John Brower: an ultra-distance run every weekend… for 17 straight weekends!

The streak:

1/11 – Blues Double (52.4M) – 7:26
1/18 – Feral Cat 50k (32.1M) – 5:34
1/25 – Chuckles 50k (31.5M) – 4:14
2/2 – Flat @ss 50k (32.1M) – 4:43
2/8 – 10 Hours of WTF (56M) – 9:10
2/15 – Moonlight Madness 50k (32M) – 6:19
2/22 – Mt. Cheaha 50k (31.5M) – 5:15, 11th OA
3/1 – MS50 (50M) – 7:43, 3rd OA
3/8 – GFL (57.9M) – 18:48
3/15 – Music City Ultra (31M) – 4:49, 2nd OA
3/22 – 12 Hours of Belhaven (68.1M) – 11:31
3/29 – FUU (50.6) – 9:37
4/5 – Capt. Hickenlooper Memorial Ultra (32.4M) – 4:47
4/12 – .87-mile Ultra (40M) – 7:08
4/18 – Moonlight Madness 50k (32M) – 5:03
4/25 – GFC (47M) – 10:02 moving, 11:05 total
5/3 – Run for Kids 12-hour (65.62M) – 11:59:30, 2nd OA

Total miles run from 1/11 to 5/3: 1449.4

 

The details:

The streak…what was I thinking?

It began with a simple text message from a buddy, asking if I wanted to join him for a pre-running of the Mississippi Blues Marathon, starting at 3am. “Sure,” I thought… “why not? I will see you there!” …little did I know that he intended of bailing after round one, and there I would be, tackling the official marathon at 7am without him. Well, not being one to back out from an opportunity to run with my buddy, I jumped into it, and took on the double.

During my run, I came up with this great idea… I realized that the Thunder Rock 100 was about 4 months out, and wouldn’t it be great to try and do an ultra-distance run every weekend, leading up to the last long run of the Grand Canyon! What better way to come off a severe strain of my achilles (which led to a DNF at Pinhoti in November) than to jump head first into such a well-though out, well- designed training plan.

But I knew that if I could pull it off, I would be in the best shape of my life, affording me the opportunity to perform with confidence at Thunder Rock. So off I went!

 

1/11 – Blues Double (52.4M): 7:26 (3:45 on 1st/3:41 on 2nd)

It’s always fun to participate in my adopted hometown of Jackson’s Blues Marathon. Always a class-act event…not too big, but not too small. I know the course well, and it was even more fun being able to do the first loop with my buddy Reed, a cancer survivor. Our run started in the rain with solid, uplifting banter with digressed quickly into meaningless fodder. Soon my time with Reed was up, and the gun went off on the official run. I felt well for a majority of the run, besides the time around mile 43 when I puked…no worries though…I dealt with it and finished up with a negative split from my first go-around.

1/18 – Feral Cat 50k (32.1M) – 5:34

I first did this run a few years ago. I get dropped off 32 miles from home, and find my way back. My buddy and I were dropped off by my wife on the side of the Natchez Trace Parkway, just outside of Clinton, MS. We carried our supplies with us, and made our way down the trace to Ridgeland, where we picked up the multipurpose trail to Pear Orchard Rd.

After meandering through neighborhoods, we wound up on Lakeland, just a few miles from home. I looked back at my buddy, and seeing that he was gonna make it, I went ahead and pressed on the gas til I hit my front porch. No real concerns with this one…I felt a bit tired, but contributed it to the two weekends of pavement.

1/25 – Chuckles 50k (31.5M) – 4:14

Being tired of road running, I switched it up. I headed to the Ridgeland Mountain Bike park, and took on the Chuckles 50k. This run I did solo, and it consisted of loops of the about 3 mile trail. I felt great during the run, and fueled properly the whole time. What a difference proper fueling, and a change in surface can have! This was my best 50k time in a while.

2/2 – Flat @ss 50k (32.1M) – 4:43

As nice as the previous weekend had been, this was to be a nightmare of a run. First of all, I decided to do repeats on a stretch of a levee that runs parallel to the Pearl River. It measures a little over a mile one way… and my plan was to go at it… back and forth… til I got my mileage. Oddly enough, I found several friends to come out and run parts of it with me! As the day approached, I realized that there would be no escaping the coming deluge, as it was forecasted to rain non-stop all day.

Never one to back down from the elements, I went at it… and it poured down rain the whole time. Let me just say for those of you that may not be familiar with the levee, it is flat as a board, and totally exposed… no trees, and nothing to block the wind. Just rain. My buddies did make it out for some of the run, and even my wife joined me. This certainly helped, but by the time I was on my last few miles, there I was… alone… on the levee… in the rain. “What am I doing?”

