Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Final Adventure for 2011!

This past weekend I had the great pleasure and honor of being invited to run in the Desert Solstice 24 Hour run in Phoenix, AZ. Race Director Nick Coury, and his amazing team at Aravaipa Running, designed this invitation-only race as one at which speedy folks could qualify for the US National Team, attempt to break records, and otherwise run themselves dizzy around the 400m track at Phoenix's Central High School.  Even though I have not been running at all in the past 7 weeks or so, I was looking forward to putting in an honest effort while finding out the answer to the question: Just how far can I run on no training while also carrying 9 lbs. more than my usual race weight? I was also really hoping the old adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was indeed true!
(All Photos Courtesy of Aravaipa Running)
Who could pass up the chance to run under the beautiful AZ sky in December?!
Race shirt, complete with image of last year's winner Joe Grant as part of the official logo!

Packet pick-up before the race. RD Nick Coury (left) greets Mike Arnstein (center) and Jay Aldous (right). Both runners would go on to melt the track for 100 miles over the next 13+ hours.
Nick Pedatella and I pin on our cool bibs for the race. No numbers on these, just our last names!
1 Minute before the start...what are we all looking at? Dave James, who lives just down the street, but was a wee bit late showing up and needed to tie his shoes in record time to start with us! This is a good time to introduce the rest of field too: (Clockwise around the circle from the tent pole) Jay Aldous, Mike Arnstein, Carilyn Johnson, Tatsunori Suzuki, Deb Horn, Suzanna Bon, Nick Pedatella, Me.
I put this one in here just to show that my extended break from running had my legs super tight even before I started running. Not even close to touching my toes...and my back is bent too!!
3, 2, 1...Go!  Note the wrap on Mikes right leg. He said he was injured. After watching him go all day, I wished I could run like an injured Mike Arnstein.
Out of shape or not, you can't beat running on a beautiful morning!
Probably evident to no one aside from me, but this split-second-later photo proves my running form rust with a sloppy heel-strike and inward turn of my left foot after toe-off. When in shape I'm much more in tuned to keeping those bad habits in check to minimize the breakdown of my legs during long runs.
Speaking of 'in shape', after two 100 mile wins this Fall, Nick definitely showed up fit!
Suzanna and Carilyn: Two amazing talents and fantastic people! I had a blast crewing with their families in the overnight hours after I stopped running.
RD Nick set up these screens showing our current distance and time split every lap!
I don't care who you are, you can't beat Debbie's consistency in 24HR performances over the past few years. She's amazing!
For some reason, I had no problem with boredom while looping the track every 2 minutes. Maybe the beautiful sky was entertaining enough!
Carilyn and Suzanna, both hammering out steady paces when the sun warmed things up a bit.
When that sun went away, Mr. Arnstein capped off his amazing 13:46 100 mile win with a last lap at 5-minute mile pace!
Jay was just behind Mike in the 100 mile race at 13:52, but because he's 50 years old, he set a new World Record for 50+ year olds!! He worked hard over the last few miles to break the old record by 3 minutes...what a treat to watch!
Jay, enjoying his chair after finishing....Nick, on the phone with the regional drug tester to get him on site ASAP to validate Jay's WR....and Central High Cross Country runners observing in hushed amazement at what Jay just did!
Mike and Jay, smiling with good reason!

After a long, cold, and rainy night, only two TOUGH runners remained out on the track for the win. Carilyn racked up 131 miles for the overall win, and Tatsunori covered 125 of his own for the Male win. At about 3:30 a.m. when it was raining quite hard and bone-chillingly cold, I knew Carilyn was going to be just fine when she passed the aid area and asked if she could have a popsicle!
All in all, just a great race to be a part of both as a runner (for 8 hours and 50.2 miles, anyway), and as a crew/fan. I had a blast. Should I be invited again in the future, I'd love to come back in shape and try to rack up a huge 24HR total. Nick Coury and his team put on an unbelievably perfect race for maximizing the performance of the athletes out there. In addition to Jay's age-group WR for 100 miles, Suzanna and Deb also broke American Records with their 100 mile splits for their respective age group: Suzanna's 45-49 age group 100 mile record was16:02, and Deb's 50-54 age group 100 mile record was 17:14. Amazing job, ladies!!

With that, I'll happily close the book on running for 2011. It was a fun year of covering 3000+ miles on my feet yet again, and even though I had some disappointments along the way at big races, the great experiences I had in my two "non-trained" runs at the end of the year reinforced just how much I love running for running's sake, no matter the stage. I look forward to coming back at the end of next year once the family routine is in place after Baby Rose arrives in January. Until then, I wish everyone the happiest of Holiday seasons!!