Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wet Run on the Island

I originally wasn't going to do an outside run last Sunday, but a couple of fellow crazy runners wanted to go run on the island, so out I went. The day was icky at best. Cloudy, around 30 degrees, threatening to snow or rain or both, and a little foggy. I wanted to weenie out and run on the treadmill.
But as usually happens, once I got out and running with others, the day ended up being good regardless of the weather. John Maack and Tim Olson were my companions for the run. Both are fellow ultrarunners, Wasatch 100 veterans, etc. Tim was an island virgin. He had grown up and lived all his life in Utah and had never been to the island. He was in for a treat.
Turns out I think there were a grand total of maybe half a dozen people on the entire island, and 3-4 of them were park employees. We had the trails....and buffalo.....and deer to ourselves. The original plan was to run the White Rock and Split Rock trails. Kind of a figure eight and the 25K course for the Buffalo Run.
When we started out, it wasn't raining or snowing and actually not too bad. As we went up the White Rock trail, we could see a few head of buffalo in the distance on the trail. As we got closer they moved. With no wind, it was so quiet and peaceful, all we could hear was our breathing and each other telling tall tales about past runs and races.
Both Tim and John are faster runners than I am and they started to pull away a little. As always, I enjoy any run on the island, but running with someone who's never been out there makes it more fun. The run itself was pretty uneventful, we saw several mule deer, several does along with a lucky buck and several small herds of bison.

I love going out on the Split Rock loop. It's out on the west side of the island and from there it's difficult to see any signs of civilization. It's easy to imagine that you're back in time when the the west was just being explored, yet 20 miles away live half a million people.
We didn't see another soul on the trails until we were about a mile from the trailhead, as we were going in Brian Beckstead was heading out for a run.
All in all, a good time. We came back soaked from the light rain and snow that finally came down. Went to the park office and put on some dry clothes, chatted with the ranger on duty and headed for home. Good times.
Oh, I forgot to mention the two bald eagles we saw as we went back across the causeway. Way cool just sitting on the ice. This eagle was the closest but was still too far away to get a decent picture.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Across the Years 72 Hour Third Day Report

