Saturday, November 28, 2015

Icarus 6 Day Race Report

    In order to train for the Icarus 6D race I had to realize something. The winner of a 6D race isn’t determined by who’s the fastest runner, it’s determined by who can recover the fastest. In order to emulate recovery in training I broke up my daily training runs into multiple sessions. For example, if I wanted to run 10 miles I’d run 5 miles then take an hour or two break then I’d run another 5 miles. I  also dedicated an hour or two a week to working on my power walk so I could be as efficient as possible during the heat of the day. 
At the start with my friend and mentor - The Jester (disguised as Ed Ettinghausen)

Day 1-
    Originally, my goal for the race was to break the 6D world record for my age division (456 miles) so I had to average at least 76 miles a day. On paper this seemed pretty easy, I’d front load a little bit the first few days but still be able to afford to sleep for a few hours. On the first day, it was hot and I knowingly went out a bit too fast but I felt good and had consistent laps so I went with it. I hit mile 50 at around the 10 hour mark and was feeling good. The race was going well until it rained. First it was only sprinkle but then it was as if the flood gates were opened. My shoes were wet and I felt blisters forming on my pinkie toes. I quickly changed into my Drymax socks but the damage was done; blisters had formed. At one point it was raining so hard that I wondered if I was the only one crazy (stupid) enough to be out on course. Thankfully, I only had to endure 4 more wet miles then I could enjoy sleeping in our warm, dry (emphasis on dry) tent. I managed to survive the last four miles then I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and slept for about 4 hours. 
My Dad helping with my foot care on day 1

