Sunday, September 4, 2011

Anywhere, Any Time, Any Distance

At some point in time I decided that my life goal in running would be anywhere, any time, any distance.  I did not want to have limits other than what my finances would dictate.  Run long and often enough and I may be able to as long as I want as often as I want.  Simple enough concept.  What this lifestyle requires is an wavering view that running is fun, that running is capable of healing, and that running is capable of giving me more than I could ever return.

I may not always be able to run the locales I desire, but that does not preclude me from running the locale in which I reside.  That was the case this weekend.  The plan to participate in a twenty four hour trail ultra fell apart.  Poor timing and poorer planning on my part.  But it is what it is.

Since I couldn't go to the trail ultra, I decided to make my own ultra, of sorts.  From 6am Saturday, September 3rd to Sunday, the 4th, I would try to run as many miles as my body would allow.  This would be a self-supported effort, carrying my supplies or making stops at my house to reload and/or rest.

Before I get into the meat of the run I want to thank everyone from dailymile that offered support and encouragement over the last two days.  This run was a necessary part of ultra training for me.  The problem is that I know of no other ultra runners in my area, and an probably running companions have their own lives and families with which to contend.  Thus my effort would be a solo one.

In the pre-dawn quiet of Saturday morning I began my march.  There were no written goals, no concrete objectives.  My lone desire was to still be making forward progress by 6 o'clock the next morning.  The plan called for long runs with occasional breaks to regroup.  The morning run was an out-and-back south to Litchfield Beach.  I made one stop by my youngest daughter's school to refill my hydration pack.  As the summer climbed higher in the sky so did the temperatures.  I believed that this run would be the most important; while still my freshest I wanted to knock out an many miles as possible.  After five and a half hours I posted 32 miles.  To date this was my longest training run ever.

I was physically and mentally strong at this point, though a bit creaky.  I tried to eat but was not real hungry.  All I could manage was a Boost and a few bananas.  A quick cold shower did wonders to cool me off before laying down on a camping mat to rest a while.  It would be three and a half hours before I left the house again.

The next run was to be three hours for fifteen miles.  That was a manageable goal.  I would be lapping a retention pond in my neighborhood.  In spite of the blind geriatrics I'd be fairly safe from traffic and never further than a half mile from home.  The loop is nine tenths of a mile.  I would manage the rest of the event by walking the first .2mi and running the remaining .7mi.  The walk break would ensure I did not get too winded and would keep my pace over the ten minute per mile range.

Ten miles came and went easily.  The two were tough.  The afternoon heat began to sink in.  My mind wandered and my body felt very loose and jangly.  Fearing that I might loose my grip on the run.  I aborted at eleven miles and when inside to increase my hydration (I did drink from two handhelds during this time which I refilled every five miles) and get some food in my belly.  I lay down for a while again; however, I didn't shower first and lay in my own stink.  Not pleasant.

By 9 o'clock I was back on the road with Andria.  Time was drawing short and I figured that I would not have much time to break and still hit my pace goals as I ran through the night.  At the start of this run I sat at 43 miles. I hoped to reach 85, if not then I'd be happy with 75 miles.  This was Andria's second run of the day, a first for her, and after four miles she was ready for a shower and bed.  Running with her would provide the only companionship I would have for the entire event.

I did text friends and tweet on the hour to maintain a connection with the outside world.  Seeing my kids and Andria when I'd stop at the house during the was a huge boost.  If anything, it helped to keep things normal.

The only thing that truly concerned me for this event was injury. There are less than fifty-five days till I fly to Texas for my next one hundred miler, the Cactus Rose 100.  A debilitating injury or physical setback is the last thing I need right now.  This run is a part of training.  A confidence builder.  Practice for most of what I'll deal with as part of running for twenty four or more hours.  Any crack in the confidence or trust in my ability would be difficult to overcome.

The end would come gradually and somewhat unexpectedly.  I have had uncomfortable scar tissue in my left heel at the base of the Achilles tendon for eighteen months.  I am not sure what caused the build up, other than a severely twisted ankle six or seven years ago.  At this point the regular discomfort comes with stiffness in the tendon when I awaken in the morning and during the first mile of a run.  As evidenced by recent races and training runs it does not hold me back much.  That changed overnight.  Suddenly the pain became more focused.  There was an increase in the intensity.  My mind wondered how are removed I was from tearing the Achilles, thus ending any attempt at earning the buckle, at Cactus Rose or forever.

