To close out 2012, I again ran in Across the Years (ATY), a fixed-time race held in Glendale, Arizona. For a fixed-time race, the objective is to run as many miles as you can within a given period of time. The clock is always ticking. You can take rests along the way, but the clock never stops. At ATY, there are three different races, running concurrently, 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours. This year I again decided to enter the 48-hour race. Two years ago I won the race, and last year came in second.
I didn’t know at the time, but last year I sustained a stress-fracture of the tibia around mile 120 but kept going painfully until mile 174. It has been a rough year of running, the break became severe and I didn’t really run for six months. But I hoped to return to running form and did.
I went into this year’s Across the Years with caution. The surface is a hard dirt surface with some pavement. How would my leg hold up? I knew I wasn’t 100% healed, but had been able to do some very long runs on pavement in recent months without any setbacks. I didn’t really set any firm goals, just hoped to do well.
For the second year, ATY was being held at Camelback Ranch, the spring training facility for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Whitesox. I’m asked, “Isn’t it boring running in circles?” Perhaps for some, but this type of race feeds my completive spirit. It is me against the clock, and at times me against other competitors. My mind is in constant motion, and the time flies by as I concentrate on doing the things needed to keep my pace going and reach my goals.
This year both my son Kevin, and brother, Bob, would be running too, both with their eyes set on earning that 100-mile buckle. Kevin entered the 48-hour race to give him enough time and Bob entered the 24-hour race. We would start at Day #2. When we arrived the morning of our race, the top 48-hour runners from Day #1 were going past 100 miles, but were far off the pace I set last year. However, I learned that a couple very fast runners would start on Day 2 who likely would be stiff competition for me. Included was Volodymyr Balatskyy who ran 211 miles in November at Ultracentric. There is no way I could compete with that. Also John Geesler who I know well is a former world-class timed event runner who has held several records at this event. He was going to run the 72-hour race, but his flight got cancelled and he arrived a day late, thus would run the 42-hour.
At 9:00 a.m. we were off. The temperature was cold, around 40 degrees. I went out fast to get the legs loose, running the first lap in 7:32 pace. However, after the second lap, I worried that my chip was not working. I could not hear it beep when I crossed the pad. After my third lap, I stopped and asked the timing guys if it was working, they said it was, but after my next lap, the race director had a chip in hand and quickly changed out my chip for me. He assured me that they had given me credit for my laps.
The first marathon went pretty well. I led the others for quite a while and almost lapped John Geesler. My marathon split was a little under 4 hours, not blazing fast, but good for a 48-hour run. Bob and Kevin were doing fine. I lapped Kevin every 3-5 miles. Bob was steady, rarely ever walking. When I lapped him, he would speed up. I think I never was more than 4 laps ahead of him all day. I reached the 50K mark around 5 hours and I knew my pace was considerably off last year. I started to care less about pace and was just trying to keep going steady. After 50K my leg started to hurt at times and that really spooked me, causing me to back off the pace so the pain would go away. There is no way I wanted to again come out of this with a severe bone injury.
My 50-mile split was somewhere around nine hours I think, or less. I had really given up keeping track of pace because I was a few miles behind last year’s PR pace for the first day. John Geelser took the lead and eventually lapped me during the evening. Vaoldymyr was also ahead of me by about a half lap. The competition was good. The Day #1 48-hour runners who were in the lead all stopped for some reason, with the top guy doing 125 miles. I knew we would eventually pass that.But, my leg started to hurt again. I refused to mask the pain with pain-killers. I knew that John would slow down as he has in recent years, and he did, but Volodymyr kept running strong into the night and began lapping me.
Rain fell for a little while during the late afternoon and evening. I put on a garbage bag that worked fine. I kept it on during much of the night just to keep me warm against a light wind.
Kevin slowed down to a constant walk around 50 miles went to sleep in the heated car around mile 67. By that point, I had given up trying to compete and worked more with Kevin, going to the car to check on him. I would almost catch up to John, but then take a lap off for one reason or another.
