Pickled Feet 48/24/12/6 hour run is held at Eagle Island State Park, near Boise, Idaho. This event is in its second year. It runs on a mostly flat, smooth dirt road trail on a 2.5-mile loop. The scenery during the loop is great – rural farm land, by a small lake, and along a river. I entered the 48-hour race. Unlike fixed-distance runs, the objective of a fixed-time race is to see who can travel the furthest in that time. For more details about this kind of race, see my fixed-time race chapter.
For the past four months I have been recovering from a small stress fracture in my tibia which I believed had finally healed. My training leading up to the race was mediocre about 60 miles per week at a slow pace to avoid any setback on my injury. I was ten pounds over my usual race weight, so I didn’t have high expectations. But I was excited to again race after being out of action for so many weeks.
The 48-hour race would start at 6 p.m. I would have preferred a morning start. With the late day start we had already been up for about 12 hours. For those who try to win 48-hour races, they try to minimize sleep breaks. This would mean a possible 60 hours without sleep, which is very tough. I arrived at the park three hours before the start and had plenty of time to set up my personal aid station. The race provided a large shared aid station to use at any time, but I like also having a table set out with some items that I can quickly grab if needed. As it turned out, the race had such a wonderful aid station that I stopped using my own after the first day.
I’ve never been to a race where the race staff has tried to give me so much personal attention. Several times they offered to make a trip to the store to get me anything I needed. When I would stop at my personal aid station, they would even run up to me offering to help me. I was very impressed. I only took them up on their kind offers to help me very late in the race when I was a complete mess.
I’ve run at least 48-hour four other times before. My best finishes at a 48-hour race were 187 and 175 miles. I set a goal to at least reach 150 miles. I also hoped for a podium (top 3) finish. I was uncertain about the competition but it looked like at least two other runners could beat me.
The course is a lollypop-type shape. Runners could run either direction on the main big loop. I liked this feature because it allowed you to interact with your competition more. You could either run in the same direction with them, or in the opposite, so you could find them on the course and understand where they were.
I had worried that having runners going in both directions might be a bother, running into each other. But because of the large loop and relatively few number of runners (total of about 70 eventually on the course) this never really was a problem. There was one exception. All the runners coming toward you would stay to your left (their right) as you would expect except one guy who insisted on always passing on the other side for some reason. More than once we almost crashed because of his unexpected lane changes. (The race probably needs a “stay to your right” rule for head-on encounters.)
Also of big help to track runner progress was the superb chip timing. After each lap, I could check a monitor and see how far ahead or behind I was from my competition. The timing seemed flawless.
Dondi Black photo
At 6 p.m., 15 of us were away running the well-marked loop. I initially went out pretty fast, at 7:30-mile pace. I led the pack, finishing the first 2.5-mile lap in 19:57, about a minute before the next runner. But after the second lap I was about a minute behind Jayk Reynolds who threw down an 18:48 lap and he never gave up first place, running at a pace that my training just couldn’t match. By mile 8, I slowed to a 9:00-mile pace.
Dondi Black photo
I really enjoyed the course. It was much slower than Across the Years flat track, but it was easier on my joints and legs. On some portions I could run on a soft grassy surface and at other times on a fast, flat dirt road. I thought that the combination was great, having enough variation to keep the legs from cramping up.
Around and around we went. I settled into a solid second place. By mile 15 at 2:17 into the race, night had fallen. This seemed very odd to run most of the first 50 miles at night. (Most races start in the morning so you run your first 50 miles during the day.) Clearly my pace slowed more than usual during this point because of the dark, but I hoped that the light would later help my pace for the second 50. I grabbed my green light and felt very comfortable running fast during the night, one of my great loves. I reached the marathon point at the 5:00 mark, clearly the slowest ever for me at a fixed-time race. But I was being careful and my pace felt right. I was still in second place by a couple miles.
Night on the course was amazing. In one section owls would hoot at me. During the second night, in my very tired state, I would be startled by the “who” sounds and think there were people in the woods trying to talk to me. The race staff put out plenty of glow lights that were very helpful, but again, later on those lights started playing tricks with my mind. One particular light lit up some branches to make them look like a monster’s head. Another light seemed to look like a camera red light, taking video of me. And finally there was a reflector that sure looked like a cell phone on, hanging from a tree.
