I just wanted to report on the great time I had attending the Silverton 1000 races (they ended a couple weeks ago on Labor Day.) Stop now if you’re not interested in a blow-by-blow account of six days of slogging and running around! VERY long report ahead. 😉
First off, some background. Back in 1809 a Captain Barclay, a “pedestrian” near London, did an event where he walked/ran 1000 miles in 1000 hours, at a track north of London. Specifically, he did exactly one mile each and every hour for 1000 straight hours (just short of 42 days.) Betting was heavy (to the tune of $US 8 million in today’s dollars), but he came through in fine shape, having figured out how to survive on at most about an hour and forty minutes of sleep at a time (run a mile in 10 minutes, say, then sleep for 1:40, then run another mile and finish just before the second hour is up.)
Rodger Wrublik (Across The Years former host, now living in Silverton, CO full-time) decided a couple years ago to see if he could recreate that event, though Rodger loves to make things harder, so he a) did it in Silverton, at 9300+ feet elevation, b) did it on a 1-mile loop, and c) put a 250′ gravel and dirt hill in the first 500 meters of the loop. The hill goes up to the top of the Kendall Mountain ski lift, then onto a single-track trail he and Jamil Coury cut through some woods and across the ski hill. You lose all of the 250′ you gained over the next 500 meters or so, and then do a basically flat last 500-600 meters. Each lap begins and ends inside the ATY 60’x100′ tent from Nardini Manor (those of you that’ve been there know exactly what it looks like), which works really well. The aid station is also inside the tent, along with separate spaces and tables for each runner, and the timing tent.
Rodger and Jamil Coury put on the event last year, and Jamil’s brother Nick was there to co-RD this year as well. There are several individual events within the overall “Silverton 1000” name. First, there is the 1000-mile Challenge. Nobody tried it last year, so Rodger upped the difficulty this year. You cannot miss any hours (like the original challenge from 1809), but you must complete 350 miles in the first six days, 350 in the second six days, and 300 in the last six day. You don’t need to both start and end a mile within an hour–you just need to end one (so you can start the previous hour if you want.) $5000 to the first person to finish it. Then there is the 1000-mile run. Same rules but you don’t need to finish a mile every hour. Then there are the events mere humans can actually do–the six-day, 72-hour, 48-hour and 24-hour. All finish at 9:00 a.m. Labor Day morning (unless you’re in the 1000-mile events, in which case that’s the end of your first six days, with 12 more to go, basically by yourself.)
Of the nine people entered in the six day (12 more in the 72, another half dozen in the 48 and a couple in the 24), four were legitimately considering going for the 1000-mile challenge: John Geesler (multi-day specialist and many-time U.S. national 24-hour team member), Rodger, Ed Ettinghausen (holds the WR for most marathons in a year with 135) and Jean-Jacques d’Aquin (at least I think he was.)
I was there both to do the race webcast and to participate in the six-day part of the event. Since I had only a single 100-mile finish to my credit (my first attempt at 100 in Leadville in 1988), and because I can’t do a regular 100 any more (damaged kidneys from a bone-marrow transplant in 2000 make it too dangerous to attempt 100 all in one go), I wanted to try for 100 in five days, 20 per day, with a sixth day if I had problems.
Day 1 (Aug 30):
The first day was interesting, as John and local Cody Bradford (who’d never gone more than 24 miles in a single run) went out pretty hard. Cody led for almost the entire first day, though was passed by John sometime during the night. Cody hung on, but ultimately had a bunch of problems with his knees, making going downhill really hard. He ended up stopping with 150. John was over 80 miles (?) the first 24, and looking good for the Challenge (you need to maintain almost 60 miles per day for the first two six-day periods.) Cody’s wife Ivy was also running, though only part time, as she had to deal with their kids after school and in the evenings. She’d said she was only there to support Cody, but ended up getting 100 miles in 3 short days, running all the downhills and flats and passing virtually everybody a bunch of times. There was a middle pack of 3 (Ed Ettinghausen, running around in a court-jester costume and hat, after having just completed the Run-de-Vous in San Jose, CA a couple weeks earlier, Jean-Jacques d’Aquin, at 72 the oldest person in the event, and Elroy Whitworth. All would end up over 200 miles for the six days.) Host/RD Rodger was also seriously trying for the 1000-mile challenge, and not far behind John and Cody after day 1.
