This Spring, I had the honor of getting to know Dean while helping him train for his first big 24 hour effort. Through our daily messaging, I was able to see first hand just how dedicated Dean is to his running goals. I witnessed Dean tackle amazing running challenges like 80 miles in a week with a marathon at the end of those 7 days. He is strong, smart, and consistent. He was ready for a 24 hour event!
I have to also thank Stephen Bandfield for being a great friend to Dean. Steve's presence at the race and his phones calls with me in the middle of night helped me to stay a part of Deans event. Stephanie Ruzicka also must be thanked for her help in providing assistance when Dean was hitting a low point (which always happens in 24 hour racing). Thank you both so very much for being there!
24 hour racing is truly a team sport. Sure, it is possible to go out there alone and get it done well. But I think when a runner knows they have people behind them…. to help them remember why they should push through their strong desire to stop... to gather up the heap of a person they will become by the next day... to think for them when they are have used all their available energy to fight to move their physical form mindlessly forward… it makes it possible for a runner to leave it all on the course.
Good Training an Good Friends are key ingredients to Great 24 hour performances. Please take a look Dean's report where he shares his first 24 Hour Race experience with us!
Dean's 24 Hour Race Recap
Beyond the marathon things started to get a little more difficult. I’m not sure exactly when, but remember stopping to use the bathroom due to my stomach bothering me. I had a few quick bathroom breaks earlier, but this was longer. I was able to get back out there and my next goal was 50K. Now the heat was starting to get to me more. I hit 50K and my energy began to wane. I think it was in mile 33 I sat down in the shade for a break. After eating and drinking for a little while, I got back up. My friends Lisa, Sue, and Sean came up to see me. We walked and jogged some. It was here I said to myself, it will get better once the sun goes down. If I can make it to sundown, I’ll be ok. My friend Leah stopped by to set up her tent for her race and saw I wasn’t feeling my best, but I kept repeating my thoughts about making it to sundown.
I was up and down from mile 33 to 45. When darkness fell, I felt better and kept counting miles down to my first goal of 100K (62 miles). I was running more with breaks at some points during most laps.
Then I entered the darkest place I’ve ever been to during a long distance event.
Right before finishing mile 44, my energy began to wane again. This time it felt worse than earlier. I was exhausted and had slowed to an almost crawling walk. I was wondering could I be fighting something off. After crossing 44 miles, I walked to my SUV and sat on the back bumper. Maybe I just needed to rest a little. There was a lot of time left in the event…nearly 12 hours still. My friend Stephanie had seen me not feeling well and encouraged me to follow her to where she and her boyfriend Corey were camped. She did not want me to be alone and said she was worried about me. I decided to take her up on her offer. As we walked, I began to feel worse. My head felt like it was on fire and I was shaking. The worst part was at one point feeling like I didn’t know where I was. I found myself standing and staring as my friend calling out to me. It was like I couldn’t hear her.
We got to their campsite where I was wrapped in blankets and a sleeping bag with given water. I was told I looked pale and asked Stephanie to let Steve and Rick know what was going on. Steve came by a little while later and we talked. He believed I was overheated from the sun earlier, dehydrated and depleted. Being a veteran ultra-marathon runner, he has seen some dark times and had help getting through them. Now he was offering to help me and knew I could get past what I was going through. He recommended taking an hour nap to help with the exhaustion. I wanted to continue and agreed to nap to see how I’d feel.
My nap didn’t feel like great sleep. I was shaking from chills and had a hard time being comfortable, but closing my eyes brought some relief. An hour later, Steve came back and asked how I was doing. I was still feeling out of it and a little tight from being immobile. This was normal and he recommended taking in more fluids and eating more. I needed refueling from what he was saying and agreed to give it a try. Before that, he said I needed to change. I needed to layer up including putting long pants on. It was much cooler with the sun down and I needed to get warm. Layering with fueling would help with battling the chills.
Steve walked me to my SUV where I layered up and given a Gatorade. I was not only wearing my clothes. He had an extra sweatshirt and a jacket which he had me wear. We then discussed food and grilled cheese sounded good. We walked back to where I left off of during the lap and told me to walk with drinking the Gatorade. My sandwich would be ready when I came through the aid area.
Now back on my feet I concentrated on getting moving again. I was bummed about losing time, but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. My legs loosened up as I walked and I thought they felt good after resting. Maybe there was something to taking breaks. I slowly drank the Gatorade and marched on. I crossed 45 miles and Steve gave me my grilled cheese sandwich. He asked how I felt and I believe I said “I’m managing” or something to that effect. He said I looked better and to eat.
Mile 46 was another walking lap with taking in my sandwich. This was the first grilled cheese I had in a while and it was tasty. It seemed to lift me physically and psychologically. After finishing the sandwich, I continued walking and noticed my pace was beginning to quicken.
I began mile 47 with a renewed sense of purpose. Steve and others said I looked better, asked how I felt and my response was “pretty good.” In addition, I started to shed layers due to feeling warm which Steve enthusiastically told me was a good sign. I continued to pick up the walking pace and felt very confident 50 miles was a given. Then 12 to 100K. I met and chatted with a nice women named Melissa who encouraged me to go for 50. Not long after that, I began to run again.
