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The Crimes of US Foreign Policy: A Very Brief Introduction
The United States has long seen itself as a very special nation, playing a uniquely noble role on the world stage. While other nations are said to be guided by vulgar self-interest, the United States is supposedly different; the primary goal of American foreign policy is, according to the State Department’s website, to “promote and demonstrate democratic values and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.” But how well does the United States live up to those so-called “democratic values”? Does it in fact promote the cause of a “free, peaceful, and prosperous world”? Let’s look at the facts.
US Foreign Aid and Human Rights
To begin with, the US has a horrific foreign aid record. It seems that American aid is quite a good predictor of human rights abuses, and that this trend goes back decades; according to a 1981 study in the journal Comparative Politics, US aid is “clearly distributed disproportionately to countries with repressive governments… this distribution represented a pattern and not merely one or a few isolated cases.” Indeed, it is quite easy to find examples of the United States supporting vicious repressive regimes (such as Pinochet's Chile, the Shah of Iran, and the military junta of El Salvador).
Similarly, a 1984 study in the Journal of Peace Research looked at human rights and US aid under Nixon, Ford, and Carter. The authors found that “under Presidents Nixon and Ford foreign assistance was directly related to levels of human rights violations, i.e. more aid flowed to regimes with higher levels of violation, while under President Carter no clear statistical pattern emerged.” They therefore conclude that “the Carter administration did not implement a policy of human rights which actually guided the disposition of military and economic assistance.” In other words, the US attitude towards human rights seems to vary from outright hostility (under more conservative administrations) to mere indifference (under more liberal ones).
More recent studies have painted a similarly bleak picture. A 2008 book by Rhonda Callaway and Elizabeth Matthews found that “both United States economic and military aid have detrimental effects on security rights of the citizens in recipient states.” They note that these results “provide support for those critical of the US foreign assistance program.” The most recent research has continued to back up these conclusions. A 2016 study in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science sampled 150 countries from 1972 to 2008, finding that “US aid harms political rights, fosters other forms of state repression (measured along multiple dimensions), and strengthens authoritarian governance. [...] These findings counter the publicly stated objectives of the US government to foster political liberalization abroad via bilateral economic assistance.”
All-in-all, it seems that aid from the United States has a deleterious impact on the human rights situation in recipient nations. It provides military and economic aid to repressive regimes, arming and propping up some of the most vicious dictators on the planet, all in service of its own interests.
The Human Cost of the "War on Terror"
Lest we think that the harm of US foreign policy stops at providing aid to dictators, the United States has also carried out a great deal of violence all on its own. To demonstrate the enormous death toll of US military intervention and invasion, let's take a look at the post-9/11 "War on Terror," including the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (among others).
According to a 2019 report from Brown University's Costs of War project, "between 770,000 and 801,000 people have died" in what the report refers to as "America's post-9/11 wars." This tally does not include so-called "indirect deaths," such as those resulting from displacement and the destruction of crucial infrastructure (e.g. water and sanitation systems). In a 2019 article for the Hill, David Vine (Professor of Anthropology at American University) writes that "total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen [are] likely to reach 3.1 million or more — around 200 times the number of U.S. dead." Others have come to similar conclusions. According to a 2018 report from the Intercept:
In addition to those killed by direct acts [of] violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.These death tolls are backed up by earlier research. A 2009 article from the MIT Center for International Studies, which looked only at Iraq, found that "we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million 'excess deaths' in this war as we approach its six-year anniversary." Keep in mind that this is only one of the invaded countries, and that this article was authored in 2009 (more than a decade ago). The current death tolls, when factoring in all nations (as well as the decade of subsequent warfare), are likely many times higher.
The United States government has engaged in a concerted effort to hide the civilian cost of its Middle Eastern wars. According to a 2017 report from the New York Times, the actual rate of civilian causalities inflicted by coalition forces in the Middle East is "more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history."
In point of fact, US forces often kill more people than the terrorists they are supposedly there to fight; a 2019 article in the New York Times reports that "more civilians are being killed by Afghan government and American forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, according to a [United Nations] report on Wednesday." This is not even mentioning the US drone program, which was detailed in a 2013 report from the Intercept. To make matters worse, civilian casualties from US wars have been increasing dramatically since Donald Trump took office, according to a 2018 article from the Washington Post.
While it must be noted that the United States did not personally kill all of the millions of people mentioned above, it still bears a heavy burden for these deaths, having initiated the invasions, and started the entire conflict. In the same way that we hold Hitler responsible for the deaths of WWII (since he was the one who started it), so too should we hold the United States responsible for the deaths listed above. For more information on the civilian cost of US intervention, I recommend The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars, a study authored by John Tirman, director of the MIT Center for International Studies.
