A Year of Firsts

“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man’s life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience.”

– Martin Buber

The Last First of 2008

If 2007 was my rookie year in ultrarunning, 2008 would have to serve as the neophyte period.

This is the year that I completed my first 100-mile trail race.

This is the year that I found the sub-4 hour marathon.

This was the year of the 45 minute 10K.

This is the year I chased the CrossFit level 1 certification. …and the olympic lifting certification …and the running and endurance training certification.

And lastly, this will be the year I do Across the Years, my first multi-day, timed event.

What is Across the Years?

Across the Years is a multi-day race near Phoenix, Arizona where participants run for a specified period of time, trying to log as many miles as possible within this time period.

This event has 72, 48 and 24-hour races. I am doing the 72-hour race.

Are you really going to run for 3 days straight?

In events such as these it’s rare, if not impossible, for an athlete to run non-stop for three days; however, the key is continuing to move forward as long as humanly possible.

I plan to alternate running with walking early in the event to allow for the most efficient pacing and try to maintain a somewhat consistent mileage pattern from day-to-day.

Honestly, though… Who knows, man… This is uncharted territory for me.

How many miles are you going to run?

My goal is 175 miles. My absolute dream goal is anything over 200 miles.

Buckles are awarded at 100, 200 and 300 mile increments. I sho’ would like that 200-mile buckle, but will be ever so pleased with a 100 or more miles.

Anything less and I will have wished I stayed home.

What about sleeping?

This is where I am clueless.

I have never run for three days, but I did run 10 shy of 48 hours, on terribly brutal terrain, in Minnesota, so… it’s just possible that I will attempt to stay awake for the full three days and just go for it.

Many consider this a little crazy, but I am what I am.

{This might be funny to look back on after the race.}

What about eating? How will you stay nourished?

I will have a tent and a blanket set up near the track, with the rest of the athletes, to serve as a home base with additional clothes for the nighttime and maybe some of my own food, but I really plan to just live on whatever aid the race provides.

I am not particular at races and can eat anything, so this is the least of my worries.

What’s the weather like in the desert?

According to to the Weather Channel, 60-70s in the daytime and 30-40s at night.

I’ll run in shorts and a wicking shirt during the day, and perhaps something long-sleeved in the evening.

You will not see this guy in tights. …no matter how cold it gets.

Is your family going to be there?

My family is going; however, they will be dropping me off race morning and driving north to ski in the mountains.

They will return, New Years Eve, to celebrate the holiday with me as I run in circles, which at that time, will be deep into the third day.

I should be an interesting sight by then.

Can we follow along?

Why sure you can! …and I would be so pleased.

Folks can send me messages, track my progress in real-time, and view the leader board any time during the event. I’m not sure how I get the messages, but people in years’ past have said it really lifts the spirits when someone writes.

Please write me… {shameless begging}

Pine Mountain 40-Miler Rocks!

Is it smart to run a 40-mile trail race nine days after a road marathon?

Probably not, but the Pine Mountain 40 just sounded too tasty to pass up.

“40 mile ultra marathon on the beautiful Pine Mountain Trail system of FDR State Park. This GUTS event will test your endurance and your ankles over rocky single-track trails. The trail follows the ridge line, going up and over it for the duration. Depending on water levels, the few water crossings could be dry or ankle deep. You’ll experience both pine & hardwood forests, rock outcroppings, waterfalls, beaver ponds, and CCC fish hatcheries”

I ask, what would you have done?

Yep, I got on the waiting list.

The first half was heaven

We hit the trail with just enough light to bail on the headlamps which was perfect, since I had forgotten mine anyway.

From the first steps on the trail, the biggest challenge of the day would become glaringly evident.

Rocks.

…and lots of ’em.

…hidden under a thick layer of leaves that blanketed the trail for 95% of the course.

but, what can I say, I love that stuff.

I felt great at the start and went out a little faster than I probably should have, but whatever …it felt good cruising through the forest with other runners, chattin’ it up, swapping race stories and pointing out trail obstacles.

I cruised into the halfway point feeling very strong. My New Balance 790‘s were holding up well, and this pleased me since this was going to be the longest distance I have run in the trail flat to date. I feared sore feet, but it never happened.

People were busting butt everywhere. I saw people with raspberries on their heads from smacking trees, and a dude with a busted up, bloody nose staggering along the trail …and to keep it real, your humble narrator took his fair share of nasty spills as well.

It’s all part of the game.

20 miles down, 20 miles to go

“hmmm… where’d all my spunk go?”

I started to wane a bit into miles 25, 26, 27. I was catching myself heel-striking and leaning back on descents. My 100% effort approach was rolling in at about 60%.

I got a little crabby, but passed a couple people, while also getting passed myself, and around mile 35, I started to perk up a little.

“Let’s ensure an 8-hour-something”

And I started to push it.

Pushing it actually felt better than slothing.

This has been happening to me lately. I have a great beginning, suffer horribly in the middle, and then finish the race strong. I get some kind of mental lift about three to five miles from any finish and this lift produces strength and effort that I could not seem to tap into during some of those previous middle miles.

Why can’t I just stay even throughout?

And the clock reads 8:49

Just like that, I pop’d outta the woods and there was the race clock, plus a few people clapping and hootin’, and my buddy Jason, who beat me by 20 minutes. {way to go, Jason}

The winning male finished the course in an unbelievable 6:13, and the winning female, 8:27.

I loved the race.

Thank you to RD, Spyder Tynes and the GUTS crew. The volunteers were exceptional, the aid stations plentiful, and the organization was typical top-notch GUTS.

Everything you need. None of the crap you don’t.

Cool finisher fleece and skull cap too.