The longest mile and then some

George Schroeder article in the 7/10/2009 Register-Guard newspaper:

He has run a marathon in 2 hours, 26 minutes. So yeah, it was disconcerting when it took Dan Olmstead nearly as long to go less than four miles.

This was not quite two weeks ago, during the Western States Endurance Run. He almost finished the 100-mile race, which is run on rugged trails in California’s Sierra Nevadas.

But Olmstead’s last segment — walking, shuffling, nothing that even resembled running — took forever. He staggered into the aid station, 93.5 miles from the start, with only a few more to go, and …

“I knew I was done.”

While several friends were crossing the finish line, Olmstead was on his way by ambulance to a hospital, his kidneys clogged with waste material from the dying muscles in his overworked legs.

At this point you’re wondering why anyone would run 100 miles, anyway. For the definitive answer, we go to Craig Thornley, a longtime ultra-runner:

“If you have to ask,” Thornley says, laughing, “you’re never gonna get it.”

For rest of article click here.


  1. A great article.

    Dan is not alone, I heard of many other good runners having major quad troubles out there. Is there any conventional wisdom out there on the major factors leading to quad damage (and consequently myoglobin leakage)?

    Obviously, conditioning your quads for the downhills helps as does running form. I wonder if fueling has any real effect to mitigate quad damage also, protein intake? hydration status?

    Cheers, Paul

  2. @Paul Charteris – My understanding of the contributing factors of rhabdomyolysis include: running beyond your training, dehydration, and NSAIDs. I have no idea if consuming proteins during the race would help, but I can’t imagine you could actually regrow muscle in that short a timespan. I imagine somebody smarter may jump in and correct me.

  3. Having been another destroyed quad sufferer, I would love to hear more on this. I ran WS in 07, and never had any quad trouble. This year I was much better trained (heat included), and started feeling the quads go just after Robinson Flat.

    I was guessing that maybe I didn’t fuel as well. Your point about not being able to regrow muscle seems valid. I’m not sure how it all works either, but maybe better fueling would keep some muscle damage away? Do quads hurt from just pounding, or is there some canabalization going on without proper fueling?

    Oh, what did you mean by NSAIDs being a contribution factor? A contributing factor to rhabdomyolysis? I don’t think taking NSAIDs can damage your muscles, but can be harmful to kidneys. If your kidneys are all gooped up from rhabdomyolysis (myoglobin), then it’s sort of a 2pronged attack on your kidneys.

  4. @Derek – Here is some interesting stuff about rhabdomyolysis from Lisa Bliss in 2007 (formerly the WS medical advisor).

    As for NSAIDs contributing to rhabdo, seems logical to me that if you’re trashing your quads, which is painful, and you mask it with NSAIDs so you don’t feel as much pain, you’re likely going to do more muscle damage than you would if you didn’t take them. No? I stopped taking vitamin I to mask pain in ultras years ago. Doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do, even if it would have allowed me to run faster. I can’t site any research for this.

    As for NSAIDs harming your kidneys, I think you’re correct in that they may inhibit kidney function, but I should leave that to the medical experts.

  5. Thanks for the great link Craig. That’s pretty much how I understood it, but it helped clarify some things for me. I was just hoping to find some other reason why my quads went so early.

    As far as rhabdo, I was peeing fine, and with decent color. I don’t like to take vitamnin-I anymore either, but this was WS. I was very careful to keep track of my vitamin-I intake. I was watching how much in how many hours, as well as how my hydration\peeing was working. I was still nervous about it though. I finished a very long and painful day, but with no hopes of the Haggin Cup. Maybe for us slower folks it could be the Haggin-Das Cup. MMMMmmmmmmm.

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