“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

24 Hour Treadmill Run Recap

Mountainside Fitness - Carefree, AZ
November 12-13, 2010

24 hours. 2 times 12. One full day. 4 times 6. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. No matter how you look at it, 24 hours is a long time to be on the treadmill, at least it seemed that way for me a few times during my 24 hour run.

At 5:00 on Friday morning, November 12th, I got up and made sure I had all my food together, all the crew shirts passed out to crew members the night before, and all those "last minute" things (like remembering socks, shoes, and my brain!). My kids woke up one by one and I made an easy cereal breakfast for them, a smoothie and coffee for David, and an avocado fold-over sandwich for myself. By 7am I kissed them all goodbye, got in the car and drove over to my friend, Katherine's house.

Katherine Nelsen-Allan is a 59 year old "all green lights" force to be reckoned with. She is tough as nails, don't let her fool you! When we first met over a year ago, we became running buddies and instant friends. She ran her first and second marathons this year, and ended 2010 with a bang by running 32 miles in the treadmill that day by my side.

We were both excited and ready to RUN. She was wearing purple....even purple eyeshadow I think! I had my purple tank top on. Why purple? Purple represents the Purple Ribbon Council, an organization that aids those who fall victim to domestic violence. Purple is also the color symbolizing recovery. The two meanings together (for me, at least) meant bringing hope to the children affected by violence, or who had lost a parent due to unnecessary brutality. This was my focus, my cause, my motivation, the mental and emotional fuel that fed my spirit and made my body run. On November 12-13, it was my PURPOSE.

We made it to Mountainside Fitness by 7:45am and unloaded all the food from my SUV. Justin Blessing greeted us and was happy to help bring in the smorgasbord of Vegan food (and Diet Coke - a.k.a poison). Clarissa Borboa was already decorating the treadmill area with purple, purple, and more purple. It was festive and exciting. Mike and the Pre-Cor representative were hastily working on installing the new belts for three of the treadmills to be used that day. Ah, those belts felt so nice to run on...no gap between belt and board...so refreshing!

Katherine and I walked over to the weight room area to stretch. I saw Jess Olson and Daniel Alvarez working out (workout #1 of the day for those guys!). I met them the day before the run. I had read in Mountainside Fitness's magazine about Jess and his weight loss journey. He has been filming his progress and has 12 years of video of this journey. He and Daniel were gracious enough to want to film parts of the run! Genuinely kind hearts they have...

Kelsey Hughes, my Crew Chief, came in and helped set up the food along with Carrie Butler, Sarah Mitcham, and Jamie Behrens. I had gone to Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Fry's the day before the run and was thinking about what would be needed and what would taste good during all that running.
In the past, Pedialyte has always worked for me for electrolyte replacement. I also got crackers, bananas, Israeli couscous, Miso soup, raw peanut butter, Whole Foods energy bites, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, whole wheat bread from The Bread Basket (a local bakery), and a few other things that might've sounded good to my stomach during the run. The three items I was excited about eating the most were (not in particular order) Jill Monson's peanut butter and avocado finger sandwiches, Susan Etheridge's homemade granola/fruit bars, and Naydine Reill's peanut butter and coconut no-bake cookies.

At 9:00am, I was supposed to start running, but in my usual fashion, I was tying my shoes and talking. At 9:02am, Rus Smith and Ryan Raymond (officials) started me off. So it began...

I had a pretty fast pace at the beginning...the excitement and novelty kept me feeling fresh for a few hours. We celebrated the 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, etc. I kept the speed between 5.8 and 6.4 for the first five hours or so. My first bathroom break was timed at 33 seconds! I remember telling Katherine, "beat that!". I felt great...nothing was hurting (yet). After the first marathon of the day, I started getting into my tunnel or "the zone". I put on my sunglasses a few times blocking out everything around me. Around noon, my mom and dad showed up which was really exciting for me. They drove two days from Dallas, TX, to help support the run as well as take care of my kids while I was running! David came up to visit as well, and acted like such a "coach" which is just what I needed when he got there! "Just keep going strong! Don't slow down! You've got it". I love him!

I kept looking behind me every once in a while and I saw a teen aged blond girl standing there watching the whole scene. She finally came over, shyly, and introduced herself. Julie Pack, an awesome cross-country runner in her Senior year of high school, hopped on the treadmill and we started chatting about running. There were so many other people popping in and out while we ran, but she had some great questions, including: "Would you consider coming to coach Girls Cross Country next year?" Gotta love it! I think I bumped my pace back into the upper 5 or lower 6mph range. I promised her we would have dinner at some point so we could REALLY talk about running without all the distractions. It was refreshing having a young runner passionate about just that...running. After she left, "Girl, Interrupted" came on...one of my favorite movies so I tuned in...

