Friday, June 11, 2021

Old S-cool

While I'm a big fan of modern technology and what it can do for us, I do dearly love a simple, oldschool solution when it works.

Especially if it can help preserve beauty like this

Last weekend was a scorcher - it was hot as balls from the time I rolled out of bed on Saturday, so I threw on a cooling shirt (one made by New Balance of their "NB Ice" fabric) to run down to the market.

The daisy behind my ear, however, was purely for aesthetics.

As the morning was relatively dry and windy, the shirt helped a bit - I still suffered greatly in the heat, but it was probably better than nothing. 

And of course, running through this - even with it punitively hot out - is still better than not running.

When Sunday came up even hotter - with increased humidity to boot - I decided to try an experiment. I'd recently got a free hand-printed cotton bandana with an order from Runyon Canyon Apparel, so I soaked it down and tied it loosely around my neck before diving into the woods for an evening romp.

Along with my awesome all-mesh Runyon hat
(I was wearing another cooling shirt, too)

Time for a little Seems Like Science: People are generally advised not to wear cotton for outdoor activities, because it tends to hold moisture rather than wicking it away from the skin. This makes it a terrible choice for camping or hiking, as it won't keep you warm if it gets wet - on the contrary, wet cotton will actually pull heat out of your body through evaporative cooling. This is the origin of the old saying "cotton kills" among outdoorsy folks: many inexperienced hikers, campers, paddlers, and backpackers have had nasty bouts of hypothermia brought on by wearing cotton that got wet and failed to keep them warm. Some experiments have actually shown that wet cotton will chill you faster than being naked!

You have my word that - should I ever put that to the test - I will not post photos.

So how did it go? 

Other than really pretty, as I danced through the phlox-scented forest?

The experiment was a rousing success! The bandana felt cool around my neck the whole time, which was a first for me. I've tried wearing cooling tubular neck gaiters in the past (I actually ran with one around my wrist on Saturday), but they always seem to end up trapping warm air against my skin - basically the exact opposite of what you want on a hot day. The bandana, though, really seemed to help!

I realize this was not the most controlled of experiments, but this isn't exactly PubMed.

If you're interested in doing your own testing with cotton for its evaporative cooling properties, I'd love to hear about your own experiences. The best part is that these bandanas are cheap and plentiful - I have a bunch of them that used to be constant companions on my motorcycle, before I learned how much better synthetic tubular bandanas are for those applications (like covering my hair under a helmet, or to cover my face in rainy weather; easier to put on, and the knit polyester isn't as difficult to breathe through when wet!). If you don't have one and want to try, you could do a lot worse than the excellent ones offered by Runyon Canyon Apparel in a multitude of colour combinations; they'll even toss you a free one if you order more than $50 of stuff, and will donate $1 from every item sold to preserve wild spaces

Also suitable for post-run wades in the river - beer optional

So rather than placing my faith in the latest, greatest fabric technologies to beat the not-even-summer-yet heat, sometimes it pays to try an older, simpler solution. I'm sure there are generations of cowboys and farmers all laughing at me and my pricy, delicate cooling fabrics - they've known for a century that a simple square of cotton will do the trick.

Stay cool out there - however you choose to do so!

Note: I have no affiliation with Runyon Canyon Apparel, and receive no compensation from them for this post, nor any sales arising from referrals. They're just an awesome company that deserves a shout out!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Grace Period

 I wasn't really that beat up after the big, stupid thing I did a couple of weeks ago.

Well, compared to what I expected, anyway.

With some major work stress and long hours happening, though, I took a full week off running, and almost all training. 

Though I'm told my approach to elevating my legs is a bit non-traditional

I walked a fair bit, did a couple of gentle strength workouts, and even made some use of a rather dusty contraption I found in the back of my livingroom.

I had to get to the bank to do some work-related deposits anyway..

I had my first Pfizer vaccine on the Friday, and kind of braced myself for the side effects - having seen how Tank got knocked flat by the AstraZeneca shot, I was concerned what impact it might have on me with a rather suppressed immune system from all the running and sleep deprivation of the weekend prior. Things didn't look great on Friday evening, and I arrived home feeling exhausted and mildly buzzed - the reason why the post about the 4x4x48 idiocy didn't make its way onto the internet by the usual Friday deadline.

If you want to complain about it, feel free to go phlox yourself.

