Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Crawling out of my skin

Today I ran the Frost Giant 5K in Estes Park. I surprised myself by running under 8 minute pace. It was windy and warm, but the wind was howling, the kind that knocks the breath out of your mouth before you can inhale.

I thought I would be lucky to run under 30 minutes but when I got to the meadow of half frozen cowpies, I realized I was ahead of schedule and started revising my goal. I ended up kicking in the last mile pretty hard and passed one woman in the last 50 meters, and managed to hold her off. Ended up as 6th woman overall with a time of 24:25. I will probably pay for that sprint at the end sometime tomorrow, but for now I feel good.

This week I managed 21 miles of running and about 3 hours on the bike. Yesterday I was crawling out of my skin, wanting to work out and move. I wanted to go up on Horsetooth and do 20 miles. I managed to keep my workout down to 3 hours not counting weights.

I wanted to keep moving, I felt like my legs were ready to go and all that was holding me back was something between my ears.

I must be somewhat recovered from the 48 hours if I'm able to run a decent pace in a 5K. This is where I wanted to be at the end of January, starting to run again. February will consist of building my mileage back to where I was last fall and then in March training will be my life. Next weekend, assuming work doesn't kill me first, I plan to run the Tortoise & Hare 5K, another opportunity for mid-winter speedwork.

I tried taking a nap this afternoon but tossed in bed for 3 hours before giving it up. Here I am with a cup of coffee. I'll be hurting by tomorrow morning but that's night shift. Four more weeks of self-inflicted torture.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

23 days

I ran for an hour today! I broke out a new pair of running shoes, wanted to give my feet all the help they can get. No foot problems, so far. I hope it won't be swollen tonight. I want to run the Frost Giant 5K on Sunday in Estes Park.

Other than running, this week of work really kicked my butt. I didn't sleep well between shifts, only 4 to 5 hours each day. I slept 15 hours since getting off work yesterday at 7:30 am and I feel like I'm almost ready for bed again. Time to do my weight workout and situps.

I think this is the longest break I've had from running since I started back in 1984, other than after I had my bunion surgery. Twenty three days of torture!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Badwater Images

Here are more Badwater photos, everything in this post is from the 2003 Memorial Day training clinic. Note: all photos in this post by Nathan Nitzky

Panamint Dunes.

On the road to Stovepipe Wells.

You could spend a lifetime studying the natural history of Death Valley.
Ken and I took a break under the palm trees at Furnace Creek. This is the only place with shade in the first 40 miles of the course.

On the road to Stovepipe Wells, we took a break to get off our feet.

That's me at the start of the training clinic.


More interesting rock formations near the beginning of the course. This area is called the Devil's Golf Course.

Around every bend in the road there's another psychedelic rock formation.

Nathan's road thermometer. It was 110 degrees, a cool morning.

Sunset over Stovepipe Wells.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Images from Badwater

This post is all about what it looks like out there in Death Valley and on the Badwater course. Anyone who thinks Death Valley is a barren wasteland is off their rocker. Even in the middle of summer, the colors are outrageous! In here I included some rough pastel sketches I did after crewing for Josh and Ken in 02 and 03. Don't laugh at my drawings! I promise I won't quit my day job yet! Rhyolite is a ghost town in Death Valley, east of the Badwater course, near the Nevada state line.

Another picture from the ghost mining town of Rhyolite.

Rhyolite again.

This is what the road looks like during the race, looking back toward Furnace Creek. Note the abundant shade.

Moon rising over Badwater, at the end of Day 1 in 2002.

Intensely colorful rocks and vegetation with the Panamint dunes in the background on a 128 degree day in July. I can never see enough of the landscape in Death Valley.

Zabriskie Point, east of the Badwater course, near the edge of the Park. This picture doesn't do justice to the colors and textures.

At the starting line, 2002 race. Josh is third from the right.

At the Badwater monument itself, in 2002, everyone goes out onto the salt pan to take pictures before the race. This picture was taken before the park wisely limited foot access to the area.

The colors in the landscape will blow your mind.

More colorful rocks along the road. This is on the ascent to Father Crowley's point.

