Friday, September 23, 2011

Across The Years - A New Home

It is with great pleasure that we announce the opening of registration for the 28th running of the Across The Years 72, 48, and 24 Hour Footrace!  With this year’s event comes a new location, Camelback Ranch – Glendale, a brand new, state-of-the-art baseball spring training facility utilized by the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The course is a flat, 1.05 mile loop on primarily crushed gravel.  The course travels past lush greenery, desert landscaping, and even a running waterfall.  We invite you to take a brief photo tour of the path.  We look forward to sharing New Years with all of you, enjoying old friends and a new home!

With the increasing popularity Across The Years in recent years, the most difficult aspect of the event is undoubtedly the lottery.  The race was enjoyable and special at Nardini Manor for those drawn to participate, but the limited size of the track and facilities meant many were turned away.  For this reason, we are most excited to announce that the large size of Camelback Ranch will allow us to forego the lottery process and return to an open registration!  Starting today, anybody may register for their choice of the 24, 48, or 72 hour.
The website is updated with all of the new information, including race informationcourse information, and links to register online or by mail.
As past runners have noticed, the website is also sporting a new look.  After years of work as our webmaster and statistics guru, Lynn Newton is taking a well-deserved retirement from the ATY race committee.  We would like to extend a great deal of gratitude to Lynn for all of his contributions to the character of our race.  Much of Lynn’s work is hand-crafted, including the runner bios, race day tracking, and vast database of statistics.  Maintaining these features is not a trivial task without Lynn’s experience, so please bear with us as we migrate these features to the new website.  In the mean time, the old website will still be accessible for viewing past race information.

Friday, July 22, 2011

DNFing at Hardrock

Photos courtesy Nathan and Melia Coury

I have a confession to make.  I have a love affair with Hardrock.  It all started three years ago, when something I can't quite explain happened.  Ever since then, I've been trying to get back into the race.  After two years without luck in the lottery, my number comes up.  To mark the occasion, I stop shaving to get my mountain man on.

I have a solid spring of training, with plenty of miles and plenty of trails.  I run a few races, and a Grand Canyon double crossing in May gives me some confidence.  The plan is to get up to Silverton a month early, train hard on the course and get into crazy mountain shape.  With the beard shaping up and reports of the newly fallen snow, the excitement starts foaming for some playtime in the San Juans.  Then, everything goes wrong.

Three days before leaving Phoenix, I am watching some TV after an evening run.  Getting up to go to bed, I suddenly feel a knife piercing my lower back.  I struggle up and stagger to my room, barely able to stand.  I should have listened all these years, TV really is bad for you.

Long story short, I have some really tight muscles in my lower back, hips, and butt due to some really nasty muscle knots and scar tissue.  I try running a couple miles over the next couple days, but each time I end a wreck.  Figuring it won't get any better staying in the heat, I take off from the valley of the sun.  Along the way I detour into New Mexico to catch up with Kyle Skaggs, and put in a day of work on his organic farm. Up in Silverton, I stop running and try to self-treat with minimal success.  Finally I find a good massage therapist in town to do deep tissue work.  Each treatment I feel better, and a week out from the race I start some short hikes.  I manage one solid run of 12 miles on the course five days out, and start to gain a bit of hope and confidence.

About to start my training out of Cunningham with the Jaw.

At the start of the race I feel pretty good.  I wasn't certain if my spring training would hold up for the whole race, but I believe it is possible and go in determined to enjoy the experience and take each section as it comes.  With the exception of Jamil who is headed to crew at Badwater after a month-long trip in India, my whole family is present to crew with me.  I also have some adopted family members cheerleading along the way: Justin (pictured above) who is reevaluating his life with a few weeks in Colorado, and Dom and Katie who drove out from California to check out their (now) favorite race.  The start is abuzz with excitement and I get jittery lining up for the gun.

"Diana, don't let me pass you in the last mile this time!"

