"What's that?" I said. "The thing in Arizona that Pam Smith and one of the fast Zachs won--where you run around a track for 24 hours?"
"No," Rob replied. "You're thinking of Desert Solstice. Across the Years is the other one in Arizona. The 6-day, 72 hour, 48-hour, or 24-hour race. It's in a park, I think. On a one-mile loop, or something close to that." Then he listed the names of people we knew from Second Wind Running Club who had done it.
"Hm," I mused. "Concrete?"
"Maybe some," he said. "But most of it's dirt or gravel."
I had only run 40 miles the entire month of October because my calf injury had been bothering me ever since Bear Chase. In fact, my calf still hurt at that moment. Clearly, Rob was not serious about this suggestion.
We arrived at the REI garage sale, and at first I felt like it was kind of a bust. Everything was broken, damaged, or missing pieces, and still way too expensive given those conditions. I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, but still, it would have been nice to stumble upon some gem, some diamond in the rough.
And then, there they were. An almost pristine pair of Hoka Stinsons in my size. The only thing that was wrong with them was a small rip on the tongue (the reason they'd been returned). These were $160 shoes on sale for $20.
I slipped them onto my feet like Cinderella. For years, I'd been categorically opposed to Hokas-- too busy staring down the brilliant dream of barefoot running. The same dream that had all but fractured my tibia and ruined my calves. These, these magical $20 Hokas--these would be the thing that saved me.
I bought the shoes, came home, and googled Across the Years. December 28th to January 3rd. Registration, it appeared, was still open for all of the different race categories.
"Were you serious about this, Rob?" I asked
"Across the Years."
"Which one of us did you think would do it?"
He shrugged again. "We could both do it. You can start the 24-hour race on any of the 6 days."
"Are you suggesting we each run a 24 hour race within a 6-day period, and trade off child care?"
"Maybe." That seemed to be his favorite word.
I looked at the website again. You could see who was signed up for the race. The most popular day to do the 24 hours was December 31-January 1. You know, across the years.
It took all the willpower in the world for me to wait until the next day to put on my $20 Hokas and run. When I did, my leg felt fine.
I would say that I didn't think any more about Across the Years, but that would be a lie.
The calf injury was one thing, but beyond that, I'd felt like I needed a rest from ultrarunning after Bear Chase. That feeling was gone now. I was ready to run, and semester break would be the perfect time for an ultra. Arizona would be the perfect place.
The thing is, Across the Years kind of fits into the long run, super secret goal I've had for a while: the Javelina 100.
I just wrote that sentence 3 times, and deleted it 3 times, and then wrote it again, but was too afraid to look at it.
Twitter friends Christina and Angela first brought up the idea of JJ100 a few months ago, but I thought it was one of those things we just talked about without really intending to do. Wrong. They're serious. About going to Fountain Hills, Arizona in October 2016. And running 100 miles. I can't quite fathom that for myself, considering what happens to my body after running just 50. But I've kind of been going along with it like yeah, sure, my calf is a wreck, we'll see.
If JJ100 is really going to happen, I need to find out if I can go farther than 50. The more I keep thinking about this, Across the Years might be my best bet to try. My other options include, what... signing up for the Never Summer 100K? I don't think so. I don't run technical terrain. And even so, waiting till next July to attempt this might be too late. Javelina just got put on the Ultra Trail World Tour, or something like that. It might fill up if I wait that long to register.
It's time to consider the long run...what do I really want out of 2016? My thoughts are all over the place, and I really need to get it sorted out. Maybe it's time to make up dream list of what I'd like to do in 2016, and then figure out what is actually feasible, considering, you know, work, life, family, and the very real possibility of injury. Here goes.
