73 Miles, Vertigo, & Fresh Baked Bread?

In December The United Family did a can food and donation drive for the High Plains Food Bank. I told my store director Matt that I would run a mile for every $1000 raised. $73,000 was raised by all of The United Family stores for the High Plains Food Bank. 73 miles over a weekend would be my first time to run ultra marathons on back to back days.

This was going to be a tough challenge for me but I figured cooler temperatures would help me with the adventure. As luck would have it Covid-19 and then a concussion pushed my 73 mile run into late spring. Navigating holidays and graduation season left me with the first weekend in June as my best opportunity to complete the run.

June in Texas is hot. I knew that June was not as hot as it would be in August so my optimistic mind decided to go all in the first weekend the month! All of the United Family stores helped raise donations for the food bank so I thought it would be awesome to around Amarillo and stop in at all 8 of the United Family stores in town. I would end the at our store in Canyon. Day 2 I would be running from the Canyon store to Amigos in Hereford. My store director would crew for me on Saturday providing water and food at stops along the way. Day 2 our assistant produce manager Sergio would crew for me from Canyon to Hereford. Matt and Sergio also took pictures of me in front of each store that I made along the way.

I woke up at 3:30 am on Friday and ran my shoulder into the doorframe of my room when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t think much more of it than just being half asleep. When my alarm woke me up at 6:30 I got out of bed and realized that I had a severe case of vertigo. I hoped that it would go away by the lunch time but it had other plans and stayed with me all day. I had a surprise interview with a tv station that wanted to do a story about my running adventure. I don’t remember much about the interview except just trying to smile while my brain was racing trying to figure out how I would do 73 miles with vertigo.

I woke up Saturday morning and I got out of bed slowly hoping that the vertigo would be gone. It decided that it wanted to hang around and be my pacer for the entire weekend. I know that most people would have understood if I moved the run to a later date because of the vertigo. What’s the challenge in that though? I don’t run because it’s easy, I do it because it’s difficult. I don’t know if my thoughts would have been the same if all of the miles were on trails though. Outside of running up on to and off of curbs the majority of my miles would be on flat ground.

I started my day Saturday at Market Street at 5:30 in the morning. Slow and easy miles to start off and adjust to running with vertigo. I learned quick that turning my head left or right while running made things worse, but that slowing to a walk for about 40-50 yards helped. You will also notice in the pictures below my shades are on top of my hat until day 2. That’s not because I took them off for the photo, they just made my vertigo worse. I kept them on my hat and tried them on every so often just to see if things had changed because the sun is very bright! I am sure passers by got a good laugh at the guy running in the sun with his shades on top of his hat.

I stopped at the United on Gem lake road for a picture with team members in front of the store. They gave me a Clif bar and I made my way to the River Road United. I took a picture of the sunrise behind an old windmill, passed some stray dogs that ignored me and ended up at the store ahead of my projected schedule. I got a picture in front of the store and then took some pictures of Wonderland Park as I continued my run to the United on Amarillo Boulevard.

Matt met up with me and took my picture in front of the store with management. I sat down for a minute and refueled. When I got up I lost my balance but I was not ready to quit. I took off down the road and stepped wrong on a curb across the street from the store. I hoped that Matt had not seen that. I found out later that he did notice. I crossed a bridge that ran over railroad tracks and ended up at the High Plains Food Bank. I had my picture taken there and I rolled out my right calf because I was beginning to feel some tightness in it.

I continued in until I got to Amigos, got more water and a picture in front of the store with management. To this point the sky had been overcast and the temperature was nice. I’m not sure what happened after I left Amigos but the sun came out and reminded me that he was the one in charge!

It was starting to get hot and I slowed pace a little and added more walk breaks to drink and eat some of my Clif bar. Matt noticed and drove back to check on me. I told him I was good and I continued on until I got to the Washington Street United. I went inside to use the restroom and realized that I needed to make an adjustment to my electrolyte intake. I mixed a Tailwind recovery shake to drink on my run to the next stop. I kept the pace slower and pushed on until I got to the United on 45th & Bell. I rolled out my calf muscles again took a picture in front of the store and then we went inside. There was a large crowd of team members that clapped and cheered when I stepped inside. It really caught me off guard. That was a special moment that helped get me through the day. Leaving the store my legs felt great and the adrenaline boost the team at 45th &Bell gave me propelled me all the way to our store on Soncy.

