It is crazy to me how time can fly by and yet stand still at moments. Circles. Running 1.05 mile circles is how I decided to end 2016. It’s also how I started 2017. Almost 4 days removed from my 24-hour timed race, Across the Years, I am still on cloud 9. What A Rush. No cliff hangers here. I met my goal of running my 1st sub 24 hour 100-mile race! My cheeks are a bit sore from smiling. I’m hobbling around a bit, but it does hurt oh so good.
The day before the race, I meditated and envisioned myself on the run. I repeated “I will not stop moving, I will not stop moving. No Pain no rain will stop me.” I knew ATY would be cold, but in checking the weather, I was bummed to find out rain was in theforecast. Being under prepared for weather cost me dearly while attempting my first Zane Grey 50 miler. I have vowed to never let weather stop me again.
I over packed, two rain coats, pretty close to all my running socks, two pairs of warm up pants, ski mask, beanies and so on. It’s funny to see the pile of stuff I didn’t use. But there was no way I was going to let being under prepared get in my way. I knew this race and course would be the perfect setting for me to run faster and possibly farther than I ever have.
Across the Years offers a few options which include 24, 48, or 72 hour races as well as a 6-day event. Each participant can do what they please with the time allotted. I chose to participate in the 24-hour race that started on December 31st. I was nervous that I would not be able to focus with this race following so closely behind Christmas. It actually helped. The business surrounding Christmas kept my mind so occupied I didn’t have much time to second guess my training or let doubt creep in.
The race kicked off on December 28th. I spent a little time at the race each day soaking it all in, calming my nerves and observing. I saw that many runners kept their fluids and nutrition on the curb or on a table near the track/path. I liked the idea of being able to run light and not have to lug around all your supplies like in a trail ultra. Soon it would be my turn.
The night before the start of my 24-hour race, the plan was to lay down, relax, and hopefully sleep. Why did there have to be a UFC fight on? And why did my stubborn ass decide to watch it. Not that I have anything against Rhonda Rousey, but I was glad the main event was over in 48 seconds. I turned the TV off and closed my eyes with hopes of meeting the sandman sooner than later. The sleep was a bit restless and I ended up awake before my alarm had the chance to startle me awake.
I went straight to the bathroom. While in the bathroom I heard a rhythmic patter. It was raining. Based on the reports I had seen, I thought for sure it was going to be clear until around midnight. I text Brian, who was working at the main aid station. He soon shot me a response. “Stop worrying.” So then why did he send me pictures puddles and mud? He made up for it with some good advice. He suggested I wear an old pair of shoes to start out in until the course dried up. I packed 4 pairs of shoes in my bag instead of the three I had been rotating in training.
My wife offered to drive us to the venue. With kids in tow, me in the passenger seat listening to Eminem, we headed to the race. I put my head on the dash board and let myself have an emotional moment. It was about a fifteen-minute drive from my house to the race. I was glad to see the rain had subsided when we pulled into the parking lot at Camelback Ranch Park. This is the spring training facility for the Dodgers and White Socks; awesome facility. My mind went somewhat blank; it was time to shake off the nerves as I neared the point of no return.
I put my supplies in my tent, which I had set up a few days before. It was there strictly to house my gear and a place for me to change if needed. I had no plans of napping or sitting for any extended amounts of time. I showed Chris and my dad my tote with supplies. It was a mess. I apologized. Chris, Brian and my dad offered to stay the duration of the race as my crew. My aunt Terry and Uncle J showed up just before the start. It was the first time they had come to see me run since I was in high school. I was ecstatic having and knowing many of my family and friends would be at the race cheering me on.
I was in a Porta John when I heard the pre-race briefing. No panic. I took my time and made it to the starting line. My goal was to not run faster than 10-minute mile pace and run no slower than 12-minute mile pace as long as possible. This plan worked and I kept it steady for the first few hours. It wasn’t until the 4-hour turnaround, that I was able to let that the monotony of the looped course finally out of my mind. I did not anticipate it would take that long. At ATY you change directions every 4 hours, and believe me the change in direction is very welcomed.
