The Pacific Rim 24 Hour is held at Lake Sacagawea in Longview, WA. It is a one mile loop around part of the lake on mostly gravel bike trail with some pavement. It is beautiful park in the middle of town with a nice neighborhood on one side and a school and soccer field on the other.
Rob, Michelle, Jamal, Jenny, and Cat showed up at 6 AM. Michelle rode with Cat and the rest us piled into the Yeti. I was taking the trailer so we would have a place to change clothes or sleep in when done. We made it to Longview at 8 AM and checked in. I spotted my Dad and chatted a few minutes before I went to got ready. He is running strong at 79, I can only hope to do as well. I had brought 10 pairs of socks, 12 shirts, 5 running jackets, 2 pairs of pants, 5 pairs of gloves, four hats and three pairs of shoes in case it rained a lot. You would have thought I was ready to do the Susitna 100 with Shawn.
I have run Pac Rim four times with my dad and once with Rob in the last 20 years. My usually approach was to train 10-30 miles a week for a couple months and then run 50K to 50 miles over the first 12 hours of the event with lots of breaks, then go sleep. This event is a lot different than our usual trail runs. There is an aid station and bathroom every mile, a port-a-potty at the half mile, and access to a trailer each loop. This can be good or bad at times.
Rob is the one who initiated this adventure and the rest of us joined in over time. Michelle and Jenny were planning on their first 50 miler. Jamal was going to run until he was done. Cat had plans for the evening, so she was doing a marathon and driving home that day. Rob and I wanted to go the whole 24 hours, hoping to make 100 as a second goal. My longest runs have been 100K last spring and 17 hours pacing Eric on the last 54 miles of his Cascade Crest 100.
Rob and I ran the first 24 miles in 4 hours, close to our A goal of 25. Cat was not far behind us and a little later finished her marathon, honked goodbye and drove off. Jamal, the fast one, had lapped us several times (ok, a bunch of times). Michelle and Jenny were moving along steady as always, Rob joking each time we met that they only had 44, 40, or 36 miles to go while we had 92 or 87 or 82… miles to go.
We managed 10 more in the next 2 hours, passing 50K and still near the A goal pace. Rob wasn't feeling great at this point (he recently completed 13 marathons/Ultras in 12 weeks) and decided to take a break. Jamal when he finally slowed down ran some miles with me. Jamal did great in his first ultra over 50K, running 46 miles and then he was done. None of our persuasion could convince him to go 4 more. Rob ran a few more with Michelle and decided that it was not his day to go long. Sometime during the day Wendy and Jessica arrived and joined the Lady Pack.
The hours and miles rolled on. I ran mostly on my own, listening to tunes, sometimes in pure silence, and once in a while running with TC or Willie for a mile or so. I slipped into a nice rhythm and felt relaxed and strong. For the next 10 hours I moved along in a runner's high, cranking out 48 miles and zoned in to moving steadily forward. It drizzled a little off and on, passing in refreshing waves, followed once by a beautiful double rainbow.
On a trail ultra, crews wait for hours at an aid station anxious for their runner to come in. Then there are a few minutes of restocking, chatting about how they are feeling, and off they go. Here you see them once every 12-20 minutes but for only a few seconds. Each loop, you check in with the counters, say hey, grab a cup of drink, a GU (one each hour), or a bite of food and move on. After many miles of this, Jamal would just say, “Hi Steve, Bye Steve”. I don’t talk much when I am focused on running but I really do appreciate the support of them being there.
I made it to 50 in about 9 1/2 hours and passed the 100K in 12 hours. After dark, Olga and Eric showed up. They had run the Chuckanut 50K and stopped to see how we were doing. I got a big hug from Olga and a way to go. Eric ran the final miles with the Ladies and then joined me for a mile. Michelle and Jenny did great completing their first 50 miler in less than 14 hours.
The next eight hours were pretty quiet. Most of the runners had completed their goals and left to shower or sleep. I slowed some but kept plugging along one mile at a time and then it was 80 miles in 16 hours. I was on a mission to get as many miles as I could to make 100 possible even if I had to walk the rest. The miles were wearing on me and I still had 8 hours to go (which was intimidating and very sobering). I decided my mileage was doing well (only 2 1/2 miles an hour could make the big 100) and I deserved my first break. I had run most of the first 80 loops with 20-30 yard walks at three little inclines and 30-50 yards at the aid station. I walked a full mile and then continued on with mixed walking and running for the next 20 miles.
Time and miles passed slowly, the good news was I made 100 miles in 21:50 with over two hours to spare. The bad news was my feet were thrashed by then. After the long miles of continuous running and fast walking on gravel they were bruised and I had two silver dollar blisters on the balls of both feet. A combination of faith, training, ego, stubbornness, fixation on goals, and encouragement from the others keep me going for the last 8 hours on very tender feet.
One big goal remained, to complete the 24 hours with as many miles as reasonable. I know what you are thinking, nothing about this was reasonable. That was a common thought of mine in the final hours of my quest. So after a little celebration (a 22nd GU and water) with Fred, the race director, and the two aid station volunteers (It's pretty damn quiet out there at 7 AM after 22 hours). I had been calculating the possible outcomes in total miles for the last eight hours (there is way to much time to think in 24 hours) with a re-occurring number of 105. Now, with 2 hours and 10 minutes left I believed I could make 5 and maybe even 6 at the pace I had been going. My mind was still game (no brain, no pain), but the body argued back strongly, led by the SPCF (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Feet). So I signed a mental contract to go for 105.
I tried to walk but that hurt my feet, I tried to run but the motivation and energy was gone. So I settled on a painful walk and completed the next two miles in 40 minutes, not too bad for a death march. I was glad I was still able to walk but I was actually rather upset with the pace. At that pace I had time to make four more miles, but I had only agreed to 105. Now it was my mind's turn to cop some attitude, I had 90 minutes to go three miles and decided to slow down and burn some time. An episode from Taxi with Iggy popped into my head. He was taking his drivers test and asked his friend Tony, "What does a yellow light mean?” He replied, "Slow down". Iggy repeats the question several more times, speaking slower and slower each time.
I thought I had slowed down on mile 103 but after 24 hours of focused motion my body wanted to finish and just kept moving forward in zombie state. As I was nearing the end of mile 103, I decided that three more miles was totally unreasonable. It's amazing how you think when you are tired and have already set a goal to stop. I was rationalizing out loud when Rob showed up and I asked him to walk with last miles with me. I felt like a six grader watching the clock tick second by second toward the end of the school day. It was great to have someone to share my final jumble of thoughts.
It was wonderful to have the running club members there to cheer me into the finish. I finished 105 in 21:30. It was my first run over 100K, my first over 17 hours, and my first 24 hour run. The PRs were rewarding but most of all, I was happy to sit down, talk with friends, and be done.