2/8 – 10 Hours of WTF (56M) – 9:10

Another great idea, spawned from my buddy who is as equally creative as I am at inventing runs. We headed to Bonita Lakes in Meridian, MS, to run about 4.5 mile loops around the park. The loops have some pretty acute uphills, which turned pretty dang steep during the course of the day. The footing is solid, as it presents more like double-track, or jeep road, with the remnants of pea gravel.

The run was pretty routine, and I hit my fastest miles at about mile 37, which gave me great confidence for my runs going forward. I finished up in 9:10, knowing I didn’’ want to blow it out trying to get in another loop under the ten hour mark.

2/15 – Moonlight Madness 50k (32M) – 6:19

Originally scheduled to start at midnight, this was a simple enough run on the streets of Madison, MS, incorporating the multipurpose trail as well. I actually talked my wife into joining me for the entirety of the run, and a few buddies originally said they would come out for the festivities too. The plan was to walk a mile and run a mile, til we had 32 miles. Easy enough. As the midnight hour approached, however, I became more and more sleepy, and as my eyelids closed, I posted that the run was postponed until 8am.

No worries, as my friends had decided not to come out anyways. My wife and I completed our workout about 2pm, and even though we never saw the moon, the name stuck.

2/22 – Mt. Cheaha 50k (31.5M) – 5:15, 11th OA

I did manage to schedule a few legitimate races in the streak, one of them being the Cheaha. I knew the course well, as I have done extensive amounts of running on the Pinhoti trail, both in training and in racing. I love this trail, and Todd Henderson does a top notch job putting on all his races. The course was beautiful. I maintained a pretty average pace during the majority of the race, pushing it on a few sections I know well.

By the time the climb up Blue Hell came, however, I was feelin’ it! I struggled to maintain any sort of respectable posture, as it was hands-on-thighs, grasp-at-trees time for me. The top couldn’t come soon enough! Finally I broke through the darkness and was on the home stretch. Man, was I glad to call it a day!

3/1 – MS50 (50M) – 7:43, 3rd OA

No rest for the weary! This is a race I do every year, swearing that I won’t do it again. But the hometown pull of my buddies Randy and Dennis keep me coming back, not to mention the free entry I keep getting being in the top 3! I stuck to my guns during the course of this run, and tried to run at an even keel. I ran the first loop or so with my buddy Ed, and had to let him go, seeing that his legs were turning much better than mine.

As the sun rose heat of the day increased, folks began to struggle… me included! I worked hard to stay hydrated and fueled, and managed to hang on, passing up a few hurting folks, but not able to make up all the lost time on the leaders. I managed to creep into 3rd…looks like I’ll be back next year!

3/8 – GFL (57.9M) – 18:48

Too much to say about this one… I will have the memories forever! This is a loop in the mountains of north Georgia, connecting the Benton Mackaye Trail, the Duncan Ridge Trail, and The Appalachian Trail. My buddy and I left Jackson, MS at 5am on Friday, were on the Georgia Loop by 3pm, and got done the next morning (Saturday), got in the car, and drove back to Jackson. I was up for over 40 hours… but man, what an experience! By far the toughest 50+ miles out there… the DRT is no joke!

3/15 – Music City Ultra (31M) – 4:49, 2nd OA

Time for another race! I saw this one via Ultrasignup.com, and knew it was a must-do. The course profile was wicked, and the race descriptions sounded right up my alley. My wife and I took on the challenge, and we were not letdown. The climbs were freaking HUGE, the downhills felt as if you were getting ready to just roll down, and most of the time you felt like you were doing the Barkley… no real semblance of a trail anywhere outside the occasional confidence markers, and pitches without switchbacks… not to mention the briars, and numerous creek crossings!

This was not a day, nor course for the weary or faint at heart, thus the low number of participants and finishers. A big thanks to Hardwin for putting this on… I will be back! And congrats to Bev for being first female!

3/22 – 12 Hours of Belhaven (68.1M) – 11:31

I helped put on a race this year called the Fondren Urban Ultra, which is run in the Fondren neighborhood here in Jackson. My plan was to run an RD version the weekend before, so that I could be more available during the race. However, my plans were thwarted by a “color” run on the course, as well as it being on the “zippidy do dah” parade route. So, I decided to go after the 12 hours of Belhaven, on a 5k loop I have that starts and finishes at my house. The loop is harder and has more vert, so I saw it as a good substitute.

I had some company for a majority of the run, and this kept my pace and my spirits up. However, I never planned on running more than about 50 miles… and I didn’t fuel for going any further. By the time I had hit 100k, I decided to try and stretch the effort to 70. With my friends gone, and the sun bearing down, I bonked huge style. I was reduced to doing the zombie walk for the last mile and a half, resting on the curb following every 200 yards or so.

