Across the Years 72-Hour Race Report

Or, how I ran 140 miles and still got beat by more than half


photo: me and my family before the start of the ATY

What can you say? It’s Across the Years

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this race, and it’s taking me a long time to fully absorb everything I experienced.

Did I like it?

Why did it seem so hard?

Why do I feel so special? so strong? …and in the same vein, so inadequate and weak?

How can my muscularity feel somewhat recovered, while my nervous system seems to be shot?

I “feel” things in my heart, more than I feel things in my body. Am I just a cheeseball?

While I mulled over my thoughts and feelings, I read all the runner race reports with great interest. Was it the same experience for them? A smattering of this-and-that emotional crap all mixed in with the mental and physical challenge buzz?

By now, if you’re on “the list”, you’ve heard about the quality character displays of folks like John Geesler, Andy Lovy, Chris O’Loughlin, etc… And Juli’s friggin’ unbelievably supportive husband, the new youngster PRs, the 1000 mile jackets, Ray K’s productive silliness, The Coury family, Lauri’s multi-million dollar charitable effort, the special European representation… on and on.

So, as much I want to share my experiences with all that – I’ve already been beat to the podium.

Instead, and perhaps a wee bit egotistically, I wanted to find a way to express this race for what it meant to me.

I want to share why I loved ATY …and perhaps didn’t love ATY.

I want to be honest with my feelings.

A completely different form of athleticism

Across the Years was a completely new experience for me.

I’ve never run any timed event above eight hours, …so it only made perfect sense to bite off nine times the effort with the 72 hour race, right?

In my opinion, it was too much for my ability level. I did ok in the first 24 hours, logging close to 70 miles, but the last two days were mostly a struggle as I probably walked 85% of day two and 65% of day three.

All that walking just didn’t seem right to me…

…then I met Uli Kamm.

He’s 61, logged 204 miles, took 8th place in the 72-hour race, and has run, er “walked”, just about every single difficult ultra in the country, over an ultra career of 40 years, and finished under the cut-offs while beating a handful of runners. Hardrock with 60,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, Bighorn, Wasatch…

Put that in your bong and smoke it.

Ultrarunning 101 is in session

ATY is like ultrarunning vocational training.

I learned so much about the history of ultrarunning, the ultrarunner old school, the ultrarunner new school, track runners, trail runners, road runners …trans-America runners, Badwater finishers, Barkley bad-asses, and trans-European athletes.

I ran alongside, and shared conversation with, people from Scotland, Germany, France …and all corners of the USA.

I absorbed training tips, techniques, strategies and experiences from people who were so well prepared, it was shocking.

Thanks to people like Mike Melton, Robert Andrulis, and Lynn Newton, I was able to prevent some costly rookie mistakes and make some last minute changes that would allow for the 140 miles that I was able to hammer through.

Thanks to people like Andy Lovy and Chris, I was able to keep my feet from falling apart while also providing muscle-loosening techniques to keep me moving forward with less pain.

Thanks to the volunteers, I was able to stay hydrated, nourished, and never “got sick of” the aid station items …grilled cheese, hot potato soup, egg rolls, quesadillas, pancakes, ham/turkey sandwiches, and plenty of vegan food.

Nice.

And lastly, thanks to the sarcastic personalities of Hans Bauer, Mike Melton, Ray K, and John Price, I was able to associate within part of my own element.

A spectator at my own race

I love the sport of ultrarunning. I read a lot, participate on the ultra email list, and attend as many races I can. Because of this, I tend to know a lot about various athletes, living vicariously through some of their races and challenges; so getting to meet, run with, and engage in personal conversations with these people left me a little star-struck.

Running a few laps with Lisa Bliss, are you kidding me?

John Geesler?

Juli Aistars, Tracy Thomas, Alene Nitsky, Hans Bauer, Uli, Ray K, Don and Gillian, Xy Weiss, John Price? …and many, many more.

it’s just overwhleming for this newbie to the sport.

These are all people that I read about, communicate with online, and/or eagerly watch their race results from race-to-race.

Many times I did not feel worthy to be there.

I’m a weightlifter, turned runner, who is still trying to figure all this out…

How did I get in?

How did I get the chance to play with all the cool kids?

It was a very special, humbling experience.

Zombie runners and me
Photo: Zombie Runner owners Don and Gillian …and me

Running in circles

This is the part where I just can’t come to grips with how I feel.

Did I love running in 500 meter circles, 452 times?