Josh crashed in the crew vehicle somewhere between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells.

A sketch of sunset on the second day in 2003. Ken and I were past Darwin and headed toward Owens Valley, close to the 100 mile mark on the course, and a storm moved in briefly. We could see Mt. Whitney, our destination.

Somewhere on the course before Stovepipe Wells in 2003. This is around the 40 mile mark and it was 133 degrees that day.
Ken at the finish line at Whitney Portal in 2003. Steph is holding the camera on the far left. Race director Chris Kostman is in the dark shirt in the center.
On the road to the finish, looking back over Owens Valley. This stretch between Lone Pine and Whitney Portal is roughly 5000 foot gain in the last 13 miles.
Pastel sketch from 2002. I'm not too good at drawing people, this looks like Josh staggering across the road in the stretch between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells.

Another sketch from 2002. This is close to the start, a few miles up the road from Badwater.

The Panamint Dunes, visible from the road near Stovepipe Wells.

Devil's Cornfield near Stovepipe Wells, and I think those are the Funeral Mountains in the background.

From left, Rick Nawrocki, me, and Ken on the road to Furnace Creek during the 2003 Memorial Day training clinic. (photo: Nathan Nitzky)

That storm we saw on the second night in 2003 as we approached Owens Valley. Those mountains in the background are the Sierra Nevada and Mt. Whitney is in there behind the clouds.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fingers crossed...

I submitted my Badwater application online just a few minutes ago.

I asked Ken Eielson and Josh Miller to each send letters of recommendation for me to the race office. I paced both of them. Josh in 2002, and Ken in 2003, and it helps support your application to have Badwater crewing experience.

The application consists of this long form that you have to fill out online and provide as much detail as possible, sort of like an essay contest. Then you print off your entrant contract and entry fee form. You have to send in printed documentation of the results of qualifying events you've completed. I need to go to the post office this morning and send off those printed forms and the entry fee. They make decisions about who gets in and let most people know around the middle of February.

The past week I've been working nights and I slept 14 of the past 24 hours or so since I got done with my last shift of the week. It wasn't as hard on my body as I thought. Working nights gives me the psychological advantage that I know I can stay up all night during a race. The disadvantage is that you're really tired and I find it harder to motivate myself to work out when I'm a brain-fogged zombie. I go back to days in March, which coincides with the beginning of my intense training for Badwater.

I did manage to get on the bike for about 20 minutes each afternoon before work this week. It's about 10 degrees outside this morning, and I plan to give it a chance to warm up to the promised 20 degrees before I go outside and try running for the first time since Across the Years.
Sending that application out into the universe makes me want to get out and run no matter how cold it is...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nose to the grindstone

The Badwater application went online yesterday. I am working on it. I spent some time before New Year's compiling old race results, I had to call my friend Kirk to get some copies of old Ultrarunning results. I never thought I'd need all that stuff from so many years ago! But Kirk found the important stuff and mailed it to me. Now it's a matter of writing some long essays and getting everything in presentable order.

First I submit my race application online. Then I have to send my supporting materials, like old race results. The applications have to be in by the 28th and they make decisions about who is selected around mid-February. From everything I've heard, it's important to go into detail about everything. Even if it's 50 pages long.

I also need to coordinate the submission of my application with emails sent by my friends Josh and Ken, both of whom I crewed and paced for at Badwater in the past. I am also in the process of firming up the specific fund I am going to donate to. I intend to make my Badwater run a benefit for charity and I want to do something locally. I chose the Poudre Valley Hospital Foundation, and I will be raising money for one of their cancer-related funds. More about that in a future post. I met with the development officer for the foundation in December and they were very enthusiastic and supportive.

I go back to work on Thursday and I hope I can get most of this done by then! I am still so sleep-deprived, I continue to feel like a brain fogged zombie, but I feel less brain-fogged today. I'll be working nights in January and February, then back to days in March. I have to be on top of things. The next 6 months are going to go by FAST!

I already put in my requests for time off through July, and yesterday I sent in my entry forms for both the Run Through Time Marathon in Salida in March and the 50 miler at the Spring Desert Ultra in Fruita in April.