I worked through some fatigue and lethargy for most of the weekend, finally feeling back to (what we'll call) normal by Sunday afternoon...coincidentally when I finally managed to get that post published. With that out of the way, I was able to do the one thing I'd hoped to be up for:

And it actually went really well, on a truly beautiful afternoon!

By Monday I was itching to get back out for a run, so went for a short, easy trot 'round the neighbourhood once I finally finished up work. I ran Tuesday as well; a little longer than I'd meant to, but just for pure joy.

The trail was only a tiny portion of it - it's only ~1km - but it was delightful!

Wednesday I worked super late again, and wasn't going to run. I had decided to take another day off, especially as it was pissing rain out. Then, however, I popped into instagram for a minute just after 10pm and realized I had to go.

Two slow, soggy miles later.

I ran again yesterday, because why not? But let me tell you, either the post-idiocy fatigue or the post-vaccine effects have definitely got me feeling a little more sore and tired than I ordinarily would from the volume and intensity of running and strength work I've done this week.

I'm on the path to recovery, but I haven't arrived yet.

So I'm going to try to continue to offer myself some grace, because I've quite enjoyed being able to just do whatever feels good, and I know that the siren song of longer, harder training will call me back before long.

For now, I'm happy to just walk in sunshine and let my body heal. I ask a lot of it at times, so it's only fair I should give back here and there.

It might not be the one I'd choose, but it's what I've got and it does its best.

I hope you all remember to offer yourselves the opportunity to do what you want instead of simply what you feel you must this weekend - you're pretty awesome, and you should honour that awesomeness!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Aww, Muffin - a 4x4x48-ish Experience

Ideas can be dangerous things.

..especially in the mind of an idiot.

It had to have been a few years ago that I heard of the Goggins 4x4x48 challenge, and of course with all races being cancelled last year I heard a lot more about people making attempts at it. The premise is simple: run 4mi at the top of every 4 hours, continuing for 48hrs, for a total of 48mi (~77km). I had done the Tail Chaser 12-hour last May, which was basically a shorter-but-slightly-more-intense version (5mi/8km every 3 hours, but only for 12hrs = 20mi/32km). Because I have a thing in mind for later this year that would entail a lot of running and a lot of sleep deprivation, I figured the 4x4x48 would be a decent test to see how I'd react to 48hrs worth of all of the above. A couple of months ago, I threw the idea out to Tank of getting it done over the Victoria Day long weekend, as I suspected we wouldn't be camping (damn pandemic) and I'd have the Monday to recover before heading back to work.

Weeks ticked past - I hadn't run a double since the end of the 100 runs in 100 days challenge back in late February, and hadn't run more than ~12km at a time since The Pinetree Incident in early March. My right ankle and left hip/lower back continue to be painfully problematic, and suddenly Victoria Day was upon us. Not only that, it was going to be hot as balls - the hottest weekend of the year so far.

Of course, I did what I tend to do about such things: bloody-mindedly stuck to the plan, asking the same old question - how bad could it be?

I also marshalled some supplies.

(NB: If you're here for advice for this challenge only, you will want to skip ahead to the wrap-up with some things to do, things not to do, and what I feel are keys to success. Go ahead - I won't blame you. If you're up for the tale of my journey through the idiocy, grab a drink and get comfortable, 'cause this one's gonna take awhile.)

I had thought about starting Friday night, but after a thoroughly exhausting week with plenty of overtime hours at work, I knew a Saturday morning start would be my best bet - the idea being I'd get a good night's rest in rather than jumping straight on the sleep deprivation train. Tank was, as usual, all-in to help in any way he could; I'm so grateful to have a partner that supports my idiocy in both word and deed, as I couldn't possibly pull this off safely without his help.

Thank you for being your amazing self, sweetness!

Ok, down to business. I got ever-so-close to 8 hours of sleep on Friday night, rolled out of bed a bit before 7:30am, downed a strong cup of tea and a toasted blueberry bagel, and got Tank to drop me off at a trailhead so I could do a partial run down to the market. I got moving right at my targeted start time of 9am, and it was already toasty out.

It wasn't ideal that my ankle was already being cranky, but the trails were beautiful - poplar fluff like summery snow along the edges, the roots and rocks bathed in dappled sunlight. I gave myself the grace to walk whatever I felt like; I wasn't feeing super lively, and knew that conservation of energy would be key as the challenge went on. I also didn't want to risk a fall by tripping on something!

