Monday, November 2, 2020

4 x 4 x 48 Challenge Recap

Like the majority of the running community, my racing schedule has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Don't get me wrong, I would absolutely rather be safe than sorry and totally agree with the cancellation/ postponement of all of the races, but I believe I can understand and appreciate the decisions of the race directors and, at the same time, still be disappointed and sad. My last official, in-person race was the Los Angeles Marathon on March 8th and the next race I have on my calendar is a 50K in March of 2021 (currently the date is TBD, so here's to hoping it actually happens!)... 

I miss my running friends! :(

Normally I'm not the type of runner who "needs" a race on the calendar to keep myself motivated and get my booty out the door for my daily runs, but after almost seven months of no races I'll be completely honest that the motivation is waning. 


A few weeks ago, while I was at work, I was reminded of the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge by David Goggins, an ex-Navy Seal and ultrarunner, and thought it might just be the thing I needed to revitalize my running and an awesome goal to tackle. The challenge is to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. Although four miles may not seem tough for someone who runs ~50 miles a week, the distance adds up quickly (not to mention the difficulty due to the lack of time between runs).

If you remember, I did something similar at the beginning of quarantine - the Yeti 24 Hour Challenge. During that challenge I ran 5 miles within every 4 hour chunk for 24 hours. Since there weren't actual stipulations on the challenge, I made it work for me and ran within each 4 hour block of time. That meant, instead of running the 5 miles at the 4 hour mark, I ran them at the end of the first block and the beginning of the second, the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth, the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth - so it was somewhat like running three 10 mile runs. This time around I was sticking to the "letter of the law" and planning to start each run every four hours (to the minute!). 

Pictures from my six Yeti Challenge runs

The first step after deciding I wanted to tackle this challenge was to find a weekend that we were free (since I knew I wouldn't be able to logistically make it happen if I had to work). With all of our prior plans (we went camping in Tahoe and Mammoth, then the hubby went on a climbing trip, I will be working the first three weekends in November to help cover a co-worker's shifts and then we will be gone the last two weekends in November for Friendsgiving), I didn't have many weekends to choose from. In fact, the only one available in October or November was this past weekend.


After the dates were set (and the "official announcement" was made on social media so that I'd have a little extra accountability), the next thing to do was to pick the exact time(s) of my runs. On Thursday I had to work until 7pm, so I decided I'd start the challenge at 8pm (hopefully giving myself enough time to get home from work, put my stuff away, change into my running clothes, grab my reflective gear, etc). With the first run set, obviously the other start times were also set (every 4 hours - 8pm, 12am, 4am, 8am, 12pm, 4pm, 8pm, 12am, 4am, 8am, 12pm and 4pm).

I tried to do my best to "rest" my legs at work, but it's not totally possible while working retail at a running store ;) I did do my fair share of foam rolling and using the massage guns we have to at least loosen the legs so they'd be ready to go. By the time I got home from work on Thursday evening, I had time to feed the pup, take him out for a quick doggy walk, grab my reflective gear and running shoes before I jumped in the car to head down to the beach for my first run. 

Run #1 went a-okay. I hadn't run down on The Strand in Oceanside in MONTHS due to COVID (normally I run on the street above it to avoid the pedestrians, bikers, etc), but I thought it'd be "safe" since the sun had set an hour and a half before. Surprisingly there were still quite a few folks out, but I was able to dodge them easily so everyone was able to keep their social distance bubble. My left shin felt a little tight for the first mile or so (not sure what was up with that) and the humidity was making everything pretty soggy (63* and 68% humidity at 8pm when I started), but overall it was a nice run. I wasn't planning on breaking any speed records during the challenge, I just wanted to finish, so I wasn't looking at my watch, but figured I'd take a picture of it after each leg in case Strava shorted me on distance like it sometimes does ;)

Once I got home the hubby was back from his work golf outing so I figured I'd stay up between run 1 and 2 to hang out with him... Well, about 15 minutes into a show we were watching he was already snoring (he said that being out in the sun and golfing all day "really took it out of him"...). Had I known he was going to fall asleep I might have tried to get some rest between runs, but instead I ended up getting all of our holiday cards ready to be dropped in the mail.

For run #2, my midnight run, I drove down to Carlsbad. Although we live in a safe area, the hubby doesn't love me running around our neighborhood when it's dark without him (and, if you remember, he was snoozin'). He prefers if I run near the beach because it is well lit with tons of folks always out and about, which is totally fine with me. The weather still felt fine when I got out. It was a little chillier (61*) and more humid (87%), but overall I was a-okay for the four miles. I did bring my handheld with me on this run (I hadn't on the first), mostly to hold my phone and keys, but ended up drinking most of the water. PS I don't know if there is a much better soundtrack than the crashing waves on a calm evening morning. 