At around 5:30pm, I had to step off the treadmill and let out some pent up frustration and emotions. I had my mind focused on my purpose for running, and I thought I had sorted through all the negative and stressful emotions beforehand, something really got to me. I started to think about a student I taught a few years ago. She had the trust and confidence in me to share her horrifying experience of abuse. It struck my heart like a dagger that has never been removed. As I kept re-living that moment in time, many other experiences that people have shared with me started popping up in my head and it just became overwhelming. So, as I said, I stepped off the treadmill, squatted down in the corner next to the treadmill and just let it all out. I just sobbed. I became vulnerable. I took about four minutes to cry and I felt better. I turned around and started to get up and I saw Rob Gollon, a great running confidante and friend I met a year ago. I immediately felt better...I knew he would provide some light-hearted and fun conversation. I hopped back on and began to run again. Rob ended up running a 10K that evening, even though he had a 5K the very next morning! The funny thing is that he ran that Saturday morning 5K in less than 21 minutes which was a PR for him!

At 11 hours (on the dot!), I hit 50 miles. I had a much needed and much deserved roll out. Those rolling pin massages were THE BEST.

Katherine Nelsen-Allan became an ultramarathon runner that wonderful day. She did magnificent! I was so happy and honored to have her there sharing her special day and special goal with me. It was so nice to run by her side for a good 9 hours or so! It was such a great accomplishment that seems to have been overlooked. Katherine did so much for this run..mentally and physically trained herself and she helped spread the news about the Purple Ribbon Council. She kicked butt and probably could have gotten up and done it again the next morning! In fact, if there weren't such a crowd on the treadmills that Saturday morning, she probably would have jumped on that treadmill next to me to run to the finish! Katanator (as I like to call her) and her husband Barry were a huge part of my success in the run and the record-setting logistics.

My sweet neighbors, Mario, LeAnn, and Joseph Birsa came to see me that night. Joseph was my youngest pacer of the day, 10 years old. It was fun to have them there, they are fun people to be around!

My high school friend, Pablo Vidales, drove out later that evening as well (after getting lost in the mountains in New River somewhere...) and he had some great jokes to share. He walked on the treadmill next to me for a bit, and in his usual sincere manner, he gave me some great things to think about. Suzanne Campbell and Michelle D'Alessio brought fun games and I listened to them play for a while. Joy Few ran that night next to me and fed me pineapple and strawberries. There were so many more people who really helped me through those tough hours. Even Ryan Raymond came back to the gym late at night, admittedly "tanked"!

Naydine, me, and Joy

Naydine Reill showed up late in the evening ready to pound out 17 miles. She brought a card that her daughter, Allanah, had made for her a few years back. It was a visual and mental focal point for her. This cause was personal and that night she beat down all self-doubt and guilt. She broke into a safe in her mind that she previously thought was forbidden territory....she gained a confidence that night that will shine through her and to others forever. The metaphorical chains had been broken. She now has an even stronger testimony of not only surviving, but coming out on top of the world. She shared that she has run up to 15 miles, but never more...so I told her "once you commit, you cannot quit!" and she was off and running....at an 8.0+ speed. I remember saying, "Slow down there, racehorse!" It was refreshing and motivating to see the excitement and adrenaline again, even if it wasn't in myself at the moment. She put her iPod on and started to rock out while occasionally sipping on pomegranate green tea. During her time running, I saw her go through the phases of a marathon runner: the excitement and novelty, the realization of the challenge, the hyper-awareness of the body and nagging past injuries that rear their ugly heads, the WALL, then the elation of the finish...and of course, the runner's high that comes afterward. It was fun to see it happen in one place (treadmill)...interesting to say the least. She ran her 17 miles and we all celebrated! Nichole and Allannah hugged their mom and were so happy for her...what a night!

While Naydine was running, Melissa Why came up and ran a 10K with us. She had to be up early for a soccer game on Saturday, so she decided to come on out and run a little on the treadmill to get in her workout for the day! It was fun chatting with her. I felt the honesty-and-lack-of-disclaimers-before-I-open-my-mouth syndrome hit and I told her that I am always so intimidated by her in the cycle classes...she is one tough cookie! It was fun having her there running with us. At that point, we had many people running at once. Hearing the foot-falls in cadence and out of cadence was like a symphony....I was obviously getting a little philosophical, as I usually do late at night and especially late at night while running!

