Monday, June 25, 2012

100 Miles

I spent yesterday regularly checking the internet for news of Reindert, or more to the point, Reindert's progress.

See, today was the day that he had set himself to run 100 miles - or 160 kilometres in the new language.

100 Miles.

London to Leicester. Melbourne to Euroa. Adelaide to Tintinara.

A mythical distance that is normally an annoying and not overly picturesque three hour drive, far enough to know that you've gone somewhere. The drive can be tiring, but not overly so. The thought of covering the distance on foot is something I can't get my head around.

I know that with training I can run a half marathon - I wouldn't say I can do it with ease, but I can do this. 160 kilometres on foot - maybe give me three days with some rest in between - after a lot of training. Next year I'd love to do the Oxfam 100 - a 100 kilometre walk through country Victoria - but that will be a walk. 160 kilometres, or a hundred miles - nah.

Reindert ran this distance. And not by road. Reindert ran this distance on what I see as an equal to a goat track. He ran 100 miles through trails in mountainous terrain.

And I still can't get my head around this.

He's been talking about this for a few years, doing a heap of extensive training over the last few years. He loves his trail running, something I can't share with him. The one and only trail run I did with him in the back blocks of Boston had me limping for three months, the uneven ground stuffing up my right knee good and proper (it took a year being very nice to my right knee before it came good after that - didn't help that I ignored the injury for six weeks while I was away on an overseas trip) Reindert also did a lot of other long endurance runs over the last 18 months - his best result being in the Canadian Death Race - where he came 6th in the field two years ago.

So on Saturday night I powered up my computer and watched. There was a webcast where you could check on your runners, willing them through the wilderness through the joys of technology.

As people do die doing this sort of stuff, every five miles there was a check point. You could see where the runners were, what check points there were going through. From 'Born to Run" I knew that he's be submitted to rigorous and regular medical checks to ensure his health over the run. Of the 500 runners, about a quarter of the field is expected to drop out. I was hoping and praying that Reindert wouldn't be in this group.

The race began just as I was going to bed on Saturday night. He was off.

By the morning, when I woke, he was well over a marathon distance into the course.

Over the day, whenever I was on the computer, there was  a cursory check on the website. Where was he? How was he faring?

Fair dues, he kept a really steady pace through the day. The race started at 5 am California time, 11 pm Melbourne Time. Four hours later he was a quarter of the way there - running the equivalent of a marathon over trails in for hours - a decent marathon time on sealed roads.

Eleven hours in, he was at the 55 mile mark.

I'm still in awe of the fact that he could do this. To train to such a level and to keep going. As I said earlier, I get distance running in my own mind and to my own abilities. I know what it feels like to run 21 kilometres. I'm capable of walk/running 23 kilometres over undulating terrain (on limited training), as the Great Ocean Road half marathon showed. I know the elation of reaching the half way point. I know the crisis of faith you get at the 18 kilometre mark - and I know what your legs feel like at the end - just as I know the pure satisfaction of completing such a race.

What this must feel like when running a 100 mile race?

The day went on and Reindert plundered on. The pace slowed a little. Some of the sections were slower, some faster.

The winner of the race did the distance in 14 hours and 46 minutes. A course record. The winning woman came in two hours later, almost to the minute. Unimaginable speeds - unbelievable endurance.

Reindert had told me quite a bit about the preparation. He was telling me about the pickle juice formula he would be taking. Hydration and electrolytes are critical on runs like this. He taught me this when he helped me on my first half marathon - graciously walk running the distance with me in Adelaide in 2009. Reindert is the reason I got into running. Sure I could run he told me sometime in 2008. I didn't believe him.

He was right. Slowly, but surely I taught my overweight and untrained 40-year-old body to run.

Just after 9 pm, the website said that he'd made the 99 mile mark. There was a mile to go.

What goes through the mind of a person that's travelled 100 miles on foot in under 24 hours? What are they thinking? What are they feeling. I decided to sit on the computer and wait to see him come in. There was a mile to go. On a good day, Reindert can run a 5 minute mile. This wasn't going to happen for this run, but I sat at the laptop regularly refreshing the screen. No Reindert. Press enter. No Reindert. I started to worry. After ten minutes, still no Reindert.

Again, you think about this. you've covered 99 miles - 99 gruelling miles over trails, rocks, streams through heaven knows what conditions. The last eight or nine hours you've been running these trails in the dark, with only the light on your hat to guide you. No roads, no street lights, no pavement. You've been poked and prodded every five miles to make sure you're healthy. Your support crew have been checking up on you - but for the most part, you've been out there on your own - maybe running with one of the other participants for a while, maybe not.

To fail at the 99th mile - like what would that feel like?

Just after 9.30 Melbourne time, the screen changed.

He'd done it. 22 hours, 30 minutes and forty seconds after starting, my friend passed the finish line.

The last mile took him 20 minutes. Heaven knows what that felt like. I know that the last kilometre of a half marathon is bittersweet. Your exhausted, but thrilled to know that the pain is almost over.

I wonder if running ultramarathons there is a Richter Scale of pain - what must if feel like to know that you've run a hundred miles.

I'll ask next time we chat on skype.

At the moment, all I know is I don't think I've ever been prouder of a friend. Ever.


Kath Lockett said...

He is a god. A legend. A true, utter, complete, total and incomparable champion.

I remain in awe at people who have not only the fitness but also the mental strength and determination to attempt and then finish such an event.

Go Reindert!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Oh my God! I am mightily impressed. I struggle to DRIVE 100miles.

I salute your amazing friend Reindert!




Jackie K said...

Wow,that really is impressive. Great post too -a good read. As close as I'll ever get to running 100 miles!