We experienced periodic light rain that wasn’t a big deal for the first day. The cool temperatures were just right for me and I brought plenty of clothes to put on. At the coldest time, I was wearing three layers on top and some long pants. I put all my clothes in a heated large tent, away from the rain. I made several stops that first night to the tent to adjust clothes, fix my feet, and to warm up for a few minutes.
I ran the race in the new Altra Olympus shoes. They performed spectacularly. I did experience one problem. For some reason the pressure on the back of my left heel became severe and pain went down to my foot and up my Achilles. I wondered about the zero drop and eventually changed that shoe out with a Hoka for a while to give my heel a little more lift. But I eventually concluded that it was due to a lack of cushioning against the heel and in the future I may try to put in a little more cushion. But that was a fairly major problem that slowed me down. I pushed through it and eventually the pain calmed down and I switched back to the Olympus as my toes were being squeezed too much from the Hokas.
During the late night the course emptied almost completely as most of the runners stopped to get some sleep. When I looked at the board only four names were coming up. There would be long sections without encountering another runner. That was fine with me, more opportunity to stay near the top of the standings. I reached the 50-mile mark at 10:31 which was discouraging slow, but I still had a solid pace going. Morning came and I welcomed warmer temperatures. I was about seven miles behind the first place runner, Jayk, but I was also about five miles ahead of the next runner Sam.
I had been keeping my eye on a runner with a good pace who was close to my miles but actually was not in the 48-hour race. On a particular loop we both started the loop at the same time, but the runner never passed me in either direction on the loop. He arrived at the start/finish area before me. I confronted him, asking him why he didn’t run the entire loop. He was startled but then admitted that he has missed a turn but then used his GPS to make sure he covered the right distance. I knew this was wrong because I had seen him walking at the start and end of the loop and I had pushed the loop very hard running. The race staff heard, so took care of it, but that did alarm me that this course is very easy to cheat. He should have returned to the course and continued the loop but instead did his own out-and back. When minds get very tired, they don’t intend to really cheat but make wrong choices.
At 10:00 a.m., the course filled up with 100-mile runners. It was great to have more runners out there and they helped me to increase my pace as I tried to keep up with their fresh legs for a while. By the afternoon, I noticed a 48-hour runner going very fast. Soon I determined that he was lapping me consistently. I eventually checked the standings and I recall saying to the monitor, “who is this David Barrett?” He was ten miles behind me, but still flying and climbing the standings. I later found out that he had rested for about four hours and then had a ton of energy.
At 6:00 p.m., the 24-hour, 12-hour and 6-hour runners started. Boy did they fly! Kelly Agnew from Utah took the 24-hour lead and never looked back, running more than 130 miles. It was fun to watch him and I only ran with him for short stretches.
I had hoped to reach 100 miles by the 24-hour mark, but missed it. I arrived there at 24:37. This was my 60th career 100-miler. My Garmin indicated that I had run about 101.5 miles which is likely. The loop course is measured for the tightest possible running route and I noticed that I couldn’t hold that tight line very well.
When I reached 105 miles, I was in a lot of pain and going slowly. I knew it was time to take a serious rest. I had prepared my SUV to be ready for this, with my sleeping bag, blankets, and everything else I needed for a warm rest. It was wonderful to lie down and it took about 15 minutes for my heart rate to come down and from me to stop shivering. I ate and drank and started to feel better but sleep never came. After an hour, I posted something on Facebook and my friends back in Utah sent words of encouragement. They let me know that I had dropped out of second place, now owned by David Barrett, more than three miles ahead of me now. Sam Collier had been ten miles behind when I stopped but now was almost only five miles behind. I knew it was time to get running again. My stop had been 1:45, which would end up being my longest stop for the entire race.
Out on the course again, my legs felt wonderful. I was amazed how much just getting off them for a while greatly helped. At the 30-hour mark (midnight) I was at mile 111.5, four miles behind David and five miles ahead of Sam. But I noticed that David was no longer on the course. I correctly predicted that he would be away for the rest of the night.
The second night was a struggle. I battled cold and drowsiness. I made too many stops at the warm tent and another long stop lying down in the car. I noticed Jayk, the first place runner missing from the track and asked about him. I was told that he was having troubles but his friends were trying to help him. I also heard that he was very worried that I was going to catch him. But he was about 18 miles ahead and I considered that impossible.
