Posts Tagged ‘Michael Saporito’

Across the Years – Glendale, Arizona – December 29-30, 2012

January 1, 2013

A little over a year ago Eric Sherman (why do I listen to this guy?) told me about this 24 – hour race in Arizona named “Across the Years” which of course immediately got me to the race website to learn all about this idea of covering as many miles as possible in 24 hours. Of course there are also 48 and 72 hour (and 6 day coming in 2013) options on the dance card – Eric and I were satisfied to enter the “kid’s race.” We pulled the trigger very early on this one – we were entered and had our travel itinerary set by mid February.

Author and Eric Sherman a couple of minutes before the start of 2012 Across the Years

Author and Eric Sherman a couple of minutes before the start of 2012 Across the Years


A few notes on traveling for races. You will need to bring a lot of things, particularly if the race is an ultra and you have to be concerned about a wide range of temperatures. With this in mind, flying with free checked bags is nice…we did this via frequent flyer miles on American, but Southwest and JetBlue are also options, you can easily spend a couple of hundred extra dollars on baggage fees these days. My rugged New England mindset did not respect the race temperature enough, I really wished I had packed warmer clothes for the night – there will be more on this later. One big piece of advice – make sure the hot water works in your hotel. We had lukewarm water the first night and I complained – when we got back from the race we had cold water. We ended up waiting three extra hours to hit the showers when we got to our much nicer hotel near the airport. All in all the traveling, especially considering it is winter and a major holiday week went very well – in fact, I am creating this article at 35,000 feet on our final leg home, and we are going to land early.


I was very comfortable during the daylight hours with a start temp of around 40 and midday in the upper 50s. The first eight or so hours my TARC t-shirt was great (yes, I wore shorts too) – I wore sleeves and gloves for the first lap and after that was comfortable until about 8 PM when I added a long sleeve shirt. Later in the evening I switched to long pants with shorts over them, three shirts, winter hat (first one, then two) then for awhile even a fleece jacket. The temps would have been a minor issue if I were running and not walking, but it was slow going and it got cold even for me. Interestingly, after the blister repair, and getting going again I actually warmed up quite a bit again and aced the jacket and gloves. The bigger clothing and need for warmth issues were tied into a lengthy stay in the medical tent that I will describe below.


We got into Phoenix around 9 PM and other than waiting way too long for our rental car things moved smoothly and we were to the hotel around 11 PM. We were able to pick up our numbers, race pack and select our tent the afternoon before the race, this is a great help to the terminally nervous. With our early check in we had a tent location that was right on the course. The Aravaipa running club is cut from the same cloth as TARC and GAC (and the ultrarunning community in general) – these people know what they are doing. Can you imagine a one mile loop that has port-a-johns in four locations, not to mention a heated inside restroom about 50 feet off the course as well? Incredible food tent and a great medical aid station where Sue and Todd worked on my late night/early morning blisters. Oh, did I mention there was even a second water station at the half way point? Even if you were walking slowly you were never more than 4-5 minutes from a toilet and 12-15 minutes from water – incredible.

We stocked up on supplies- small cooler, snacks, lawn chair, table, etc., for our tent area and did very little else all day. With a little too much time on our hands we went for about a 50 mile ride up I-17 into the mountains. When we got out to look around I noticed Eric and I share the same disease – we cannot survey beautiful terrain without evaluating it for its trail running possibilities.

An early dinner at a local Mexican place (my normal pre-race meal is sushi, but that scared me in a new city 400 miles from the ocean so I went with some not too spicy shrimp tacos) had us back to the hotel and resting by about 7 or 8 PM. We set the alarm clock and two smartphones for a 5:15 AM wake up. Seeing that we were already packed and checked in, and that we knew where we were going we did not feel the need to get there much earlier than 6:30 or 7 for the 9 AM start.


Nick Khoury, the very thorough race director (and brothers Nathan and Jamil) gave the pre-race briefing at 8:50 and the race started promptly at 9. The course is very flat, with perhaps 10-15 feet of gain per loop. The course is over 90 % dirt with small paved and  short concrete sections. The direction of travel is changed seamlessly every four hours. Although I looked at this as trail race it really plays out much more like run on pavement – the desert dirt is hard packed and you feel it much more than New England trails.