I did survive a half-mile walk with the dogs yesterday. My left foot started aching halfway through. It didn't swell up. I need to dig that wind trainer out of the garage and get my bike mounted on it!

I am starting to get hungry. It took a while, after having that virus, but I am finally starting to get back to normal. Normal for me is eating everything in sight for about 3 days after a long ultra. I haven't had my usual post-race cheeseburger and french fries yet, not quite ready for that, but I think I will be soon.

Time to get back to business.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I can see the tendons in my feet again this morning!

My jeans fit again, too.

I'm still brain-fogged and sleep deprived, but I'm considering taking the dogs for a walk around the block today.

Badwater race application went online this morning. I looked at it, made some notes. I'll be writing furiously for the next few days...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Smoke ' first multiday experience

I ran my first 48 hour race this year at Across the Years. I've been running ultras for 17 years but the longest I've ever run was 100 mile trail runs. I've done the 24 hour at Across the Years multiple times but never took it seriously for the whole 24 hours as it was always a social event or a workout for me.

But this year I had to run with a purpose. I want to get into Badwater, and I didn't have a recent qualifier. I finished four Leadville Trail 100s but the last one I did was in 1998. This year I ran the 24 hours of Boulder/Boulder 100 in an attempt to get a backup qualifier in case things didn't go well at Across the Years. Unfortunately, the weather sucked so bad at Boulder that I ended up bagging it at 3 am after doing roughly 80 miles.

My friend Stephanie Willingham was running the ATY 48 hour on the same days as me so we decided to drive down together. Steph is going to be my crew boss at Badwater. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, Steph and I loaded up my SUV and headed for the land of swimming pools, movie stars, plastic surgery, palm trees, and cars that never get dirty. I know that because I grew up there, and recently lived there for 8 years. I'm a Scottsdale girl. We planned to stay with my parents the night after the race in Scottsdale. I was afraid they might not let us into the neighborhood with my dirty car!

The trip down was uneventful, but fun. We were already in giggling mode and we weren't even sleep deprived yet! We arrived in Goodyear AZ on the 28th and stayed at the Best Western there- the official race hotel. Not bad. We chilled out in the room and on the 29th, we went over to Nardini Manor and set up our tent and all our gear for the next morning so we wouldn't have to deal with it on race morning.

One thing we didn't have was a table, and that is essential. In a timed event on any type of track, you need a table to drop all your gear so it's accessible, you don't want to be wasting time getting on and off the track but you do need a chair, all your race food and personal items that need to be easy to reach with a quick stop. We went to the Wal-Mart in Goodyear and found a folding table, along with a few other last minute items we thought we could use. As if my Rav 4 wasn't already loaded to the gills.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don't shop at Wal-Mart, but I do make exceptions in a pinch. My way of redeeming myself for shopping at Wal-Mart is to make a donation in the exact amount I spent at Wal-Mart to the American Diabetes Association. Don't understand? Just go in any Wal-Mart and look around.

Donation to the American Diabetes Association: $53.94

The rest of the day we hung out in the room, took a nap, and talked about Badwater plans. We scoped out the restaurants in the area and decided on Chili's. As we were leaving for dinner we ran into two other runners in the motel parking lot. Fred Riemer from Utah, and Don Winkley from Texas, who drove up in his Lamberghini. Don is one of those legendary multi-day runners, he's 69 and has been doing it forever.

Fred has run Across the Years for several years now and has lots of multiday experience, including a six day race in New York and some others. He turned 60 this year. Fred's a registered nurse in NICU and has listened to my nursing school tales in past Across the Years as we circled the track. This year I got to tell him survival tales of my first year in ICU. Talk about unwinding!

Fred joined us at Chili's for dinner. We ate a huge amount of food and dessert, and Fred gave me all sorts of advice for my first 48 hour. The thing he said that really stuck was about sleeping. He said don't disrupt your own sleep cycle. What he meant was don't force yourself to go down for a nap unless you're ready. I had originally planned to do 75 miles then take a break, but after listening to Fred, I decided to only try taking a nap when I got inefficient and started weaving on the track because I was so tired I couldn't concentrate.

