MitoTreadmill part ONE

The whole team
Neil Zeller photography

Nine months ago Blaine Penny and I sat across a table at Good Earth from Kirsten Fleming and Erin Healey from the Calgary Marathon Management Group. At the conclusion of that productive meeting Blaine smiled, “This is happening buddy.”  Our proposal: Break the Guinness World Record for furthest distance run on a treadmill in 24 hours at the Calgary Marathon Race Expo in support of MitoCanada – and I would be the sacrificial lamb. It was Blaine’s idea to have a 12 man team run alongside me and attempt to break the team 24 hour record but who would lead this charge? Who could organize this group of misfits and captain this team? Blaine and I said

Tristan Janusc classy as usual
Neil Zeller photography
Neil Zeller photograpy

his name at the same time – Tristan Janusc. Lucky for us it only cost us a case of Tool Shed beer and a foot long sub, Tristan was in. Tristan then made mention that no one wants to go to a sausage party, we need to invite the ladies. Seconds after an email was released to the elite women in the Calgary running community Melissa Paauwe responded with enthusiasm and a pledge to gather a team of 12 ridiculously fast chicks. The super spunky, young 22 year old Arielle Fitzgerald was the next to jump on the Mito train and run the fastest 50K and 100K on a treadmill. Arielle is the 2015 national 100K champ and when I brought up this idea to her she snagged it as quick as a cheap television on Black Friday. Lastly, when Bernadette Benson was in Canada she came in for a massage treatment by yours truly. By the end of the treatment I had twisted her arm enough that she committed to breaking the 12 hour record and she would do it in Australia. Truth is it didn’t take much convincing as Bernadette is just as crazy as I am. She would start the run at the same time as me, only set halfway around the world in Australia running for MitoAustralia making it truly a global event.

Robert Lazorko at work
Neil Zeller photography

With the team now assembled we applied for seven Guinness World Records and started planning the main event. Tristan first took the lead guiding a core group through the monumental task of putting on such an event. When Tristan’s training and race schedule got too ridiculous our knight in shining armour appeared wielding a day planner and cell phone – his name is Robert Lazorko. OMG, seriously I’ve never witnessed someone project manage like that before; Robert was truly in his element. We then needed the right person to take on the stage and presentation set up. Tristan and I took turns tickling Daniel Bowie until he gave in. I’m pretty sure if we had just asked he would’ve said yes but that’s no fun. With our logistics team and runners assembled I arrived on event day a quarter exhausted, a quarter excited and the other half scared shitless.

Neil Zeller photography

The horn sounded at 4 pm on Friday May 27th at the Big Four building signaling the start of the 24 hour event. Leading up to the event I avoided stepping on my designated treadmills as I felt an unease being around them yet alone being on them. As I pressed start and lay my finger on the speed button I was filled with mixed emotions but that quickly settled into excitement as I found my forever pace at 12 km/hr and took in the excitement of the crowd. When I looked to my right I saw a continual cycle of strong women on the 12 woman team that exuded confidence with every stride. On the opposite of them were the mens team. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me knowing that many of my running idols were in that group. I knew that when times got tough I could feed off the energy of my mates.

The sign Sharon made me to give me space
Neil Zeller photography

My first mistake came early when I started mixing with those who passed by. I answered questions, explained mitochondrial disease, and allowed people to take selfies. By 8:00pm when the expo closed and we settled in for a long overnight I found myself exhausted. Stupid me, I should never have expelled all that energy that early in the race. In order for me to break the Guinness World Record mark of 257.88km I would need a lot of gas and I just wasted a bunch spinning donuts in the parking lot. Only 4 hours in with 20 hours left to run I found myself way more tired than what I should have been. Sharon my wife and crew decided to make a sign for the front of my mill that read “Please do not speak to or f
feed the animal.” Dan ‘The Man’ Bowie was cranking the tunes and did an incredible job of keeping

Dan ‘the man’ Bowie
Neil Zeller Photography

the energy alive through the wee hours of the night. My pace remained steady at 12 km/hr. That’s the beauty about the mill, you set it and it obeys. Yet somehow the mill is the boss and you are its servant. Around 10:00pm I noticed it was getting a bit warm in the building. I started putting ice around my neck and a moist shirt over my head. A few had suggested I place ice around my wrists and arm pits. It helped but still I found myself struggling. We discovered that the building turned off the HVAC and this oversight now zapped my fading energy. We propped the doors open and waited for the system to kick back in and cool the enormous building. Within a couple hours I was back to good feeling proud that my still forever pace of 12 km/hr still remained unchanged. I crossed the 100km mark in 8hrs32min and in control.

Approaching midnight at MitoTreadmill
Gordon MacPherson photography

The ugly wee hours
Neil Zeller photography

My eyelids started to droop at 2:00am, 10 hours into the game. The 4:00pm start time was set to make this more of a spectator event and I knew this would make the back 12 hours of the event torturous. However our goal was to create awareness for mitochondrial disease and my sleep patterns took a back seat. The morning of event day I tried to sleep in, then attempted a nap but to no avail. So at the end of the event I was awake for 33 hours and running 24 out of that 33. At 2:00am while watching Wayne’s World I drank half a Red Bull and peeled back my pace to conserve my much needed dwindling energy for the back half where the now very real suffering was going to occur. My fuelling to this point was flawless; eating half fruit and half glucose like Thoz Barz, cookies, chips, and the occasional beef jerky. My drink was half RE7, half water with a half a Nuun tablet in each 500ml bottle which worked great for me. I had gotten word that Bernadette in Australia was fast approaching her GWR for furthest distance run in 12 hours. This seemed to light a fire within me knowing my buddy halfway across the world was suffering with me made the experience feel less lonely. At 3:30 am I found myself minutes of setting the new GWR for furthest distance run in 12 hours. The record to beat was 132.9km. As I ran passed the record mark at 11hrs27min I sped up the mill to 20 km/hour knowing that these legs have plenty of miles left in them. With a brief celebration and Daniel Bowie announcing that Bernadette surpassed her record in Australia our team had taken down 2 of the 7 records with the other 5 in our sights.

Mismatch New Balance Zantes
Neil Zeller photography

At 4:00am exactly 12 hours after pressing the start button a day earlier my mill showed 139.2km., the new GWR! I couldn’t have been happier with my front end 12hr number. Word spread quickly that Bernadette had stopped her mill at 128.62km shattering the old record. As Bernadette packed her bags and went home I was settling in for my next 12 hours.

I knew what was coming. This would hurt like hell. Part of the problem was I’ve done this before and know all too well the world of hurt that was coming. If two words could describe what happened next it’s COPING SKILLS…

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