had one tough lap from 25—27.5 miles, when my stomach protested, and my will power waned, but it passed, and my next lap was one of the best of the night. Gary had a slow time of it too, though he was going faster than me. His goal was 100K, but it was soon apparent he would not make it, as I would likely not make my 50 miles.

By the time we quit, with 11:34:27 total elapsed time on my watch, and not enough time (nor heart) remaining to do another full lap, I’d gotten 17 laps, for a total of 42.5 miles, and Gary had gotten 45 miles. On a shorter course I would have had time to walk far enough to make it an even 44 miles, despite the complications of the evening. This performance falls squarely in the middle of my other four 12-hour performances, so given the conditions and other factors, I’m satisfied that I was at least on target rather than behind where I hoped to be at this time.

The aftereffects of running on asphalt are tougher than on a trail or on a rubberized track because of the more severe jolting the body experiences. I felt fine when I left, but by the time I arrived home, a thirty-minute drive, I had bound up so tight that I could have used crutches to get out of the car and in the house. My still wet and funky gear remained in the car until late evening.

It was a painful chore just to shower and get into bed at 8:00 a.m. Usually after going all night, e.g., following Across the Years, I feel fine after three hours sleep and can function well for the rest of the day, but today I never opened my eyes until 2:15 p.m., and have no intention of doing much of anything the rest of this day. I’m hobbling around the house like Grandpa McCoy. It’s going to take a few days to get back to normal from this one, and the only thing I can attribute the difficulty to is running on asphalt.

We were supposed to go out late this afternoon, but I opted to answer email, mess around on the computer, and sit on my butt in front of the TV. I can’t remember when I’ve ever been so wiped out after a run of that duration. I ran a 40-miler just a month ago, and aside from some dehydration-induced cramping, was just fine the rest of the day.

Every run is a learning experience.

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About Lynn

o Writer and Editor o Computer Technologist o Composer o Ultrarunner
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