Sunday, January 08, 2012

Across The Years - or almost 24 hours of running...

This race was what all the training in 2011 was about. I don't even remember now how I found this race, or why it aroused such curiosity in me.

But curious was definitely what I was. I checked in on the web pages throughout the spring, because there was a lottery to enter this race. Can you believe that? Too many entrants for the space that they used... they had to restrict to a lottery!

In the meantime, we moved to a new house in the spring, and my running kind of dwindled. I was down to quite a few 20 mile weeks, and even a few 10 mile weeks. I think I had a hard time transitioning to running in "the city". I hadn't realized how nice the washes were for running lots of miles.

As we approached the beginning of the summer, the web page started taunting with statements like "The lottery opens soon. Check back this summer." I kept checking and nothing.

During this time I came upon Aravaipa Running in Phoenix. They put on quite a few distance events, but almost all trail events. I found the Javelina 12-hour run and thought it sounded fun and like a good training run for the 24-hour, if it ever took place. So Brian and I trained and ran the 12-hour race. You can read about that here.

We were a few weeks out from the 12-hour night run when the web page finally announced that financial trouble had put an end to Across The Years with its old sponsor and old location. But lo and behold - Aravaipa Running had picked up the race! Even better, the new location, Camelback Ranch, had more space than the old location, and therefore no more lottery. If you wanted in, you paid your fee and then were in. I quickly found a 100-mile training plan to tack onto the training as soon as the 12-hour race was over and we were off!

I was pretty impressed with how fast I recovered from running 46.2 miles. The weekend after the 12 hour, I ran 10 miles for a long run, and two weeks after, I ran a 28 mile long run. Of course, that 28 hour run should have told me a lot about what my condition was - I just blamed it on being in much colder weather on travel and out of my routine. I think the real truth was that my legs were still pretty beat up, although not reporting it all to my brain very well. I should probably have waited another week or two to attempt that mileage.

I'll try not to bore you with the training details, if you want my training log, you can take a peek at what I was doing here. Suffice it to say that it took a lot longer for the long runs to feel okay, and that the weather turning very cold for last part of November into December did not make it very easy to get up in the morning and knock out the training miles.

Still, I set an ambitious (for me) goal to run 80 miles, and a secondary goal to keep moving for the entire 24 hour period. (Smarter readers than me can probably guess what happens somewhere around mile 75 when you have had your mind set on 80, but I'll get to that.)

Thursday morning before our race day, we watched on the web cam as about 100 runners started on either a 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour race! That is absolutely unbelievable. And, pretty boring. There they go, almost slow. It was interesting to check in on them the whole time. The field didn't look crowded at all (I was worried that it would be). And the weather was now beautiful and sunny. Almost too sunny.

We drove up to Phoenix Friday and stopped at 'the ranch' and set up a tent, air mattress and sleeping bags. That way we could check out what the aid station was stocking and fill any specialized cravings at the grocery store. Kudos to Aravaipa Running for running such great events. Even better than the 12-hour race, the aid stations were always fully stocked, and they were continually keeping trash cans empty, porta-potties cleaned, and everything super organized.

Brian's plan was to run 50 miles fast and since the temperature was getting near 80 degrees, he wouldn't start until the evening. Until he started, he was going to be my race crew. The night before I think that I talked him into starting with me. I was worried about the overnight lows being too low for him.
Smiling amid our tent and supply table

So almost too suddenly, it's 9am on Saturday morning, and the race has started.

Just before the start, I'll pass under that banner 77 times

The track is 1.05 miles. 77 times around would be my goal. It's amazing that you can run that track that many times and not get bored. But, as I like to say lately: "If you get bored, then you're a boring person". A human mind is a wonderful thing, and one of the most amazing things is our ability to visualize and introspect. 24 hours of doing one physical action is the most amazing meditation that I know of.