Day Three – Ahhhh, only 24 hours left. The end is in sight but still a ways off and I have many miles to try and cover.
The third day was much like the second except that part way through the day I noticed that I didn’t seem to be quite as tired or sore. The quads and calves weren’t quite as sore, the chafing actually seemed to have gone away, no more blisters were forming, and my digestive system was working semi normally. I tried running and was actually able to break into a little bit of a shuffle. But not for long. I’ve always heard that the second day is the worst and the third isn’t as bad. I found this to be true.
There was a certain air of celebration since this was New Year’s Eve and the final day of the race. The last group of 24-hour runners had started, the last group of 48-hour runners was finishing up as were all of us 72-hour runers.
The day wore on pretty uneventfully. John Geesler was slowly making his way around the track even with his hurt foot, but seemed to actually pick up the pace a little bit. He did spend quite a bit of time walking laps with 7-year old Gavin Wrublick. Yep, there was a 7-year old boy running in the 72-hour race. He ended up running just over 50 miles in three days. How many of us could have done that at that age? Not only was there a 7-year old running, but a 5-year old ran just over 20 miles, and 11-year old Aaron Doman ran 100 miles over three days. “Hey Aaron, what did you do over Christmas?”, “Oh, I did a little running in Phoenix with my parents.” A 16-year girl, Cat Cuda, set several age group records over the three day event.
I kept turning laps, eating, drinking, etc. I didn’t take a nap during the day but did take a break at around 5pm. I just couldn’t stay on my feet any longer. I tried to take a nap but was too wound up to sleep. As I was just laying in my sleeping bag, my friend Dave came in and sa down to chat a little. He had finished his race that morning and was back to take in the events of New Year’s Eve. He suggested we go do a few laps and since I wasn’t sleeping out we went. He ended up going about 10 laps or about 3 miles with me. This was after doing his own race and covering over 104 miles. He later told me that those few laps about did him in.
As the evening progressed, preparations were being made for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Party favors were put out, hats passed out, and I got lei’d by a women I had never met (the lei was a cheap plastic one). At about 5 minutes to midnight, most everyone gathers on the front lawn to ring in the New Year. Champagne in paper cups is passed out and after midnight everyone walks a lap together. As we were walking the lap, fireworks were set off in the fields surrounding the manor. All in all a great way to spend New Year’s Eve. If I had stayed at home I would have just gone to bed early.
Now I only had nine hours to go. How many more miles could I cover. As I checked the standings, I was trying to calculate whether I could catch the person in front of me and would the person behind me catch up. Some people had met their personal goals and were taking the rest of the night off. I knew I had to keep going if for no other reason than I’m a competitive person and hafve to do as well as I can. But the motivation was fading somewhat.
I kept going around the track until around 4am when I decided to take my last break. I set my alarm for 5:30am and for the first time the alarm actually woke me up. Up to this point I had always woken up before my alarm went off. So, at 5:30am I went back out on the track for the final time. By 8am, I was really tempted to call it quits. I knew I wouldn’t catch the person in front of me and I knew the person behind me wouldn’t catch up, but somehow I couldn’t stop, I had to keep going to the very end. AS the clock wound down to the last few minutes, I tried to pick up my pace. I turned my last lap in just over 4 minutes and decided not to try a last one with only 3 minutes on the clock.
FINALLY! My race was over. After 72 long hours, I was done. Usually when I finish a 24-hour race, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do next. The same happened here. For the past 72 hours, this track, the people running around it, the volunteers, etc. had all been my life. With that much focus and insularity, to be suddenly be finished kind of leaves a void. Kind of a weird feeling. But I had things to do. I had to pick up all my stuff, load it into my car and get ready for the awards ceremony and lunch. It was fun to finally be able to talk with other runners without the pressure to keep going. We could all relax and enjoy our accomplishments. And there were some amazing accompliments. In the world of multiday running, my finish was decidely middle of the road. I did finish in 18th place out of 50 runners, but there was one person who was 71 years old that finished way ahead of me as did another person who’s 69. The kids I mentioned earlier were amazing. For them to be able to do something like this speaks volumes about what the future holds for them whatever they do.

Below is a graph of the elevation profile for the third day. You can see that the difference is now around 250 feet per lap.
Aftermath – Would I do this race again? I’m usually asked that after I try something new. Most of the time I say never again, then in a few weeks after the pain fades, I remember the good time I had and sign up again. This time I pretty much decided the same day that I would do the 72 hour event again. I’m convinced that I can do better now that I have a little experience. So, look for me to be down in Phoenix again for 2009 New Year’s Eve having a good time with my fellow crazy running friends.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Across the Years 72 Hour Second Day Report

