Sunday, January 08, 2012

Across the Years 48 Hour 2011-12

Two years of buckles and mugs

My goal this time for Across the Years was to do better.  That could be mean a lot of things, from complete more miles, to feel better, to have more fun.  Having already completed 100+ miles last year, that wasn't as important to me.  I just wanted to have a "good" race, whatever that meant at the time.  Well I have to say I exceeded my goal and then some.  In fact I'd say I ran (and walked) a perfect race and had a great time doing it.  You can't ask for more than that.

The Course

Across the Years moved to a new facility this year - Camelback Ranch in Glendale Arizona, the newish spring training facility for the LA Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.  The new course was longer - just a bit over 1 mile - but otherwise the set-up and organization was the same.  I started with the 2nd 48 hour group on Dec 30th.  Last year, I knew a few people beforehand, but not very well.  This year quite a few friends and acquaintances from the PNW were there including marathon maniacs Cyndie, Marilou, Jill and Susie, as well as the Wildman himself in the 72 hour.  And for my training buddy and friend, Rose, it would be her first attempt at 48 hours.  Rose and I have been walking together all fall - we conveniently live only a mile from each other.  When we found out they would be renting tents we decided to share one of the larger family size tents.

In front of our tent with my awesome friend and training partner Rose.  She completed 70+ miles in her first 48 hour despite getting a migraine and having to rest most of the second morning. Who comes back to finish an ultra after getting a migraine?  Rose does!

This year I decided to change my strategy and some last minute advice solidified my plans .  Thinking about last time, I realized that my greatest weakness wasn't that I was too slow, but that I was off the track too much.  Of course, much of that was due to being a rookie and not really knowing what to expect.  I think taking planned longer breaks might work for some people but I wanted to try shorter, more frequent breaks.  And in order to conserve my energy I needed to go slower, hence the walk training that I've been doing since September.

In a nervous stupor waiting for the start.  Don't tell my Pilates teacher that I'm not practicing my Pilates posture!  That's my brother in black.  He wouldn't tell you himself but I will:  He was a 2:30 marathoner back in the day.  Still runs pretty fast.

 I started to write a blow by blow but a week away it's too much of a blur for that now.  Instead here are some of the highlights and random impressions in general categories.

The people

I think if you participate in Across the Years and do not interact with those around you, you're really missing out. There is a huge camaraderie among the participants and even the very competitive seem to support each other.  I enjoyed greeting and encouraging old friends I had met last year, friends from home, and new friends.  Early on the first day Craig Slagel who was in the 72 hour and had been at ATY last year too, slowed to walk with me and we walked together on and off throughout the race.  He is easy to talk with and very entertaining so a great pal to have around.  I was also fortunate to connect with the incomparable and infamous Don Winkley.  We spent quite a few laps together the first day and I think the second day too.  He likes to tell stories (boy does he have stories) and I like to listen so we were a good team.  But I wasn't silent the whole time and peppered him with questions, trying to glean as much of his experience as I could.  I spent some time off and on with Wildman Willet which was a lot of fun.  And I think some of my favorite laps were with my friend Rose, especially late New Year's Eve night.  We were both having a low point, I think, but kept each other going, albeit slowly, while we bitched about how much our feet hurt and other things.  Of course, what's said on the track stays on the track!  There are so many other people I connected with and those interactions are truly a lot of what makes this race so special.


I was really lucky to have virtually no stomach issues during the whole race.  Or maybe it wasn't luck but good execution.  Either way, I'll take it.  Since the weather was hot, I started out with nuun in my bottle that I kept on the track at my personal aid station/cooler.  Since it was hot, I also tried to drink sports drink at each aid station..the main one by the start/finish and the smaller station at the halfway point.  They had my preferred Succeed Ultra at the main and Gatorade at the halfway station.   So that's about two good swigs and a gulp per mile.  I also grabbed something to eat almost every time I went by the main station.  I started out with my safer foods -- sandwiches, fruit, etc. but as my stomach cooperated I ate things I normally don't during an ultra - mainly chips and candy.  I also had a lot of instant oatmeal and veggie/potato soup.  I brought my own gels and individual soy milks, which I saved mainly for the night.   I figured the best plan was real food for the day and more simple sugars and liquids for the night.  I also used some Succeed Amino during the night, which I think helped keep me alert.  I cut out caffeine about 4 weeks before the race and saved my first coffee drink and caffeinated gel for late the first night.  Then stopped when daybreak came.  I found that the caffeine actually worked better the second night.

