Hot to Trot 8 Hour Run Report

Hot to Trot 8 Hour Race organized by GUTS, Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society

“You’re doing what?”

“In the middle of of the day, in the middle of August?

“Good God man, what are you trying to do, kill yourself?”

Eight hours? In one day? …nonstop?”

Obviously not ultrarunners, these are some of the responses I received from family and friends when I expressed my interest in participating in the GUTS 8-hour trail race called the Hot to Trot.

What is the Hot to Trot 8 Hour Trail Run?

Hot to Trot was run on a 1.1 mile loop trail, at the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve in Decatur, Georgia. The race began at 8:00 A.M. and ended at 4:00 P.M. making sure to include the hottest parts of the day. The goal of the race is to see how many miles one can complete during the eight hour time span.

The challenges are many:

  • Heat – The high for the race reached a sweltering 97° (degrees).
  • Humidity – The humidity got as high as 92%.
  • 1.1 mile loop course – Monotonous and mentally trying.
  • Trailrunning – Technical course with a lot of roots, twists and bridges.
  • Limited support – Race volunteers and a couple o’ family and friends.

Did I mention it was hot?

How do you run for eight hours in August?

To survive a race like this, in this heat, for this long, runners must study and demonstrate proper hydration methods, electrolyte management and optimal race nutrition. It’s so easy to make mistakes. The heat messes with you. It makes your decision-making a little flaky. It messes with your sense of direction, place and time. Once the body begins to fatigue, these effects are only compounded. Hallucinations begin. Sticks become snakes. It’s very weird.

After ten miles, when your dripping sweat, legs slowly beginning to hurt, your brain starts trying to convince you to quit. It says to you,

“psst, Christian, look over there. It’s you’re truck. You can hop in right now, drive home, with air conditioning, and go jump in a nice, cool swimming pool…”

“Come on, man – it’s hot – what are you doing this for? It’s crazy. It’s not normal. Just quit already and all the heat and pain and struggle can just stop.”

But I didn’t stop. Thanks partly to personal dedication …and partly to wonderful support from my wife, and my training partner. It was nice to see them around miles 20-25. Never underestimate the power, and importance, of people you really care about when you need some support. It’s like a drug. A performance enhancing drug. Without them, miles 20 to 32 would have been a complete death march.

In the end, I ran 32.36 miles, satisfying my dream goal, in roughly seven hours and forty-two minutes (7:42:00). My longest distance to date. With about 16 minutes to go, I considered trying to go out for one last lap, but I had achieved my dream race goal of 32 miles and I was beginning to feel really, really bad; So instead, I collapsed in a chair, next to my wife, and shivered and shook and babbled, trying hard to appear sensible in front of the other race participants and race directors, but feeling pretty rough none-the-less. Really rough.

So what did you learn?

I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. I learned that I can overcome deep mental and emotional low points, and properly manage the high points. I learned that when everything is telling me can’t do something, I can.

I deepened my appreciation for family. Even if it’s really only me, my wife and stepson in Atlanta, that’s all we need to succeed. I learned that the simple act of a friend bringing me food, even if I can’t eat it, running a lap with me, and keeping me company …can mean so much. When you break down the walls of personality and attitudes and just experience people as your true self, you see things much more clearly. It’s feels like some kind of gift. 

I’m so sore. Everything hurts. I have blisters, bruises and a bunch of scratches. I’m incredibly exhausted – But… I’m also stronger, smarter, and more confident than ever before.

More than anything, I learned to never give in. To never give up.

No matter what, never, ever, give up.