Nope. I did not.

Mentally, it was nearly the greatest challenge of my life to end my rest periods, leave the warm tent, with a bleeding, chaffed ass, in 30 degree nightime weather, just to continue circling a track in pain.

I would stare out at the beautiful mountains and wish that I was running up there.

The views in the flat desert go on for miles and miles, like the movies, and I imagined myself breaking free from the fences surrounding the track and running like the wind. Fast, instead of shuffling in pain on days two and three.

Sometimes, I’d feel like that show on TV called “gangs” where they show prisoners in “the yard”.

Many times I felt caged in. Lonely. Sometimes second-guessing my desire to move forward, around in circles, for three days straight.

What was I thinking, anyway, when I signed up for this thing?

What were the RD’s thinking in accepting me? Was it a desire to watch a newbie crumble?

“God, I miss my family.”

“I can’t wait ’til they come back.”

Many times I’d say to myself, “welp, it’s definitly a fact now – I am a trail runner, not a track runner”

As hard as this is to admit, I even built up feelings of false superiority with thoughts that, “man, I could smoke most of these people in a 10K, 10-mile, half-marry, or even marathon.”

I know that’s lame, but this report wouldn’t be an accurate account without the truth.

I think I needed to rationalize to myself why I wanted to get rest, while guys and gals, labeled in the real world as senior citizens, were able to continue …with smiles on their faces, while logging hella more miles than me.

It’s humbling being beat by a 71 year old. It just is.

The whole thing messed with me.

Humbled me.

Forced me to view things differently.

A moment of weakness

As the race went on, I started to reevaluate my goals.

First it was, “ok, I’m fine with just a hundred miles. ”

Then it was, “ok, I’ll go for 103 and make it a distance personal best”

Then it was, due to a little pushing from Mike Melton and Robert Andrulis, “ok, I’ll go for 110″

Then 120

Then 130

And that’s when my wife and son showed back up from Flagstaff.

Coming from Atlanta, GA, they were all excited from their ski trip, snowboarding lessons, and frolicking in more snow than they have ever seen in their lives.

It was so nice to see them, and as everybody on the track probably remembers, I’m definitly one of those dudes that loves to talk about his family. Too bad I’m not religious, because “blessed” would come out of my mouth a lot just about now.

Anyway, I was feeling low, beat and battered and my ass hurt. I knew it was allowed for runners to go get sleep off-site in motels or wherever if they wanted to, and that just sounded LOVELY to me.

So, I called my wife at the hotel and said, “come get me – I’ve done enough miles – I got my hundred buckle and that’s plenty.”

She kept asking if I was sure, and I kept saying I was, so she drove 30 minutes from Phoenix to retreive me.

Ok, this feels completely wrong

As we were driving away from Nardini Manor, down Jack Rabbit Trail, I looked back and could see the lights of the track, and something just didn’t feel right.

I immediately got grumpy with my wife before I finally came to grips with my feelings.

I felt wrong leaving.

I had been part fo this thing for over 60 hours at this point.

I had suffered, laughed, talked, raced, and particpated with these athletes for all this time – and now I was gonna leave them?

…for my own selfish needs?

I couldn’t do it.

Thank goodness my wife is so level-headed and understanding.

She gave me a burger, strawberry shake, and a kiss and turned around to take me back to the race.

Once I got back – everything was right again.

A New Years Eve Celebration like no other

The family came back around 11:00 p.m., walked a few laps with me, and prepared for the NYE celebration.

Runners, wore party hats, blew Kazoos, and drank champagne at midnight. And, as is tradition, everyone, including runners, crews, family, and spectators, all walked a lap of the track while the Wrublick boys fired off an impressive display of fireworks from the desert fields.

Very cool. Nice touch.

I took as many pictures, with as many runners as I could.

But that little diddy of fun lasted only 15 minutes and then back to the track for the final nine hours of the event.

Christian and Austin at ATY
photo: Austin and I, circling the track just before midnight

Ten more miles for an even 140

I crawled outta’ the warm tent at about 4:30 a.m. realizing I needed close to ten miles to get an even 140, and decided to go for it.

I started running – or what could maybe, possibly be perceived as running – with a focus on the 140 mile mark.

Ray K was chasing Frenchman Serge Girard, shirtless I might add, and singing “day-o …daaaay-o …daylight come and I wanna go home…”

A real tripster this Ray K.

He caught him.

And I got my 140 miles right around the same time.

