Attempt 1 (January 25, 2015)
When I purchased my first Fitbit fitness tracker back in January 2014, I almost immediately became obsessed with my daily and weekly step counts. Whenever I was invited to daily or weekly challenges, I would go above and beyond to make sure that I won. I would do whatever it took, including running or walking multiple times a day and even doing laps around my kitchen and living room as challenges wound down. I even remember pacing around in my hotel room while on vacation just to win a challenge. In retrospect, it probably wasn't very healthy, as it emphasized quantity over quality.
In any case, I (unfortunately) learned that the highest step total in a single day that would earn you a daily "badge" was 100,000 steps. That seemed unfathomable to me, as my daily goal was 15,000 steps, but I began to think about whether it would be possible and, of course, began planning an attempt to do it.
My first attempt took place on January 25, 2015. It was a spectacular failure. Although I ended up with a tad over 91,000 steps, earning myself the Rocket Boot badge, I didn't give myself a good chance to get to 100,000 due to lack of preparation and poor planning. I made a few decisions that really came back to bite me.
First, I decided that I would only walk, which would require me to walk about 50 miles. That was a mistake because the monotony of walking brutalized my feet. I should have mixed in some running or jogging just to change things up.
Second, I decided that I would walk the 100,000 steps at a gym and mostly on a treadmill. I chose to do that because it would prevent me from having to worry about the weather and other obstacles (stoplights, uneven terrain, cars) that I would surely encounter in an outdoor attempt. In addition, I would be able to watch TV at the gym, which would presumably distract me from the torture. I would also have convenient access to bathrooms and a locker room, where I could store supplies needed for the effort. I chose January 25 because that was the day of the NFL's Pro Bowl and I thought it would offer a good distraction for at least a few hours. I should have known better because the Pro Bowl always sucks. The treadmill sucked too - it killed my feet and lower back. Although I did end up walking some on the indoor track at the gym, the damage, physical and psychological, had already been done by that point.
Third, I severely underestimated the amount of calories I would need to consume to continuously walk for that long. I figured I could average 3 miles per hour but, at that pace, it would take me nearly 17 hours to cover 100,000 steps. This was all I brought with me for the entire day:
If you are counting at home, between the "food" and Gatorade, I only brought about 2,100 calories. That was not nearly enough. My good friend and frequent partner in crime, James Zygadlo, stopped by a couple times throughout the day and on one visit brought me some Starburst candies, which added another couple hundred calories at most.
I started the day off early, arriving at the gym around 6am. Things were going okay for awhile, but it was really boring and my feet and lower back started to hurt pretty badly around the 50,000 step mark, which I hit around 1:30pm. As I noted, James stopped by and put in some miles with me at two points in the day. He was there when I ultimately pulled the plug on the attempt around 9pm. I distinctly remember that my wife stopped by at one point in the day and just stood in front of the treadmill and shook her head at me, not at all happy with what I was putting my body through. She wasn't wrong!
I finally chose to quit because I was experiencing severe physical exhaustion and began to experience heat exhaustion, which was making me dizzy and nauseous. In addition, my feet hurt so badly I could hardly stand on them. I thought that if I continued, I would definitely end up in the hospital. That was not something I was willing to do, so I called it a day, even though I was more than 90% of the way there. It was disappointing because I had been providing live updates on my progress on social media and I hated to pull the plug so close to the finish line. Here is what one of my feet looked like when I got home that evening (one giant blister and blood pooling):
Here were the final stats, per my Fitbit (obviously, the active minutes feature wasn't working correctly and the mileage was definitely off too):
I did at least earn the Rocket Boot badge, though that wasn't the one I was aiming for:
And, like all good friends, James ribbed me a bit by making this graphic to represent my effort - so close, but yet so far away...
As my wife will confirm, when I got home after attempting this, I said to her: "Don't ever let me do anything that stupid ever again in my life." And I thought that was the end of it. Yet it wasn't. But you already knew that, even if I didn't.
Preparing for Attempt 2
Over the years, my failure ate at me every time I thought about it. It felt like unfinished business that needed to be finished. I knew that if made some changes based on what I had learned in the failed first attempt, I could do it. I also knew that I needed to be in better shape and that I needed to train for it. Finally, I decided that I would make another attempt some 5 years later, on February 1, 2020, the day before the Super Bowl. I chose that day because I figured I would be incapacitated the day after the attempt and there was no better day to be incapacitated than Super Bowl Sunday, when I would be vegging on the couch watching football all day anyhow.