With dawn breaking, race director Dale Garland gives a few final words.  With a flurry of camera flashes, we're off!  I start running for about twenty meters, then yell at myself to take it easy and start walking.  Two miles into the race and I slap myself for cranking out a walking speed equal to the runners, then slow down to something that actually resembles a walk.  We shortly hit the dirt road that signifies the first climb, and I start a nice and easy hike.  I don't feel particularly bad up the first climb, and overall feel quite good, but the legs feel just a twinge tired already.  I make it to the top of Divies-Little Giant, and peer down the first descent.  In the weeks leading up to the race, my back and hip had been fine going uphill, but the jarring pressure of running flats had debilitated me, and downhills were out of the question.  At this point I face the true test, and throw myself down towards Cunningham.  A minute of getting my legs under me and I catch fire, soaring past a dozen other runners in the window of a couple minutes and crashing through the stream crossing into the aid station.

Stream crossings feel as refreshing as they look!

At this point Dom runs up to me and points his camera my way, rattling off an impromptu interview.  "How are you feeling?" he probes. "Tired."  Not the response he is hoping for and not the one I want to give, but it comes out so naturally it even catches me by surprise.  I start up the Green Mountain climb taking it as easy as the first, metered but unfaltering.  As I head up the blooming valley, I am filled with warm feelings in this place of awesome beauty.  I chat with Garrett Graubins up the rest of the climb, who I had met at breakfast that morning.  At this point I begin feeling better, my legs warming up and my body catching up.  I start seeing Brett Gosney and many others over and over again during the next 30 miles.  After starting a climb from each aid station, each runner shares some friendly conversation and a "See you on the downhill!" as they pass.  Sure enough, as the angle of repose turns in my favor, the fatigue leaves my legs and I pull back ahead.

The climb up Handies to 14000 feet is not as hard as I expect, even with the altitude taking its toll.  Through the snowy American Basin and down towards Grouse, I feel exceptionally peppy and really start to believe my race is coming together.  I see Katie half a mile out from the aid station, and my brother and sister just before the bottom.  I stop at the aid station to refresh for a minute, and pick up my dad as a pacer.  My crew tells me I look better coming down the hill than any of the leaders, and at this point I'm 40 minutes ahead of my time three years ago.  My legs are still tired on everything but the downhills, but I almost seem to forget.  My injury hasn't given me any problems to speak of, my stomach is full and happy, and I'm in high spirits as I leave up the road to Engineer.

Like son like father.

We start out easy up the road, talking about the other runners and my own race.  My dad has never been a runner, but has done years of hiking and backpacking with us through the Boy Scouts.  When I got into the race, he told me he wanted to pace a part of my race.  I couldn't be more excited, or more touched.  We had both figured he could hike well enough for the five mile uphill, and that he'd find his way back to Ouray going down the Bear Creek Trail.  On the first steep pitch, he takes off at twice my speed.
"Dad, a pacer is supposed to stay WITH his runner." 
"I just wanted to test my legs to make sure I can keep up when you get going."
 "But I'm going as fast as I can." 
Uh oh.  As we continue up the mountain, I only get slower.  The other runners passing are encouraging and assure me I'll feel better, and give a farewell alluding to seeing me before Ouray.  After what seems like ages we make it to the top and begin the cross country section that leads to the Engineer aid station a mile below.  I give my farewell to dad and begin crushing the 5000 foot descent.

Only I don't make it very far.  About two minutes down, I'm forced to a walk on battered legs and my dad catches up.  We make it to the aid station, where I take a 10 minute break to give my legs some recovery.  We leave, and I quickly realize the break was for naught, and I only get worse.  Able to run for no more than 30 seconds at a time, I helplessly walk down what should be one of the fastest sections of the course.

I spend the better part of the next two hours in a heated internal dialogue about what to do.  The sun is setting, and I can feel myself getting weaker and weaker.  I want to keep going, and try to contrive ways to make it happen.  I contemplate taking a few hour's rest before leaving the aid station, but deep down I know this would at best carry me a couple miles of the long climb to Virginius, possibly arriving injured and hypothermic.  Fatherly advice confirms that I would certainly go on if I could, but he knows I am not me anymore, and something is really wrong.

I come into Ouray at mile 56 and know I am done.  I'm heartbroken to quit when everything else feels great, but am certain it is the right choice.


A few days later I take my family on a slow hike up to Grant Swamp Pass, to see Island Lake.  We get to the base of the lake in full view, Melia excitedly keeping the front pace.

Later in the year, this is an awesome swim.

