Race report by Martina Haussman
I came to Phoenix / Arizona first time end of 1999 in order to celebrate the new milenium with a 6
day race. I got hooked by running on an all-weather track surrounded by cactus dessert. I waited for
a comeback in vain. I began to regularly take part in the 72-hours races into New Years and combined
it with short trail hike vacations before and after the event. The race venue did move to a 500m dirt
track and did move again two years ago to even dirtier one mile loop at Camelback Ranch, the big
baseball stadium of Glendale.
The 6 days finally are back for the 25. anniversary of „Across The Years“! My enthusiasm is
unlimited!! My dear annual host Gerry Smedinghoff invites me to arrive already middle of December.
I am able to acclimatize for 10 entire days, spend all day long on trails. So I arrive at Camelback Ranch
on December 27 well suntanned, 6 pairs of brand new shoes tested. Gerry unloads all my stuff in
front of my rented tent and drives back home. The new job eats up all his free time. The news spread
around: The crazy German has arrived! Organizers, helpers, runners come and greet. I definitely
belong to the big Across The Years family! I am in second position of lifetime mileage here…18 miles
to go for first position. Less than 600 miles to go to receive the desired 3000 miles jacket! I still stand
around chatting. My tent neighbors are William Sichel with supporter Alan Young from Scotland.
This professional will also care a bit for me, especially agrees to wash socks. I should concentrate on
setting up the basecamp. It will be dark soon. Late evening, most people leave Camelback Ranch.
Nights in the dessert are cold! But I am super well equipped, close my tent and disappear between
several layers of blankets and sleeping bags on the cot. I sleep deep and more than 12 hours.
Runners, helpers, organizers come back in the early morning, excited chatting all around and I wake
up, still dozing. The ice on the tent rustles in the first sunrays. I have breakfast comfortably in the
bed, wearing a woolen cap. Towards 8am it begins to feel warmer in the tent. One hour to the start!
Allez –hopp!! I get a cup of hot tea from the nearby aid station and finally I am awake. Off we are!
We are 55 participants in the 6 days, 15 women. The youngest girl is four years, the oldest man is
78. Most come and run/walk/eat/nap for fun, others come to win, like Joe Fejes and Yiannis Kouros.
The latter could put through prize money, but not just for himself as he wished but for any person
reaching first 400 – 500 – 600 miles or/and running world record. The race could become thrilling!
The one mile loop partly winds on trails through the scenic park, partly goes straight on a (mostly)
dirt road. In between, half mile is done. Here is a second aid station with water supply and a second
electronic mat for lap counting control. The long road, according to the runner’s mood, feels terribly
endless or simply flies by. Anyhow, the surface is well packed. In the park, the ground is loose and
one has to run or walk through a cloud of dust. I am a short person, with my nose almost as deep in
that cloud as the nose of the children. Children love dirt and everything what is forbidden. It is very
forbidden to shuffle around the dirt just for fun!
Just some hours in the race, I notice a light cough. I wrap mouth, nose and ears in a buff and look
like a thief getting ready to steal money from the bank. Everybody grins. But I don’t remain the
only „thief“! Yiannis imitates the Japanese way of mouth and nose protection. Joe loves wide white
clothes with holes. William will more and more hide from the sun in the shade behind his tent. The
secret of success is to find a way to adjust to the conditions. The aid station offers a broad range of
foods and drinks. Special wishes are no problem; the staff is very helpful and the supermarkets of
Glendale open 24 hours. The so-called drinking water is undrinkable for me; too much chlorine. And
most Americans don’t like tea. Therefore I did deposit plenty of filtered water along with tasty black
tea. Soon every coffee drinker of the aid station knows how to prepare my tea.
113km completed on day 1, I am, what surprise, in 4th
of the whole pack; men love to start out fast. 9am: I should hurry to change clothes! The
temperature will climb 30C within no time, once the sun is out. I free my wounded feet cautiously
from shoes and socks. I realize why my toes have been so painful during the last hours: There are big
blisters underneath the nails. I relieve the pressure, use disinfection spray, let dry, use it again. I
cover the skin of the whole feet with zinc cream, wear my tightest socks and use two gaiters. Shoes
on. Reborn! I work myself out of the tent and I am on the track again. Ice on tables, grass and tents
melts within minutes. Every day one can greet fresh runners, as the 24-, 48-, 72- hour runners can
choose their start date within the time frame of our 6 day race. Amazing ! I have no problems with
the sun at all; evidently it was a good idea to arrive at Phoenix so early. I just stop between 1pm and
2pm; these are the hottest hours of the day. I rest in the so-called warm-up tent next to the aid
station, which is the coolest place at late noon. At 3:30 it’s already time to change clothes for the
night. I wear my angora knee warmers and a wrap around the back of same material. I am out soon
again. I love the short time of sunset; everybody is out laughing, chatting, in great mood. I feel
excited. Time seems to fly by. I watch the close duel between Yiannis and Joe curiously. Yiannis was
the hero of day one. Now the younger and definitely more likable Joe of Georgia is about to take the
lead. He is always friendly, often smiling, even encourages his co-competitors. Yiannis speaks to
nobody except to his handlers, mumbles, roars, cries against them when he feels unwell. He seems
always to feel unwell! I remember my own duel with Yiannis at Hallsberg/Sweden 2008 with horror.
