Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 3 Days at the Fair 72-hour

How to not do 200 Miles in a 72-hour Race

When my plan went south (fourth row down).
When you choose a goal for a race, if you're serious about improvement as a runner, you choose an ambitious goal. You should not be afraid to aim much farther or faster than you have ever gone before. Somewhere ahead there is a perfect point of balance between self-limiting beliefs and crazy, unrealistic expectations.

This is ultimately the story of how the goal was right, how I failed to reach it, and why I am nevertheless very proud and satisfied with what I accomplished at this year's 3 Days at the Fair (3DATF) 72-hour ultra.

For those who waded through my report from last year, I will share another goal I have set for myself: that this report will break with my tradition of writing race reports of a length proportional to the number of miles I ran! Let's see how I do...

Down the Rabbit Hole Again

A much more comfortable and functional setup than last year.
"Bee-beep! Bee-beep! Bee-beep!" My eyes popped open. Quickly grabbing the timer, I silenced it so as to limit the disturbance to other runners who might be resting nearby.

That introduction highlights what may be the key strategy difference between my race this year and my race last year. Last year, I slept as long as I would sleep, and only woke when my eyes popped open on their own. This year I had brought a cheap kitchen timer to use as an alarm clock for timing my naps.

Time management would be absolutely critical to reaching 200 miles. Last year I had done 148. Where would the other 52 come from this year? Well, first of all, I was off the course for nine hours last year dealing with waterlogged feet and deciding whether I could even continue. Nine hours represented between twenty and thirty additional miles.

Let's say that would get me to 173. Where would yet another 27 miles come from? It could only be from a combination of moving faster and sleeping less. I learned the third day last year that I could have run much more than I had. With another year of training behind me, that could only be more true this year. Now I would have to answer the question, "Could I also do that on shorter naps?"

Setting the timer back down, I took a quick inventory to assess what my downtime had accomplished. I had indeed 'slept.' Really what had happened was that my eyes had rolled back inside my head and my brain had fuzzed out for a couple of minutes perhaps two or three times during the fifteen minutes on my cot that I had given myself. In spite of the paltriness of it, I felt at least somewhat refreshed.

Legs, too, felt better. I was finding that it only took about ten minutes of getting off of and elevating aching legs and feet before I could feel a sort of wave pass through them, flushing out... something... and bringing relief.

Swinging my legs over the side of the cot, I sat up and began the somewhat laborious process of putting on a fresh pair of socks and then my shoes. Given the overhead of stopping, getting something to eat that I could digest while I was resting, getting into the tent and into the cot, then getting re-shod and back out of the tent and onto the course after I woke up, even a short, fifteen-minute nap made for at least a forty-minute lap (laps are one mile exactly).

One veteran of the race told me while we were doing a lap together that two hundred miles requires an average pace of 21:36 over the full 72 hours. Every nap must somehow be paid for.

The Venue

Timing, and the finest aid station I've experienced. The course goes by on the left.
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
The Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ is a wonderful, small, picturesque park with a lot going for it as a venue for a long, fixed-time ultra. It is (relatively) quiet in mid-May, though I think there's always something else going on during the weekend. This year that included a wedding on Friday and a rodeo on Saturday - in addition to the same horse and poultry shows that were there last year. It keeps things interesting and you can't help but think about how bizarre it is that all of these people are coming and going, experiencing what to them are major events ("We're going to the rodeo tonight!") while you're just going around in circles watching the whole thing unfold from setup to tear-down - and you will continue to be doing so for perhaps another day or two afterward!

Karen and I arrived at the fairgrounds on Wednesday evening and set up my camp right in the same spot I used last year - just pre-timing, next to the Boy Scouts' building (the roofed-over patio of which we would claim as a crew shelter and my own personal aid station.

And Speaking of Karen...

(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
I always seem to have problems getting a good picture of my support crew, cheerleader, and the love of my life to put in these race reports - because nobody is taking pictures of runner crew! We solved that problem this year by entering Karen into a 50K.