The rest of the family joins us, and Nathan and I decide to take Melia up to the pass.  The last few hundred feet are steep up a loose scree field, and we assume our mom will wait below, having refrained from much lesser feats in the past.  Yet every time we look back, both of our parents are still coming behind us.  We get to the top, and as a family we look upon the mighty Grant Swamp.  She leans over to me and says, "This is why I started running six years ago."

Not such a bad race after all.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Thoroughly Wrecked Myself...Or Mesquite Canyon 50K Race Report

(This is me, post 50K, post 3 mile sprint to the finish)

I love this race. I love this trail. I love the Aravaipa family.

A family - People who share in successes, disappointments, go through ups and downs, and support each other regardless (i.e. my silly drop at Coldwater) - that's the vibe at Aravaipa events. After running and/or volunteering for nearly all of the DTR events, I sit here at the close of the series feeling kind of bittersweet. Once a month for the last 5 months, I got to share the trails with some phenomenal people - from the RDs Nick and Jamil to the fantastic volunteers and runners. I can honestly say I'm going to miss these monthly outings. I've got memories to last a lifetime from all the events, but here are some of the highlights:
  • At Pass Mountain, I had such a fun time chatting with 3 of my biggest rivals Jon Roig, Kat, and Jeremy that I got us completely lost. Jon Roig and I would later do this AGAIN nearing the second loop.
  • Waking up after a "nap" at Pass Mountain only to have James remark "you're still here." The nap re-energized me to help the boys clean up!
  • Being greeted at the start with some crazy energy from Justin (re: McDowell Mountain Frenzy) always helped pep me up for a day of running.
  • Hanging with Sabrina and Seth after a not-so-flattering race at Coldwater. Just when I was about to leave, James showed up, and I chatted with him for a couple of hours, going to show that even when you are down, the Aravaipa family's around to cheer you up!
  • Seeing the husband and wife duo, Michael and Kimberly Miller huddled by the heaters (re: COLDwater Rumble!). Getting to see those two share their love of racing always makes me smile!
  • After sweeping the course with my Jessie dog at San Tan, I hung out and watched the scene. As the last couple of runners finished, they were greeted warmly by Pati (Nick and Jamil's gracious mom) say, "what do you need," and responding swiftly to their needs. I should also mention that she also greeted me everyone race morning with a hug and a smile. Such a personal vibe to these races.
  • Playing in Ford Caynon only to have a giant hissing rattlesnake remind me that I needed to hurry up!!
  • Seeing Boone all smiles at aid stations (re: McDowell Mtn Frenzy & Mesquite Canyon).
  • Sitting with Nick watching runners pass through the finish. At Mesquite, I watched countless people come in "wrecked", and respond to the question "How was it" with "amazing."
  • Seeing old friends and making new friends.
  • Watching Dan Brenden carry his wife over the finish never gets old. I nearly tear up everytime!
  • Watching Mark Hellenthal finish races, thinking to myself, that man is amazing!
  • Listening to teammate James Bonnett talk about the old days of Ultrarunning, hearing him plan his "conservative" comeback, and hearing that he dominated the men's 1/2 marathon at Mesquite Canyon! CONGRATS!!
  • Scheming adventures with Jamil, James, and Nick.
  • Seeing new places and revisiting old ones.
I stuck around at the end of Saturday's race for a LONG time. I didn't want this to end.

Back to Mesquite

As the culmination to the DTR series, Mesquite is certainly my favorite. It was my first ultra win ever, and I was kind of wondering if I should return. Afterall, how could I top last year? I mused on just volunteering or even running a shorter race, but in the end, I put my hat in (or should I say Nick did). This year's race proved to be tougher. Conditions were warmer, and the race was even more competitive. I had three women in mind that could have taken the title: Laura Encinas, Jody Chase (who didn't!), and Keira Henninger. Yes, Keira, last years AC100 first place female. I've been obsessing over that race for three years, and she won it last year! That was enough to freak me out about the race! Sure I wanted to win and defend my course record, but this was not going to be an easy task.

The first few miles, I spent nervously behind Keira. It's always going to be less stressful to be in second, but I wasn't patient enough to stay behind her. I also had to play to my strengths. I know I'm good at keeping a nice clip on the flats and running uphill, but it was the technical downhill I was fearing (re: Goat Camp). So, I thought I'd better get a head start, and away I went lightly jogging uphill.