With only 45 minutes left in the race, I huddled up in a big giant fleece blanket, and watched the rest of the runners finish.


photo: one tired dude – 72 hours + 5 minutes complete.

And that was that

And just like that, it was over.

I was almost sad.

Why? who knows. Probably just an emotional, mental, physical mess, wanting to laugh, cry, rest, and socialize all at once.

We all congratulated each other, broke down our tents, and prepared for the awards.

Problem was, many of the runners left immediatly, so many were not there to receive their awards.

F&$* that!!!!

I hung around, even though I went outside the tent to throw up the meatballs I just ate, and dammit, I was getting that buckle if they had to wheel me up to the front in a wheelchair.

Lotsa hugs, congrats, promises of keeping in touch, …and off we went, back to the hotel, so that I could endure the humbling experience of my wife patching up my chaffed ass (amongst other things).


photo: Accepting my 100-mile buckle with the event RD and host

So what’s the verdict?

I want to go back in 2009 if they’ll have me.

Now, I have an idea on how to strategize.

Now, I have an idea of what to expect – and what “not” to expect.

Now, I know that the running is only one element of a complete experience that is the Across the Years footrace.

I am part of the family now. Perhaps the red-headed stepchild, but still part of the family, and I can’t imagine spending New Years anywhere else than Nardini Manor next year – circling that damn track – but growing in my ultra experience ten-fold.

Maybe I can even get Ray K to like me.

And while I probably would excel at 24-hours, I want to come back to the 72-hour race.

Next year, that 200 mile buckle is mine.

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Comments

Great report, are you going to be at the 24 Hour To The Future run in Phoenix? Your words are very artful.

Great report, send it in to ‘Ultrarunning’. I was thinking about sending in my report, but yours puts mine to shame. By the way, I was very impressed with the frost on your shoulders, something I had never seen before and didn’t think was possible outside of Antartica.

See you next year.

Christian,

Exceptionally well done–not just the run; the writing! Your report of a trail guy’s multi-day encounter with a little oval track is a fascinating, gut-wrenching love/hate tale. They should have a medal for Best Race Report!

Congratulations, and I can’t wait to read the sequel next January after you get your 200 mile buckle. Now let’s go get a cold one at Rock Bottom.

Jay T

Christian,

Nice report! From the heart is always best. It was great meeting you in person. I believe you can log 200 next year and enjoy yourself even more than this year. I didn’t realize you had made the decision to leave–I’m so glad you didn’t! Val enjoyed the comment about the “friggin’ unbelievably supportive husband!” Hello to Babette and Austin!

Juli

Christian,

Great job, man. Very insightful and honest reflection on this very unique experience. I’m really glad you stuck with it and followed your instincts. I think many of us celebrate vicariously through your races in the same way that you do so through others. Keep up the great work.

ESV

Wonderful race report. Congratulations! I am a wannabe ultrawalker, and this is an event that I have on my calender… I want to walk with Ulli and all the wonderful ultra runners you spoke of someday.
Maryann

Hi Christian,

One of the best reports I ever read! I like the way you write. I lived through this whole thing again while reading.

See you at ATY 2009!
Ulli

Great report! Reading it reminds me that though my long runs are only 10-12 miles these days, I look forward to being in that ultra mode again.

Christian,
It was great to meet you at the race and finally put a face to the ultralist posts. Your race report captured so much of what I experienced at ATY — so eloquently expressed. Thanks again for all of your encouragement out there. I look forward to reading about your future adventures and hopefully seeing you at another race.
Laurie Woodrow (1st time 48 hour finisher at ATY)

Excellent report as always. Thanks for being honest. That makes for a great read. And good info to consider for the next race.

Also, thanks for working the Atlanta FA. I didn’t get a chance to chat but it was good to see you taking down the stats.

As is the case with ultrarunning in general, circling a loop course over and over for many hours and days is addicting. Looking forward to seeing you there next December when both of us shall accumulate even more miles. You shall probably make the 300 cumulative mile mark. Be good to your wife who was so good to you.

Great report Christian. I wish I would have spent more time talking to you, instead of just a quick hello.

Next year, if we both get invited back, I’ll make sure to spend a few miles getting to know you.

Great report Christian. Makes me want to come out next year – if for no other reason than to just meet all the folks! I liked your honesty in your report about the race and running in general. If my family showed up at my low point in a race, I would want to leave with them too. Funny, ATY seems like one of those races that is a “success” regardless of how many miles you get. Great job again and I look forward to seeing you soon.