One bummer part about driving somewhere to run is that you have to drive home. I know this might seem like a little (and somewhat obvious) detail, but when you have limited down time in between runs, every minute counts. After I snapped my "finisher" pictures, I jumped in the car, drove home (obeying all of the speed limits of course ;)) and got ready for a little rest. {Side note - I was not planning on showering between every run, but I also didn't want to get into my bed all sweaty, so I made up a little "bed" on the floor in our office [a beach towel to lay on, two pillows from the futon on our balcony and a blanket we keep in the trunk for sporting events or chilly evenings at the beach]. I also didn't want to wake the hubby up every couple hours, so I did him a solid by crashing in the other room so he could get a decent night's sleep.}

I decided for run #3 I would leave from the house. There were a couple reasons for this. First, if I was starting from the house I could "sleep" a little longer because I didn't have any drive time to factor in. Second, I usually wake up between 3 and 4am on workdays when I am running or biking so this felt somewhat normal to get up at 3:30am and run from the house (although I was able to turn around after two miles instead of the standard four to seven). As I'm sure you could have guessed, it was a little cooler still (48*) but the humidity seemed to be holding steady at 72% (FYI - when it's cool and soggy I tend to feel even colder, but maybe that's just me). I did grab a long sleeve for this run and am glad I did because my hands were a bit chilled. This route had a few traffic lights I had to wait for because there were already folks out on their way to work, but it is a stretch I run at least three times a week so I knew what to expect.

When I got back from the 4am run originally I thought I'd try and catch a couple Zzz's (oh yeah, in case you were wondering, I maybe got 30 minutes total of "sleep" between runs 2 and 3), but my body was used to being up and going at that time so I wasn't very tired. I ended up snuggling with the pup on the couch and watching The Great British Bake-Off.  

Before heading out for run #4, I woke up the hubby, got his and the pup's breakfasts ready for them and then started locating satellites. I was stoked that the sun was out. Don't get me wrong, I normally do the majority of my runs in the dark, but after doing the first three legs wearing all my reflective gear and using my KnuckleLights it was nice not having to have the extra gear. It was a little warmer with the sun out (54*) and thankfully the humidity was starting to simmer down (64%). I got stuck at a fairly long light around mile .5 and 3.5, which skewed my pace a bit, but I wasn't worried about numbers so it ain't no thang. My legs definitely didn't feel 100% fresh, but everything was still a-okay.

Once I had finished my morning run the balcony was calling my name. The sun was shining and the pup was snoozin' so after changing out of my running clothes (just because I was running what felt like constantly, I didn't need to be in sweaty clothes all the time... as soon as I finished a run I tried to either change into the clothes for my next run or take a shower, that way I felt as fresh and clean as I could while waiting for my next leg to start) I grabbed a book and got comfy. 

I figured run #5, at noon, would be the warmest of the day, so I decided to run a route with a little extra shade to stay cool (it was 70* with 58% humidity - a gorgeous day, just a little on the warm side for my preferred running temps). I ran up to a nearby park and did a couple laps on the tree-covered path to get in the four miles. My legs did feel a bit heavy, but that is to be expected as this run put me at 20 miles and the routes around our place are hilly so they're getting in some decent elevation too. [FYI - Normally I wouldn't wear over-the-calf compression socks for a four mile run {unless they went with the outfit, hehe}, but they're great for recovery so I was putting a new pair on once I finished the previous run.]

The run went fine, but what I was extra excited about was the fact that I turned on the oven to preheat before I left so when I got back I could make homemade pizza - yum! I was trying to eat as soon as I finished with the previous run so my food/ fuel had time to digest before I went out for my next leg. I also decided it was time to shower after the fifth run ;)

WHOOO HOOO! Finishing run #6 meant I was halfway done! I've gotta say, maybe I was expecting to feel worse at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised that everything was clicking right along. I think it helped that it was still light outside so my energy hadn't started to crash yet. I ran to the library because I used to go all the time and I hadn't been in months so I figured I'd cruise by my old stomping grounds ;) It was a little warm out (73* with 52% humidity, although I could see the marine layer rolling in so I'm assuming the humidity was a bit higher). I'll be honest, when I was going uphill I felt like I was running through mud, but other than that things felt totally fine. I would say I was more physically tired (like wanting sleep) than my body was giving out on me, so I was hoping once the sun went down I'd be able to grab some shut-eye.