Day Two – This was by far the most difficult day, both physically and mentally. After going solid for 24 hours, your body is shot, you’re tired, sore, maybe blistered, definitely hungry. Maybe you didn’t get the mileage you were hoping for during the first 24 so now you’re a little down. To top it off, the second group of 24 and 48 hour runners is starting and they’re nice and fresh. You realize that your race is only one third over, you still have 48 hours to go. Ugh! Nonetheless, you press on, hoping to get at least a decent amount of miles under your belt for the day.
Optimistically I was hoping to cover close to 100 miles in the first 24. I didn’t so now what do I do to reach the goal I’ve set. Either I’ve got to pick up the pace or reevaluate the goal. I chose to reevaluate. Doing any sort of running was out of the question, at least I thought so. Walking a nice brisk pace was definitely doable though.
Even though I started out the day in 21st place, in a race like this, things can change very quickly. For example, John Geesler is a perennial winner or second place finisher in the 72 hour race. The guy is a machine and super nice to boot. The first day he threw down 98 miles. The second day he came up injured. I’m not sure what it was but it had to do with his heel. He was reduced to a slow limping walk. A lot of frontrunners would have called it quits. John isn’t like that. He knew that his race was over, but he continued to limp around the track shuffling out the miles. He spent a lot of time talking with other runners, his attitude was one of going out to just have some fun and enjoy the rest of the race.
Another couple of people who were in the front of the pack also had to leave the race early. This meant that I could potentially move up three spots in the standings if I maintained my pace and stayed healthy.
I ended up walking the vast majority of the miles I did on the second day. I just couldn’t bring myself to actually run. I probably could have done some running but just the thought made me tired. I’ve heard from others that the second is always the worst. Your body is breaking down, skin is getting raw, blisters are popping up, you’re constantly hungry, your digestive system isn’t working right. Sounds horrible and to think that I was doing this to myself willingly. What an idiot!
As far as my own body, I could feel a blister forming on a toe. Since I still had many, many hours to go I decided to get it fixed right away. Chris, the nurse on duty (he also ran the 72 hour race) took wonderful care of me. He popped the blister and taped up each toe individually and laid a strip of tape on the sole of each foot. He said that should take care of me for the rest of the race and it did. I only ended up with that one tiny blister. Note to anyone wanting to prevent blisters, spray cheap antiperspirant on your feet and tape them up with 3M’s millipore tape. Works wonders. Also wear some Injinji toe socks.
The day for me went pretty uneventfully. I stopped to take a short nap at around noon and got back out on the track at about 1:30pm, much rested. It was amazing how much better just a short little nap could make you feel.
Meanwhile, my friend Davy Crockett had started the 24 hour race that morning and was cranking out the miles. His speed made me look like I was standing still. But towards the afternoon he began having stomach issues. This slowed him down. Ultimately, he ran over 104 miles for the 24 hour race, good enough for 5th place. My other friend Juli Aistars was running the 72 hour race and was going for the women’s win. She was still running strong.
I hit the 100 mile mark at about 32 hours and change. The really sad part is that I ran the Wasatch Front 100 mile this past summer in about the same amount of time and here I am on a flat almost sea level track, not 9000’ up in the mountains.
Dinner time happened around 5pm again and lasagna was on the menu this time. Several bowls of that really picked me up. By 9pm that night, my race was half over. It was hard to imagine that I still had 36 hours to go and that I had already been out there for 36 hours. The second night was the coldest of the race. I’m guessing the temp got down around the upper 30’s and there was a slight breeze to help make it feel colder. I took another nap at around 10pm and once back on the track at around midnight, I started getting cold. As I shivered, it all of the sudden dawned on me, “Jim, you brought a wool coat, go get it”. So I did and felt much better. I wasn’t going fast enough to generate sweat, so wearing the coat really helped. Once again, hot potato soup was served during the night and this really hit the spot. At around 7am, breakfast was served. Pancakes again. Sure tasted good. I got my coffee mug out again and enjoyed another hot cup while watching the sun rise on the third day of the race. Only a little over 24 hours to go.
My friend Davy Crockett was now finishing up his race after covering a little over 104 miles in 24 hours. I was envious, I wanted to be done too. Oh well, Jim, keep trudging around the track.
Second day stats – 43.496 miles, around 8000 calories burned, not nearly that amount taken in, plenty to eat and drink, one blister, still very minor chafing, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, I hurt. Mental attitude, fantastic, I’m having a good time…….so far. I think I was in 19th place at this point.
Below is an elevation profile of the course. Note that the elevation difference between the high and low points of the course is about one hundred feet.
Stay tuned for the day three report tomorrow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Across The Years 72 Hour First Day Report

