MTC Race Recap: The 8 Hour Dream Endurance Race

The 8 Hour Dream Endurance Race is a competitive experience unlike anything else in central Indiana. It's an intriguing and sadistic concept that’s somehow far more brutal in execution than you’d think. This race truly gives you everything you could possibly handle, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

The rules are pretty straightforward. Solo runners or teams of up to eight try to cover as much ground as they can over the course of eight hours. Runners have two route choices, loops of either three or five kilometers, and it becomes immediately apparent that strategy is a must here. Do you bang out the shorter loops, quicker but with less recovery, or do you slow it down slightly for the long loops and savor the extra minutes of rest? People with math skills far greater than mine considered this dilemma and determined that short was the way to go.

The previous year not one, but two groups broke the event record. We Almost Won and Oiselle Volle - Snap Rogas clocked an impressive 69.61 miles. Based on this, and results from years prior, the MTC folks were pretty sure this record and the overall W could be ours. So that was the goal, we just needed a crew.

Assembling our squad proved far more daunting than anticipated. Injuries, illness, and previously planned races took out the majority of our regulars. It took nearly a month of texting, calling, and emailing friends and friends of friends, but were able to find our crew: a slew of local age groupers hailing from Indianapolis, Carmel, and Kokomo, the fastest married couple in the city, and a not entirely in shape MTC founder who normally calls trail running home. We divided up day-of tasks, Steve spent entirely too long an a spreadsheet I’m certain not everyone looked at, and were ready to go.

The race campsite was a who’s who of central Indiana running. Fishers Running Club, Carmel Running Club, and the Indy Chinese Runners had multiple squads. Jack Rabbit brought a small (but mighty) crew. Even the Avon boys cross country team had a contingent. Teams surveyed each other as they assembled their camps in the rapidly rising heat index. Race time start was 10:00 a.m., and with less than an hour to go the heat index was already in the 80s. By the end of the day, the heat index would prove to be the true opponent in this race.

With minutes to go before the race began teams assembled near the starting line, anxious to begin and already sweating under the early morning sun. The scene was reminiscent of those late fall cross country mornings, when the final run outs were over and the official was droning on about race etiquette or some such thing. We just wanted to get going. The first runners from each team toed the line, and the horn went off.

Almost across the board, the initial thought of the MTC runners as they began their first loop was “this really isn’t that bad.” Sure, it’s climbing above 90 degrees and the heat index is sweltering beyond that, but at 10am the initial half of the race route was covered in shade (this would obviously invert as the day wore on). And, treacherously enough, the first half of the route is mostly downhill or flat. The culmination of these factors could lead runners on their first loop into a false sense of security, that perhaps the 5:45 mile they just ran was not, in fact, alarmingly fast. Rather, all things considered, it was just right and this race wouldn’t actually be all that difficult.

The false promise and positive self-talk that ensued from the first half of the three kilometer race course was quickly, and quite rightly, knocked away once the second half of the loop began. Flats gave way to small inclines and culminated with the hill aptly named Bulldog’s Revenge. The creators of this event could have looped us gradually to the north, through the edge of Holcomb Gardens and up a slight rise to the belltower. Or, they could have sent us south up the winding, gradual climb on Garden Rd. They chose neither, and the result was a 15-20% incline that stretched across a seemingly endless 30 or so feet. If you had anything left before this particular hill, it made sure you were drained when you hit the top. Going down the other side gave no respite, as your options were either wide concrete steps to the left or a root-strewn, rutted dirt trail to the right. One last little uphill around the fountain and your exchange zone was in site.

Past results of the 8 Hour indicated that we should be well ahead in first place after the first few laps. But one lap in, it was clear that this day wouldn’t be the stroll to victory we’d imagined. Miles, Beers, and Bros (composed mainly of former collegiate runners) set a blistering early pace, followed closely by the Avon boys, and then us. As the morning unfolded, MBB continued their assault on the course, pulling farther away. Meanwhile, the Avon boys made a few early mistakes, running some long loops instead of shorts, and compounded that by thinking the only way to catch up was to continue sprinkling in the longer 5k loops.

Nutrition, hydration, and recovery ended up playing a much larger role than perhaps anyone on our team anticipated. There simply wasn’t any way to reduce your core temperature quickly enough, and return enough fluids back into your body, given the race conditions. Runners would exchange the chip-timed baton with their teammates, fall into a heap near the start/finish line, and then shamble into Butler’s Health and Recreation Complex for life-saving air conditioning. There, you’d wait until your number was called again and return to the abyss of the race. This pattern was repeated four to six times, depending on your role within the team, each approaching loop bringing with it a sense of dread. Could you really do another one of these? The answer was, and had to be, yes.

With an hour or so to go, and MBB starting to fall back to us, we broke out the math and tried to conceive of a possible path to victory. It would be narrow, and relied on MBB continuing to lose runners to the heat, but conceivably it could happen. We restructured our lineup a little, and set back out with the victory still very much on our minds. The gap continued to shorten, but we simply ran out of time. With around twenty minutes to go it became apparent that we’d come up just short of the overall title and record, but still net a co-ed division win and race record.

At the end of the day, we ran 74.1 miles at 6:26 per mile, falling just short of MBB’s 77.9 miles. After the race, we congratulated opponents, had one too many White Claws at the awards ceremony, and then reflected on the day we’d just endured. The 8 Hour didn’t unfold like we thought it would, but hardly anything ever does. Our accomplishments were still hard-earned, and the knowledge we gained from this race should prove invaluable for our next goal: The Speed Project.

Many thanks to Todd at Carmel Road Racing Group for putting on a great event, Butler University for hosting, our spouses, significant others, children, and friends for the support (and tolerance) through our preparation and during the race. The Monon Track Club will most certainly be back next year.