I was actually hoping someone would stop and see what was wrong with me, and give me a ride. At one point, I looked up, and I had no idea where I was, or which way to go to get home… even though I live there, and was less than a mile away! Needless to say, I was veeeery glad when this one was over!

3/29 – FUU (50.6) – 9:37

I was the RD for this one… still got in a few miles though. It was great to see so many locals come out and participate, and to go farther than they ever thought that they could! What a privilege to be a part of such an awesome day!

4/5 – Capt. Hickenlooper Memorial Ultra (32.4M) – 4:47

A loop in the Vicksburg Military Park, starting and finishing at the statue of the ever-present Capt. Hickenlooper! The loop was just over a mile long, with one steep downhill and one long uphill… perfect training! My wife once again joined me for the fun, and boy did we have a great time (sarcasm). The day was deceivingly warm, but I had learned my lesson, and stayed nice ‘n’ fueled up! My plan was to steadily run the uphill part, and hammer the downhill part, so as to expose my legs to some good stress. I stuck to the plan, and before I knew it, it was quitting time! But as any good glutton for punishment would do, I quickly took off on one last loop, cutting it in half by going cross-country up the real steep pitch, and the most direct route back to the statue.

4/12 – .87-mile Ultra (40M) – 7:08

This was a rough run. I really didn’t feel right until about mile 35… dunno if that’s good or not. I just couldn’t find a rhythm. I had several friends come out periodically and join me for loops on the .87 mile trail at the Ridgeland Mountain Bike park. This loop has right at 100 feet of vertical each loop, so maybe that added to my stress…combined with the cumulative fatigue of the weeks prior. No worries though! I stayed fueled up, and despite numerous occasions of talking myself into quitting, I persevered, and made it through 46 loops!

4/18 – Moonlight Madness 50k (32M) – 5:03

A replay of the first Moonlight Madness run, except I did it solo this time, and decided to run the first ten miles, then get into a pattern of walking one mile, and running two. My mind was elsewhere on this run, knowing that the following weekend I would be at the Grand Canyon. I ran into one of my buddies that was going on the trip while I was out there, and we had a good time thinking and wondering what the following weekend would bring…I was ready to hit the canyon! But I stayed with my game plan, and stayed patient, and despite all the walking and jogging, still managed to get in right at five hours…I could tell I was excited!

4/25 – GFC (47M) – 10:02 moving, 11:05 total

This was the third time I have been fortunate enough to make a go at the Canyon. I have tried to establish a tradition of a Man-cation every other April to the Grand Canyon…

See John’s 2014 Grand Canyon R2R2R trip report HERE.

5/3 – Run for Kids 12-hour (65.62M) – 11:59:30, 2nd OA

Maybe not. I had planned to make the trip to the RFK with my wife, who was there to defend her title. I was gonna goof off in the Oak Mtn State Park, doing some light running and hiking while she dominated. But then the RD, David, sent me a free invite, and I just couldn’t say no! So there I was, a week removed from the GFC and 17 weeks into the streak, toeing the line.

The course is 3.3 mile loops, with the last hour being set on an about 1 mile loop. My plan was to run the first two hours, then run/walk the next eight hours, and then run the last two hours. I stuck to my plan up until when I caught up with my wife…I had to run with her for a bit. She was setting a great pace, and was clearly comfortable. I stuck with her for a few hours, never really having any idea of how far I had gone, or what place I was in…I was just there to have a good run. At the ten hour mark, I stuck to my plan, and hit it pretty hard. I got in 3 more big loops until I finished with time enough for a few small loop. I ran one, then another, and with the announcement of eight minutes left, set into a forceful, uncomfortable pace, determined to get in one more. I wanted to give it my best effort, and run to the bell.

I finished my last loop with 30 seconds to spare. I soon found out that the guy behind me, who finished his last loop with just like 8 seconds to spare, is the guy who won, and if he hadn’t finished that lap, I would have won! No worries though… I got in plenty of miles for the day!

A friend of mine stopped me in the hall this morning, asking me where I was running this weekend. I informed him I was taking it easy. “The streak is over?” he gasped. “Yes, it is.”

And that’s the streak. Thanks to God for the ability to run, and for keeping me healthy throughout. Thanks to my wife, who is patient with me beyond belief, and without whose encouragement, I would have collapsed in a heap numerous times. Thanks to Rock/Creek, whose jersey I pimped on every run. And a big thanks to all my buddies who came out and encouraged me week upon week…especially Reed, who planted the seeds of the streak without even knowing it!
Now to rest my legs, fine tune my climbing, and get ready for Thunder Rock!

1 Comment

  1. Terry Williamson said:

    May 20, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Awesome! I really had no idea. Well, I guess I had some idea when you posted on Facebook about the Capt. Hickenlooper Memorial Ultra. Sounds like you’ve had a great season so far. Congratulations on your top 10 at Thunder Rock.

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