For myself, coming from sea-level to altitude was difficult. I could breathe fine on the flats and downhills, but was pushing a bit too hard walking the uphills, meaning I spent a lot of time stopped, bent over and breathing hard. This got easier as the days went on, but never really completely cleared. I also have bad problems with nerves in the balls of my feet (anything over about 20 miles will lead to a pins-and-needles feeling, which just gets worse until I can’t walk anymore.) Amazingly, a set of $15 metatarsal pads from Zombie Runner that I got on a whim just before leaving the Bay Area, somehow worked perfectly and kept my feet feeling good the whole six days. It was a miracle–the first race my feet were basically pain-free in probably 25 years.
Day 1 total: 20 miles by 10 p.m., then back to the Wyman Hotel for a night’s sleep before coming out for day 2. I believe Ed Ettinghausen overslept at one point this night, so his 1000-mile challenge was over.
Day 2 (Aug 31):
I came out at 8:30 to get in a lap before the official day 2 start (various people mentioned, and I found it to be true, that it’s really great going around early in the morning, from about 6:00 to 9:00, because it’s cool/chilly, you don’t feel any pain, you’re not sweating, and you can rack up a bunch of laps before things warm up. The second day was even more fun than the first. All the front-runners kept lapping me as they passed 100 miles, the weather was warm (except for the 15-minute afternoon thundershower around 3 p.m.) and everybody settled into just going around.
The course is quite a bit different depending on which way you’re going (we switched every six hours). The clockwise direction starts with a gravel hill that progressively gets steeper as you go up, and is pretty continuous except for a couple quick flats, all the way up to the top. Once you arrive it’s downhill, then a couple very quick, steep drops of 15 feet or so, followed by a ‘Z’ section of single-track through some woods for 100 yards or so before you emerge to even more steep downhill. Once you get to the open section you’re on the ski hill proper, where it just rolls for another 100 yards or so before another quick 15-foot drop to the flat section. Then it’s flat or rolling slightly back to the start/finish tent. Going around counter-clockwise you get a nice flat section early, then the uphills start, but it’s more “quick up, then a little easier, then another quick up, then through the Z’s where it’s really steep, then the last two steep ups before the last slog to the top. The downhill is really nice this direction as it’s all gravel and you can really zoom down it, as long as you’re careful not to kick anything and faceplant. 😉
Day 2 total: 19 miles (40 total) by 9:30 p.m., back to the hotel for the night.
Day 3 (Sept 1)
I was out at 7:00 to get in some early laps with John Geesler (now around 130 miles), and managed to get to 45 before the 9:00 start. Unfortunately for John, a check of the lap-timing computer revealed that he had not crossed the mat between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, so his year+ training for the 1000-mile challenge was in vain. It turned out, after John thought about it a while, that he’d finished a lap between 1:00 and 2:00, then taken a rest. He then did a lap, finishing at 3:00:12. By the race rules, if you finished the lap before 1 minute after the hour you could count it for the previous hour, so he had his lap for 2:00 to 3:00. He then did another lap, and stopped at his table, just in front of the finish line timing mat. He took a short break, then went out again and did another lap. Unfortunately, he forgot to go over the timing mat to complete the lap he’d done just before his short break! His next lap didn’t finish until a bit after 4:00, so he was missing a lap for 3:00-4:00 and his challenge attempt was over. I felt really bad for John, given how long he’d been getting ready for the event. Rather than continue for the rest of the six days, he decided to stay around and help for a couple days before catching a flight back to NY, then preparing for the North Coast 24 Hour (held yesterday and today in Ohio.) It felt weird having John helping out rather than running, but he was great–he even went out to rake the course and fix a few rocks that were really in annoying spots. With John out of the challenge that left only Rodger, somewhere around 170 miles.
Day 3 total: 18 miles (63 total) before stopping at 9 p.m. for the night (I found I needed a LOT more sleep than usual–not surprising given my total lack of specific training for the event. 😉
Day 4 (Sept 2)
Up at 6:30 to get in five more laps before the 9:00 start for the day (68 total). I could see that getting to 100 was pretty much a foregone conclusion, as long as I didn’t injure myself. It was fun to see the 72-hour folks starting, especially the group from Hawaii. They had lots of energy and were doing really well all day. The leaders in the six-day were now most all over 100 miles and pushing for 200. I was just excited to get as close to 100 as possible before quitting at 9:00 or so, and had a good day. This was the first day without an afternoon thundershower (they usually lasted about 15 minutes.) Rodger passed 200 miles and headed for 300.
Day 4 total: 20 miles (88 total) before stopping at 9:30 p.m. for the night.