Coups and Regime Change: The Case of Chile
The United States has a long history of overthrowing governments it doesn't like, typically then replacing them with brutal dictatorships. There are many, many examples of this, ranging from Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, to Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran (a coup for which the CIA actually admitted responsibility in 2013). In order to understand the horrific effects that these coups often have, it will be helpful to take a particular example: that of Chile, where in 1973 the United States helped to overthrow the elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, replacing it with the right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. A 2017 article in the New York Times details many of the documents proving US intervention. As one man put it:
“To see on a piece of paper, for example, the president of the United States ordering the C.I.A. to preemptively overthrow a democratically elected president in Chile is stunning,” Mr. Kornbluh said. “The importance of having these documents in the museum is for the new generations of Chileans to actually see them.”As if this were not enough, in a 2014 interview with the Atlantic, Jack Devine (a former CIA agent who was in Chile at the time of the coup) confirmed that the Nixon administration was directly instructing the CIA to support the coup. According to declassified documents, Nixon had previously ordered Henry Kissinger to "make the economy scream," in an effort to rally support for the right-wing forces. The United States also attempted to prevent Allende from being inaugurated after his election, and provided support for state-terrorist campaigns after the coup. Now that the US role has been established, let's look at what Pinochet did once in power.
To begin with, Pinochet killed, tortured, and "disappeared" tens of thousands of people. According to a 2011 article from the BBC, the "total of recognized victims" numbers over 40,000, including more than 3,000 who were killed or forcibly disappeared. The rest were kidnapped, tortured, exiled, or some combination of the above. Pinochet was one of the most vicious dictators in the history of Latin America, and the United States played a direct role in propping up his regime.
In addition, Pinochet introduced hard-line neoliberal reforms, which did immense damage to Chile's economy. A good study on this was published in 1990 in the journal Critical Sociology. The authors note that growth rates under Pinochet were remarkably unimpressive:
The Pinochet model produced growth rates well below the Chilean average established over the 1950-72 period. The average yearly GDP rate of growth in the latter period was 3.9 percent, while the Pinochet regime averaged 1.4 percent over the 1974-83 period... overall growth throughout the 1980s has been far from miraculous: GDP per capita grew at a 1.2 percent average rate between 1980 and 1989, below the 1.7 percent average yearly rate for 1950-72.In addition, the authors charge Pinochet with "creating a great deal of poverty," noting that unemployment "rose dramatically after the coup," while real wages fell. At the same time, social expenditures were reduced, and "infectious diseases readily associated with poverty, overcrowding poor hygiene, and inadequate sanitation underwent explosive growth." This assessment is echoed by a study in the International Development Planning Review, which found that "the radical neoliberal policies and structural adjustment of the 1970s and 1980s during the Pinochet regime had severe negative effects on the poor and middle class." The poverty rate itself increased dramatically; according to a report from the North American Congress on Latin America:
The number of poor Chileans doubled during the Pinochet regime. By 1989, 44% of Chileans lived in poverty.In addition, it seems that Pinochet's privatizations also helped to create enormous corruption. According to a study in the Journal of Economic History, "firms were sold underpriced to politically connected buyers." This had predictable consequences:
These newly private firms benefited financially from the Pinochet regime. Once democracy arrived, they formed connections with the new government, financed political campaigns, and were more likely to appear in the Panama Papers. These findings reveal how dictatorships can influence young democracies using privatization reforms.All of this goes to show the horrifying impact that US intervention in regime change had on Chile. One can only imagine the combined suffering of the people in all of the nations that the United States has "intervened" in over the last several decades.
This has been only a very brief summary of the crimes committed abroad by the United States government. Some of the very worst offenses (most notably the Vietnam War, as well as US support for the Pol Pot regime) have been omitted, if only because they are so egregious as to require their own post. Hopefully this has given a general introduction to the topic, which will spark the reader to make their own investigation into the issue. Useful reading includes Killing Hope by William Blum, as well as Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, by the same author.
- U.S. Department of State | About Page
- Comparative Politics | U. S. Foreign Policy and Human Rights Violations in Latin America: A Comparative Analysis of Foreign Aid Distributions
- Journal of Peace Research | Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Assistance from Nixon to Carter
- Routledge | Strategic US Foreign Assistance: The Battle Between Human Rights and National Security
- Quarterly Journal of Political Science | Does Foreign Aid Harm Political Rights? Evidence from U.S. Aid
- Brown University | The Cost of the Global War on Terror: $6.4 Trillion and 801,000 Lives
- The Hill | Reckoning With the Costs of War: It's Time to Take Responsibility
- The Intercept | It's Time for America to Reckon With the Staggering Death Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars
- MIT Center for International Studies | Bush's War Dead: One Million
- The New York Times | The Uncounted
- The New York Times | U.S. and Afghan Forces Killed More Civilians Than Taliban Did, Report Finds
- The Intercept | The Assassination Complex: The Drone Papers
- The Washington Post | Middle East Civilian Deaths Have Soared Under Trump. And the Media Mostly Shrug.