Fred's advice ended up working perfectly for me. I only went down when I was not making progress, and I'd fall asleep right away and sleep hard for an hour or two, despite all the noise in the tent, then I'd wake up and be a new person.

As we scarfed down our pre-race meal, we all started what would become our greeting to each other on the track for the next two days: "Mmmmmmm......."

On the way back to the motel we stopped at a Starbucks and asked them if they could have some coffee drinks ready for us in the morning at 7 and we'd pick them up on the way to the race. Steph and I both slept great. We woke up around 5 and had to remember to stop at Starbucks and then all we had to do was stay warm, pick up our race packets, pee a few times, and we were ready for our two day journey!

When we got to the track it was freezing. Everyone was walking around wearing layers of clothing. I put on two pairs of tights and I was still freezing, plus lots of top layers. Paul Bonnett, the race director, gave the pre-race briefing and it was 9:00 am and we were off!

I knew I'd have all sorts of energy to burn at the beginning so I promised myself I could go fast for no more than the first couple of hours. Fast in ultra terms means approximately ten minute miles. I have a good powerwalk, so I was relying on that to keep me from running too fast too soon.

We change directions every two hours and by 11:00 I was feeling very comfortable at my ten minute pace broken up by powerwalks. I was trying to eat and drink as much as I could. My plan was to put as many calories in as I could that first day so I would have something to run on the second day.

By 1:00 I was still doing too much running and by then I'd made acquaintances with Ray Krolewicz, "the magnificent Ray K" as he is described in Ultrarunning magazine, an ultrarunning legend I've read about for years but never met. Ray drove all the way out from South Carolina to do the race, about a 50 hour drive, arrived the day before the race, ran the 72 hour, and after napping for an hour or two started driving back. This is typical of Ray, he is known to do this at ultras. The man has run nearly 500 ultras, so I've heard. He is loud and outspoken and full of himself, and he was wearing bright orange shorts and wearing only a t-shirt and his wild long gray curly afro-like hair was flying around in the wind. He looked like he'd been raised by wolves. Or something.

Ray started asking me about my ultrarunning background and how many 48 hour runs I'd done, and my goals, and so on. We talked for a while and I went on. Pretty soon he started yelling at me as I'd lap him, "Hey mama, is it okay if I jump off a cliff?" and other stuff. I promised him I was going to take a break and slow it down. He was moving pretty fast himself. I knew he used to be one of the top 100K runners in the US. He was out there in his shirtsleeves and I was still wearing three layers!

After 1:00 I did take Ray's advice and forced myself to slow down. I found it a lot easier to eat more and proceeded to inhale some assorted junk at the aid station. We were having lasagna for dinner but I needed to keep the calories going. Chocolate donuts, pretzels, quesadillas, whatever was easy to pop in my mouth and wash down with a couple of cups of Heed.

It becomes all about Is and Os. Intake and output. Every time I'd pee, I'd go straight to the aid station and drink one or two more cups of Heed. I was peeing more than once an hour on the average and I was feeling great. I just needed to control my pace. I cranked up the tunes on my MP3 and settled into a steady powerwalk for the rest of the afternoon, with a few running laps to break it up.

My brother Nathan and my ten year old niece Jenny showed up at the track for a short time late in the afternoon. It was great to see them, it was a surprise! I didn't get to stop and talk much but as I circled the track, Nathan was shooting all sorts of pictures of me. Nathan is going to be on the Badwater crew too. I'm not sure if you can call this setting a good example for my niece. What a crazy aunt.

Around 5:00 they started serving lasagna at the aid station so I took a bowl of it, went over to our table, grabbed my email messages along the way and sat down and put my feet up for 15 minutes. I hadn't taken a real break yet and it was time. The breaks would come more frequently as the hours passed but I needed to get some food in and then go inside and change into warm layers for when the sun went down. I had a pile of emails already. I was so touched by the number of messages and what people were saying that I almost cried.

