Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Twenty-Four Hour Race

So, I'me getting ready for my 24-hour race in Phoenix at this end of this month. I'm running with my brother and his son, who are doing the 48-hour race. I'm leaving my options open for a 48-hour race but that is so unlikely as to be folly. My non-running friends can't believe it.  I know they're laughing behind their hands.

The wonderful thing about the 24-hour race is that there is food and a bathroom every mile, so my usual worry about those things vanish. The terrible thing about the 24-hour race is that it is flat. Without the usual variation in an ultrarun, a runner can quickly stress out the quads or hammies by repetitive strain.

My preparation has been wholly inadequate. It always seems to be inadequate.  But, I've run a recent 50 miler and two recent back-to-back marathons. I also hit the road every morning for a 10 to 15 miler, with the occasional 20 miler.  Lots of running under the moon. I even run the days I'm heading off for a full day of snowboarding. I run when I travel.  I run in the rain, because where I live in Southern California, the rainy days are ten degrees warmer than the clear days. I run in the dark, and have on occasion done a face plant when I'm running in an unlighted area.  In my last face plant, sitting in the street was a lawnmower part, a loop, like a metal fan belt.  The loop was lying flat. I stepped on it with my left foot.  It sprung up and my right foot didn't clear the top of it, so both feet were entangled in the loop. I was below an 9 minute pace, so I went down very hard.

I run with new shoes -- so comfortable and cushy that I am concerned about wearing them out and revert back to worn-out running shoes where the padding has been crushed.

I run listening, principally, to Def Leppard, Guns N Roses, Journey, AC/DC, Eagles, .38 Special, Cheap Trick, ZZ Top, Jackson Browne, with guilty pleasures Elton John, Toto, Pat Benetar, Tommy James and the Cars thrown in the mix. Also, lots of sports radio and some Phil Hendrie. I tried audio books. Other than the impossible cost, at $25 a whack, it becomes tedious when the reader demonstrates his silly ignorance by mispronouncing words and place-names. I don't like audio books.

Preparing for the ultrarun is a long and lonely activity. Long miles on empty trails and roads.  Even though running is very popular in my valley, I rarely see runners on the roads away from the local popular river-side trails.  I know every public restroom; every water fountain. I plan my runs to pass those things.  These days I can run 20 miles in cool weather without a water break. On hot days I can run 10 miles without a water break.

I have running friends. They train for yearly marathons, a completely different experience than mine, which is basically being marathon capable on any given day. They are usually faster than I am but it is a function of age.  I run with my 68-year-old friend Frank.  He is impressively fast, and came within ten minutes of me at the Los Angeles Marathon. He beat me once on a 12-mile training run, two weeks after my surgery three years ago.

My wife refuses to run with me. Our last complete run together was in Maine when she said she needed protection from the moose. But on occasion we meet up. She kills me on the hills. I've got 70 plus pounds on her.  Go figure.

I run on occasion along with the cross-country teams for Hart High, Valencia High and Saugus High.  The Saugus team is tops in the area. I come across the Saugus kids when I'm on the river trail next to Newhall Ranch Road. The Hart High kids like running up the valley where I live. I live at the end of a long box canyon. Those kids are fast and their running looks effortless. I can keep up with the back of their packs.

I run over and around dead animals all the time. Crows and hawks working away on them. Road kill. I don't have time to stop and divine their entrails to tell my future.

People stop me all the time to ask for directions.  I do my best to help, but do they know what they are doing, interrupting a runner trying to keep his pace up?

There are parts of my runs I detest.  Running the frontage road (The Old Road) along the freeway.   Freeway underpasses. Intersections. The stretch on Soledad Canyon Road (Saugus) from Bouquet Canyon to Whites Canyon (Canyon Country). Basically, any part of Soledad Canyon Road.  Through Fisherman's Wharf.  Houston, along the drainage canals. Dayton, away from the hotel. The sidewalks from the Waldorf to Central Park. Waikiki, any part of it. Las Vegas, any part away from the hotel.  Recife, Brasil (the hotel concierge told me to stick to the beach; two blocks in I would be dead).

There are runs I love to live for. Central Park, the loop. The waterfront between Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge. Stevenson Ranch Road. Santa Clarita's river trail system. Newhall's The Beast.

When I run my brain moves faster. When I think about work and clients I sometimes come up with bright ideas. In the middle of my last lengthy trial, it seemed that my bright ideas were in the area of graphics -- better ways to display pictures and charts to the jury. I don't bill my clients for that time.

I ride bikes with the local bike club. With virtually no bicycle training I can be a middle-packer on my bike trips.

I snowboard with friends and my kids. I don't need to take a lunch break.

My wife and daughter showed me recent articles which suggest that endurance training for runners my age can shorten one's lifespan.  t makes the heart work too hard and become stiffer than usual. I think of Jim Fixx.