Friday, January 25, 2008

P.F. Chang's Rock N Roll Marathon

The plan was to get up, eat some oatmeal and get out the door by 6 am. I put out my gear the night before and the morning went smoothly. I planned to park south of the university and get on a shuttle at University and Rural. I figured it would be less crowded than were I got on last year. Last year I was in a shuttle line with over 300 other runners. This year, maybe 30 of us. I sat next to Jim. He was running his first half marathon. Jim graduated from ASU back in 1968, which puts him in his 60's somewhere. We got to talk about some early Phoenix history and a little bit about the race itself.

Guess who signed my race bib?

My son says my bib number is binary 20. I like it too. I even passed a building with the address 1010. I should have gotten a picture, but it was early in the race. You'll notice I took more pictures later when I was walking more. I used my Treo mobile phone for the pictures.

The Start and miles 1-5
It was 20 degrees warmer than last year. It felt great. I had my running gloves and my Air Force sweat shirt that I bought at Goodwill. I left it at a water station about 3 miles into the race. The first 5 miles heads north away from downtown. Lots of Team In Training runners with their state names on their backs. I saw and talked with a bunch of them from Wisconsin, NYC, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Utah and Iowa. I wish everyone had their state on their back. It's a great ice breaker. As we headed north, one fan had a sign that said, "I thought Obama was running?". I didn't think of it quickly enough, or my reply would have been, "He's running, he's right behind Hillary." The RnR marathon is full of bands and spirit squads. I tried to give high five's to all the spirit squads. They liked it and since my name was on my shirt and I got to hear their appreciation. "Way to go Pat" "You can do it Pat" "Pat, lookin' good". I didn't worry about finishing, pace or anything at this point, I was just enjoying.

Miles 6-11
We turned onto Missouri Avenue to head east. I was still feeling great. All my splits were under 12 minutes per mile for the first 10 miles. I was under 1 hour and 52 minutes at the 10 mile mark. My hope was to be under 2 hours. 8 minutes is huge and I knew I would need it for later in the race. We crossed over the freeway (51) and many of the cars driving under were honking. I probably heard two dozen horns and it was a short bridge.

And the bands played on. You don't get to hear a full song and you hope their not taking a break when you run past. But, it's a great boost to hear them. Even, if you don't like their style of music.

Near mile 8 you get to see Camelback Mountain for the first time. You know you have to run past it and you see it constantly for the next hour or so.

Miles 12-19
Right as I got to the 12 mile mark, Mike Aish of New Zealand crossed the finish line. He won the race, but I kept running. In my training runs I always started to slow down around mile 11 and today would be the same. After 10 miles of sub 11:55 miles or better, my next three miles were over 13 minutes each. If I was just running the half, I could concentrate on leg turnover and finish strong. With the full, I was just happy to be moving forward. We entered into Scottsdale and I started thinking about fellow bloggers. Katie and Moon running in the Disney marathon today. Irene and Darrell in California, Jeff and Dan on the east coast, Firefly and Runnergirl from last year's race, Cheryl & Emil, the newest runners. The Wisconsin Wimmers. Eric, Chad, Lisa, Karen from Arizona. And the gang I got to meet at the Saturday night dinner. You all inspire me when I read your blogs and it helps to think of you when I'm running.
At mile 14 the marathon course is within a half mile of the half marathoners. I wish I would have thought of this when I was running. But I reached mile 14 at 10:19 am. Karen, my running buddy was at mile 7.5 right around that time. I wouldn't be surprised if Lisa, Marcy and others were around there. Oh, so close. The good vibes would have helped. I heard another runner say she stopped in the medic tent to get some Tylenol. Why didn't I think of that. Right before mile 18, I saw the medic tent. I dropped in and asked for Tylenol. They asked me how I was doing and if it was for general pain. I overheard them telling a women that she couldn't leave the tent yet until she had some more salt water. I quickly said I was feeling great, just general soreness. They marked my bib and gave me my meds and I bolted out of there.
This is a picture of me bolting. I saw a young lady walking so I asked her how she was doing. She forgot her knee strap and her ankles were bothering her. I suggested the medic tent for Tylenol and that they might have a strap for her knee. You know those rubber things they tie around your arm for giving blood. Maybe one of those. I then asked her to snap a couple of pictures of me running. She did and then I'm not sure where she went. We were in downtown Scottsdale at this point.