..and knew that technical trails would not be advisable in the latter half, if I made it that far..

I resolved that each leg would be timed like a race would; no stopping the clock, regardless of the pauses I took to snap photos, or stoppages at traffic lights as I neared the market. So, when looking at my times, keep in mind that I'm just a hobby jogger at heart.

1/12 done!

So you may be thinking that 4mi is somewhat less than the distance I ran. You're correct - 4mi is approximately 6.436km, but I figured that 6.5km was probably easier for route planning (inasmuch as I'd done any), and at that point what's an extra 160m? Which then led me to do the math, and since 6.66km x 12 = 79.92km, I knew I'd have to throw in an extra 80m somewhere along the way.

We hit up the market to get most of our groceries (after finishing my customary thermos of post-run oatmeal), then headed home to put them away, and have a cup of coffee and half a bacon sandwich before jamming the few minutes down to a small tract of forest nearby.

1pm on the nose

It had gotten warmer, but was sprinkling rain and there was some overcast that helped a bit, especially as I had applied bug spray but not sunblock. Still, I couldn't resist taking the opportunity for life to imitate "art":

(crayon drawing from the preview post for this "event")

The sun came out as I entered the least-shaded areas of the trails, which just goes to show that the universe sometimes puts its taunting of me on full display, but it also highlighted the forget-me-nots that festooned the sides of the grassy path.

An acceptable compensation, don't you think?

I also made the pleasant discovery that the old axiom - which I've come to know so well through the years of the 100 in 100 - "the second run will feel better than the first" rang true, though I sincerely doubted that each one would represent an improvement. I'd just ride the wave while it lasted.

Then struggle on after it was gone, as one must.

With two runs down, it was time for a muffin - six in the package meant one after every second run, culminating in the final muffin at sometime past dawn on Monday morning (assuming I could keep going). Why muffins? Well, they're fairly calorie-dense, portable, delicious, feel like a treat to me (because I only have them maybe a couple of times per year), and if I got to a point where I felt like quitting?

I'd just say "AWW, MUFFIN" and keep on truckin'

The increasing heat as the rainy spell faded away meant I would want to carefully consider the location for my 5pm run, and meant that we needed to make a quick trip once I'd finished the 1pm leg. No Udder would close at 6pm, and I doubted I'd be able to run 6.66km sufficiently under 1 hour to make it there before they closed, so we went right away.

And then laughed and laughed and laughed at the irony of the message on their outdoor sign

Happiness is two scoops of chocolate and a scoop of vanilla on a toasty afternoon.

Especially when shared with my sweetheart <3

Due to the heat, I hadn't found it necessary to change yet - I wasn't getting cold even with a wet sportsbra around my ribs, and it's not like it's anywhere even close to the longest time I've spent in the same smelly, sweaty apparel - though I'd changed shoes and hat for each leg so far. I knew I'd probably want fresh kit for the 9pm leg, as the temperature was likely to drop past sunset, so I figured I had nothing to lose with my plan for the end of...

In a lovely place

I'm very grateful that we have a membership for GRCA parks, so it was a no-brainer to hit Shade's Mills Conservation Area to enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of town.

I've also spent a lot of time here in the past, so the trails feel familiar.

The elevation certainly slowed me down a lot - this was my slowest lap so far - but also gave me the excuse to walk a lot and keep things moving steadily, but conservatively. I was still well under an hour for 6.66km on this one, and still feeling ok - this brought me to just a wee bit shy of 20km, and was my first triple run since maybe February or March of 2019.

The best part was at the end..

Ok, it wasn't exactly a "jump" in the lake - I just wandered down the boat launch ramp into hip-deep water, and it was glorious.

Yep, definitely planned to change after this one.

I changed out of my kit and into a breezy little dress to head home, while eating some cut fruit I'd bought the night before in a mad dash grocery trip for supplies.

Pineapple contains bromelain - a natural digestive enzyme - and watermelon is just MONEY on a hot day.

Speaking of groceries, we actually went straight from Shade's Mills to the store to get the rest of our shopping for the week out of the way. I wasn't sure if they'd be open on Monday (once I was finally done), and didn't want to leave it to chance. I was bright enough to bring a hoodie along to save me from the chill in the produce department - I didn't care who thought I was a weirdo for wearing a hoodie in blazing hot outdoor temperatures, I just knew I didn't want to get cold! When I found myself zipping it right up to my neck by the checkouts, I knew it was the right decision. We finally headed home with a full trunk.

