Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Across The Years 24 Hour: Chasing the Grimmster

I've been struggling trying to write this blogpost. Maybe I'm just suffering from a post-race food coma, or I'm still not functioning well despite having plenty of sleep and naps since I got back to my dad's house early Tuesday morning.

So I apologize if this has taken a while to spit out. I won't waste too many words. I am so confused with the days from being on vacation, I can't keep track, and I won't know what day it is until I go back to work this weekend.

Pre-Race

I've been staying on the east side of the valley at my dad and stepmom's house in Scottsdale. The race itself is held on the west side of town, in Glendale, a good 45 minute drive only in optimal traffic conditions. I got a hotel room in the race hotel the night before, 5 minutes from the race, so race morning would be quick and uncomplicated, and I'd be able to sleep in. The race starts at 9, which is a leisurely starting time, works great for me.

The new race site is at Camelback Ranch, which is a training facility for the LA Dodgers and I'm not sure what else, I claim ignorance in such matters of sport other than running and a particular variation of tennis.

I arrived at the race site Sunday afternoon to set up my table and check things out, then check into the hotel. My first view of the race was drivingalong west Camelback Road, I could see the zombie-like march of the runners along the south end of the course, before I turned into the ball park area.

When I turned into the parking area and saw the tents, after seeing the early death marchers, the first thing that crossed my mind was: Sheriff Joe's Tent City.

I don't know if you're familiar with stories of Arizona's infamous Sheriff Joe, but his Tent City concentration camp that he runs legally is just one of the things he's known for...

I set up my table and checked out the race set up, things looked pretty basic, and very well-organized. I walked a little of the course, but figured I'd have a chance to see the whole thing enough times during the race, I didn't feel the need to do a full lap. I talked to a few people and went back to the hotel.

Ugh. Race hotel. Ugly, cold, sterile, not very comfortable-feeling. I walked into my room and it was freezing! The heat had been turned off, so I cranked it up, dropped off my stuff and left to go seek out food and race morning essentials, like a McDonalds and where to get ice for the cooler.

Before I left my dad's house in Scottsdale, I started my attempt to eat as many calories as possible the day before the race. I started with eggs and tamales. The tamales were leftovers they had from Havana Cafe, awesome.


It looked cloudy, like it was going to rain later. I hoped the weather would hold up for the race. Out my hotel room window, which looked out to the west over the ball park, it looked like rain was on its way.

The weather forecast looked okay except for the temporary rain. I hoped it would keep the dust down on the course. The only thing I noticed about the course was that the dirt seemed to be loose and easy to kick up, blister alert. I had my gaiters and plenty of footgear ready just in case.

I got some take out from an Italian restaurant, I got lasagna, and went back to the hotel room to scarf that down. I found a McDonald's that was less than 5 minutes from the ball park, perfect for the morning.

By the time I got back the room it had warmed up in the bedroom area, but the rest of the room was freezing. I had booked a suite because originally I thought Steph would be coming with me, but decided to keep it, for the price, it was good. It wouldn't have been very comfortable for anyone who would sleep in the bigger room, it was still cold out there.

By sunset, it was raining. I took a shower, texted with Paul Grimm who was waiting for Matt and Anne Watts to arrive at the Phoenix airport on their delayed flight, called Dennis, and wrote some e-mails, and then went to bed. I had a hard time falling asleep, but once I did, I slept well.

The rain didn't last long, and was long gone by morning.















Race Morning

I woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off in the morning, got my stuff together and checked out of the room. I drove to McDonalds and got my sandwich. Then I drove to the ball park to pick up my race packet and finished setting up my table. I met up with the 24 Hour contingent from Colorado: Paul Grimm (aka the Grimm Reaper or The Grimmster, as I prefer to call him), Matt & Anne Watts, Eric, Anne and Ethan Pence from Vail.

I also saw my friend Megan Dell from Albuquerque. Megan is now medical director of Badwater, ever since Lisa Bliss stepped down from doing that. We kept our stuff together at a table, and ran quite a few laps together early in the race.

The weather was cold, clear and perfect. Couldn't ask for a better day.

As usual, I was freezing, and wearing a little extra clothing. Here I am next to Anne Pence, who lives near Vail. She's dressed for summer, and I'm from the banana belt of Fort Collins, dressed for winter.


People were dressed in an array of outfits, typical of ATY.

The Plan

The plan I discussed with Wheaties Boy and that I wanted to stick to was 58 miles in the first half, at least 50 in the second half. I knew it would be hard to hang on but I really wanted to tough it out after a solid first half and get those miles in. I really had no idea what I would be capable of, I've put a few miles in since Oklahoma but haven't been doing anything fast other than the tempo runs. I needed to get out there and put the hammer down and see what happened. If I blew up, I blew up.

