For Blain Reeves, taking his body to the brink is just in his nature. As a retired U.S. Army combat veteran and Bronze Star recipient, he has a long history of challenging himself. Now working as a coach and personal trainer, he competes as an ultra-runner — a hobby he picked up in his 50s.
While Blain has always had a running background through marathons and triathlons, he never attempted anything longer than a marathon until he was 52. He first signed up for a 50-mile ultra-marathon in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, but soon realized his new goal couldn’t wait.
“I started training for it and, as I was training, I got antsy,” he says. “I wanted a race to do before then. There was a six-hour [ultra-marathon] close to home, so I jumped in that and ended up getting third place.”
Finishing so well after just beginning his training gave Blain the push he needed to realize ultra-marathoning could be his niche. “I realized I was sort of cut out for it because I can just grind through it. Most people need distractions, but I can just sit there and suffer through the pain part of it,” he says.
Now, with more than two years of races under his belt, Blain found himself facing an exceptionally challenging end of summer schedule: the Leadville Trail 100-mile run, followed up six days later by a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon. Then, as if those two events weren’t enough, he left a week later to compete in the “World’s Toughest Race: Eco Challenge Fiji,” which will air on Amazon Prime in 2020.
Competing in the Leadville Trail 100-mile Run
Located in Colorado, Blain’s biggest concern about this race was the altitude. Since he did the majority of his training in Florida, the course elevation — which ranges from 9,000 to 12,620 feet — and how his body would react was a significant unknown.
“The race was going great. I took off and had a great pace going into the first eight stations,” he says.
However, it was between miles 40 and 50 on the famed Hope Pass that things got tough. While he made it up and back over the highest peak on the course, he could tell his body was struggling more than it should be.
“It just punched me in the chest, and I was having a hard time breathing,” he says. “As I was pushing to get to the next aid station, I was struggling too hard to keep the pace we were keeping. I was working way too hard.”
Even though he’d never failed to finish a race before, Blain had to listen to his body and come out of the race around mile 75. It ended up being the smart call: he was later diagnosed with the onset of high-altitude pulmonary edema, which can be fatal if not addressed.
Plus, Blain had another event to get ready for.
Crossing the Grand Canyon with Project Athena Foundation
Six days after Leadville with his symptoms just starting to improve, Blain headed to the Grand Canyon to serve as a “Trail Angel” for the Project Athena Foundation, a non-profit that “helps survivors live their adventurous dreams.” This particular adventure covered a 50-mile rim-to-rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike.
Despite his experience in Leadville, Blain wasn’t going to let anything keep him from facilitating the adventure for the Project Athena survivors. “I am the insurance package when they go into the Canyon,” he says. “I have to make sure they get out. I’m carrying equipment, food, tent, whatever we may need.”
While he did start to experience a few recurring symptoms during the first night while staying on the north rim, the quick return to lower elevation the next morning helped, and Blain was able to safely complete and facilitate the adventure.
And then, a week later, he was off to Fiji for several more days of competition.
FITS Through It All
One common thread (pun intended) throughout Blain’s crazy end-of-summer schedule? FITS socks.
“The crazy thing was that I made it through all of those events — all terrain, conditions, wet feet, dry feet, hot feet, cold feet — the crazy thing was that after all of that, the socks just pull through like champs,” he says. “I will never race in another sock.”
We’re so glad to hear that FITS® was there for you, Blain. We can’t wait to watch World’s Toughest Race: Eco Challenge Fiji next year. Best of luck on your next adventure!
Your sock size shouldn’t be a guessing game. Our socks range from small to double XL, but the best way to know the perfect fit for you is to match your shoe size to the chart on the left. That way, you’ll know the size you select will give you the fit and feel you expect.
Between sizes? Go with your gut, but rest assured that your socks will still fit great. If you receive your order and find yourself wishing you’d gone up or down a size, just let us know. We’ll happily send you replacements for your preferred size.
Concerned about laundry mix-ups? All FITS® socks are coordinated by color and size, based on the colors you see on the size chart. So, you won’t have to worry about mixing up your sizes with the other FITS® wearers in your home. (But stray socks mysteriously going missing in the dryer? Unfortunately, we can’t help with that.)
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