24 hours of running. Just the thought of that makes most of us shudder, but not for Zach Bitter, our dearest 100 Miles world record holder. For a 12-hour specialist, doing a 24-hour run is out of his comfort zone. Think about it – training for a half-marathon and full marathon is not the same! A half-Ironman and full Ironman is not the same either.

You know what’s the “best” part about the Desert Solstice race? It is done around a track. Yes, a track that runners go round and round for 24 hours, trying to clock the most mileage.

We caught up with Zach after the race…

How did your preparation for this race go?
Going into the event I felt my preparation went quite well. I trained at a level of volume I have never done before, so I knew this might be a risky strategy, but was willing to try it and see what would happen.

In hindsight, I would likely have prepared a bit differently given what I know now, but that is part of ultrarunning and attempting events that are longer than you have done before. One of the things I enjoy the most about ultramarathon running is that you can take any experience and learn from it.

What were your expectations going into this race?
My expectations going into the event were pretty high. I thought if everything went perfectly I could run in the 180-mile range. I knew this would be very difficult, so I also wanted to make sure another goal was to make sure I finish the full 24 hours, so I could walk away with the experience to build from for future events.

24 hours is a long time – How did the race go? Did it go according to plan?
It started out well and the pace felt comfortable and sustainable for the first few hours. I did begin to notice around 6 hours that I felt a bit flat compared to what I would have liked, which may be that I was just a bit too aggressive with my training plan leading into the race.

With that said, I felt confident and comfortable enough I could still have a good day. During the evening hours, I had a series of issues come up. I began to cramp in my left calf and hamstring, which led to taking a long break to massage it. I managed to get back out on the track and eventually begin to run again, but ultimately my left hip locked up and I wasn’t able to get it to loosen, so I found myself walking the majority of the second half of the event.

Will you do a 24-hour race again?
I will definitely run another 24-hour event in the future. I really like the format of this event and want to find my limits in what I can do for it. I will take what I learned from this event and build another training plan and race strategy for a future attempt.

Lessons learnt from this race?
The first thought is that I believe I may want to reduce the overall training volume I did for this particular build up, but with more long track-specific sessions leading into the event. I will likely make strength work a bigger priority as well, to help be a bit more durable out on the track. Despite walking most of the second half, it was clear how big of a mental hurdle running for 24 hours will be, so I will continue to think of ways to stay motivated. 

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