Two months of social isolation can make us flow through a slew of emotions. In that slew of emotions, we’re bound to think of all the unknowns surrounding our lives. For me, I pondered a lot about our upcoming move to California, and what would happen to our adventures exploring our new state if we weren’t allowed to go anywhere but home? I thought about adjusting to life as a mom who was going to homeschool her child while also taking her college courses online. I also thought about my upcoming personal and professional goals and wondered if I would be able to work towards them. In a previous post about the LA Marathon, I touched on the New York City Marathon and California International Marathon I registered for, which are at the end of 2020 that were up in the air for fitness goals. Professionally, I was disappointed in pivotal speaking engagements canceling in the hopes that those opportunities would circle back around either at a later date or virtually.
Unknowns can also make you get hella creative.
After a partial grieving process, along with one loaded with bits of anxiety, I started to get trigger happy and ready to connect through distance. If friends were hopping on a Peloton ride, I was sure to make it work within my schedule and #momlife. If cousins wanted to jump on a Zoom call and have happy hour, I was all in and ready with my favorite cabernet. If there was a webinar or content creation offered to me to participate in that delivered information for work virtually, I was game to rally with my team.
If crazy runner friends took on a 24-hour challenge that included running for 5 miles every 4 hours of the day, I started to think that it was doable.
After LA, I did have my sights set on exploring the option of a longer-distance race. I’d hit my 10k personal best in 2019 and my half marathon personal best this year, so now what?
Delving into podcasts and books from some change-making athletes recently, I’d dabbled with the thought of expanding my distance running. During my LA Marathon training, I felt my best AFTER mile 10. The start of any run was always the hardest for me. I also started to feel bits of enjoyment learning to slow down and lower my heart rate during longer runs to enhance my aerobic capacity and ability to endure longer distances with better oxygen delivery. I noticed a common thread with some of the content I was listening to and reading; as people got past marathon training and road races, they challenged themselves more mentally with increased time on the legs and different terrain (i.e., trails versus road).
Just do it
If I want to learn more about something, I go straight to the course. I started to ask friends who’d done the elusive Yeti 24-hour challenge how the experience went for them and how they nailed it. Becca and Carlee were two close buds who’d done the challenge within the last month of my pondering and who had great experiences with it. I looked over Carlee’s plan and also connected on the Yeti Trail Runner’s Facebook page to see how others accomplished their goal… and then, it came to me. I knew that the challenge was to run 5 miles every 4-hour block in the day: 12 am, 4 am, 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, and then 8 pm. However, other runners were making the challenge their own; they were making it work for their lives and the time they had in the day. For example, if someone had to do a night shift and was unable to get a day off working remotely, they added more hours to another time block. Another person ran two 15-mile runs to hit their goal of 30 miles in the day. I’m someone who has to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep in a day to be operational, much less run long distance. I’m also a rebel who likes to stay within the rules while making her own rules.
I decided to PULL THE TRIGGER and JUST DO IT. I registered for the race in the middle of April 2020 and immediately went into putting together a plan for me.
The Pros of Virtual Preparation
Yes, I’ve run over 30 races in my life since starting running a little over a decade ago. What I was intrigued with, when it came to the Yeti challenge, was how I would feel NOT having to deal with race-day anxiety. Most of the stress I get from doing races, even though I love doing them, involve starting-line logistics. However, with the Yeti, I was starting from wherever I wanted! Also, I didn’t have a bib to pick up or schematics surrounding traveling into a town. [As much as I love to travel, I’m also an overachieving/perfectionist/obsessive worrywart].
I looked at my plan for the night before my proposed race day: May 2, 2020. If I could get to bed at a decent hour (before 9 am) and start the first leg at 3:30/3:40 am, I could still do the race in 6 parts. I hadn’t run anything over a marathon distance before, albeit continuously, so I knew I wanted to take the first leg slower than the rest to warm up. There was also the opportunity to do a bit more mileage earlier in the day versus later. As nuts as I am, I took on the Rock n’ Roll Virtual Race 2 10k and thought I could include that in one of the last legs also. To add even more fun to the mix, why not run each portion with a different Peloton instructor since it was to be Homecoming week in New York City, and we were all celebrating virtually?