Around 2am I stopped to chill and respond to a few texts.  By the time I rose to my feet thirty minutes later the ankle was practically frozen.  With that I felt all the fatigue of the previous day since I woke up at 5am.  Running, walking rather, for another three and a half hours was not going to happen.  If my experience at Lumberjack taught me anything I know I can walk for thirty plus miles if given enough time.  No need to repeat that experience this morning.

So rather than quit I decided to stop.  Sure, I stopped short of the time goal, but ultimately that was not the goal.  Twenty four hours of running this weekend may have been like the belt buckle at Lumberjack.  It was time in that moment to stop chasing.  At 2:30 this morning an imaginary finish line on a clock did not matter.  Hell, no one who followed me or reading this blog gave a shit whether I made it to the end or not.  The people that really mattered and encouraged me only wanted what I needed most - to be safe, to stay healthy, and to have a good experience.  I know this because the same friends that urged me onward so stridently congratulated me on a smart decision immediately.  The right move was waiting to be made.

To review:

  • I attempted a twenty four hour run without an organized event staff or experienced or otherwise dedicated crew.
  • I attempted a twenty four hour run in an uncontrolled environment, relying on the driving ability of motorists to see and not kill me.
  • I attempted to run solo for twenty four hours.  Most people doing this have pacers, companions or at least a crew of people at a local high school track to monitor progress and provide for basic needs.
  • While I may be off, I am not afraid of the distance or the time.  Just give me a reason and I'll give my mind and body, my heart and soul.
  • Thirty-two miles with Vibrams Five Fingers Bikila LS
  • Thirty-two miles with Altra Zero Drop Instincts
  • Total distance of sixty-four miles run in 11h33m over the span of twenty hours and thirty minutes.  Rest break reflect the difference in running time versus total time.  The distinction is merely for clarification.
If I preach anything with regards to running, it is to not be afraid.  Do not be afraid of that first step, that first mile.  Find what you limits are.  Physical limits are real.  You can feel them.  Thrash against them.  With luck you can tear them down and push them back.  Emotional limits are imaginary.  You control them, but you must accept responsibility for that control and maintain your voice over the cacophony of noise inside your mind.

I have fears, real fears.  Things that scare me shitless.  Long distance running is not on that list.

Run on.  Run long.  Keep moving forward.


When I die, I would like it noted that "This asshat once [or maybe twice] ran sixty-four miles around his neighborhood just for kicks.  Who the fuck does that?!?  Oh yeah... Logan Hejl does."  That would be some #epicshit for real.


  1. Just... wow. It was an honor to be a virtual cheerleader. Keep blazing the trail, Logan.

  2. Way to go, Logan! I am so proud to know you. Great job in knowing when to stop.

  3. I was honored to be a part of this challenge. And though my following is vastly smaller than yours, I may have been alone on the roads, but I too had the support of those on DM keeping me going. Thank you again for putting on this challenge. I no longer fear my limitations like I used to, but embrace the pain of overcoming them.

  4. Congratulations on a job well done, Logan! I love the DM community as well. Encouraging, uplifting, and recognizing that each of us has a different goal, a different vision, and a different road map to get where we are called. Cactus Rose is no easy race, but with your determination, you will have an amazing experience. I have a post about the 50 miler on my blog from last year. 2012 will be my return year to redeem myself.
    I so enjoy your journey! Rest, recover, and reflect! Embrace the lessons of the run!

  5. Nice effort Logan! Some of my most memorable runs have been my own, epic solo training runs done in preparation for big races. Running is such a simple sport, just out the door and go!

    Be careful with that Achilles. I wouldn't be surprised if you had an Achilles Spur going on there, analogous to a Heel Spur but with your Achilles/Heel attachment vice Plantar/Heel attachment. This is a weakened area and very subject to stress fracture or rupture (my current injury is a stress fracture to my Heel Spur area so I should know!). As much as it pains me to say this, I'm beginning to think zero drop, ultra minimal shoes isn't the way to go 100% of the time, especially for us guys getting on in years of running abuse!