Karen had been doing a lot of walking, finally coming to the realization that at our age it very much becomes 'move it or lose it,' and she wanted to do quite a bit of walking while killing three days watching me run in circles. That raised potential problems of course congestion, and pacing if she walked with me. Rick McNulty suggested she sign up for a 50K, start on Thursday morning with me, and she could take the whole 72 hours to finish if she wanted to. That would solve both problems and also give her access to the aid station so she didn't have to either have her own food or leave the fairgrounds for meals.

So Karen signed up for her first race - an ultramarathon. Rather than 'ultrarunner' she decided the appropriate term for her would be 'ultra mosey-er.'

But that's not all...

Back at the year-end holidays last year I'd talked my Mom into signing up for the 48-hour! Mom is 75, but is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with a gym membership, who also enjoys walking. She's got a really great build for a walker too, with high hips and long legs. She can really go! She'd hinted that she thought this type of race sounded interesting and I told her I thought she could do very well at it just walking. Eventually I talked her into letting me sign her up.

(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
There would be three of us 'McHenri' in the race this year then. More on Karen and Mom later though. This is my race report, after all!

My Race Plan

Before the race I consulted the master - my friend and online mentor, 3DATF veteran Fred Murolo. Sometimes I think Fred wonders why I still pester him for advice now that I've matured a bit as an ultrarunner, but I'll never match the body of experience he has, and as long as he isn't willing to just tell me to go away I'll keep trying to learn from him.

I'd seen Fred talk about his own successful run to 200 last year and he described it as requiring total focus and determination - vigilance toward staying on pace and making careful trade-offs on every break. When he elaborated on that for me, here's what he said:

"I have observed many people at this race and other timed races, and the ones who get to their goals are usually the ones who are willing to go deep into sleep deficit and persist on the track for long stretches of the night. Stated another way, I have never heard a runner say, 'Yeah, I slept 8 hours last night,' and also say, 'I think I'm going to hit 200.' For the mid-pack mortals, it's either/or."

He also suggested appropriate 24-hour splits for 200 that jibed perfectly with what I had been thinking: a little over 80 the first day, a little over 60 the second, leaving something in the mid-50's for the third. I reduced that in my mind to 80+/60+/60-.

The other way I looked at the race was just my own thinking. Going ten miles in three hours requires an 18:00 pace - which is pretty easy to maintain as long as you can run at least a little each mile. There are 24 three-hour blocks of time in a 72-hour race. That gives a potential total of 240 miles at that pace - which really means you've got a 40-mile (= 12-hour) budget of time for longer breaks. The rest of the time you need to be covering ten miles every three hours, and if you want short breaks during those blocks of time you have to earn them by going faster!

I thought all that dovetailed perfectly with my split plan. Day One boiled down to executing eight of the three-hour, ten-mile blocks in a row without taking any long breaks. I like to keep things simple if possible, and you can't get much simpler than that! Day Two would have either a six-hour budget for long breaks or one three-hour long break and relaxed pacing - ten miles every three-and-a-half hours rather than every three hours. I would have to push just a little harder those first two days than I've just described in order to achieve the '+' part of  the target splits. Day Three would be a repeat of Day Two, except it could be a little bit relaxed by comparison, since the mileage target was lower.

With all of that settled in my mind, it was time to race and see what happened.

Day One - Like a Boss
(9:00 A.M. Thursday - 9:00 A.M. Friday)

It's getting real
(Cold enough to sport my Vol State jacket, but I don't think it intimidated anybody)
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
It's amazing how quickly one can come to take even the most outrageous things evenly in stride. I'd only done this once - but I'd done it. The venue was familiar, the people were familiar, and I knew what I was getting myself into. It may have been a bit dumb getting myself into it again - but at least I knew what it was. I organized my stuff into my tent, picked up my bib and timing chip, and chatted with a few people until it was time to race.

