As you may recall, I spent this last weekend pacing my good friend Larry Herman in the Inaugural 20in24 race. While oddly named (the “20” only refers to the number of loops run by one particular relay, not every different race going on), the race benefitted a great organization called Back on My Feet. Organized by a young woman I have had the pleasure of meeting a few times, Anne Mahlum, Back on my feet benefits (homeless; fill it in). Larry’s plan for this 20in24 race was to run for 24 hours and see how many miles he could accumulate. His major goal for the race was 100 miles and I was going to pace him the best I could.
I flew into Philadelphia where the race took place the night before the race. When I stepped out of the airport into a taxi at 11 PM it was STILL 88 degrees. Dear lord. I was given a quickly tutorial to what summer on the east coast felt like when the humidity immediately covered me like a blanket. Waiting at the hotel was Larry and we exchanged hugs. Before long we were both sound asleep and readying ourselves for the next day.
Starting at 10 AM we hoped to get a good few miles under our belts prior to the sun and heat getting unbearable. But as the clock counted down to the start of the race, we knew that hot and unbearable was the recipe for the day.
We finished the first 8.5 (ish) mile loop a few minutes ahead of our planned pace for the day but already were feeling the effects of the soaring temps and accompanying humidity. The second loop began with a much more cautious pace as we willed the sunshine away and pined for more shade. By the time we finished she second loop we were still just about on time but the weather was taking its toll. My best friend Anne made the drive up from DC to provide added levity and chocolate milkshakes. We began the third loop with the milkshakes in our bellies cooling us down but the sun had not budged.
Larry still had plans to continue on as long as we could but we could already see many people around us taking longer and longer as the aid stations on the courses. The race quickly set up more emergency tubs of ice and cool drinks for the runners to utilize. The problem for both Larry (and I as his pacer) was that he could not take in as much fluid as he was losing without having it slosh around in his belly.
We stopped extra long at the next loop and tried our best to get hydrated, get some food in us and hope for cooler temps. However, we were pretty sure that the day was going to win. Upon completing one more loop, bring our totally to over 50k we decided we needed to call it a day. Showers and food were needed.
A plan to go back to the hotel and rest and get back up early in the morning to do two more loops and bring our total to 50 miles was decided on. However, as the temperature and humidity barely budged when the sun retreated, the decision was made to DNF in a different way, as in “do nothing foolish”. With blisters forming on our feet and energies nowhere near where they needed to be to continue in a race-like fashion, Larry wisely decided to indeed call it a day and race.
When only 3 males and one female passed 100 miles by the time 24 hours was done, including some who we knew personally could have done 20 or 30 more miles on a good day, we felt vindicated. Larry had a triathlon in a week and I had my own attempt at a marathon PR in just 5 short days. While we were still pretty worse for wear, we were quite happy with our efforts. Another attempt on another day will assuredly follow for Larry and I suggested he might not want to do it in July in Philadelphia. He agreed.
All in all, it appeared to be an overwhelming success for Back on my Feet as the race was very well-run in spite of the less than desirable conditions. With a slight tweak in the date, this could become a very good race for years to come.