I finally had my first real meal of the day when we got back to the house: some leftover pasta from a couple of nights previous, with mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and ground turkey. I salted it heavily - feeling like there might not be enough salt in the whole world to satisfy me - and realized that I'd been sweating heavily without really replacing electolytes. I took some action: swallowing a couple of S!caps, I mixed up a scoop of EFS sport drink in my bottle for the next run. I didn't care so much about the calories, but figured the sodium, potassium, and magnesium would help muscles keep functioning, while the amino acids would hopefully help limit breakdown. I was also happy to have finally had some vegetables in the pasta for some proper nutrients just for general health; I knew there was a risk of stomach upset, but if my belly got cranky I could always walk until it settled.

I got into fresh kit, with a minor exception: I'd left my socks and calf sleeves on all day, and had no intention of changing them if I could avoid it. I'd taped up my feet and ankles in the morning before starting (as well as liberally applying some lubrication to my toes and known hotspots on the balls of my feet), and I knew that taking my socks off would likely mess up the tape - I didn't want to have to re-do it with damp, salty skin, so I just let 'em ride. Yes, even after wandering into Shade's Mills reservoir. I wore a pair of really excellent wool socks, and squished out most of the water in them by changing to a pair of recovery sandals after my wade, but things were still a touch damp even a couple of hours later. I also cleaned myself up a bit with some wipes to get the salty crust of sweat off me, which helped me feel a bit fresher both in body and mind.

All too soon, I was sticking a headlamp in my pocket, and Tank was driving us down to another nearby trailhead where I could rock along a mix of groomed path and singletrack trail.

It had not really cooled off yet, though.

This particular trail is pretty nasty when the weather just turns warm, as swarms of midges blanket the riverbank. Those seemed to have gone, but in their place was something much worse: fish flies. Thousands upon thousands of them, massing directly over the trail. They pinged off my face, impossible to avoid as the light faded; the sun had set about 15mins before I set off at the stroke of 9pm. 

View from my turn-around point

They'd also brought out innumerable toads on the trail, whom I had to be very careful to avoid squishing as I walked and ran - some of them would try to hop out of the way, but that occasionally meant they'd hop to right where my foot was about to land! With some luck and interpretive dance moves, I was able to avoid any sickening crunches.

Stay safe, little friends!

Fortunately, with a stiff wind blowing, the fish flies all seemed to have gone as I made the return trip to the trailhead, so I had a less fraught second half. Even my cranky right ankle seemed to have shut the heck up, perhaps realizing that noone was listening to its complaints to begin with. I still walked and even stopped a number of times, though, spotting Victoria Day fireworks set off from private residences along the river as I went.

There are worse things to see on a run.

Another muffin, then quickly home to change into a fresh kit again (save socks and calf panties). I would be remiss if I failed to mention the enormous fish fly that fell out of my sportsbra when I removed it - gahhhhhhh. I was getting fairly fatigued, and wanted to try to get some sleep - if possible - before I sent Tank off to bed for the night and flew solo. I brushed my teeth, which felt great - I'd eaten a ton of junk food throughout the day and they had that gooey, fuzzy coating that just felt gross, so it was a nice, quick way to freshen up. I stacked up 4 pillows on the bed and laid down with my not-entirely-dry socks, felt my left calf try to cramp on me, closed my eyes...and completely failed to sleep from 11pm to 12:15am.

Ah well - it was worth a shot.

I drank a small cup of cold brew coffee, then Tank gave me a kiss as I left at 1am since he was heading off to bed for the night: I needed him to be sufficiently compos mentis to drive to trails the next day, and to bail my silly arse out if I got myself into trouble, so this one and the next leg would both be on roads surrounding the house.

Not that I was at all certain I'd be running

I had dressed a bit warmer, expecting the lower temperature, fatigue, and lower percentage of actual running to combine and make me chilly. No such thing happened: I ran much more than I expected, and the night air remained absolutely saturated with warmth and humidity.

I honestly couldn't get my collar zipped down fast enough once I got moving

Not much to report on this one: well-lit roads, almost a direct out-and-back, a scant handful of cars out and about, and downhill for the second half. It would actually turn out to be my fastest leg of the whole business!