Morning was coming and I was concerned whether Bob would reach 100 miles in time. He never really stopped very long and after one of my long stops was only one mile behind me. He was confident that he would make it. I encouraged him to try to do a lap or two over 100 in order to jump in the standings because tons of runners stop at 100, just wanting the distance and buckle.
I pushed it a bit harder. I reached 100 miles at 22:37:34, almost three hours slower than last year. That was discouraging but I pushed on. Bob did 102 miles by the 24-hour limit and I reached 105 miles. Not bad, that would have placed 3rd place over-all in the 24-hour race, but a far cry from my 117.8 miles last year on day one.
I then stopped for a very long rest, well over an hour. My thought was, instead of crashing on night #2 for 4-5 hours, I would try to take shorter, more frequent rests. During Day #1, I had stopped for about a total of an hour.
Bob packed up and announced he was going to start driving home to LA. He got his buckle and seemed very pleased. He did super. I rested, worked on my feet and prepared for Day #2.
However, as I started to run, my leg hurt badly in the fracture area. Yes, I could block the pain out and still run like crazy, but I decided I would not. I would just slow down to pain-free pace and be very careful. It wasn’t worth it to again seriously injure myself. So, for Day #2, I just concentrated on helping Kevin. I hoped to at least reach 125 miles.
Kevin chugged on, passing 70 miles. His top speed was 20-minute miles, but with stops, he averaged 2.5 mph. This would take a very long time. But I enjoyed the day, socialized with others and took some long hour breaks. In the afternoon, I quit, washed up, and dressed in my jeans and street shoes. But it was boring and a little chilly just sitting around, so each time I would get back up and walk some laps with Kevin. Since I was in jeans and poor shoes, it forced me to go slowly.
As evening came, I walked a lap or two with John Geesler. It was good to talk with him. I walked with others who were impressed with Kevin’s continued effort. Kevin was really suffering with sore and blistered feet. I told him the plan would be that once he reached 100 miles, we would go get a hotel room, and come back in the morning in time to do one more lap so he would jump in the standings.
But I started to feel great again. The pain went away. I started to have thoughts about continuing through the night to post some big miles. But by 10:00 p.m. I walked the last two laps with Kevin and I felt thrashed with sore feet from walking so much. I decided to shut it down. I was at mile 129, tied with the runner in 3rd place, but two women runners who I had been way were close behind, within a couple miles.
Kevin reached 100 miles in about 37:16:49. He was pleased to be done and reach that goal. I heard him say “never again” and I chuckled. I said the same thing after several of my finishes.
We checked into a nearby hotel. It was good to shower and get in bed. Sleep didn’t come for over an hour, but I finally conked out. The next time I checked the clock, it was 7 a.m. I somehow got Kevin up and dragged him back to the park. I was now feeling really good again and from the car, went directly to the track and started running at 10:00 pace. I was dressed in jeans and my street shoes, with wallet, keys, and cell phone still in my pockets, but I didn’t care. I would try to see how many more miles I could get in before the finish. I was now the fastest on the track again and received complements. I shed layers after a lap and was just in a light shirt and jeans even though it was 30 degrees. I pushed the pace. I was pleased to see Kevin walking slowly, doing that last lap. It was great fun. Toward the end, I ran with my friend Matt who had just reached 100 miles. I timed my last couple laps in order to reach 135 miles.
When I finished, I was shocked to see that the board listed my in 3rd place. (Turns out I was 3rd male, a female runner had 137 miles, so I finished in 4th overall out of 42 runners.) Kevin finished tied for 18th place. Bob tied for 4th overall in the 24-hour race.
So, generally, thing went well. Afterwards, my leg seemed fine, it just spooked me into running seriously for only one day. I probably should have left the hotel about 2 a.m. and put in another 25 miles. Oh well. After 40 hours of no sleep, determination goes way down.
I received a nice trophy for being the 3rd place male. But the biggest success is that all three Crocketts earned 100-mile buckles. I suspect that is a first for ATY, to have three family members all buckle.
Across the Years is a great race, I’m sure I will return. My career miles there are now around 600 miles in four years.