Thursday, January 12, 2012


There is something interesting about running a timed event compared to a distance event.  They are a completely different animal than the typical race and one must go in with a different mindset.  I have run both a 12hr and a 24hr event prior and have come up short on my expectations both times.  I made crucial mistakes and haven't exactly been satisfied with my results and so I was on the lookout for another one before the end of the year, so that I can practice some learned lessons and shoot for a mileage PR. 
I had decided that I would run the CTR group's New Year's One Day but as the weeks and months went by, a few people that I know posted on Facebook that they were going to Phoenix  to run the Across the Years event.  There were 72hr, 48hr, and 24hr options, and they were all signing up for the 72 hour option.  There was no way I was signing up for a 72 hour race after the fiasco of my 24 hour event but after reading up on the race, I decided that I would opt for their 24hr event.  Vanessa had recently moved down to San Diego to live with me and it was easy to convince her that this would be a great event to wrap up the year.  And we somehow convinced her sister Eli as well as our friend Carlos to join us.  Road Trip!
The race starts at 9am but we decided that it would be best to get there as early as possible the day before in order to pick out a spot to set up our small tent, although we would be staying a couple miles down the road at a hotel.  Vanessa and I had started a plant based diet  and the tent would be where we store all of our prepared foods and drinks in case the race had nothing that we could partake in.  It would also serve as a place to catch some sleep if attempting to run that long overwhelmed us.  We didn't really discuss a strategy for tackling the event and figured we'd just dive in and take whatever the day gives us (ignoring a lesson I learned in a previous event).
The drive down to Phoenix is a long one.  Vanessa, Eli, and myself had done most of our packing the night before and woke up at 5am to shower and get ready for the drive.  I had told Carlos that I wanted to leave at 7am and he showed up promptly on time, cramming his stuff into whatever space remained in my tiny car, and we were off.

The drive to Phoenix is rather boring but everyone was high in energy and played various games to keep occupied and have the miles go by.  I did all the driving and was fueling myself on Rockstar energy drinks.  I was pretty amped on the caffeine and had no temptation to nod off while all of my passengers eventually tired of their games and fell asleep.
The trip was pretty uneventful with the typical stops along the way to stretch an empty the bladders.  We came across a small place called Dateland that advertised the world's greatest date shakes and since I had to use the bathroom again, we decided that we would stop and check it out.  Even though the shakes had dairy in them, Vanessa and Eli decided to try a shake just to see if they were as good as advertised.  We also bought some snacks that consisted of worms and crickets to try out later.  I had earlier made the decision that I would stick to the diet as much as possible and so the bugs were out, to be tucked away until the plant-based diet experiment is over.  However, I had to taste the date shake and took a small sip.  It was good but way too sweet for my tastes.  I was hoping to pick up some raw dates that could be used as race fuel but this was an obvious tourist trap and way too overpriced.  Oh, and the coolest thing about this stop?  Having someone call out my name and turning around to see Adam and Stacy, two running friends of mine from San Diego.  They had spent their vacation break in Arizona and were now heading back to San Diego.  Weirdness!  

Eventually we made it to race headquarters which was at the spring camp facility for the Dodgers and White Sox.  It was a giant park with immaculate baseball fields and a flowing stream that we would get to run around for 24 hours.  We headed over to the aid station tent to check out the foods and noticed that they had a few fresh fruits available but little else that we would be able to consume.  Good thing we came prepared.  We then went to say hi to some of the runners who would now be on day 2 of their 3 day event.  We found Jason Robillard but weren't exactly 100% if it was him and decided not to say anything when he ran past us.  We also spotted Ed and Yolanda, two record setters who run just about every single race in existence.  A little while later we saw Jason coming by again and decided to call out to say hi and take some pictures.  We also stumbled upon Pat Sweeney who had decided at the last minute to come down and run the 24 hour event as well.  He was still nursing an injury and wasn't too sure how he'd fare but was hoping his body would hold up for 100 miles.  After saying hello to everyone, it was then time to unpack the car and set up the tent.  We had intentionally failed to mention the hotel to Carlos and led him to believe that we would be spending the night in the tent and that he would have to sleep out on the grassy field since there wasn't room for him.  Every once in awhile, one of us would slip and make mention of the hotel and cause the others to shush them or give them the evil eye.  And while chatting with Pat, he kept asking if we were giving up on the hotel and sleeping at the race site instead.  We did our best to ignore him and if Carlos ever figured things out, he never let on.
After getting things ready for race day we decided we'd go grab a bite to eat.  We found a Sweet Tomatoes place (salad buffet) about 30 minutes away and decided to go there since we were all hungry.  Afterwards, we drove to the hotel explaining to Carlos that we needed some ice for the cooler and that we'd distract the clerk if he'd go find the ice machine.  It was getting pretty hard not to laugh at this point but like a trooper, Carlos went around searching for the ice machine while Vanessa and I checked in.  Carlos came back explaining he needed something to put ice in and so we then let him know that we got a room that houses 6 people and he was actually going to be sleeping indoors for the night.  The room was quite nice, with 2 queen size beds and a fold out couch.  Once the bed situation was taken care of, it didn't take long for everyone to fall asleep.

