It was 3 a.m. and after 3 hours of no food or water, running into a headwind at about 25 degrees. Katerina Claiborne, Tony Cesario and I found ourselves eating on the floor of the first gas station we passed in what seemed like an eternity. Katerina was shoveling munchos into her mouth like her life depended on it. I reasoned with them: "Listen, I'll support you guys in whatever you decide, but I've done this before, I'm bonked and miserable and we were re-routed so we can't really do what we set out to do. A bed sounds real good. It's getting colder, we're moving slower, we're all dehydrated and this isn't any fun. We have about 15 hours to go. Then again, it'd be nice to finish. You decide." I tried to lay out our options as diplomatically as I could. I would have bet you every dollar to my name that we were done for the night. I was done.
The second annual World's Longest Turkey Trot took a reverse route this year - Milwaukee to Chicago. The distance was approximately 95 miles. Three basically insane people decided to take part this year (up a full person from last year). The event was self-supported. (Last year we had a dedicated crew person for the last 60 miles - this year we weren't so lucky). We ran mostly on roads, jumping from inattentive cars to the shoulder of country roads. We almost got hit by a car on a bridge (this was before the whole "please run me over" sentiment kicked in so it left us breathless). At one point the police instructed us to get into the car and bypass a section of the route due to two (2) shootings taking place along the route while we were running.
We did have some pacers in the night (Susan and Brian Smock) who entertained us with their stories and shenanigans...
but for the most part, it was a cold suffer-fest on rock hard concrete. Leading up to the bottom at the gas station I would say we had fun about 20% of the time, and suffered for 30% of the time. Oh, the other 50% of the time (13 hours total over the event) was spent in restaurants eating, with wet clothes hanging everywhere and electronics charging wherever we could find space.
No. We're finishing. Katerina said. It broke my heart. I was so ready for bed. But she had a point. You see, we aren't particularly fast (most of the time) but we have a reputation for doing really hard things, and often times finishing them. The Turkey Trot isn't about the running. No one really cares how long it takes. There's no medal or buckle at the end. The only reward you get (other than the bizarre look on people's faces when you explain what you are doing) takes place when you look back and say "Did that really happen?"
Once we had no choice but to finish we made the best of it. We even had a few more pacers along the way (Jen DeSalvo and Julie Bane).
In all, we finished in 34 hours. We ran roughly 85 miles. We ate three breakfasts, a pizza, a fancy burger, some amazing soup and almost 30 peanut butter cups. We mostly carried all of our own gear.
My Strava data, with many, many fails, can be found here:
Now that I've done this trot in both directions I'm prepared to crew it next year. So watch my FB/Twitter if you are interested. Trust me, it is MUCH easier when crewed.
Things I learned: concrete sucks. Hydration is trickier in the cold. Aid stations and crews are worth their weight in gold. I have the best friends in the world.
There is something uniquely difficult about goals without rewards. They really make you dig deep. Without the possibility of an award, a PR or a crowd at the finish you find yourself with only one reason to continue. Because you said it out loud.