W8: Reflections on Running 38 Miles

W8: Reflections on Running 38 Miles

Running the South Bay Skyline Trail (Alternate route due to fires)

Keegan Leary
Keegan Leary

What I wish I knew BEFORE running the ultra:

  1. Can average sub 10:00/mile with run/hike.
  2. Use the screen-lock feature on your electronics.
  3. Pack 2 more goos than your budget.
  4. You'll be sore for 4+ days.
  5. Try, try, and try again to pooh BEFORE starting.
  6. Test your earbud's fit WET.

Since leaving the Navy, I've been spending a lot more time running.  Spurred by the COVID-induced gym closures, running has been a great way for me to maintain fitness.  Running attracts me because of its simplicity.  You can do it anywhere, there is very little gear required (usually), and it often occurs outside.  What's more, do it on a dirt trail and all of a sudden running helps you experience the grandiosity of nature.  It's like hiking, only faster and harder.

As I started to log more miles in training, I spent a bit of time browsing through runs by local Strava athletes as a way to discover cool local routes and workouts.  Inevitably, I was drawn to big routes.  Routes so big you have to pinch the screen to zoom in and out and scroll around to see exactly where it goes.  Routes more like driving directions, or maybe what one would do for a weekend long moutnain bike ride.

I made a list of 5 routes I'd like to try and tackle as my fitness improves.  To me, a true test of fitness ought to be that.  A test.  Like a "Will I even be able to finish?" kind of test.  I know for sure my pace is far behind that of many talented runners.  But if I can push my personal distance boundaries, won't that at least make the athletic feat a bit more impressive?  Feats.  To get feats in an activity I probably wont ever be elite in, it must provide a distinct mental challenge.

38 miles.  Wonderful.  With lots of up and down.  Even better.  Sounds like a feat.

I've also been looking for a good long run away from cell reception to test equipment for my upcoming PCT thru-hike.  They say to test the GPS machines early and often, so I'm trying to get used to that.  Funnily enough, not only did my GPS stop trasmitting halfway through the run, just about every electronic device I brought failed in some way or another.  Remember when I wrote that I like running because it doesn't require a lot of equipment?  Not sure what I meant by that...

List of electronics failures:

  1. Garmini inReach mini stopped transmitting halfway thorugh.  It picked up back at Buck's Restaurant in Woodside oddly enough.  My best thought is that it stopped picking up the IRIDIUM satellite due to cloud cover or that I stuffed it away in a lower pocket of my pack, but how would it be fine the first half then, in the same location and with arguably more cloud cover?
  2. Beats Flex got too wet from the rain and wouldn't stay in my left ear.  Right ear was tight like a glove though!  I'm enjoying the thought of going to the doctor to explain that I have a problem.  "Doc, the problem is my left ear canal is slightly lager than my right ear canal."  😂  For now I'll just be content with a diagnosis from Reddit and experiment with some of the other tip sizes that came in the box.
  3. My Biolite 200 Headlamp won't turn OFF! 💡 Pretty hilarious really.  The customer support rep sent me all the help documents for headlamps that don't turn ON but when I explained for a second time that it won't turn OFF she just said OK your new headlamp is on the way 🙏.  It even cycles through the different modes red/white bright/dim steady/strobe but no matter what button combo I mash it just wont turn off.  It's all controlled by microprocessor via one switch.  Seems to me a good design argument for a hard-wired on/off switch.
  4. iPhone went into disabled mode for 1 minute.  Hadn't ever seen this before.

As usual, the problems were most likely some combination of the wet conditions and user error 🙈.  Most of the devices have a "lock" mode of some sort to prevent accidental button presses while bouncing around in a pack or pocket.  I wasn't using these at the start.  Lesson learned: Use device's lock features.  Glad I stumbled on this before hitting the PCT.

As far as the actual running of it went.  My main recollections are:

  1. Slow to start.  I was fully kitted in a puff jacket that I really didn't need but brought along since I had convinced myself that if I do an ultra out in the boonies, I will want a jacket for emergencies.  I.E. battle testing and being prepared to be cold.  I just didn't need to be wearing it at the start.  I stopped multiple times to adjust which made four out of my first 5 miles slower than the 10:00/mile overall pace I was shooting for.  I think the darkness may have played a part here too.
  2. Should have used the porta-potty at the trailhead.  Didn't need to go bad but it would have been well worth the effort.  Mile 3 was slower because of a code brown.
  3. Before Saratoga Gap, the trail splits.  One trail for equestrain and bikes which pops up on the road and another for foot traffic.  When I discovered the equestrain path just takes you up to the road I tried to "pop over" the "small mountain" separating the paths.  Should have just gone back.  Silly me.
  4. Miles 26-32 were my dead-zone / pain-cave / see-God miles.  I was out of goo (consuming 1 per hour and I had brought 4 with me) and figured I should just tough out the remaining hour even though I had packed emergency peanut butter honey sandwhich.  Not sure if it was actually the sandwhich, or an improved mental state from "this sucks" to "I'm actually going to do this", but miles 32-38 were way more enjoyable.  Sun also came out a bit and the trail stopped being so steep.  So lots of confounding variables, but I will say the PB+H sandwhich didn't hurt me at all!
  5. It's now four days later and my hammies are still tight as BART after an SF Giant's game but I was able to put 6 miles on the legs gain.  Yesterday I tried but called it after 2 miles since the ankle was flaring up a bit.  Recovery time from this is no joke.  I'm trying to take it slow but am eager to get back in to the fight!  Has me thinking a lot about the question, "How often should we go to the well?"  Like, was the 38 mile bout actually beneficial or detrimental to my overall training?  I would hypothesize the major benefit comes from providing some mental toughness.  26 sounds less scary when 38 exists in the memory banks.  What is soreness?  Really?  Feels like I defnitely know now.  Honestly, it also has me thinking that training hamstrings and calves in the gym could probably have some major benefits to distance running.

Well, that's all on that!  Excited to ease back in to running and continue training for the PCT starting in May.  Aside from running, I've also been spending time recording music, really trying to perfect a few songs and have them "performance ready."  I'm also keeping at my art and programming classes.  Updates from those when I actually produce something out of it!

🍻 Keegan

P.S. Big shouts to Papa L for shuttling, encouragement, pics, and a Krispy Kreme start.

Hint: Trail is to your left numbskull!
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Keegan Leary

I'm the dude the website is about.