The morning was uneventful. I just settled into a comfortable pace and kept moving. I talked with Megan a lot, I looked for Debbie Leftwich, but didn't see her until at least early afternoon. This course is a mile around so you don't see people as often as you did at the old Nardini Manor course.

I saw the Grimmster only a couple of times in the daylight, he was complaining about the grape-flavored (so he claims) gel packet that had exploded all over the front of his shorts, but he was really proud of it too. Matt Watts was giving him a hard time about it, so we began ribbing him about that all day. With Paul, it's always something. He knows he's a nerd, but the dude didn't even know how to play fart tennis until race day. I had to teach him!

It was a good thing I had plenty of time to do that. I had to entertain myself with something while I was trying to hold my pace down. Paul was running well, though. Matt was moving well too, he was on for 100+ miles.

I did go out hard and I wanted to see how I felt, having no idea what would happen. I went through 50 miles in 10:03, which was only slightly fast for my plan, but basically perfect. I kept having to force myself to slow down and take a walking lap, which was nice, it gave me a chance to text people and check Facebook for messages, which was a nice distraction.

I took some food breaks, and short social breaks to hang out with my dad, my brother, and my 16 year old niece Jenny who came out to watch the race for a while. I was eating, drinking, and peeing, but not doing any of it meticulously or methodically as I usually can do.

It's really hard for me to run a slow 50. Ten hours is pushing the limits of my patience. I feel like I'm having to waste time in order to not go the pace I want to run.

As soon as I crossed the timing mats at the first lap where I had surpassed 50 miles, I heard someone groan behind me. I turned around, and it was The Grimmster, he'd been trying to catch me on that lap. I chicked him, and I didn't even know he was tailing me. Being the chess nerd that he is, he challenged me. He said I'll race you to 64 miles, that's the square of 8. Whatever, Paul. I agreed to the challenge.

For some reason, the drinks with the S caps were not appealing to me, and I didn't feel like eating. I finally forced myself to have some potato chips for the salt, and yogurt. I'd been eating fig bars, trying to get at least 100 calories every half hour, but I knew it wasn't enough. Yogurt always seems to work when nothing else sounds good, and it worked again. I had half a grilled cheese sandwich around 1 pm, and that was the only food that tasted good all day.

I started wondering if maybe my strategy of eating so much the day before made me not want to eat early in the race.

I went through 58 miles in 11:56, perfect. I'd waited a while to change into really warm clothes, but once I did, I was glad I had the layers on. The temperature dropped sharply at some point. Around 10 pm I was hungry and I ate a huge slice of pizza. I was still moving well. I sent Wheaties Boy the text I'd promised him when I got to 58 miles.

Dennis had to send me this picture of the Buffaloes...breaks my heart. Talk about a guilt trip!

Shortly after that I started to feel cold, which I knew was from digesting the food. I kept moving and walking fast so I could digest it and start running again. I put more clothes on, and felt I was slowing down. I walked another full lap in about 15 minutes and still felt like the pizza was sitting there. I tried running some, and managed to run pretty well again.

I was watching Debbie Leftwich, who was only about a lap behind me. She was my main competition, and she was moving well, and eating well. I was still moving well, but not eating well, and that worried me. Since the Grimmster had challenged me to the square of 8, or 64 miles, I decided to focus on that. I have no idea where he was when we got to that point, but I was a solid lap ahead of him.

I wanted to tell him to quit hanging out in the bathroom so much, some people just can't get enough, I guess, and at his age he should be glad it still works. He's only 42 but I like to tell him he's old, and then sharpei him. And I did, at 64 miles. Except I never saw him in time to challenge him to 81 miles.

I was dealing with intermittent nausea. I had some Starbucks doubleshots and coke, and continued to drink fluids, but I was forcing everything. Food was no longer remotely interesting.

Around midnight they were starting to set up the New Years celebration tables with party favors and glasses of sparkling cider and champagne. I was just short of 70 miles when the clock said 11:52 and I didn't want to stop for 8 whole minutes, just to wait, as I was still only a lap ahead of Debbie.

I'd been watching Joe Fejes, Michael Arnstein and Ian Sharman all day. I was really wanting to be able to run a bit with any of them, and ask some questions about how they train and prepare for the 24 hour event. I need to talk to someone about it, because I feel like I'm struggling with the event.

I know I'm capable of running many more miles than I have, but not sure where to start. Ian and Michael were running way too fast for me to stay with them even for a lap, and I ran with Joe a few times, but it never worked out to have a conversation. I was also feeling worse, and getting cold.

The New Year

After Megan and I passed the timing mats, about 5 minutes after midnight, I grabbed a cup of sparkling cider and I sipped that. I was coming up on the real bathrooms, which were heated, and that I'd been using ever since the sun went down instead of the portapotties. I was shivering.

