2007 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
 
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  ACROSS THE YEARS: DAY 2    

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30

 
"Hi, Sue. Greetings from Maine. I had fun following Jim yesterday and this morning.
Good luck in reaching your 75-mile goal. We're cheering you on.
You and Jim make us so proud. We want to be like you when we grow up." 
 
- Eric Rathbun, AT hiking friend who ran an ultra due to our influence
 
 
[Note: please read previous entry for introductory information that will make this account easier to understand. It also describes Jim's 24-hour race on Saturday and ends at 7:20 AM Sunday when he returned to the camper.]

7 AM SUNDAY: GOOD MORNING, SUNSHINE!

I woke up Sunday morning with enthusiasm and energy to spare. I'd been waiting anxiously all day yesterday and now it was finally my turn to run!

It was still mostly dark when I fed and walked the dogs. From the top of the steps I could see runners' heads bobbing as they mostly walked by the camper on the western side of the ATY loop. I waited until Jim came by and we said good morning  He was mighty glad to see I was up because he was ready to quit -- but didn't want to wake me up again. (Thank you!) He was soon back at the camper.

Jim napped on his recliner while I got myself ready to run, took care of the dogs, and ate my favorite pre-race breakfast of hot oatmeal, pumpkin-sweet potato soup, and juice. I returned Jim's timing chip to Dave Combs when I was convinced he wasn't going back out on the course.

About 8:30 Jim helped me lug my stuff over to our crewing table, where I consolidated some of the items he'd been using into my clear plastic boxes of supplies and canvas duffel bags of clothes. I had more items in a cooler than he did because I relied primarily on my own fluids and gel throughout the race, whereas Jim got most of his fluids and calories from the aid station. I had six bottles of Perpetuem at double strength (I drank only five of them) and about eight five-ounce bottles of Hammergel (I used about four of them). I added V-8, Starbuck's frappuccino, flavored caffeinated coffee, and chocolate-covered coffee beans to my arsenal of fluids, calories, and caffeine.

I checked in with the folks doing registration at the house to make sure they had my name from yesterday when I picked up my bag and timing chip, and then Jim and I went over to the gazebo for the Day 2 briefing with RD Paul Bonnett.

Today there were fewer runners starting the race, only about twenty-five of us -- a dozen 24-hour runners and the second wave of 48-hour runners. All the 72-hour runners were still on the course, as well as the first group of 48-hour participants. The number of total runners going around in little 500-meter loops remained at about seventy.

The funniest moment of the briefing came when Paul was explaining about webmaster Lynn Newton's amazing messaging system that's "better than e-mail." Paul asked, "What's better than e-mail?" and a man's voice quickly answered, "FE-male!!"  Everyone laughed, relieving any pre-race jitters, and soon we were given the signal to start.

9 AM SUNDAY:  IT'S FINALLY SHOWTIME FOR SUE

I had a big grin on my face most of the next twenty-two hours and forty-three minutes until I turned in my own timing chip. Part of that was because of the constant infusion of caffeine for about twenty hours but it was mainly because I was having a blast. I had a lot more fun than Jim did because I am just so doggone thankful to be able to run this far after my discouraging knee diagnosis (little to no cartilage) three months ago. I felt really strong most of the race, I stayed warm at night, I had a blast talking with the other runners, crews, and volunteers, and I reached my mileage goal.

It was a great day and a beautiful night. I can't wait to do it again!

Jim saw me off, then went back to the camper to try to get some shut-eye. That was difficult, of course. He was very tired but it was daylight, not the time of day our bodies are used to sleeping. He wanted to nap long enough to get some relief but not so much that he couldn't sleep Sunday night. I kissed him good-bye and focused on my race.

I had my camera in one of my drop boxes at our crew table but never did take any photos during my race. The photos in this section are mostly ones that Jim took when he came back out to the course in the afternoon.

Day 2 was at least five degrees warmer than Day 1. There was a stiff breeze on the back stretch that quieted down considerably by noon. I started out with a jacket, long-sleeved shirt, and pants that I quickly discarded one by one within the first hour as I warmed up from running about three-fourths of the distance on each loop.


Photo of Sue by Nick Coury, taken late in the morning on Day 2 (it's on the ATY web site)

Remember this photo -- there's a story coming about it in a few minutes.

During the mid-day I ran with a singlet and shorts (above) until some other runners told me my shoulders were getting burned (despite a heavy application of SPF 50 sunscreen at 11 AM). Although I wore one of the very lightweight white long-sleeved men's ATY shirts the rest of the afternoon to avoid further frying, some damage had already been done in the form of dehydration.

