Editor’s note: On Feb. 10-11, University of California, Santa Barbara freshman Mike Sale played disc golf for 24 hours, breaking the Guinness World Record for most holes played in a day. His total was 1,310, which still needs to be verified by Guinness. Sale shares his experience here.
By Mike Sale — For Rattling Chains
It’s not often somebody has to be carried to the car after some rounds of disc golf.
But I was in that position. Carried to the car. Carried to the couch from the car. Throughout the day, I didn’t move unless I had to go to the bathroom. And even then, I had to be carried there. At about 11 p.m., we went to Jack-In-The-Box. I used a baseball bat as a cane and that was the first time I had stood up in 14 hours.
Before that, I slept the majority of the day. It took me more than an hour and a half to initially fall asleep because my body was so physically exhausted that I was shaking for about an hour and a half before my body finally calmed down.
Nearly two days earlier, I spent the entire day in Isla Vista, California, at the home of Mike Schnell, my college teammate. All I did was hydrate, rest, eat pasta and watch movies. At about 11 p.m., I headed back to my dorm to try and fall asleep to get some rest, but I couldn’t fall asleep until about 2 a.m.
Morning arrived quickly. Anticipation was high. I was going for a Guinness World Record and the time was upon us.
The event was slated to start at 9 a.m. As my teammates set up and got everything we needed to gather for evidence to submit to Guinness, I sat in the car eating a final bowl of pasta as my breakfast. I also started mentally preparing myself. I listened to some music to get me pumped up and focused on the goal — 1,306.
I also wrote four things on my arm to carry with me for the day. They said: “The only limit is the one you set for yourself;” “The will to win comes from within;” “#76” (which comes from the movie Wedding Crashers — Rule No. 76, no excuses, play like a champion); and, lastly, a cross on my wrist. Those were with me all day and, mentally, helped me immensely.
As the start time approached, I simply stretched and stepped up to my first hole ready to go. There was nothing to be nervous about at this point — it was a marathon, not a sprint.
The first five holes ended up not counting because my teammates messed up the camera work. Five birdies were wiped out quickly. But it was a good warmup and got rid of any jitters I had.
I ran for the first four hours of the event and then took about an hour rest by walking, instead of running, the holes. I was cruising. In the first six hours, I played 433 holes (72 per hour). At any point when I needed water or food, I would tell my teammates and when I passed the picnic table between hole No. 5 and No. 6, I would grab whatever I needed from them.
The course, Isla Vista Peace Course, is laid out in two loops, essentially. There is loop 1-5, on which I used a Discraft Z Comet. The other loop, 6-9, was set up so No. 6 and No. 9 are parallel and, across the street, No. 7 and No. 8 are parallel as well. On those holes, I used a Discraft Z Predator.
The course layout offered some challenges. There is about a 350-foot gap between holes 5 and 6, which, by PDGA rules, I had to walk during the round. However, on the way back — between holes 9 and 1, I was allowed to use a bicycle, which was crucial to my success. This took me off my feet for eight of the 78 miles I traveled that day.
For the most part, we always had volunteers helping out and taking the work off the shoulders of my teammates. For example, volunteers each carried a putter. They would go to the basket at which I was aiming and wherever my drive landed, they would run to it. There they would mark my lie, hand me my putter and pick my disc up for me. If I made the putt, they would hand me back my Comet or Predator, clear the putter and go to the next hole they were helping out on.
Volunteers were the biggest boost I had throughout the day. Everyone was extraordinarily helpful and helped my mentality the most.
Sunset was scheduled for 5:32 p.m. that day. We officially started at 9:18 a.m., giving me about eight hours of daylight. I managed to run for about six of those hours, taking full advantage of the sun. I wanted to be way ahead of the pace heading into the night, so I could walk my way until sunrise.
The first eight hours were fun. My primary motivation was to pile on as many aces as I could. My first came within 100 holes of the start, which was awesome and made the rest of the day look like more would come. Unfortunately, I was chaining out and hitting metal all day. Nothing would stick. My next ace didn’t come until it was dark.
After the sun disappeared, my trek got much more difficult. I wasn’t in it for the aces, anymore. I just wanted to press on as far as I possibly could. At night, we taped lights to the bottom of the discs and there were lights on the baskets.
The first few night hours weren’t bad. I rolled through them with the help of several volunteers keeping me going. I was walking from then on, but still taking very minimal breaks and playing as much golf as I could sustain.