Which was still pretty heckin' slow

Then it was into the house, where I found out that Tank hadn't gone straight to bed when I left:

May you all have someone who cares for you enough to leave you motivational notes in the night!

With another 3hrs before I'd need to head back out, I changed into fresh kit again, scarfed back some food, and brought my sacks full of pillows down to our lazyboy chair in the livingroom. Pillows on footrest, and feet up to - once more - completely fail to sleep.

Esme helping me rest - at least my socks had dried out!

At 4:30am I was back up, drinking another small cup of cold brew and changing from the 3/4 sleeve shirt I'd thought I'd need into a shortsleeve; the air hadn't cooled at all, and the humidity was still abundant. I hoped I wouldn't end up regretting my decision as I was going to head down into the river valley a bit, and set off as the clock struck 5am.

I created this as an instagram story while I was moving, and could only really see the sticker was a 6. It wasn't until much later I discovered it appears to be punching itself in the head, which seems strangely appropriate.

I hadn't brought a headlamp as the multi-use trail that represented most of my route was lit, and it turned out first light was just beginning to rise as I departed (about 50mins before official sunrise).

Reaching the bottom of the hill at 5:18am

I was quite pleased that my chosen schedule meant I only had to do 1 run of the cycle (the 1am lap) in complete darkness, as I'd had light for the first while on the 9pm leg and would seemingly have a sunrise to watch for the 5am legs.

Not that the light was all good; it allowed me to see all too clearly a sight I could have done without. As I approached the Fountain Street bridge over the Grand River, I could see it was strewn with innumerable small...things. In one particular spot they were heaped up haphazardly, in the pool of light cast by a streetlight overhead. As I trotted and trudged over the bridge, I learned what it was: fish flies. Mostly dead, but some were very much alive and would fly up alarmingly to bounce off me as I passed. The rest? They crunched underfoot, impossible to avoid.

Not. Ok.

I was surprised at how consistently I was able to run along the paved multi-use path east toward Shantz Hill Road, but I had to walk up Shantz Hill itself...and felt something go TWANG in one of my right adductors. I wasn't quite halfway done with this thing, and my body was already starting to break down; not a great sign! I realized I could control it if I was careful about my core engagement as I hiked up the fairly steep sidewalk, felt a big twinge as I broke into a run cresting the hill, but was optimistic as I reached the house seconds after the sun officially rose.

I typically never see sunrises when I run, but that's not to say I don't enjoy them.

Blah blah Bon Jovi blah blah

Indoors after a quick little cool-down walk, I was absolutely soaked - far from being too chilly, I'd sweated profusely in the soupy early-morning air. 

Can you even call 18c/64f a "low"?

Another change of kit was definitely warranted, but not before scarfing back another muffin.

..and then there were 3.

This put me into somewhat uncharted territory: I'd never done any kind of athletic challenge that surpassed 24hrs. Nothing else for it but to try to get some more rest, nutritious food, and sleep if possible. 

Oh, and update my tracker, because I'm exactly that dorky.

I plopped myself down in the lazyboy chair again, eating some leftover chicken fried rice with some extra salt, because that's a totally normal thing to do at 6:30am.

It was freakin' delicious!

Tossing my feet up on the pillows again, my left calf kept trying to cramp up on me; I knew it would seize if I lost concentration, so I tried to think of some way to keep it in check. I don't own a plantar fasciitis sock, but I wondered if I could use safety pins and a bit of ribbon to half-arse one: pin it to the toe of my sock, and to the top of my calf sleeve. Then I saw my stretch strap sitting beside the lazyboy, and decided it was worth a shot.

I looped it over my foot, then tied the end around my waist.

I still utterly failed to get any sleep, but at least I was able to rest and let my mind drift for an hour or so without my calf charley horsing and potentially being sore for the foreseeable future.

I got myself up just after 8am, then woke Tank up (as we'd planned) and asked him to make coffee. Unfortunately this took a touch longer than we expected, so - despite some serious speeding on the way to Huron Natural Area - I was one minute late starting my second 9am leg.

Which began with a big stinkin' hill.

The heat and sun were already oppressive - if I'd been a little more intelligent, I'd have remembered that I have cooling bandanas and sleeves I could have worn, even while sticking with the outfit I'd planned out.

My awesome friend Rich had dropped this shirt off as a surprise gift on Wednesday, and I knew the moment I saw it that I'd wear it for my first lap past 24hrs.
You should 100% support his annual fundraiser for Grand River Hospital's Cancer Centre!

