1/9/11Across the Years is a fixed time event with 72, 48, and 24 hour races taking place in my home state AZ and running across the New Year. The event is hosted at Nardi Manner on the Westside of town amid farm/agricultural land. This year I was granted entry off the wait list into the 24 hour event that started on Dec. 31 9am and ran through the conclusion of the entire event on Jan 1, 2011 9am. The weather had been freakishly cold for AZ and we were expected to get the coldest night during the New Year celebration which in fact happened dropping to the low 20’s. The .4 mile track is made of hard packed mud/clay what was flat to run on, but did not have any give whatsoever. In the center of all this fun was a large tent set up to house runners and provide some relief from the cold.
Arriving to the race I promptly ran into my running friend Sara Duncan from Portland who was running the 48 hour event. She was ½ way through and still moving and greeted me with a smile. I set up shop next to her tent located inside the main tent near one of the heated rooms. I did not bring too much gear because I did not want to be tempted to get comfy and sleep during the night.
Promptly at 9am a group of about 25 of us headed out to start the adventure. I had my race plan ready- RUN. No really this was the plan. I knew the later it got it was going to hurt just as bad no matter if I ran fast or slow in the beginning and no matter how many breaks I took, so I determined that for the first 12 hours of the race I would run nonstop- no food breaks, no walk breaks, no slowing down, just run hard and hold pace to see how many early miles I can rack up and this is what I preceded to do. My girls Stacey and Alex were the first to show up from my support crew at 10:30am. Stacey would stay with me for the rest of the event and be a constant source of motivation, love, smiles, and encouragement to keep on trucken!
The early miles felt great, I was rested and ready to run hard. Stacey and Alex were on point with water and gu’s and taking clothing from me as I shed layers as it warmed up from the cold 20’s at the start. Char came out next and took switched off from Alex running some laps with me. Char and I had a blast catching up on life and work and it was great to have her out there for the laps I did and get in that quality girl time! The next of my crew to show up was Kim and she brought with her snacks, more warm clothing for the night and much positive energy. Seeing her every lap while she was there was a great source of motivation. Mail also started to roll from people watching/tracking online. These “greetings” were printed out by ATY race staff and placed in our individual mail boxes and my wonderful crew would pull these out at different intervals to read me so words of encouragement. Each message was so special to me and brought smiles to my face and kept me going strong.
The next of the crew to show up were Jeff, Grace, and Joe all very close to the same time. They all ran some laps with me and provided more awesome conversation. It was getting later in the afternoon and I was happy to have these amazing friends out there with me. It really was an ultra running party!!
After the main crowd took off it was Stacey and I out there and she could not run any laps with me due to her injured hamstring so we called in Danica a bit early as I originally asked her to come at 10pm but thought that I needed some company a bit earlier. Danica being the super awesome friend that she is hopped right over and was there by 8:30pm or so and jumped right in providing updates on life since our last run together where she was one of my superstar pacers at JJ100 at the end of Oct. We just picked up right where we left off an it was funny to think that it had been almost 2 months. Danica was super attentive to what I had been eating and ensuring I was still drinking as we crossed over the halfway mark. I was still moving good, but starting to be a bit out of it.
My face was getting really really cold and I said this to Danica while we were running. Sara my awesome awesome friend overheard this and on the next lap appeared with a bondi band to cover my head and face! She was a total life saver without even being asked!! LOVE you Sara!!!
A bit before midnight Dania was asked to stop running with me because others were complaining that I had a pacer. I was somewhat upset about this because at no point in time had anyone out there set the pace for me but me. They were just there with me talking but never driving the run or the pace. Many people had friends out there running/walking with them and I felt at this point that the rules that were laid out were not clear and I was being penalized for having many people on my team. At one point I burst out singing on many of the laps just so show the complainers that I was rocking it out with or without my friends. LOL it was silly and people thought I was crazy, but I had to channel that angry energy into something positive. I rang in the New Year with Danica as I pulled her back in for a couple of celebration laps with me and we enjoyed a shot (shot blocks). At the time I had another surprise guest visitor and supporter there ringing in the New Year with me. I didn’t get his kiss until the morning but having him there spending our first New Year together was amazing and I am looking forward to many many more!!
The first miles and hours of my 2011 were COLD!! With temps dipping to the low 20’s it did not feel like an AZ New Year! My goal was to keep moving as best as I could throughout the night with no breaks. I was not putting down any solid food and was starting to feel the fatigue of this hitting as well. Danica and Stacey were keeping me going with hot chocolate in my hand bottle and trying to get me to eat anything and everything they could find. At around 3am I ducked into the tent to get some heat and take some fun picts with the girls, but I did not stay for longer than 5 minutes and was back out there on the course moving as soon as I could feel my hands again!
After popping back out of the tent I had a good talk with the first place woman leading the 3 day, Vikena and she let me know she had been following my progress and was very impressed with what I was doing and that I could and would beat her PR of 109 miles. I was so out of it at this point that I didn’t think over 109 was possible, but I did feel very appreciate for the lift and energy she gave me with her very sweet words. Later on as I was staggering along wondering how on earth I could get more run in my shuffle, Iliana, who was doing awesome in the 3 day as well joined me and said “Melissa you stay with me you are going to win second place.” I had no idea what she was talking about but thought that running with her and her good pace sounded like a pretty stellar idea so off we went! She then pulled out her Iphone and started looking up the times of the other leaders and said that I had to hit 110 miles to hit second place overall. She called out some numbers with this and I am pretty sure she was doing calculations on what were need to pace, but I was so out of it I just matched her pace and said yes to whatever she told me to do. She got right on top of my fluid and food intake from the start and made sure I kept taking in small portions of whatever I could handle as we went. These early morning hours with Illiana really saved my race- she pushed me and kept me going. She warned me that I had one guy that was on my heels about a mile behind and that we could not let him lap us and get the lead. I was also joined in the early morning hours as the sun was coming up by Stan and Charles, other Sole Sports runners and then joined the journey for the finish. Iliana was the main driver of our group and what she said went. I literally had to get approval for my 30 second potty break! LOL and it was absolutely what I needed for these late miles when you can forget to focus.
We held pace and I was able to come in with just over 112 miles and the second place overall win- beating all the guys that were out there! Finishing was sweet and I really was amazed coming across that line that it was over and that it all really just happened!
The post race party was great with delish food and sweet awards and of course catching up on all the texting I had missed out on as I did not carry my phone on me the entire event. It was awesome to finish with Stacey, Charles, and Stan there for me because as it turned out I really needed it. Stacey helped me change into dry clothes, the guys ran around getting me warm drinks and other essentials, and everyone helped me pack up and carry gear. My team out there for this event was amazing- everyone that was physically out there and everyone that sent in notes and well wishes and love. I could not have asked for a better group of people to be surrounded by. This race was a totally different experience for me. It was the first ultra where I was supported by a crew for the entire event and I am amazed at what I was able to accomplish with their help. I was out there pushing and running for my team, not for me and that made a huge difference. Words don’t do justice the feelings I have so I just will have to close with a huge THANK YOU to the amazing people I am so blessed to have in my life and with me that day on this journey.