Saturday, January 03, 2009

Across the Years 48-hour race report

I had a fabulous time at Across the Years again. I went back to bring in the New Year with friends who feel like family. I thank you all for sending me greetings and emails during and after the race. The support was like no other. Thank you all so very much! You certainly helped to fuel me along and kept me moving around the course.

I have so much to say but I'm not sure I will be able to put in words what is in my mind and heart. I'll try though.

So, as far as the race itself goes...

My training was very good. Again, I was running more than my usual measly mileage. I've had all sorts of little troubles with my right ankle since the sprain in Greece. It's just not a stable ankle. I got some achilles tendinitis and took some time off for that. It healed but not fully. I ran the Death Valley Marathon but nixed Vegas the next day because it was flared. I knew this was an injury I shouldn't "tough" through. So, I took another 2 weeks off from running, and then tested the achilles on the treadmill for 2 miles. It was a little sore afterwards. So, I swore off running completely until Across the Years. Better to lose my training and be a bit out of shape for the race than to run for 48 hours on a bad achilles. I chose my path and stuck to it. I'm glad I did as the achilles did not grumble during the race (at least not more than any other part of my body!)

So, after 3-1/2 weeks of not running, and a bout with frost nip on my feet due to Raynauds just 3 days prior to the race I started my 48-hour race at ATY. I could only hope I didn't lose too much of my training effect. I also knew that this race is much more about having a strong mind than body. I hoped my mind would hold up too.

I did not sleep too well in the days before the event. I'm not much of a good sleeper anyway and know the importance of rest before a race. But, it is what it is, and I didn't sleep too well. Oh well, we were all going to be exhausted by the second day on the track anyway!

Race morning was uneventful. I was only a bit nervous, actually felt more apathetic than anything. The feeling was not usual for me. I just kept thinking that I hadn't run for nearly a month and also this race really didn't "start" until the second night. That's when the battle with exhaustion begins. That's when you start the fight. That's when suffering can become part of your race. I was anticipating some suffering not only because of the inevitable exhaustion but also because of the bitter cold of the upcoming nights. I was also already anxious about the fact that I have not been able to sleep during these multiday events. Last year I was very frustrated about it. I'd lie down, knowing sleep was imperative, but I would not sleep, despite that I was falling asleep on my feet on the track. I laid down several times, but it proved only a waste of time and caused me to be anxious.

My plan this year was to run a bit slower than I wanted and to sleep only when tired but hopefully have some down time within the first 24 hours. This year I had Tim's help so I thought it would be easier to get on and off the track and in and out of the tent. I also planned on changing into warm dry clothes early in the evening BEFORE the cold dampness set in and to change clothes frequently in effort to stay warm. I knew how difficult it was to regulated body temperature when running is mixed with walking and rest breaks. Your body can go from toasty warm and sweaty to having shaking rigors in a matter of minutes. Well, at least, my body can. I knew this and so I did my best to prepare for it.

I ran and ran, and I felt great. No achilles trouble. A good sign. My hamstring flared early, which is usual, and then kind of went away for while. While I felt my pace was faster than last year, it obviously wasn't as my mileage around the track accumulated more slowly. The day was fine though but night came early. Fortunately, it was not as cold as last year. This was very helpful. Still, however, I suffer greatly in the cold. I had progressively warmer clothes to wear and I changed frequently as the cold night shrouded us. I had my "big ass gloves" which worked phenomenally, and I had my bomber hat and basically all the things I've been using to shovel snow with in Spokane. I did fairly well with the cold that first night until I laid down for a break..

In retrospect, I should have just kept going until I started falling asleep on my feet. I was so anxious that I wouldn't sleep that I set myself up once again for repeating last year's disaster. I laid down and started to get cold. Withing 15 minutes, I was shaking and angry. I changed clothes (obviously should have done that before laying down) and got back out on the track. Perhaps the attempt at rest helped a little, but really, I think it just made things worse. Still, despite feeling pretty crabby, I got back on the track. Things got better toward morning as they always do.

I ran with so many awesome people, many that I knew, some I met for the first time. It is always a pleasure to witness these incredibly tough people out on the track. They are not just tough runners, they are tough through and through to the bone, physically, mentally, emotionally. They are my heroes and my idols. My old and new friends.

It's always difficult to name names because there are so many awesome people in this event that I'm sure to leave out a name or two. But here are a few that come to mind this morning.

