Thursday, July 26, 2012

30 miles on my 30th year of life

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Three successive beeps followed by a slight pause, followed by three successive beeps, followed by another pause. The unmistakable sound of my wristwatch alarm clock going off. It was 4:58 AM on July 23rd, 2012. My thirtieth year of life had officially started, and what better way to get it all kicked off than with 30 miles of running?

The idea was originally planted in my brain during the spring of 2005. I was in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, having started my Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt only a month prior, when I heard of Freightliner (his trail name, of course), a muscle-bound, mileage-crushing dude who was carrying a 55-pound pack over rugged rollercoaster-like terrain. Rumor was that this guy was clipping off 20+ mile days with the same ease as most people have walking across a parking lot. At that time on the trail, common mileage for new thru-hikers was maybe 10-15 mile days, with the occasional bigger day tucked in here and there. But for regular days of 20 or more miles, well, that was just nuts!

Then I heard through the grapevine that Freightliner was attempting a 30 mile day on his 30th birthday. What?!?! 30 miles in one day in March?? We'd only been on the trail for maybe a month, and this crazy was going to rack up 30 in a day? Silly, but awesome. This may be needless to say because his trail name was Freightliner, but he did it and still refers to it as a "great time in my life." I was only 22 at the time, but the idea hung out in the back of my mind for the next eight years. Ole Freightliner and I became post-AT buddies out in Colorado, so the idea began to really sink in...

Fast-forward about six years. I was a newly certified personal trainer and was reading as much as I could about some of the greats within the industry. There were plenty of them, but the late Jack Lalanne was one that I became fascinated by. This guy, at advanced ages mind you, would swim handcuffed and shackled, towing boats loaded with people or freight, for incredible distances. So the idea became more than idea...

The original idea was to run 30 consecutive miles, taking breaks where needed but never really stopping for good until it was done. However, I love my family dearly, and the only way to really spend any time with them on my birthday (also my mom's birthday, mind you) was to split the day up. Plus we were all at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. So the altered plan was to run between 10 and 14 miles in the morning before anyone got up, spend the day with my family and girlfriend, then wrap it up in the evening back in Portland.

I crawled out of bed on my 30th birthday, put on the running shorts, laced up the shoes, and headed out the door. The first 14 miles fell like a ton of bricks. I felt great! My pace was right around 7:10 per mile, and it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. I finished before anyone was out of bed, so as far as birthday activities go, nothing was missed. Perfect. If the next 16 was anything remotely close to how easy those first 14 were, I would instantly become excited about turning 40!

Doing alright--only about 10 more miles to go.
My girlfriend Tessa and I arrived back to Portland around 4:30 PM. I set out to run the next 4 miles by myself then would meet up with her so she could bike the remaining 12 with me. This plan was a little squirrelly because she had just had a tonsillectomy a week and a half before and hadn't fully recovered yet, but she was determined to bike those miles with me.

The next 4 miles fell with ease. An easy 7:00 minute/mile pace took care of them. Feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders...all feeling great! I met up with Tessa and we set out to do a 7 mile loop on relatively flat ground. Well, the wheels started coming off a little bit here. About a mile in to this leg, my left foot and left knee started to ache (pretty sure this had to do with the road grade). Then overall fatigue began setting in. Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and shins began to feel the thumping the road was giving them. I'm glad Tessa was there because she was a big pick-me-up with water and paparazzi-style photo taking!

So I limped in to my driveway having knocked off 25 miles so far. 5 to go. 2.5 of them would be done running to my favorite restaurant EVER--The Great Lost Bear--where I'd meet up with some of my best friends and probably be given an unhealthy dose of booze. But I was excited about this! Only 2.5 miles there, then a 2.5 mile run home would lock this this up. So Tessa set out on her bike and I on my feet, making it to the Bear and changing from our sweaty clothes into clean ones an adjacent parking lot like a couple of hobos. Cleanly-clothed, we went in and were immediately met by my friends. AWESOME! We had a great time but when it was all said and done there were still miles to be had.

The last 2.5 miles were done at about 11:00 PM. I was a hurting unit--my legs were stiff and my feet were tender--but I made it with time to spare. It wasn't a consecutive mileage like I initially dreamed about, but it was so much more enjoyable. And a big thanks to Tessa, my family, and my friends for making it as fun as it was and for being so encouraging! I'm sure both Freightliner and the late Jack Lalanne would be able to relate...

What will 31 look like? Eh, gonna enjoy the first year of my 30s first.


  1. 30 miles in a day... that's just ludicrous. I honestly think that breaking it up like that would be HARDER for me. I know big mileage days on the bike, I struggle if I stop, so I usually don't.

    You probably did it the hard way, and didn't even feel it until post marathon distances, all while averaging sub 3:00:00 marathon pace. You're ridiculous, and I'm jealous. Happy birthday, old man.

  2. Haha thanks young man! Your birthday is right down the stretch, right? Any plans on your big 3-0?

    Ya know, I thought the same thing--that breaking it up would be more difficult. I just wanted to get it done. But you know moms, and my mom raised some good points, and in the end I was glad I listened to my mom (and usually am!)

    Now the body just needs to stop aching.

  3. I've got another year before I hit that decade. My plan has been to ride my bicycle from here in NY to coastal Maine... about 235 miles over two mountain ranges. Not in a single day, of course, but over 3 or 4 days depending on how much the Greens take out of me. There are a couple of nasty climbs on the bike route that you do.t experience in a car.

    You probably did it a more fun way, and of course celebrating with your mom out ways any hardships.