Because it handles like asphalt and it is flat it is very difficult to run as slow as you know you should as much as you drill into yourself to slow down. I ran at the first 11 miles with Eric and we were clicking them off at around a 10:20 pace which was not sustainable for 24 hours. In an attempt to slow it down I decided to walk a half mile after the “fives” and a full mile after the “tens.” This was a brilliant plan but it was not enough – I should have gone in with a better walk/run plan – you need to remember constantly just how long you are going to be out the and just what is sustainable.

As the early miles moved on I kept the pattern up and was doing OK but I was having foot and ankle issues but the 10 mile mark which maybe attributable to never running long on pavement. I was also way too impressed with my early splits. A gigantic red warning flag should have hit me in the head when I beat my 50k time from Pisgah. That is all great, but I had 17.5 hours to go!

Sometime around when I passed the marathon mark I switched to a plan where I had broken the course into six short segments – of those six I walked three and ran three – I did that up until about mile 35 and then I was just feeling like I was going just as fast walking and I was able to maintain that. I told myself I would walk exclusively for the third four hour segment (5 PM – 9 PM) and I was able to do that, and for even a couple of more hours – see “THE ISSUES” segment next.

Self portrait - about 9 hours into Across the Years

Self portrait – about 9 hours into Across the Years


After getting to about 47 miles I decided I needed to get my left foot looked at. At the 8 hour mark I switched out of my New Balance trail shoes into some newer ASICS road shoes – lots of new cushioning and I like them. Problem is I had never worn them for a real long stretch – more of a shoe I wear on a short run in the neighborhood or on the treadmill. They were good for awhile and then I felt a blister forming in the middle of my forefoot – the shoe was probably too constricting. After running thru it for a while (it was not a major annoyance) I stopped at the medical tent and got a quick patch from the EMT Sue – was probably in and out in 5 minutes. An hour or so later I felt the exact same issue on the right foot – this pretty much proved to me it was the shoes. This time things would not go so smoothly. I finished a lap that put me just over 49 miles and entered the medical tent. Sue was still there but this time I was number three on her list and I was in the tent for over a half an hour. The tent was heated and I took a load off. By the time I was repaired and ready to go I was as stiff as a board and got cold immediately upon returning to the trail. Within 100 yards out I was approaching hypothermia. I was shivering, teeth chattering and was having trouble walking straight. I pushed on and finished the lap – I was over 50 miles.

At this point I thought I was done. I went to the food tent and got some hot chocolate and hot noodle soup and I went to the tent and put long pants on, two more shirts and a fleece jacket and two hats. I actually lied down on the cot and tried to sleep – I doubt I was there for 15 minutes. I got up and went to the warming tent and stayed there for a long time. Some how or another, around 12:30 AM I decided that I was going to get up and try again. It took me 10-15 minutes to get going but somehow I did and I managed to go pretty steadily (and slowly) until 5:07 AM when once again cold and tired, I thought I was done for the night.

At this point it did not help that Eric was in the same boat. We were both in the warming tent with blister issues and cold and tired issues. We actually lied down on cold concrete – dozing off for perhaps 5 minutes. It was only marginally warmer in the tent, and the way some folks stood right in front of the heater it really did not heat the entire tent area. At daylight, for some reason I just decided to walk a lap. I knew I needed one lap to cross 60 miles and another lap to get within steps of 100km. I started to walk and another runner/walker (Kimberly Miller) was walking and talking with me. The daylight, conversation, seeing others in the same shape or worse etc. motivated me. I got the two laps between 7:30 and 8:30 and I called it a race. Not what I had hoped for, but an epic experience and I am very pleased with my ability to adapt, adjust and get moving again.


I managed to keep a note pad on our table so I could make quick notes occasionally. One of the smarter things about this was recording the times that I took Advil because as the evening wore on I never would have had the wherewithal to remember things like that!

As for some race numbers that I managed to jot down…

10 miles – 1:45

15 miles – 2:49

20 miles – 3:48

25 miles – 4:59

26.2 miles –  5:15

30 miles – 6:12

50k – 6:28 (faster than Pisgah 50k – how stupid was that?)