My new running beginning wasn’t fast, but it felt good. As I ran, the earlier rough feeling receded further into memory. I was feeling reborn and even wondered if I had dreamt the whole thing. With feeling so good again, I put it behind me and pushed on. I’d run some sections, walk some, say hello to people and the cycle would repeat. As I came through each mile, I’d shed another layer and grab food. For some reason, I was so happy to see peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Steve said something along the lines of “he’s happy, he’s goofy, and he’s fine.” Race director Rick commented how much better I looked. I gave thumbs up and moved on.
Mile 50 came up and I had a brief stop to talk on the phone with my coach, Shannon who was talking with Steve on the phone. He passed me the phone and said someone wants to say hello. It was nice to hear Shannon’s voice who asked how I was doing and gave a yay at hitting 50 miles. We talked for a little while and she encouraged me to get to 100K as soon as possible. Then eat more food and take a half hour nap if I needed. I agreed and took off again.
Miles 51-57 were great miles where I repeated the steps of running, walking, and grabbing food often. After 57, my legs started to feel a little tired so I altered my running/walking as I saw fit. I may have been a little too enthusiastic about reaching 100K as soon as possible. At one point, I had to remind myself to slow down. I was in good spirits so I concentrated on forward progress. Miles 58-60 were slower and I made 2 bathroom stops. All the food I ate and running a little quicker earlier was messing with my stomach. I was feeling better by mile 60.
The last couple miles to 100K were slow. I was feeling ok walking, but didn’t feel much energy to run. I hit 100K and was happy I made it. This was a goal I trained so long for and was successful! Steve had me take a half hour nap after. It was hard to get comfortable in my SUV. I think I tossed and turned most of the half hour. When the 30 minutes were up, Steve came by and asked how I was doing. Honestly at this point fatigue was setting in. There were still around 3 and a half hours left for my event. Steve said start walking and joined me.
It was starting to get light out as I began walking again. I was going slow and decided I needed a pick up when I got to the aid station. Coffee and some food sounded nice (especially the coffee). I was fighting sleepy tiredness and wanted caffeine. After mile 63, I grabbed a cup of coffee with some food items (can’t remember which) and started walking again. I drank the coffee and ate as I continued on. It was around 6am now and I felt content with walking. However, my energy started to return with the food intake and caffeine boost. I started to think about what I could do in the remaining time.
I was finished eating by the time I crossed 64 miles and had picked up the pace again. Feeling more awake, I started to run and was able to duplicate the run/walk cycle from earlier. It seemed to be going very well until my stomach started bothering me and I needed a bathroom break. I had to walk to keep the feeling from worsening. After mile 65, I stopped. Then the same thing happened after 66 & 67. I was like “damn that coffee was potent.” I was losing time with the recurrent breaks.
My stomach was better in mile 68 and I didn’t have to stop again until after I finished the race. It was now daylight and I had less than 2 hours to go. I knew I had 70 miles in the bag and started to run/walk again. As the time continued to tick away, I was amazed I could still run at times. My training over the winter and early spring was really showing its benefits.
Mile 70 came up and Steve said you can make 72. I checked my watch and saw I had plenty of time for it. Even with the time, I gave myself an extra cushion by running more than my usual intervals. In the event my stomach acted up and needed to visit the men’s room, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to make 72. Ten miles beyond 100K sounded so nice at that point. I got further quicker in 71 and my legs started to rebel again, but I was successful in my aim. When I crossed 71 miles, I had about 28 minutes left to do one more mile. With my legs reaching the point of where I felt at 100K, I did my best to maintain a brisk walk. As I set out for one last mile, I asked Steve to be near the finish in about 15 minutes.
I was able to brisk walk about a halfway through 72 and I slowed down. However, I was not stressing. The event was nearly over and I was going to finish with a nice number for my first 24 hour race. I looked at my watch to make sure I was making descent time. As I rounded the 2nd to last turn, I felt a little sad it was coming to an end. All of the training, support from friends and my desire to see it through got me to that point. The final turn came up and I saw Steve getting ready to take a finisher photo. Seeing that, I made one last effort to run and got into a little sprint. I crossed 72 miles with about 11 minutes to spare. My friend Matt was saying “come on Dean. One more mile at 10 minute pace and you got 73.” Rick was like “you have time.” I appreciated the encouragement, but knew that was it.
I was elated with joy having made it to the morning and fell between my goals of 100K and 80 miles.
The ultimate goal would have been 100 miles (101 for the belt buckle award). For my first 24 hour race, 72 miles was a very satisfying accomplishment. I was also encouraged to know I would have gone further if not for the rough patches earlier. I look upon those rough and dark times as learning experiences. They happen during events of these durations. It’s being able to deal with and get through them which make the difference. I had great help with Steve crewing me and Shannon checking up on me. Both encouraged me which really helped when I felt like I could go no further. Adding those to my strong desire to go to Friday, May 15th 9am saw me through. I told Steve after the race, “you were right. I was going all night.” He had told me that during a rough patch and didn’t fully believe it then. I’m glad I listened to his advice and allowed him to push me. I’m also very happy I enlisted Shannon as my coach who trained me for the event. She may not have been there physically at the event, but she was checking in with Steve all night. My conversation with her after 50 miles was uplifting and I was so happy to speak with her after I was done. I know I’m in good hands with them in my corner.
In the days that have followed, I’ve gone through a few thought processes mostly being influenced by various forms of fatigue. Now with the jetlag like feelings behind me, if some asks would I do another 24 hour or 100 mile race with a longer cut off time (30-36 hours), the answer is “YES”.