Being that overachieving, perfectionistic, obsessive, worry wart, I had to have a plan. Even though, the dad from Parasite warmed me NOT to do so …
RUN 1: 12 am -4 am
Start – 330 am (tread) ending ~ 430 am (TOTAL 5 mi)
* 30 min Rock Run – Rebecca – 2/12/20
* 30 min Endurance Run – Selena – 3/9/20
RUN 2: 4 am – 8 am
Start – 545 am (tread) ending ~ 630 am (TOTAL: 10 mi) Break
* 45 min Endurance Run: Live From Home – Becs
RUN 3: 8 am – 12 pm
Start – 10:00 am (outside) ending around 11:00pm (TOTAL 15 mi)
* 30 min Marathon Race Prep – Matt – Thu 7/18/19
* 20 min Intervals Run (skip intervals) – Olivia – Thu 4/11/19
RUN 4: 12 pm – 4 pm
Start – 12/3:00pm pm (outside) ending ~ 1/4:00pm (TOTAL: 20 mi) – Break
* 30 min 90s Rock Fun Run – Selena – Thu 11/21/19
* 20 min 80s Fun Walk (Run/Jog) – Matty- Thu 10/24/19
RUN 5: 4 pm – 8 pm
Start – 5 pm (outside) ending around 6:00pm (TOTAL: 25 mi)
* 30 min Pop Fun Run -Andy – Thurs 11/7/19
* 20 min Pop Rock – Chase – 4/10/20
RUN 6: 8 pm – 12 am
Start – 8pm ending around 9pm (tread) (TOTAL 30)
* 30 min Hip Hop Fun Jess 1/30/20
* 20 min 90s Hip Hop Fun Run – Robin- Mon 1/20/20
How did I pick the leg times? I looked at the weather and I looked at our usual daily schedule. I wanted to work around nap time and also times when I typically ate to keep some normalcy. Again, avoiding any race “jitters”.
I also had to lay out outfits to avoid going braindead as the day wore on.
It’s GO TIME
The evening of May 1, luck would have it that my kid didn’t nap and passed out by 8pm. Therefore, mama took advantage of this earlier bed time and followed suit quickly thereafter.
I failed to mention that the incredible Peloton community gave me a buddy to do this with! One of my tread buds, Liz, who lives in NY State, decided to do the Ultra Challenge the same day as me and was able to run her second leg when I would be getting on for my first … I have to admit this was a motivation for me to WAKE UP at 3:15 am.
Liz was up and at ’em with a Facebook message to let me know she’d finished her first leg and was ready to hop onto Rebecca’s run with me for my first leg. Before hopping onto the tread, I made sure to use my Hyperice volt for some vibration therapy and stretch to release overactive muscles I’m used to getting tired. I set my pace to be around a minute slower than my marathon pace but had to remember that my tread was off by around a minute per mile compared to outdoor running. The two 30-minute classes I chose meant that I was bound to go over the 5 miles, leaving room for me to slow down. I had to fight sleepy eyes in the dark during these two tread classes but got 6 miles of the 30 minimum done by 4:30 am.
I decided to let myself nap as needed, but felt awake by the time I was done with Leg 1. I took a Huma gel since I’m unable to eat much before runs in the form of food [particularly early in the morning]. I also took a sports bottle of Nuun during and after each leg to ensure I stayed hydrated for the hotter legs outdoors. My plan included me stretching, hydrating, and icing whatever needed icing between legs. My right hip has always given me a smidge of tendonitis from having a bad right toe (old marathon injury) so I was aware of my usual dysfunctional side.
Back on the tread at 5:30 am, I joined Becs live for an Endurance run to stay motivated early in the morning with other Peloton tread runners. The live experience, with Becs running in her NYC home, kept me focused on the prize of finishing this goal by the end of the day. Between the initial warmup and pre-class time along with wanting to end on a round number, I ended this leg with 5.5 miles.
Leg 3 – Wasn’t too baaaaad
The little and hubby got up around 7 am as I was stretching from the first two legs. I may have sent him on a donut run for an apple fritter to enjoy food during this break. I had about 3 hours between Leg 2 and Leg 3, so I could eat breakfast and take in more hydration with time to spare for my stomach to settle.
Having signed up for the Rock N’ Roll Virtual series 10k, I had gas in the tank to knock out a 6.2 mile run during this leg. By 9:30 am the legs felt ready to head outside this time around.
To mind social distancing rules still in place in California, I decided to keep my running buff on around my neck in the event I had to “mask up”. There were quite a bit of people out during this time since the weather was near-perfect and the sheep were out! (If you follow me on Instagram, we’ve had sheep in our town who are part of a grazing project to help with the brush around town).
