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.


  1. Awesome Jim!! I love the elevation profile. You should change the scale on the y-axis to make that one foot elevation gain look really significant. Can't wait to read days 2 and 3.

  2. Great job out there Jim. I followed the web site closely and was totally impressed.
    Tim Long

  3. Nice pacing on the first day, Jim. Looking forward to the next report.