Things I remember occurring that night....Caprice quoting Forrest Gump, Jenn Cohan's son, Cameron, running on the treadmill really fast. Tanner running barefoot on every single treadmill at some point or another. Lori Karn coming up and giving me a deeeeeeeeep massage which resulted in a scene similar to "40 Year Old Virgin" when the main character (Steve Carrell's character) gets waxed: "KELLY CLARRKKKSON!!!" Ouch that hurt so good. At some point, we discovered some nasty chafing! At that moment, Nichole V. came to the rescue with a Diet Coke and she had to rub it in that the chafing came from my cheap shorts and not Under Armour (where she works). So, in the picture below, I put on the compression shorts once again and put gauze on the chafed areas. I LOVE all of my scars. Who needs a tattoo when you have these awesomely sentimental battle scars!?
In the meantime, an ice bath was ready...and I was ready to try it out. I remember telling Kelsey and Carrie that I should probably stay in for 4-5 minutes. It looked inviting to my feet until I actually put my feet in it. WHOA!!!! It was mostly ice, and I felt a shock throughout my entire body from my toenails all the way up my spine to the top of my head. I think I lasted about 15 seconds, but my feet felt refreshed! Back up and ready to go...At this point, I think I put on my compression socks and Crocs to give my feet a break and work some different stabilizing muscles.

Clarissa Borboa also stepped up on the treadmill that evening and beat her personal best. She suffers from asthma, always has since she was young, and running had always been a challenge for her lungs...until that night. Her PR was 15 minutes of running on the treadmill, but that night, she ran for an HOUR. The energy was high and she made it look easy! It was amazing seeing her push through her own obstructions and seeing her discover her 2nd and 3rd wind along her hour long journey that evening. She has the drive and the spirit to go even farther, and since that night, she has already gone ten minutes more than an hour of running! Clarissa is one of the most (if not THE most) genuine people I have ever met. She is passionate about life and shows it no matter what she is doing. She has such a joyful spirit. Having her positivity nearby radiated to me and kept me truckin' along on that treadmill. Once she finished her hour, we all celebrated and cheered for her awesome accomplishment.

By 3:30am, I started to feel a little nauseous. It felt as though my stomach and intestines were fighting for attention. What I realized (now, looking back) running on a treadmill requires propulsion upward more than forward (obviously, right?). Outside running, you can push-off the ground, you have traction and move forward. So, the realization hit my insides before it actually hit my understanding: The bouncing up and down was jarring my stomach and intestines a whole lot more than it would road running. At 3:45am I started to get really pissed off at myself but soon accepted the fact that I wouldn't be able to reach my mileage goal (this time). I drank some Pedialyte, sucked it up and kept going at a 5.1 pace. Lanny Nelson, a fellow ultrarunner from Anthem, came and ran with me for a good two hours when my stomach was bothering me. It was nice to have someone running by my side that "got it". I listened to his running adventures which enabled me to go someplace else in my mind, imagining I was out there on the road, or the trails in the mountains, or even back on the beach in Florida.

Sarah Mitcham ran a half marathon the Sunday prior to the Purple Day weekend and ran a little during the week. She got on the treadmill and ran 16 miles that night!!! She remained so focused and so committed and had a great pace and made it look like she could keep going and going. Sarah has a smile that is contagious. She smiled throughout her run, and I honestly think she should have run the full marathon distance (just my snooty opinion! hee hee). I know her daughter, Kylie, and her husband must have been proud of how well she ran. I had been bugging her to register for the PF Chang's Rock and Roll Phoenix Marathon for a while, and now that she proved to herself she could run more and feel great afterward, she is going for gold...Sarah is marathon bound and I am so anxious to run with her during her training! When she finished her 16 miles that night, I remember Amanda Soerhide running out in a towel to see her finish. At this point, Kelsey announced to the Facebook world that there was running and streaking going on at Mountainside Fitness. What a riot!

This is the part where things became a bit "blurry": After many many applications of Tiger Balm, some roll outs, , bathroom breaks and some shuffling and power walking on the treadmill while listening to Amanda read the "Would You Rather?" game cards (and making up a few of her own like "would you rather have a booger stuck in your nose and you cannot get it out or would you rather have dirt in your buttcrack?"), the time was 5:15am and my stomach and intestines had started to get the best of me. I threw up at 5:35am and felt better, thinking I could start running strong again. Nope...my intestines were still very unhappy. Lots of bathrooms trips at that point and slowed down to a shuffle-run! No leg issues, no injuries. Next time I must do some extra intestinal exercises because it was the cause of my slow down!

The gym was open and I got to see the really hardcore early "A.M.-ers" start their morning routines. I watched a guy look like he was going to fly off the elliptical he was going so fast it made me laugh. I thought I saw an ant crawling on the information center on the treadmill so I asked my friend Debbie Smith if it was really there (just to make sure I wasn't going through the same strange hallucinations I have before in other really long distance events!). She flicked it and I knew I was doing alright.