- MIT Center for International Studies | The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars
- CNN | In Declassified Document, CIA Acknowledges Role in '53 Iran Coup
- The New York Times | Documenting U.S. Role in Democracy’s Fall and Dictator’s Rise in Chile
- The Atlantic | The Other 9/11: A CIA Agent Remembers Chile's Coup
- National Security Archive | Chile and the United States: Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, September 11, 1973
- BBC | Chile Recognizes 9,800 More Victims of Pinochet's Rule
- Critical Sociology | The Chilean "Economic Miracle": An Empirical Critique
- International Development Planning Review | Land of Miracles? A Critical Analysis of Poverty Reduction Strategies in Chile, 1975-2005
- NACLA | In Pursuit of "Growth With Equity": The Limits of Chile's Free-Market Social Reforms
- Journal of Economic History | The Privatization Origins of Political Corporations: Evidence from the Pinochet Regime
- The New Statesman | How Thatcher Gave Pol Pot a Hand
hell or glory: the endless mile 48 hour race
- Name: The Endless Mile
- Date: October 16-18th, 2020
- Length: 48 hours
- Location: Alabaster, AL
- Website: https://www.southeasterntrailruns.com/endless-mile.html
- Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4205056478, https://www.strava.com/activities/4209385235, https://www.strava.com/activities/4211908436 (yes, it's in 3 activities, do not @ me, my watch was being an ass)
- Distance: 111ish miles (final number not out yet)
|A||don't quit early, do the full 48||Yes|
|D||116.3 miles (top 10 leaderboard)||No|
TrainingOk, so, first of all: I did not train for this. I’ve been running all summer, but that’s not the same as training for a multiday ultra. If you’re interested in the raw numbers, check out my strava training log and see for yourself (https://www.strava.com/athletes/15875698/training/log). I’ll also provide a short summary of just how much I fucked myself going into this. In my defense, I didn’t plan to do this race, and only signed up about 3-4 weeks out from race day because I was bored. Please do not repeat my mistakes.
Okay, let’s rewind to, say, June. I’m in Pennsylvania living at my parent’s house for a month while I try to put my life back together. I’m doing the GVRAT (Laz’s virtual race, ~635 miles in 3 months). I’m just trying to maintain a base at around 40-50 mpw. June passed fairly uneventfully running-wise, with weekly mileage of 55 mi, 41 mi, 55 mi, 55 mi and a few walks/hikes sprinkled in. I was doing 1 workout per week (just kinda whatever I felt like that morning, fartleks or tempos usually). Long runs were around 13-14 miles with some quality sections here and there.
In early July, I drove back to Colorado, moved out of my old apartment that I had shared with my ex, and moved into a new place on my own. My running stayed about the same as before, but my daily walking skyrocketed. My monthly running mileage was 51 mi, 34 mi (moving week), 55 mi, 53 mi, 55 mi. When you add in walks (which I think count when you’re doing a race that will be a LOT of walking), my weekly mileage in July went 51 mi, 34 mi, 80 mi, 80 mi, 81 mi. As you can see, I was adding about an extra ~25 mi per week from walking every day after work. I had a lot more free time and while I kinda wanted to use that time to do doubles every day and bump my mileage up a lot, I knew that it maybe wasn’t the smartest option, so I settled for walking. My long runs were still around 13-15 mi (and no back-to-back long runs, let me be clear. The run the day after my long run was around 6 miles). I was still doing a weekly workout of whatever felt fun that day.
August was both a “big” month (when you count walking) and a shit month (if you look at just running). Running mileage was 47 mi, 44 mi, 40 mi, 31 mi. With walks, it was 72 mi, 74 mi, 58 mi, 68 mi. Long runs dropped a bit, to about 10-12 miles, still with zero back-to-backs. I was beginning to feel the effects of covid-seclusion-brain as well as dealing with the emotional fallout of the past few months. On the plus side, I started going to a weekly track workout with my boss and some coworkers, which helped make me feel human at least once a week.
September continued in the same vein as August, but with less walking. So, not much running AND not much walking. Truly, great training for a multiday ultra in October. But again, I wasn’t planning on running any races for the rest of 2020 so I wasn’t too bothered. Weekly mileage for September went 35 mi, 47 mi, 47 mi, 56 mi. With walks added in, it was 49 mi, 51 mi, 61 mi, 62 mi. Long runs were around 13-14 mi, and for two memorable weeks it was only 8-9 mi. Sometime in the last week of September I decided to say “fuck it” and sign up for a 48 hour race. I knew I wasn’t prepared AT ALL, but I really missed the pain cave of an ultra. This particular race also has a lot of personal meaning to me. My first ultra was a 12 hour at this race, back in 2017. For years now I’ve talked about wanting to go back and try the 24 hour or the 48 hour, and for the first time in years, I could actually do whatever race I wanted to do.
