Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Who Needs REM Sleep Anyway? A 150-mile Success Story for the Karma Project!

150 miles.  That's 792,000 feet.  Or 316,800 average human steps.  Slightly more than the width of the state of Indiana.  Half a tank of gas for a non-hybrid vehicle.  And the length that I ran/walked, in circles, in 47 hours, with no real sleep.

Suffice it to say: WE DID IT.  Myself, along with a stellar group of crew and pacers (referred to from here on as Team Humanity Running, or Team Amazing), succeeded in Humanity Running's first effort: to complete a 48-hour run and rack up as much mileage as my body would allow.  Adding extra fuel to the motivational fire was the knowledge that each mile I completed meant an extra dollar would be added to the community purse of a small, rural village in the mountains of Nepal to aid in the sustainability of their culture, way of life, and quality of life.  In one week, we will close the online donation portal for this effort, but donations can still always be made to the Karma Project in their support of Sibuje Village.  Later this year, members of the Karma Project will meet with the Sibuje community and collectively decide on the most pertinent use of the most recent rounds of funds and physical donations; these will either go towards youth education, medical schooling, or towards a sustainable power initiative that will help Sibuje to end their reliance on wood for heating, which has caused deforestation and landslides around the community.  Once these decisions are made, Humanity Running will be posting updates as to where the funds from this effort were used.  Before I dive further into the events of this weekend, I want to extend a huge and hearty THANK YOU to all who supported this effort and the Karma Project through donations, loving words, and time spent keeping me awake, fed, watered and organized.  This was truly, truly a team effort.  Now for some highlights....

Friday, February 27th
  • Team Humanity Running saddles up and leaves El Portal, CA after everyone finishes a half day of teaching!  Crew includes fellow outdoor educators Carolyn, Katie, Jade and Carrie (who will be joining on Saturday morning).  We arrive at the start of the Razorback Endurance Race in San Martin, CA with over an hour of spare time before the starting gun (nice driving, Katie!).
  • 6 PM start!  Here is a photo with all of the 48-hour competitors (the seventh competitor, not pictured here, is Catra Corbett's running dachshund, named TruMan).  I am second from left.

  •  I run on the through the sunset and night while Team Humanity Running goes grocery shopping, eats a Korean BBQ dinner, and beds down in the mini tent-city they have constructed.  They picked up some serious caffeine supplies for the long nights ahead, and arranged all of my nightly needs within easy reach so that I could self-support on night one and they could get real sleep.
Saturday, February 28th
  • By daybreak, I have covered 100k (62+ miles).  I manage to keep a good, consistent running pace of 12 minutes per mile all night long.  More importantly, I have succeeded in abstaining from caffeine for this first night - not only will this help me in the latter two thirds of the run, but it is a huge personal accomplishment.  This is the longest I have ever run without caffeine!  Woohoo!  Feeling good with the sunrise and stirring of my crew members.
  • Saturday is the big event day at Razorback.  The 72-hour and 48-hour are already going, but every other event starts at 6AM this morning.  These events include the 24-hour, the 100-mile, the 100k, the 50-mile, and the 50k.  I think there might also have been a marathon and half-marathon, but I wasn't paying enough attention.  Needless to say, there were suddenly a LOT more people out on the course!  This was an emotional boost and something to help keep my mind occupied after a long first night.  Here I am at mile 68, just after the other events have begun:
  •  Daytime is spent chugging along towards the 100-mile benchmark.  The closer I get to 100 miles, the more dark and ominous the skies become.  Each member of the crew joins me for one of the last four laps leading to 100 - this was such a fun way to "run the 90s" as I call it, where emotions seem to dip low for me (between miles 90 and 100).  Miles 98 and 99 were spent in a downpour with Carolyn, and when I reached 100 we all retreated into the tent fortress for celebratory cocktails (mine was intentionally weak).
  •  After a brief attempt at sleep with no real success, my crew roused me at 5 PM to start my journey beyond 100 miles.  The downpour had ceased and sunset was coming; things were about to start getting strange and confusing as sleep deprivation really set in.  The second night out was going to be my hardest time during the race.  
  • Through the night, my crew spent many laps with me to keep me sane and make sure I didn't weave around too much.  I began developing stiffness, soreness and swelling in my lower right shin, so I completed the rest of the race with trekking poles and walking.  I attempted naps at miles 122 and 128, but neither gave me legitimate sleep - just enough time with my eyes closed to fool my body into thinking some recovery had taken place.  The temperatures dipped down into the mid-30s, but we kept consistently trucking and putting away miles.  Here are Carolyn and I at the aid station around 3 AM on the second night:

Sunday, March 1st
  • Sunrise is heavenly.  Jade, who was crewing and pacing me for the final hours of the night, helps me rally from my last attempted nap to greet the new day and month.  Only twelve hours to go.
  • For most of Sunday, I agonize with myself over the possibility of quitting early to start caring for my obviously angry and possibly injured shin.  When Katie paces me, we have a long philosophic discussion about what matters more in this case, and we get analytical with pros and cons until I'm so confused I give up thinking about it.  Katie has had severe consequences from a similar injury in the past, so I'm taking her story into account and trying to be prudent but not too prudent.
  • What will eight more miles do to my leg that 142 haven't already done?  Gunning for the finish.  Me and the crew all share strong beers on the second-to-last lap to celebrate the inevitable 150 benchmark!  From left to right, the wonderwomen: Katie, Jade, Carrie and Caro.
  •  My final lap to 150 miles is shared with all of my crew and two other extremely inspiring 48-hour participants, Gene and Francisco.  Francisco is about to finish his first 100-miler, and he has fought through two days, one filled with intense knee pain, to do it!  Gene was getting a mileage PR as well, with somewhere around 112-114 miles.  It was so much fun getting to walk across that finish line as a large successful group.  Catra Corbett wrapped up her 72-hour run around the same time (with 172+ miles!), so we grabbed a parting shot.  TruMan covered his own 50k+ with those tiny legs!  Aren't ultrarunners the coolest?

After all the hugs, celebrations, and awards for those few of us still left on the course, Team Humanity Running fled to a nearby motel in Gilroy for some serious shower time and shuteye.  I had been effectively awake for 60 hours, and every member of the team had sacrificed large periods of sleep to ensure my safety and success.  Time to black out. 

Tracy and all of her co-directors and volunteer staff put on a STELLAR multi-day running event, through inclement weather periods and the complexities of running several different events simultaneously.  On behalf of Team Humanity Running, thank you thank you THANK YOU for all of your hard work.  The human spirit endures, in running efforts and in feats of organization, and ultimately in the mutual support that keeps our collective fabric from unraveling.  Stay tuned for final updates of Humanity Running's contributions to the Karma Project, and be well!

-- Rob Rives, March 3rd 2015