Sleep Deprivation

Last year I took a planned rest the first night from 3-6am.  This time I wanted to go for shorter more frequent rest.  I didn't have a watch with me and knew I'd have a difficult time keeping track of time.  We switched direction every 4 hours so I decided that starting the first sunset, at the direction change, I'd do a lap in the new direction and then take a break for 30-45 minutes.  I brought my stop watch so I didn't have to fiddle with setting an alarm.  I'd take about 10-15 minutes to change and/or take care of my  feet and then close my eyes and rest for 15-20 minutes.  Often I would get up before my timer sounded.  I didn't really fall into a deep sleep until the 2nd night at about 2 am when I slept through my alarm by about 15 minutes.  They haven't posted the splits yet, but my guess is that I never had a lap longer than 1-1/2 hours (which includes one lap and my rest time) and most rest laps were likely an hour or less.  The amazing thing is that I never found myself sleepwalking on the course.   I certainly felt tired at times, but I think I may have a knack for overcoming sleep deprivation.

Was this sunrise or sunset?  Geez I can't remember but here's an unflattering self-portrait taken during a break.


The first day was all about overcoming little aches and pains in my hips, quads and lower back.  I've been dealing all fall with an unstable sacrum or SI joint (at least that's my self-diagnosis) and I seem to have pain issues that shift back and forth from my right side to my left.  Fortunately, I always feel better when I move, so I've tried to not let it stop me from training.  The first day it was presenting itself as IT/TFL pain on my right side. That eventually worked itself out but I started to experience some low back pain and my upper quads were burning.  My back started to feel like it was on the verge of going out, which is a big fear of mine and I knew would mean the end of my race.  So in the evening I took a dose of Tylenol and then later a therapeutic dose of Ibuprofen.  I hate to take medication anytime, let alone during a race.  But I'd been peeing really well so felt safe doing it. Also, when I rest I did so flat on my back with my legs bent up on a chair, which is very soothing for the back.  Thankfully after the first day my back pain and quad pain went away.  

Despite how much that back pain occupied my mind the first day, the overriding pain issue of the race was foot pain.  It might have been due to the gravelly flat course.  Or maybe it was the heat.  Whatever the cause, by the second day, my feet were on fire!  I've been wearing Drymax socks almost exclusively without any lube on my feet and have been successful at not having any blisters.  But with the heat I decided I better be on the safe side and lube up my feet too.  I did end up getting one blister on the corner of my heel that I was able to patch successfully. However throughout the race, the bottoms of my feet were so swollen and squishy feeling (sorry that sounds so gross!) that it was difficult to tell if I was getting blistered.  I just kept applying the lube and it turned out okay.  Many people spent a lot of time in the med tent getting taped, but I didn't want to go there.  I'd prefer not to tape if I don't have to and I didn't need it.  I did discover the first time I took off my socks that I had developed heat rash on my feet and ankles.  I think many others had it too.  I just tried to ignore it.  I had a spot on one of my arches that bugged me - it felt like a hot spot.  But every time I checked it - no blister.  I finally realized the pain was from a particularly itchy heat rash patch.  With that knowledge I was able to ignore it. 

Morning of my 2nd day - I'm carrying a print out of some of the 73 messages I received! Photo by Ray K.