NOON SUNDAY: THE PLAN IS WORKING WELL

In training both Jim and I tried out various run-walk patterns. I used the same 3:1 pattern pretty consistently through my long runs, with about three minutes of easy, loping go-all-day running pace followed by one minute of walking. I wasn't sure how this would translate during ATY, but soon found a pattern that worked well for me in either direction on that loop.

Jim chose to run about half of each loop at ATY and walk about half. I ran more slowly than he did but for a longer period of time each lap. It is more comfortable for me to run at an easy pace than to walk as fast as he does. I usually broke up each 500-meter loop into four parts, alternating running and walking so that time-wise I was running about three times as long as I was walking each lap (i.e., running about 90+ seconds, walking 30+ seconds, running 90+ seconds, and walking 30+ seconds -- plus time at my table every second or third lap).

It sounds complicated, but it worked well for me for twelve hours.

Jim had a detailed schedule for his entire race. He knew how many laps and miles he wanted to run every hour to reach 100 miles. He couldn't understand how I could run without a detailed plan like that. Years ago I was able to do that, but in this race my plan was very simple: run/walk as steadily as possible the first twelve hours, getting at least 45 miles. To reach my goal of 75 miles, I could walk three miles per hour (including all stops) and fairly comfortably reach 75 miles in the next twelve hours. If I didn't have any major problems, I should be able to reach 80 miles or more -- my "secret" goal.

Very simple. And it worked until I got a big blister on one forefoot and couldn't handle the pain any more after reaching 75 miles.

THERE'S MY CREW!

Jim came back out to the race periodically after lunch. It was fun to have him back, although he was obviously tired. He brought me more of my favorite flavored coffee, helped me find clothes in my bags as the temperature cooled down, told me about e-mail and printed messages I'd received, took several photos of me, and generally offered his love and encouragement. He also helped Paul and Rodger and sent thank-you e-mails to friends and relatives who were cheering us on.


Sue (front) and Martina Hausmann run past the mailboxes and personal aid tables

This was the gist of Jim's e-mails after he awoke from his nap Sunday morning:

"Thank you so much for your support. Sue and I really appreciate your
note of encouragement.

That was really tough last night. My feet were hurting (blisters, etc.) so much
that I couldn't run a lot after 50 miles. That made it very difficult to keep warm.
Looking at my shoes now, I see blood has soaked thru the fabric on both
of them. I haven't taken my socks off yet to investigate. 

Around 12:30 AM I came into the camper to warm up, but Sue chased me out.
She wouldn't let me stay. She made me go back out into that cold dark night!!
Dang it.

 I just woke up from a 3 hour power nap. I'll shower, fix my feet and
go attend to Sue's needs now.  Stay tuned . . .  Jim (& Sue)"

I'm glad to see that his sense of humor was still intact!

THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP

Remember those two photos of us by Nick Coury that I asked you to remember? (The one of Jim was in yesterday's entry.) Here's why:

Late in the morning Dave Combs, timer extraordinaire, smiled broadly and said he had something to show me in the timing tent when I wanted to take a break. He wouldn't tell me what it was. I asked him if it could wait until Jim woke up because I figured he would be interested, too. When Jim came back out we both ran over to see Dave, curious as all get out.

What a wonderful surprise he had for us -- an e-mail message from one of our good friends, Deb Pero, and two picture attachments. One was a painting she did of ME from Nick's photo above, and another of John Geesler and three other runners with him. The original paintings are small, just 5x7," and the attachments were even smaller. We did not see that Jim was in the photo with John Geesler until the next day when we went to Deb's web site to see the paintings there! We don't think Dave realized Jim was in the painting with John, either. Very cool.

That was such a thrill to me and it made my smile even bigger the rest of the afternoon and evening. I felt pretty special. Deb recently began doing a small, quick "painting a day" to add to her collection of very fine landscape and still life paintings. The paintings she did of us are in the gallery entitled "Painting a Day." Check out all of her work! She's very talented.

Thank you so much, Deb (and husband Steve), for your friendship and support.

3 PM MONDAY:  STILL ON TARGET

It was very satisfying to see the miles add up loop by loop. Every two laps = one kilometer. It took just over three laps to add another mile. Since I was running over the timing mat most loops I didn't have much time to read all the information on the screen. I pretty much ignored the kilometers and lap splits until I was walking all the time after 9 PM. The first I became aware of kilometers, in fact, was when someone watching the screen told me I'd reach 100K on the next loop. That was around 3 AM on Monday! It was about that point that I also started noticing the lap splits. Duh.

