24 Hours of Rain & Wind at the 25th Anniversary of the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn Track Ultras
Updated: Apr 5
But Mother Nature Could Not Stop Records From Being Set & Broken
Running against the wind in rain. Photo by Jon Gilbert.
It had been raining since Thursday and the weather forecast for race day Mother's Day weekend called for nonstop rain and gale force winds. It would not be a sunny, blue sky pleasant day at the 25th anniversary of the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) track ultras in Sharon Hill, PA. I resigned myself to the fact that after D3 was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the weather in 2022 would be worse than the much nicer weather we had at D3 in 2019 when rain and wind pounced on runners for only the last eleven hours.
At D3 in 2019, my 25th ultra but my first track ultra, I didn't pack enough gear for 11 hours of rain. But this time I was armed for battle with Mother Nature. I overpacked on purpose for self-preservation.
I packed 5 pairs of running shoes, 7 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of footless tights, 2 pairs of running tights, my NorthFace winter running pants, 5 long-sleeved shirts, 2 winter turtlenecks, 3 hats, 2 beanies, 6 sports bras, 5 pairs of underwear, 2 zippered long-sleeved running shirts, 2 light weight jackets, 1 NorthFace winter running jacket, 1 fleece jacket, 1 lightweight rain jacket, 4 pairs of gloves, 2 raincoats, 1 poncho, and other essentials, like plastic bags to wrap my feet in before inserting them in my running shoes and securing them with DuctTape. We packed our tent and canopy.
On race day morning, I applied RunGoo, that we received in our race packets, on my feet and areas that tend to chafe. I layered up to stay warm and dry as possible. I wrapped plastic bags around my feet. I laced up my shoes with two engraved tags my daughter Jonna sent to me for Mother's Day: one engraved with one of my favorite Scripture passages - Come what may; I want to run (2 Samuel: 18-23) and the other with Run Mimma Run from my grandchildren Jordan and Sawyer.
I had breakfast. I had vegetable pie that Jon made at home and heated in the hotel room microwave that we paid an extra $15 for. Because I'm on the first phase of the food reintroduction diet that begins with eating only fruits, vegetables, and supplemented with the elemental diet (Vivonex), this was my only source of nutrition. You can read more about my journey with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a rare autoimmune disease of the esophagus that causes food impactions here.
It rained all night and it was raining when we left for the track at Academy Park High School. Some tents had already been dismantled by the winds. We didn't set up our tent and the canopy. After a few shouting words of instructions in roaring winds from Bill Schultz, co-race director and timekeeper Mike Melton, the gun went off and runners began to battle Mother Nature.
In the first hour, I logged 5 miles. At mile 8 at about 9 am, I headed to the most spacious port-a-potty and Jon helped me to change my drenched socks and shoes. My feet were sloshing in my very expensive so-called waterproof socks. When Jon took them off, rain water poured from the socks onto the port-a-potty floor.
Bill circled the track and warned us that the 4-hour turnaround was coming up in 23 minutes.
We kept battling Mother Nature as we made our first turnaround from running counter-clockwise to clockwise at 11 am.
Video by Jon.
According to my Garmin, I maintained a 14:05 pace and completed 22.07 miles in 5:10:56. It was time to change clothes, slip into a third pair of Asics, charge my Garmin, eat, and warm up in the car. Jon had pre-heated the car and I blasted the heat. It was about 12:15 pm.
In between peeling off wet layers of clothes and putting fresh layers on in a cramped space, I tried to warm up my cold shriveled feet on the vent while refueling with more vegetable pie and vegetable soup that Jon heated up in the microwave in the concession that was stocked with a great menu of foods typically served at ultras. I could have none of it. Jon refilled my Nathan hydration bottle with Vivonex and seltzer.
An hour later, I headed back to the onslaught of more unforgiving gale force winds and unrelenting rain in a third pair of Asics, feet wrapped in plastic bags secured my Duct Tape, two bottom layers, and three upper layers secured by my long, heavy, lined yellow raincoat.
My daughter Jonna called to tell me to stand in front of Mike's van so she, Max, Jordan, and Sawyer could see me on the livestream. She sent me a screenshot. They followed me most of the day. I checked in again to wave to Jordan and Sawyer before they went to bed at 7:30 pm. They were eager to see me Sunday morning.
Jon headed to the laundromat a half-mile away to dry my wet clothes, socks, gloves, two pairs of shoes, my pink raincoat, and his drenched Lee jeans. It was about 2:30 pm. With 16.5 hours to go, I'd moved up from 10th to 8th place female. Jon stopped by the track to let me know he'd returned from the laundromat with my dry clothes, shoes, and his jeans. He was now wearing a $9 pair of army green pants he bought at Forman Mills on the way to the laundromat.
It looked like more runners were taking breaks or dropping out but Laurel Flax from Maine and I were still at it. We were both at D3 in 2019. As the rain and winds kept pouncing on our numb but wide-awake bodies, we stopped for a selfie.
My body was dry but my feet and shoes were drenched. The plastic bags around my feet proved useless once again. I called Jon on my cell phone. He was in the car staying warm and dry. I told him to bring me more vegetable pie, salad, fruit, a dry pair of socks, shoes, and gloves, and to meet me in the concession. It was about 3:30 pm. I took a 43-minute break.
Embracing more suffering, I returned to the track, and found myself 6th place female and 9th overall. A few runners were taking breaks. The track was host to about 12 runners. I kept moving slow and steady. By about 5 pm, I had logged about 35 miles in 10:43:20. I went for 5 more miles. After logging 40 miles in 12:07:18, I took my next break at 7:17 pm to refuel and warm up in the heated car. I had more vegetable pie and soup. and took about an hour break.