I have a feeling that when YOU’RE 71 years old, you’ll beat lots of young’uns at ATY.

Christian, You ran 140 miles. Surely you cannot expect Ray K to like you in the same race. :) Actually I heard he likes everyone, even Serge. He thinks Austin is cool and your wife a great sport too (next year she will have to duke it out with Mike Melton’s bride). Oh yeah, thanks for the Mashed potatoes and gravy. I would not have caught Serge or had the energy to go shirtless without those esential calories.

I can see you at 200 miles next year. You might even inspire Mike better than I have been able to do over the last two ATYs.

Great race report, makes me sorry I missed so much of the race with my head down racking up mileage (and sleeping 9 hours) I really need to be more like Martina.

Recover well, train weller, I’ll see you on the courses.

I don’t know If I buy that “I’m a newbie” story anymore, expecially not with the races you logged in the last 12 months. You da man!

Perhaps your best race report yet. You’re not just growing as a runner, but also as a writer.

Christian,

Awesome, heartfelt, honest, insightful, humbling, painful,
… and a supportive family of ultra runners to compliment your own.
Thank you for sharing.
Christopher ATY Medical Team Volunteer

dude, nice report. you did great. i know the feeling about now being a part of the ATY family. last year was my first ATY and first timed event. loved it to no end.
you now have a great goal and i’m sure you will get that 200 mile belt.
congrats!!

I’ve done several track 24 hour runs but I’d never considered anything longer. But since reading your report, I’m excited about next year’s event. Hopefully the feeling will pass soon. Otherwise…

kevin

Christian:

Congrats on the run. What a great effort. I will be psyched to learn more about strategy and technique and whatnot. Very impressed. Way to go!

~stubert.
runsturun.blogspot.com

Hi Christian,
Great race report with a lot of thought behind it. I
I enjoyed meeting you and running with you a bit.
I have a hard time running with anyone for over a co
couple (I’m so inconsistant in pace!). I too plan o
on returning next year, and starting on time ;-)
Maybe we can push each other over 200!
Thanks for your thoughts in this report.
John

Christian

I enjoyed reading your report, especially the part about you feeling humbled … I think that’s a part of ultra running for everyone, isn’t it? Also, I know I’ve mentioned it before, but if you want to be humbled even further, try to run a 100 at McNaughton Park Trail Runs in Pekin in April, 2009. You will definitely meet some elite runners. And if he was the only elite runner coming, it might be worth it just to check out David Goggins. He’ll be here defending his 150 title from last year and making it 3 150s in a row. The top 3 150 runners from 2007 and 2008 will be back battling it out again. Check out who’s signed up already. I just got back from 2 weeks vacation and over 50 people signed up while I was gone! We’ve got 61 in the 50 mile, 55 in the 100 mile and 43 crazies in the 150.

Take care,
Jerry

Christian,

Good race report, as usual.

You have been through a multiday and come out the other side. Congratulations.

Having done only 1 multiday race myself, there were so many things I wanted to tell you as a first timer. However, I knew nothing I could say would matter until you experienced it for yourself.

I am taking the liberty of attaching my race report from my multiday race. I posted it to the list a while ago, so you may or may not have read it. It certainly will read differently now that you have completed your own multiday race.

Awesome job and great report! Looking forward to meeting you at the Keys 100!

Thanks, Christian–that was a great read! Welcome to the ATY family (now you understand part of why I keep showing up, though until this year I was only volunteering, not actually moving around the track as you were.) I’m only sorry that I didn’t get time to spend chatting with you when I was out there slogging around myself. Maybe next year!

Great Report Christian! You were among some of the rockstars for sure. It sounds like you learned alot from this race and from those that you kept company with, definately use that for 2009 dude!

Christian, what a beautiful report and, as usual, you perfectly capture the experience in a way that brings us all along for the ride. Kudos to you on a job well done, at ATY and with the report!

Excellent report. Congratulations, Christian.
Never having run more than 6 hours on a track I can only begin to imagine the challenge of being out there for 72 hours. Lots of time to go through a wide range of emotions. Thanks for sharing.

Great report. Sounds to me, and I mean this in a terrific way…that crossing into the new year via ATY you grew up a bit as an ultra-runner. You may only be days older but you have new wisdom and much more experience. Not all miles are equal in imparting such gifts. What a way for you to greet 2009! It’s already been a success for you. Best, susan

Great report! Thanks for sharing those feelings! Lots of soul searching!

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