Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Solstice Challenge: Beta

When it comes to anything sports related in Northeast Ohio, we're always waiting for next year. Why should it be any different with a personal athletic goal like the Summer Solstice Challenge?

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.

A Man
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.

A Plan
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:
We had all the necessary gear. Our training, however, was not sufficient. I was banking on my training for the Cleveland half marathon and upping my mileage from there, which was only five weeks ago.

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.

A Canal
We arrived at the Mustill Store shortly before sunrise. 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!]

Sad News
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.


Sun Runner said...

I confess as we drove over the valley on I-480 at I-77 on our way to my parents' I thought, "I wonder how Viper is doing on his towpath slog." This was around 3:00; little did I know you were long since done and probably enjoying some more of that fine Flying Dog by then.

And then when the dark cloud of doom rolled in around 6:00 I hoped you weren't still on the trail because that was one big, wet, nasty storm.

Even with the storm and my mom's general freaking out over the crushing of her outdoor cocktail party dreams (party started at 6:30; Black Cloud of Doom showed up uninvited and early at 6:00) and my consumption of perhaps more of those cocktails than was prudent I had a good time at the party and still set a new PR on Sunday. I'll always think fondly of Cleveland Heights as the place where I finally broke 23:00 in a 5K.

Marcy said...

It's all good, homie! And yes, I believe you did just do an ultramarathon. Very nice, very nice! And the more important thing is that you're still here to provide us with a report :P Nice job!

Ian said...

I'd love to call you a slacker but I don't think I can since 26.34 miles is more than I've run in the past 3 weeks and still more than twice as long as I've ever run at one time.

You lazy-ass slacker.

Huh, what do you know... "It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds."

Laura said...

I thought about you on Sunday, wondering if the solstice was Sunday and you weren't done yet, or if it was Saturday and you were long since finished. I was too lazy to Google it to find out though.

My only question is, why didn't you take me up on my challenge to drink a beer marathon after you did your ultra?? Weak game, my friend.

C said...

Better to be alive than a speed bump on the trail. Despite not reaching your goal, you still did amazingly well. Hope your back recovers soon.

Nitmos said...

Tombstone! Gotta love an impromptu Tombstone quote. Gold star for Vanilla.

26+ miles is very respectable and a good day at the office. Carlin would be proud! I think. He was a cantankerous s.o.b. after all.