Mils 20-25
I got a call from Amy that they would be right before mile 20. It was great to see my wife and kids, Tyler and Emily. We chatted for a bit and I got to fill my water bottle with Gatorade G2. I was putting NUUN in my water up to that time and I think I did a great job hydrating and keeping my electrolytes in check. I did stop sweating around the half way point. Salt was starting to cake on my face and clothes. My hat that was drenched in sweat for most of the run was drying out. The second have of the race, I used the water stops for pouring 3-4 cups of water on my hat and head. Each time I did I would think about the Chicago Marathon and running out of water. No chance at this race, it was very well stocked.
It was great to see my family. A big boost. I ran the next mile in 12:18, 2 minutes faster than any other mile in that part of the race. My family, the Tylenol and the DQ all must have contributed. I've gotten many blizzards at this DQ.

But, today I ran past it and two McDonald's. Yes, I counted. The second McDonald's I saw a runner come out of it.
I noticed a lot of folks walking once we were in the 20 plus mile range. I would run for .1 to .2 miles before I was walking again. In that time I would pass a dozen people or more. Some of them would leap frog me when I was walking, but a lot of them were walking to the finish. I talked with one guy about the TnT program for a few minutes. I saw another guy with a 50 States Marathon tee on. I learned that he has done all 50 states. Pretty impressive.

It was a flat course. a few minor rises. I can't remember any downhills. Except at the bridge. This is the rise, not bad except it was around mile 23. As you cross over the bridge you look west and you can see ASU and Sun Devil Stadium. It's 3 miles away and you know that's the finish. At this point my legs, knees, hips are hurting. I've run further than I've ever run and everyone around you is just marking on. It's quiet, not like the start when everyone's talking. Almost eerie. We all just kept moving forward. Some jogging, most walking. No one running.
The Final Mile
I held off thinking about my mom and dad until I got to the final mile. My parents are in their 70's and still doing pretty well. My dad worked a lot of years in the restaurant business. He managed everything from supper clubs to breakfast joints. Lots of long hours and back breaking work so that my sisters, brother and I could have a better life. He didn't get to spend as much time with us kids as I get to with mine. I realize that I'm a lot more fortunate that I even have the time to run and be with my wife and kids. Thanks for everything dad. My mom is going into the hospital today to remove her gall bladder. She doesn't seem to be worried about it, but I am. At a very early age my mom moved from her home in Japan to live in America with 2 babies and no one besides her husband and his family. She taught her kids to be good and work hard. Thanks mom and I pray all goes well today. Mile 25 started with a detour around a water main break. We ran through the Salt River Project compound.

Ran down University past a water station manned by pirates.

And then I get a call from Lisa and Karen, my running buddies with the Tumbleweed Running Club. Yeah, it's just the three of us. Lisa yells, "we see you." I hang up and take a picture. Then we run. Karen tries to keep up, but her legs were killing her. She wishes me well and falls back. Karen, thank you. That short run with you really did help. I really appreciate it. It means a lot. Lisa and I went further. She carried me all the way to the end of mile 26. Lisa, thank you. I'm sure the runners we passed were amazed that someone could be running after 5 1/2 hours. I didn't really realize we were running at that point. I said before that I was Charlie and they were angels. And today they both were.

Lisa told me good luck and quit running. Amy, Tyler and Emily were somewhere near the finish line. I ran past them, but didn't see them. What I did see was a shadow. Someone was trying to pass me at the finish. The crowd was cheering us on and damn if I was going to let someone pass me. I forgot about the 26 miles and it was down to a race of .2 miles. I ran harder than I did at any time that day. My best mile split was 10:25 during mile 2. I was running at a 8:17 pace at the end. I ended up passing two other people and not letting anyone pass me. Thanks for pushing me their at the end. I wish I would have turned around and gotten your race number.

The Conclusion
My official time is 5:51:34. I finished 5738th out of 6453. The first part of the race was a nice steady 10-12 minute pace miles. It was great. The middle miles were fine and I got to talk with a lot of fellow runners. The final miles were hard. I felt like I was running on a bed of nails and I had some toe issues. The medics at the finish asked if I was ok. I said I was, when actually I was fantastic. I was overwhelmed with emotion. A bit chocked up. I got my medal. I shook hands with a fellow runner that just finished his 5th Arizona RnR. I got my picture taken. Met up with my family and drove home.
Today I sit with sore legs and a happy feeling that I got my first marathon done. Time to start planning marathon number 2.
Thank you, everyone for supporting me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Across the Years

Race Report: Across the Years 24-hour by Chad Sayban.