The difficulty began at about 9 p.m.
With about 12 hours elapsed, I was starting to feel fatigue. I was about 750 holes through and, mentally, I was starting to fade. Volunteers became more scarce. My teammates were still decently fresh, but they were wearing down, too.
At this point, I remember thinking there was no way I still had 12 hours to go. I thought it was insane. How did I ever put myself in this position and why did I want to put my body through this?
I put those thoughts behind me, though, and carried on. There was no way I could stop now. I had so many people supporting me and pushing me to the finish line that if I stopped, I wouldn’t just be disappointing myself, I’d be letting down everyone who showed faith me me throughout the process. Plus, there was no way I was about to throw away 12 hours of work.
I stayed strong until about 4:30 a.m., which was the absolute low point of my 24-hours journey. I was dead. My legs were reluctant to move and the blisters on my feet were unimaginably painful on which to walk. Every step was excruciating. My muscles were tightening up and resisting any movement I wanted to make. Each footstep felt like I was being stabbed by little needles. It was extraordinarily difficult.
On top of the pain, there were no volunteers from 3:30-5 a.m. It was me and three teammates, who were as exhausted as I was. They took shifts of sleeping and helping me get through the course. It was as difficult to press through for them as it was for me. The words of encouragement and motivation had run out. I couldn’t form any sentences at this point and responded to people by nodding my head yes or no.
Delirium was setting in quickly.
I was saved by two friends at 5 a.m. Chandler, who I play with locally, arrived first. He was heading off to work at 6 a.m. and showed up just as I was crashing. I took my longest break of the event at this point — a whopping seven minutes. During that break, Chandler asked me how I was doing and if I was going to do it. I simply put my head into my heads and said “I don’t know.”
Uncertainty dominated my thoughts. I didn’t know if I had the mental or physical strength to carry on. Chandler sat down and reminded me I was through 20 hours. I only had 20 more rounds to complete — and four hours to do it. He loosened me up with a slight massage, gave me a pep talk and I though I struggled to get off the bench, I was determined to finish those four hours strong.
After the break, Chandler also helped my teammates come alive. They saw how much I was struggling and started to pep up. One round later, my teammate from UCSB Ultimate, Bill, showed up. At this point, it was about 5:15 and he was ready to run and help out as much as he could. Bill rejuvenated me and offered me words of encouragement, urging me to make it to sunrise. He claimed the sun would give me the energy to finish.
He was right.
Sunrise came at 6:42 a.m. Monday morning. With the sun up, it was clear that as long as I carried on, the record would be mine. At about 7 a.m., I had eight rounds to go, which meant all I had to do was maintain a pace of 15 minutes per round. At about this time, volunteers started to gather once again. For the final five or so rounds, I had about six volunteers out there helping me finish. The emotional and mental support was overwhelming, though I was severely limping. All I had to do was keep going.
The last rounds were physically difficult. Mentally, I knew I was about to break a world record, which is something not many people can say they’ve done. About 10 or 15 people gathered for the final round. My teammates were taking many photos and recording the whole thing. It was a struggle, but I actually had eight birdies in the final round. At that point, I was throwing with only my torso and arms and my teammates said it looked like I was solely spinning around, using the leverage to let the disc fly rather than actually throwing. It was a struggle.
The record-breaking hole came on the first hole of round 146. I put my drive about 25 feet short of the hole. After limping to the disc, I lined up and drained the putt for a deuce. An overwhelming rush of emotions came over me. It hadn’t fully sunk in yet, but the relief that I could sit down and relax for more than seven minutes was an amazing thought.
Originally, I was going to beat the record by one hole, then stop. But I finished the loop of five, instead, getting three out of five birdies. I then sat down. At this point, I was toast and could not stand up on my own.
The support my friends and teammates provided me was the main reason I achieved this record. Without them, I would have been lucky to get 1,000 holes. I am eternally grateful to every person who helped in this process and I could never repay the motivation they provided me.
Although this attempt was meant to raise money for our trip to the Collegiate Disc Golf National Championships, it was more for me. I believe the human body has so much potential we never tap and I wanted to prove that. I wanted to show people that if you set your mind to something, it doesn’t matter how difficult it is, it’s attainable.
I was presented with this chance. Many told me it was impossible and that I was crazy to even try it. But if you never go for the chances you are presented, you never know what your live could have been or how it would have changed if you took those chances.
Mike Sale is the co-founder of the UCSB Disc Golf Club.