What the hell was I thinking?
That was certainly the thought that came to mind lacing up the shoes as we were getting ready to head out on leg one. I nervously tied the laces too tight and fumbling around to readjust them. We had 5 minutes to get out the door for the 8pm starting time. A 4 mile run lay ahead of us on the West Dyke trail. Flat, gravel pack, perfect for running really. We would get to know this route well as we will be returning guests to it 11 more times after this leg. OMG
What is it?
We are taking part in the David Goggins 4x4x48 challenge. What is that? Well I’m glad you asked. The premise is simple. Run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours straight. The action of it is something far more complex. We are looking at fatigue, sleep deprivation, blisters, and complete calorie deficit running. No time outs, no extended breaks. Every 4 hours on the hour. You lace up, you go. Meaning if your 4 mile run takes you 45 minutes to complete, you only have 3 hours 15 minutes to fuel, rest, and recover (as best you can) until you lace up again. If it takes you longer, then you have even less. You can imagine the problem this creates.
This year’s team was made up of 4 runners. Jeff, Martin, Mike, and myself. I was the new kid on the block, the other 3 guys have been through this before. This was the 3rd year the group was doing the challenge in support of the Tour de cure https://tourdecure.ca/participant/1842031/4245 a charity that the guys have been working with for the last number of years. How did I get myself wrapped up into this? Truthfully, I searched them out. Jeff and I have been friends for over 20 years and he told me about this challenge years ago. I am always looking for new adventures to try and asked if I could take part in the team this year. I ran a few legs with them last year, but “all in” this time around would be a different beast.
The Game Plan
We set up Basecamp at Martins place, which is situated right next to the West Dyke Trail, making it a perfect location to run the challenge. We would be held up here between runs for the next 48 hours. I packed what I needed, warm running clothes, rain slicker, Merino wool top? Yes I better, weather this weekend is flirting with snow. Sleeping bag and foamie. Now I brought them, but in truth this was just giving myself false promises. #nosleep.
I brought a collection of foods. Not sure what the GI tract would feel about this continual feeding cycle at all hours of the day (and night). I stuck to a lot of my go to’s protein bars, nuts, pineapple, and waffle cookies. As well we had sausages steaks, potatoes, and eggs for the mealtimes. I’m ready…er..um..I think so anyway.
Friday night has come. 8pm is a few minutes away. We converge to the kitchen, decide which route we will start with, (we were alternating a north route and a south route, both of the same distance) have a last swig of water grab our jackets and head outside. This will be life for the next 48 hours. It’s go time!
We got the first leg out of the way and felt good. Had a quick refuel and chat in the kitchen and then we all retired to our own rooms. It is at this point I start to realize how short between running legs it actually is. I shed my wet gear and put on some warm clothes, organize my stuff for leg 2 and finally lay down and put some earphones on. I look at my watch and it’s already 945pm. I have only 2 hours to rest. I need to be more efficient!
This routine continues after each leg, and “more efficient” does not happen, in fact, quite the opposite, as the lack of sleep becomes a factor. By day 2 the struggle is real as I begin to have challenges deciding to eat or sleep or both. I get the impression that fatigue is affecting the rest of the team as well. Conversations before runs go from motivational to primal head nods and acceptance of our sentence we have been given. One more leg.
So if I had to break it down the most challenging part of this challenge, it would be the challenge itself, and not the distance. 4 miles is not terrible, especially if you are a regular runner. But the continued effects of repetitive 4 miles over and over starts to lock your brain in some twisted Groundhog Day routine where you are destined to run instead of waking up to a hotel, going to a diner for breakfast and forecasting weather.
The night runs just flat out suck. Night 1 we were sharing the trail with a pack of coyotes that were a little too comfortable with our presence, and Night 2 I could not constitute as a run at all. Jeff and I had to walk due to knee issues, resulting in a 90 minute leg and drastically reduced our downtime before our morning run.
The finish line!
Well we did it! Sunday afternoon at 4pm we completed our last leg. Tired (understatement) and sore, we stubbled to the end. We were run (and walked) in by a close group of family and friends, cheering on the last few kms. Smiles all around we high fives, and hugged. Snapped a few photos and thanked everyone for coming out. We were done! It was extremely special to be a part of this challenge, and I was very grateful to be a part of this group with these friends. Both old and new. When you’re in, you’re in. Bonds of adversity. And Holy Crap! That was tough! A couple friends felt very inspired from the legs they joined us on and vowed to potentially join the full challenge next year. Next year? Are we doing this again? Would you?