October (or at least October 1-15th) was my taper. If you can call it a taper when you’ve basically been tapering for an entire month beforehand. Weekly mileage went from 56 mi to 46 mi to 37 mi. The taper was honestly fun as hell. I felt so fit, but in more of a 5k-half marathon way. I knew I didn’t have the endurance for this dumb race, but I felt fitter than I’ve ever felt before in my life, and I was hoping that it would help at least a tiny bit.
Pre-raceSo I packed and re-packed for this race approximately 26 times. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to change clothes, or socks, or shoes, or whatever. So I brought everything I could think of. I even brought a beanie and gloves, on the off chance that it got chilly for a bit overnight (note: this is what the experts call foreshadowing).
I was crashing with a friend before and after the race, which made things easier (and cheaper). Now, this next part may be gross for any men reading but I am a firm believer that A. get over it, it’s normal and B. it is important to know if you want to get the full picture of my race. So, because I am an incredibly lucky person, I managed to start my period on race morning. While this is good hormonally (women tend to get a bit of a performance boost from the drop in hormone levels), it added a nice extra layer of complexity to my next 48 hours. Yay! pre-race 'fit in my sweet artc singlet
Anyway, after that lovely realization, I drove over to the race start and started prepping my stuff. A friend of mine was coming down from Georgia that day to hang out and camp and then run the 24 hour the next day. I knew I could use his tent and setup once he got there, so I just kinda dumped my stuff on the ground and vaguely organized it so that I could see everything easily. Visual proof of the poorly organized aid pile I put on my windbreaker (it was drizzling and mid-50 degrees F at the start) and waited around until 8:55 am. With 5 minutes to go before race start, I meandered over to the start line to hear the race instructions and size up my competition (LOL). I knew from stalking ultrasignup that there were a few women with a lot of multiday/48 hour experience, including one woman twice my age who had just done ~140+ miles at a 48 hour in February. I was absolutely expecting her to kick my ass. I’m fairly used to getting my butt handed to me by people twice my age or older in ultras. It gives me warm fuzzies, and a hope that when I’m their age I can be that person. I also saw Ed Ettinghausen (a legend in multiday racing… you may know him as the guy who always dresses up like a jester) and Ray Krolewicz (another legend in ultrarunning, at least in my opinion). Ray had been at this race back in 2017 when I ran it for the first time. I wasn’t sure if he remembered chatting with me briefly while I was running the 12 hour. But I remembered. He called me out in the first hour, asking why I was running so fast when I was doing the 12 hour and telling me to slow down before I destroyed my legs. And after the race, he told me I needed to keep doing ultras because I had some talent (which obviously stuck with me, if I remember it three years later). I crossed my fingers that we’d get some “walk and talk” time later in the race, because I distinctly remembered him being hilarious and great at getting me out of a shitty mood and I figured I’d definitely need that at some point.
RaceHow does one distill 48 hours into text? Let’s find out. I left myself voice memo’s at various points of the race, because I knew it would all begin to blend together in my head afterwards. Some of them are funny and some of them are a bit sad. But that’s life, I guess. The concept of running 100 miles in 24 hours has sometimes been referred to as “life in a day”. I’d say 48 hours follows that idea, but more like two lives in two days. There are peaks and valleys. You’ll feel like you may never be happy again, or you’re done running for the rest of the race. But it never always gets worse, and sometimes it even gets better and suddenly you’re running sub-10 minute pace at hour 46 and you don’t really know what’s happening but you’re definitely not going to question it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Hours 1-6: (9 am - 3 pm)
So, at 9 am sharp, the gun goes off and we all start to shuffle across the line. No one is going very fast, which makes a lot of sense when you remember that we have to keep going for two days straight. One girl gaps everyone by quite a bit by about half a mile in, and my dumb competitive side starts to kick in. I had conveniently forgotten that there were relay teams in the race, and it never even crossed my mind that she might be a relay runner who only had to run for a few hours. This was mistake #1 (of many!). While trying to make sure I kept this girl in sight, I completely abandoned my tentative plan to run no faster than 10 min/mile in the first few hours, and blazed through the first ~4ish hours at sub-10 pace, including pauses at the aid stations and my personal aid pile. At this point, I was already starting to feel my lack of long runs in training. Huge shocker, I know. It was a little terrifying to think that I still had 44 hours to go. So I just tried to stop thinking about it, and focus on the hour I was currently in. At one point, I texted a friend to ask what % of critical power I should aim for during a 48 hour race, partially as a joke. He told me no matter what, don’t go over 80%. Oops. I had definitely been routinely going over 80%, and only barely averaging below it for lap power. I was beginning to slightly regret not actually making any sort of pacing plan before the race started.
