This is becoming our New Year's tradition, too!
Jim and I were very pleased to be notified a few weeks ago that our
entries into the
Across the Years (ATY) run
near Phoenix were accepted. ATY is our primary goal race this
year, so all the races leading up to it that I mentioned in the
June 10 entry will basically be
training runs for ATY (with the possible exception of Mountain
Masochist, the only really hilly race on Jim's agenda).
Jim at 2007 ATY Run
Before we knew we were in ATY we already had three interesting
"local" races lined up for
I included information about those courses and how we planned to
train for them in the June 10
Beautiful Hinson Lake
The main difference now is that our goal mileages for Hinson
Lake have changed a bit. Jim still plans to be on the course for
24 hours (with a sleep break) but instead of aiming for 100
miles, he'll practice the pace and strategies he'll use at ATY
and aim for a total of about 87 miles.
I plan to run a steady pace for about six hours, then stop and
crew for Jim and do some volunteering. I have some concerns
about making the 7-hour cut-off at the NRT 50K two weeks later
and don't want to trash my legs being on the Hinson Lake course
too long. After the 50K I'll ramp up my mileage for ATY.
A NEW CHALLENGE
Since we missed camping in Colorado so much this summer, we had tentative plans to head
to the Southwest again this winter even
if we didn't make it into ATY. We retired early so we could
travel, by gosh! Once we knew we were in the race, it
was more fun to firm up some of those plans and choose a couple
more races in November and December to better prepare us for the
rigors of ATY.
Oh. Did I mention that Jim decided to do the 48-hour run at ATY
instead of the 24-hour race????
No, I didn't think so. Some of our friends and relatives know, but I don't
believe I've revealed that here to the entire world until now.
If you remember from the entries I wrote in the 2007 journal,
Across the Years has six different races going on over a 72-hour period of
time: one 72-hour race that begins on Day 1; two
48-hour races, one beginning on Day 1, the other on Day 2;
and three 24-hour races, one beginning each of the three
days of the race. The 72-hour time period begins at 9 AM on
December 29 and ends at 9 AM on New Year's Day (hence, "across
Very cool ATY logo
When runners fill out the on-line entry form they must indicate
their preference of races and days to run. Some people hedge
their bets and rank all six choices to maximize their odds of
getting into the race (more people apply than are chosen to run
it). I ranked my choices of start days
for only the three 24-hour races; with my Granny Knees, I don't need
to push my luck going any longer than that. Jim ranked the two
48-hour starts first and second, then the three 24-hour starts.
We each got our first choice: Jim will run the first 48-hour
race on Days 1 and 2. I'll volunteer, crew,
and dog-sit those days. I'll run my 24-hour race on the third
and final day. It's OK if Jim's sleeping much of that time. I'll
have everything I need on our table, from the aid station, or
from our camper parked on-site again. I think running the last
day will be even more exciting than running the second day like
I did last year. I won't miss the New Year's Eve hoopla this
time and I'll be able to see results from the first two races
before I get out there to crank out my miles.
Sue at 2007 Across the Years Run
I was pretty surprised when Jim told me he'd selected the two
48-hour races as his first choices but I understand why he's
doing it. Not only is it a new challenge that will be
interesting for him to train for, it should also give him an
idea of what it's like to be "out there" for two nights. He's
finally said he wants to apply for the Hardrock 100, one of the
most difficult high-altitude hundreds in this country. I've
always thought he'd do well at that race because he's strong on
hesitated because of the 48-hour time limit. He knows
it will probably take him most of that time to do the race and
he can't picture being awake for two nights. By doing a 48-hour
race at ATY, he can practice taking short sleep breaks both
nights and see just how his mind and body handle sleep
deprivation. (In all other respects, however, the races are VERY
After we knew we were accepted into ATY we made more definite
plans for a fun-filled three-month trip to the Southwest from
November to February. We plan to visit some different state
parks in Texas to take further advantage of the parks pass
we purchased last year, and we'll stay at one or two
different military campgrounds. We really enjoyed San Antonio
and Galveston, so we may return to those areas, too. We'll make some decisions about
where to visit and camp while we're out there, depending on the
weather, our recovery from ATY, and other factors (like our
Wonder if we'll end up at Galveston Island
We had a great time in Arizona, New
Mexico, and Texas last winter. After being at home for nine
months, we're really looking forward to going back out on the
road again in the camper. It'll be nice to have more running and
travel adventures to write
about in this journal, too! Sorry there's been such a dearth of
that this year.
NEW ADDITIONS TO OUR RACE SCHEDULE
Ultracentric runs in McKinney,
TX near Dallas-Ft.Worth
This will be our first time at this
race, which consists of 6-, 12-, 24-, and 48-hour runs AND bike
races, as well as a Centurian walk (100 miles in 24 hours).
