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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

24-Hour Challenge

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

When Chris and I first started to prepare for the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC), we decided to start with a 24-hour challenge to walk for 24-hours straight in a loop around Lake Washington. Starting at Nine Yards Brewing Company (of course), in Kenmore, we followed the Burke-Gilman as far as we could, then switched to a route that followed Lake Washington around and eventually back up to the Sammamish River Trail and up to Bothell. We did not quite make it all the way around but we did keep moving for the entire 24 hours. It was early in our training and it seemed like a good idea. It was a terrible idea.

Because the challenge is to finish all four trails in under 60 hours we deliberately started after work--at the end of the day--in order to commit to over 30 hours without sleep. It also seemed like a good idea to start at night and finish during the day. The reasoning was that the daylight would give us a boost greater than the disadvantage of starting after already being awake for about 12 hours. We also started after work because this kind of training takes so much time and we needed sufficient recovery time before we had to return to work (not to mention the fact that we could only take so much time off to begin with).

It was really hard. First of all, we carried heavy packs with food and water and flashlight batteries and everything we could think of that we might need for such a crazy thing. Second, you can imagine the kinds of things that you might see on the trail at three in the morning (can you?). And third, there was this long stretch at the bottom entirely on sidewalks and concrete--and sometimes the street itself--for many miles. Instead of the forest, and the lake, at that point you're walking past houses and buildings and, well, abandoned cars. Oh, and also trying to avoid being run over which was a serious possibility.

Note: I should not forget to mention that I was inspired to do this by Thom Shea after listening to his podcasts and reading his book Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL's Way of Life. Thom regularly hosts 24-hour challenges and also offers Unbreakable Lessons.

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