I finished the lasagna and went into the tent. I changed out of all my clothes and put a dry bra and dry layers on. I took my shoes off to look at my feet, which were feeling great. No blisters, just a few little spots that were red. I changed my socks and re-taped an edge of my orthotic that was rubbing my heel. I got some extra layers to keep at the table as the temperature cooled off and headed back out into the sunset...

A little after 8 pm, eleven hours and change into the race, I hit 50 miles. That was perfect, not too fast at all. Doing 75 miles the first day was definitely in reach. That was my original plan: I'd do 75 miles, take a break and sleep, then when I woke up I'd do as many miles as I could before the 24 hour mark. I figured 80 miles would be plenty for the first day.

As the night went on, I took more breaks and tried to keep the eating and drinking consistent, and I was doing great. I talked with lots of other runners. It was more social, keeping each other going, than the intensity of the first day. I love running at night. Every few hours I'd stop and grab my email and have some hot cocoa or the delicious potato soup, sit down and put my feet up and read my messages.

Around 1:30 am I felt myself starting to lose momentum and I was not walking very efficiently at that point. I decided it would be time to take a nap. I had 68 miles in, which was half my goal of 135, and I went into the tent. I wiggled into the sleeping bags, propped my feet up on some bags of gear without taking my shoes off, and it took me a little while but I did fall asleep.

I woke up a little after 4 am and felt like I'd slept all night. I was a little groggy and very cold, so I took my time waking up and put an extra layer of tights on plus some extra top layers. I found my toothbrush and staggered over to the indoor, heated bathrooms and brushed my teeth. That felt so good!

I slowly made my way out to the track and at 4:45 am, I was moving forward again. It's always hard to get your legs moving at a good pace, it takes a lap or two before you warm up and lose the stiffness after a break, and this becomes more apparent the longer you run. But I stopped by the aid station on my next pass, and got some hot cocoa, which I took to the table and added a little can of Starbucks doubleshot espresso, and I was ready to go.

Before long I started powerwalking like a madwoman. I thought of the phrase "Walk like you're possessed" and kept that in my head. Pretty soon I had 70, then 75 miles, 80 miles, and by the time the sun came up, which happens late in Arizona, I was pushing 85. It looked like I was going to have a PR for 24 hours at Across the Years! My previous best at ATY was 84.3 miles back in 1994. Steph was doing well, she passed 50 miles early in the morning and was looking great. She hasn't trained at all this year and was hoping to get 100 miles for 48 hours. She was ahead of schedule and moving well.

During the last few hours on the track before the 24 hour mark, I walked with Debra Richmeier, who has extensive multiday experience and was on her way to a win with 167 miles in 48 hours this year. She had started on the 29th, the day before us, so she was finishing up. She told me to take it easy and not try to run during the daytime of the second day. She said go slow, pack the calories in and drink a lot. Then I'd have the energy in the last 12 hours where it really counts.

Debra also gave me another piece of advice, just as valuable. She said don't be greedy. Don't try to push the pace to get extra miles early in the second day. If you do, you won't be as strong late in the 2nd day when you most need the energy. I told her I would try it.

I continued to walk like I was possessed until 9:00. When the 24 hour mark came, I had 86.992 miles. A PR by more than 2.5 miles!

Once the finishing runners cleared off the track, I thought about Debra's advice. In the first 2 hours, I consumed four containers of yogurt, 3 little breakfast burritos, and 2 big M&M pancakes. I was drinking and peeing, and I was bundled up like a snowman. Keeping warm was another piece of advice I got somewhere. Don't waste energy by being cold.

Later in the morning I saw Cathy Aronson, my friend from high school who volunteers each year at ATY, walking with Ron Vertrees, one of the septugenarians. I was coming up on my lap for 100 miles, so I asked them if they wanted to run in this lap with me to get 100 miles, and they both did! Ron kicked in with us, on those amazing 70 year old legs.

I got a 100 mile PR too, 27 hours and 48 minutes. It was time to settle in to another consistent walk to my next goal, which was my goal for the race: 135 miles. The Badwater race distance.