The more I remember the more I pray for Joe to win. I encourage him every time he comes by. The
women’s race is less exciting. On top unchallenged Liz Bauer who already did win the 6 days of
Oxford 2013. Far behind the young intervall sprinter Vikena Yutz, and in third position that’s me,
relentlessly walking. I become very tired in the early morning and have a short nap in the warm-up
tent. It’s really useful, one can step in with dirty shoes and dusty legs, lay down on a cot covered by a
sleeping bag. I feel comfortable and warm and relaxed in no time. My friend Paddy from the aid
station peers through the door, a big smile on the face. She comes back with a hot soup! Oh!! So
good. Afterwards I manage to sleep the first minutes since race start. I walk out, already „smelling“
the sunrise, refreshed. I collect 86,5km on day two. I look confidently towards my goals to reach 300
miles or even 500km.
I begin day three wearing freshly washed clothes. Alans help is worth gold. Of course – and sorry for
that – washing socks has not remained his only job; everything gets so incredible dirty through all
the shuffles in dusty ground. My cough becomes worse. Sucking candies creates a short relief. More
and more people are on the course. Most of the 48- hours runners did start today in order to run into
New Year the day after tomorrow. There are also more and more children. They have so much fun
and don’t realize that they finish lap after lap! K-G Nystrom from Sweden, second oldest man in the 6
position, women. I am a bit behind the middle
days, has two artificial knee joints. He did throw away his canes years ago. He doesn’t run any more,
only walks, looks really good, doing great. I reach 84,2km today. I don’t have to fear for my goals if I
only could continue constantly.
More than 70 runners have their 24-hours race started on day 4, December 31, along with some 48-
hours and the last 72- hour runners. Hundreds of people shuffle tons of dirt in the air. Especially in
the park portion of the course, we disappear in a cloud of dust. Meanwhile I am so hoarse that I have
difficulties to speak. Particularly after rests I am literally speechless. On the other hand, spirits are
high when walking among all these fresh runners. Joy of life sets me on fire, although I should be
deadly tired. In the afternoon, great surprise, Gerry arrives! We walk a lap together; it’s my fastest
lap since the first hour! Finally, the midnight hour attracts us all. Some are disguised, others trumpet.
The ever-present excited chat of these jesters is drown by music beats. We get alcohol free tasty
cider. What a crazy life! One hour into New Year, excitement and noise calm down, the course gets
rather empty. A good idea to try to really sleep for the first time! I get rid of my shoes and brush
off the worst dirt from the clothes before I enter the tent. I set the alarm clock for 3am and place
it close to my head, because I use ear plugs. I want to sleep these two hours, not dawdle away
the time. Every some minutes I dream or hear (?) a dull signal from the outside. „Alan has set the
timer for William? Oh my God!!“Clouds of dreams circle my head. Suddenly dull signals, relentlessly
nonstop. „The idiot from the neighbor tent should finally turn off that damn alarm clock!“ Nothing
happens. Dreamy thoughts come and go. Klingeling-Klingeling. „Finally the battery of the stupid thing
will be empty!“ a cautious idea hits my mind. „Should I MYSELF be the idiot??“ Oohhh – no!!! The
alarm clock did ring more than 15 minutes some centimeters from the ear! Enraged at myself, I am
out of the tent in record time, before other sleepers would kill me. Inspite of the intermezzo, I circle
Day five begins nice and quiet. Almost nobody did start on January 1. But it’s even more difficult to
breathe. No wind at all, and very hot. They say, that a second warning has been issued due to bad
air conditions. In addition, Camelback Ranch is located underneath the flight path to/from Phoenix
airport. It’s a cold comfort that we are all in one boat together. I walk slower and rest longer at
noon. In spite of this, I walk into a stomach problem: I drink water, juice, tea, no matter what, it
runs directly through the body. Somewhere must be a hole? Luckily there are portaloos every some
hundred meters around the loop. My 500-kilometer-goal as well as my third position is not (yet?
