So I did a thing on Friday, October 16th. Some may say it was a crazy thing. Others will say its a normal thing. For me, it was a feeling alive thing. So what did I do? I completed the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge.
There is a song I really like called ‘Hurt’ (its a Nine Inch Nails’ song, but I prefer the Johnny Cash cover). The first line, “I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel” resonates very strongly with me and most serious runners I know. Because running is nothing if not self inflicted discomfort with a side of pain.
Life was difficult for me when I was young. The kind of difficulty that leads to a lasting pain. Its the kind of pain you hold on to in your youth. It reminds you that you are alive, but its not a positive reminder. In my youth I held on to that pain to fuel my motivation, my focus, and my creativity. As you get older life becomes more comfortable. The pain dulls. Yes there is stress and pain as an adult, whether its from failed relationships, family drama or professional short falls, but its less acute than the earlier pain. I’m not sure why its different as you get older, I have some theories but that is a discussion for another post.
As it stands, I like reminding myself that I am alive through self imposed discomfort. Decades of convenience has made us soft, weak humans. Anything that is slightly inconvenient is immediately changed. Its too hot -> turn on the a/c. I’m bored -> pull out the phone or tablet. I’m hungry -> order fast food. I’m tired/sore -> hit the snooze button. You get the point. This is why I completed the Goggins Challenge, I was feeling soft and weak.
Fist, who is David Goggins? David Goggins is a retired Navy Seal turned ultramarathon athlete and motivational badass. I first learned of Goggins through the Rich Roll Podcast. Goggins believes in living in the discomfort zone by continually pushing yourself past your limits. Honestly if you do not know who he is look him up. Second, what is the Goggins Challenge? In March of this year, at the start of the covid lock down, he took to social media and challenged his followers to complete the 4x4x48 Challenge. This challenge consists of running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. The Goggins Challenge was not physically difficult per se. My muscles didn’t get sore from the miles. I maintained a decent per mile average so not overly fatigued either. I would have preferred to complete it on the trails because dirt is more forgiving on the joints than the road. But my body handled the miles part of the challenge easily. I would say it is more of a mental challenge. There are several moments where you ask “Why am I doing this.” You have a strong desire to quit during the overnight sessions. I find the mind works overtime against you when it is a purely voluntary venture. You do not get a medal or a cool shirt at the end. You are only competing against yourself. The personal satisfaction of finishing is your only reward.
I chose to tackle the Goggins Challenge the weekend of October 16th – 18th. My girlfriends was out of town that weekend so I was alone in the apartment. I ran all the miles alone except for the last 4. Completing the challenge was entirely on me. My only competition was my physical and mental toughness. That was how I wanted it. I also took on the challenge because I have been disappointed in my training efforts since March of 2020. There are excuses…covid, hurricanes (I live in Florida), the heat (the Florida thing). But the truth is I was just apathetic. I was being weak. I was choosing excuses and convenience over the work. My hope is that the Goggins Challenge will be the stepping stones for a strong finish to the year.
I kept a journal logging my running stats, from my Coros Apex, my sleep behavior, my nutrition, etc. (I still need to analyze my heart rate and sleep pattern for the 48 hour period, and will update the article when I do.). As you can see from the chart above, I ran 48 miles at a 10 minute average pace for a total running time of 8 hours & 15 minutes. As a caveat, I wanted to share the last 4 miles with my girlfriend, who had returned home by then, so I power hiked it wearing a 40lb weighted vest with her. I started the challenge weighing 208.6 and ended it weighing 199.2.
Lets talk specifics: how I ran the challenge and some tips that would improve on my plan. First, I wanted to run a different route each time. I live downtown and have access to a water front, a downtown and close access to historic neighborhoods. Since I have lived in the same location for the past three years I had a good idea of how to mix up the routes. I ran all the rounds outside except for three. The Sunday 2 a.m. run, Saturday 10 p.m. run and Sunday 2 a.m. run were completed on the treadmill for safety. I decided on a general route in my mind ahead of time, but I did not map them out. The result was finishing the 4 mile run while still being pretty far from my apartment. This left me with a long (as much as a mile) “cool down” walk home. This not only ate into my down time between rounds (approx. 30-40 mins wasted) but it also added more wear on my body beyond the 4 miles ran. Next time I will be more methodical in mapping my routes as to end the run within a two block radius of my home. Second, I pulled out my gear and clothes for the next round ahead of time. This reduces rushing and wasted time thinking about what you need or want to wear. Third, I decided before taking on the challenge that I would remain active throughout the day. This could be walking downtown for coffee, moving around the apartment, finding a place to read or work outside, and stretching/foam rolling. I did not want to jump in bed or lay on the couch after each round. That isn’t real life. Real life doesn’t stop for a 2 hour nap every 4 hours. Sleeping or “vegging” between runs goes against the spirit of the challenge in my opinion. I think this helped prevent soreness but also added to the overall mental fatigue of the challenge. I only slept between the overnight runs. I would not change this approach. Fourth, I approached nutrition on a as needed basis. After the first 12 miles I was feeling depleted and ramped up my calories. My meals consisted of Beachnut Baby Food (hey it’s vegan, real food nutrition, and less sugars than performance gels), Huma Recovery Gels, baked potatoes with steamed veggies, oatmeal, peanut butter, chickpea snacks, black bean wraps, and coffee. The only thing I would change here is taking in more dense calories earlier in the challenge. Fifth, take care of your important body parts. Preventative maintenance is important. I thoroughly cleaned my underarms, my undercarriage and my feet. I also used tea tree oil on any sensitive areas to prevent rashes. Foot care also involved soaking in epsom salt mid way through the challenge. Know your body and take care of it. Finally, reward yourself once you complete the challenge. This gives you something to focus on and fight through the doldrums of the challenge. For me that was a crowler of Dunkelweizen from my favorite local brewery and pizza!
I am writing this article a few weeks removed from the challenge. The question remains, did it have the desired effect on me? I would answer yes! I am more focused on training and nutrition. I have been running more. I’m also engaging in regular strength training as well as stretching. I am signed up for a virtual mile challenge during November with my BibRave online running community and a 15K in December. I also plan to complete another challenge at the end of the year…the 5x4x24 Challenge.
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