Saturday, January 1, 2011

Race Report: Across the Years

The venerable race Across the Years was back in 2010, after a year's absence, held at Nardini Manor outside Phoenix. I was excited to go out there and try my hand at my second 48-hour race. My first 48 was way back in 2008 in Surgeres, France, and there I got 135 miles, so hopes were high that I might be able to take a shot at John Geesler's 400K (248 mile) mark that he set at ATY in 2003. He would be there again this year running the 72-hour race, so if I could accomplish it, I'd be even more honored. But not to get ahead of myself!

I flew into Phoenix from Omaha (via Denver) on the 28th, giving myself an extra day to relax and allow for bad weather. Omaha and Denver had good weather, but Phoneix not so much, at least at the start for the day 1 runners on the 29th. It rained on them most of the day, but apparently it was after midnight when the real heavy stuff came, the rain and very strong winds. By the time I got to Nardini Manor on the 30th for the day 2 start, the rains had let up, but the course was still pretty muddy. But the Coury brothers worked diligently hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt and using shovels and rakes to clean up the course. After a couple of hours, the mud was mostly a memory. The weather was looking pretty good for the start, too, except for some strong winds from the west. I was watching Jamie Donaldson finish up her awesome 24-hour run, which would become the overall winning performance. Deb Horn was looking gerat halfway through her first 48, and John had a good first day as well, although the rain, wind and mud took a lot out of him. Davy Crockett also had a great first-day total and was leading the men's 48-hour race at that point.

The race started well for me, I hit my first 50K mark on schedule at 5 hours and my 100K mark, just over 10 hours, was ahead of schedule. By then it was after 7 pm and time to start putting on warmer clothes to prepare for the cold night predicted. Soon I had a most welcome visit from Carilyn and Tim Johnson and their boys Grant and Spencer, who stopped by for a few hours on their way from El Paso to LA. Carilyn helped crew me a while, and their visit lifted my spirits.

But I understimated how much the cold would affect me. All the layers I had couldn't keep me warm enough, and by 11:00 pm I had to take a 10-minute power break in the heated tent. It's easy to forget that although this is Arizona, it's still winter, and temperatures would dip into the 20's. With the onset of fatigue, the occasional warmup breaks in the tent, although I was still running well when I was running it was becoming clear through the night that I was not going to break John's record. But I was still on track for a great race, and as the sun came up in the morning I got renewed energy. I started to feel some soreness in my left Achilles, but it didn't bother me much or seem to affect my stride. But as the 24-hour mark neared, the pain intensified quickly. The first 48-hour and second 24-hour runners were finishing, the third 24-hour runners were about to start, and I stopped in to see Dr. Andy. He tried a few different remedies, but the pain got worse with every lap, and I made the decision to pull out rather than risk a serious injury. I finished with a little over 115 miles. Dave ended up with the 48-hour win with just a few miles over Deb's women's win. George Biondic pulled ahead of Ed Ettinghausen for the 72-hour win, with Kena Yutz taking the women's title. Jamie won the 24 overall, with Matthew Watts winning the men's race. In the 24, women took the top 2 (Jamie and Melissa Williams) and 5 of the top 8!

After my pullout I took a little nap, got some food and hung out for a while to cheer on the runners. The best part of the race was seeing all the people I'm privileged to count among my friends from around the country and beyond, and to make new friends too. There was a lot of good cheer out there, and a good way to ring in 2011.

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