I went in there and peed, then felt a wave of nausea hit me. I stood there, wondering if I was going to puke. It passed. I didn't want to waste my time in the bathroom so I got back out there in the cold. I kept moving, walking, but feeling like I might puke soon.

Shortly after we changed directions on the track at 1 am, I had slowed down enough and had piled on more layers, and I was still freezing, shaking, shivering, and I couldn't stand the thought of trying to drink something hot. Cold coke was the only thing I'd been able to sip for an hour. I was cramping, too, in my rib muscles, my butt, and my quads.

I hit the warm bathroom again right around 2 am, a repeat of last time. I was shaking worse, and realized I needed to get into the heated tent, at least for while. I hadn't been lapped by Debbie and I was still ahead but I knew I needed to take care of my problem or I'd be hypothermic. I braved the cold air again, and stumbled the last 200 meters or so to the medical tent.

I went in and sat down in front of the heater, and they put a space blanket over me. I was shivering. They had ORS, and I took a few sips, and that was all I needed, I started puking. There actually wasn't all that much in my stomach, mostly dry heaves. But I was cramping all over, every time I gagged, my ribs and back were spasming. I knew I was in trouble with my hydration, I could feel all the thick salt crust on my face when I added some clothes earlier.

I sat there for a long time, realizing I was in bad enough trouble with my hydration that it wasn't going to be a fixable solution in the remaining 6 hours to go after my goal realistically. I also knew I wouldn't be able to move fast enough to stay warm, even if I fixed the hydration issue, it would take a while, and there wasn't enough time on the clock. I had 78 miles in at that point, and I could tough it out to drag out more miles, or I could call it good, a training run amd learning experience, and try to dissect it later on.

I also realized that if I stopped, I'd get a head start on recovery and it really would be a decent training run, because up to that point, I had been running reasonably well. Once I thought of the recovery aspect, I was sold. I waited a while until the nausea was gone, I warmed up a bit, and around 3:30 am I turned in my timing chip, said good-bye to Nick Coury in the timing tent and he thanked me for coming, told me to come back again, and gave me my beer stein.

The paramedics in the medical tent got my car keys, went with me to my truck and helped me get in, and I warmed up the truck and sat in there for a while before driving over to break down my table and haul everything to the truck. I did see Megan and Paul while I was packing up, so I told them both what happened, and wished them a happy new year and a good race. Both of them did run well. I never got to see Debbie, but I talked with her on Facebook after the race, she ended up winning with 106 miles, which she was really happy about. She did look great out there.

Once I broke everything down it was almost 5 am. I started heading across town on the freeway, back toward Scottsdale. I was hoping I wouldn't wake up my dad and stepmom when I got to their house. On my way, I remembered it was New Year's Eve when I saw Sheriff Joe's bus, the DUI Detail, headed along the freeway, taking a busload to Tent City, no doubt.

When I got home, my dad had set the alarm in the back half of the house, which I'd thought about, but I was too brain dead to remember. I tripped the alarm coming in, and woke them up anyway. They were surprised and concerned, but also amused, my stepmom said he had a feeling he shouldn't set it, but she thought there was no way I'd be home that early. I told them what happened, and fortunately they were able to go back to sleep. I got to bed around 6 am and slept until 10:30.


My feet were ugly at first, very heat rashed, and I blistered in two places: My right big toe, and on the bottom of my calf in the spot between my compression socks and gaiters, must have been rubbing my skin back there. My big toenails look funny, like they might turn black and fall off eventually, but maybe not...we'll see.

The only thing I thought was less than ideal about the new facility was that the dirt was really loose, and it was dusty. Not really anything that can be done about that. I've become a road primadonna, I guess. It wasn't bad, and my feet actually didn't blister too much, considering how badly I needed salt and didn't hydrate properly.

So I've spent the last day and a half napping, eating, sleeping, and then today I walked downtown for a few miles, did a little window shopping. It was a beautiful day, cold, clear, breezy and perfect. Too bad I have to go back to the real cold tomorrow.

The only residual soreness I have is in my right leg, in the quadriceps muscles, from my hip to my knee. And also in my lower back on that side, around my iliac crest, like the attachments are all tight and need to be released. I think it's all from muscle spasms and shivering. My left leg feels fine. But on the right, it just feels generally sore, once that resolves I should be fine with running. Today it doesn't feel good to run on it.

As I walked around town today, I saw all the crazy K-State and Oregon football fans in their crazy outfits. I stopped at Ra to eat sushi this time. I won't stop until I see the worms crawling out of my butt.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about all this, soon. For now, I'm just going to spend the next couple of weeks figuring out how to get started again. I have some ideas, and I'm going to find someone really good to talk to for 24 hour training ideas.

For now, Happy New Year, and I'll be back in Colorado soon, planning my next race. I can't wait!

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