Despite frequent stops at my table for Perpetuem, water to chase it down, Hammergel, electrolytes, coffee, frappuccino (oh, that holiday peppermint-chocolate version is soooo good!!), ibuprofen, sunscreen, clothing changes, popping a blister/changing into my larger shoes (after only five hours, no less), getting a cup of soup from the aid station, and a 33-minute stop for medical attention six hours into the race, I reached my goal of 45 miles seven minutes earlier than planned! I was happy.

I was hoping to avoid the need to utilize the medical services of Chris O'Loughlin or Dr. Andy Lovy, who have the remarkable ability to run/walk 100 miles in the 72-hour race even while stopping frequently to help runners with blisters, dehydration, cramping, tendonitis, nausea, and other problems that can end their races early. They patched me up three times during the race. Twice I went back out on the course like a new woman. Thank you, Chris and Andy!!

I started to notice some tightening of my calves and hamstrings about 2 PM and immediately began drinking more fluids and downing more electrolyte caps. But it was too little too late in the arid, sunny  Arizona atmosphere and I began to cramp. Not good. I'd been sailing along so well for six hours and now I was in trouble.

I talked with Chris as we circled the track and he said to stop inside the big tent where he and Andy were set up:

Chris came in soon afterwards and quickly determined that I was very low on potassium and other electrolytes, as well as fluids. He did some massage and resistance work to relieve the tightness in my calves and hamstrings, and admonished me to drink more fluids -- immediately. I did. I also switched from two or three Endurolytes per hour to two Succeed! caps per hour (they have considerably more sodium). Chris gave me a high-dose potassium pill that apparently took effect very quickly. He and Andy have the uncanny ability through touch to determine if a runner is seriously low on that mineral. They said it took them many years to learn that skill.

Within a few minutes I felt better and went sailing along for another six hours. Chris got a kick out of it because he could see how much better I was running! He often gets similar immediate gratification in this race after assisting runners with blisters, tight muscles, and other fixable problems, and it's what keeps him and Andy offering their services so generously. They probably also get more heartfelt thanks from runners than anyone else involved with the race --  because they literally saved their races.


Look at 'er go! She's just a blur!!

5 PM MONDAY:  STILL ON A ROLL

Jim took this photo of the screen when I reached 30 miles at 4:56 PM. I was still getting some good lap spits eight hours into the race:

Unlike Jim, I barely ate or drank anything from the aid station the first twelve hours of the race while I was still running three-quarters of the loop. I did great on the fat, protein, and carbs in Perpetuem and the carbs in Hammergel. I did eat one cup of hot homemade potato soup while I was running and another one after I began walking --  good stuff!

There were special catered entrees each afternoon. The special on Day 2 was lasagna. I didn't eat any of it because I was still running when they first  presented it to us at 2 PM. I knew it'd end up at the side of the track! I can't handle much solid food while I'm running, especially in the heat of the day.

I never had any nausea or GI problems and by evening, when I got more fluids into me and it cooled off, I was peeing every hour --inconvenient, but better for my system than being as dehydrated as I was earlier.

9 PM MONDAY: TIME TO WALK & TALK

I met my twelve-hour goal of 45 miles a few minutes before 9 PM, 11:53 hours into the race. The last hour I had to push harder than earlier, although my pace was about the same (one of my last run/walk splits was 4:18 minutes). I was getting tired but nowhere near bonking. It had been dark for over three hours, and my body was ready to slow down for the rest of the night. I wouldn't run another step the rest of the race, although I probably could have if I wanted. I had energy but there was just no need to run any more to reach my goal.

It was a treat to walk. I could eat the chunks of potato in the delicious homemade soup without worrying about upchucking it. I could take my eyes off the track and enjoy the moon and stars and the pretty lights on the gazebo and sculptures around the manor property. I could relish the cool, clear air, warmly bundled up in my new brown fleece race hoody and Jim's new black fleece race jacket.

And I could talk with the other runners more now -- the ones who weren't sleep-walking, that is!

But there is something about building up a comradeship that I still
believe is the greatest of all feats and sharing in the dangers with
your company of peers. Its the intense effort, the giving of
everything you've got. Its really a very pleasant sensation.

- Sir Edmund Hillary

By evening of Day 2 the only 72-hour runners who were still running were the few who would end up with the mega-miles. The others were walking briskly or shuffling along, starting to scrape their feet on the path. Most of the fist half of the 48-hour runners were also mostly walking by now. At night, even the majority of 24-hour runners were walking much more than running.

