“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, February 22, 2011

24 Hour Treadmill Relay Recap




Four Women, One Cause.
February 16-17, 2011

Wednesday morning started with my son, Dallas, up and at 'em at around 4:30am. So much for a few extra hours of sleep! After getting up and walking around a bit, I was jazzed and ready for the day...and the 24 hour treadmill relay that would start at 8pm that evening!

At 8:00am or so, I received a text from Kelsey, our dear crew chief. She informed me that it would be an interesting 24 hours because she just got her period. I instinctively laughed and thought, That sucks! Madame Karma reared her ugly head and got me good at around 9...my dear Aunt Ruby had arrived as well. THAT SUCKS.

Wednesday flew by in a blur of running errands and cooking food for the night and following day. Red quinoa with cranberries, OJ and almonds, polenta with tomatoes and peppers; bagels, some protein bars, black bean and lentil soup, garbanzo beans with spinach, avocado, and hummus, baked sweet potatoes, bananas with peanut butter. That was the menu for the 24 hours ahead.

I dropped off my bag at the gym where the team was meeting to drive down to the Jobing.com Arena and headed over to watch my kids play at the pizza joint near the gym. All the kids screaming and lights flashing was making me feel out of whack and out of focus, so I gave and received many hugs and kisses from the kiddos and my mom, who graciously flew in to watch them as David was out of town, and ran down to the gym.

I met up with Kelsey, Clarissa, and Jill and started to pack up Jill's car (they had LUGGAGE....we are talking rolley-suitcases!!!). Amy followed us down to the arena. Sarah was not too far behind as well. The mood in the backseat, where Kelsey and Clarissa were seated, was upbeat and giggly. I could tell Jill was concentrating on something as she drove. The sunset was amazing and I wish I had had a camera at that moment.

We arrived at the Arena and Matt Audibert, representative of the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team, met us at the door. He was in jeans and a sweatshirt and had a bag of what looked like running gear! But, I was wrong. I asked him if he was ready to run ten miles on the pacing treadmill and he told me about hurting his hip....hmmmmmmm...

The ladies lugged in all of their bags, blankets, and coolers and I held the door. Sarah arrived about ten minutes late in her own car. She wasn't feeling well and her daughter, Kylie, was running a fever so she needed to be able to leave - just in case. We walked in and saw the treadmills set up, ready to go. I walked in front to take a look at our view and this is what I saw:


Needless to say, it was amazing. Cold...but amazing....and cold.  Brrrrrr....

We set up "camp" and Donna Bartos (president of the Purple Ribbon Council) arrived with her three precious kids. I played tag with them for a bit (I needed to stay warm!).At 7:59pm, Matt had his clock out and ready to start us off at 8:00pm, sharp! We decided that Sarah should run first so she could go home and rest...her eyes were dilated and she was feeling feverish, even in the ridiculously cold arena. Sarah stepped onto the treadmill, Clarissa right by her side, and at 8:00pm, on the dot, the relentless running began! Our cheering echoed across the arena. The 24 hour relay, a first of it's kind, had started off with a bang!

After running 6.25 miles, Sarah got off the treadmill and Jill hopped on. Jill, in her fluorescent yellow tank top (resembling reflective tape!), was all smiles as we put "Anchorman" on the TV for her. Clarissa kept up her jogging and was at about 4.85 miles and going strong. Previously, her personal distance record was 3.1 miles...and that was a week before this run.

Jill's husband, Chad, and her sweet kids, Jack, Will, and Libby all came to cheer for her. Dave Wilson was our volunteer paramedic...THANKS, DAVE! Jill's brother, Ben, also came to support her and he stayed until she reached her own personal distance record of 20 miles!!!!!!! Before that night, Jill had run up to 16 miles on the treadmill at the gym. We both agreed that this was definitely more fun...running in "perfect" running conditions with the cooler air temps and not looking at the same ol', same ol' view at the gym.

Clarissa gave us all a scare at her 7 mile mark...she started motioning me over to her and asked for her inhaler...I hurriedly went through her purse looking for it as someone else grabbed the
nebulizer and plugged it in. Two puffs and she kept on going. She made it to 10.85 miles, more than tripling her own personal distance record. She got off the treadmill and was very emotional and had to have her inhaler again. After almost forcing her to eat (she gave in and had my black bean and lentil soup) she took a nap. Amy, under her electric blanket, and Matt were playing Rummy and talking about Coyotes...and mules, and quite possibly anything in between. I read a book for a bit and chatted with Mike before he went and got into his huge camping sleeping bag, which was apparently "too hot" for him. HA!