When I got back from my 4pm run I decided to do some cleaning (Friday has become my chore/ errand day since our hours got cut at the running store), but I doubt you want to see pictures of that ;) So instead I thought that now is as good of a time as any to discuss organization for this challenge. I very much have a Type A personality and lists are my jam! Not only does having lists and laying out your clothes before each run come in handy when you are sleep deprived and not thinking straight, but setting alarms throughout the day was also super helpful. I set an alarm for 30 minutes before the start of each run, that way if I was napping I'd have time to wake up and have enough time to get ready, and another 5 minutes before as my last warning to lace up my shoes, grab my water and locate satellites. I have found the less thinking I have to do the better, so I tried to do as much prep work as possible so everything else just became automatic. 

Surprise! The hubby offered to join me on my seventh leg and I was happy for the company. Originally I was planning to do a different route for each run but I said that the hubby could pick where we went if he was willing to run with me and he picked The Strand (where I did Run #1). The humidity was pretty gross (91%) but thankfully the temps hadn't started dropping at that point (still 64* out). I wasn't sure how busy the beach would be on a Friday but surprisingly it was less busy than 24 hour before. I had to reign the hubby in a bit, seeing as he had fresh legs and wanted to go, go go (while, I, on the other hand, had already run 24 miles), but in the end we held a decent pace (under 9:30/mile, his normal speed).

When we got home we watched Nightmare Before Christmas. Neither of us know whether it is actually a Halloween or Christmas movie, but I figured with Halloween on Saturday and us putting up our tree on Sunday it was the perfect timing. I was worried I would nod off during it, but I used the time to get in some good stretching on the floor while enjoying a great movie. We also did our doggy mile (which marked Day 771 of Walt walking at least one continuous mile daily). 

The hubby offered to run my midnight leg with me as well (even though his runs were only four hours apart, technically the 8pm one counted for Friday and the 12am one counted for Saturday on his Strava so he was knocking out two days in the matter of a few hours). I obviously welcomed the company - not only because he's my favorite running partner, but also because the dark miles can get a bit rough so having a running partner can make a huge difference! He picked the path again, which meant we returned to the route I had done for Run #5. He definitely was struggling a bit on this run (he was tired from working all day and having already done a run four hours before plus he mentioned he had too much water sloshing in his tummy), so I pulled back a bit and ran whatever he was comfortable with - appreciative that he would consider joining me on another leg. (PS He had walked the pup before we went for Run #8 and said it was chilly out so I threw a jacket on over my t-shirt... but I was definitely overdressed for the 57*, 89% humidity weather.)

Apparently I was too concerned about getting "my" picture that I forgot to get one of the pair of us on either of our runs together - OOPS! Once we got back from this run the hubby jumped in the shower, I grabbed a quick snack (PROBAR bite bars definitely come in handy at a time like that), changed my clothes and laid down to see if I could get some rest. 


The alarm for Run #9 came too early... but it was time to get up and at 'em (surprisingly I actually slept until my alarm went off, which hadn't happened until this point in the challenge - normally I toss and turn, checking my watch or phone every 10-15 minutes to see what time it is). After the two previous easier paced runs with the hubby, I thought I would try and push it a bit on this leg. The cooler temps (48*, even if there was 81% humidity) and lack of people on the roads helped me chug along without much distraction. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my watch after I had finished and saw that it was actually my fastest run of the bunch (even with 36 miles on my legs at that point). 

After snapping the couple photos, I went upstairs, changed my clothes and figured I'd scroll through social media before hitting the sack for a little bit. While I was going through my IG inbox I came across some "not too kind" messages. I wish I was someone who could let the negative comments just roll off my back, but I'm never really able to. Maybe it was the lack of real rest (although I doubt I can blame it entirely on that), but I spiraled into a little blackhole and couldn't really get my mind off of it. Eventually I was able to shake the negativity and get a few minutes of sleep before the next run.


Once I got up for Run #10 I decided I would not let someone's opinion of me (especially one made via the Internet and not actually knowing me) impact my day, so I threw a smile on my face and laced up my shoes. I wasn't 100% sure where to run, so I opened my Google Maps, clicked a spot, saw it was a little under 2 miles away and decided to run a little past that point. The route wasn't super flat, but I was excited that I had gotten back into my daylight runs so apparently I was knocking off miles fairly quickly (the cooler temps, 46* with 83% humidity, probably didn't hurt either). Once I got home I checked my watch and saw it was slightly slower than the previous run, but still my second fastest leg of the challenge!