These trails are amazing

Running on the side of a mountain excites me. Honestly, once I crested the first hill, I forgot this was a race (of course, I'd be reminded again a couple of times - fast forward to the last 3 mile sprint for more details of this). I chatted it up with "Grandpa Jim" for a while all while taking in the vast desert landscape. Keira was right behind me, and I was reminded of this on all the switchbacks. Alarmingly though, as I looked up ahead, I saw Ian & co, and I had to pause a couple of times to think "am I just going to blow up." I brooded over this subject for quite some time.

(ok, so I don't look nearly as "wobbly" here)

Descending Goat camp was fun, but I was fumbling over rocks. Not fluid and unaltering in my steps; rather, I was like a child clumsily searching for a toy. I tried to stay calm and confident, but physically, I knew those rocks were getting the best of me. It was kind of a reprieve when Jeremy caught me. I began to chat and follow him, staying on his rhythm. Once the rocks ended, I was reminded that people were behind me, trying to catch me - time to get my butt in gear! I pulled into the aid station, got my bottles refilled, and I was off. As I left the aid station (like RIGHT as I left the aid station), Keira and I passed each other - she going in and I coming out. Things were getting serious.

But I can run UPHILL??!!??

I hoped running up goat camp would widen the gap, so I put my head down and dug it out, looking up only to wave and say hi to people passing on the left. I wanted to run all of it, but I just knew I shouldn't. It was getting hott, I was worried that my legs would be too fatigued for later - so I resolved to walk some of the steeper parts. Getting uptop, winding around the mountains was too fun. The idea that someone was literally "chasing" me (I found out later that Keira was only like 5 minutes behind me at most aid stations) escaped my mind, and I just ran. I know the heat was getting to most everyone at this point, but I loved it. I felt great.

At the aid station that was roughly 9 miles from the finish, I refilled again (this would, unfortunately be my last refill). Boone was all smiles, looking like he was having a blast out there, and I got to tell you, I was too. 23 miles into a tough 50K, and I felt like it was play time. Crazy, right? I ran up the climb out of the aid station, and as I got around, I heard cheering...hmmm...duh! They could see me!! I gave a whoot back.

This isn't as bad as I remembered, actually it's fun...WAIT!! SNAKE!!!

Again, I ran without a care in the world, meandering on the trail, thinking about nothing. As I approached Ford Canyon, I resolved to just run as much as I could. The first part, I recall telling myself, "This isn't as bad as I remembered, actually it's fun." I jumped in the "suspect" puddles (don't judge, it was hott), crawled on the boulders, trotted from rock to rock. At one point, I chucked both of my bottles and leaped off a giant boulder, thinking to myself, next year they need to do a live webcam from here!! LOL!! As I was running around having too much fun in these canyons, I heard a faint hissing sound only to look three feet to my left and see a mad, yelling SNAKE!!! Yet another reminder that I need to hurry the freak up!!

Hello, stranger

Climbing up and out of Ford Canyon, I heard a jingling, and I started thinking, great, just what I need something like a mountain lion to REALLY remind me that I need to hurry up. Well, it I was lucky no mountain lion, only Keira. "Oh, shit," I exclaimed, and we exchanged some kind words. All the while, I was thinking, you've worked too hard now to loose this. At that point, I had two choices - quit and let her pass, sulking the last four miles to the finish, or fight to the finish, knowing that if she passed me I still gave it my all. Well, I couldn't quit, but this was not going to be easy. As I chatted with her, I assessed myself. It was hott. I was hungry. I was out of fluids and thirsty. I was unsure that I had "fight" left in me, but that didn't matter, I had to pull this energy from somewhere. The plan was to forgo the aid station and sprint to the finish. We passed the aid station, and I knew we were both in it to win it. Game on.


As I was turning on the heat and focusing inward for the sprint, I curiously saw two hikers on the side of the trail pointing at something. I was clearly too focused; in fact, I would call myself oblivious. Another spitting, mad snake. Sorry buddy. I tip toed off trail, looking back only to be reminded that Keira was on my heels. I kept a fast turn over, knowing I couldn't go too fast - I needed to build up and get fast as I got closer to the finish. Winding around, I was mentally numb, wanting to finish, wanting to drink water and get rid of this stomach pain. As I approached the family campground, I thought this was it, I was finished. Silly, girl, this is the dessert - it's a mirage. When I realized this, I nearly threw up - literally, I had to choke it back down. Once I saw the finish in the distance, I kicked the speed up a notch - pretty much thinking I was going to projectile vomit at the finish. Beep. I was done. I stumbled my way over to the ramada and laid on the ground. That hurt. Sprinting like that after a tough 50K is for the birds. Keira would finish 2 minutes behind me. Much props to her! Thanks for giving me such a fun, tough, amazing race.

