Jan 06 2014

72 hours of running. 161.6 miles. Across The Years 2013-2014 Race Report

Levels of Pain: Discomfort, Pain, Suffering, Numbness, Nothing. Absolutely nothing.             

Getting there

Where do I start? Other than this race was epic? I learned so much. About the body and mind. That I could push myself into the unknown, and eventually I came out the other side running 161.6 miles in 3 day.  What? How? Why? I don't know.  

Across The Years Yiannis 111Gong back to an earlier post, I only signed up for this race less than a week before it started. It had always been in the back of my mind as one to do, and things came together at the last minute to allow me to. I wanted 1) to meet Yiannis Kouros, 2) to get a good, long race in over the darkest days of the year most people aren't training or racing, and 3) most important – to immerse myself around the greatest athletes in the world.  Besides Yiannis, I'd been reading everything 2-time 72-hour winner Joe Fejas wrote on his race reports.  I read everything I could on this race, and timed races in general.  One thing I knew for certain, though I normally finish in the 2nd half of the field in ultras, I always finish in the top half of timed races.  Something about them appeals to me.  I love strategy. I love to think. I love to out-think.  And I love the concept of pure running.  As much as I love trails, I still love pure running, pushing the body – with no hindrances, just going.  Anyways, despite not training for the race, I'd run the North Face 50 mile Championship race in San Francisco only three weeks prior and recovered well, not running more than 6 miles in the 3 weeks in-between.  

IMG_2244.JPG          I elected to drive to the race, Phoenix is about 12 hours from Colorado, and I enjoyed the drive down meeting with old school friends and gathering equipment and food for the race. I set up my a day early, got to see the layout of everything, and got to see the 6-day runners running strong in their first day.  The week before the race I tried to get as much sleep as I could, and since I normally have severe insomnia, I somehow managed to average about 8 hours of sleep a night in the week before.  I did not set any expectations for this race, but thought I could reasonably run 150 miles over the three days.  This was purely arbitrary, because I had no idea how reality would be.   I didn't know what to expect. The longest I'd ever run was 29 hours in the SDW100.  

Race Day 1: 0 hours to 24 hours.

As usual I'm usually a little rushed/late to the start, I was still setting up my own food at the tent, and went to the start line after the horn sounded. I was the last to start, but over 72 hours, there's no way 15 seconds are going to hurt you.  If anything, it helped me not run with the front-runners. I had two strategies starting out: Not to run anything faster than 5mph/ 12 min/mile, and also thought I should run no more than 25 minutes at a time without resting.  This I think turned out perfect.  I got 10 minute walking rest every hour, and I kept this for maybe 5-6 hours?  I never went quicker than 5mph, and just relaxed knowing there where 72 hours to run this race. Somewhere in the 3rd or 4th hour, Jeremy Ebel ran with a boombox, and that was fun to stay with him hearing lots of great music all the way around the course. Across The Years - Jester I don't really remember much, except for the posts that I did to Facebook or Twitter.  This is a big reason I post updates while I'm running. It sets a point in time, or else I'd never remember where I was in the race.  But I'd done my first marathon in 5:32, which was probably a little fast, but all was good.  My next update was 52.4 miles – 2nd marathon was at 13:30 hours into the race or 10:20pm at night.  Somewhere about 44 miles I came up on William Sichel the great Scottish athlete I've been following for about a year now and had a good chat with him for a mile, he stopped to get some food, and immediately there was Jon Olsen.  So I ran with him, introduced myself, think he may have known me from Twitter, but got to talking, and we ran 2 miles together.  For those who don't know, Jon has just set the North American record for 100 miles on a track running 11:59 a few months back.  He had also run his first 100 miles at Across the Years in under 14 hours!  He's phenomenal.  It was a pleasure talking with him, through my 46th mile then I simply couldn't keep up.  At this rate, I thought I'd get to 85ish miles in the first 24 hours, but after the running with Jon, my calves started "cramping," though not technically cramping – that feeling of needles and soreness.   I walked a lot and at midnight I put my legs up and dozed off for 30 minutes before getting right back into the race.  I went for a couple more hours, before taking another break at 3:00am.  I slept a couple hours, got up at 5, noticed some ice but got myself moving.  I don't remember much, other than at 7am, I spent about an hour in the medical tent getting my blisters lanced and taped up.  Finally at 9am and the first 24 hours I'd run 74.5 miles.  It was ok since I had no expectations, but since it was flat and I'd run SDW100 in 29.5 hours with 12,000ft of gain, I was a little frustrated that I'd take so long here to reach 100 miles. 