Seriously - I was melting into a puddle, and was halfway thinking of jumping into the closest body of water.

Which is a bold idea when it looks like this.

Even the turtles were coming up crusted with duckweed!

The scent of the Lily of the Valley that carpeted the sides of some of the trails felt overpowering as the sun brought the humid air to a boil around me; I still picked a sprig and stuck it behind my ear, though, because it smelled a heck of a lot better than I did. I had to be careful of that tricky adductor as I climbed the numerous hills - 119m of elevation in just this 6.66km leg - but I eventually made it through.

I'd apparently lost the ability to grammar by this point.

I was finally able to get more than a couple of sips of the amazing cup of coffee that Tanker had made for me as he drove us back home, finishing it all, and then - knowing that the next leg was planned as a hike - I cooked us up some bacon sammiches for a somewhat proper brunch.

Off to Little Tract to meet a friend..

..and continue the insanity.

Nupur was a bit late arriving, and I didn't want to make a habit of starting late, so I arranged with Tank that I'd go run a little while he waited at the parking lot - when she arrived, he'd message me and I'd meet them both to start the hike.

So I did actually run a little of this one, though only intermittently through the first 5mins.

Returning to the parking lot, I decided to grab the trekking pole we'd brought along for me, just in case my cranky adductor needed some assistance on the uphills. 

Which are numerous in there - the whole reason we'd invited Nupur to this location, as she trains for a backpacking trip of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail this summer.

Within minutes, I almost wished I'd brought a swatter instead of a wimp stick - the mosquitoes were absolutely insane in there! We'd freshly applied bug spray (though still no sunblock, because I am a blithering idiot, and even moreso when tired and moving), but it seemed to have no effect at all; the three of us suffered at least a half-dozen bites in spite of our best efforts to keep moving and flailing our hands to keep them away.

I think the snakes - like this baby brownsnake - were the only ones not getting bitten

We kept in good spirits, though, despite me making a few errors in navigation that took us through terrible swarms in my rather dopey, sleep-deprived state. It was really lovely to have company to chat with through this leg - I'd done all the others solo while Tank hiked on his own or waited for me at the end, and I know I'd have had a more negative mindset while beset by heat and mosquitoes had I not had the wonderful companionship of two fun people to help me laugh my way through it.

Is anyone really surprised they resorted to drinking in order to put up with me, though?

This leg actually had the most elevation gain out of any of the laps at 123m, and was likely the hottest of the entire challenge - it certainly had the most solar radiation, and I was grateful for the shade of the trees where we had it.

This does include a fair bit of non-moving time as we stopped to hydrate and take pics.

I also had not really planned out a route through Little Tract, so it ended up being a bit longer than I needed - I stopped my watch at the required distance, then re-started to see how much extra I hiked.

Not actually that much, but it added some fatigue to my already-tired body

I was very grateful I'd packed a cooler with a heap of cold packs into the car before we left: it was time for another muffin, but first..


With the heat not expected to relent until the sun set, I wanted to jump in a lake again. We headed home to drop some stuff off, but I didn't need to change after this one - I hadn't soaked my kit while hiking the same way I do while running, though I did use some witch hazel on my itchy mosquito bites. I drank some cold brew green tea I'd laid up in the fridge, then we set off around 4:30pm to give us plenty of time to get back over to Shade's Mills: while I liked the idea of running a different route each time, I badly wanted to jump in a lake again (or at least walk slowly into one), and couldn't think of anywhere else to do so. 

We arrived with 15mins to spare, but there was a problem: the park had reached capacity for the day, and the staff had closed the entrance gate and were turning people away. BUGGER!

Change of plan: head across to Riverbluffs Park, and I'd go run up through the RARE charitable research reserve trails I'd come down on Saturday morning on my run to the market. It was likely to be shady and cooler in there, and maybe I could just wade into the river afterward at the boat launch in the park. This probably would have worked fine, as I knew I could do a 6.66km loop there (I'd done so before), except a traffic snarl severely delayed us on our way. We were stopped by a road closed by police - apparently due to a shooting, yikes! - at the top of Augusta St by the Delta. New plan: get Tank to drop me off at the foot of Augusta, run the Living Levee Trail down to Park Hill and across the river, then run up from Riverbluffs through the pollinator preserve. I didn't like the amount of pavement it would involve since I was in a somewhat elderly pair of trail shoes, but you do what you have to, and I was actually quite pleased with my ability to adapt on the fly while nearly 32hrs into the challenge.