Here we go. That's me about to go off-camera on the left.
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
The day was absolutely perfect: cool, sunny, and bright. It warmed a little uncomfortably in the afternoon, but I just broke out my Vol State umbrella, slowed a little, and kept moving. As much as it's possible for traveling eighty miles on foot to just seem like routine work that's what it felt like. Here's how the miles accumulated:

Mile Split Time Target Banked
10 2:25:18 3:00:00 0:34:42
20 4:48:28 6:00:00 1:11:32
30 7:49:45 9:00:00 1:10:15
40 10:46:12 12:00:00 1:13:48
50 13:53:10 15:00:00 1:06:50
60 17:26:07 18:00:00 0:33:53
70 20:32:36 21:00:00 0:27:24
80 23:26:09 24:00:00 0:33:51
82 23:57:05 24:00:00 0:02:55

It would be a lie to claim this was totally easy. Of course there was pain. There was also the concern for time management that Fred had warned me about. Through the day I was learning how far I could go before pain and fatigue 'required' I take a break - and, more importantly, how short that break could be yet enable me to go that far again. How that played out can best be seen in the mile split charts I've put together:

Mile splits for the first day
I pretty much just cruised through the first marathon in a little over six hours before taking my first break. I had another, much shorter sit-down at thirty just because I feel like I earn something at an even ten, I guess. Then it was onward toward forty. You can see the pattern developing in the data of long-ish breaks at the tens with shorter 'long miles; about midway. Those were essentially long stops at my aid station for nutrition and just a short sit-down.

This is me running with Gary Ferguson.
I forget what a big guy I am for a runner until I look at pics like this.
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
This is me running with Steve Tursi.
I forget what a big guy I am for a runner when I run next to him.
(Photo credit - Steve Tursi)
This is me running with Karen.
I remember what a lucky guy I am when I look at this.
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)

I hit fifty miles in about fourteen hours (11:00 PM Thursday night) and went down for my first serious nap in my tent very satisfied. I was well ahead of where I was this time last year. If I could get a decent rest and get back on my feet before midnight I'd still have nine hours to get back to work and try to cover thirty more miles during the night.

Again, you can see that work happening on the lap chart: short break on the fives, long break on the tens. I made sure I moved fast enough to preserve the thirty minutes I still had banked after the fifty-mile nap. That would be my budget for two extra miles - the '+' part of my '80+' target split for the day.

By seventy miles dawn had come and I let the energy surge that always accompanies that carry me through the rest of the way without another break. Fred's suggestion for the 'perfect' first-day split had been 82 miles. I finished the day dead-nuts on that target - like a boss.

Day 1: 82 miles.

Day Two - Sleep Deprivation Sucks
(9:00 A.M. Friday - 9:00 A.M. Saturday)

Mile splits for the second day
Last year I said that day two was the hardest because that's when you first really start having to fight sleep deprivation. My opinion on that has not changed.

Recall that my race plan allotted either six hours for long breaks during this day if I maintained my ten miles every three hours movement pace the other eighteen hours - or one three-hour long break and relaxed pacing of ten miles every three-and-a-half hours for the other twenty-one hours of the day. I had also planned on taking just a normal, 'long-ish' break after I finished Day One, then pushing on and not taking my first real long break until the heat of the day later. I'd stolen that idea from Steve Tursi (who I'd been trash-talking with a bit before the race and was actually in competition with - all's fair in war).

I got no energy bump whatsoever from the break after mile 82 though! Normally I'd have one slow lap after a nap and then I'd be finished waking up and loosening up and I'd be able to go again. Not this time. After my second slow lap I felt just as tired and brain-dead as I had before the nap, and it seemed like it was just going to get worse rather than better.

I also reasoned that my tent was going to be a brutally hot, miserable place to try to sleep later, and maybe if I went down now - in the relative cool of the morning - I'd get better sleep and it would pay off later. In retrospect this just was me psyching myself out. Two miles coming off of a nap before giving up and going back to bed is just a very pathetic attempt to fight sleep deprivation! I was blowing a big chunk of my rest budget early in the day on a mere hope.

