3 Days Not at the Fair

by Tania Salaneck

2020 was going to be my year to accomplish some of my bigger running goals.  I started planning my race schedule a year ahead, since I was turning 40 and I wanted to mark the occasion with a bang. Two years ago, I did my first 24 hour race at “3 Days at the Fair,” and it was a challenge! I decided that my big race for the year was going to be the 48 hour event at “3 Days at the Fair 2020.”

The year hasn’t gone quite as planned, though, and “3 Days” was postponed until October.  A few weeks after the race director made the announcement, they decided to offer a virtual option in addition, called “3 Days Not at the Fair.”  I’d put the training in, and I was already doing some additional high mileage for the virtual race across Tennessee.  It seemed like a great way to continue to run and train for a goal while in-person racing wasn’t an option.

The race could be done at any point in May, starting at any time. Because of my work and kid schedules, I decided to start on Memorial Day.  In an effort to be true to the format of 3 Days, which is a one-mile loop through the Sussex County Fairgrounds, Brock and I decided on a 1.2 mile loop on the SRT in Leesport.  Herbine’s Lock provided an excellent place for our start/finish/aid station. The course itself was about 1/2 gravel and 1/2 road, with the road being in the sun, and the gravel in the shade.  It was also flat, which is rare around Leesport.

Herbine’s Lock on the SRT

My friend Steph was going to run with me and see how many miles she could hit.  Before this week, her longest distance was a marathon. We’d planned to start at 9am, but we were ready and impatient, so 8:47 it was!

Steph and I just before starting

The miles flew by at first, and Brock finished his 24 hour attempt, having started on Sunday.  We staggered our runs to allow us to crew for one another and cook grilled cheeses.  We were fortunate to have friends and family support us throughout: stopping by to share some miles, cheer us on, or send a text of encouragement.  Brock continued to run miles with us AFTER he finished his race, and continued to keep us going well into the night.

My plan had been to run as far as we could the first day and take some of the pressure off for the second; we would sleep each night instead of pushing through.  52 miles on Monday set us up nicely for Tuesday.  Steph now had a PR for 50k, 40 miles, and 50 miles! I felt pretty good that I could hit the 100 that had previously eluded me.

Tuesday morning, Steph needed some extra time off her feet.  Laura Yoder was just finishing her 72 hour event, and had already shared miles with us earlier in the weekend.  She came back to the course to share some more miles and finish her amazing feat! As an added bonus, Mike got there just as she was finishing to do five more miles.  In the early hours before anyone joined us, Laura and I got to see a newly-born fawn hiding in the grass for a few laps before her mother came to collect her.

Brock brought me some lunch and I took a decent break in the shade.  I was at 71 miles. My mom timed a visit to the lock perfectly and we got to chat for a bit. The sun was starting to really take a toll on me.  I decided when I started again that I would do out-and-backs in the shade as long as the sun was so brutal.  That helped immensely. I continued through the afternoon, and I took a longer break at 85 miles, which was my previous distance PR.

As a I was resting, Steph re-appeared and wanted to do more miles! Brock was also going to run again, this time to pace his daughter, Vanessa, for her virtual GOTR 5k.  Now it was a party, and exactly the energy I needed so far into the race.  After they finished, Steph and I continued on and relished the respite of the setting sun, and Brock joined us for the final few miles.  My goal was 101, which is when you get a coin at 3DATF.  Right around midnight, we stopped for the night, Steph with 68, and me with 101.3.  I wasn’t going to run another loop to change it at that point, and I knew I had a few more hours in the morning before our race officially ended.

I was pretty sore when I woke up, but moving helped.  I needed a break from the trail though.  I was tired of digging gravel out of my shoes, so I decided to finish the last hours of my race on the one-mile loop in my development, and it was slow! Meanwhile, Brock realized that he was almost at 100 miles over 72 hours from all the additional loops he’d done with us.  He was running the trail to get a 72 hour finish now!

So Wednesday morning, when everything was done, Steph had 68 miles in 48 hours, I had 105 miles in 48 hours, and Brock had 101 (enough for the coin!) in 72 hours.

I’m so hopeful that we’ll be able to race “3 Days” in person in October.  I doubted myself for a long time about being able to do 100 miles, but having succeeded, I have to see if I can push further.  Just before I headed out for my last miles on Wednesday morning, someone posted a quote that they keep on their running wall, attributed to Lazarus Lake of Barkley’s fame (and also the virtual Tennessee race I’m in the midst of):

I’ve failed at my goals before, but this time I didn’t.  It made the victory all that much sweeter.  I’ll fail again, but beyond that will come more success.  Either way, I’m just going to keep reaching for new goals.

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