I was even able to run!

I definitely noticed my body complaining more on this leg. While my right ankle was still uncharacteristically silent 95% of the time - giving only occasional twinges - my lower back felt like it had been through a meat grinder, and my hamstrings were both complaining pretty loudly. Even the sides of my boobs were getting sore from the bouncing of running, and I had to be quite careful about the strained adductor, particularly when moving from a walk to a run or trying to go uphill. I didn't use the wimp stick again, mostly because I wanted to use my hand bottle and would then need my other hand for taking photos. I never really mourned the trekking pole's absence, though.

My desires ran more toward shade and softer surfaces

I eventually got both wishes, and was really surprised by how consistently I was able to run at this point - it was slow, but there was more running effort by time than walking (from looking at my cadence data after the fact). I just kind of wanted this one done.

Even though the trails were gorgeous and scented with phlox and lily of the valley

It took a couple of parking lot loops in Riverbluffs Park, but I got 'er done!

At least this way only had 43m of elevation - Shade's Mills would have been twice that

I tried wading into the boat launch, but remembered the bottom there - unlike the smooth cement blocks of the ramp at the conservation area - was a mess of silt that threatened to steal shoes and would completely saturate my socks, which I still didn't want to change. So, I gave up on that with some regret, but realized there was one other advantage to the route I ended up running: we were just barely proximal enough to No Udder to make it before they closed! 


In spite of the delicious ice cream, I was feeling quite dozy from the heat and well...everything, so when we got home I changed into a fresh kit, brushed my teeth and wiped myself down again, and then laid down on the bed with my feet up from 7pm-8:15pm. 

Fionny helped

Tank came in to get me up, but I had just finally drifted off to sleep, so I requested another 10mins to snooze. Not sure if it did me any good or not, but I cranked myself out of bed at 8:25pm, threw back another cup of cold brew green tea, and we rolled down to yet another riverside trailhead. I'd put on a light, airy shirt that my awesome friend Kristin had sent me, partly because it's great for warm, humid runs and partly to honour the incredible support that she and the other Slowtwitch Womens (that's not poor grammar; it's part inside joke, and part honorific) had been giving me for more than a day and a half on instagram as I posted endless stories and photos in my feed about this lunacy.

No better feeling than having a badass girl gang that's got your back!

Speaking of support - Tanker had agreed to bring his mountain bike and ride along with me for this one, as I knew the setting of the sun would definitely make me more susceptible to doziness, and we both wanted to take as many safety precautions as possible. 15mins of sleep in 36hrs is not a lot.

But having this guy accompany me meant everything

He even hooked up my giant 500 lumen handlebar light so I wouldn't have to use my headlamp as the trail darkened, which meant I had less weight and pressure on my skull as I pressed myself to run as much as I could. 

Which was a not-insignificant amount

I did a lot of complaining on this leg - by this time even my triceps were sore from endless bouncing around, and the back of my right shoulder was whining about the effort needed to swing my arm while carrying the hand bottle to which I'd been surgically attached for most of the challenge. Tank offered nothing but kindness and understanding, for which I was grateful: things were feeling harder, especially when I ended up with a bit of heartburn, but between his company and the heat finally relenting I was feeling like I could do this.

We turned around at a random point 3.33km from where we'd started (according to my watch), but by the time I looked down as we neared the trailhead where we'd begun it already said 6.67km! Knowing that I needed and extra 80m to make 80km for the whole challenge, I stopped it at 6.70km and walked the rest in to the car.

Yep - you know you're an ultrarunner when it takes 20mins just to loosen up and ease into a stride.

Another muffin down - there was only 1 left in the pack! Tank was once again going to head to bed for a few hours, so the next lap was on my own. Another change into dry kit, trying to gauge what I'd need as the overnight low was supposed to go down to 11c/52f, and then I went back up to the bedroom and got an hour of sleep from 11:15pm-12:15am with my feet up on the pillow pile. I was quite groggy getting up - as one might expect - so knocked back another cup of cold brew green tea, then kissed Tank goodnight before stepping out the door.

Into a mild, moonlit night

Once again for the sake of safety, I was sticking close to home. Like REALLY close to home. I'd decided to reprise The Pinetree Incident in miniature form by running around my block to make the distance. 