Getting back up from the longer break I at least was smart enough to realize that whatever I had at that point was what I had. I still felt gassed, and as can be seen in the pace chart, I was still closer to twenty-minute miles than fifteen. I just would not force myself to run - even though I'd told myself over and over that too much walking the second day had cost me last year!

Heat was a factor in this, and everyone was moving slower through it. At least I kept moving until I got through mile 92. Finally - ten miles for the day! What an awful, slow start to the day though. I stopped for my third nap since I'd passed the twenty-four hour mark. Once we were past peak sun  I was finally able to force myself to run again. I still wasn't exactly burning up the course, but mile times were staying well below twenty and I was back to seeing some regular fifteens.

This was my 'bell ten miles.' There's a large hand-held bell at the timing area called the "PR bell." It belongs to the runners, and is there for them to celebrate whatever accomplishments along the way may be meaningful to them. I planned to ring it three laps in a row:
  • 100 would be a huge time PR for the distance - actually a half respectable 100 as a split in a 72-hour.
  • 101 would earn me one of the belt buckles that were new awards for this year.
  • 102 would earn me my coin for 250 lifetime miles in the event.
The rewards were pulling me along and I covered this ten miles within my 3:30 time budget.

100-mile time PR: 33:29:08 (an improvement by about 17 hours)
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
101-mile buckle!
(You can get a 100-mile buckle lots of places.)
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
Lifetime 250-mile coin!
Nothing more to be had now until 200.
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
Bells rung, inspiration renewed, and after another short nap, I continued my solid work through the next ten miles.

Then I just threw the whole thing away like I didn't even care!

It was about 11:30 on Friday night, another wave of exhaustion was coming over me, and I was feeling the death trudge coming on. I was still reasonably on track to hit my second-day split if I was willing to buckle down, work through the night, and rack up another thirty miles just like I had the previous night. That was sounding really hard though and spectacularly unattractive! Some serious rain was predicted to happen between about midnight and 2:00 A.M. too, and when the first fairly strong shower hit I just folded and said, "Screw this. I'm going to bed."

It was perhaps a perfect psychological storm. A low point and bad weather evoked memories of the miserable thirteen hours spent trudging through the rain last year - which had trashed my feet and nearly taken me out of the race. If I just took another three-hour rest now I'd be out of the worst of the weather, rested and ready to go on strongly when it broke! Yeah. Right.

So I went to my tent knowing full well what I was doing, but just not caring (though I did maintain the presence of mind to set the timer for three hours). As I slept and woke in the usual fitful cycles, I was aware enough to realize that the rain wasn't even really that bad. The sleep was good though and I was just being a complete baby about it.

I managed to snap out of it while there was still half an hour left on the timer, but it still made for the unplanned three-hour lap in the photo at the beginning of this report. I got back out on the course and worked through the rest of the night. I had about five-and-a-half hours left in the day, but I soon found I again wasn't up for fast movement. Miles in the wee hours were taking more than twenty minutes.

MileSplit TimePlanBehind

My plan would have had me reaching perhaps 144 miles by 9:00 A.M. Saturday. I managed only 132 instead. Those three hours I squandered probably wouldn't have entirely made the difference given the way I was moving during the night - but I'd have probably at least been at 140.

If only, if only, if only! I was behind the curve now, and if I was still going to reach 200 miles I would have to negative split the third day by a substantial amount.

Day 2: 50 miles. Two-day total: 132.

What About the Other McHenri?

The female division of Karen's 50K (right).
Karen and Larry Phillips' girlfriend, Nancy.
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
Karen's 50K had become an actual race. I'm not sure if it was Rick McNulty's evil plan, but the 50K that started with the 72-hour runners on Thursday consisted of Karen, one other woman, Nancy, who was also not a runner and planning to take the full 72 hours to do the 50K - and one guy.

In other words, the female division of Karen's race had two people in it - neither of whom had entered the race with great seriousness. I don't know if Nancy had a similar change in thinking, but along the way it occurred to Karen: "Hey, I could win my race!"