1. Across the Years: December 31, 2015- January 1, 2016.
I don't know how serious Rob was when he threw out that comment in the car, or if he is really interested in doing it himself. But we were considering not going back to Illinois for Christmas anyway this year, since we saw both of our families in August and October, and doing something on our own instead. We'd talked about going skiing, but we've discovered that would be cost prohibitive. A road trip through the southwest might be just the thing. We could take some time, camp on the way there, see some sights that would be fun for Will. And the race itself is pretty family friendly. Rob and Will could camp at the start/finish line and go to sleep while I run at night. I wouldn't really need "crew," since I'd have access to my own stuff, plus a fantastic aid station, every mile. It would take away the logistical challenge (well, aside from the big drive to Arizona) that accompanies most ultras for us. Plus, it's organized by the same people who put on Javelina 100. I'd get a feel for what their races are like as I try to figure out if this distance is possible.
2. Monument Valley: March 19, 2016
This was the one. A few months ago, I read a book (Rock with Wings) that took place in Monument Valley. I've been obsessed with this place ever since and have been scheming for a chance to go there. When I found the Monument Valley Ultras, which happen to be during Will's and my spring break, it seemed like the perfect excuse. Plus, it fits in with my theme of ultras in the southwest and would be good sand-running training for JJ100. Seriously, this race looks amazing. But there are 2 (ok maybe 3) fairly big obstacles.
- I am teaching 4 classes next semester. This is huge. I taught 1 class last spring, and it almost killed me. I didn't have time for anything, much less train for a 50-miler. An ultra might be biting off way more than I can chew.
- I don't know what the terrain is like on this course, but it sounds more technical than what I am capable of. For instance, it contains a mile-long 28% grade "hill" that you traverse in both directions (up and down). And it's rocky. This could be a deal breaker.
- A possible work around of this situation is to run the half marathon they offer instead of the ultra. The half doesn't involve the 28% grade, but it would still give us an excuse to take a spring break trip to Monument Valley, and I could check out the rest of the course for future reference.
3. Horsetooth Half: April 17, 2016
I mean, it's kind of my thing. I love road half marathons. I love, love, LOVE this course. Okay, granted, I do think that running this last year was what caused me to have an injury for the entire month of May. But Gnar Runners is going to be directing it in 2016, and it is going to be great. Rob might want to run it too, though, and we can't both do it (re: childcare). If I'm taking up all these other races (see above and below), I might have to give him this one.
4. North Fork 50: June 4, 2016
This is the thing that doesn't make any sense. It is a mountain 50-miler that is totally out of my league and certainly doesn't fit into this long term goal of Javelina 100. But what it's got going for it is than it falls at a time of year (just after classes end) when I think it would be good to run an ultra, and it is close to home. And when we visited the area last weekend, I fell in love with the course, and even beyond that, with the idea that I might actually be tough enough to run this.
5. Howl at the Moon: August 13, 2016
We could make up for not visiting our families over Christmas with an annual pilgrimage "home" for Howl. Provided that we could actually get in the race. It seems like it will be pretty tough to secure a spot this here. But if I do... it would be great heat training for Javelina. And 14 laps, you're mine.
6. Tommyknockers 105K? Or Bear Chase again? Sometime in September
Tommyknockers intrigues me (it's in the same area as North Fork), although I'm not 100% sure that it's happening again in 2016. It's hilly, and double track. DOUBLE TRACK. Why aren't more trail races double track? I love double track. It would come at a good time for a long training run before Javelina. But so would Bear Chase, which is a race I know very well by now. The concern I have with Bear Chase, though, is that because I know it so well, I would go and try to run it "fast," and get injured.
7. Javelina 100: October 29th-30th, 2016
Arizona desert. Cacti. Crazy people with tattoos. Costumes. Rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Second sunrise. Jamil Coury's hair.
There's nothing about this race that I don't love. But I would have to have Rob and Will come with me, because I'm not driving myself to Phoenix, running 100 miles, vomiting for several hours (or days), and then driving myself back home. This would involve pulling Will out of school for probably 3 days. But we all know how I feel about the education system and how valuable the teach-to-the-test and common core curriculum is. Screw it. Angela said it would be okay pull him out. He'd learn a lot more watching his mother run a hundred miles in the desert than he would sitting in a desk being told what to think.
Let's do this.