My feet were getting sore. I dumped dirt out of my shoes a couple of times if a rock got in, but mostly my feet were just sore from being on them so long. I didn't dare take off my shoes. Even though I'd brought a pair of size 8s in case my feet swelled, I didn't want to fix it if it ain't broke. I didn't have any blisters and even though I had some pain, I could easily take my mind off it by focusing on other things. All I did was loosen my shoelaces a few times and that was it.

The second day Ray K was congratulating me on a solid first day and a strong pace the second day. I was walking at a strong, steady pace but not like I was possessed. I'd save that for later.

I spent quite a few laps talking and running with Lisa Bliss, who was ahead of me by about 12 or 13 miles. She was the women's winner at Badwater last year and she is the medical director for Badwater this year. She was really nice. We talked about training for Badwater and as the day went on, I could see where my strategy was paying off. She was moving faster than I was but not taking in the calories and she also had trouble sleeping. Her goal was 150 miles. I knew she would make it easily and I could see she was being pressured by one of the people hanging out- spectator? 24 hour runner who was hanging out? to go after Debra's performance of 167.

I never felt tired all day even though I'd only slept 2 hours the night before. I was completely absorbed in the process. Moving forward, setting small goals in pieces, getting around the track for the next lap and seeing what I could focus on next. And then there were so many people to catch up with. ATY is like a family. I call them "the tribe". So many of these people come back year after year to do this ritual at New Year's.

One of the images I'll keep in my head about this year's run was walking around the track and seeing three of the septugenarians- Aaron Goldman at 75, Ron Vertrees at 70, and Andy Lovy at 72, walking together, three across, in the middle of the track, lurching along somewhat, but engaged deep in conversation and never letting up. All of them are in the 72 hour run. Each of them has their own particular walk. Aaron is tall and spent most of the race bent over at nearly a 90 degree angle, but he motors along the track! He got nearly as many miles as I did! Ron is the most upright of the three, and he looks like he's out for a casual stroll the whole time. Andy is short and round, he might be shorter than me, he shuffles along stiffly, slightly bent forward, but he keeps going.

There were other runners in their late 60s and 70s, including Don Valentine at 75. I never stop being amazed at what these older runners do.

I ate the green chile burritos they served for dinner. They were a bit spicy but they tasted so good! Around 7 pm I felt myself starting to weave and be inefficient. I thought it might be a good time to take a nap, it would give me some sleep time before things got so loud around midnight for the party. I went into the tent and fell instantly asleep, as soon as I was horizontal. I woke up an hour later feeling refreshed and got back out on the track, ready to party and hit my goal sometime in the next several hours. 135 was easily in reach.

After this many hours we get goofy and the dark side of everyone's personality comes out. That's when people stop being inhibited about things like passing gas. And the jokes become raunchier. Ray K and I had a few laps conversing about aging ultrarunners. He said with this crowd, you need hemorrhoid wipes and adult diapers stocked in the portapotties.

It was getting close to the witching hour, almost New Year's Eve. We have a big party right at midnight, everyone steps off the track and gets some champagne, and then we all do a lap around the track together- family, spectators, runners, volunteers, everyone. There are fireworks and loud music and we're all wearing goofy hats and some of us go an extra step, like Steph here in her party dress:
My feet were holding up well. It only hurt with every step if I thought about it. I wasn't thinking about it at all. What I was thinking about were incremental steps toward the 135 mile goal. I was still able to do math in my head so I estimated that I'd have 135 at about 2 am.

Midnight arrived and we had the party. The best part of all was being there with my friend Christopher O'Loughlin, who is the race RN and is one of my biggest supporters, and plans to be on my crew at Badwater. Christopher did over 100 miles this year and he was strong the whole way. Two years ago at ATY he had just been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, for which he had chemotherapy and alternative treatments, and he is now in complete remission and looking great. To see him walk around the track with his daughter Sinead (who has been an ATY volunteer herself since she was a little girl) was absolutely the highlight of the event!