The last night when I went down for a rest (the time I overslept a bit) I couldn't decide whether or not to take off my shoes.  My feet were throbbing and I thought I'd feel better without them. But I also worried that if I took my shoes off I might not want to put them back on.  I finally decided to take them off, laid down and put my feet up.  The were pulsating!!  I could feel my heart beat pounding in the balls of my feet.  Fortunately, I was so exhausted I feel into a deep sleep and overslept as I mentioned.  I was disappointed to oversleep, but fortunately it wasn't that long.  And I apparently needed it. The best part was my feet weren't throbbing when I woke up (although they still ached.)


My goal was to start slowly, mostly walking, and to not overexert myself, especially the first day.  It was sunny and warm during the day and if I ran too much I could fell myself overheating.   That was my cue to slow down.  The walk training really paid off.  I had quite a few people compliment me on my walk pace.  I always felt like I was moving with purpose.  Alene, who wasn't there this year, but who has completed ATY many times, as well as Badwater (single and double crossing) and numerous hundreds, had advised me to "walk like I was POSSESSED!".  During the times I was walking and didn't feel like I could run, that was may mantra.  

At one point I noticed Craig (who is pretty fast anyway) running a really fast lap.  When I saw him later, it turns out it was one of his milestone laps (150 perhaps) and he told me its fun to run a milestone lap fast.  At that point I confessed that I hadn't even run one full lap.  So we decided that I could just run my 100th mile lap, no matter how slow, and that would be good too.  However during the second day I was moving very slowly.  I knew last year that this was my low point so my goal was just to keep moving and fueling and not worry about pace.  My body was tired and I wasn't running at all. Late in the afternoon, when I was at about 87 miles I saw Craig.  I wanted to tell him that there was no way I was going to be able to run my 100th mile.  So perhaps I would amend my goal to trying to run some of my 100th mile. But he was deep in conversation with someone else and I didn't bother saying anything to him about it.

100 mile time - 34 hours, 56 minutes, 11 seconds - an improvement on last year by about 5 hours

After dark came that 2nd night, I had some caffeine and put on my music for the first time.  Amazingly my energy came back.  I started to run some of each lap.  As I approached the 100th mile I knew I'd be able to run. And run I did....I felt like I was sprinting past everyone and I ended up running my 100th mile at a 10:45 minute pace.  And yes, that was the one and only lap I fully ran the whole way!

My 100th mile lap.  Unfortunately the board wasn't working at the end so I wasn't able to get a picture of my finishing lap.


I managed to get to 76 miles the first day which was an improvement on last year by 6 miles.  Of course, getting to 100 miles was the next goal.  But after doing that, my goal was to beat last year's 2nd day total of 36 miles.  76 + 37 = 113, so 113 was my new goal.  At New Year's Eve midnight there was a bit of time wasting as we (Rose & I) waited around for the New Year's celebration. Then my brother,had told me he'd stop by around 12:30 so I spent some time waiting for him.  I thought after seeing him and one of my nephews I'd have time for another lap before the 1am direction change and my rest.  But we ended up chatting near the start/finish until the direction change.  They left and after my direction change lap I decided to keep going instead of taking a rest.  I think I was at about 110 miles and knew 113 would be a snap.  My sights were on 120, but I thought if I kept going I could maybe get to 130.  However, at 2am I knew I needed to take a rest if I wanted to make it through the night.  Despite oversleeping I think I was back on the track by 3am and 130 was now my goal.  I was walking but pretty certain I could start running once it was light. Craig was on  the course and asked to walk with me as he went over his PR mile of 204. We walked together as he reached 204 and another lap for insurance and then he went back to his tent.  I kept going, longing for the light. Finally it came and I started to run a bit, but found that my knees were really stiff.  So I couldn't run a full lap, but could run in spurts.  Fred joined me and we joked about taking a lap in his rubber boots. like he does at Pacific Rim  (He did end up doing his last lap in the boots!)  I realized that I'd get to 130 with about 30 minutes to spare.  I was tempted to stop but Craig encouraged me to keep going, saying I'd regret it later if I didn't. So I did, and finished with 131.225 miles (unofficial).  The sun was shining brightly on the clock so I'm not sure exactly want time it was but I think I still had15 minutes.  I stopped and turned in my chip.  Of course, now I regret not giving my all and going for just one more lap!