Race Day 2: 24 hours – 48 hours, Long slow death march. 

I really thought I'd get to my first 100 miles in 24-26 hours, but it seems like everyone in the race suffered, and didn't even come close to their expected goals or what they did in years past.  Something about the combination of weather extremes (hot and cold) and the dirt/rocks we ran on were like tiny needles after about 12 hours.   For the next 15 hours on day 2 my feet were just so sore.  I only did 30 miles on day 2. My feet just hurt, but not a injury hurt, just were sore and tender underneath.  It took me 13 hours just to do 25 miles, and this brought me to 100 miles just after the half way point going into the 2nd night (36 hours).  I knew I needed to rest my feet and legs, got in my sleeping bag and went to sleep around 10:30pm.  I could have gotten up at 3 or 4 am and done more miles, but was so so so cold, there was ice on the ground, I stayed in my tent till 7am getting 9 hours sleep! I felt like this was such a waste of time, hated it, and hated being so far behind, I was then down to 24th place (out of 58). But felt very fresh even though I'd done 100 miles finishing the night before. 

Oh, also on Day 2, I started noticing there was no meat being served for food.  I was asking, more out of a joke, then realized a long time later, those who put on this race are mostly vegetarian.  I like that, but here on the 2nd day my body was just craving meat so bad.  I needed strong, thick protein to quickly rebuild my own cells that were being broke down.  My regular diet I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables, little to no carbs, a lot of bacon and fats and a moderate amount of meat like fish, seafood, chicken, and only a little red meat.  But after 90 some miles without any meat my body just needed it.  I texted a friend nearby asking for 2 pounds of bacon, and later in the evening she brought it.  The cooks cooked it up about 8:30 or 9pm, and I loved it so much.  So did everyone else!  People wanted it so bad, and were begging for it!    Combining my bacon with a couple whole avocadoes, really started to fuel myself back up.  

Race Day 3: 48 hours – 72 hours, 100km surprise. 

Slowly I started getting back into things, ate a lot bacon and avocados for breakfast, some Italian sausage I found and really started feeling better.  Probably the 9 hours of sleep helped! Finally around 11:30am with still 21 hours left to run, I started watching, noticing Yiannis Kouros was going around the track about the same time I was. I grabbed my iPad, took a few pictures of him, then thought why not run with him.  Next lap I put the iPad away, grabbed my video recorder, and just stayed with him, recording, running, noticing his style, his mannerisms, and what it was like to run behind the legend and see the respect he commanded by all those who he passed.  I was at about mile 111-112, and had a complete change of mind, and I didn't care about anything physical, I just started running with him, whatever it took.  He was at 305 miles, and I stayed till about 118, and was such a high light and boost of energy.  I cannot explain what occurred in those miles.  But up to that point, running had been about pain management.  Well running with Yiannis, he was in a lot of pain, yet he kept going.  His shuffle never varied. He was a continual train. His crew was impeccable.  But for me, I just let everything go, all the pain, all the discomfort, the desire to be anywhere else but there running. This was also the hottest part of the day.  Most runners couldn't stand this heat, yet I was still going strong.   At around 118 miles I think that's where I got a massage.  Holly Miller was offering free massages, at 1:46 in the afternoon she said if I was back in 10 minutes I could have the last one.  I ran around one of my fastest laps ever!  11:39 and got my hips and hamstrings stretched, followed by a short calf massage.  I varied throughout the day, slow, fast, slow, walk, but always thinking about overcoming any pain and just going.  Around midnight, I was at 144.8 miles, happy with that, and with overcoming my deficit from the night before.  After a short celebration and then off for a couple more laps.   I finally crossed 150 miles at 2:20 in the morning or so, and needed a couple hours rest. At this point I was barely going 2mph, and there's a trade off you learn when going any slower than that, get a couple hours sleep, you'll go quicker when you get up.   I slept in my car for 2 hours, it was cramped, my legs did not like it, but warm. I got up at 5am hoping I could do 10 more miles in 3.5 hours.  That is SO hard at this point, because my/our average pace is about 2.5 mph, and couldn't really go any faster. I kept stopping every lap either for food, or more clothing adjustments, But just kept going and going, and finally with 1 hour to go I only needed 2 more miles, to get 160.  On my 160th mile running with Craig C who I met at UROC, I realized I had time to squeeze in another mile, running my 161st mile in about 12 minutes.  That's my story:)