Day 5 (Sept 3)
Up again at 6:30 to get in six laps before the 9:00 start for the 48-hour folks. 94 total, so the 100 was in the bag. Everybody that knew that I’d only done 100 once was being really encouraging. I asked Rodger’s 10-year-old son Gavin (who’d done his own 100 last year in six days) to go around with me on my 100-mile lap. I’d done the same with him last year (though he didn’t remember 😉 and it meant a lot to me to have him there. We came around just after noon, and it was nice to finally have it done. Rodger and Gavin were at the finish to cheer for me at the end, which was great! I then decided to take a two-hour break and basically had no real ambition the rest of the day, having accomplished what I was really there for.
Day 5 total: 11 miles (105 total)
Day 6 (Sept 4)
This was the last full day of the race, and there seemed to be a lot of energy going around. I decided that it might be nice, if I had a good day, to see if I could tie John Geesler’s 133 miles overall. I have tremendous respect for John, and I felt really bad that his Challenge attempt had ended early because of a minor mistake on his part. I didn’t want to pass John, since he’d gotten his 133 in two days, but thought a tie would be nice. One of last year’s entrants, Bob Combs, had recently moved with his famly from Ohio to Colorado and showed up with his wife Molly and 11-year-old son Shames (say “Shamus”) to just have some fun. Molly, with no training specifically for the event, had done 12 miles the first day and wanted another 5-8 to make an even 20. Several of us happened to go up the long hill at the same time, with me trying to set a pace where I didn’t have to stop to bend over to breathe all the way up (it wastes way too much time doing that.) Everybody else except Molly pushed ahead, and it turned out she and I had exactly the same pace. We ended up going around together the entire day. One truly funny part was her “battle” with Shames. He’d done 26 miles and stopped late in the day. The two of us just kept going around, making pretty good time on the laps and not wasting much in the aid station. She’d gotten to 24 miles and we were deciding if it was fair to try to sneak by Shames mileage and get 27 or 28. We finally decided to see what would happen if we didn’t tell him. Bob, however, had other ideas, and mentioned “hey, Shames, look at that–your mom has passed you!” when we came in after lap 27. You could just see the gears turning in Shames’ head as he looked at the scoreboard, projected on the tent roof. He was trying to figure out when he could sneak out at night from their van and put in more laps to pass his mom back. Little did he know, however, that Molly and I had already agreed to put in another five laps on the final morning, just to get as much as we could. She finished the day at 8:00 with 31 laps, having done 18 with me. Much better than 5-8!
Day 6 total: 23 miles (128 total) I quit at 8:30 as I only wanted five more laps to finish tied with John
Day 7 (Sept 5)
The race was over at 9:00 a.m., so various of us were out early, trying to get in as many laps as possible. Molly and I did our five, finishing about 8:30. Rodger, battling ankle issues for the last day, finished with 311, so his challenge was officially over, too. He was the only person to go the entire six days without missing an hour. Ed Ettinghausen, dealing with high-altitude shortness of breath for a couple days, managed 251 for second place. I’d hate to see what he could have done if the breathing issues weren’t there! 72-year-old Jean-Jacques d’Aquin went 233 for third and Elroy Whitworth got over 200 for fourth.
Some of the best parts of the race were actually after it was done. Everybody that had been going around, from the six-day folks down to the 24-hour ones, had been really helpful and encouraging to all the runners during the entire event. After 9:00 everybody pitched in to help take down the various inside tents and other equipment before having breakfast and the awards ceremony (last year it took a few of us several hours to do what got done in about 20 minutes.) There was definitely a small-town, “family” feel to the race that I *really* enjoyed, and Rodger told me that’s one of the things he really wants for the race as it goes forward. He wants it to grow, and for somebody to finally come along and actually complete the 1000-mile challenge (it certainly looks doable, though not easy, given how well he did the first six days.) During the awards, Rodger was even nice enough that when it was announced that he was the six-day winner, he actually declined the award (a small ore cart made by a local artist with some fool’s-gold rocks in it.) As he said, “a race director shouldn’t win his own race!” and promptly gave the award to Ed Ettinghausen, who’d finished second. What a guy!
I used to say that Across The Years was my favorite race (also, probably not coincidentally, put on by Rodger, among others.) While I still really enjoy it, I think this one, hard though it is, will now get that spot. It’s got all you could want–challenge, GREAT scenery, wonderful people both running and helping out, the small-town feel, and one of those “this is all there is in the world” feelings for six days. If you get a chance to come next Labor Day, take it. You won’t regret it, whether you try for 1000 miles or do just a single day. Rodger and the Coury boys have really created a winner here.