I got back on the track and made it to 50 miles in 16:00:05. At the end of mile 51, I got back in the heated car and took my longest break - 1 hr and 41 minutes. I got back on the track at midnight and onto Sunday morning. After collecting 5 more miles, I took a 17-minute break just to close my eyes and to change my yellow raincoat that I had been wearing since about 1 pm Saturday afternoon. The lining was very wet but my other upper layers were fine. I removed my top legging layer and covered my black footless tights with my dry winter pants. It was 1:30 in the morning and 21:17: 48 into the race. Before heading back out, I put on my dry pink raincoat.
By about 4:15 am I had logged 61 miles. I reached mile 63 at 5:46 am in 21:51:53 and moved up to 3rd place female.
To lock in 3rd place, I needed to keep moving and adding miles. But first, I needed to rest my eyes in the car for 15 minutes. Then I set out and collected 5.1 slow and steady miles as the birds began to wake up to their chirpy disposition. The dark night became a rainy, windy, gray cloudy sky Mother's Day morning. I'm convinced the birds were cheering me on.
I ended my 2022 D3 24-hour battle with Mother Nature with 68.1 miles (274 laps). I placed 3rd female and 10th overall in 23:39:37. Not bad for a 63-year-old grandmother. Lisa Georges, 53, also logged 274 laps, but her finish time was 23:59:52. She placed 4th female. We never gave up.
Capturing the moment on the livestream tucked away with
timekeeper Mike in his van.
There are things we can't control. On this Mother's Day weekend, I couldn't control the weather but I could control other things like overpacking. If I had not been so well-prepared with gear and multiples of everything, I don't think I would have survived the wrath of Mother Nature. And while wicked winds and relentless rain slowed me down, both kept me moving slow and steady, especially the last 12 hours.
Wearing layers and staying warm were key. Even though I tried to control how wet my feet would get by futilely wrapping plastic bags around them and securing them with DuctTape to prevent rain from seeping in for self-preservation, knowing when to stop to change sloshing shoes and drenched socks was also essential.
Breaks to change clothes in a cramped heated car took me longer than usual but warmed my body as I changed with one hand and ate a restricted source of nutrition with the other. I calculated I took 3 hours and 40 minutes of break time, including port-a-potty visits.
Having Jon run back and forth to the concession in the rain to heat my food and feed me, and drive to the laundromat to dry my gear, and refilling my hydration bottle, was also key in my placing 3rd and 10th overall. It was a battle of the wills with Mother Nature. We have survived worse. I made it to the end. I beat Mother Nature. Finishing is winning!
And the best part - I had zero blisters, no chafing, and my pretty in pink toe nails are intact. I suffered no sleep deprivation but when it was over, I felt a little unbalanced and saw the track pulsating. I suppose I was hallucinating. When I got home, I slept four hours in my running clothes.
And then I earned my place in "the chair."
I never forgot I was running/walking miles for cancer caregivers who care for their loved ones tackling cancer. You can learn more about the inspiration for Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers here. If you can, a donation would be appreciated. If you are a cancer caregiver, nominate yourself. If you know a cancer caregiver, nominate them and contact me. So far, 24 cancer caregivers have been recipients of the fund that has gifted them a little joy.
Sharing our suffering on the track and feeding off the energy from awesome fellow runners gave me strength. I was not alone. We were not alone. Understandably, some runners dropped early on and others did not start due to the brutal weather conditions, some amazing and awe-inspiring runners had jaw-dropping performances.
The one thing Mother Nature couldn't stop was more records. As posted on the D3 FB page, more records were set and broken on the 25th anniversary of Dawn to Dusk to Dawn Ultras.
Melissa Tanner, 41, broke Camille Herron's 50K American record. Not only did Melissa win the 50K event and set a new American record with 3:28:46 but, she also set 6 national records in 6 distances. Nica Shields, 71, finished second in the 50K event in 6:20:45 and set 8 national records. Kristen Rothenberger finished third in 8:21:55. Katie Shilling, 34, the only female in the 12-hour event, took home the prize. In the 24-hr event, Kristen Perri Varley, took first place with 91.36 miles. Second place went to Jane Laties Walsh with 79.03 miles.
In the men's division, Joshua Finger, 49, won the 50K event in 3:55:29 and Steven Speirs, 55, placed second in 3:58:28. Matthew Livingstone placed third in 4:31:18. In the 12-hour event, Randy Reitenauer, 55, took first place with 50.45 miles and Ken Arble, 65, took second place with 40 miles. Ken Furman, 60, came in third with 40.51 miles. In the 24-hr event, the overall honors went to Alex Ramsey, 37, with 124.77 miles. Tor Gudmundsen, 58, came in second with 115.82 miles. Steve Troxel, 62, came in third with 101.65 miles.
And another record was set at D3. Larry Stephens, 66, broke the 100 mile record in the 65-69 age group. Larry broke Roy Pirrung's record of 21:10:27 and ran 100 miles in 20:47:32.
Here are complete race results.
I'm already plotting a return to D3 next year, especially for the awesome swag. It is the best! Kudos to the dedicated and suffering volunteers who circled the track all day and night to feed runners, and many thanks to Nancy and her volunteers in the concession. Hope to see them again, and to see you next year at D3. And remember to overpack!
Here's the video.
Directed by Mother Nature. Cinematography by Jon and me.
And remember, challenges are not to be avoided but to be overcome.
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