The party itself lasted all of 9 minutes once we completed the lap, and then it was back to business. I wasn't feeling super efficient but I didn't want to take a nap again until after I'd completed my 135 mile goal. I kept on and tried to keep focused. I was weaving occasionally and wasn't speaking too clearly. I bet we all looked like a bunch of drunks out there.
I turned up the most hard core trance music I had and tried to help myself stay energized. At 2:21 am, 41 hours and 21 minutes into the event, I reached my 135! Before I went down for my nap, I made myself do a few more laps, "insurance miles" as they call them. Just in case I went to sleep and didn't wake up until the clock ran out, I wanted to make damn sure I had my goal.
41:21, not a bad time at Badwater. That would get me a belt buckle for sure. When I had over 136 miles I went into the tent and was out for another hour and a half of solid sleep. When I woke up I was super groggy and it took me a long time to get myself out of the warm sleeping bag. I slowly found my toothbrush and staggered to the bathroom, it was too warm and comfortable in there. It took me nearly an hour to get from the sleeping bag to the track, but I made it. Somewhere around 5:20 am I was moving forward again and then I realized, I had several hours to push some new goals.

No more saving energy or trying to stay overhydrated and overfed. It was time to walk like I was possessed. My body didn't want to go fast but I eased into a faster powerwalk and by the time there was light in the sky I was past 140 miles and looking at 145. In the final hour I hit 146, then 147, I thought I could make 148 by the end but I had looked at my own watch instead of the race clock at the timing tent, and I had another 10 minutes to spare. I could make 149 if I really pushed it!
It was 8:50 and Paul was telling all the runners to finish their final laps. Partial laps don't get counted at the end so it's important to squeeze whatever you can in there at the end. All I remember is Paul saying, "Hey Alene, how are you doing?" and I muttered something about, "I think I can get two more laps in" and Paul said, "Get TWO MORE LAPS!" I took off into a sprint, which at that point was about a 12 minute mile pace but it felt like I was Marion Jones. I did a lap in about 3 minutes to complete a hair over 149 miles, which felt like an all-out sprint.
There were two and a half minutes to spare on the clock and there was no way I was going to make it around again at that pace. I was happy and I wandered off the track over to Nattu and some other people to celebrate the end and cheer the other runners as they came in for their final laps. We always count down the last ten seconds together until the clock runs out, and there's always someone who cuts it as close as they can, and everyone is screaming for them.

As it turned out, Lisa had left the track early, she stopped shortly after she made 150 miles. If I had known that, I might have tried to push the pace earlier. I never even thought of it. Somehow over the years I've lost my drive to compete against other people. It's still there, but I never even thought about it during the second day. All I could think about in those final miles was, how many more miles could I get? And who knows, if I'd pushed the pace earlier, I might not have had the energy to pack on the miles in the final hours like I did. I'm glad I followed Debra's advice. Not a greedy thought in my head. But I know what my goal will be next year!
Steph ended up getting 102.8 miles, which is awesome. She didn't even train this year. She had a new job and her longest training run was 20 miles. She looked great the whole time. She didn't look any different at the time she finished from the time she started. Unlike me, I looked like a zombie the whole second day!

My feet took a beating, more than anything else. My ankles were hugely swollen, my left more than my right. I only got one blister, though. I had a red rash all over my feet and my whole body in general is bloated. Steph and I laughed hysterically over my feet. You could see the indentations in my legs where the elastic band was on my tights.

The only other place on my body that took a beating was my butt. Not my muscles, either. I was chafed from using the rough toilet paper in the portapotties! I did use some A & D ointment during the race, but it wasn't enough. Ray K was right, maybe I could have used some hemorrhoid wipes myself!

It's the masochist in me that says, Maybe the race needed to be longer. I have no interest in the 72 hour, or even a 6 day race at this point. I would like to do more 48 hour runs though. I loved it. I love having the time to rest, to vary the pace, and to take care of myself. Somehow 24 hours doesn't allow you time to do all that. And it's certainly not enough time to socialize and get to know any of the other runners.

One blister on the inside of my right big toe is all I got. Otherwise, it's just a heat rash and swelling.

Elephant ankles, deformed and shaped by the elastic bands at the end of my tights.

I haven't mentioned the other thing about ATY that's really important to me. That's the spiritual role the event plays in my life each year in getting centered, in refocusing on the things that are really important to me, and correcting the habits I develop that lead me astray from being fully and completely the person I am. Each year in the months and weeks before ATY I make a list of problems I need to solve in my life, things that are bothering me or are on my mind, that I haven't been able to find solutions for, or things that are challenging me that I need to see a clearer path in order to get through them.