After "Anchorman", we watched "Inception", this is when I could see Jill getting into her zone. It was hard to figure out if we should ask her if she needed something or if we should just leave her alone. I gave her a thumbs up every once in a while and as long as she gave me a thumbs up in return, I knew her universe was in balance. I was glad her brother was there to stand by her side and even walk by her side for a bit. Another hour gone and she finished those twenty miles like it was a walk in the park!

Amy Craft was ready to run next! We put "Dumb and Dumber" on the TV and she zoned into her music. She had a solid pace of 7.0+ for quite a while. I had to remind her of what she told me a month or so ago: "I don't know if I can go 6.5mph, it seems so slow!" After hours and hours of running, sometimes the "slow" becomes the "fast"...our perceptions change. She had her "game face" on and she was focused. When I first saw Amy, I thought she was tough and extremely unapproachable (honest truth, Amy...sorry. Ha!). But, like the old cliche states: never judge a book by its cover. She is a very easy going and fun person. When she smiles, you cannot help but smile back. That night, err, morning, she held a hell of a solidly quick pace. Once she got off the treadmill, it was off to change into comfy clothes and get under her warm heated blanket (which, at some point, I stepped on and disconnected the plug...ooops).


After Amy's run, I hopped on the treadmill at approximately 4:00am. I was already stiff from sitting around in the cold air of the arena and being awake for (thirty minutes shy of) 24 hours. I started out running with my Brooks Green Silence running shoes. They are super light-weight and (usually) feel great. I brought my Vibram FiveFingers and Crocs as well so I could switch out shoes if I had a "long haul". After running for only about 30 minutes, I had to get off and go to the bathroom (damn you, Aunt Ruby). Amy hopped back on while I was gone. I have a broken pinkie toe due to an earlier training run this year, and it decided to scream in agony and remind me that it was there.  So, I took the Brooks and Drymax socks off and put them on the spare treadmill near where our paramedic, Dave Wilson, and Jill were napping in their sleeping bags. I put my FiveFingers on along with my favorite shirt from No Meat Athlete and got back on the treadmill.

At this point (and I have no way of telling you what time it was) I felt like I was running on a cloud, well, at least my feet did. My broken-ish toe felt great and supported in the FiveFingers, and I adjusted to my own biomechanically correct running form.  At one point I remember someone asking me if my feet ever even hit the treadmill belt. Well, yeah....duh! I remember my good friend, Marta, telling me that I run lightly, like a boxer.


After a few (or more than a few) more bathroom breaks, and - luckily - some baby powder that Brianna brought (thanks Brianna!) I stopped running at around 8:20ish. I was chafed in areas that I didn't even know existed on my body.

Sarah was back. She was rested and ready to go. She looked like a totally different person. We were all a little (just a little) envious of the sleep she had that night. We are all thankful that she came back too. The realization hit us that if Sarah didn't come back, we would have to carry this thing through to the end as a three person team. After each one of us completed our "long" run, the thought of doing it again was not so appealing to us. So, thankfully, Amy, Jill, and I all had a break to enjoy together. It was at this point that a real (and reasonable) strategy came into place. Each one of us would run for an hour then switch. Brilliant. Why didn't we think of this before? Ah...because the novelty was there earlier on in the 24 hours, once Sarah arrived and started running, giving us a break, the death of the novelty had set in.

Sarah ran for more than an hour. Clarissa had jumped back on and started running with Sarah. During that 24 hour period, she had 3 asthma attacks (the first one due to getting upset that the belt stopped when she accidentally hit it with her hand; the second one after she ran the 10.85 miles and she was overwhelmed with the feeling of such an accomplishment; and the third during her last few miles in which Dave put her on oxygen and told her to call it a night!). Clarissa's strong mind and determination is so strong, her body cannot keep up! She ran a total of 18.3 miles...six times more than her previous PR from one week earlier. She is living proof that one can run, even with severe asthma.

I can't be sure of exactly how long Sarah ran, but she ran strong. I do know that the rotation became Jill, Amy, Sarah, then myself.

At about 2:00pm (18 hours into the run and 33.5 hours of my own awakeness), the "funny-delirious" stuff started to happen. The run was being "skyped" (is that a verb now?) and I was performing for the audience as was everyone else. The delirium had started to rear it's ugly head which makes me laugh at extremely inappropriate times and makes me more "preachy" with my opinions. Some of the people around me were either laughing with me, or taking things personally (which, I covered my butt by making a blanket "apology" before the run - just in case things got ugly!). Here are some highlights from the streamed footage (just scroll down from the black screen).