So I finished my 2nd 48 hour race with 131 miles (76 day one/55 day two), having not yet done a 24 hour race (standalone) nor a 100 mile race.  When we registered they asked for your goal mileage and I impulsively put down 135.  I never really thought I'd get close to that.  But I did!  And unofficially, I was 4th woman out of 18 and 11th out of 44 overall.  Second and third were only 4 and 6 miles ahead of me.  For someone who usually finishes about three quarters of the way down the list that's huge!   Aside from place and miles, the other personal accomplishment was that I could still run at the end.  Maybe not much at a time or very fast, but I was doing it and even ran the last 100 yards through the finish. That ability was very important to me.


Overall my recovery has gone a lot better than last year. My muscles haven't really felt sore, but my joints (knees especially) are a bit creaky.  My problem areas - glutes, hips and back - feel great!  I didn't have as much swelling and I'm back to normal weight.  A week later I feel like I could go out for a run.  However, my feet have been incredibly sore.  I don't remember them being quite as sore last year.  The aching has kept me up at night.  The soreness finally broke yesterday and my left foot feels pretty good now.  However the tendons on the top of my right foot feel inflamed and the tips of my toes are still numb.  I'd already planned to totally rest for two weeks and take all of January off from serious training, so I'm fine with not pushing it just yet.  But I'm hoping to see more improvement each day this coming week.

A mug worthy of 22 oz of Hopworks IPA

Next year?

The last few hours of the race, when I was pretty certain I'd get to 130 miles, I kept telling myself that this was it.  I didn't need to do this race again.  I'd run as perfect of a race  as I ever could and there was no way I'd get to 130 miles again.  I think I even told that to Marc on the phone when I was finished.  But the more I think about it the more I feel like I've found my niche.  I may never run a 100 mile race. And if I do, I'm pretty certain I'll be near the back of the pack.  Not that placement is my main concern, but it certainly makes a race more enjoyable if you feel like you are doing well at it.  Maybe I'll go for 72 hours next time.  I'm certainly monitoring how my foot feels and if it is better within a week or two, the pain is all worth it and I'll more seriously look towards the 72 hour race  However, if it lingers too much longer I'm not so much into killing myself over and over again for a race.  I'm not crazy, after all. :-)


Lisa said...

wow...that is pretty incredible. I am training for my first ultra (a 50k) and this seems like such a major feat. I am so impressed that you ran your 100th mile.

Congratulations on a strong race and great finish.

Susan Kokesh said...

Great writeup! Thanks for sharing the details. I am very happy for you, that is a huge accomplishment.

Alene said...

Great job Sarah! I think you will see a lot of improvement in the coming years if you keep doing the multidays. Have a fantastic running year and I'll look forward to seeing you at ATY next year!

Olga said...

Read it early am before heading to the gym - quite an inspiration while I puffed after a month break! You did great job in taking care of yourself, and that paid off. Congrats!

Adelyn said...

What an amazing accomplishment! I am so happy for you to have run such a spectacular race and racked up so many miles. Your report made me tempted to enter this race some time in the future :).


Joe said...

Sarah, I've been looking forward to this report since you finished, knowing you'd have a great summary and analysis of the physical and mental aspects of such an endurance event.

You really applied wonderfully what you learned last year! And, wow did it work. It was fun to see it happening on the days of the race, from a distance.

Your recovery plan also sounds wise. Let the bod heal itself up and then make the plans.

And your bro did a 2:30 marathon?? Good gene pool!!!!!

Mega-congrats, Sarah. Very, very happy for you!!!

kai keliikuli said...

Awesome race report Sarah! I think I'm sold. I want to try this one this year. I hope I get to meet you and Rose there!