I got home with just enough time to be able to jump in the shower (the second of the challenge, for all of you counting, hehe) before the Michigan vs. Michigan State game started. I spent the majority of the time between runs #10 and #11 watching the football game. We got in our mile doggy walk during halftime, so it wasn't just sitting the entire time ;)

Run #11 was my noon leg and I wasn't feeling super excited to run more hills so I decided to do loops around our complex. One lap is approximately .33 miles, so I had to do 12 to get in the 4 miles. This leg ended up being the most difficult of the challenge. It was a combination of that fact that I was hungry, it was warm (75* with 32% humidity), I was doing small loops, my legs were starting to feel the fatigue, I went by our condo every lap and had a longing to just stop and go upstairs for lunch, etc. I kept telling myself that the faster I went the faster I'd be done... and it worked! Even though it was the most mentally demanding run of the challenge, it ended up being my speediest - BOOMSHAKALAKA!

I finished up just in time to see the end of the game... which did not go our way, but hey, we are somewhat used to losing big games, so we shrugged it off and went on with the day. I ended up doing some of my leftover chores (meal prep, laundry, etc) while the hubby went surfing for a bit. All-in-all it felt like a productive break between runs.

Running 12 times in two days creates A LOT of laundry... Even though I only showered twice during the challenge (between run #5 and #6,
then between #10 and #11), I made sure to change out of my sweaty clothes as soon as I got home (usually into the clothes for my next run).

My final run of the challenge started at 4pm. Originally I was thinking it would be fun to run to our favorite Mexican restaurant so we could grab dinner after I finished, but it's about 5 miles from the house (so I would have had a pretty long "cool down" walk) and I also wasn't sure if I wanted to inflict anyone around me with the stink that might be emanating from my body ;) I decided I would run to the nearby park and do a couple laps around the grounds while the hubby went and picked up the food. Before I started doing longer runs during the week, I would run this route fairly frequently. It is pretty perfect for a progressive run because you have some decent uphill on the way out (which forces your pace to slow), which turns into some decent downhill on the way back (so you can make up a bit of time). There were a good number of folks enjoying the park (quite a few kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes while playing on the playground, since trick-or-treating was a no-go) but no one was really on the path I was running on. It was still pretty toasty out (68* with 69% humidity, although you could see the fog rolling in so the humidity was climbing by the minute), but there was enough shade from the trees to keep me cool. After I saw my watch ding for my second mile (and seeing the pace I was keeping), I thought to myself, "wouldn't it be awesome if I could make my last run of the challenge my fastest?!" I mean, I didn't set out to do it that way... In fact, when I ran my 11th leg the fastest of the runs I thought "awesome, now I can take it easy on the last one since I got a little speed out of the way". But I mean, why not go for it, right?! I'm stoked to report my legs still had a little life in them and I was actually able to clock my fastest leg of the challenge during my 12th and final run!

When I got back home, I thought I'd grab my letterboard, snap a couple photos and start re-hydrating before the hubby returned with the food. Well, when I walked upstairs I was greeted with a LOCKED door and no keys to unlock it with... Thankfully he was on his way home, but still it was a little frustrating (and funny) that the hubby forgot I was out running... It's not like I hadn't been doing it just about constantly for the previous 48 HOURS!

Eventually he got home, I took my photos and we dove into my favorite food - chips and salsa! Now, before some of you light up my comments saying that I'm insinuating you need to "earn" your food, I wanted to be very clear - that is NOT what I believe (or preach to others). I know my body and myself and know I tend to use chips more as spoons to get copious amounts of salsa into my mouth. I also know that running after eating large quantities of (delicious) salsa does not do my tummy any favors. With that said, I've found what works for me is to wait till AFTER a long run/ race to "celebrate" with my favorite meal so I don't have to worry about the ramifications the following day (if you know what I mean).

My go-to is a vegetarian quesadilla with marinated portobello mushrooms and black beans! YUM!

Can you believe it?! I tackled the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge (and you have read through QUITE the recap - so you deserve a prize just as much as I do ;)) and survived to tell about it! Now that you've heard how the individual runs went, I thought I'd give my overall thoughts on the challenge - in case any of you were pondering giving it a go.

The happy face of a FINISHER!!