James and I came up with a plan that we thought would get us across the finish line. The second attempt would be outside and we would mix in some running/jogging and make sure we consumed way more calories. To prepare ourselves, we decided that we would first pick a day to walk most of the 215 beltway path to potentially scope that out as part of the 100,000 step course. We settled on November 2, 2019 for this attempt. We stocked up on provisions, including stopping at Subway in the morning to buy our lunch for later. We threw the sandwiches into our camelbacks to eat later.
We kicked things off around 8:45am at the corner of Flamingo and the 215, not quite the start of the path, but close enough:
We turned around at Ann Road and the 215 around 1pm and we were in pretty good spirits, though we still had roughly 12.5 miles to walk back to Parkway Tavern, where we had parked:
A couple photos of the Las Vegas Strip from along the way:
When all was said and done, we arrived back where we had started a little after 5:30pm. So our journey took around 8 hours and 45 minutes and we ended up covering over 25 miles, for a total of over 56,000 steps for me (and even more for James). We tried jogging a bit towards the end, but our feet were hurting so much that we quickly switched back to walking. We were tired and couldn't feel our feet, but that seemed like a great reason to enjoy a celebratory beverage or two at Parkway Tavern.
More importantly, we learned some things that would help in our official attempt. We could make the 215 path part of the course, but not the entire course because we needed to be closer to our supplies, like food, restrooms, a change of clothes and shoes. We learned we would need to eat a lot to sustain our efforts. And we also learned it was going to hurt...a lot. We had three months to prepare ourselves mentally and physically. Game on!
Attempt 2 (2/1/2020)
We chose to make this effort a fundraiser for a State of Nevada grant program that helps to get kids outside. Donors could either pledge a flat amount or pledge per 1,000 steps completed. Our goal, of course, was 100,000 steps. We chose this beneficiary because I had actually sponsored the bill establishing the program at the 2019 Session of the Nevada Legislature. Getting kids outdoors has always been important to me, inspiring my "Kids in Parks" legislation in 2017, that provided a free state parks pass to every 5th grader in Nevada. It is still my favorite bill signing, as then Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill at a state park in Northern Nevada:
We had a plan and we mostly executed it. And, like the first effort five years prior, we made sure to document our progress with hourly social media updates. We headed out to run some miles at 5:30am. I was already at about 1,700 steps just from getting ready in the morning, so that was a nice start to what was going to be a long day.
We put in a few miles of running around the neighborhood and checked in with just over 10,000 steps at 6:30am. It was nice to have 10% of the steps done just an hour in. And we definitely saved a small dog from an approaching hungry coyote while the dog's oblivious owner just stared at her phone the whole time. I was hoping this would be stored good karma for us later on in the day.
We headed to the 215 path and ended the next hour at just over 16,000 steps at 7:30am.
We continued northbound on the 215 path and ended the next hour at just over 22,500 steps at 8:30am.
We continued northbound on the 215 path and ended the next hour at nearly 29,000 steps at 9:30am. We also got a nice view of the Las Vegas Strip.
Stayed on the 215 path and ended the next hour at over 37,000 steps at 10:30am. We were 5 hours in and more than 33% of the way there but we had so much further to go.
We finally ditched the 215 path and headed to James' place to feed his dogs and change up our scenery. We ended the next hour at 45,000 steps at 11:30am. Next up was lunch, a real lunch.
We decided we would eat a real sit down lunch and dinner because we knew we needed the calories and it would be a psychological boost to sit down for a minute. We wouldn't give ourselves much time to eat, but sitting for even a few minutes would feel great. For lunch, we chose Jimmy John's plus Pinkbox Doughnuts for dessert. We had to take a detour to get there due to the road we intended to walk on being entirely closed from an earlier fatal accident. We ended the hour at just over 50,000 steps at 12:30pm. We had reached the halfway point. We were in good spirits, but our feet were definitely feeling fatigued from a long morning.
We hit the streets with an extra boost of energy from lunch. We ended the next hour at 55,600 steps at 1:30pm.