Hours 5 & 6 were where I really started making more of an effort to walk. The course has 4 “hills” (which have maybe a combined elevation gain of ~25 ft), and I used them as my walk cues. Some people do a very structured walk/run (25 minute run/5 minute walk, 4 minute run/1 minute walk, etc), but I prefer to just do everything by feel. Doing it based on course landmarks seemed easier to keep track of, instead of having to constantly look at my watch and do math, or having to program intervals into the watch ahead of time. I averaged about 13 min/mile for these hours, and about 11 min/mile for the first six hours altogether.
Hours 6-12: (3 pm - 9 pm)
This 6 hour block progressed much like hours 5 & 6. At around the 9 hour mark, I began recording periodic voice memos to myself as a way to try to remember how I felt at different points of the race. I knew it would all start to blend together in my mind, so I wanted to have a concrete record of how I felt, especially the bad sections. I have a tendency to forget all the shitty parts of the race afterwards, which I think is a survival mechanism in my dumb brain that lets me keep doing these races. In my first voice memo, recorded at about 9.5 hours in, I talked about how I was doing a lot of walking because my legs felt dead and my adductor longus was screaming bloody murder at me. A woman who had been consistently about one lap behind me the entire race was putting forth a concentrated effort to catch up and pass me. She was doing a lot more running than I was at that point, and basically had her own personal pacer (a guy who was also doing the 48 hour who spent the entire race running right ahead of her or beside her and giving her encouragement). In the voice memo, I make it very clear that I do not care at all if she catches me or passes me, because there are 38 hours left in the race at this point and there’s still so much that can happen or go wrong for either of us. The real race probably hasn’t even started yet! At around 8:30 pm, I chatted on the phone with my mom and dad briefly, catching them up on how I was feeling and how the race was going. It was beginning to get a little chilly now that the sun was down. These six hours passed at a 17 min/mile pace, which tells you that I wasn’t kidding when I said I was doing a lot of walking at this point.
Hours 12-18: (9 pm - 3 am)
This is about when things begin to get a little blurry. I remember starting to get cold and putting on all the layers I had (a sweatshirt, sweatpants, beanie, gloves, and buff). At around 9 pm, I recorded another voice memo, where I said that I had been exclusively walking for awhile and had taken a quick nap earlier. I remember this nap, because it was another huge mistake. I had planned to just nap on the ground, with an inflatable pillow and small microfiber towel I had brought with me. This was dumb. Turns out, lying on the cold dirt while feeling very cold will just make you feel even more cold. After lying on the ground, shaking uncontrollably from the cold and getting zero sleep, I eventually got up and kept walking. Hour 12.5 face I tried to warm myself up with a cup of hot chicken soup but that only helped while I was drinking it. Once my tiny cup ran out, I started getting cold again.
At 16.5 hours, I recorded another voice memo to myself. I explained that in the hours between 9 pm and 1 am, I had gone through a huge rough patch of being very cold and having a hard time moving forward at any sort of respectable walking pace. I finally had a burst of inspiration and went to my rental car, turned it on, blasted the heat for 15 minutes to warm up, and started moving again, feeling much better than before. After I warmed up, I ran into Ray K. If you’ve done any fixed time race, especially on the east coast, and you dont know who Ray is, you might live under a rock. As he loved telling me, he’s been doing ultras “since before you were born”. According to ultrasignup, his ultrarunning history predates my birth by about 25 years. I walked with him for probably about an hour or two, and it honestly saved my entire night. For one, his walking speed is a lot faster than mine, so he helped get my butt moving faster than I would have if I was on my own. More importantly, he is one of the chattiest people I’ve ever met, and he kept me entertained the entire time by telling me stories about Yiannis Kouros and Bruce Fordyce, about how he kind of snuck into Western States one time, and about his adventures doing Vol State and Heart of the South in the same summer.
After getting to around the 16 hou100k mark and parting ways with Ray for a bit, I decided to try to jog at least 30 seconds or so each lap to try to break up the monotony. After that first spurt of jogging, I realized that my legs felt great running. Suddenly, I was spending most of the lap running. I even started throwing in some surges of faster running to loosen my legs up. I shed a lot of my warm layers because the extra exertion was making me start to sweat. I made it about an hour or so at about 12 min/mile pace (including my stops at the aid station… I was beginning to get the nickname of “Hot Chocolate Girl” because I kept getting cups of hot chocolate to keep myself warm). After this sudden burst of energy dropped off, I decided to take another ~30 minute nap in my warm car. These six hours passed at an average pace of 25 min/mile, which includes my periodic ~30 minute naps where I was blissfully moving at a 0 mph pace.