40 miles – 9:34

47.25 miles – 12:08

49.3 miles – 13:23 (10:23 PM) (this is where I stopped for medical help and fell apart for awhile)

15:42 (12:42 AM) I forced myself to move again

59.84 miles – 20:07 (stopped again, dead and cold)

7:30 AM somehow got the urge to go again and eeked out two laps to get just under 62 miles/100km in 23:30 with 3-4 hours of down time and I was done.

…and I took three Advil at 11 AM, 4:35 PM, 9:35 PM and 2:35 AM!


  • I entered and challenged myself.
  • I set a pace to start that gave me a chance at my goals of between 80 and 100 miles – I knew I would have no chance if did not have over 45-50 at the halfway point (for 80 miles) or if I did not have 55-60 miles at 12 hours (for 100 miles.)
  • Nutrition – I ate enough to never bonk – I managed this well – no serious nausea, no hunger.
  • Hydration – A little tough during the afternoon as it was warmer and I was going faster – but I drank all day – probably in the 20 ounce per hour range – even after it cooled off at night.
  • Electrolytes – took one S-Cap per hour – when I noticed a slight twinge in my hamstring during the heat of the afternoon I moved up to 2 caps per hour for 2-3 hours – I stayed ahead of the cramping curve.
  • Getting back up after a disastrous stretch around 11 PM -12:30 AM – I was mentally convinced I was thru, but I got up and managed around 11 miles between 12:45 AM and 5:07 AM. It was not pretty – but I did it.
  • Again – getting back up again after stopping at the food and warming tent at 5 AM. Totally convinced I was done. At 7:30 AM I managed to get on my feet again and I started walking. I met Kimberly Miller (who along with her husband was doing the 72 hour) who was kind enough to walk and talk with me – I ended up doing two laps which had a great two-fold effect – I passed 60 miles and ended up at 100km (which had become one of my “adjusted for reality” goals.)
  • Glad I stayed off the caffeine – I am not a user…other than a little dark chocolate and some hot chocolate I did the up all night thing (actually – it was more like 31 hours) pretty OK. And I only took a three hour nap in the mid afternoon. Was in bed last night from about 7 PM – 4:30 AM – needed it!
  • Brought my mp3 player – I do not usually listen to music when I run, but it was a big help here – probably listened for about 8 hours. To what you ask? Jane’s Addiction, Melvins, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Smashing Pumpkins, Motorhead – I think that is the full list. It helped – a lot!


  • The number one thing us ultra folks tell newbies (and I have been running ultras for less than a year) is not to go out too fast. Well, easier said than done sometimes. The easy course made it hard to go slow enough. While 10:20 pace is not that fast, it is if you are thinking about going for 24 hours – for me it is simply not sustainable. To put it into other terms, Joe Fejes who set a 72 hour record (over 320 miles) at this same race averaged over 13 minutes per mile – and I am nowhere near his level. He ran much faster at times, but my early pace was the set up for what happened to me.
  • Equipment – my shoe mistake was dumb. My shoes were great and doing fine – there was no need to switch. And even if I chose to switch I had a second pair of the same make and model. Lastly on this subject – wearing shoes that I had only run for 3-5 mile road runs in a trail race was stupid. The blisters are not what stopped me, but the down time during my second stop in the medical tent was a killer. No blisters = no stop in tent.
  • Back to pace – I was too impressed with my early paces – I should not even have been thinking about things like “how fast I ran ten miles” or “how fast I ran 50k” – a recipe for disaster.
  • For all of the strategizing I did over the past 10 months on how I would handle and attack this I should have had a better run/walk plan from the start – not a “let’s see how it goes” plan. I think I would be likely to try and run third to a half of each loop if I try this again. You need to conserve for the long haul. If I did that right I could have possibly kept up a four mile per hour average for a long time.


  • The entire process was a highlight. Planning and travelling with Eric Sherman went very well and we got along great – I am very glad he is heading to Utah with me in September. All of the great folks I have trained with over the past year – I am afraid of missing a name so I will leave it at that – you all know who you are.
  • Doing something that is a challenge and that is not a “slam dunk” result wise is also a highlight. You cannot go into an ultra race and know how it will go or what your result will be. It is a major game of adaptation and adjustment. Race management is a key skill in this racket!
  • All of the friends I have made in person and online – mainly through the Trail Animals Running Club have made this much more fun than it would have been as a totally solitary endeavor. TARC is really perfect for me – low key and fun with runners of all ages and abilities – a really great group of people.
  • So many of the people I met in Arizona – ultra runners everywhere are just damn good people. It was so much fun to meet people you have read about and to run a lap with them, say “hi” and to watch others battle the same things you are battling.
  • Lastly, I am really pleased with how I managed a lot of aspects of the race. I am not a natural born athlete and I need to excel at the management end of these things to do well. I am pleased at how I handled the nutrition and hydration and how I got going again twice after very low points.