The next hour saw us eclipse the 60,000 step plateau by 2:30pm. We were still in high spirits. We had stopped at my house for much needed showers and a change of clothes, as we had been going for 8 hours already. It was a nice way to regroup and get ready for what was still ahead of us.
We headed out to a local park to continue to put one step in front of another. We ended the hour over 66,000 steps at 3:30pm. We were now 10 hours in and 2/3 of the way there. For that, we were grateful. We were not grateful, however, that we still had at least 5 hours to go and more than 30,000 steps left to walk.
We passed 72,000 steps at 4:30pm. We were still smiling, at least for the camera.
As the weather cooled, we put on more layers, I put on my lucky dunkin' donut shoes, and we crested the 77,000 step mark at 5:30pm. We had now been at it for 12 hours. But we were only 75% of the way there. This was when I started to really question why we were doing this and if anybody would really care if we just quit and called it a day.
We had dinner at 5 Guys and, man, that burger and fries were the pickup that we needed at that moment. We were dragging, but the food gave us some much needed energy and we wrapped up hour 13 with 81,500 steps at 6:30pm.
The high from the food quickly gave way to a crash and the weight of the exhaustion that we were both experiencing after being at it for so many hours. We began to think about how good the celebratory beers would be when we finished the 100,000. A few of my friends offered to Venmo money to help us celebrate. In the end, some generous donors sent enough money our way to cover a very nice celebration (thank you Bob Yosaitis, Carmen Facciolo, Wendy Stolyarov, and Bonnie Hoffecker)! Also, we were treated to an amazing view of the Las Vegas Strip. And we continued to put one foot in front of another.
87,700 steps at 7:30pm. I think our faces say it all. Legs numb. Feet numb. Severe lower back pain. We just wanted to be done, but we still had two more hours to get there. Things were getting difficult.
Hello darkness, my old friend. Every. Step. Hurt. Bad. We had stopped really saying much to each other a couple of hours ago because it was at that point where the physical and psychological pain made it difficult to talk or listen. The silence was welcome and necessary. To be honest, I was very surprised (and proud) that James was still in this one. I had not anticipated that he would try to walk the entirely of the 100,000 steps with me. I knew how much I was hurting and I knew he must be hurting at least as bad, if not worse. Each of us had to find our own way through the pain cave that we had entered a few hours earlier. We reached the 8:30pm mark at more than 94,000 steps. This was a new daily record for me. And it meant that we only had one more hour to go. But it would be the toughest hour of the day for sure.
So James hit 100,000 steps before me, which was likely due to differences in our stride length throughout a very long day. While I was happy for him, it meant that as he finally had a chance to rest, I had to take one more walk around the block to get those last few steps. I did. And we did it! 100,000 steps for both of us just before 9:30pm. Sweet, sweet victory!
More than 5 years later, I had finally earned the Olympian Sandal badge from Fitbit! And, after cleaning up, it was time for celebratory beers at Parkway Tavern. Although the beer was wonderful, walking to and from the car was absolutely brutal. I don't know if anybody saw us, but we had to look like two very old men, hobbling back to our car at a snail's pace. The stairs at my house tormented me for the better part of the next week.
When all was said and done, we raised $2,250 to help get kids outside. A very special thank you to those who donated to this effort: Sally Yeager, Colin Robertson, Tom Clark, Alfredo Alonso, Julia Lazareck, Michael Chang, Justin Jones, Brian Reeder, Bita Yeager, Wendy Stolyarov, John Chinnock, Brittany Walker, James Zygadlo, Yvanna Cancela, John Sande, Adrienne Michelson, Brian Yeager, Scott Scherer, Mick Strongin, Alina Shell, Robert Lemus, Kyle Davis, Homa Woodrum, Teri Ligon, Andrew Weil, Felicia Ortiz, Daniel Solow, Melissa Johanning, Cherie Clark, Lesley Cohen, Michael Guss, John Bemis, Zach Conine, and Bonnie Hoffecker. You all inspired me when I desperately wanted to stop.
PS: Just in case you wanted to see what my feet looked like after this one...not pretty. No blisters, but lots of redness. And they were sore for days. Now you know.
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves as the Speaker in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.