Hours 18-24: (3 am - 9 am) After getting up from my latest nap, things began to get a little pathetic. There’s a handful of voice memos recorded that are just muffled crying noises intermixed with exclamations of “I’m just so cold” and “I feel like I’ll never be warm again”. I honestly don’t remember many details from about 3 am until 6ish. It all blends together into an overwhelming feeling of cold and misery. At around 6 am, I recorded yet another crying voice memo about how the sun was finally coming up and how happy it makes me (which sounds slightly odd, as I’m audibly crying while saying that).
Luckily for my morale, once the sun started to rise, two things happened: I remembered that hot food exists, and my friends and family started to wake up. I started grabbing bacon every few laps, and had a religious experience with the best fried egg I’ve ever eaten in my entire life (and which I ate with my hands, to try to avoid carrying a paper plate and fork with me for an entire lap). The hot food (and calories!) helped bring me back from the deep pit I was in. Turns out, trying to subsist on hot chocolate and the occasional handful of skittles isn’t enough calories and can lead to grumpiness.
At around 7:30, my lovely friend Katie called me and we talked on the phone for an hour while she did her morning run and caught me up on things I was missing in the group chat and I gave her all the ridiculous details of my disaster of a dating life. It was an amazing pick-me-up and helped get my morning off to a good start. Day two, here we come!
At the end of the first 24 hours, I had somewhere between 82 and 84 miles, depending on how much you trust my GPS (I don’t have access to the detailed lap splits yet, so the actual mileage is still unknown). I didn’t realize it at the time, because my watch had reset & saved my first activity somewhere around hour 17 while I was in my car warming up and charging my watch. Thanks garmin! I was convinced I was around ~80 miles, which was a disappointment. I had reached 82 miles in my last 24 hour (which took place during a mild blizzard and I had been similarly undertrained for), and I had kinda been hoping to at least match that mileage during this race, as stupid and ill-advised as that sounds. These 6 hours passed at an average pace of 23 min/mile, which is honestly surprising because I could have sworn I was moving as slowly or slower than the 6 hours preceding.
Hours 24-30: (9 am - 3 pm, 2nd day)
At 9 am, the 24 hour, 12 hour, and 6 hour races started. At first, I thought maybe the addition of more runners beyond the ~40 or so 48 hour runners would be energizing. Instead, it just kind of annoyed me. Getting passed by so many people and almost getting shoved off the path by the wave of runners made me even grumpier. I was also feeling quite jealous that other people could physically run while I was stuck in a painful shuffle. On the plus side, a few friends had started their races, so I got to see some new friendly faces out there while they were lapping me.
Beyond the addition of the new runners, these hours are mostly a blur of pain and more misery, just less cold than the nighttime hours. At around 26.5 hours, I recorded another voice memo to myself. I was stuck moving at a slow shuffling walk because my legs hurt so bad I couldn’t muster up any gumption to try to move faster. I also made a plea to my future self to PLEASE pack warm clothes next time, no matter what the weather forecast said. It’s easy to get stuck in the running mindset of “oh well 50 degrees is warm, that’s shorts and tshirt weather”. Which is true when you’re running, but less so when you’re walking slowly in the dark. I was able to talk to my sister at around noon, and my parents at around 1:30. Those conversations weren’t quite as helpful as my earlier chat with Katie. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I talk to my family or extremely close friends during a race, it can actually fuck up my headspace even more because I feel like I can dump all my shitty feelings into our conversation and cry and complain so much that it just ends up making me even grumpier. I was yet again moving at a blistering 26 min/mile pace thanks to my dead legs and a few quick car naps here and there. I had noticed that taking a quick 15-30 minute nap had the tendency to cut some of my grumpiness and bad mood, at least temporarily.
Hours 30-36: (3 pm - 9 pm, 2nd day)
At around hour 30, I recorded my last voice memo, again complaining about not being able to move well and being reduced to a painful shuffle. I desperately wanted to be able to move faster because I had promised myself that once I hit 100 miles I could take a longer break. I had figured out that at my current pace, I’d reach 100 miles at around sunset and I really wanted to not have to be out in the cold again if I could help it. I knew it would go poorly for me. I was having some big issues with thermoregulation already, and the falling temperatures would likely make it worse. I have a distinct memory of walking along the path, shivering and cold with goosebumps on my arms, while in full direct sunlight and 70 degree temperatures. If I was cold in those conditions, nighttime was going to be hell.