I love and hate my Garmin Fenix 2 watch. Seemed like I could not stop looking at it. Id pull up the sleeve of my shirt to see the pace, mileage and time, then pulled my sleeve back over. I relentlessly did this over and over and over. I wanted to just run on feel and maybe I could have. But what if I went way too fast. I am sure I wasted energy doing this, but it was a relief and motivation to see how steady I was moving.
Around mile 27 or 28 I noticed my left knee hurting and It was getting painful to run. I have had this happen before and have had to muscle through it. But I never had it happen so early in a run. I was just under 50k, about 31 miles. With 70 miles left. It was too soon for this to be happening. My wife had just done a lap with me, I told her of my pain. She asked if I wanted some ibuprofen (vitamin I). I said yes. I had been eating so figured and hoped it would not mess with my stomach too much.
I told her to have it ready by next lap. Halfway through the lap I got a text asking if I had brought Aspercream. I had, so I text back its location, somewhere in the tent. When I got back to my crew, I saw my buddy David, he gave me a big hug before I took a seat. Tim and his family had also arrived. I had one heck of a cheering section. I was surrounded and felt very much in spotlight. I rubbed the Aspercream all over the front and back of my knee. This was the first time I sat down since I started the run.
After getting back on the track, I was so surprised on how well the combo of the cream and vitamin I had worked and I was soon back to my walk run method and keeping up my pace. I had no rhyme or reason to my method. But this combo was the key to my success. Leading up to the race I worked on my walking. Keeping a 15 minute per mile walking pace is not as easy as it may seem. I am so glad I worked on this. The combo of walking and running kept me within the 12 minute per mile pace.
Going into this event, I knew that every second was going to count, and that my execution would have to be flawless. While volunteering at the Desert Solstice 24-hour Track Invitational at the beginning of December, I watched closely. I could not match these elite athletes training, but I could learn some tricks. They never stopped moving regardless of speed. They would toss their bottles at us or their crew, and give orders to what they wanted. They never lingered at the food table; they grabbed and went. They ate while they walked or jogged. Constant and relentless forward progress! If I could somewhat mimic that I knew I could be successful.
My fluids included water and Powerade and I had a bottle designated for each one. My crew and even my aunt and wife, did a good job of keeping these filled and ensuring I was drinking. I switched off and on from water to Powerade. Not having to stop at an aid station to have my bottles filled up saved me so much time, it really did. I would toss the empty and grab new. Just like I had seen at the Desert Solstice Race. But it would seem at one point I was not drinking as much as I should be.
Moving into the early afternoon I was in a groove and feeding off the continued cheers from my family and friends. It was also a boost when one of them would join me for a loop. My wife, daughter’s, dad, Brian, Chris, Tim, and Giles all ran a lap with me. Thank you all. When I did not have company as I rounded the course reaching the spectator/crew area, I made it a game to try and spot my family and friends each loop before they spotted me. At one point I pointed to my mom’s suspicious red cup and sang “Red Solo Cup.” Time was passing and it begin to feel dreamlike as new phase of the race begin with a beautiful sunset.
It seemed to get dark quick. My pace was still steady and I was in reach of my goal. I continued eating and drinking. The food available at this race is amazing. I have never eaten so much at a race. The solid foods were agreeing with me. I ate an egg sandwich, pumpkin pie, chili, pizza, and even drank a few smoothies. It was nice. Besides water and Powerade, during the duration of the race I drank one can of Mountain Dew, a few Dixie cups of Ginger Ale, two Dixie cups with some sort of smoothie and about four Red Bulls.
Although I felt okay and seemed to be drinking enough, I was not peeing. I began to make more of an effort to slowly increase my fluid intake without over doing it, too much too soon. I was having such a solid race; I did not want it ruined by bonking due to dehydration. I had hit 50 miles in a little over 10 hours., a personal best. I was excited I was halfway done. But I knew better then to count my ducks before they hatch.
The mind plays many tricks in an endurance event. People asked me what I thought about? Not much really. I tried music, but it really did not help much. The thing that most kept me moving was the site of family and friends each lap. Of course my life would flash before my eyes now and again. The darkness of the night was making me feel a bit lonely.