First and foremost, thank you Tim for all your support and encouragement. You made the race so much more enjoyable. I am looking forward to crewing you next year to return the favor.

Thank you to Rodger Wrublik and Paul Bonnet and the dedicated race staff and volunteers. I ate more "real" food this year from the wonderful aid station. I never passed up the homemade potato soup. I couldn't believe how perfect the pizza was! The quasedilla, the PB&J. Mmm! Great fuel. All served on a platter to be grabbed as you run by. What service!

To name a few runners...

John Geesler is one of the coolest elite runners out there. He was in my opinion, the toughest one out there. Always with a smile despite hurting his foot and not being able to run further. So, instead of leaving the track, he stayed out there and accumulated as many miles as he could at about a one-mile-per-hour pace! Dang! This is one tough guy! What a lesson in patience and acceptance this guy displayed.

Tracy Thomas and Alene Nitzky were back again this year. Jamie Huneycutt ran a spectacular race. It was a pleasure and an honor to share the fun with her and also to compete with her. Jamie deserved the 48-hour woman's win with the 160 miles that she racked up. Very impressive.

Perhaps even more impressive was 61-year-old Jeff Hagen's performance. His goal was 201 miles, but like most others he readjusted his goals as the race progressed. He moved nearly non-stopped, mostly running, and was tougher than nails out there on the course. His 180+ miles gave him the overall win in the 48-hour! What a lesson in perseverance he displayed!

Hans Bauer, last year's winner, struggled a bit the first day, and came back to gut out a whole additional day of running, holding on to second place overall.

Lynn Newton, Andy Lovy, Dave Combs, the effervesent Ray K, Rick Cheever, Summer Wesson, Flora Krivak-Tetley , Don Lundell, Gillian Robinson, Dan Jensen, Dan Baglione, Christian Griffith, Wendell Doman, John Price, John Radich, Martina Hausmann, Sue Norwood, and many many many other friends.

So....the second day of running went well. My 100-mile split was 2 hours slower than last year. I wasn't too dismayed. I knew there was still a long way to go. I was not overly optimistic about reaching my 160 mile goal, but as I said, many of us reevaluate at some point and change our goals so that we can, once again, meet them with success. :) After the second night with no sleep, I down-sized my goal to 150.

The second night, I tried sleeping in the car instead of the tent. Again, no luck with the sleep. But I did have lots of luck with eating a McDonald's hamburger! Tim asked me what I wanted, and I just thought about what my body needed and wanted, and it must've been the fat because the hamburger went down fairly easily (which is normally NOT the case), and it seemed to satisfy my hunger and fuel needs very well. Despite no sleeping, now for 40 hours straight, I was able to return to running and to the delayering of clothes as my body generated heat making loops around the track.

Of course, I tired soon and walked and ran and took more short breaks. Before midnight, I really wanted to lay down. This was my longest break, perhaps an hour, maybe more. I didn't sleep but the horizontal rest did me good. I celebrated the New Year at midnight with Tim and the rest of the runners and volunteers with our victory lap around the course. After that, the runners just started plodding on again. We still had 9 hours to go. It's a long time after nearly 40 hours of running.

I laid down one final time in the very early morning when the damp cold air was just too miserable for me. I think I actually slept for about 5 minutes, which is all I slept during the entire race. I struggled mightily to get back out onto the track, back into the cold cold air. It was still dark, just getting light. Tim reminded me the sun would renew my strength and desire. I knew that too, but self-motivation was lacking at that point mostly because of the cold. Tim said I had to go back out there, that I had promised I wouldn't stop early. He also bet me that I would be laughing and feeling good within 10 minutes. I got back on the course, and he won the bet. I lost $40 and was having the time of my life those last couple hours of the race.

The last laps nearing 9 am were done with gratitude and joy. I appreciated every one of those runners still out on that course. I knew their pain and, in some cases, their suffering. I knew their joy and their sense of satisfaction and glory. I knew exactly how they felt as they made their way around those last laps before the clock struck 9 am, completing 24, 48, or 72-hours of running. It was so interesting to watch some of these runners start running fast, and I mean really fast, not just a fast shuffle! Some runners wanted to squeeze in an extra mile or an extra loop or try to even out a final number of miles. What motivates us, I kept asking myself? Why do we do this? What do we care about? Is it the number of miles? Is it our placing, ranking among our friends? Is it a test to the self? Is it to see how far we can push our own limits? Is it to overcome pain and suffering?

