Thursday, October 28, 2010
I have seen some great endurance feats by some incredibly talented and gutsy runners and Karl Meltzers Human Express is no exception. Below is the the story from Red Bull USA. Congratulations Karl, stunning achievement.
On the morning of Monday, October 25th, ultra-marathon runner Karl Meltzer crossed the finish line in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri after completing a 40 day, 2,064-mile trek along the actual Pony Express National Historic Trail, a feat no one has ever achieved before.
The project, dubbed Red Bull Human Express, began on September 15th in Sacramento, California. You read that right…That’s more than 50 miles a day, or the equivalent of two marathons daily - crossing both the Sierra and Rocky Mountains, deserts and the Great Plains all on foot.
Completing his journey a full week ahead of schedule, Meltzer accomplished what 99.99% of humans would never even attempt. On his final day, he ran more than 100 miles (four complete marathons!), and as an homage to the postal carriers before him, Karl personally hand-delivered a letter from the Mayor of Sacramento to the Deputy Mayor of St. Joseph.
Why did he do it, you ask?
“I’ve run a lot of 100-mile marathons, and this was an opportunity to challenge myself personally and professionally to do something no one else has ever done,” said Meltzer.
How did he do it?
“It took a lot of preparation, including about 5-7,000 calories of food each day, and half a can of Red Bull every 5 miles to keep Karl at his pace,” said Meltzer’s trainer Ted Meyer.
Red Bull Human Express came to life from Meltzer’s idea to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express Trail. In return, Meltzer was inducted into the Pony Express Museum on Monday, memorializing his journey. The City of St. Joseph officially declared October 25th “Karl Meltzer Recognition Day”.
By The Numbers
Total miles run: 2,064
Total calories burned: approx. 247,000 (equal to 281 pounds of food or 532 Big Macs)
Pairs of shoes worn: 7
Gallons of water consumed: 60
Cans of Red Bull consumed: 143
Number of pounds of bacon consumed: 14
Number of hours of music listened to: 440
Number of pounds Karl lost on his first day of running: 8
Highest temperature: 98°F
Lowest temperature: 30°F
Highest elevation: 11,138 ft.
Lowest elevation: 1,286 ft.
Total elevation ascended: 91,068 ft.
Total elevation descended: 98,567 ft.
Number of wrong turns: too many to count!
A Day On The Trail
4:50 a.m. – Wake up
5:15 a.m. – Blood test
6:00 a.m. – Breakfast, consisting of Karl’s personal crepe recipe and bacon
7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Run
5:30 p.m. – Heart monitor upload
6:00 p.m. – Ice bath
7:00 p.m. – Dinner, consisting of your typical red-blooded American diet - either fried chicken and potatoes or cheeseburgers and fries
8:00 p.m. – Review next day’s route
9:00 p.m. – Bed
Only one man holds claim to the record for the most 100-mile ultrarunning race wins (29), the world record for 100-mile single season victories (six), and course records at some the country’s most grueling enduro-running races. Karl Meltzer is that man. Meltzer is one of the world’s best in endurance mountain running – an extreme form of racing that makes a marathon look like a short sprint. The sure-footed, indefatigable athlete known as “Speedgoat Karl” now adds Red Bull Human Express to his list of accomplishments.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
But what the hey? I signed up for it so it was all or nothing. Upon arrival at the stadium I was very pleased to meet Mireille and Phillipe who were the organisers of the event and finally putting faces to the names was like meeting old friends. The total number of runners was to be 40 and tents were erected in rows to fit between 4-6 runners in each one, basically a space with a table and chair where we could store the mountain of energy gels, food, drinks and spare clothing necessary for an event of this magnitude. I just sat around with Johann chilling and sipping water whilst speaking to some of the athletes in the neighbouring tents. It struck me immediately that there were some novices (me for one) and some well-weathered hardcore 24hr racers. Holy guacamole, I had never felt as out of my depth in my life. The final half hour passed before I had time to realise that the start beckoned, it was time to face the clock.
The banter and jovial atmosphere at the start line was very different to the calm concentration I have witnessed at other events. It was almost like a self congratulatory ambiance of having made it to the start of a 24hr race, I felt privileged to be amongst these people and their encouragement over the next 1440 minutes would define my weekend.
(at 50km's and feeling strong)
It started predictably cautious and slow paced, who wants to burn themselves out early on anyway? I did not have a watch as my Garmin died a week before and I was only listening to my body clock. The first thing that struck me was the fact that the monotony of it was way beyond anything I had perceived, in one sense I was wishing the clock at the finish to tick faster so I would have less time on this human hamster-wheel, but in other ways I was covering ground whilst time moved slowly. Oh boy, this was my thinking after only two hours. I kept my pace the same and by averaging 9km's per hour was pretty happy that my goal could be achieved. It was clear even at this early stage who the major contenders were and I could only marvel at their rhythmic leg turnover and they lapped me as if I were going forward in reverse. Still, patience is the one thing you need and I was prepared to wait it out.
I decided after five hours on the run around to pull out the Ipod and get some tunes going, in retrospect it was a bad idea as my friend Graeme had advised me to save the tunes for times of struggle. Also the tempo of the rock music I had picked (Muse, Pearl Jam, Tool, Deftones etc) was pretty high beat and once I got it cranked up I could feel my step come alive, I was starting to cruise at the 50km mark and knew in the back of my mind I had too far to go before upping my lap speed. But continue to run with abandon I did for the next few hours and once I hit the 80km mark after about nine hours on the trot it all started to come undone.
Now just to tangentially sideline here its vital to let you know one fact. If you want to cover 100 miles one must have all nutritional needs completely dialed, locked in, set in stone and nailed to the f**cking wall an so on. This means ingesting a few hundred calories an hour.There are amazing gels and bars and drinks that will give you all you need but there is no real substitute for wholesome and natural fodder. And here in lay the start of my biggest problem, my lack of caloric intake was bankrupting my body and quickly consigned my effort to a quarter of what it had previously been operating at. I had hit the wall in spectacular fashion and any attempt to pass anything by my lips was met with doubled-over retching. Water became impossible to hold down, every gulp erupting back up like some Vesuvius-type-geyser. And so, hunched over the edge of the track spewing and gagging until I could feel the colour drain from my face, I resigned myself to the fact that my race was pretty much over.
I spent the next two hours trying to make it to the 100km mark, I have previously covered 100km in twelve hours but when I limped, crawled and wobbled, (stinking of vomit) past the start/finish at two am and after fifteen hours on the move, I wanted to die. I cursed myself for the mistakes I had made, for going ahead with this foolish endeavour knowing deep down I was not ready for it, my mind was a powder keg of raw emotion and I went straight to my lap counter and said "Je suis finis". Done and dusted at two in the morning, my body broken. This searing, punishing feeling of defeat permeating every fibre of me. I pulled out my sleeping bag beside the track and wrapped up warm as the other brave souls ploughed on. My plan? get up and get the hell out of there at first light.
What transpired after six hours of sleep over rode any negativity and it showed me why quitting is a concept I have no desire to become acquainted with.
And so, after twitching, shivering and continuing to be sick inside my sleeping bag I emerged from my cocoon at eight am feeling slightly stiff and guilty. The guilt coming from that fact that as I lay passed out the majority of the runners braved the night and steadily added distance to their tally. In my pub crawling days I was always the first one to say to my friends "sleeping is cheating". The need to atone for my rest fired me up and I still had two and a half hours left (after drinking some water, changing my clothes and eating a few slices of ham) and thought I might as well give it lash. The next two hours were so joyous and pure that the runners high took on new meaning. I found my legs on auto-pilot for about and hour and realistically thought that if I can't make four marathons I might just scrape three! I saw my buddy Sandy hobbling along and was in awe of the fact that he was not quitting and had not slept at all, his resilience gave me a boost and in him I knew I had found a kindred spirit. We chatted briefly and decided that with a half an hour to go we would team up and relentlessly push ourselves to the edge. And that's exactly what we did. A voice came over the loudhailer and proclaimed that ten minutes remained, Sandy blew past me so fast I wasn't sure my voice could travel fast enough to catch him and ask him to wait up. But he was teasing me and when I did catch him we banded together and stride for stride started belting the shit out of our lap times. I think that we probably knocked 5-7 seconds off each lap until we were cruising 1:50 a lap. When I asked Sandy how he was doing it his response was "It's automatic at this stage". The gun was fired for the last minute and I was galloping so hard that I could feel my insides getting ready for an encore. Luckily I held it down long enough to cross the line with Sandy's hand in mine (video:Sandy Simoneau)
I think it would have been easy for me to look at the negatives and where I went wrong but I finished faster than I ever imagined and covered 125.6 km's. It may have been well below my projected goal but for a first pop at this discipline I am happy enough. I am happy because I had to rethink my attitude and re-wire my thought process in order to climb a wall that there seemed to be no way over. No amount of quotes or inspiring anecdotes can get you over that slump, you just have to bite the bit and push through the pain until it becomes a familiar agony. I still aim to break a hundred miles but I am just not sure that on a 400 metre track is the way to do it. I salute Michael who was a deserved winner and it must be noted that when I was at my lowest he actually stopped at midnight (in second place, seven km's behind the leader) and placed a hand on my back to see if I needed help. He could have chased down the front runner but instead was there to help a fellow competitor. Chapeau. To the organisers I thank you profusely for the atmosphere of kindness that made it more than just a race. I am hoping I will see you all again before too long. Congratulations to Michael BIARD for the win with 203.2 km's and the female winner Samia TIFEST for her amazing race of 181.8 km's. The weather on Saturday was extremely wet and windy and kudos to all who gave it their best.
The words "See you round the bend" don't quite cover it this time ;)