Whew! That's a lot of people and times for race management to
keep up with. We've heard some negative comments about the
condition of the previous course and have high hopes for this
new venue. The runners and cyclists use separate short-loop
courses, which is A Good Thing. I believe the run course is
about a mile loop. The web site hasn't been completely updated
with new information yet, so we aren't sure about some aspects
of the race.
I'm entered in the 12-hour run.
My plan is to get in 50-55 miles in 12 hours, which is my goal
for the first half of ATY. I'm more concerned
with time on my feet than distance, however. Because of my
deteriorating knees, I have to be judicious with the miles I
run in training and "training races."
Jim's in the 24-hour race at Ultracentric. His plan at both Hinson
Lake and Ultracentric is to simulate his first day in the ATY
48-hour race: aim for a total of about 87 miles and sleep a couple
hours during the night when he first feels really sleepy. He's
gotten sage advice from other 48-hour runners who regretted
setting a certain time or distance before they took their first
nap and then couldn't sleep soundly because they were TOO tired.
He'll also get to practice the joy of waking up with cold
muscles and getting moving again on the course at or before
Course map from the Ultracentric website.
Red loop is for runners/walkers, green loop
for mountain bikers.
[Funny aside: We've been making camping plans for most of
the races on our Southwest trip.
Sometimes we make a last-minute decision where to stay,
but it's nice to have more solid plans before a race, especially
one we haven't run before.
Since there isn't room to park our camper at the race venue for Ultracentric
(Erwin Park), we contacted a couple of private campgrounds in
The campground that sounds the best for us won't take reservations
until about two weeks prior to the date we want to stay
there. That's very unusual in our experience, so in a phone
conversation I asked the lady why.
"Because we don't know which sites will be available then."
Huh? Why not? "Because we don't make reservations in
Oh. Now I understand!
On second thought, maybe we should stay at the other
campground!! With circular logic like that . . . Too bad there
isn't a state park or military campground real close to the race
December 6: Sunmart 50K/50-miler at Huntsville State Park,
These races are held in the same nice park where we stayed a week in February
for the Rocky Raccoon 50/100-mile races.
Jim at Rocky Raccoon 100-miler in February
Both of us ran the Sunmart 50-miler
ten years ago and Jim's also done the 50K. The
trails are a bit rougher and they undulate more than the course
at ATY but it will still be a good "last long run" before ATY
three-plus weeks later. There isn't a limit on registration so
we haven't entered the race yet. I plan to run the 50K. Jim
hasn't decided if he's going to do 31 or 50 miles there. We want
a good, solid run without trashing ourselves for ATY.
POTENTIAL JANUARY & FEBRUARY, 2009 RACES
Our plans after ATY are more nebulous. We may remain in the
Phoenix area for the first week or two in January. It'll be a
nice place to recover from our hard effort at Across the Years.
I'd like to return to McDowell Mountain Park east of the metro
area. There are so many nice trails there to run and bike. You
can check them out in the early January, 2008 entries in this
We are intrigued by the
Ghost Town 38-miler in New
Mexico (January 18) and have been corresponding with the race
director, Susan Reynolds, for a month or more. The scenic,
low-key race starts and ends at her home near the Black Range
Mountains and the Gila National Forest. This is a photo from the
web site of a
scene along the course:
As much as I'd love to add a new state to my "50 States and DC"
list of marathons and ultras,
I don't plan to enter Ghost Town because of the mountainous terrain. Jim
signed up this week since the race has almost reached its
entry limit. He does have some concerns about whether he'll feel like
running and walking on the rugged course only two weeks after his
48-hour run but he'll do as much of the course as he can. With a 12-hour time limit
at Ghost Town, it appears that despite
some rough, hilly terrain and the moderately high
5,000-7,000-foot altitude, runners can do a fair amount of
walking and still git 'er done.
During the race
RD Susan prepare the post-race meal and work the finish area.
She and her husband Matt have graciously welcomed us to camp on
their property on race weekend. I've enjoyed Susan's posts to
the ultra list the last couple years and am looking forward to
getting to know her better.
We can't predict at this point where we'll go after Ghost Town, but
I'm sure we can find some place warm and scenic to visit in southern Texas!
Possibilities are Big Bend NP and/or somewhere else that's new to us along
the Texas coast, like Padre Island NP or Mustang Island State
Park if they aren't damaged too seriously during hurricane
season (Ike's currently headed that way).
Jim is also considering signing up for the
Rocky Raccoon 50- or 100-miler
at Huntsville State Park (above) again because it's a nice course and we'll
probably still be in Texas in early February. He still has time
to think about that one. I doubt I'll run it. I need to save my
knees for some races after I turn sixty at the end of March .
We're excited about our three "local" races coming up in a few
weeks. We've missed seeing our ultra friends all summer! We'll
see even more of them -- and make new friends -- in the races
we're doing in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico this winter. We love the
training and racing and traveling, but it's the people
who are involved in the sport that make ultra running really
Next entry: our training the last three months to prepare us for
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil