Seriously. Why would anybody want to run the same 1.05 mile loop for 48 hours, without stopping? To be perfectly honest, I don't have a great answer to that question, but I keep coming back to the Across The Years 48 hour race, nonetheless. Weird, right?
Some people might say they do it to push their physical limits. Others may suggest that they enjoy the mental challenge. But honestly, I think I do it because it's almost impossible to get lost.
This is my third year running the ATY 48 Hour, and I had won the race in both my previous appearances. I'd be lying if I said another win hadn't crossed my mind, but like we always say "A finish is a win in ultra running". But it's not. Not at all.
Chatting With Patrick Sweeney at the Start Line
My plan was to run hard for 20 or 30 miles, then throttle back and coast for the next several hours. It was very cool out at 9:000 AM for the race start, so this would be my best chance to get some quick miles in before the sun started to become a problem.
Photo Courtesy of Aravaipa Running
Jumped to a Bit of a Lead Right Away
This is where I would give a lap-by-lap account of the race, but in consideration of brevity, let's summarize.
By the second lap, I was catching the back of the field, and by the 7th lap, I had passed everybody at least once.
Because of the duration of these races, runners tend to start out very slow in an effort to conserve energy. I won't lie, I probably look a bit foolish by running that fast, but it's my race to ruin. I'm sure more than a few eyebrows were raised, and there may have been a death pool going around to bet on how long I'd last.
The 50k mark came early and I kept pounding away, racking up the miles.
The afternoon was warm, which is my achilles heel. I spent a ton of time trying to stay cool and hydrated. Maintaining a decent pace until sundown was essential. If I could survive until nightfall, I would definitely have a good first day of running.
At the 50 mile mark, I decided to take a 15 minute break to have a beer, rest my legs and consult with my crew.
Consulting With my Newest Crew Member
As the sun set, it got cold, FAST! For three consecutive loops, I stopped and added layers in an effort to stay warm.
As odd as it may sound, Arizona cold is much colder than Utah cold. It's actually far more humid than it is at home and that humidity makes a big difference in how the night temps feel.
A lot of runners stop for sleep during the night and the course gets thinned out dramatically. I never stop to sleep because I hate to give up the ground I've gained during the day. At one point during the night, there were probably only 8-10 runners hobbling around the course. It's quiet, with people trapped in their own minds, thinking dark, painful thoughts.
I have some ability to turn my brain off and set my body to autopilot. People think that I must be having long winded conversations with myself, or thinking up all sorts cool plans and life goals. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think of nothing. My brain just shuts down. It's only task is to monitor the critical needs of my body so we can keep moving.
I hit the 100 mile mark at 18 hours and 14 minutes, which was just after 3:00 AM.
After that, I began to fade quickly.
As I slowed down, my body temp dropped, making it feel even colder. I tried to keep moving as quickly as possible so I could build body heat, but it was a losing battle. I was now wearing every piece of clothing I brought and considered begging additional layers from other runners. It was bad.
I wanted desperately for the sun to crest over the Eastern sky and knock the chill out of my bones.
As the first 24 hours came to an end, I had logged 125 miles. The sun was up, the air was warm, and all was well with the world again.
This is my third 48 hour race, but I've never actually ran for 48 full hours. I've only ran for as long as I needed to, to reach whatever goals I had set in place.
In 2013, I wanted to break 200 miles and win the race. I did that in 201 miles and 41 hours.
In 2014, I wanted to beat my mileage from the previous year, and win the race. I did that with 202 miles and 43 hours.
In 2015, I just wanted to win the race, and it looked like that could be done in a lot less than 200 miles. So that was my goal going into the second day of running.
Jo got busy tracking all the other runners while I did the math in my head for the exact time that I could pull the plug and secure the win.
I REALLY didn't want to run through another frigid night.
Other runners had started the 48 hour race in the days prior to my start time. I had started on the last possible day, so while I was leading the pack that had started with me, I was still chasing the other runners that had already finished their races.
I know…it's kind of complicated.
Because of this, I already knew that the first place man was at 154 miles, and done running. I only needed to hit 155 to win, assuming nobody else could catch me when I stopped.
But here's the kicker…the overall leader was a woman at 170 miles.
I was torn about this. I was tired of running and wanted to quit early, but was I going to be satisfied with the overall male win, or did I need the overall race win?
After some internal debate, my goal was defined at 171 miles for the overall win.
Deep into the second day, I was still running pretty well, while most people were walking. My desire to hit 171 miles before it got Arctic again was fueling my body to keep moving quickly. But there was no chance I would hit that mark before the sun set for the day.
By this point, I was 158 miles and 33 hours into a steady run. Everything from my hairline down, hurt like hell.
I kept turning circles…
At 8:30 PM, 35.5 hours into the race, I took the overall lead with 171 miles. I took a few more minutes to analyze some split times for the runners chasing me, just to make sure I couldn't be caught, then I pulled the plug.
The minute I stopped running, I started to shiver uncontrollably. I hurried to my truck, turned on the heater and passed out.
I woke up before midnight so Jo and I could ring in the new year with the rest of the runners. I had a beer, shook a few hands, then headed back to the truck and onto the hotel room, where I passed out again.
Receiving my 3rd Winners Trophy for the ATY 48
2015 was a tough year, mixed with plenty of ups and downs. On the good side, I took four overall race wins and set two course records. But on the other hand, I DNF'd almost everything else, and did so in spectacular fashion. I'm hoping to perform much better in 2016.
I want to thank Hammer Nutrition for fueling me to another win and Topo Athletic for providing me with the best running shoes on the market. And of course, I need to thank my bride for all the crazy things she agrees to do so I can live my dream.
And a special thanks to Jamil Coury and his race staff. They're the gold standard in race management and I love being at their events.
Next up…St. Croix Scenic 50 Miler. Because I need to get out of this snow! Thanks for reading!