I kept yelling over at Kelsey to look up the 24 hour treadmill records (at least ten times) to make sure that I would be able to land a spot on the list. She assured me (all ten times) that it was fine and I was doing great and to just keep moving. I remember her asking me if she was being too "nice" to me...and I honestly told her that she was. It was then that I stayed on that treadmill for a really long time. So long that now it seems like a blur. That sun-rise-morning-fog-lifting sort of blur that one gets after a long night of partying. It made me think of the movie "Dazed and Confused" when they were up all night partying after the last day of school lets out and no one really remembers what the movie is about between the hazing at the beginning to the sunrise at the end. Yep...that pretty much explains the final few hours for me.

The last hour approached and I picked up the speed a tad. I was running by Rhonda Freerks as she spoke with Katherine and Deb. David came up to the gym and ran beside me for a little while which I had imagined to be a great thing before the run. At that actual point, I got annoyed by him beating my pace. I get so competitive with my Sweetie. He got off the treadmill 30 minutes before the finish. I entered the short but honorable list of 24 hour treadmill running women after I passed up Austria's Manuela Resnik's record of 77 miles. There is a huge gap between her record and the next one up...I had to run 93 miles to beat the next runner on that list. That day, November 13, 2010, it just wasn't going to happen. I accepted it graciously and focused back on the task at hand, and the reason why I was running in the first place. I could not allow negative feelings seep their way into my thought process. I had to stay in control of my thoughts so they would not control me. At that time, Kelsey came up to me and told me that with the amount of money that had been raised so far, at least five kids would be saved. I broke down in a happy-sad-overwhelming-emotional sob. I pushed the green arrow upward and moved onward with a faster pace. At 5 minutes left, I began to kick it in a higher gear (which was, sadly, only about 5.2 at this point!) and people began to gather around. So much love and support filled that room. It was nice to see all the smiling faces. Rus Smith and Dan Graziano, officials, were there looking at the clock. At 9:02am, I would be finished. TWO MINUTES LEFT. I looked at Katherine and she was crying...so were many other bystanders. I told her it wasn't time to cry yet and that I could not cry yet, I had to finish strong. ONE MINUTE LEFT. I punched it out and ran 5.8 which - at that point - felt like a sprint. 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...FINISHED. I hit that red stop button and thought "NO WHAMMIES!" I bent over and let it all out. I cried and probably snotted all over myself. Dallas, in his usual attire of a Batman cape and a Darth Vader sword, was screaming. I picked him up and hugged him. I kissed David and Austin. I gave Maya a huge hugStreamers and confetti shot out from around the treadmill area. DONE. A moment of unintentional silence and I felt that I needed to fill the void. The first thing that came to my mind was letting everyone know about my friends who had conquered so much that night...who had run more than they have ever run before...I was a wreck and wanted to desperately get off that treadmill. Amanda stepped up and thanked everyone, especially the crew, who came out and helped. 86.21 miles. That is from Anthem, AZ to Sedona, AZ. McKinney, TX to Hillsboro, TX. Fort Pierce, FL to Delray Beach, FL. You get the point....

It was a very special 24 hours for me. It was one that I will always hold dear in my heart. I was so happy to be able to use my passion for running to help raise awareness about Domestic Violence and how it can affect ANYONE. Thank you to all of you who shared your life experiences and stories. I am honored to have each and every one of you in my life. Thank you to Carrie Butler and Kelsey Hughes for staying with me for the whole evening. I could not have succeeded without you.... Thank you, Donna Bartos, for having the faith in me to do this event to help share the "little purple secret". I will never forget the love, support, and encouragement you gave me and the efforts you put forth into this special cause.

The logbooks and paperwork has been submitted and I am 9th in the world and 3rd in the U.S. for Women's 24 hour Treadmill running. Thank you all for your love and support, and especially for believing in me and supporting my purpose for this run.


Sally Henzel said...

Robyn, you are truly an inspiration to me. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I finished your story. Thanks for kicking my behind every Saturday morning in the gym and inspiring me to find the runner that I always knew was in me.

Anonymous said...

Robyn......thank you so much for posting this chronicle of your amazing achievement!!!!! You are and always will be my hero!!!!
Kelley Healy

Joede said...

You are an inspiration. You are so honest and you motivate me. I hope one day to be an ultramarathoner, although I have no idea why anyone would want to do such a thing. I wasn't prepared to need tissues..I cried when you cried..I cried as you pushed harder..yes I think I went through an entire box of tissues. I hope to meet you one day..I hope at an event. I will introduce myself as the woman stalking your blog for years and let you know that you motivated me when I couldn't!

RunFloresRun said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read the run recap. It means so much to me! By reading your comments, my mission has been completed...I strive to inspire others and it seems that I have! Happy Running!!!

Emz said...

You are an inspiration.

Because my nephew saw YOU at the gym on this very day......I am now doing the same thing on May 6th & 7th.

For the Sojourner Center in AZ. A cause I am beyond passionate about.