First, let me start by saying that I normally run an average of 50ish miles a week. With that said, I wasn't expecting the miles to be the hardest part of the challenge (don't get be wrong, they add up, and add up quickly, but I think what I was most worried about before starting it was the lack of legit rest/ sleep I'd be getting over the 48 hour period). As I expected, the runs weren't terrible. Two of the legs I ran with the hubby and my pace matched his, but the others were anywhere from an average pace of 8:11/mile to 8:53/mile for the four miles. The four mile distance, in my head, was extremely "doable". I felt like by the time I was starting to warm-up (or if the run wasn't going awesome and I started thinking about how difficult it might be), I was already halfway done, turning around and heading back. I mean, I guess you can see how well my body managed the miles with the fact that my last run was actually my fastest of the 12 legs in the challenge! Please hear me though, that is not to say the challenge was easy-peasy or that everyone and anyone can tackle it. I am saying that with my current fitness level, this was within the realm of things I could conquer. #DoableButNotEasy


Second, the sleep. This was what I was the most intimidated by, but, surprisingly, I think my Fibromyalgia and major sleep issues actually trained me well for something like this. I'd say over the course of the challenge I maybe got a total of four or so hours of sleep - 20 minutes here, an hour there. I think the fact that I was constantly busy and consistently running helped me not focus on how exhausted I might have been. I didn't have time to sit and think about how tired I was or how little rest I was getting because it was onto the next thing or preparing for the next run. Also, when I am going through a bad episode with my Fibro, I end up sleeping on the floor probably 3 or 4 times a week (the hard floor feels better on my body, not to mention I don't have to worry about waking up the hubby when I am tossing and turning or when I am having to move my legs constantly when my restless legs are acting up), so making a little bed on the floor in the office wasn't much of an inconvenience for me either. Now, if you are someone who needs their sleep, and large quantities of it, you may need to really consider this when thinking about taking on this challenge. Sure, it's "only 48 hours", but make sure you are really thinking through all of the aspects of the challenge (not just the distance) when deciding if it's right for you.


Another thing to consider is safety. You will be running at all times of the day and night (I decided to start at 8pm Thursday night since I got off work at 7pm, but you can technically start whenever it works for you). Make sure you consider where you will be running. I made sure to select locations that were well lit, well traveled, that I was familiar and comfortable with and that the hubby was okay with me running (I'll be honest, I want to believe the best in everyone and may sometimes be a little naive, but the hubby is more of a realist and if he isn't comfortable with me running somewhere, then I want to do my best to alleviate his concerns by running somewhere else). 50% of my runs were in the dark, so having safety gear (a reflective vest, handheld lights {I find them more convenient than a headlamp because I can move them around easier to get the attention of oncoming traffic}, a charged cell phone, a tracking app, etc) is extremely important. I also made sure to let the hubby know where exactly I would be running (even if he would be asleep at that time). I was lucky enough to have him join me on two of my six night legs which was super awesome (for company and safety). If you have a treadmill, safety might not be something you need to think about, but for everyone else it needs to be considered. #SafetyFirst


Finally (or the last major topic I could think of to touch on), fueling. Again, this might not be applicable to everyone (you've gotta find what works for you and your body), but I normally don't take fuel with me unless the run is over 15 miles. With that said, I never brought any fuel with me on the runs during this challenge (although, if you want to know, PROBAR BOLT chews, pink lemonade flavor, are my go-to), but did have my handheld for all but one run. On the night runs I probably only had a few sips (it was more to hold my phone, keys, etc), but during the midday runs I was definitely drinking more water. As far as food throughout the day, I would try to eat almost immediately when I got home (breakfast after the 8am run, lunch after the 12pm run, dinner after the 4pm run and then a small snack after the 8pm, 12am and 4am runs if I wasn't going directly to sleep) - that way the food would have a good three hours to start to digest before I would be asking my body to run again. I stuck with my normal foods that I eat all the time (pasta, tortilla with nut butter and banana, PROBAR PROTEIN bars, homemade pizza, etc) for meals and if I was extra hungry between runs I'd grab a handful of nuts, an apple or a PROBAR bite bar. I tried to sip water throughout my downtime, that way I wasn't having a belly of sloshing water but was still staying hydrated (I did have a couple nuun tablets after my midday runs when I was sweating more than the other ones). I've gotta say, this aspect is more guess and check. I know from Ragnars in the past, my tummy can get upset and turn on me quite quickly during relay type events, so I did my best to eat smaller meals (that I am used to eating on a regular basis) and not over doing it with anything. I knew I probably wouldn't be "hitting the wall", so if I was going to err on the side of caution, I would prefer to be a bit hungry than a bit too full or uncomfortable for any of my runs (especially since I knew I'd be home to eat again in less than 40 minutes if I was really that hungry). 


I'll be honest, I was expecting this to be a lot harder (both mentally and physically). That does NOT mean it was a walk in the park or not demanding, but I guess I had built it up like it was going to take a ton of grit {which I think I often lack}, so I'm extremely proud of the way I was able to tackle the miles (and the additional aspects required). Now I don't think I'll be doing this once a year like David Goggins, but it is a great way to remind yourself that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS!

Do you think you'd ever tackle this challenge? What do you think the hardest part would be for you?

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