I am proud of myself for staying in the game. It's easier to quit, more comfortable to let someone go by, but I took on the challenge of racing an amazing, seasoned runner (thanks again, Keira). Even if she were to pass me, I would still be happy, knowing that I kept a level of intensity after such a long, grueling race.

Major props to Nick and Jamil for believing in me and making me part of such a wonderful team. I can't wait to race again!!

(proof that I was smiling the whole time! In jr. high, my cross country coach would get mad at me for smiling too much. Even when it hurts, I find a way to smile)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Team Aravaipa at Pemberton 50k 2011

This weekend, three members of Team Aravaipa competed in the Pemberton 50k.  As the 10th anniversary of the run, race director Brian Wieck decided to switch things up a bit and start the run at 5 PM to make it a night run.  Also notable is James Bonnet who worked the Jackass Junction aid station all night, foregoing 36 hours of sleep and leaving for work directly after the race.

Nick Coury - 3:42:32 - 2nd Overall
Justin Lutick - 4:04:46 - 4th Overall, 1st Masters
Paulette Zillmer - 4:37:27 - 11th Overall - 3rd Woman

My only goal for this race was to negative split.  I was in the middle of my biggest week since North Coast, and was worried about being too fatigued.  My plan was to do the first loop in 2:00, and then try to push it once it got dark.  Josh Brimhall and Dave James took off from the start as I expected, along with another two runners that ducked in behind them.  I was with another runner I didn't know at the front of a second pack.  I decided to run the race without a watch so I could run by feel, but the pace I thought I should be running didn't feel fantastic.  Partway up the first climb I took a glance back on a curve to get a glimpse of Justin, only a few dozen yards back.  At the first aid station I stopped to fill my bottle and he zipped by me along with Andrew Heard and another runner.  I would leapfrog with all of these runners for the rest of the loop.  Coming through Jackass Junction at 10 miles with Justin, James seemed to look disappointed that I was so far back.  I already felt tired and didn't feel I should go any faster, so I resigned to keep the same pace.  About two miles from the trailhead, I had to pull out my flashlight as it was starting to get pretty dark.  I came through my first lap in 1:52, behind the second group of runners and probably in 7th or 8th place.  I grabbed some sleeves and gloves along with more gels, and an extra light for the dark loop.  I'd gotten chilled during the first loop in the cold dips of the course, and worried if I'd have enough clothing.  As it turns out, I wouldn't even need what I grabbed.

The mind is a curious and useful thing.  Because I had convinced myself I needed to run the first half slow, even a moderate pace felt tiring and imagining running any faster was nearly impossible.  When I left for my second loop, a mental switch flipped that said "give 'em hell!".  I took off into the darkness with renewed strength, working hard but with smooth determination.  I quickly passed Andrew and Justin, catching two other runners on the climb.  Coming into Coyote Camp howling, I was nearly tackled by Ian Torrence's dog Zoraster.  Assuming I was in 5th place, I asked Ian where the other runners were, and was told there were only two in front of me, and Dave James was only a couple minutes up.  I'm not quite sure what happened to the other runners, but I wasn't complaining.  "Keep pushing, you're looking strong", and I continued to push into the tranquil night.  I caught up to Dave about halfway through the loop, and stayed with him for a minute.  Seems that winning the Coastal Challenge down in Costa Rica the week before wasn't a good taper for this race.  I came into the final aid station several minutes ahead of him, and filled my bottle quickly.  "Nick?!"  It seems that James wasn't expecting to see me so soon.  I let out a hoot and took off.  I pushed hard the last 5 miles, and finished my second lap in 1:50 for a two minute negative split.  Not bad for the second half in darkness.  I stayed around till nearly midnight to cheer, eat and enjoy the campfire.  Overall a great race, and a good way to start out the year!