The first 20 miles seemed to pass in a blink. However, it was getting warm! I learned from October's 12-hour race that there is a definite humidity difference between Phoenix and Tucson that I don't notice until I race there. I learned my lesson this time and stayed on top of the hydration issues. As usual, I ate well and timely towards the beginning of the race, but as the miles piled on, I started to resent having to eat. Another lesson learned at the 12-hour came in handy though: Coke has a significant amount of calories and it seems like I can stomach it when nothing else wants to go down. Weird.

I had two pairs of shoes with me and had promised myself that I would switch every 20 miles. Mostly I was doing this to get a chance to clean out my shoes and socks and check in on my feet. I was worried that if I didn't catch the beginnings of blisters, they would then put a stop to the whole thing.

Barb & Dale showed up around mile 35, and mom showed up shortly after. That was a real treat. It made me feel that I was actually still part of the real world. I had a goal to get 40 miles out of the way as fast as I could though, so I motored on a little, just giving hugs, hamming it up for the camera and stopping for water by them each lap.

Hamming it up for Barbara's camera

I finished 40 miles in 8:20 (right at a 12 minute pace). I changed my shoes and socks again, had Brian stretch my legs a little and then headed out to walk a few miles to let my body catch up on food and drink. Brian walked a few miles with me and helped make the clothes transition for the cold weather that was coming fast.

Around 45 miles, I noticed that the bottoms of my feet were burning, and I thought blisters were the culprit. I had read that the medical tent urged runners to check in at the first hint of a problem, as most things are fixable early on. I checked in at the tent and spent a half hour that was well worth it getting my feet taped. I won't go into it here, maybe a future post will explain the magic that Brian and I learned in the medical tent that night...

True to his word, Brian provided support to me for the night. Before going to sleep in the tent, he mixed up a final protein shake for me, charged my Garmin, and loaned me his IPOD to listen to. Even his going to bed was to support me, because I had informed him that there was no way I was going to be able to help pack anything, or drive us home the next morning. I think I convinced him to go to sleep some time before 11pm.

I don't have many memories between when Brian went to bed and when I got to 76 miles and woke him up. I remember the stroke of midnight, because they passed out noise makers to everyone and everyone congregated at the start/finish line to make a ton of noise and sing Auld Lang Syne. That was pretty cool. I remember that I discovered that there was a "real" bathroom at some point, and started using that for the rest of the night instead of the porta-potties. This had the triple-advantage of cleanliness, warmth and I could monitor the color of my pee. That sounds bad, but remember, I had already run for over 12 hours, most of it at 80+ degrees.

When I saw my mileage count had passed 75, I decided I would give Brian warning. My biggest problem at this point was that I was absolutely freezing. I think that I could have done a better job with more layers, but I was so close to being done, and so delerious from sleep-deprivation, that I just wasn't patient enough to change.

Each mile was taking me 25 minutes by this time (including a 5 minute stop in the heated tent to blow heat-cannons into my jackets and mittens). So I would be done in a little over an hour from when I woke him. I told him he had a choice: Either he packed up and was ready to go as soon as I finished, or he needed to put a sleeping bag in the car, and I would be there sleeping whenever he woke up. I'm really glad he chose to be ready to leave, and I think he knew that I preferred that.

I come around for my last lap, and I see Brian at the finish line with my mom's camera. 6:19am, or 21 hours, 19 minutes after I started, I finished 80.85 miles! I was so proud, and so darn frozen. Brian shooed away the guys that were hovering over the monitor, and snapped this picture of me.

Finished! (They later corrected the missing mile problem)

As soon as I stopped moving, my feet and ankles let me know how much pain I was in. Brian and I turned our timing chips into the race organizers and I stood, waiting for them to find our finishing awards (huge beer steins). It was almost comical, me standing there (barely able to without falling over) and them trying to figure out where they put the box of glasses.

So now here we are, a month after the race. The recovery? It's been interesting. The tops of my feet were swollen, and I thought that was the only damage. Two days later, the tops of my feet were fine, and then it was clear that my right quadricep was messed up. Three days later, my quadricep is fine and my left hamstring has the problem. Now I'm back to the tops of my feet being sore. Who knows how many layers of soreness I still have to work through. But I'm back to running, and am already signing up for races again. Not anything longer than a marathon...

...yet.