So the opportunity to chat multiplied. I was still on a high from consuming caffeine since 7 AM that morning and had to tone it down to suit the hour -- folks who were full of talk and laughter during the day were much quieter at night. I had to respect that and not annoy them with my rampant enthusiasm. Many folks wore headphones to stay awake. One young man even carried a laptop computer for several laps as he walked around the loop, playing video games! Now I've seen it all. Some runners were annoyed by that but I was mostly amused by his resourcefulness.

I love running and walking at night!  As at Hinson Lake in September, I was just so durn happy to have the opportunity to be out there that long that I was on a high. It's been several years since I've been out all night in a 100-miler (because of DNFs) so I cherish every opportunity I can get.


Large lighted (tethered) balloon flying over the race site at dusk 

Jim went back to the camper to go to sleep about 9:30 PM. He knew I was feeling good and able to take care of myself during the night. He slept solidly all night.

At night runners start to disappear for varying lengths of time. You could tell when they returned to the course because they'd be the only person walking in the opposite direction for part of one lap. When runners left the course, they had to remember which way they were going and complete the lap in that direction when they came back out before turning around the way everyone else was going. It was interesting.

By 10 PM I needed another session with Chris to loosen me up. Rats. I didn't want to "waste" time off-track. But I was starting to cramp up again -- this time it included my adductors -- and the situation would only get uglier the longer I postponed addressing it.

Despite drinking more fluids and taking in more electrolytes after my first session with Chris seven hours earlier, I was again depleted. Chris hesitated to give me another high-dose potassium pill until Dr. Lovy also confirmed that I was in serious potassium deficit again. Chris also did more resistance work to loosen up my hams and adductors. When my adductors start to cramp, the pain is unbearable -- and I can handle a lot of pain.

I also complained of a sore forefoot but Chris couldn't see anything. It felt like a sore metatarsal from lack of fat pads in my feet and the Hapad met pad on my innersole wasn't compensating by relieving the stress on the joint. (Because of this I can no longer walk barefooted comfortably on a hard surface like hardwood or tile floors.) I probably should have worn my thin Spenco inserts under the EnduroSoles but I left them out the entire race to leave more room for my feet -- less likelihood for blisters. Wrong choice, probably. Turned out that my pain was at least partly from a blister that finally manifested itself at 5 AM, when Chris was able to pop it.

MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS (NOW MONDAY, DECEMBER 31)

Messages continued to accumulate in my mailbox through the night, including this one from Karen Pate and Pat Homelvig, ultra running buddies from Colorado. Jim had written to them earlier, so they knew that I'd kicked him out of the camper the previous night:

"Hey, Sue - The pics of you on the web & U-tube are awesome! Looks like
you're moving well, and SMILING :) . . . don't even CONSIDER
heading to that camper - turnabout's fair play! Statistically you are bang-on
to meet your goal, being half way there and more than 12 hours left in play.
But you have to continue strong thru the nite! Don't let yourself get
cold or low, and just keep on a truckin'!"

That's another message that made me laugh!

I'm proud to report that I never once had any desire to climb into our camper as I continued to circle past it throughout the night every few minutes. I was still having fun and moving well, chalking up some pretty fast loops as I walked. At least they seemed fast, compared to the increasingly slower pace of the 48- and 72-hour runners! My all-walking splits were about a minute slower than my run/walk splits earlier in the day. I couldn't keep up with Lisa Bliss' or Alene Nitzky's blistering walking paces, but tried matching their strides each time they blew by me during the night. Lisa was nice and went my pace for a couple loops so we could talk. She was occasionally slowed down in the 48-hour race by tendonitis pain but still came in fifth overall and second female with a little over 150 miles .

I continued to drink Perpetuem and frappuccino during the night, supplemented with espresso gel and chocolate-covered coffee beans. All that caffeine kept me wide awake. REAL wide wake. I stopped using caffeine about 5 AM because I was afraid it'd be days before I could go to sleep! I figured I had enough in me for the last four hours of the race without continuing to use it.

5 AM MONDAY:  DOGGONE IT, MORE DOWN-TIME

My forefoot hurt the same moderate-but-bearable intensity from about 9 PM until 5 PM, then became very painful. I was suddenly able to feel fluid in it and knew I'd better seek Chris' help again.