Whatever the answer, then still, what is the value in that? Why do we do it? I asked myself a million times out there. I can't say I have THE answer though I have some answers. For me, I do this to test my limits. There is value in knowing I can do more than I think I can. I also do it because others are doing it. We do it together. I witnessed greatness out there on the track. Not greatness that changes the world in big way, but absolutely greatness that changes the world in small ways. These are incredibly inspiring people. They care, they motivate, they help, they reach out of themselves to touch you and love you. Yes, really. Our crews, the race staff and volunteers, our fellow competitors. It's something you don't experience in everyday life. There is an emotional and spiritual connection between runners, whether spoken or unspoken. I can close my eyes even now see Juli's inner strength as she circled for 3 days...Rick Cheever as he ran in his crocs because of his feet...Geesler, the champion of that race many times before, as he took his lot and smiled and stayed out there for 72 hours with the rest of us, just hobbling along when he could have and probably should have quit. Dan Jensen, my Badwater buddy with a lower limb prosthesis. I saw him get back out onto that track over and over and over again. Jeff Hagen and his wife who supported him. Tim, who gave everything of himself to help me. William Sichel... etc., etc., etc.

Events like these do not cause us to transcend our ordinary daily lives and accomplishments. Rather, they give meaning to them. They bring us back to life's basic tenets of survival, love, and reliance on one another.

I am good and weary. My body has carried me 150 miles around a track. My muscles are still aching from the repetitious pounding. I have learned that there is no one "why" and that there are many answers, mostly very personal. Joy and bonding. That is why I keep going back to races like these. That is why I wanted to ring in the New Year again at Across the Years. That is why I will go back again, if even as crew to give back what has been given to me.

These are photos of our final laps.
For more photos go HERE.

Happy New Year everybody, and thank you again and again for helping me in my journey at ATY! Much love to all!


Backofpack said...

Great report Lisa! It's funny, I spent a lot of time during marathon #2 wondering the same thing. I even told my friend Margaret that it was about the people at the race, all the friends out there, that made me do it. Must have been the advent of the New Year making us wax philosophical.

Spokane Al said...

Congratulations on a terrific run. 48 hours of running is absolutely awe inspiring!

AnthonyP said...

Lisa, I was following the best I could on-line. You were, as always, fantastic. Congrats.

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Lisa...amazing as always:)
Less is better with the training?
Happy New Year

Lisa B said...

Thanks everyone! And congrats, Michelle, on your double. Sounds cold and tough!

Thanks, Al. I checked out your blog. I can't believe you are running in this snow here. It's been crazy, hasn't it?

Thanks, Tony and Lisa!

Juli said...


Great report! You ran very strong and now that I know the story behind it, I am even more impressed. It was fun, as always, to share the track with you.



Laura H said...

What a great report! Just wait a few years and hot flashes will help stave off the cold! I love that photo of Christian at the end - says it all! Congratulations again!

olga said...

Way to ring off the year and meet up with the new one to come, Lisa!

Pheid said...

Congratulations, Lisa. :)

I'm crossing my fingers I can make it there next year...but only God knows what the future brings.

Best wishes to you and Tim in the coming year!

Connie :)

Lisa B said...

Juli - Thank you. And YOU are the strong runner! It was wonderful to see you in action, and the extra competition was indeed interesting to watch, especially because it caused you to dig real deep....and you did, and them some more! Superb performance!

Hi Laura - I was actually wishing for hot flashes out there. But I've never had them so ought to be careful what I wish for! :)

Thank you sweet Olga. And Happy New Year. Will I see you at PacRim again?

I missed seeing you at ATY, Connie.
Get well for next year! Thanks for the good wishes.

Jay said...

great do i email you because i would like to thank you for inspiring me to be just that little bit better...i know you have no idea what im talkin about but thank you anyways. im an aspiring ultrarunner and would love to pick your brain. have a good one.

Anonymous said...

It was wonderful seeing you again.
I can't wait to see what happens with Badwater!
Have a fantastic 2009!

olga said...

So far the plan is to come to PacRim and see what happens. Life will tell:)

Lisa B said...

Rick who? From where? Where did I see you? :)

Marathoner in Training said...

That is one great race report. I enjoyed running along side you on your second day out there. As I was reading, I could remember a lot of the things you described. I am glad your feet were not giving you too much trouble and hope that they have healed. Best of luck to you in 2009 and will see you back at the ATY or maybe at a race sooner.