2012 will always be the year that I really got my running going again – I ran my first ultras (two 50ks, two marathons, my first 50 mile and my first 24 hour – I got tired just typing that!) I learned a ton. Across the Years was an excellent capstone event on a very good year that saw me get over 2200 miles of running – over 90 % on trails. I made a lot of mistakes at ATY – but I did a lot well too. I will take this experience and grow and learn from it as I move into 2013. I have my first 100s on the calendar this coming year – including the first 100 ever in my home state of Massachusetts (TARC 100 in June) and a return to the west for The Bear 100 in Utah and Idaho in September. There will be a lot of miles alone and with friends between now and then. It has been a very fun and challenging year for me and I look forward to many new challenges in the coming year.


Addendum to Right to Left: An Ideological Journey

May 14, 2010

My blog post earlier today elicited a lot of reaction – mostly good. I must say one reader in particular posited some excellent questions as she found it hard to understand how I came to evolve from Right to Left. Her questions make sense. Part of the ambiguity in my last post was borne of my desire to keep my entries “around 1000 words.” This makes it less of a chore for the reader to get through and in the day of 140 character Tweets is imperative if you are trying to build a following. So, with that in mind I am going to take my valued reader’s suggestion to heart and I am going to expand upon my original blog past by trying to answer her excellent questions the best I can. I hope this helps.


To try and keep this straight – my reader’s comments are italicized and my responses are bold.


This whole article troubles me somewhat and I can’t pinpoint why. Maybe it’s the description of your past beliefs and political affiliations as I find myself going through the psychological reasons you seem to be offering…

…feeling that war, violence, and the lack of compassion for other human beings made you feel manly. It troubles me that our society encourages these feelings and worries me that failing to free ourselves from traditional gender roles will only result in more war and unneeded suffering. You say you woke up a bit out of fear of going to war which rings of a kind of selfishness that almost defines hypocrisy (yeah war! *manly roar* wait. –  You want me to go? No way!).

Like so many young boys (not all) I grew up watching television programs that glorified war, lived in a neighborhood where we played war and cowboys and Indians and I have a dad, who is not a lover of war in the least, but has always had a huge interest in aviation – especially military. The typical rerun movies of war in my youth were not Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, which paint war as it is, horrific – but rather propaganda films of the 1940s which showed a macho nation and its warriors killing off stereotypes. I was a kid – I bought it. My war views began turning in the 1980s – but I still would not consider myself a pacifist in every situation. I do not think we should police the world, and this nation has a dubious history of intervening for one oppressed group but ignoring others – that is disgusting. The mess in Afghanistan and Pakistan is blamable on Britain’s cut and run post-WW II strategy and our alliance with the Taliban when Afghanistan was at war with the USSR. Couple this with a corrupt Kharzei regime and you have a war that is not winnable and not worthy of our support (beyond supporting the troops – not the leaders who put them there.) The not wanting to go fight was pure cowardice – and as you said – hypocrisy – plain and simple – afraid, scared, not going to die for Kuwait etc…I would not want my sons to fight in a war either – it would be one thing if we were really threatened, but the wars of the last 20 years are political fluff. I do not really think I ever had a lack of compassion, and if I did it certainly did not make me feel manly – the manly reference was mainly in reference to hearing headlines of air strikes etc – the idea of a nation pumped up on testosterone. I agree with you – we need to free ourselves from traditional gender roles – I think it is a losing battle, but I am sure giving it my all with my kids…

I suppose what troubles me is knowing how many people think and act just this way and, whether or not they eventually come to see reason, that way of thinking is currently destroying the country in terms of human rights, animal rights, and the economy. I suppose I don’t really understand how you really came to liberal ideals. You mention a few things- not wanting to go to war, the Bush tortures, and separation of church and state and then you go on to describe other liberal beliefs but these couldn’t have been new could they? What caused you to go from supporting Republicans to being against the racist based immigration laws?