Fortunately he wasn't sleeping but I needed to wait while he worked on another runner. I'm not flexible enough to see the bottom of my foot very well, especially in the dark and after running/walking for twenty hours. It wasn't something I could fix myself even though I knew the nature of the problem. There was no way I could poke the right spot to drain the blister.

Chris and the other runner were very helpful. With the light of a bright LED headlamp they were able to find the blister beneath the thick skin on my forefoot and Chris lanced it. Apparently a lot of fluid came out. Ahh, relief! Chris lubed the foot with Dr. Lovy's special cream with anti-bacterial properties and I put my shoes and socks back on.

My calves, hams, and adductors were fine and they didn't need attention this time. My Granny Knees never once hurt during the race. My fluids and electrolytes were in good balance throughout the night and I was peeing regularly. My stomach felt fine. I had energy to spare. It looked like I was going to go back out and tear up the course again. (As if.)

I was off the course another 27 minutes for the medical attention but still had high hopes that I could exceed my goal of 75 miles if I could start doing some running again for the next three and a half hours. I had run and walked 68 miles when I got off the course at 5 AM. If I could average even 20-minute miles walking I should be able to get another ten or eleven miles before my race ended at 9 AM. That would give me 78-79 miles total. If I could run a little, I could reach 80 or 81 miles. I was pumped and optimistic, feeling almost as good as I did Sunday afternoon when Jim took this picture of me:

Alas, that exuberance lasted only about as long as it took me to do the math! My foot hurt as badly post-lancing as it did before Chris popped the blister.

I used to believe in David Horton's admonition that "It never always gets worse." Ha! I don't think David's ever had a bad blister on the bottom of his foot. It did NOT get better with time, only worse.

7:43 AM MONDAY:  75 MILES AND I'M DONE!

I tried my best to continue walking fast but I absolutely couldn't stand the pain of running on that foot. The extra pressure was just too much, despite the caffeine and ibuprofen I had consumed. I was absolutely determined to reach my original goal of 75 miles, however, and I hung tough through the pain until I reached that mark at 7:43 AM. I still had over an hour to eke out three or four more miles but it just wasn't worth the agony. I couldn't see any point to it.

I decided it would be fun to end with the same mileage as Jim. I knew that even though he felt bad that he had to stop twenty-five miles short of his goal he would want me to go beyond my own personal goal in the race if I could. I would have no qualms about "beating him" if I could have more comfortably continued to run, especially if I could have reached 80 miles. But to continue on another mile or two past 75 miles just to get more mileage than Jim did not seem like good form. I knew 75 miles would give me a new age-58 ATY "record" (not by much, however!) and that was enough for me on this day.

About 7:15 AM I saw Jim at the door of the camper and we said good morning to each other. He said he'd be out to see me after he took a shower and got dressed. He asked me how many miles I'd done so far -- 73-something. I didn't let him know that I'd be stopping soon. My plan was to get 75 miles and turn in my timing chip, THEN tell him what I'd done.


Robert Andrulis and his wife approach our aid tables on
Sunday afternoon -- his is just in front of ours.

And that's how it played out. Jim came out to our crew table one or two laps before I was done, bringing me my favorite hot Cafe Vienna-flavored coffee. We hugged and talked quickly about how my night had gone. Then I went out for my last laps, which I savored mightily. I was eager to end the pain, but not the race. I still had a smile on my face despite the agony of da foot (no defeat in this race!).

After 242 laps, 121 kilometers, and 75.186 miles I crossed the timing mat one last time at 7:43 AM, stepped off the track to remove my timing chip, and handed it to a very surprised Dave Combs -- with a smile on my face. I think Rodger Wrublik was in the timing tent at the same time. Yes, I was sure I didn't want to continue another hour and seventeen minutes. Yes, I was still having fun but my foot hurt too much to go on.

I'm tough, but not THAT tough. I wasn't even sleepy. I just wanted to get off that sore foot.

I walked the short distance to our crew spot where Jim was talking with next-table neighbor Robert Andrulis, awake and ready to begin his third day in the 72-hour race. I plopped down in the chair and Jim told me not to get too comfortable (the old "beware the chair" admonishment). I smiled and told him I was done. He didn't believe me at first, and asked how much mileage I got.

It took about, oh, one second for my response to register: 75.186 miles. I don't know if he was more surprised that I hadn't surpassed his distance -- or relieved that I hadn't surpassed his distance -- but he was definitely happy that I'd reached my goal.

Next entry: Days 3-4 of the race, including the New Year's Eve Celebration, the race finale on New Year's Day, and the awards brunch

Still smiling,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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