NeologisticsRunning → ATY 2005

ATY 2005 — A Personal View

Across the Years 72-Hour Race

December 29, 2005 -- January 1, 2006
Nardini Manor, Litchfield Park, Arizona

Official 2005 Splits (not annotated)

My usual habit is to create a report immediately following a race, mainly for my own satisfaction, but also for distribution among fellow runners, friends, and relatives.

For the last seven years I have run the multiday race Across the Years — 24-, 48-, and 5x72-hours respectively. Today it's January 20th, and I'm just beginning to write my personal report.

The change in my priorities is because for the last three years I've helped organize the race and have written extensively about it on the web site at Furthermore, yesterday I submitted a general (not Lynn-specific) article for Ultrarunning magazine. Dave Combs also sent in an excellent report. Which one UR publisher Don Allison chooses to publish remains to be seen. Eventually I will include the text of one or the other on the race web site for all visitors to read.

With all that wrap-up, I've had no opportunity to write a personal summary. In order to get that task off my to-do list, I've concocted this abbreviated report, written in the assumption that readers already know a little about the basics of the race, or can quickly find out by visiting the web site, where there is an enormous repository of useful information.

My goal for the 2005 72-hour race was 325 kilometers — 201.96 miles. With a 500-meter track a metric goal makes more sense. If I'd made it, I would have run 0.62 more miles than Don Winkley got a few years ago, at which time he was my age now, and also won the race overall. Don was amused by that goal when I told him about it.

My previous rounded mileages for ATY, listing chronologically, were 168, 163, 180, and 188. I was third overall with the 180, sixth with 188, and expected to be lower still with the 201 because of a powerful field.

In 2005 we had an explosion of interest in the race, filling it early with superb runners. As I surveyed the field, I predicted that for me to finish any higher than 10th would require the run of my life — even if I made my goal, which was definitely within reach.

When the race was over I had accumulated 229.0 kilometers — 142.294 miles, a personal worst, for 18th place out of 33 runners who logged laps. Obviously something went wrong. What happened?

I had an excellent start. Some might argue that I committed the rookie mistake of going out too fast, but I'm sure I was well within my limits.

It was my intent to sleep the bare minimum. Last year I got by on about five hours spread out in little chunks throughout the 72-hour race, and I finished very strong. Could I go the whole 72 and totally blow the doors off my PR? Which is not to say that going without sleep is necessarily an effective way to accomplish one's goals — but to the degree that I could do without it, I would.

I passed a marathon in six hours, 50 miles in 13:40, 77.050 at the 24-hour point (I was hoping for 80), and arrived at 100 miles in 32:54, earning myself a 100-mile buckle. By chance of circumstance, I needed only one more lap to bring my lifetime mileage total over 1000 miles, an event that was greeted with great cheering from the aid and timing tents. Last year we began awarding 1000-mile jackets, and we had them prepared in advance (with names embroidered on them) for all runners we were reasonably certain would qualify by race end. Every single one did so. Receiving mine was certainly the most satisfying accomplishment of my race this year. Cassandra Johnson, Martina Hausmann, and Andy Lovy also made it over the 1000-mile point this year, all of whom were expected to do so.

With 100 miles in 33 hours, I was seemingly well on track to get to 200 miles with 39 hours to go. But by that time I began to sense an accumulation of impending physical problems that ultimately proved to be insurmountable.

By the time I finished my 1000-mile lap, my brother Dean had arrived. Dean lives in Arizona, is a massage therapist, and had been there for a couple of hours working on other runners. He then spent at least a half hour on me. It was about time to take a meaningful break anyhow, which by the time I was done with everything, took about 54 minutes (the lap split time).

A number of factors contributed toward taking me out for what amounted to the rest of the race, all but one of which was manageable. In approximate order of annoyance (from least to most), they were as follows:

Yes folks, the truth is that it doesn't get any easier year after year. I'm 62 now. I've got plenty of running years left, but reaching certain goals becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. On that point I'm inspired by Aaron Goldman, whom I mistakenly thought was having a tough time of it just a few hours into the race. Whatever was I seeing? Aaron is 73 years old, and by race end covered 200.282 miles, good for ninth place overall.
Increased weight
In 2004 I weighed in at about 178 on race day. At the time I was working a temporary job that involved some physical activity, one advantage of which was that my true weight dipped to 173-dot-something by end of February. On March 2nd I started a new software engineering job that kept me behind a computer most of the time. Since then I have gained at least 11 pounds. I've been afraid to weigh in for the last couple of months.
Excess weight is unquestionably a factor in performance. How could it not be? Try running a mile sometime, then pick up a couple of dumbells and run another mile. Do you think there will be a difference? Do I need to answer that question? My ideal running weight would be somewhere between 160-165, while 158 would put me in the best shape I could reasonably hope to be in at this point in life, so I've got something to work on.
Reduced training
I don't mean to imply that I haven't been running or have been lazy — far from it. My total mileage for 2005 was 2150 miles, including only three races. The two years before I logged 2387 and 2403 miles respectively. To some extent work and other obligations limited what I was able to do. Most of the mileage differential came in June and August, normally months when I grind out higher mileage as I train for Javelina Jundred in the fall. I didn't do as well as I'd hoped in that race, either.
Throughout 2005 I was still able to pull out the occasional excellent long run, including 85 miles of a 100-mile DNF in October, but overall the record shows that I was running less, slowing down, and feeling less fit. Should it be any surprise that when attempting to do a 200-miler a year after going 188, when I was in much better shape, that I had more trouble accomplishing that objective? I was hoping to overcome it with technique and discipline — which in multiday running is possible to do when all things come together right.
Foot pain
It's difficult to describe what I experienced. A stabbing pain developed primarily on my left foot, but to some degree also on my right, about an inch or two back from my big toes, along the tendon that runs there. Orthopedist Jordan Ross, who used to provide medical support to ATY, and who stopped by for a visit, described it later as follows:
At a minimum, you had some inflammation in that part of your foot, and the neighboring bones of the foot weren't seated just right, but that happens from the repetitive foot strikes in an ultra. So I mostly just articulated all the bones and freed them up a bit. It's easily possible that this is a mechanical problem involving the mechanics of your foot plant; your shoes; the way you were leaning; etc. ... If this persists, I'd certainly make sure that you don't have a stress fracture.
In fact, it did persist for about a week after the race, but I'm fine now. I'm of the "Ignore it and it will go away" school of medical treatment philosophy.
The problem was not so bad as to be debilitating — just sufficiently noticeable to be a factor that caused me to proceed more cautiously.
I thought I had this problem licked. I went for at least three years with nary a blister in any race that was worth mentioning. I use a foot protection strategy much like the one Andy Lovy recommends. Mine includes taping, lubrication, double socks with women's half-height nylons underneath, along with gaiters to keep out road crud — nearly 100% effective. At October's Javelina Jundred 100-mile race this failed me as I made the mistake of trying shoes of a type in which I had never yet done a long run. It was not the blisters that took me out of that race, but by the time I quit, I had sizeable ones on both big toes.
At my first long stop, after my brother massaged me, I got my blisters treated by our friend Adria, an LPN who came with my wife and generously volunteered her nursing services for parts of two days.
Later, nurse and blister expert Christopher O'Loughlin treated my feet again, elaborately wrapping all my toes in tape. After that, the blisters were no longer much of a problem while on the track. It took nearly a week for the tape to begin to come off, and no skin came off my feet.
An exhausted iliopsoas
This is a problem that has taken me right out of three races, one that is not uncommon among runners. The iliopsoas is the muscle, one on each side, that enables us to stand up straight. The symptom is that the runner leans gradually more and more to one side, being unable, even with concentration, to stand up straight. Eventually it can be so extreme that it is difficult or impossible to run because of the imbalance, and trying to do so only causes stress and ultimately pain in the back.
Dr. Andy Lovy sent me a lengthy explanation of what happens.
Muscles can only contract. In order to do so, many things need to be in place, like glycogen and electrolytes. When one is missing or insufficient, the muscle reacts differently. When a muscle is fatigued or does not get sodium or potassium or a host of other chemicals, it stops firing. When that happens, it no longer contracts. The opposite muscle in the back or spine is still firing, so the body will lean in the direction of the muscles that are still working.
We know it is a local issue, not a global one, since when that happens in any given individual, the lean will always be in the same direction regardless of the type of race or the direction of the turns. A blood test may not pick it up since the global amount of potassium may be normal, but the particular muscles that are fatigued and out of potassium are not. Potassium is most implicated since it is the electrolyte needed to make muscles fire. Giving someone potassium may help, but the potassium goes throughout the body, not only to the affected area, so there needs to be an attempt at finding out just why that muscle or muscle group stopped working.
It is usually due to inherent muscle imbalances, short leg, spinal issues, gait issues, etc., and if those issues are addressed, then the muscles can regain firing and the lean stops, or at least slows down. There is a firing order of muscles that needs to occur in order to stay upright, or to move, walk, run, or turn; one must not only work with the muscles that no longer fire, but also with the other muscles and bones and joints that may be causing the imbalance.
What a wonderful explanation! In short, once it starts during a given race, there is little one can do to correct it. The affected muscles need both rest (not an option during a race) and replenishment.
At ATY 2005 I was not the only person to experience this phenomenon. Donald Landry from Montreal, Quebec, reported being affected by it for his first time ever, but managed to get 200.392 miles despite it. Race committee member Burke Painter finished the 48-hour with 100.041 miles, traveling severely slumped to the right much of the time, worse affected than I was. Pictures of the three of us that manifest the condition are on the race web site:

It was the iliopsoas problem that led me to accept, not long after the 100-mile point, that I would not make my 200-mile goal or anything close to it this race. That fact did not take me completely out of it, but I changed my strategy from that point on.

I love running ATY too much to give up entirely. It was not long before I found that I could go just a few laps at a time before my back started to ache, forcing me to stop, stretch, and sometimes to take a bit of a break from it.

Therefore, I also got a lot more sleep at ATY 2005 than I've gotten previously, including one break where the total lap time was 6:52:56. Not all that time was spent in a sleeping bag, but much was.

For the rest of the race my routine was to travel anywhere from two fo five laps, sometimes leaning against a chain link fence to stretch or rest, do some sitting, along with a bit of sleeping in a chair now and then, and to take digital photographs. At least I managed to get several hundred pictures of the race, including the day before, the finish (the last twenty minutes or so), and the awards ceremony, nearly 300 of which are now in the race galleries on our web site, along with contributions from other sources.

Across the Years has been special to me since the day I first encountered it as an observer, on December 31, 1998. In the last three years, working with the others who help to put it on, it has become even more so, not just to me, but to the multitude of participants who have generously shared their opinion that it has become one of the best such events in the world.

Although nothing formal has been decided, there will probably be another race again next year, in which we expect to make many more improvements. When the time comes, we will be making an announcement through the running lists, to be preceded by the appearance of new information on the web site. Meanwhile, for more information about how others did, and to view the enormous picture collection, we invite you to visit the web site at any time.