Shade Trees

The Soncy United had a table set up for me with an umbrella for shade! I sat and talked with the team for a little bit and ate a banana that the previous store had given me. My skin was feeling hot and they got me some sunblock. I made another recovery shake and made my way towards Canyon. I turned back on to 45th. I knew there was some shade if I ran through the Colonies and there would be another mile of shade when I got to Coulter as well. I walked in the shade and drank my shake.

I had planned on meeting Sergio at 2pm on Hillside and Coulter. He wanted to run with me when he got off work. I called him and told him I was ahead of schedule but if he still wanted to get some miles with me I would be a little further down the road. I also told him my run/walk ratio had moved closer to the walking side of things as the temperature got hotter.

I met up with Matt just before Hollywood road and sat under a shade tree. I ate a few potatoes refilled my water and Tailwind bottles. Sergio got dropped off about 2 miles from where Coulter merges with I-27. At that point I was walking at a good pace but the heat was taking its toll on me. We met with Matt before I-27 and I put on a long sleeve shirt. I did not want to do day 2 with a major sunburn.

We merged with the service road to I-27 and I started doing run/walk intervals. This continued until I was 4 miles from the Canyon United. I decided to call it a day because I knew that following my recovery protocol would be essential to the success of day 2. We loaded into Matt’s truck and headed back to town.

Day 2 the vertigo did not seem as bad when I got up. Sergio drove my truck out to where we left off the day before. I walked a quarter of a mile and then started running. I had no soreness or fatigue in my legs at all as I began the day. With the exception of the few steep hills I ran all the way to the store. I got a picture in front of the store and headed out to Hereford.

The sun was rising fast behind me and I knew that it would not be long before it passed me up. I knew that I would run through Umbarger and Dawn along the way. They are towns that you miss if you not paying attention when driving. West Texas is pretty flat and you can see a town from a long ways off in the distance. The small towns don’t seem so small when you pass through them on foot.

Things I learned on the Hereford Highway:

There were a lot of trains that passed me on that stretch of highway.
Train whistles are much louder when you are not inside your car.
Trains make vertigo worse.
75 MPH means 85There are a lot of hills.
18 Wheelers can take the hat right off of your head.
Roadkill count – 6 snakes, 1 dog, 1 cat, 1 coyote

When planning day two I thought this would be a pretty easy run but in fact it was not. I fought a 15-20 mph headwind most of the run to Hereford. I made the mistake of looking at the temperature gauge in my truck on a refueling break. It said 101 but I am sure the temperature rising up off of the highway made it much hotter. I kept fighting even though I was walking much more than planned. At one point Sergio told me what I was doing was inspiring and that boosted my mental game for sure.

I resorted to squirting water on my shirt to help cool me down since I was not sweating as much. I may have been sweating normal but the dry headwind would dry my shirt out completely within 3-4 minutes. I resorted to ice wrapped up in a t-shirt on the back of my neck the last few miles into Hereford.

I used to live in Hereford when I was younger and the smell of feedlots is not something I will ever forget. The last few miles into town I kept smelling fresh baked bread. I could not explain it. It was as though someone had opened a bread manufacturing facility right off the highway. I looked around but I saw nothing. I asked Sergio if he could smell fresh baked bread. The look he gave me was the look you make when someone asks you a crazy question. He was like maybe your body is telling you to get more carbs?

I was still three and a half miles from the United in Hereford but I had already passed my goal miles for the weekend. I decided that the fresh baked bread hallucination was a pretty good sign that the heat was getting to me. I got into the truck and we headed back to Amarillo. It was a pretty cool thing to drive back over all of the miles that I had traveled on for that day. It really puts into perspective what I had accompished.

Running back to back Ultra’s was a really amazing experience for me. It was a confidence booster for the goals I have set for the next few years. Dierks Bently sings “every mile a memory”. For this trip every mile was many memories. I started and stopped writing this post so many times because I have so much to write about. I decided to keep it shorter and save the other stories for a little bit further down the road.

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