Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are you running "Around the Clock" this year?

That's what one of my colleagues asked me this week.

Around the CLOCK?

Ha! You mean Across the YEARS?
Yes! Now THAT'S more like it! :)
Pretty humorous. Guess it's an ultrarunner thing.

It's funny when you think about it ... our skewed frame of reference for what we ultrarunners call a "long" or "difficult" race.

It's also weird how natural it is for us to say, "Oh, yea, I'm running a 48-hour race over New Years in Phoenix." And, "Oh, yes, it's on a 500 meter loop, and we just go round and round and round. It's a logistically easy race to run, but tough mentally, yep. Good thing we change directions every 2 hours, fer sure. Otherwise, it'd be hard on the legs."

Gawd! When you think of it...I mean REALLY think about it, it's just NUTS what we do! When she asked, "Are you running 'Around the Clock' this year?" it really made me thing about how much I take this very long distance ultrarunning stuff for granted.

I mean, when I go for a run...

I'm gone for hours,
it takes me 2 hours to "warm up,"
I sometimes have to stash food and water because I can't carry enough,
my ears pop when there is enough elevation change,
there almost isn't enough daylight for a long run in the winter,
I carry a hand-drawn map with me when I venture into new territory.

Last month, I ran a 25-mile loop near my home and somehow somewhere along that loop I dropped my car keys. I realized it only when I got back to my car which was parked 3 miles from my home. It was cold and getting dark by then, but what else could I do but run home. So, while I was happy to log 28 miles for the day, I did NOT want to have to run BACK to my car 3 miles away with the spare keys. So, I bundled up and went to my neighbor's. I'm sure I was a sorry sight. My muscles were so stiff and I was walking like I had just gotten off a horse. I explained my situation and my very cool neighbor said, "Sure, no problem, I'll drive you to your car. Let's go. And let's look for your keys on the side of the road."

"No, you see, I lost them somewhere on a 25-mile loop."
"Oh, but maybe we'll find them."
"But even driving it at 10 mph would take 2-1/2 hours. I'll just look for them later."
"Are you sure? We could just drive and look? Or maybe you'll find them tomorrow."

Gawd, I felt silly! My run took me over 25 miles of road! That's a lot of hiding places for keys! I wasn't going to find my keys. (Note: I DID go back the next day and covered 10 miles with no hint of luck.)

It's just perspective though, and sometimes it's worth looking at what we do for a hobby.

So, Across the Years it is. Just another run in the park. A beautiful made-for-runners 500 meter loop that we will trample over several days, from 2008 into 2009. I will feel normal among my fellow ultrarunners. Some of my friends are running the 72-hour race there. You see, I am the wimp among them.

Still, 48-hours has been my toughest distance/timed race. I can race through a night. I can race 36 hours without real breaks. I can hit 100 miles in 20 hours. But if I do that in a 48 hour race, then what? I've wasted myself and I'm only 1/2 way through. If I push too hard that first day, other more patient and paced runners will turtle right on past me as I lay moaning in my tent that second day. There's a balance somewhere between racing and conserving with a 48 that I've yet to learn. Last year at ATY, I set a goal for 150 miles. I conserved well, I thought. I ran 100 in just over 24 hours, and I tried to sleep for 30 minutes but couldn't. I mean, I don't get tired in a 24 hour race, so how could I force myself to sleep? So, I didn't. The first night was bitter cold. Mid 20's. I had 6 layers on yet couldn't get warm. I slowed on my calories, I started falling asleep on the course. I was miserable.

The morning, however, brought renewed energy, but never as much as I had hoped. That second night was a killer because I hadn't slept. And the worst part was not being able to generate any heat within my body that second night. I shivered and trembled and mumbled and cussed, and finally, after 150 miles, I stopped and turned in my number. There were 8 hours left on the clock.

(pic: This is Don Lundell of running the 24-hour race)

With the timed races, the goal is to accumulate the most miles within the time limit. In reality, you can stop any time you want (and restart again if you don't turn in your number) before the time limit. Last year, at 40 hours I was toast. But could I have kept on going? Of course! Yes, definitely! But sometimes the mind is weak.

So, this year, you'd think I'd have a plan. But I just can't come up with one. I don't have a strategy. Heck, I'm not even sure if my achilles is going to hold up. I haven't run since the Death Valley Marathon, and I don't plan on running one step until the race on December 30. I've done this before. Better to go in with mush for muscles and undertrained than with a sore achilles tendon.

So, if my achilles is ok, I need a plan. Do I sleep for an hour, two hours? Before 100 miles? At a certain time? Do I plan on 80 miles the first 24 hours or 100? Do I take one long break to ensure rest or do I take multiple short breaks? Honestly, I have no friggin' clue.

In any case, I do know with certainly that I LOVE this race. I love the warm sun during the day and I love the race staff and I love my crazy fellow ultrarunners, my friends. We will be together for 24 to 48 hours on that track (depending on what race they are doing), and we will talk and chat and tell jokes and talk serious and sing and calculate and shuffle and compete and encourage each other.

Also, in any case, no matter how many miles I cover, I always have a great time and am grateful for being able to participate in the sometimes crazy sport of ultrarunning.

(If you're interested in a few pictures from the 2007 race, go HERE.)


AnthonyP said...

LOL - Around the Clock / Across the Years - LOL !!!

Best of luck at ATY. You will be great !

Happy Holidays !!!

SteveQ said...

At least if you lose your keys at ATY, you only have to cover 500 yards of turf! I might try ATY next year or the one after.

Backofpack said...

It's funny, because you feel like a wimp among your ultra running friends, and I feel like one amongst mine, yet joe-average thinks we're both nuts! Have a great race Lisa, here's hoping for a happy achilles!

Steve S said...

Pac Rim was my first 24 Hour and I shared many of your worries and wonders. In the end, trust your experiance and instinct. You have done amazing things like Bad Water and maybe learned even more at Spartathlon. For me, I plan and prepare, but once the race starts, I just try to stay loose and mentally relaxed (Chi Running). You have proved your physical stamina. Mentally, keep focused on why you run - fun, health, joy, freedom, friendship,.... - and be thankful for the gift you have been given. Your running family will be cheering you on and proud of whatever you do, as we always are.