Mile 95 face, very thrilled to be alive At around mile 95, my friend Kelly started walking with me to keep me company. She had originally signed up for the 6 hour race, but switched up to the 12 hour mid-race. I felt bad that she was walking with me (because I was moving so slowly) while she was technically racing and could probably be moving a lot faster if she was on her own. Walking with her for the 5 miles to reach 100 was so so helpful. At first I was kind of resistant, because I tend to like to be on my own when I’m feeling shitty, but about halfway through I realized just how nice and distracting it was to have someone to talk to. I think I finally get why people like having a pacer during races. I know, I’m a genius. After I finally hit 100 miles (in my donut compression socks, Hoka slides, and Javelina sweatshirt… really looking like an athlete), Ray told me I had to do at least one more mile before taking my long break. He told me that just in case I never got out on the course again, I’d at least be ahead of all the people who quit after reaching 100 miles.
Mile 100 (with Ray)!
Right after getting my buckle
So, Kelly and I did one more painful lap and then parted ways. I headed to my car to finally change my clothes a bit (tracksmith shorts to BOA poop emoji shorts) and just chill for a moment. I got in the car at about 7:30 pm and stayed there for the rest of this 6 hour block.
Hours 36-42: (9 pm - 3 am, 2nd day)
I spent pretty much the entire 6 hours in my car, huddled up and hiding from the cold. I was semi-traumatized from the night before, when I felt like I would never be warm again. I was just so terrified about it hitting me even harder the second night, after feeling cold and getting goosebumps while walking in direct sunlight in 70 degree F weather. I settled into a routine of starting the car, blasting the heat for 5 minutes to get the entire car nice and warm, stretching out on the reclined front drivers seat, trying to sleep for 45 minutes, waking up, and restarting the cycle again. It was miserable. I bargained with myself, berated myself for being such a wimp, and alternated back and forth between deciding to quit with 101 miles or deciding to get back out on the course once the sun came up and gutting out a few more hours.
Hours 42-48: (3 am - 9 am, 2nd day)
At around 6:30 am, with the sun peeking over the trees, I told myself to buck the fuck up and opened my car door. I started shuffling around the course again after grabbing some more bacon and eggs and reassuring the aid station cook that I was indeed still in the race after he hadn’t seen me all night long. I had 2.5 hours to go, and I started trying to do mental math to figure out how many more miles I could get. I figured I was moving at just over 2 mph, so 110 miles was likely out of reach. I had pretty much entirely given up on running anymore, to the point that I was walking around sockless in my Hoka recovery slides. Pro tip: don't run in slides During that first hour, I noticed my walking speed was getting faster and my legs were starting to feel… not normal, but way better than they had yesterday afternoon. I began to throw in little 30 second bursts of slow jogging. Those bursts started getting longer and longer, and suddenly I was almost fully running around the course in my slides. After a lap or two like that, I made a brief pit stop to change back into running shoes and set off again. Somehow grinning like a psychopath again
I jogged a lap with the aid station cook after he chased me down while drinking a beer, and we traded stories for a bit until we got back to the start finish area. As I noticed the clock turning over to the final hour, I resolved to push myself and give whatever I had left. During my first ultra, one of the volunteers told me that it’s important to always save something for the last hour. While that may have been more practical for a shorter fixed time race, I took it to heart and was determined to use whatever I had saved. I ran almost every single step of that last hour, averaging ~10:30 min/mile. I didn’t know what was happening. My legs felt so great. I was the only 48 hour runner who was actually running, and I was passing people left and right. Once we were down to about 15 minutes left, I grabbed my blue flag that I’d use to mark my last partial lap. I switched my watch face to just show the current time, because I knew I wanted to really empty the tank in the last few minutes. With about 5 minutes to go, I started to really push. My last mile ended up being at 8:40 pace, and with about a minute to go I started sprinting and was flying by the 48 hour shufflers at 6:00 min/mile pace. As I was dying in these last seconds, the airhorn blew and I skidded to a stop and stuck my flag in the dirt. I knew I had managed to hit at least 110 miles, and maybe 111 depending on the distance of that last partial lap.
Post-raceAfter the race officially finished and I checked my preliminary mileage (somehow they had me at 111 laps!), I chatted with Ray again while the RD’s congratulated the podium (I just missed out, placing 4th F and 9th overall). I told him how I was already planning my next 48 hour, and that I had a list of things to change for next time. He told me that I had a gift and a lot of potential to do well in the sport based on how he saw me running during the first night and at the end, and how I came back out to keep going after my long break on the second night. I honest to god almost started crying while I was standing there talking to him. He didn’t remember, but he said something extremely similar to me the last time we were at a race together. To have someone who I respect so much and who has such a long history and a lot of experience in the sport, tell me that I have potential and can do well… it meant so much. It’s easy to brush that stuff off when it comes from my friends or family, especially when they don’t really know anything about ultrarunning, but hearing it come from someone like Ray is different.