Well, to start with, I knew that I was not well prepared at all going in to the race. I hadn't run in the six weeks prior due to knee problems and I just hoped that the rest would at least let it heal. I arrived at about 7:30 for the 9am start. It was clear and pretty cold - around 40 degrees at that point. I should first point out that the organizers of the Across the Years races do an absolutely fantastic job. Packet pickup is well organized and the free gear you get is enough to cover the entry fee: an embroidered jacket, logo arm warmers, gloves, a gear bag and a bunch of other stuff. If you haven't noticed, the theme of the gear is "cold." There is a reason for that. It gets really cold at night in the desert.

So I mulled around for a while and bumped into a few people I knew. The pre-race meeting was 15 minutes before the start and helped orient everyone, especially those of us who were doing this for the first time. Just before the start, I bumped into the legendary Marshall Ulrich and his wife. I introduced myself and quickly the topic of Bob in Florida came up. Marshall made sure to comment on Bob propensity to drag tires behind him. Later in the race, I hooked up with Marshall for several miles and found him to be a genuinely fine person and great to talk to. Thanks for the company, Marshall.

At the start, I decided to walk for a while to get warmed up and gauge how I was feeling. With 24 hours to go, there isn't a real need to warm up before the start, that's for sure. So for the first 45 minutes I walked at a pretty brisk pace with Steve Papp, who was in the 48 hour race. We talked the whole time and he would encourage me, as would several others, throughout the rest of my race. It's amazing how encouraging everyone is in ultras and since this was my first one, it was my first real taste of it.

I guess a little bit about the course. After more than 100 laps on it, I had a pretty good look at it. It is a 500-meter packed dirt path that loops around the perimeter of the property. It is a beautiful property with lots of large, old-growth trees, a grass yard surrounding the three-story colonial-style home. It is completely unlike Phoenix in every way. It looks like it was transplanted intact from New England. In fact, most of the course is shaded, which can be a bit of a curse when you are looking for warmth during the day, but it is certainly a much more interesting course to circle than a 400-meter high school track (which is where the event had it's original start). There is only one aid station (obviously, you pass it every 500-meters) and it is well stocked with about anything you could want. They even prepare meals. I highly recommend the Chicken Cord an blue when it gets cold. Yum!! There is a large, circus-like tent in the center that runners can put there own tents in for changing or catching some sleep. Since there are 48 and 72 hour events, there are people catching sleep throughout the race. Oh, ya...the tent is heated so it becomes a pretty popular place at night. Runners can set up their "transition areas" anywhere around the course. Most put theirs near the start/finish area as I did, right across from the "post office" where messages that come in from the Internet are left in mail slots with each racer's name. This is a very cool thing, especially when you are getting in to the dark places that are inevitable in a race like this. It was a pick-me-up that can hold you for a long time getting a message from blogger-nation. I know it really help me along the way and I want to thank everyone who sent messages to me. I love you all.

So about 45 minutes in I decided I would give running a try, just to mix things up a bit and see if there was any chance. It actually felt good and there was no knee pain. After 15 minutes, I began walking again and decided to give my original strategy a try. I set my watch to run for 15 minutes and walk for 15 minutes. It was mentally easy to keep track of and seemed to suit me well. After two hours I was feeling great. Every two hours they turn everyone around for a "change of scenery." It sounds corny, but after two hours of going in the same direction, it really is a complete change of scenery. They do it every two hours throughout the entire 3 days. The race uses timing chips strapped to your ankle to count your laps. They have a projection screen that shows you your lap count and distance every time you cross the mat. I learned an interesting thing, though. While it is easy to keep track of yourself, it is impossible to keep track of where you are in relation to everyone else. They post a printed leaderboard every hour or so if you want to stop and read it, but otherwise, the only way to keep track is to have a crew to tell you where you are. I didn't care, because I really was only competing against my own were most of the people there.

As I closed in on four hours, I realized that I wouldn't be able to keep up the 15/15 routine. I just didn't have the conditioning (duh). So I shut my watch down and decided to go on feel. I ran when I felt good and just kept power walking the rest of the time. I was eating and drinking well. No stomach issues and I was hitting the bathroom about every hour. Nutrition was never an issue since walking allowed me to digest everything. I would grab food at the end of a run cycle allowing me to eat and drink while I was walking. In fact, I was worried that I was going to gain 10 pounds because food was so easily available.

