June 12-13, 2021
In 2019, I saw a few posts from people I knew that ran Survivorfest and I became intrigued. Then in 2020, all races were canceled but I heard a podcast episode of Trail Runner Nation and they were talking to a runner who said, “You are not really an ultra runner until you do a 24hr track race”. I have tried to look back and find the episode but without success. The guest talked about the mental struggle. There are no hills to climb, no rivers to cross, and heck you don’t even have to carry any gear. Your aid station appears every 400m. After hearing this, I knew that this challenge was right for me and I decided to do Survivorfest in 2021. Alas, the global pandemic continued. But, in 2021, Survivorfest offered to let runners complete the race virtually. So, I set off to practice running on the track just down the street from my house.
I learned more about Survivorfest and the cause for this event. Not only is Survivorfest the Canadian National 24hr Track Championship, but it is also an event to raise funds for the Saffron Centre to help survivors of sexual abuse and to help educate and provide counselling and legal support. This cause struck home with me and I made it my mission to help in any way I could by promoting the event and raising funds.
I did 2 longer practice runs on the track. I did a marathon distance in March and then a 50km run in May. These runs helped me prepare for the mental aspects. As race day approached I planned out my day and night into 3-4 hour sections. And broke those sections down further into hourly increments. I made my plan of what nutrition I was going to take each hour and my expectation of distance for each section. Writing up a plan to run over 140km when I had never run more than 80km before was a little scary and also very exciting. Here were my plans:
Race morning, with the help of my faithful race crew (my amazing wife and children), we hauled my gear over to the track. Setup the gazebo tent, cooler, chair, bag of food, clothes, spare shoes, phone and watch chargers, and water jug. It looked like we were setting up camp for a few days. I had already greased my toes and now just needed to log in online for the countdown.
The event was live streaming commentary and runners from across Canada would zoom in to give updates. I felt great right off the get go and stuck close to my planned pace. Each hour my wife would track what distance I was at and would hand me my food and drink according to my plan. When you break the event down into digestible chunks it is mentally easier than it sounds to run 24hrs because you are just taking it one hour at a time.
The race started at 9AM and I kept a comfortable pace and just tried to enjoy the morning before the afternoon heat kicked in.
Friends came by to cheer me on and ask how I was doing and race director Laura came by to visit too. She visited all the runners in the Edmonton area to show how much she appreciated us all. She truly loves this event and the cause and it shows.
The afternoon heat started melting me but I stuck to the plan and stopped every hour to refuel. My wife filled a bucket with ice water so I could soak my feet during my breaks. For 7PM my wife and the kids brought pizza for supper but I only managed to eat one slice. By 9PM, I set a new personal best for the furthest distance I had ever run. My wife brought the kids home and got them to bed and needed to get some rest herself. It isn’t just a long day for the runner but also for the crew.
I got a text from my friend Joey at 2AM. He drove out from the city to run with me for 2 hours in the middle of the night. We talked and kept moving. I needed this in those dark lonely hours when I was sick of listening to music and podcasts and was just alone in my head. Then just as the sun was rising, Laura came back and ran the better part of an hour with me.
By sun up the family was back, the chafing was unbearable and I was walking more than running but I was not going to finish sitting, so I kept moving. Delusional and completely spent, we hit 9AM. Twenty four hours. Nearly 150 kilometres. My daughter gave me my medal and we got all packed up, went home and showered, and then passed out in bed.
This run taught my that I can do whatever I put my mind to. There were tears of joy but also unfinished business. I know that 100 miles (160km) is waiting for me and I will be back in 2022 to go and get it.