That had not been taken too, too seriously until Saturday morning. Karen had gone to bed with 26 miles - a two-mile lead. Nancy pulled a fast one on Karen though and started working again around five o'clock in the morning! Karen was already up at the hotel and starting to get ready (a process that normally takes her quite a bit of time) when she checked the live tracking and saw Nancy log her mile 25! And Karen knew there was a delay in the live updates too, so who knew but what Nancy was already about to catch her?!

Not quite 46 minutes later, Karen logged her mile 27 - 15:36 ahead of Nancy - and it was all over from there. It wasn't exactly an epic finish, as they both barely beat 48 hours for a 50K, but it had actually been a race and I'm pretty sure Karen had more fun doing it than she'd thought she would.

Mom reaches her goal!
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
Mom had started her 48-hour on Friday morning and had walked 25 miles before returning to the hotel for the night. It had been much easier than she had feared it might be. As the day went on her goals began to go up. Maybe instead of 50 miles she could go for 60? Clifford Lange had suggested she should do her age. Why not go for 75?

I don't think she thought really seriously about that idea, but I'm pretty sure she left the fairgrounds Friday evening figuring she could get a few more miles done in the morning before the 24-hour mark and then roll on into the second day and shoot for the moon.

When I finally saw her in the morning though, she was firmly ensconced in my comfy camp lounge chair and looking like she had no intention to move out of it for the rest of her life!

"How, ya doing, Mom?"

"I think I hurt myself! I had a terrible night! My hip hurt so bad I couldn't sleep, then I'd roll over and my other hip hurt! I spent a lot of time laying on the floor with my legs up on the chair."

She really wasn't going to go anywhere.

I tried not to make light of her condition or laugh (which wasn't too hard, because I'd been going for almost 48 hours at that point, and who has energy to laugh?) but it was clear she needed a nudge.

"Mom, remember back when I told you that you'd probably stiffen up overnight after the first day, but that if you made yourself get out there and get moving things would loosen up and you'd be able to go again?"


"This is what I was talking about."

"I don't know..."

All I could do was leave it at that and let her think about it and talk it over with Dad. I could see the wheels were turning though, and I know my Mom (I'm her kid after all). I figured she'd have to give it a try now.

Sure enough, a short time later when I came back around, Dad was by himself and Mom was back out on the course. At 50 miles she rang the PR bell, and then she tacked on two more miles for good measure. I am so proud of my Mom, and The McHenri were putting in a good showing all around.

Mom rings the PR bell
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)

Day Three - Salvaging What Honor Remains?
(9:00 A.M. Saturday - 9:00 A.M. Sunday)

Mile splits for the third day

The notion that I had a realistic plan to pick it up and cover 68 miles on the third day would be... well... wrong. It had been a long time since rest had made me feel rested. Now all it seemed to do was prevent further decline. Still, I needed to have a goal to motivate me, and it needed to be realistic but ambitious enough to not feel like yet more wimping out.

180 became that new mark - with the understanding that just two miles beyond lay an even split for the third day, and one mile beyond that (obviously) a negative split. Here's how the day played out in ten-mile chunks:

Mile Split Time "Plan" Behind
142 53:35:13 51:30:00 2:05:13
152 58:57:47 55:00:00 3:57:47
162 65:40:38 58:30:00 7:10:38
172 69:04:44 62:00:00 7:04:44
182 71:43:53 65:30:00 6:13:53
183 71:55:34

For the "Plan" column I've just put down the three-and-a-half-hour chunks I would have been aiming for if I was still on plan overall and going for my "60-" third-day split. It's clear from the mounting deficit through the day that I wasn't thinking like this at all at the time though.

I was just indulging every whim to stop and rest. Look at those down-times starting at about mile 142! I mean, okay, it was the middle of the day and it was hot (the hottest day of the three) - but really? That was the best I could do? Clearly not, when you look at the second half of the chart. It's like night and day different!

Wait - did I just say that? It was night and day.

