A week ago today I had the honor and privilege to run with my new friend Bill Frye as he commemorated the 10th anniversary of the unexpected passing of his father, Sheldon Frye. It all began a year ago on April 19th. Bill was feeling pretty low and thinking about all the time he had lost with his dad over the past 9 years. They both shared a huge passion for Dallas sports. They were regular fixtures at Mavericks and Stars games.
This past year he decided to do something about the sad feelings he experienced around this date. He decided to run in honor of his father. Bill set his sights high. As a very once-in-a while runner he had never done much more that a casual 5k. Bill declared to the world that he was going to run 59 miles on April 19, 2011. 59 is how old his father was when he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.
From the very beginning many of his friends were concerned about Bill jumping so far out there. Bill’s mom was especially worried about his health and the potential danger of taking on something like this. Bill undertook a full physical from his doctor as he began hi s running regiment. Throughout 2011 he worked on his running. A major milestone for him was completing the White Rock Half Marathon in December. Granted 13 miles is a long way from 59, but Bill was committed to the cause and still had over 4 months to keep training. To create additional accountability he began telling all his friends and co-workers about this quest. He also decided to raise money for the American Heart Association along the way and set another lofty goal of raising $15,000.
Bill grew up with a very tight group of close friends in Jr. High and High School. Among these is a guy by the name of Michael Durkin of Durkin’s Pizza fame. A long time veteran of the restaurant business he makes the best pizza in all of Collin County and beyond. Besides making a great pizza he is one of those great all around guys. He makes the young kids that work for him post their grades and my kids think he is one cool cat.
Durkin is the reason I had the opportunity to get involved with Bill. Durkin knows about my er, uh, running habit. Many times I will come off a long session on the trails and go straight to Durkin’s to devour one of his tasty pies. One day in January he told me about his friend Bill. He emailed me the link to his fundraising page (you can still donate HERE) and gave me his contact info. Durkin knows me pretty well and though I would help Bill in his final push to get ready for his run in April. Anyone who knows me a little bit knows that I would jump at the chance to help someone in this type of epic venture.
A few days later Bill and I met over a cup of coffee. Immediately I knew this guys heart and soul was in it and he would not be denied. With time pretty short to go from 13 to 59 miles we get right to work. I built him a running schedule emphasizing time on his feet. Speed will matter not in this situation. He will have all day to get this done. Our first together is 16 miles on the trail. Much different than all the pavement he has been pounding AND it is also a new longest run ever for him.
Over the next month or so we stay in contact and made some adjustments to his long runs as he battled some knee issues. The weeks roll by, he puts in the work, and the miles start to stack up. A few weeks before the big effort I have him peak with a 5 hour effort on Saturday followed by another 5 hours on his feet on Sunday. He came through in pretty good shape.
Despite all this preparation and commitment by him, I remind him that it will be painful, uncomfortable, and there will be adversity to overcome the day he does the 59 miles. There is always discomfort, but it is always up to you if you are miserable when this occurs. When this moment arrives I am confident Bill will answer the bell and press on.
We plan a nice 5-mile loop that is flat, has a fair amount of shade, and provides good access for his friends and family to join him throughout his effort. The days leading up to the run I encourage him to stay off his feet as much as he can, hydrate, and keep his energy reserves topped-off with some good, clean healthy meals.
One of the really cool aspects of this entire scenario is the way Bill’s friends, family, and co-worker’s have rallied around him and this cause. Most of Bill’s family, including his Dad’s brothers and sisters, have not all been together since the funeral 10 years ago. Bill has almost 20 family members coming in for this. Bill has already accomplished something quite wonderful. He has turned the memory of the man his Dad was into a celebration that brings their entire family together!
Bill and I decided to start the run at midnight. The plan was to get as many miles in before the sun comes up. It was an energizing send-off that buoyed our spirits. Personally, my sole mission that day was to help Bill regulate his effort, keep moving, and do everything right he can to maximize his chances of completing the entire 59 miles. Seeing his family there in the middle of the night only hardened my determination to make the day a huge success for Bill and his family.
We aggressively walked the first 5-mile loop on purpose to really ease into the effort and get everything warmed up really well. Our walking pace was about 14-min per mile. This is no casual walk in the park I assure you. As we complete the first of 12 loops there is another crowd at our impromptu aid station. A group of 6 of Durkin’s young employees are there to run with us. They are all around 20 years old and chomping at the bit to run. I lead the group to temper the pace and keep the young stallions at bay. They friendly chatter and banter back and forth is a welcome distraction that helps the nighttime miles slip by effortlessly. We run loop 2 in 58 minutes and loop 3 in 63 minutes.
The young guns leave after running 10 miles with us and we pick up a few friends from his office for loop 4. The plan is to work some good aggressive walking back into this loop. Halfway through the loop Bill begins running again and I hang back with one of his co-workers to make sure she can find her way around the course in the dark. We arrive back at camp a short while later. 20 miles done! 1/3 of the way there.
Each time around I encourage Bill to take in calories each hour and really stay on top of his hydration and electrolytes. I have him drinking two 24 ounce bottles each loop plus a few salt tabs. He is really steady at this point and I encourage him to keep a really simple, efficient effort with as much walking as he needs during this next 20 miles. He is starting to visualize how this effort may unfold for him at this point. Get to 40 miles without exerting too much effort and then regroup to knock out the last 4 loops.
With the sun now up, the second 20-miles go by rather uneventfully. Bill has lots of friends and family joining him on each loop. He is walking more than running at this point, but covering lots of ground by maintaining an aggressive walking posture and not dawdling too long at the aid stations. The local news was there as we complete one of the next loops. They get shots of us coming in and out of the aid station and do a brief interview with Bill. Spirits are very high as we finish the 8th loop and complete 40 miles.
This is way beyond anything Bill has done before. At this point we have been on our feet for over 12 hours. Our loop we are running is entirely pavement. 12 hours just standing on pavement can be painful. Running and walking during that time will certainly take its toll. I believe walking on the pavement is much more taxing on your feet that running properly on pavement. When you walk more of your foot comes in contact with the ground for a longer amount of time generating much more friction than if one was running with a proper, natural running form. Bill has some pretty good hot spots on the balls of his feet at this point. Even my feet are barking at me pretty good from the pavement.
So far today the plan has gone off even better than we expected. We still have a lot of to cover before we get to 59 and as is true in any ultra-distance, anything can happen…..
The dramatic conclusion of Bill’s epic day will be posted in a day or so. (More photos as well as some video) Follow my blog to get updates when new posts hit. Peruse the archives while you are here for more goodness.