Day 2-
    After sleeping I got up and wondered to my self, “what am I doing with my life? I can barely move and now I’m going to go running again.” After my parents put my shoes on and after I had gotten going I realized I made a terrible mistake- I didn’t sleep with my legs propped up. I had this horrible tightness in my right leg and according to my Mom I had adopted a limp. I slowly walked 3 or so loops (25 minute miles) and eventually after an hour or two I loosened up. Thankfully, the rest of the day went relatively well. I mainly ate white cheddar popcorn, cup of noodle and beef jerky. Throughout the course of the first 34 hours of the race I had managed to entertain myself with just my iPod and race strategy. This got old, fast. I decided that if I wanted to maintain my sanity I’d have to talk to someone other than my parents. I ended up catching up with my friends Ed and Joel and after talking about records for a few minutes I remembered something, the 48 hour world record (for my age group) was only 135 miles and I was almost at 120. This gave me my second wind and something other than pace to think about. I made it to about 130 then I talked myself into taking a 2 hour nap (with my feet up). I was tired but I couldn’t fall asleep, I laid there in pain and listened to the planes from the nearby airport fly by. Eventually my Mom woke me up, I ate an amazing grilled cheese sandwich, downed some chocolate milk, and went back out. I finished the last 5 miles then continued on for another 18 then I decided to sleep for another 2 hours. Thankfully, I hit the cot and passed out.
 Day 3- I woke up and felt somewhat energized. I still had around 4 days of running left but I had just set the 48 hour age group world record  so everything was going well. My running high lasted until about 56 hours into the race. It was hot, my arches were hurting and I was running on only 4 hours of sleep a day. I was going through a major low and the only thing that I could think about was sleep, so I slept. I slept on a wooden picnic table with my feet propped up until my Mom woke me up with KFC and a McDonalds milkshake. The food definitely helped but I still felt like I had been running for 2 and a half days. I had been setting ridiculous goals for myself throughout the entire race and it had finally caught up with me. I felt I’d be letting people down if I didn’t do what I set out to do. I felt as if my parents and the people that had been supporting me would be disappointed in me if I didn’t perform the way I’d like to. After eating again and having some sense talked into me I realized that no one will care if I adjust my goals, and if they do they aren’t people that I want to be around. I decided that I’d at least get 315 for the American 6D record and if I felt good after that I’d do a few “victory laps”. I walked for the rest of the day until the sun went down then I ran a few miles. I was still a bit disappointed that 457 wasn’t going to happen but like my friend Tony told me, “Running 6D races is like making a stew and every new experience is like a new ingredient for your stew. At first your stew won’t taste great because it’ll only consist of water and salt but as you learn and grow more and a few more ingredients are added to your stew it’ll starting tasting better and better.” Basically, your first 6D may not be great, but as you learn more, they’ll only get better and better.
When I felt down, my mom would read me messages and show me videos from friends and family. It really helped!
Day 4- I woke up at the start of day 4 and felt fine physically, but mentally I was sluggish. Not only did my Dad have to fly out to California for my Great Grandpa’s funeral but my running high had worn off. I would think to myself, “I’ll easily get to 315, why not take a break and walk a few miles later?” It seems like I’d do a few loops then sit down for a while. The best way I can describe it as a running depression. I felt great physically but mentally I was wondering why I was still “running around this God forsaken loop”. I eventually put my big boy pants on, walked a few laps with a few 6D runners and got over it. A pattern that I noticed throughout the course of the last three days is that if I walked during the heat of the day I’d be able to run for a few hours when the sun went down.
Day 5-
    At the start of day 5 I was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was dim, but there was hope. Something that I had noticed during the race is since I had only slept 4 hours a day early on I needed much more sleep later on in the race. I overslept a couple times because my Mom couldn’t get me to wake up. Day five was very similar to day 4, I walked during the day and ran/slept at night. I found that beef stroganoff and meatballs from the aid station kept me going when I was going through rough patches. I felt really good on night 5 until about midnight when the sleep deprivation kicked in. It was like a switch flipped, one moment I felt great then I could barely keep my eyes open. I ended up going to sleep with only a measly 6 miles left for the record.
Day 6-
    I woke on the last day feeling great, THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS LEFT! After this I wouldn’t have to wake up and worry about how many miles I had to do before I could go back to sleep. I walked the last 6 miles (which seemed to take forever), and finally, I hit 315! New American 6D record! I still had quite a lot of time left in the race so I took a break while it was hot and went back out. On my first lap since I took a break I ran about .1 miles out from the aid station when I heard a noise from one of the nearby trees *CRASSHHH* confused, I quickly turned around to see a monkey (yes, there are monkeys living in the park) sprinting across the path. Part of me was ecstatic while the other part of me was jealous of the 12 hour runners that had just started and got to see the monkey. The pinkie toe issues that I had developed on day 1 were still bothering me so my Mom decided to switch me into a pair of my Dad’s Altras might be beneficial. I noticed immediate results. I think because my Hokas are narrow they were rubbing on my pinky toes so switching to Altras (which are much wider) quickly resolved this problem. It’s hard to describe the last 12 hours of a 6D race. If you think mile 95 of a 100 mile race is thrilling then you should run a 6D. I felt like every cell in my body was buzzing, 5 1/2 days of anticipation all leading up to this moment. I was so close, but still so far. It had rained all week but the worst of it came during the last night. It rained fat, cold, heavy raindrops all night. It seems like whenever I put my rain jacket on it stopped raining but the moment I took it off it started again. At this point there were about 9 hours left in the race and it appeared like I was pretty safe at 4th male so I decided to take a nap. I woke up to looking at the results and seeing that the former 5th place had passed me and was doing 4-6 minute laps (each lap is 1 kilometer, 4 minute lap = about a 6 minute mile)!! I was almost cussing in my head, how was he running 6 minute miles 138 hours into the race. I was running at about the same pace as #6 but he was only a lap behind me. I was just praying that 4th and 6th would either slow down or fall asleep. After a while, I looked at the results and noticed that both 4th and 6th had either stopped or went to sleep. Here was my chance to retake 4th and gain some distance on 6th. I eventually passed 4th and built an insurmountable lead on 6th, it appeared that they were both still asleep. It was still raining and my feet felt like water balloons, but I didn’t care, I wasn’t taking my shoes off until I hit the 144 hour mark. I walked my last few laps with my good friend Ed Ettinghausen (who happened to be leading the race) and eventually hit 360 miles. I reached the timing tent then realized that I only had about 50 seconds left in the race. I quickly grabbed a flag (to mark my distance) then sprinted as fast as I could before I was told to stop. I managed to reach 361.7 miles, 4th male and 5th overall. 
The flag that marked the end of my race.

As I’m writing this blog (about 5 days post Icarus) I’d like to say that I am almost 100% recovered. I haven’t been experiencing any soreness when walking around and if you look at my feet you can’t even tell that I ran 361 miles. The funniest part about this adventure is the fact that my socks still smell like the A&D ointment that my parents put on my feet (even after being washed). I plan on going for a run tomorrow. 
Thank you very much for all the support. A special thank you to the race directors - Andrei and Claire Nana. I will never forget or stop appreciating your support and the opportunity you provided me at Icarus.


  1. Awesome race report! Great work out there buddy. Time to just run for fun for a while now, until you pick your next big adventure. Can't wait to see what that will be.

    Keep Calm
    & Jester On . . .

  2. You have broken down a 6d to a human level though you completed super-human miles! Thanks for that. I realized EVERYONE hurts even early in races. Thanks for your humility.

  3. Huge congrats Colby! I'm so impressed with your accomplishment.