I truly believe I was in a mental fog at this point. The conversations and things that occurred from late afternoon are blurred together: Phoenix Coyotes practice skate; Atlanta Thrashers practice skate; some guy checking the ice; some people randomly sitting in the stands; high school hockey players running bleachers; Amanda asking me if I could sub her class the next morning ("yes, of course!"); high school hockey game; guys checking the ice again and the ice temperature; re-playing Chris Farley's El Nino skit over and over and over in my head; Interview with Phoenix Coyotes website rep; Donna and her kiddoes coming back to visit and set up for the game; Jill making fun of my stinky Brooks shoes as she finally realized that THAT is where the smell was coming from; Amanda asking me again if I could sub her Friday morning class ("YES!"); talking about food; many more bathroom breaks with baby powder; Brianna running 15 miles non-stop and then, me, walking with her around the arena and chatting about random stuff; helping Brianna stretch her hamstrings; getting a lower leg massage from Clarissa and her 5-in-1 massage oil (OMG); realizing that I forgot my rolling pin (dammit!); Matt Audibert frantically making sure that our crap was all cleaned up and put away nicely; some other guy checking in on us every hour or so (I still have no idea who that guy was!); the National Anthem being rehearsed (cringe, pray, applaud).

Then, all of a sudden, people started to come in and get settled in their seats for the game. It was 7pm, game time, and Sarah was running, and running strong. I finally got to see the famous "Jamie Behrens Run" (someone please post a video of her running!). She had a bottle of Dr Pepper and was so excited to be running with Sarah. Sarah finished over 27 miles total, beating her personal record and I think Jamie actually beat her own personal record too that night...she ran over 4 miles at the end! The music was blaring and the lights were shining all over the place. I remember getting super stoked and annoyingly over-excited that there was a blimp dropping coupons into the crowd (and the excitement died when I realized that the blimp was dropping coupons to the lower level seats - I thought Come on, really? Drop those coupons in the nosebleed section for crying out loud!!!) As I got onto the treadmill, AC/DC was booming though the arena and I was fueled with the 32nd wind of the day. As I started to run, I watched people walk by and asked what was going on. I saw dollars being donated, and eyebrows raising as the true nature of this spectacle was revealed. One woman got on the treadmill and wanted to run because she said that she ate a big dinner. Matt was all over it...in a charming (and super nervous) manner, her that it was a liability. She then proceeded to tell us that she had fallen off of a treadmill a few month back. Ouch.

As I turned up the speed to 7.2mph, I looked in front of me and I immediately recognized my sweet Shelleigh. She stood there in the glowing lights with her family and we immediately connected. I got goosebumps. Here, right in front of me, was someone who knew the true reason behind it all. The music was so loud, I couldn't hear what anyone was saying, but I could read what she said, "Thank you". It all became even more real for me. I set my pace at 7.4 mph for a good 10 minutes then put myself back between 7.0 and 7.3mph for the remainder of my run.

A check was granted to the Purple Ribbon Council. The PSA that was filmed a few weeks prior was debuted on the Jumbotron for all to see and become AWARE of what was going on in the Bud Light Chill Zone that night.

In the last few minutes, I slowed my pace and Jill got on the treadmill with me and started to jog. Amy and Sarah got on the treadmill next to us and started to run. 4 people, 2 treadmills, after almost 24 hours of running and no sleep...you do the math. Jill stepped on my heels a few times so I had her get in front of me. Matt came over with his official clock and we counted down from one minute, then from 30 seconds, then from 10 seconds. Then, just like that, the run was over.


Kelsey announced that we had completed 139.3 miles collectively in the span of 24 hours. We are the first 4 woman treadmill relay to accomplish this feat. Ever.

I had my emotional release (finally) as I gave Jill, Amy, and Sarah hugs. Some pictures were taken (and my purple Hope shirt was in my bag! Ugh!). I got my celebratory (and muchly anticipated) hugs from Donna and Shelleigh along with many, many other women who stood by and watched four ordinary women challenging themselves in honor of an extraordinary cause. Hearing the softly whispered "Thank You"s as I hugged them was my reward for it all. I am sure I can speak for all the runners and crew when I say that every moment was worth it and it will be something that we will cherish in our hearts forever.

As I finish this recap, almost a whole month after the run itself, I had experienced such a close bond with the people that shared those 24 hours with me. The day after the run, I called Jill in the morning...I had such a strong urge to just hear her voice, and Sarah's, and Amy's, and everyone else that was there with us. What we all endured, no one will understand no matter how many times they may read a recap or hear the story. The main thing is that people become aware of WHY we all endured: Knowing that there are many people in our country, our city, maybe even our own neighborhood, who endure so much worse and are afraid to tell their story in fear for their lives. I hope this experience of the Purple Crewsaders gives hope to those who feel they cannot endure another day...another 24 hours. Those same people are the ones who inspired us.

-Robyn



1 comment:

michael said...

Great story - thanks!! (And congrats!)