Long story, short: we didn't make it.
The final route was an out-and-back along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath from the Mustill Store in Akron to the Lock 39 Trailhead in Valley View and back, which would have been just short of 55 miles. My accomplice and I were not prepared.
Martini and I often run together, but we're more accustomed to drinking challenges. We started dueling each other sometime last year with various boozing feats of strength, and somehow this running challenge got thrown into the mix. It wasn't until this past winter that we decided on the summer solstice as our D-Day because it fell on a Saturday. It would be the longest run on the longest day.
It all started (if memory serves correctly) when I declared I wanted to run this new race, called the Burning River 100. I hadn't even run a marathon yet, and I was already planning to go farther. (I have a habit of grossly underestimating distances.) Martini and I devised this run to test the idea of an ultramarathon.
We had a solid day-of plan for rest, hydration and fuel. We would walk for one minute each mile, which we assessed as three minute breaks every 30 minutes. We each had a CamelBak for water when we needed it. Every hour we ate.
Personal supply list:
- Shoes (New Balance 767 red/gray with 18 miles logged)
- Shorts (New Balance 9-in. Road Shorts with liner)
- Long-sleeve tech shirt (C9 by Champion white)
- Short-sleeve tech shirt (New Balance Tempo Top bright freakin' orange)
- Sunglasses (Ironman)
- Watch (Timex Ironman)
- CamelBak (50 oz. bladder) -- first use!
- Clif Bars (four oatmeal raisin walnut)
- PowerBar Gel (four strawberry banana) -- first use!
- Sharkies chews (four berry blast packs) -- first use!
- Banana bread (thanks to my good friend the erratic epicurian)
- Sun block (SPF 15 applied beforehand, SPF 55 taken but not used)
- Swiss Army Knife (not used)
- Cell phone (not used)
Highest weekly mileage: 28 miles (June 9-15)
Longest run: 14 miles (I had planned a 16-miler, but that fell through)
Martini's longest run was nine miles, often running that distance three days consecutively.
We arrived at the Mustill Store shortly before sunrise. Weather.com claimed the sun would be up by 5:54 a.m. That was not the case. Martini and I stood around, warming up as we watched for the first sunbeam to blaze down upon us. Neither of us much for mornings, we got tired of waiting for that bastard to appear and started off. That lazy star didn't show itself until we had logged three miles.
I wore my long sleeve tech shirt because I wanted to protect myself from the supposed "very high" UV index, but having never worn long sleeves in hot weather I brought a short-sleeve shirt to change into in case I got too hot or if I wanted a dry shirt.
I rigged the shirt to the outside of the CamelBak with a carabiner because I had stuffed the pocket and the water bladder area with all my food. I didn't count on what a pain in the ass it would be to refill the bladder.
The first refill was the easiest, as there was a spigot attached to the water fountain. Each subsequent water stop I drenched my dry shirt trying to squeeze the CamelBak under a water fountain or sink (one of which had only hot water). Luckily, the long-sleeve shirt worked out well.
We thought we could sustain 10-minute miles, so we figured it would take us about eight or nine hours to run the whole distance. I planned for 12 hours with my rations. The extra weight slowed us to about 12:20 miles. The extra weight also resulted in some serious ass and back pain afterward.
We started off by cheerfully greeting the other loonies -- and there were a lot of loonies out there -- running or biking so early in the day. However, as the run wore on, the sun beat down, our blood sugar lowered, delirium set in, and our greetings became less cordial.
The scenery along the Towpath was a nice distraction. The old locks, landmarks, views of the river, wild life and foliage helped pass the time. There were many miles I had never seen before. But after about 15 miles, the excitement of new sights started to pale. The run became a slogfest. Water stops were sometimes farther apart than anticipated, which added some nice drama to the day. Twice, my water ran out before making it to a refill.
We were much slower than we thought we would be. We guessed we'd take about four hours to get to our halfway point, which would have put us at 10-10:30 a.m.
Our ride called us at around 11 a.m., wondering where we were. She had driven up to the Lock 39 Trailhead to make sure we were OK. She didn't want to be 30 minutes away if we needed an emergency extraction, such as death on trail (DOT).
She had brought ice water and a 12-pack of Flying Dog beer. We knew we didn't have much more left in us, and the beer made a very compelling argument to call it a day.
Goals are meant to be underachieved. If not, what reason would you have to keep striving? We'll just call this the beta run. Maybe next year ...
Final tally: 26.34 miles -- hey, that's an ultramarathon, right?
[Drunkard's note: Get it? A man, a plan, a canal, Panama? It's a palindrome! I am clever!]
George Carlin died Sunday. He was one of my heroes. From the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" to a "A Place for My Stuff" to his angrier political rants of the past 15 years, I always loved that cantankerous son of a bitch.
Here's one of my favorites on language ...
R.I.P., George, and have a nice day.