Treadmill 120 Miler
Updated: Apr 30
Covid-19 Treadmill Workout
120 miles to… Nowhere
April 25 – 26, 2020
I had planned to be the doctor for the Badwater Salton Sea race this weekend. Because of the stupid coronavirus, the race was canceled. So, now I had three full days off as a result. Of course, my thoughts immediately turned to “How can I get the most training out of this unexpected opportunity?” I decided to do another of my LA to San Diego runs, 120 miles. But I had learned that all the beach bike paths between LA and San Diego were closed, as were the beaches themselves. I would’ve had to run on Pacific Coast Highway pretty much the whole way. Because of the sometimes dangerous stretches along PCH and knowing I’d miss out on miles and miles of running along the ocean, I thought I would replace the long run with something else. “Hmmm, what could I do?”
We ultra-runners do some pretty extreme things. Now there’s an understatement! Recently, a dude in Arizona ran a marathon on a helicopter pad running around four cones, forming a 30-foot square course. Another guy ran a marathon on his a
partment complex balcony, going back and forth a gazillion times.
This planted the seed for my treadmill run. I asked myself, “Could I do 120 miles on my treadmill in my backyard?” I would start in one place and end in in the same place but in this case, I would be going absolutely nowhere?
I thought this would be a fantastic mental toughness workout. What a perfect opportunity to practice getting into my “zone.” I knew the monotony and boredom would at times be brutally unpleasant. It certainly wouldn’t be fun, but it would be a great opportunity for self-growth. While I have a long way to go, I’m working on attaining what I call a” functional meditative state” that allows me to do my races while resting my mind. It’s a tremendous challenge. Over the years, the physical training for ultras has no longer become much of a challenge for me. I’ve got it down. Mentally? Now that’s a completely different story.
I talk all the time about” maximizing my p
otential.” In order to accomplish that, I’m seeking the point where I consider myself unbreakable, no matter the conditions. Essential to that is the ability to endure ridiculous periods of time and distance, while at the same time not knowing when the and will come.
At 8 AM on Saturday, I was ready to go. I had everything set up all around me: Food, water, cell phone chargers, headphones, a fan, salt tablets, towels and all the other stuff I use in my long races. I hit start and was on my way. I took the first of what I calculated to be about 200,000 steps. I didn’t have any hard and true plan. I just wanted to run. But, to make it more mentally manageable, I broke the workout into four 30-mile sections but also 24 five mile sections. I reminded myself of the importance of eating and drinking often. I estimated that I would burn nearly 15,000 calories.
After 15 miles, the temperature had become unseasonably warm. I told myself I better slow down. Also, I hit the treadmill’s pause button and moved our big patio umbrella over to give me some shade. I also decided to start sprinkle lean in some powerwalking. I imagined myself dragging my 65 pounds sled through the Yukon Arctic snow.
As the morning progressed, there were signs of life. My one daughter who is early bird stuck her head out the door and said” Hi dad. You’re really doing it huh?” Around 11 AM, my other daughter came out in her swimsuit with
a little midmorning snack before she started playing in the pool. Around noonish, my wife came out and asked if I wanted a BLT. I wanted to say, “Does a bear S&*T in the woods?!” Of course, I want a BLT! I’ll eat anything you bring me.” But instead I said, “Sure honey. That’d be great.
I slogged through the late afternoon miles. Surprisingly, I struggled quite a bit with the warm temperatures. I started to question my fitness. Maybe I wasn’t nearly as fit as I thought I was. A very disconcerting thought. I knew I didn’t have many very long runs in the last three months or so. I had been doing a lot of high-intensit
y stuff, so I knew my high-intensity fitness was there.
Anyway, I continued eating up the miles as I watched the decal on the treadmill belt go around and around and around, nearly hypnotizing me.
Around 6 PM, my mother and brother stopped by with a pizza. By this time, I had become so hungry that I could almost eat the pizza with my eyes. I devoured half of it, telling myself to save some for later. It was nice having company for a few hours.
As evening came, my pleasant distractions left me one by one. My daughters had gone in for the day. My brother and mother went home as well. My wife, thinking I’m crazy like she always does, wished me well and said good night.
I really enjoyed the nighttime hours. Every once in a while, I heard a screech owl in the trees on my back slope. The temperature cooled nicely, allowing me to maintain a strong pace. But I didn’t really care about how fast I was going. This was more of a mental workout than a physical one
At midnight I attended to what I could feel was a blister on my right big toe, that I had ignored too long. I popped the bugger and drained out about a gallon of fluid. I taped her up, changed my socks and put on some looser fitting shoes. Problem solved. Around 4 AM, I had become extremely sleepy. I decided to take a 10 to 15-minute nap. I laid down on the belt of the treadmill and its warmth kept me cozy, kind of like a cat sleeping on the hood of a recently driven car. I actually was able to completely fall asleep. When I awoke, I asked myself where the hell am I and what the hell am I doing out here?!” There are probably not a lot of people who take a nap at four in the morning on their treadmill in their backyard! Anyway, I realized if I wanted to get the workout over, I’d have to get my butt up and get that belt going around and around again.
I popped a couple Seattle Gummy Energon Qube Power Up’s and the caffeine worked great. A few hours later I could see the first glimpse of twilight on the horizon. Around 6 AM, my spirits came to life. In my exuberance, I tapped the volume up button a couple times on my Bose speaker that was pumping out my silly EDM music. Almost immediately, my wife came out and said “Honey, can you turn that down little bit.” I realized I had to chill out some.
The second days miles came a little hard
er. Time seemed to move a lot slower. I focused on… Nothing. When a thought came in my head, I tried to let it go. I tried to “empty my cup.” I even squinted my eyes so they were almost closed. But I had to be careful I didn’t stumble and get shot off the back of the treadmill. What seemed to work best was when I stared at a certain spot ahead of me and relaxed my eye muscles.
When I got to mile 100, the accumulated fatigue was balanced out by the growing euphoria of being done with this silly ordeal. When I hit 110, I tapped the speed up button more and more. At mile 115, I was doing between eight- and six-minute miles. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble maintaining that fast pace. I guess I did have the high-end fitness I was thinking about earlier. At mile 120, I hit the stop button once and for all
. I joined my wife and her friend over on the patio. (Yes, they were six sitting six feet away from each other!-Social Distancing) They asked, “Are you finally done? That’s crazy!”
I was so glad to be finished. I was proud of my self-discipline. I accomplished my main goal – – that of being able to crank out the miles despite tremendous boredom and monotony in the face of a very physically demanding workout.
I told myself “Now I stop moving my legs. Now I can go sit in the hot tub. Now I can have a cold beer. Now I can have a big fat bowl of ice cream. And then I can go to sleep… IN A BED.