I don't want to be too hard on myself looking back with 20/20 hindsight. It was very hot that day and everyone struggled with it. I actually did better than many. I decided to ring the PR bell again at 150. 149 was a distance PR in the event, but I decided I'd wait an extra mile because 150 had been the goal I'd missed last year. Every additional mile would be a new PR from here on. I pushed hard to get into the mid-150's before going down for my last long sleep - setting myself up with a good opportunity to work through the final nine hours to get the last 25 miles I'd need to reach my 180 fall-back goal.

From midnight (mile 155) onward you can see me struggling through the wee hours to bring my mile times down. By 3:00 A.M. I had conquered the death trudge and started running some sections of the course again. Breaks were few; I just kept moving. I allowed myself the one long break after mile 170 to rest before the final push - with four hours left on the clock and only ten miles to go.

The plan now was to let the dawn energy surge and the smell of the barn push and pull me along to the best I could do from this point on. It was time for Wilson and me to go to work!

Wilson, 2015
He's good for extra miles on the third day!
I don't know if it's because I'm strong or because I don't sell out enough earlier in the race - or if I've got Wilson with me - but for the second year I was moving better than pretty much all but the elite runners at this point. Mile times were pushing down toward 15:00 again as I just buckled down and resolved not to stop until I reached 180 - keeping in mind, too, that I wanted a budget to punch solidly through that goal. I watched the race clock closely, seeing that budget develop.

Things got a little interesting too, as I came through timing once with Bill Gentry. I hadn't gotten to know Bill very well last year, but we'd spoken more on the course this year. We greeted each other again and then Bill started bemoaning his evil luck.

"I just checked. I'm at 173 and Gary (Gary Ferguson) is at 170 and I know he's huntin' me like a dawg! I was hoping he'd be at 180-something so I wouldn't have to get all competitive."

I was at 173 at the time.

Now I knew that if Gary and Bill started shooting it out at this point I probably couldn't hang with them - especially knowing that Bill would likely crank out his trademark "Gentry Miles" - a fast 5K at the end - but I just kept my mouth shut and kept working. Who knew? Maybe I could sneak past one of them while they were busy worrying about each other!

When I checked the time as I logged mile 180 it was at 71:15-something. There was one last major goal to accomplish - really an important promise I had made to myself.

Last year I had totally wimped out at the end of the race. Instead of reaching for all I could get - instead of pushing just a little bit harder and maybe making my goal - I had purposely slowed down to burn time at the end, just not willing to push myself at all. I had finished with a whimper last year, and that decision had haunted me ever since. This year I swore that when the end came I would not leave a mile on the course that I could have gotten.

I'd been struggling hard to get mile times down to 15:00 ever since the last break but hadn't quite gotten there. Still the only way to look at my situation now and finish with honor was to see those not-quite-forty-five minutes left as three miles' worth of time: three miles at less than fifteen minutes each; three miles to get me to 51 miles for the day - one more than the previous day, and a negative split. Anything less would be another cowardly finish.

Mile Time Race Clock
181 0:14:56 71:30:35
182 0:13:18 71:43:53
183 0:11:41 71:55:34

I have never been more satisfied crossing the finish line of a race.

Bill and Gary, by the way, finished tied at 185.

Job well done. Mom and Dad, background.
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
Day 3: 51 miles. Three-day total: 183.

Post-Mortem - Lessons Learned

Breakfast of champions?
French toast and beer at 9:00 A.M. Time has no meaning by that point.
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
The mental breakdown late Friday night need not have been the end of my hopes for 200 miles. I let it be so.

I only needed another 68 miles in the last twenty-four hours. That is 68 miles at an average pace of 21:10 or better per mile. I could have walked three miles per hour for the entire time and beaten that goal by four miles - or rested for an hour and twenty minutes somewhere along the way. If I had pushed myself to run I could have bought more rest on top of that!