Soon I was approaching one of the markers of progress - 6 hours. As it approached, I first crossed 25 miles. That was big because it meant that I was on pace for 100 miles. Then I crossed 26.2 miles. Now I was out beyond any distance I had ever covered before and I was still not to 6 hours yet! I was having delusions of grandeur. Not only was I going to break 100 miles, I was figuring out just how far beyond 100 miles I would go. I was nearing 28 miles when the 6-hour point was reached and I was flying high!

To use a British term, only a half hour later I was buggered. How quickly it can change in a race like this. My feet had been hurting since about the 3-hour mark. No blisters, just sore from the pounding they were taking. I had cured it by switching between two different types of shoes. When I would switch, my feet would feel so much better. But now the panacea was no longer effective and my feet were really beginning to hurt. This was the first point when I was really struggling mentally to keep going. I weathered it and with a few spurts of jogging started to feel ok. I hadn't gone to my trump card IPod. I was saving it for when I felt like I was ready to quit as a way to pump myself back up. I knew the charge on it would only last about 6-8 hours and I had no way to recharge it, so I wanted to make sure I didn't waste it. About 7 hours in I grabbed the IPod and put it to use. It worked. I started with an audio book that I had downloaded and for more than an hour lost myself in the book. I should mention that throughout the race I must have put on and taken off layers of clothes at least a dozen times. The shade and the intermittent running made it hard to dress correctly. However, the little transition area made changing often easy...all except that I couldn't bend over at that point and didn't want to risk sitting down because I wasn't sure I would ever be able to get back up!

About 8 hours I was walking along in a daze, not really hearing the book anymore and just trying not to think about my feet and the reemergence of my knee when out of nowhere the Lovely and Talented Miss Julie stepped in front of me! I hadn't seen her or the boys and she knew that it was the only way to get me to see them. The boys brought their cow bells and cheer me on and I stopped for about 15 minutes to talk. Julie could see that I was in a low point and had been for a while. She wished me luck and took the kids back home. I can't express how much it meant to me having them show up like that even though I was too incoherent to express it at the time. I love you, Julie!

It was somewhere around now (the memory is a little foggy) that I realized that 100 miles was no longer possible. I had switched over to music on the IPod and began adding layers. The sun had set and the temperatures were plummeting. I had to revise my expectations. Julie had mentioned before leaving that I should shoot for 100k. Little did she know that my mind had already moved past that to just making 50 miles. However, even that was still 20 miles away and given how my legs were feeling might as well have been the other side of the moon. I was trudging along now and having trouble remembering when I had eaten or drank. I was having trouble walking a freaking straight line now. My body was not listening to instructions anymore and my mind could only make sense of one thing...pain. Lap after lap after lap it was unrelenting. I was now just trying to make it to 40 miles, hoping that I could last until Eric showed up to take his shift at the aid station. I was pretty incoherent at this point. I know people were asking me if I was ok, but I don't remember responding. Maybe I gave a grunt, but I don't remember now. Pain has a funny way of taking over your brain and it was intense enough now that I had to question if I was going to put myself in the hospital. One thing kept coming back to me. During the pre-race briefing they had said that it was ultimately our own responsibility to take care of ourselves, but that every single year that the race had been held, someone had needed the Paramedics bring them back or take them to the hospital. I didn't want to be that person. I looked up at the scoreboard as I crossed the mat, stopped and saw this:

589 Chad Sayban 35 AZ 123 laps, 9:32:45, 61.5k, 38.214 miles

When I read it, I was cool with it. That's when I knew I was done. I had gone 1 1/2 marathons, 12 miles further than I had ever gone after not running a single mile the previous 6 weeks. I could still walk...barely. It was dark and I was hurting in a way I had never hurt before and decided that it would be easier to recover in my own bed than in the tent. So I handed my chip in (I wasn't the first to do so and far from the last. Even Pam Reed called it quits well short of her goal and just 5 miles short of 100 miles and a buckle with 4 hours still on the clock. Pain will do that to you.) and packed up my stuff. I went home, crawled in to the shower. I felt a little better (and a lot warmer) and laid in kids bed and read them a story before heading to bed.
I don't know how things could have ended any better that day...

I'm sorry it took as long as it did to write this, but I wanted to get it right.

Where to I go from here? Well, you will just have to stop in and find out. ;-)