) in danger. William thought he was safe in same position, until suddenly Ed Ettinghausen comes
from behind. I know the funny fellow with the long legs well for years! How often had he taken me
by surprise when I was a runner! He looks so harmless with his fancy hat. But – oh!! – he is fast and
serious as well.
In the night I forget about my stomach troubles . This seems to be the final duel between Joe and
Yiannis. Joe is some laps ahead. Yiannis puffs directly behind him, almost stepping on Joe’s heels.
The Greek later will complain on facebook about the „unfair American“ who chases him so badly.
No kidding!! Some time later both are disappeared. The helpers take care whether the rival would
return. I also would like to go to bed for a while, but fear to miss the progress of the adventure. Joe is
back! He still looks rather fit, running smooth. And there comes Yiannis! He staggers serpentine lines
some meters ahead of me. How can I pass by? I wait until he has reached right side of the narrow
path in the park. But it happens he hits a stone, crashes to the left and falls in the grass. He would
have buried me under his weight, if I only had been a little faster! He seems to be experienced in
standing up; he is on the course again in no time. Yiannis disappears again. Joe circles some extra
laps and disapears as well. I shuffle thoughtless. Suddenly in front of me the sign which invites us
to change direction every four hours. So I turn around. Evidently I am the first, because everybody
else runs/walks in opposite direction. Strange, that nobody passes by from behind. And everybody
grins and giggles. Frightening thoughts and doubts hit my mind. “Could it be…?” I look at my watch.
10 minutes to the change of direction! Two possibilities: I have begun to walk serpentine lines like
Yiannis, or the sign was placed wrong. I finish the lap and have a look. The sign is placed wrong.
Relief! Next control at the computer: The complete “ghost lap” has been counted. Happiness!! I
turn, walk one lap, then turn legally. I better go to bed for a while! Particularly I hope my stomach
problem will finally settle down. No good luck with this. Soon, I am busy again with visiting the
portaloos. I manage to walk almost 80 kilometers on this turbulent day.
More or less only the 6 day runners are left on the course on day 6. It becomes even hotter, no wind
at all. I can’t help stopping at least for four hours after noon. I am completely dehydrated, as I am not
able to make use of the fluids I drink. The question remains: Where is the best place for a good rest?
Behind the tent in the shadow? It’s a quiet place indeed, great if I had a handler. Warm-up tent?
There are always helpful people around. But I would need some personal things from my tent. Dear
Paddy finds the solution. She sends me to the warm-up tent and brings everything I wish from my
tent. Perfect! She suggests a diet consisting of mineral water, chicken broth and hot dogs to
overcome my stomach problem. I have a nap, eat, drink, go to the toilet alternate. Already three
hours gone! I feel much better and rest for another hour. Paddy appears and we discuss the further
procedure. “It’s lightly overcast out there, ideal for a slow re-begin. Please only drink mineral water. I
bought enough!” I nod: “I will do that!” Paddy carries all stuff which I don’t need any more back into
my tent. I am alive and on the course again! People already did miss me. Diet and rest did work out
just fine. Excited thoughts: “Maybe I could walk all night long with very little or no rest at all?!”
Unfortunately, no. I become much too slowly. 300 miles done, I go for a two hours’ nap. But I don’t
use the ear plugs again! Out again at 2 am, the course is still quite crowded. Many runners try to
hold on that last night. I can feel all the positive energy around and try to inhale it. All of a sudden,
head-aches bother me. No meditation works any more. Once again, Paddy has the solution: “You had
no caffeine for more than 24 hours. I will prepare a good tea for you!” Amazing – I drink and the
head-aches fly away. I reach 500 kilometers and decide to celebrate this with a 10 minutes rest in the
warm-up tent. I find one free cot, but no blankets and no sleeping bag. The person next to me has
taken them all. Yiannis! It doesn’t matter anymore. What a delight to have the feet up one last time,
even on the hard cot! I open my eyes again. Yiannis has left. I don’t stay much longer. I have heard
that the 6 days will become a habbit of Across The Years. I want to put in some more miles until
finish to increase my chances for a 3000 miles jacket next year!
I finish the race with 517 kilometers (more than 321miles), place 10 overall and place 3, women. Liz
Bauer is the leader of the women’s race with 670,5km, followed by Vikena Yutz with 581,2km. The
overall winner is Joe Fejes from Georgia with 893,8km, followed by Yiannis Kouros with 885,4km and
Ed Ettinghausen with 767km.
All informations about the race: www.acrosstheyears.com
The winner Joe Fejes is about to organize a 6 day race indoor on 400m all-weather track in August at
Anchorage / Alaska. All informations: www.sixdaysinthedome.com