Running 15 miles in a 24 hour period wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it was going to be a walk in the park, but the level of difficulty surprised me and the other runners on my team.
It didn't start out too bad.
I started my first leg -- a relatively flat five mile run -- around three p.m. in a small town called Paradise. I ran down some quiet, small town roads for about four miles before heading up a dirt road that winds behind the northern end of the Wasatch Mountains. (For a map of the race, click here.)
I ran well despite temperatures that were in the high 80s. Since I was getting pumped up for the run, I forgot to put on sunscreen. When I finished, I realized my head and neck and shoulders were going to be fried.
The race continued through some beautiful backcountry at an attitude of approximately 6,500 feet. (For those familiar with mountain peaks in Northern Utah, the peak in the middle of the photo is the back of Ben Lomond.)
Then came my second leg of the race.
And the problems began.
I had felt a little queasy after my first run but drank some Gatorade and water and forgot about it As the evening progressed, my queasiness increased and I began to feel cold. I told myself I was just tired and needed to rest.
So I pulled out my sleeping bag and tried to sleep before my run. It was a relatively short four mile run up the side of a mountain. I lay in my sleeping bag from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. when I was told to get ready as the runner that was going to hand off to me was only 20 minutes out.
I put my sleeping back in the back of the van and was talking to some other runners on my team when the queasy feeling in the back of my stomach started heading for my mouth.
I'll spare the details but it's sufficient to say dinner and everything else that had been put in my stomach during the last 12 hours was now all over the road.
One of my teammates, a guy who runs 100 mile ultra-marathons for fun, asked me some questions on how I had been feeling and after listening to me manage a sentence or two between blowing chunks told me I was dehydrated and probably shouldn't run for a bit.
I was a little upset with this diagnosis. I've been running for five years and have never had a problem staying hydrated. (Pride. This is called Pride.) But since the ultra-marathoner was willing to run my leg, and I was heaving on the side of the road, I decided not to argue with him.
The ill feelings continued for the next six hours. I sipped water and Gatorade while the rest of my group ran the second portion of the race. By the time they finished running the second stage or our race, I was feeling better. By the time we were driving into Heber, I was starving. We stopped
After some breakfast I was feeling good enough to run my last leg of the race â€“ a five mile jaunt through a small town near Heber.
Everyone in the van was a little concerned with me running again. But after repeatedly told them I was feeing fine they let me run on the condition that they'd wait for me in the van every mile and give me some water.
While I was waiting at the relay station, I stared talking to one of the race officials â€“ an old man in his 80s who didn't seem all with it. And the race official mentioned to me there had been a course change.
He told me about a quarter mile past the park there was a church and I needed to follow the new arrows.
So when I started the run I made it down to the church and looked for the arrow telling me where to go. But there was no arrow.
Confused, I stopped and looked around. A second runner who was about 100 feet behind, caught up to me and asked where the arrow was. We stood around for a minute debating which way to run when a third runner ran past us and headed to the left. Not wanting to loose more time, we took off after the third runner.
About a mile down this road I mentioned to the second runner that it seemed like we were going in the wrong direction. The second runner insisted we were on the right road nodding to the runner in front of us and a couple runners behind us. To further bolster his claim, his van was stopping about every mile and offering him water. This made me wonder where my van was.
Meanwhile the rest of my team was patiently waiting for me at the first mile marker of the correct route. After I didn't show up after 15 minutes, they backtracked and started searching for me. After searching some side roads and the park where I had started and unable to find a trace of me they really started to worry.
Adding to their worry was the fact that vans for other runners were circling looking for other runners who had also disappeared. (At this point one of my teammates brought up the possibility of alien abduction.)
Meanwhile, I was running in the wrong direction with several other runners, looking at the blue sky and marveling how lucky I was to be running on such a beautiful day.
After running close to four miles, the other runner and I finally ran into an arrow that pointed us up a side street. As we turned the corner, three vans converged on our location. The drivers motioned us over to the vans and told us that we were on the wrong route.
For a runner, there's nothing more deflating then to realize you've been running the wrong direction. In most races this means you have to return to the point you made the mistake and then run the correct route again. I ran the last four miles at a eight minute per mile pace in 80 degree heat. I was too tired to return to the correct route and rerun it.
Fortunately as they drove us back to the correct route, one of the race officials called the driver of this van and told the driver to drop us off about a quarter mile from the next exchange point and let us finish our leg that way.
My team was waiting for me at the next exchange point. After I handed off to the next runner, I finally realized how worried everyone had been. After assuring them I was alive and well and had not been abducted by aliens, we continued the race.
The final leg of the race that took us into Park City was beautiful. The road was about 8,800 feet above sea level. Parts of the road were still covered with snow.
As we headed into Park City, our excitement grew. The fatigue that had been with us for the last 12 hours dissipated. And 27 hours after we started the race, we crossed the finish line. Tired and sweaty we clapped and cheered that we had completed the race.
So, this begs the question: Was it worth it and would I do it again?
In a heartbeat.
It was one of the most challenging and enjoyable experiences of my life.