The Hermosa 24 Ultramarathon Was Awesome!

It’s 3:30 AM, I’ve been awake about 20 hours and I’ve already run 20 miles, barefoot, in the deep soft sand between the Manhattan & Hermosa Piers. My knee is starting to bother me, and I’ve returned to base camp ready to pass the baton to the next relay runner. But none are here– 2 gone home with burnt feet, 1 left limping with leg cramps, one half wrecked knee, one gone due to nasuea along with a medical transport. Among the 17 members of the Team CORE and Team Structures relayers, only 3 of us remain in the wee hours to run back & forth. So I turn around head back for another 3.4 mile lap. Without getting so much as a sip of water.

Staggering along the beach, forced to walk and unable to run due to ITB tightness. There I sat, on a swingset not far from Longfellow, trying to massage the pain away. No go. And so on I went, finishing the lap in 67 minutes and still with no one to run the next lap. I was half delirious due to knee pain, dehydration, sleep exhaustion, cold, sweat and lightheadedness. The dream– organize & run on 2 teams and keep them both on the course for the entire day– was slipping away. How the heck did I get myself into this?

Tent city

It all started nearly a year ago when Christian Burke set out to run 24 hours and set a new world record of 83+ miles on the soft sand. And he did it! A few months later, I was helping to organize the Operation Jack Marathon and Christian gave us a lot of useful advice. And then Christian won the dang thing! BTW, we’ll back for the 2nd Annual Operation Jack Marathon on December 26. Christian was already planning the inaugural Hermosa 24, and I asked what I could do to help.

Clapping for Patrick Sweeney

That’s when I started running on the soft sand, Januaryish, quickly building to 20 miles, later running back-to-back 15 milers. I knew I’d be ready for anything, but I needed a team. So after 3 months of cajoling co-workers, I had convinced 10 to join the race. Meantime, CORE co-founders Todd Dipaolo & Chuck Trucker helped formed the core of the CORE team, and Todd recruited 4 friends to join and I found another runner, so we had 8. Of course, that meant I’d be running for 2 teams. More on that later. Of these 16 other team members, I think about 3 ran regularly. So we had our work cut our. The day began inauspiciously, as the sun was out full force at noon and despite the cool temperatures and strong breeze, the sand was hot. Hot enough to burn the feet of the first 2 runners for the Structures team– the last 2 to run barefoot. Well, besides me. My feet were tough enough to run an hour at a time, although they got pretty toasty too. And then we got in a good rhythm.

Keep on truckin'!

Through all that, I was running for 2 teams, 5 laps by 9:30 before a much appreciated rest. The running, I could do. Problem was, I hadn’t slept well the night before. I didn’t know what the heck to do for fuel besides drinking Gatorade and sucking down junk food. And I was spending all my down time walking around chatting & trying to coordinate our next laps as one runner after another went down with various ailments. So after lap 4, I was looking pale and forced myself to sit in the shade for an hour and consume some mad calories. Much better. After lap 5, I took a break and had some tortilla soup, chips & dip then laid down to rest. And as I rested the team disappeared.

Scott finishes lap 2!

So let’s see. While I rested Vinay’s leg cramped up, causing him to fall and forcing him to crawl for a bit– trooper that he is, he finished the lap. Eron tweaked his knee pretty bad yet volunteered to run more– thankfully we talked him out of that. Jenny had some pizza with ill-advised timing, and left along with Daniel for medical transport. Instead of 5 people to cover the 2 AM – 6 AM shift, we were down to 3 across 2 teams. And I was alone for structures. And that brings us back to the first paragraph. I had just completed my 7th lap, and normally I could easily stretch a 7 mile run to 10. But these weren’t normal times. So I had to just sit and wait. Chuck went to retrieve some fluids for me as I was splayed out on a chair and to check the tent for any hidden runners. No dice. Just then, Nathan returned from his run and we’d have to game plan together.

Last steps

And just like that, Nathan (above) volunteered to run a lap for Team Structures as Chuck headed out for Team CORE. It’s a Festivus miracle! As Chuck & Nathan complete their laps, I dragged a stranger off the street to run for Team Structures and I headed back out for Team CORE. Upon our return, the morning crew (mostly) arrived and our little drama was ending. Oh sure, 3 or 4 or 5 backed out of their last lap, but at the same time others stepped up, as Matt covered 3 laps in the morning. Dave (below), who almost didn’t start because of a bad knee, ended up volunteering to fill a hole in & running our fastest lap of the day as Team CORE completed our 26th & final lap. All the totals for Team CORE and Team Structures are now permanently stored on our Google Docs.

Dave toughs out lap 3!

Let's see how good you look after being up for 26 hours and running 27 miles in the soft sand!

While our drama was unfolding, another drama was playing out as Patrick Sweeney chased down Christian’s 2010 record. He needed 25 laps, and looked solid to take it. I had hoped to run with Patrick the first lap, but he surprised me by blazing through lap 1 in a ridiculous 34 minutes– hard to do running all out, let along simply as a warm up. Of course, Patrick slowed as the race progressed, but he still looked set to run/walk 25+ laps. Patrick was finishing his 25th & record setting lap just as I was heading out for number 9. Pretty cool! I passed Patrick about 16 times on the course, none more memorable than the last lap.

High five!

Patrick Sweeney breaks the 24 hour record for running in the sand
I missed that mini-hoopla, but caught it after his final lap. Was glad to pass Patrick again on my return, and seeing him running lap 26 with 3 of the other solo runners was pretty awesome. What was also awesome was Mickey’s Winners completing 39 laps, 131 miles. Alex Mendoza running over 60 miles… more amazing upon realizing he’s only 15! Many other stories, one sure to follow soon from the verbose one Bourbon Feet (aka Patrick Sweeney) and possibly from Christian Burke. Before closing with a few pics, I’ll throw a quick link to the results & official race photos. I survived pretty good, legs not a touch of sore after 30+ miles barefoot in the deep soft sand (more like 40 effort wise on any other surface) with some tender feet and a sore back. The kids found a good use for those red balls that lined the course, all had fun and the whole group seemed to catch the sand running bug, already setting up monthly runs now and weekly runs later. Enjoy!


The once & present kings!


Meanwhile, back at camp...

Matt & Sara

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