As midnight approached, my pace had begun to fade a bit and fatigue was creeping in. With the thought of the New Year on my mind I found a bit of energy and had 3 solid laps. I was still averaging a bit over a 12 minute per mile pace. I thought about partaking in the countdown to midnight, but my race and goal superseded that thought. I was not sure how alcohol would affect me.
I sent my wife a text a few minutes before midnight telling her I loved her and Happy New Year. As midnight struck I was in the dark, somewhat alone, but feeling so free. I was living my dream and ringing in a new year while putting my mind and body to the test. I was tired though.
Loud bangs echoed as fireworks filled the sky form the surrounding neighborhoods. I pictured people hugging, kissing, drinking and partying. As I ran toward my crew, seeing them for the first time in 2017, I hollered “Happy New Year’s” as they flashed smiles and waved at me with Budweiser beer in hand. Brian and Chris joined me for a New Year’s lap. It was strange to feel so alive and then to start feeling so numb. The highs and lows were coming more frequently now. Fatigue was setting in.
I kept on moving, passing more milestones and getting closer to my goal. I changed socks and shoes a few times before settling on my Altra Repetition’s. The cushion felt good on my beat up feet. I started the race with my Altra Lone Peaks then changed to my Brooks Ghost 7. I love running shoes. I had some hot spots on my feet, but ultimately knew there was no way to keep my feet dry with the inevitable rain that was coming.
I think it was about 3:00 am in the morning when the rain slowly moved in. I was not cold at all. I was actually warm and had it not been for the rain I wouldn’t have put on a jacket. The course was slick and the puddles that had earlier dissipated begin to fill as the rain turned from a mist to a steady flow.
Running any sort of consistent tangents became impractical. Although my feet were soaked, I tried to avoid the big puddles. I zigged and zagged on the narrow path even jumping on the curb in some locations. The course was decently lit and it was not necessary to carry a headlamp. There were some dark turns that made me I wish I had one. The gloomy night dampened my spirits more and more. I began to feel cold for the first time. I don’t know why it bugged me so much, but I was irritated by the thought of not seeing the sunrise because of the stupid clouds. I remembered how much of a boost it gave me during The Javelina Jaunderd in 2013.
I was tired, my feet fucking hurt and I could hardly jog.
I carry my emotions, which prompted Chris to jump out of his seat. He said he was going to join me for a lap. He told me later he could see that I was in a very dark place. He began talking to me, telling me to forget the pain. He told me to remember why I was out there. He said. “you can quit or do what you came here to do.” Something like that. But it was the punch in the face I needed. I thought about my family. I thought about all my friends who had shown up to show me support. I thought about the how much I feared failure.
With considerable effort, I pushed myself to move a bit faster, I cursed, fucking / shit / mother efffer. Thankfully my pace did pick up and the fear of not making it was gone, but I still needed to attack every step and lap. I continued cursing.
With only 3 laps to go, to get 100.78 miles, I saw my wife pull our van into the parking lot. I could not wait to see her and the girls. And as I completed that lap, I saw my wife and daughters on the edge of track. I was excited to see them. I had two laps left. Then one.
On my last lap I left it all on the line and ran as fast as I could. It hurt, with each step my hips seized, my thighs burned, but glory awaited me and crossing the finish line was all I wanted. This was a timed race, and I may have been able to hobble another lap in the 45 minutes that I had left. The truth was I had accomplished what I set out to do. Run a sub 24 hour 100 miler.
So I decided to end it there, 100.78 miles. I High fived, hugged and celebrated. I got my BUCKLE. It is a beautiful buckle.
What a wonderful event. ARAVAIPA, THANK YOU!
To Brian, Chris and my dad thanks for staying up all night with me. Chris, Thank You for shooting straight, being brutally honest, and helping get my mind back on the prize.
To everyone who came to see me run loops. Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
I have grown with each race and accomplishment. But this finish feels different. A maturity that I have been needing for a while now. Taken lessons learned and applying them. Focused training. Letting the ego go. Patience and determination. Not that I was not determined before. It’s just knowing this sport is a huge puzzle and all the pieces got to fit. You can't short cut any aspect of it.
|Fighting some inner|
|The girls having fun in the grassy area a few days before my race|
|My wife and kiddos celebrating with me|
|My Crew. My Dad, Chris and Brian|