When dawn arrived, I was at mile 130. The thought of running all day was daunting. I really wanted to quit. I no longer wished to reach 150 miles, but I still was determined to finish in the top three. I was now ten miles ahead of Sam and 12.5 ahead of David who finally came back onto the track. I worried that David would start flying again, but he was just walking slowly with friends. Sam, on the other hand was moving well. I hoped that both of these runners would just want to quit. If they would, I would quit too. But I heard Sam was determined to reach 150 miles, so I groaned and set my sights on running 20 more miles.
The weather turned worse and some rainstorms came in. But I plugged on and I was maintaining my huge second-place lead. My bad leg started to hurt significantly so I finally resorted to using a trekking pole to help take some weight off it. I kept the pace up, but looked like an old man with a cane. I think both David and Sam realized that I could be caught.
As I was approaching 148 miles, about 15 miles ahead of David, all of a sudden he stopped walking and started to fly. It looked like he was running marathon speed. I thought he was just running the rest of the lap to get out of the rain, but very quickly he lapped me. When I reached 150 miles, he was only ten miles behind! At the end of that lap, I threw down the trekking pole, put the pain out of my mind and ran my first sub-30-minute lap since mile 15. I was flying and keeping pace with David. When he saw me again, he looked very surprised to see me running fast. I just smiled. As I flew around the course, I received kind complements from the 6 and 12 hour runners who recognized the amazing change in my pace.
I was doing well, and with each 2.5-mile lap, David was only gaining a half mile. If I could keep this up, I could hold him off. But the speed was taking its toll and I had to stop for a long bathroom break. I continued on fast but developed other problems. I examined my bad leg and noticed swelling. That really worried me and I concluded that the risk wasn’t worth it so I slowed. I came upon Sam, and we walked and talked for the first time. He was finishing his 150th mile and I was finishing my 160th. We both concluded that we would stop after this lap. A huge storm was heading our way and I also wasn’t thrilled about getting totally soaked again. When David lapped me again he stopped to talk. I let him know that I was finished and I congratulated him. He was still five miles behind me but I was finished. He did go on to take second by 2.5 miles.
So I quit two hours early but was glad because it poured rain. I packed up all my things back into my car and with an hour to go decided to walk one more mile on the small loop they opened up for the end of the race. My leg was very sore, mostly in the joint from the meniscus repair 11 years ago. I limped around the loop as fast as I could go, but was the slowest on the track.
Kelly Agnew came by and we had fun joking and walking a lap together. I finished with 161.14 miles, my third best 48-hour run, on a much tougher course than my other 48-hour attempts. My initial recovery was rough. During the awards ceremony I had to leave a few times to puke my guts out behind a building and then lay down on a cold table until awards were presented for the 48-hour runners. Not sleeping for 60 hours was probably just a bit too much. You gotta love this sport!
I was very pleased with my race. Sure it bugged me that I let 2nd place slip away, but still I only planned on going 150 miles and exceeded that. I had run more than six marathons in two days. Going that far without serious training is pretty amazing. I’m not sure how I pulled it off. But the most amazing thing is that I never slept a wink during the race. By the time I eventually fell asleep in a motel later that night, I had been awake for 62 straight hours. That turned out to be the toughest part. I did learn that lying down for an hour during the race helps a ton and is very much like sleeping.
Several days later, I had recovered fine with no real injury. I was lucky. The pain from my stress fractures was gone and I looked forward to finally being able to train seriously again for the first time in five months.
What are my thoughts about the Pickled Feet Run? It is an event that I totally endorse. It is a great event for those who wish to get a taste of a fixed-time race. The course isn’t fast enough for serious record miles, but the soft course is very good on the legs and enjoyable to run. The race staff couldn’t be better. Their careful attention to detail is amazing. I have just a few suggestions. Start the 48-hour and possible future 72-hour run at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. rather than 6:00 p.m. to use the waking hours better so sleeping or sleep deprivation is less of a factor. Make the course “cheat-proof” as other loop courses such as Across the Years and Rocky Raccoon. This would require a timing mat on the far side of the course to make sure that runners really complete a full lap rather than doing short out-and-backs. Also put a couple porto-potties on the far side of the course. The race should probably implement a “stay to your right” rule for head-on encounters. The one guy who always insisted on staying left, taking the inside route, was each time a surprise and a couple times almost resulted in a collision, especially as fatigue came into play. And finally, I think Sam Collier would agree on a rule that Davy Crockett isn’t allowed to sing, especially late into the race. I’ll be back to Pickled Feet and may sing on the trail again.