My total distance was 161.67 miles, finishing 16 place out of 58 overall, and was the 8th place male.  Not bad for a rookie!

I took some photos, changed went to the buffet, I was so hungry but my body couldn't take bread from the sandwiches.  The awards ceremony was amazing, seeing how many people achieved such tremendous achievements.  

A friend came helped take down the tent and pack my stuff as I didn't move well the rest of the day.  I tried to drive to another friends house, but had to sleep an hour in the car before I was ok to drive 45 minutes to his house.  Eventually in the evening I was still craving meat so bad, found some Panda Express and Wendy's ate at till I was full.  Slept a good 9 hours, and then had to drive 800 miles back to Colorado!  That drive took so long, my knees and legs hurt from being cramped up driving, but eventually after 16 hours I made it home and slept 4-5 hours.  

What I could do better
Not sleep 9 hours on the 2nd night.  I should have slept 4 hours, and could have got 10-15 more miles in from 2am to 7am on night 2. 
Have a crew? I spent a lot of time at my tent trying to get stuff, sit down, change. 
Have a cot or something warmer to sleep in. The cot so I wouldn't have to lay so far down to the ground. Something warmer so I wasn't sleeping on cold icy ground
Learn to power shuffle – some people's strides though they weren't running, were so fast!  

What I did right
I did not go out fast in the first day.  I had plenty of energy left on the 3rd day. 
Packed the right gear, clothing, equipment, shoes.  Didn't need anything extra. 
Hydration and food seemed right on. Never felt I needed extra fluid or had too much. The same with food.  The only thing I didn't like was the pizza.  Took one bite of it, and my stomach started getting nauseated.  I spit it out, took the meat toppings off and never had any more bread.  M&M pancakes were great though!  
No injuries! Nothing. Except for my knee pain afterwards from the drive, nothing really bothered me too much. 

Where to go next. 
I think the biggest thing hurting most people, was the rocks/dirt/pebbles.  Speaking with William Sichel, it seemed this terrain was very tough, there was never any consistency in the course, or thickness of dirt, rocks.  It just tears of your feet. 
I'd like to do something like this again, wish I could find a 1-mile loop.  But at the same time, I want to do a 6-day race.  That one in Alaska really has my eyes on it.  But don't have the money to travel up there or enter the race right now.  

In the mean time, I'll be recovering doing some strength training in the gym, if I run, it will be short runs, getting some speed back, and free Fat Ass races locally in Colorado.  If anyone wants to hire me, or sponsor me, definitely send me a message.  Actively looking. It is a struggle to make ends meet right now.  Life is tough after moving from England, and well, frankly nothing seems to be working out.  That's a glimpse into the personal side of things.  


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