I decided to post my race report over three days since my race was held over the course of three days. So today’s post will be just the first day. Hopefully I can remember all the stuff that went on.
Preamble – The official name of this race is the “Across The years 24, 48, 72 Hour Run, Walk, Eat, Sleep Footrace”. The race slogan is “Raising the Bar” I would like to suggest some alternative titles. How about “Across The Years 24, 48, 72 Hour Run, Walk, Trudge, Stumble, Weave Back and Forth, Babble Incoherently Footrace”. Or how about “Across The Years 24, 48, 72 Hour Experience in New Levels of Pain and Discomfort Footrace”. Or maybe “Across The Years 24, 48, 72 Hour How to Lose That Beer Belly and Those Pesky Holiday Pounds in 316,366 Easy Steps”. Or this one, “Across The Years 24, 48, 72 hour How to Wear Out Your New Trail Shoes in One Easy Fun Run”.
This race takes place at Nardini Manor, a southern style mansion on the west side of Phoenix. The owners have installed a USATF certified 500 meter track around the perimeter of the property and have hosted this race every year since 2003 I think. This year marked the silver anniversary of the event.
The race format is this. On the first day a group of 24 and 48 hour runners start and all of the 72 hour runners start. Race start is at 9am. On the second day, a second group of 24 and 48 hour runners start, the first group of 24 hour runners finishes and the 72 and 48 hour first group just keep going. On day three, the third group of 24 hour runners start, the second group of 24 hour runners finishes and the 72 and second group of 48 hour runners keeps going. At 9am on January first, everyone is done. Each runner is chip timed as well. The other thing that’s a little different is that you wear your race number on your back. The number has your name on it and everyone can see it if they’re coming up on you or you’re passing them. This works great for encouraging other runners plus you get to know others in the race.
There is only one aid station, but what’s not to like about a fully stocked aid station every 500 meters.
During the race, there are constant website updates, a webcam and viewers have the opportunity to send e-mails to their favorite runners. These e-mails get delivered trackside to each runner.
Why did I decide to go for the 72 hour race? I’ve run the 24 hour race twice (2005-06, 2007-08). I’ve kind of kicked around the idea of trying a multi-day event and figured this one would give me three times the fun of a 24 hour run. It did that and in spades.

Day One – I spent the previous night at the manor in the big tent, as did many other runners. That meant I didn’t have to get up early to check out of a hotel, find someplace to eat and drive out to the race. Kind of nice.
As we lined up at the starting line, I had the chance to see lots of other runners that I know. It was nice to see familiar faces. There were about 53 of us 72-hour runners, 22 24-hour runners, and 7 48-hour runners that started on the 29th. I could tell the weather over the next three days was going to be brutal……not. Temps in the upper 60’s, sunny, lows around 40 at night. It was going to be rough.
I started out kind of slow, averaging around 3:45 per lap. This is slower than I ran during the 24 hour races when I would typically turn around 3:30 or less during the first few hours. My strategy was to go out a little slower but still run the first 50K pretty much non-stop, then go to a run 19 laps walk 1 lap effort. I ended up covering the first marathon in around 4 hours and the first 50K in about 5 ½ hours. Slower than I wanted but I felt ok. I was entering new running territory and I didn’t know what to expect.
The day was pretty uneventful. Dinner was served around 5pm and consisted of chicken cordon bleu. Not too bad for runner fare. Sure beats eating junk food.
I was concerned about getting blisters and chafing but that turned out to be pretty much a non-issue. I started out wearing my LaSportiva Crosslites and a pair of Wrightsocks. I also sprayed my feet with some cheap antiperspirant to help keep my feet from sweating, since wet feet help contribute to blistering. Last year I lost seven toenails due to blisters and if that happened this year, I’d never finish 72 hours. Same with chafing, if that got bad, it was pretty much over.
I did laps all day long, trying to pay attention to hydration and calorie intake. I ran and walked until around 10pm and decided it was time to take a small sleep break. I went into the big heated tent, crawled into my sleeping bag, set the alarm for 11:30pm and was out. I woke before the alarm went off and it was definitely tough getting out of a nice warm bag to go outside into the cold, but I managed and clicked off a bunch more miles before taking another short break at 4:00am. During the middle of the night we were served hot homemade potato soup. Really good at 2am. By 5:30am I was back out on the track turning laps again.
Around 7am breakfast was served, pancakes and syrup. I went for a bunch of oatmeal, for some reason that sounded really good, and it was. I had brought my big coffee mug and had the aid station fill it. Nothing like trudging around a track, watching the sun rise over the mountains and drinking my morning coffee. At 9am, the first day was over, at least for us but the second wave of 24 and 48 hour runners were set to start.
First day stats – 78.603 miles, around 12,500 calories burned, not nearly that amount taken in, plenty to eat and drink, no blisters, very minor chafing, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, I hurt. Mental attitude, fantastic, I’m having a good time…….so far. I think I was in 21st place at this point.
Here is an elevation profile of the course. Note that the elevation difference between the high and low points of the course is about one foot.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s second day report.