I can make excuses. You get behind your plan two days into a three-day race, your brain is addled, and you just don't think things through. You look at a negative split of that magnitude when your best effort was a full day ago and you've just finished dragging yourself through another and it's hard to convince yourself that it's possible.

I am a wuss.

I had to laugh at myself when I went back to look at Fred Murolo's pre-race advice to me and found this gem:

"As we get more sleep-deprived and dumber, it is easy to lose focus and time. A stop to change socks can turn into a 4 hour nap. It just happens. Your subconscious mind is not your friend in this. It induces the stops and the naps and lost time. It will also induce enough stopped time that your logical mind will then determine that the "A" goal is gone and you should back off. This is how your brain lies to you to save you the pain. This is what you have to fight for the last 48 hours." (Emphasis mine.)

Uh... bingo? He could not have better described exactly how I would blow my race! Sorry, Fred. You keep being this right every time and you're never going to get me to stop pestering you for advice, even if I continue to fail to listen well (at least I won't need any new advice for next year).

Like I said, I am a wuss...
...but apparently I am not the first wuss, and maybe there is hope for wusses!

Though I didn't reach my goal I consider this race to have been a success and a very positive experience and step forward. Here is what I accomplished:
  1. I learned first-hand the lesson Fred tried to teach me with his excellent advice. Learning the hard way is reinforced when somebody out there has the right to say, "I told you so."
  2. I ran to plan for thirty-nine-and-a-half hours.
  3. I pushed my 100-mile PR down by seventeen hours - to something at least half-reasonable.
  4. I earned a legit 100-mile (101-mile) buckle.
  5. I punched well through the 250-mile lifetime coin, and am well-positioned to join the 500 Club next year.
  6. I placed top-twenty (17th) in a major race and was legitimately 'running with the big dogs' for the first time. Being even with Bill and Gary at the end was something special to me.
  7. I kept my word to myself and didn't leave any miles on the course. I pushed at the end instead of backing off.
  8. I negative split the third day by one mile.
  9. I ran one hundred and eighty-three (183) (<<< did you notice that said 183?) miles!
That is, by the way, the 59th best performance all-time in this race (out of 218) according to the DUV ultramarathon statistics web site.

Lord willing, I will be back to 3 Days at the Fair next year, wiser, another year more experienced, and another year better trained. There are no guarantees in this type of racing, but now I really know what I need to do to reach 200 miles and I have a full year to prepare.

I can hardly wait! (And Mom is already thinking about coming back to earn her 100-mile coin,)


Rick at his usual post
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
A huge thank you to the dynamic duo of Rick and Jenn McNulty! Also the rest of the McNulty family, and all of the many volunteers who staffed the aid station and did so many other things to support the runners through such a long event! It's a privilege for us to be able to leave our lives behind and spend three days in this bizarre little world, and you all make it possible.

Jenn - not afraid to snuggy up to nasty runners
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)
Thank you to Bill Schulz who - in addition to crewing Josh Irvan to his course-record 293 miles (!) - cruised the course in reverse more times than I could count, throwing encouragement to each runner as he passed, and spent long hours at the aid station and timing area doing the same.

Bill Schulz was everywhere
(Photo credit - Paul Kentor)
Thanks, Paul Kentor, for volunteering and for taking and sharing so many excellent photos.

Thank you too, to all of the many other runners, some of whom I met and some I didn't - but all of whom inspired by their presence, their efforts, their positive attitudes and encouraging words. It's hard not to think of all of you as 'family.' There are so many amazing people I got to share time with, and I won't even try to name names, because I will surely forget someone.

You are all special people. Be well, and I hope I will see you again next year!

There are now three generations of McHenri ultrarunners.
(Photo credit - Karen McHenry)


  1. Great report, as always. I hope I can do his event next year, but I have some convincing to do with Jason....

    1. Thanks, Tiff! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help with the convincing.

  2. Pat I really enjoyed. Wish I could put together such wonderful race reports complete with pictures. But especially the graphs, I need to learn how to do that.

  3. I would like to be fit like your mom once I am 75. A great report.