I felt airy on this leg. I was surprised I was ready to fly 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) after finishing 11.5 so early in the day. Either that or the donut along with Matt & Olivia’s playlists gave me SUPERPOWERS.
Leg 4 – Forgetting which way is left
After finishing up Leg 3, I got to come home for some solitude which is short-lived in this quarantine period. (Hubby took the kid to a park to play). So, I vegged with some SNL – at home and stretched, hydrated, and iced again. This is where the hip started to piss me off. All I could do was keep it open (extended and not sit) and add in some Hyperice volt vibration again. Noshing on a small lunch gave a little energy for me to head back out by 1:30 pm. Temperatures were going up, so I had to get ready to knock out the 4th leg before hoping to rest while the kiddo came back and napped.
My brain must have turned off before this leg. I forgot my visor, I forgot my headband, and I went too fast. I must’ve wanted it over with quicker than later. Meh, I was bound to have one sh***y leg, and this was it.
Selena and Matty did their best to virtually coach me, but I just wanted this leg DONE. I made this leg 4 miles because I was obviously running this show on my own accord and talked myself into listening to my body.
Leg 5 – Smelling the Roses
Did the kiddo nap between these legs? After a little bit of coaxing (“If you nap, I’ll give you a popsicle!”) So, I did get to lay down for a bit after icing, hydrating, and eating again. I also had some time to Zoom-call with my cousins and sneak a beer into the mix. I was pretty much DONEZO after Leg #4. How was I supposed to get in 10 more miles? INSERT SHRUG. I did know that I was NOT going to NOT finish and that if this was my “Wall,” I could embrace it, pray on whatever ailed me, and move on.
Hubby suggested a running path where he and the kiddo could keep me company intermittently in case things got tough for me. I was all in! We’d been trying out new parks and “open spaces” around our new town which kept us fighting stir-craziness and exploring California. He picked just the right path this time because this one had a packed dirt side trail alongside the sidewalk and ROSES everywhere!
I had to dial into my GOAL and out of my HEAD for this leg. I was 21 ish miles into this challenge and almost to the marathon distance. I jammed out to an EDM run from Andy and then one of my favorite Peloton playlists: Chase‘s 20-minute Punk Run. There may have been heavy drum solos and singing, but it always changes one’s mood. The air was cooler and the roses smelled amazing. I breezed back, hitting 5 miles, to my family as my little held up my bib to remind me of my mission: inspire her.
Leg 6 – The Last Leg
When we got back home, it was close to 7:30 pm and I knew that I could do my last leg after 8:00 pm. I could either eat (I was starving) and have a full belly or snack and knock this sh** out! I chose the later. I took one bite of my bean soup (which I was hella-craving) and went into the garage to become a Yeti Ultra-Runner.
I saved runs with Robin and Jess for the end. Their energy and playlists were sure to force my legs to hit their goal distance: 31.1 miles. Wait, wasn’t the challenge to run 30? Yup, but your girl was bound and determined to run a 50k, and a 50k is 31.069 miles so … darn me.
My legs already felt like jello. I knew I had 4.3 miles to finish this thing. I knew that was around 40 minutes at a pace I could hold and still remain vertical. I knew that the treadmill kept going and I was NOT going to eat it and fall. As I did each class, I added incline and speed to keep the legs fresh and [literally] on their toes. As I begged my body to cooperate, I was rounding out 4 miles and then surpassed that on my watch. Instead of stopping immediately, I let my feet shuffle to avoid too much fatigue setting in.
When I finished, I came inside the house to collapse and tell my kiddo and hubby that I DID IT. I became an ULTRA MARATHONER [sort of kind of] virtually!
Okay, so I still struggle with calling myself an OFFICIAL Ultra-marathoner. Did I run 31.069 miles in ONE day? Yup. But did I do it AT a race event or within a shorter time window? Not really … BUT I should embrace the fact that the challenge was within 24 hours, and I have NEVER run this much in ONE day. I like to believe that the cut-off time for this race was super forgiving.
There’s something to be said for how the running community is coming together during this time of social distance. We’re still running, and we’re, however, united. We’re still setting goals, and we’re still training. We might not be able to run together physically, but that doesn’t take away from the connectivity that can, however, happen using social media and online methods.
It’s up to us how we handle this time. Will we shy away from races because they are not what they used to be? OR will we run towards great chances at being better because we are stronger than our toughest moments?