After recovering from that moment, I shuffled back to my car and drove an hour to my friends apartment, where I proceeded to crash on the couch for several hours, wake up briefly to eat an entire pizza and watch The Addams Family (because I learned he’d NEVER SEEN IT), eat a giant bowl of pasta, and then fall asleep for the night. I napped on and off all morning on Monday before heading home. While I had definitely been shuffling around like a grandma with a fresh hip replacement on Sunday, by Monday morning I felt surprisingly good. I didn’t have any blisters, my toenails all seemed to be in decent shape, and while my legs felt a little sore, they didn’t feel anywhere near as dead as I was expecting. I even did a test jog to and from my car while getting my bag to pack up and it felt….. kinda good? Upon arriving home, I was able to walk up the three flights of stairs to my apartment with zero issues. I went back to work on Tuesday like normal. I also started running again on Tuesday, just a short 20 minute shakeout on a flat loop near my apartment. I’ve had a few people tell me i’m being an idiot for running again so soon, and plenty of other people who are just shocked that I’d even want to run this soon. All I know is that my legs feel amazing, I don’t feel very fatigued, and my body just wants to run. So I want to listen to it. I don’t have any blisters, my gait is completely normal, and I don’t have any lasting muscle fatigue (that I can tell). I’m restricting myself to nothing longer than an hour for this first week back at least. I might throw in some hill strides and a short tempo next week if I’m still feeling great.
My running “superpower” has always been twofold: not getting injured (which Ray tells me isn’t JUST because I’m young, thank you) and recovering fast. I eat a lot of food and sleep a lot, especially after a race. My BMI is nowhere near the “underweight” range (and yes, I know it’s a flawed measurement) and I’ve never lost my period or had a bone stress injury. I may not be the fastest, but I like to think I can outlast my competition, both in training (by not having to take time off for injury) and in a race setting. I’ve historically had no issues doing the occasional Super Week where I double my weekly mileage (or more). After my first ultra, I remember feeling pretty creaky and hobbling out some 10-12 minute miles in the following days (I was run streaking at the time). With each subsequent “big effort”, I’ve found my recovery is faster and I feel normal again a lot quicker. I know there is likely still some residual stuff my body is dealing with even though I feel great, so I’m trying really hard to not do too much too soon. It’s hard!!
As far as the future goes, I’m signed up for two 2021 races so far: a 24 hour in April (that was a deferral roll-over from 2020), and Western States in June (which was also a 2020 roll-over). I’m also going to be rolling over my 2020 Quad Rock 50 miler registration, which will be in May. Right now, my tentative plan is to do some 10k-focused training until the end of January, at which point I’ll start lengthening my long runs again in prep for Western training. I still haven’t decided if I want to try hiring a coach again. Western is really important to me, and I want to make sure I give it the best I possibly can, but I just don’t know if I’m really a “coachable athlete”. As much as I want to see if I can get to 100 miles in the 24 hour, I realize it probably wouldn’t be the smartest choice if I’m going to really try to nail Western States two months later. So I’ll probably use that as a tuneup (maybe 50k-50mi) along with Quad Rock. I’d really like to get a faster Boston qualifier under my belt (I think I could go at least sub-3:25,and Ray thinks I could probably run about 3:20 if I actually did my long runs), but I don’t think I’ll have time for a full training cycle + race next year with Western in the middle.
With regards to future multiday races… I already know I want to give the 48 hour another shot to see if I can fix my mistakes and start getting into some real mileage. With how great my legs felt at the end and in the middle of the night randomly, I think I’d definitely like to try some even longer multiday races and stage races. I know everyone says to save the multiday stuff until you’re “older”, but I feel so drawn to it in the same way I feel drawn to races like Hardrock and Western States. I just want to see what I can do at something very stupid and hard, and I especially want to see what I can do now that I know a bit more of what to expect. There’s no glory in multiday races, which honestly is part of the appeal. Almost no one knows what a “good” result is for a 48 hr, a 72 hr, a 144 hr race. No one cares. It’s wonderful knowing that no one cares or knows if you did well or can measure you in any way. I also love the sense of camaraderie in these races, especially the small looped courses. You’re able to interact with everyone if you want to, while in a normal race setting you might not be able to (because they’re either way ahead or way behind you). I’ve gotten shit before for not being a “real” ultrarunner because I don’t only run trail races, and been told that these short loop timed races aren’t the same or they’re somehow “lesser”, which I think is bullshit. I personally believe this type of race could absolutely break a good trail ultrarunner, and they shouldn’t be underestimated or dismissed just because they’re “road races” or because they don’t traverse grand mountain ranges. I love mountain running, but I also love being able to absolutely shut out the outside stimuli that can distract you from the pain and just be present in the moment without having to worry about tripping on a root or making a wrong turn or getting lost or being eaten by a bear.
Made with a new race report generator created by herumph.