The 6:30am alarm didn't take long to rouse us awake and we rushed to get ready and go down and see what the hotel's free breakfast consisted of.  Vanessa and I opted for fruit only but Eli and Carlos tried to make waffles and ended up breaking the machine, causing batter to flow out all over the counter.  While they were futilely trying to fix the machine, I ran off to get the hotel assistant who became wide-eyed when she saw the mess the wonder twins had created.  What made the situation even more comical was that while the lady was trying to clean up and get things back in working order, Carlos was pretty much elbowing her out of the way so he could finish making his waffles.  He gave up when he noticed that we weren't willing to stick around for him and we all piled into the car and headed off to the race, laughing at the morning's escapades. 
The bib pickup went without a hitch and we ran into Pat and posed together for a few race day photos.  The next person we ran into was Ed who was sitting down.  He mentioned that he thought he may have a stress fracture and was doing the safe thing and quitting.  Very bummed for the guy since I had thought that he was going to win the 72 hour event.  I knew this was killing him inside since earlier this year and had hurt himself and decided to continue racing events in a boot.  The dude is hardcore.  Later in the day Ed would commence running again, discovering that the timing chip was on too tight, causing the discomfort.
The race started and Vanessa and I decided we'd stick together as long as possible.  We settled into a 11:00 pace which felt a tad slow but very comfortable.  I told myself that I would fuel and hydrate after every 5 laps (1 lap = 1.05 miles), which consisted of an electrolyte mix by Vega as well as 5 spoonfuls of an energy pudding that I made and brought along, recipe from the Thrive Diet book.  The half marathon point came and went and we were still feeling great and surprised by how quick it had snuck up on us.  We were already doing calculations in our head fooling ourselves that we could knock out 100 miles in under 20 hours.  
Shortly after we passed the marathon distance, my right achilles started acting up.  I had aggravated it the previous weekend during the Operation Jack marathon by running in Sketcher GoRun shoes.   I ended up having to settle for a 1/2 marathon that day.  I knew with the way my achilles was behaving that there was no way I could even sniff a 100 miles and so I decided I'd shoot for a 100k instead.  Eventually my body wouldn't let me go more than 3 laps before I'd have to sit down and rest.  This wasn't all in vain though Jason was taking lots of breaks and I had someone to chat with.  We ended up going on a beer run during one of our breaks so that we could have cold beer to drink while we weren't running around in circles.  Now why didn't I think of this earlier?  The beer was quite tasty and we even had Pat join us on a couple of our breaks.  Good times!
When I got near the 30 mile mark my body had told me that enough was enough and so I hung it up for the night.  Vanessa and Carlos were swapping leads but eventually Vanessa started slowing down and Carlos caught a second wind and started putting in some good laps.  We decided to call it a night with Eli finishing with 32 miles, I had 40.9 miles, Vanessa had 52 miles, and Carlos had the lead with 65 miles.  Carlos claimed that his body was done and he called his relatives that lived nearby, deciding that he would sleep in a cozy bed for the night and meet back with us in the morning.  Everyone was wiped out and tempted to go to sleep but all agreed to suck it up in order to ring in the new year.  Finally the countdown commenced and everyone walked one more loop and then immediately hopped into their sleeping bags.
Sometime in the early morning hours, I heard Vanessa climb out of the tent, thinking she was heading out to use the bathroom.  I dozed off again and when I woke up I noticed she still wasn't back and knew she was out there putting in some more miles.  I decided to get up to use the bathroom and see how she was doing.  I didn't see her and decided that I would try to jog around the track and take the long way back to the tent and was surprised that my body felt ok with it.  I managed about 3 laps before encountering Vanessa.  Her goal was to make it to 100k and she only needed a couple more laps to achieve it.  I would have liked to reach the 50 mile mark but there was no way my body could accomplish that with the time we had remaining, and since I was just 2 laps away from the 45 mile mark, I decided to stick by Vanessa's side and help her reach her goal.  Meanwhile, Jason was out there running some speedy loops striving to break the 200k mark before time elapsed.  Very impressive since the night before he was barely able to make it around a single loop before having to sit down.  Soon the race countdown commenced and the event was over.  Jason had made his goal as did Vanessa.  I was content with my mileage with all things considered.  Eli had completely blown away her previous longest distance run of a marathon with a whopping 43 miles.  And Carlos still had the most miles of the 4 of us with his 65.
It was time to hit the showers and clean up.  The shower facility was pretty sweet since it was the locker room of the baseball players.  Too bad the name tags were removed otherwise we'd be fighting to change in the same place as a famous major leaguer.  The showers had run out of hot water so I had to settle for a mildly cold one which was refreshing.  After that it was time to hit up the award ceremony where we would get our mugs for participation.  Quite a few people, Jason included, crossed the 100 mile marker and were presented with belt buckles.  Kimberly Miller had run the 72 hour event and got her very first buckle, and I am willing to bet that this won't be her last.  Our group were one of the last ones called since our mileage was fairly low compared to most of the others, and yes, they called out every single participant and read off their mileage.

Lessons Learned
The biggest thing I learned is that I am still not a fan of timed events.  They are very tough mentally since it is so easy to stop and rest whenever you pass near your "home base".  Dropping out on, forgive me for this term, a "real" ultra event is much harder since it is usually easier to suck it up and keep going rather than waiting for race officials or volunteers to get you back to the start.  Consider this, would it be easier to quit on a run where you have to run past your car every mile and ignore its beckoning call of respite, or would it be easier to quit a race where you park your car and are told you have to run the full distance prior to seeing your car again, knowing that if you quit early, you still have to figure out some way to get back to your car?  It's a no brainer.  These timed events continue to entice me with their challenge and I hope that some day I will have the mental fortitude to suck it up and make it to the goal I have set for myself.


It’s a New Year and we already have a pretty full schedule planned out starting with the Disney World Goofy Challenge.  Before the end of the year, we both hope to have a 50 miler and a 100 miler under our belts, and even to be semi-efficient in the fastpacking world.  One of the coolest events we have on our schedule is to run the Grand Canyon R2R2R with Gordy Ainsleigh.  

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