By which I mean "walk up the 7m/22ft hill on one side, then run around the rest of the way"

It took 15 laps plus a little tour of the crescent just up the street to do it, and the graphic stats from this one just make me laugh:

I mean, I was still running though!

Once more, I was astonished by the amount of running I was able to accomplish, and how it got easier as I went along to keep myself running for a few more feet up the hill. 


Then, I came in the door to find this:

I seriously couldn't love this guy any more <3

Another wipe-down as I'd been much warmer than I expected on that leg, then fresh kit  - one I'd specifically reserved for the final leg - more food (salty chicken fried rice FTW!), and down to the lazyboy chair with my sacks of pillows to grab one more hour of sleep from 7am-8:05am. I was once again very dazed and groggy getting up, but I hauled myself upstairs to wake Tank as we'd agreed, and made myself a strong cup of tea for fortitude. It was 12c/54f out, so for the first time of the entire challenge I threw on a light sweater to keep me from getting cold. I wasn't sure there'd even be a step of running happening, as I felt very stiff, but I'd give it whatever I had left. I popped one last S!cap to see if it might help somehow, too.

Tank hopped on his mountain bike again, and off we went at the stroke of 5am, just as the dawn began to gather in the east.

Last one pays for all

My physical condition was every bit as ugly as the sky was pretty.

I was delighted to be able to share a beautiful sunrise with my sweetheart!

This last one was definitely more walking - and stopping to gape at the streaks of colour that filled the air above us - than running, but let me be clear: for at least a few moments here and there, I was still able to force myself into a trot.

Including the final ~300m

The fatigue sat heavy on me - like the weight of a cinderblock sitting on my brow, trying to force my head down into sleep. On every other leg, I'd perk up significantly in the first few minutes, seemingly outrunning the drowsiness...but not this time. However, I couldn't let it win, so just tried to ignore it and keep moving. Everything hurt, but I made it happen.

Telling myself "go to work, K", then stirring my leaden legs into something resembling a run again

My poor sweetheart was dealing with a very sore bum from his ride on the Mill Run Trail with me the evening before, to the point that he'd often dismount and walk beside me when I once more dropped to a trudge, but he was determined to be there every step of the way to help me finish this off.

For which I'm so very grateful

I knew this final leg needed to be 6.70km in order to make it 80k on the nose, so tried to judge my route around our neighbourhood accordingly, and even managed to give myself a downhill to the finish. That did mean stopping my watch a hundred or so metres from the actual house, though, so once again I got a bonus cool-down walk at the end. Since 80km = 49.7mi, and I had a couple of cool-down walks plus the extra 400m on the hike leg, it's safe to say I put in a full 50mi on my feet over the 48 hours.

And then I pulled out a tiny bottle of sparkling wine. At just after 6am.
Giving day drinking a whole new meaning!

The wrap-up instagram story

Into the house, I updated my tracker with the final entry:

Only an accountant would create a spreadsheet for this kind of thing, right?

And ate the last muffin.

I may or may not have also destroyed most of a box of chocolate chip cookies, a bag of tortilla chips, a couple of bananas, and various other snacks throughout the 48hrs.

..and then microwaved some leftover spiced meat and tortillas.

Because if you can't have sparkling wine and tacos at 7am after a ridiculous challenge, when can you have them?

Oh yeah, remember my strategy of leaving my socks on so the tape wouldn't be disturbed? Well, here's a pic of what it looked like (incomplete) when I put it on:

Anchored under big toe & baby toe to support my plantar fascia

Well, here's what it looked like when I finally stripped the socks off at the end:

While not ideal, I was completely unaware that this had happened, so I don't think I'd change my strategy for next time.

I honestly came through this in ridiculously good condition, all things considered: I was quite diligent about using lubrication in between laps and had very little chafing despite the hot, sticky weather, and finished with only a single very minor hotspot on my left foot - no blisters at all. A few bug bites, yes, but those were controllable with witch hazel. I didn't even get sunburned, despite never having managed to apply sunblock!

Total: 80.0km in 11h29m30s with 670m of elevation

So there's a thing that happened.

If there's anyone still reading this, congratulations! That might actually be a bigger feat of endurance than the challenge I just stumbled my way through. I'll wrap this up with some of the things that I think I did well in the preparation for an execution of this challenge, as well as some things I did poorly, lest these be of use to anyone else planning to attempt it: