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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

24 Hours of HOSTELity

Dahlonega, GA - January 16-17 -  A .65 mile dirt loop trail with over a 100+ feet of elevation gain per loop with the main aid station at the Hiker Hostel.  The course seemed to be specifically designed to make even the sturdiest of hearts waver.  It wasn't just the elevation gain per loop, but the fact that with rolling hills and switchbacks, it made it hard to maintain a consistent speed.  In fact, nobody had yet seen anyone finish a 100 miles on this course!!

And here I was, aiming to be the first.


4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks with a generic sock covering it
Nike Compression Shorts
Adidas shorts
Long Sleeved Underarmour Compression Shirt
2 T-shirt
2 Long sleeved shirt
2 light jacket (generic)
Heavy jacket (generic)
Asics running gloves
OR PL 400 Sensor Mitts
Petzl NAO Headlamp
Garmin Forerunner 310 XT
KT tape
Ben Gay


Each lap would be .65 miles, so I figured that the best thing at first for me to do was to hydrate and eat every 2 laps until I noticed that I was dehydrated or something.  I would switch out with water and pedialyte and keep that until night time, when I would supplement coke in the mix and then I would add Red Bull before I became exhausted.  Every hour, I would take a swig of pickle juice, and eat PB&J cracker sandwiches every 30 minutes... but like all plans, things were bound to go crazy... after all, it was a 24 hour race, and ANYTHING can happen, so I reminded the crew that these were only guidelines.


I had the fortune of running the 12 hour race last year, and was mentally prepared for the course and how I would feel after the first half, so all I needed was to make sure to run in the 'designated areas' that I preordained (all downhills and most easy uphills while walking all the steep climbs).  In order to get down the extremely steep hill, it was important that I run extremely fast so that I don't tear up my quads by running too slowly and expend too much energy stopping myself, and on the uphills, I needed to pick and choose my battles because I wanted to finish the race with absolutely nothing left to give... and what would be the point if I can't run any more downhills but had more than enough energy to continue up?  It was all about a perfect balance and being able to adjust to whatever came my way.  (side note:  every 3 hours, I changed shoes...  my feet definitely needed the relief it provided).  The most important thing, however, was my state of mind.  My theme for this year is JOY and it was necessary that I implement that in my running... which is why I told my crew to randomly ask if I was enjoying the race and having fun.  Keep my mind in check.  Joy meant that I was focusing on my purpose, and without that purpose, I would not have the strength.  I was made to run, and I enjoy every moment, both good and bad, because running fulfills me.  Not only was it important for me to have that overflowing joy, but it was important that those around me also received the fruit and so every person I met on the trail, I made it a goal to encourage them.  Share the joy~

Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
-Joseph Campbell


Speaking of crews, I had 3 wonderful ladies come along with me to help support me during that race, and in all honesty, I could not have finished as well as I did without each of them helping me out every single lap I went through.  As a seasoned runner, I was a little too relaxed and didn't fully prepare them with what may come and they had to deal with me at my worst and continued to support me as I fought against the inner demons that held me down in the night.  Camille, Mekinna, and Claire (all my cross country runners from Johnson University) came to support me and experience the ultra community, and made sure that I was properly taken care of, both physically and psychologically.  They made sure to encourage me and relay messages from other people who knew I was running throughout the race to keep me going.

and without further ado, the Race Report!

First 6 Hours:

Arriving 10 minutes before the race started, everything was a blur, but what I do remember was that the starting temperature was a bit too low so I kept my light jacket on as I ran the first lap.  The first lap was a good warm up, getting myself ready for the race, and by the time I finished the first lap, I threw off my light jacket and continued on, leading the pack of crazy runners!  The second lap, I came through and threw off the long sleeved shirt, leaving me with just the underarmour and t-shirt, and continued on... but this time, at a little more conservative pace, and Sean passed by and started leading the pack.  I was slightly alarmed because he looked good and seemed like a great runner, but I came back to and focused on my race.  This wasn't about beating everybody.  It was all about giving everything I had in the 24 hours I would be on the course.  After the first hour and a half to two hours, I noticed that I wasn't sweating as much, and as that's a sign of dehydration, I decided right then and there that I would drink water every lap except on every 4th lap, where I would drink pedialyte.  Proper hydration is important no matter where you are in the race.  I also threw away the notion of eating every 30 minutes and instead, ate two crackers every other lap until I felt like I had enough in my belly for the time being.  For the first six hours, I was constantly worried about the downhill because it was really steep.  Every time I went down, I felt as if I was going to slip on the mud and fall, but fortunately, I was able to make it through without falling.  As an ultra-marathon required a lot of mental strength, it was important for me to focus on each segment while recognizing I'm running a full race, so for the first 2 hours, I focused on taking it easy.  I knew when to run and when to walk, so I was confident in what I could do, and took it little by little.  After 2 hours, I felt like I understood my fitness level and what I was capable of, and decided that I would kind of go for a 50 lap average in the first 6 hours, and then go from there.  At about 4 hours, I was still second with 32 laps, but told my crew I was feeling great and was going to little by little focus on catching up with Sean.  By the end of 6 hours, I had finished about 49 laps I think, and my mind was in a good place and I was enjoying the race and ready for the turnaround.

Second 6 Hours:

Every 6 hours, the course switches directions and I knew I enjoyed this direction so much more than the way we started because I would get to run most of the course as soon as I got to the highest point of the course and so focusing on catching up with Sean, little by little, I built speed.  Without focusing on the full 24 hours and focusing on smaller goals, a load was lifted off my mind and it became a really fun game.  I would find someone on the course ahead of me and look at my watch and see how many seconds behind them I was and see how long it took me to catch up to them (At 6pm, I added coke to the drink mix and started wearing the headlamp and kept on going).    With all the switchbacks, I was able to play this 'game' and continue running around and making up ground until at some point I caught up to Sean and before I knew it, I was headed towards breaking my 12 hour course record for the 12 hour race!  Enjoying the moment I was in, I was able to relax and run well and continue at a decent pace and was WAY ahead of schedule to break a 100 miles!!  In fact, at that point, I changed my goal from running a 100 miles to getting 160 laps in, which would put me at 104 miles, which would be a pretty awesome goal, and with 80 laps in by about 10 hours into the race (considering the difficulty of the course), I knew I might be able to make it to that point.  After beating my 12 hour course record with 30 minutes left, and so I felt that I could get to 94 with no problem.... however, that all changed on my 95th lap when one of the 12 hour runners wanted to make it another lap after the cut off.  At the pace he was going, he probably wouldn't have been able to make it and I really wanted him to succeed, so I told him to follow me and pushed the pace and trucked it all the way to the end, finishing with about 15 seconds remaining.

Third 6 Hours:

After having such a great run and making a PB for the HOSTELity's 12 hour course, I had no immediate goals and so things started to fall apart.  The headlamp I put on at about 6pm begin to go out at about 10pm because I accidentally put it on the wrong setting, and fortunately, Vikena lent me her headlamp, and I continued on... but not feeling good.  My crew told me I was walking like I was dizzy and tired and so close to 11pm, I asked for my iPhone and Mekinna walked a third of a lap with me as I got the music ready.  I was progressively feeling worse, not sure if I didn't have enough caffeine in me or not, but either way, things weren't going right, and at a little after midnight, I felt completely wiped out that I stopped and changed my clothes, hoping that it would make me feel better.  It did feel better, as the clothes I had on were sweaty and gross, but still not enough to get me out of the funk, and then after that, Vikena's headlamp also ran out in the next lap, but fortunately, Claire had her headlamp that her dad bought for her (Thanks so much!!) and it provided light for me for the rest of the race!  My crew knew that I was going through a tough time, but they kept on encouraging me and did their best to bring me out, so it was definitely the toughest part of the race.

Final 6 Hours:

At this point, my watch was running out of batteries and I needed my watch just to keep track of time so I could keep a decent pace... but with everything moved around, the watch was lost and I wasn't able to tell how fast I was going!  Mentally it was devastating, and I didn't know what to do... except to go on, because I knew that no matter how I felt, I needed to press on, so running without knowing how fast I was going, I kept trucking.  I meant to take a look at the time after every lap, but most of the time, kept on forgetting to do that, or blankly stare at the clock because I wasn't computing what it was saying.  Also, for the first time, I experienced hallucinations of my crew running around in the woods.  I knew they weren't, but man, I must have been so tired to even think that.  By then, both quads were in pain from the downhill running that I could barely keep a good pace and I did my best to push through because every lap was getting me closer to 100 miles, which was 154 laps.  Sean looked so much better towards the end of the race and encouraged me to keep on trucking and so I ran with him for a lap right at around 6am, til I had to switch shoes for the last time... it was such a relief to switch shoes again and get back out there, but my quads were getting worse and worse, and for some reason, I kept calling them Chris (who names their quads Chris?) and thinking about why I was thinking about it kept me distracted long enough to continue shuffling forward, running each lap somewhere between 10-15 minutes (compared to the sub 7's I would crank out at the beginning of the race.... haha) and though at first, I thought I may just be able to get to 100 miles before the 24 hours were up, every lap, I forced myself to focus on THAT lap and do my best and continued to surprise myself on what speed I was getting it in, and finished 100 miles in 22:10!!  It was a glorious feeling as nobody had run that far in 24 hours, so for a moment, I forgot about the pain as I received the first 100 mile buckle HOSTELity has seen and then I continued on towards my personal goal of 160 laps... 4 more miles.  Continuing to shuffle run for 3 laps, I needed 3 more laps to finish, but my legs were shot.  By then, the sun had come up and I was feeling a bit better (I didn't think so, but my crew said so, so I believe them) and so I asked if my wonderful crew would like to view the course with me and walk the last 3 together as a team.  They were more than happy to do that and so we chatted the last hour of the race, talking about how everything went and how Chris was in pain, they climbed the hill with me, understanding how hard it was for me to do that the other 150+ times, and continued talking about what we all went through in the race.
It was really a great bonding time, and even though I felt like a jerk during the race, always wanting drinks, foods, etc, they were so helpful and told me it wasn't as bad as I thought and that was when I was absolutely grateful to have these 3 come and support me during this run.  I was able to muster up all the strength I could gather, finished the 3 laps with my amazing crew, and finished 104 miles at the 24 Hours of HOSTELity.  As I crossed the finish line, I raised my hands in victory because it truly was a brutal course, and with the help of everyone there, I conquered it.


First of all, I could not have finished the race as well as I did without an amazing crew.  They kept on pushing me, despite how I felt, and I firmly believe that had they not been there, I wouldn't have been able to get 100 miles in during the race!  But because they were there, reminding me to enjoy the run, and understand that the pain I was going through was only temporary.  They continued to believe in me when I was feeling low, encouraging me in whatever way they could, dealing with 'grumpy Sho' and all with a smile on their faces.  Never for a second did they doubt I could do this, and I am positive that that energy passed on to me throughout the run.  Secondly, I couldn't have gotten through this race without the Race Directors, both Josh and Leigh Saint were very supportive and wanted me to succeed.  They made sure everything was prepared right, marking trails, food and drinks, everything was amazing!  There were also people like Philip, Vikena, and many other encouraging runners that really encouraged me throughout the race and really, everyone there was part of the puzzle piece to success.  It's great to have a family of runners supporting each other to do their best and that's what this race had.

Records are meant to be broken, and I'm sure someone out there will come down and break this record eventually, but the victory and strength I gained through this race was immeasurable.  Being the first race of 2016, it was a fantastic start, and I know I'm on the right track towards my ultimate goal.  Team USA for the 24 Hour World Championships... but hey, I'm totally going to enjoy every step of the way!

Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
-Greg Anderson