It's also a chance to express gratitude for all the love in my life and all the amazing people I have come to know, all the rich experiences I've had in my life, my good health, my ability to run and participate in ultras, and my ability to meet all the challenges that I've faced over the past year.

I call it my list of meditations and prayers for ATY and this year I had a long list. What was cool was that during the event I was able to identify other issues in my life that I wasn't even consciously aware of going into the event, and I was able to come up with some solutions to these, too. I always come away from the event feeling ready to start the new year, grounded, centered, and prepared to take on whatever I stumble across in the next 12 months.

After the race it's a frenzy of breaking down tents. A hundred exhausted zombies trying to breakdown all their gear and carry it while limping to their cars before the awards banquet must be a sight. Note to myself- next year at ATY, I need a coherent person who didn't run to be my "breakdown crew" at the end.

To summarize, what I learned this year at ATY from my first multiday run:

1. Take advice from veterans- I did this, and it worked. Thanks Fred, Debra, and Ray.
2. Go slow. You really cannot go slow enough. There are times to go fast, but slow pays off in huge dividends at the end.
3. Rally support- Before my race I sent an email out to running club people, people I know from an internet site I support, people who know me in general, and told my coworkers. I got dozens of messages and it always charged me up after taking a break to read them.

I am thrilled with my performance this year and I wouldn't do anything differently. I know there's a learning curve and I feel like I am well on my way to becoming a strong multiday runner. Those crazy people who run around in circles for days, I always marveled at them, reading about them in Ultrarunning magazine when I first started doing ultras, back in the days when I was content to do 100 Km or 100 mile trail runs. I never thought I'd be one of them!

I'll be taking it easy in January to recover. I plan to put my bike on the wind trainer, lift weights, and slowly ease into running sometime by February. For the next week, my main focus will be filling out my Badwater application and getting as much sleep as possible!

Next stop: Whitney Portal!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Starting the New Year, with a twist

Arrived home late last night from Arizona after running 149 miles and change at Across the Years 48 hour. I am toast. I am so sleep deprived and haven't slept or eaten nearly enough in a week. Don't mess with me, I'm a RAGING BITCH!

On the way home we stopped at Whole Foods in Santa Fe to get something to eat. There was this weird guy who was worried about the molecules moving around in my soup when I stuck it in the microwave HE wanted to use. I took my soup out and placed it in the other microwave so he could have his microwave of choice. And then I sat down and counted to ten so I wouldn't deck him.

In spite of the events of the past week I am feeling pretty good, no muscle soreness. My feet look like they belong to an elephant and my whole body is swollen. I weigh 5 pounds more than I did when I left. This is typical after an ultra, except this time I ran a lot further than ever before.

We had a little delay in our trip, got home about 24 hours later than we planned. We stayed in Scottsdale at my parents' house the night after the race. The next morning we planned to take our time and drive to Santa Fe and spend the night in the cute little motel we found on our way down. But 40 miles north of Phoenix I suddenly felt nauseous and we pulled over and before long I was puking my guts out and had stuff coming out both ends. We ended up getting a room in Payson and stayed an extra night. I have never been so sick in my life. Turns out I caught a nasty virus that was going around at the race and several people got sick.

You would think that between running all those miles and being sick and being sleep deprived we could get some rest. Once we settled into our room at the motel in Payson, Steph discovered bugs crawling in her bed, and then we found one in mine. So we ended up changing rooms! Steph moved all of our stuff to the new room and I slowly moved myself, in between waves of nausea.

We ended up driving all the way from Payson yesterday, it took about 14 hours but I got home to Ft. Collins around 10 pm, fueled by jello, gatorade, saltine crackers, and a little soup from our stop in Santa Fe. So nice to finally sleep in my own bed. And today I graduated from the jello and gatorade diet and had some homemade chicken soup, thanks to Dennis.

I'll post more tomorrow about what I learned at ATY this year. I need some sleep.