I have never supported racism in any way – about the worst thing you could say about me years ago is I laughed at Archie Bunker on “All in the Family.” The majority of my Republican ideals were from the fiscal/pro business side of the argument. I have always been pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state, encouraging of immigration, etc. The bigger change I noticed, starting around 1990 (particularly the 1992 elections) was the real emergence of the religious right – they became in my mind to much of an important player. Reagan paid a bit of lip service to them, but did not change things – George the First lost in 1992 because of a failed economy and by not embracing the fanatics – who basically stayed home on Election Day and handed it to Clinton. Anti-war is a tough one…I cannot really feel that either party is the only culpable party…Democratic Presidents started WW I, II, Korea, and the escalation in Vietnam – of course Korea and Vietnam were escalated by Republicans…neither side can claim moral superiority in any of this, and the reasons for entering all of these conflicts are convoluted at best. A lot of my war thoughts come from books and movies – the worm started turning in all likelihood with a healthy dose of Vonnegut, Heller and Camus shortly after high school. I also work as a law librarian and a lot of reading I have done over the past decade has been about major issues and the US Supreme Court. I place a lot of value on the Bill of Rights (not saying I did not before, but I am more aware of it now) – I also believe that it is a living and breathing document – I am very against the strict constructionist mentality that some of our justices have now. I never would have supported a law that was racially motivated, but in the 1980s I may have looked the other way and supported what I thought was pro-business…and to address the “gradual” issue part of it may have been the difficulty in change, difficulty in thinking I had been wrong etc. There is also a problem that I just did not like Clinton – and you could argue he was a centrist Republican, but I would just say he was a shameless opportunist – not exactly the type of guy that would motivate me to change. I am Independent – but left of center/left leaning…I am truly undecided in our upcoming gubernatorial election in MA – I have only ruled out one of the top 4 – I do not like Cahill the Dem turned Independent…this state is very liberal on social issues so the vote really does come down more to economic issues than social – we also cannot declare war on anyone. The most important element of change is that I no longer will vote with fiscal conservatives and look the other way on social, religious, imperialistic, racist, etc ways…I understand how many people that I know do not look at it that way – but I do. I have friends who have told me that they care about all of those issues, but it does not determine how they vote; others want their taxes minimized and other fully support the theories of trickle down economics and that all government interference and regulation is wrong. Everyone can pick what is most salient for them come election time – I hope this clarified it all a bit…

How could you go from thinking poor people were just lazy to “Abandoning the poor will continue the cycle that has no hope of being broken”. Every liberal I know with these same beliefs were *always* compassionate and understanding- something that almost every Republican/Conservative/Libertarian seems to lack.. how do you gain such a trait?

By watching a grandfather who was lazy – he feigned injury to avoid work, worked as little as possible and far from being physically addicted to alcohol and gambling he just would rather drink and bet than work. And he went on and on about the Kennedy’s caring and the Republicans not caring for the little man. It made me mad to see someone make no effort, and to hear from my Mom (and keep in mind, we both loved this man) that he was the same way when he was young and healthy. He was content to take his pittance from disability etc and not make any effort. Of course, he had my grandmother work until she was well into her 60s. So the change for me came from evolving to realize that he was an exception and not the rule – in fact he was worse than that – he had opportunity to work through the post-war boon years and chose to do as little as possible. Just living life and coming across a variety of people in my various careers has made me change this view – it makes sense to me how it happened anyways…

Was it someone talking to you that opened your eyes?  Was it researching or hearing personal stories?

A lot of reading, a few people that I debated this stuff with for years did have some affect as did my own feelings of realizing I am not the person the GOP is representing. Maybe I was hoping I was going to evolve into the wealthy ruling elite, but it did not happen and the more I know now I am glad. I like my life, my work, my family and my friends. I felt this way all along on social issues, it just for years was not what motivated my vote – I figured it out economically in time – and I am not even sure I am right economically speaking – but my gut instinct tells me that my more recent ways is the better path to take and has more potential to help the country, world and individual.


Thank you all for your continued readership – I am approaching a staggering 1500 individual reads in my first 6 weeks – the feedback and comments have been great. You can easily subscribe(hell – it’s free!) to Symptom of the Universe by submitting your e-mail in the box on the right of this page. Thanks again! Mike