Last spring I got roped into doing the Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge with my friends, in-person and virtually, as we stared down the unknown of the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenge involves running 5.2 miles every four hours for 24 hours – a total of 6 runs and 31.2 miles. It was fun to challenge ourselves and have something to do, but we definitely all suffered. I didn’t really intend to do it again. But fate had other plans, and on what was arguably the coldest night thus far of 2021 I began round 2 of the Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.
The past two times I have done a 24 hour challenge (Yeti in April 2020 and my own 24 hour challenge in October 2019) I have always started in the morning around 6 or 7 AM. After much debate, I decided to start this challenge at 7:15 PM. This means my runs were at 7:15 PM, 11:15 PM, 3:15 AM, 7:15 AM, 11:15 AM, and 3:15 PM. I was curious to see how I would feel when doing my final 3 runs in the daylight. The trick was that I had worked all day leading up to starting the challenge and I wasn’t sure how much sleep I would get overnight.
Run 1 – 7:15 pm / Bisset Park / 20 degrees (windchill 14)
We got snow the night before I started the challenge, and there was some snow and a fair amount of ice lingering on the paved trails and on the road at the park. That made the run a little tricky, but it didn’t get in my way too much. I was happy that I managed to dress appropriately for this run and I wasn’t too cold.
My goal going into this was to beat my time before, meaning I needed to average better than 12:07 pace overall. I was a little quick out of the gate, and even using an 8 minute run/2 minute walk interval I averaged 11:11 pace. I hoped that wouldn’t be my downfall later.
The full moon looked so cool and it made things so bright with the snow!
Post-run food: Half serving of Tailwind recovery drink.
Run 2 – 11:15 PM / Random Plowed Parking Lot / 19 degrees (windchill 12 degrees)
Barry joined me for half of this run, and we ran laps around the middle school parking lot. It was clear of ice and snow, which was nice. Once again, I dressed appropriately for the weather, which was a big factor on such a cold night.
This was another quick run for me, with an average pace of 11:08.
Post-run food: Instant cheese grits and a homemade peanut butter oat ball (aka “anger balls”)
Run 3 – 3:15 AM / Treadmill
I tried to nap before this run, but I only managed to doze a little before it was time to get up again. It was hard to get going, but once I did I felt alright. This run was a bit slower, 12:09 pace, but overall I was still coming in well under my goal of sub-12:07 pace so far.
This run played some mind games with me. During my past 24 hour challenges, the early morning treadmill run marked the end of the challenge. But this time I was only halfway. One thing I know is no matter when you start, that 2-3 AM run is a bear. But my next run would bring daylight and I hoped that would help me going forward.
Post-run food: Instant cheese grits and a half serving of Tailwind recovery.
Run 4 – 7:15 AM / Randolph Park / 16 degrees (windchill of 5 degrees)
Once again, I attempted to nap before this run. And once again I only managed to doze and I felt so sleepy when I got up. As I started my run, it was so cold outside. But the cold combined with the sunrise really helped me wake up.
This run passed by fairly quickly and I finished with a solid 11:18 average pace. I was still on track to beat my time from last year’s challenge, as long as I didn’t fall apart!
Post-run food: Two scrambled eggs on a tortilla and hot coffee!
Run 5 – 11:15 AM / Bisset Park / 24 degrees (straight up balmy)
My legs were feeling pretty tired and sore by this point. But after the first half mile or they loosened up and I kept my pace under a 12 minute average. I could smell the barn and knew the end was in sight.
I was feeling really sleepy at this point, and I switched over to drinking caffeinated Tailwind during my run.
Post-run food: Half serving of Tailwind recovery and instant cheese grits.
Run 6 – 3:15 PM / Randolph Park / 31 degrees and sunny
Everything from my abs and lower back down to my ankles was sore at this point, but I started this run ready to give it hell. It hurt so bad, but I gave it my all to make this run my fastest out of all of them. I was really surprised to run under an 11 minute average pace!
Overall, I met my goal of beating my previous time. Last time, I finished in 6:18:02. This time, I knocked nearly 26 minutes off, finishing in 5:52:37! I can’t believe I ran under 6 hours. I know my Marine Corps Marathon training in the fall was awhile ago, but I think it helped me improve my strength and endurance.
This 24 hour challenge went the best out of the three that I’ve done. I think a big factor was starting in the evening. Finishing in the daylight gave me such a boost – something I’m going to remember at my next 24 hour event or when I eventually take on a 100 miler. I also had a good handle on nutrition this time. I can stomach a variety of foods during an ultramarathon, but I have learned that during one of these stop and go-type events, I can’t eat too much and I have to stick to simple foods. You’ll notice that I primarily subsisted on Tailwind and grits, and that worked really well for me. I also think I managed the cold really well by dressing appropriately and getting out of my sweaty running clothes immediately after each run. Running 6 times in 24 hours produces so much laundry, especially when it’s cold!
As in the past, this was a challenging, but fun, event. It’s always good to get outside of your comfort zone and see what you can accomplish. I’m excited to see how my training goes this spring and how I do at my two races in June!