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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Diaz-Gilbert

Race Report: 2023 Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24-hr Track Ultra

Updated: May 10

Clouds, Drizzle, Rain, Humidity, Wind, Laps, Miles, Hens, Companionship, and a Stunning Sunrise

At the 7 am start on May 13, 2023 on the track at Academy High School in Sharon HilI, Pa. Photo: Bill Schultz.

The 26th Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) track ultras, which consist of a 24-hr, 12-hr, and 50K event took place on Mother's Day weekend May 13-14 at Academy High School in Sharon Hill, PA. Going into the 2023 D3 24-hr event, I was hoping to surpass the 81.0268 miles (326 laps) that I logged in 2019 when it rained for only the last eleven hours. I also wanted to surpass my 2022 68.1 miles.

On race day morning the weather wasn't sunny. Runners were sprinkled with rain drops. Most of us had running caps on. The air was warm and humid. As the morning progressed, the rain drops became a drizzle and then more rain. At about10:30 am and a little over 15 miles, I was feeling good and sharing the track with awesome runners.

Recognize Harvey Lewis and Viktoria Brown? Photos: Jon Gilbert.

A few laps later, I put on my thin orange hooded rain jacket. Sometime in the afternoon, I thought I saw the sun trying to peek through the gray clouds. It looked promising if only for the duration of my lap.

Sun or no sun, I was moving at my usual pace. I'm not a fast runner, but I can move slow and steady in any weather. At the end of 40 laps (10 miles), I was averaging a 13:20/min pace. By the end of 80 laps (20 miles), I had slowed down to an average 14:40/min pace.

Jon taking a sleeping break. Photo: Bill Schultz

Nine hours into the race, and at about mile 35, Jon had to leave his crewing duties to drive home to feed our hens Faith and Hope. I was on my own but not alone. I crewed myself and collected walking laps again with Bonnie Muetterties whom I had met at D3 in 2019. I was reenergized. We caught up, laughed some more, and kept each other moving in the rain earlier and later under dry skies. Bonnie was chasing the Pennsylvania 50K record in a 24-hour ultra in the 69-year-old age group. She got the record in 8:25:06. Congrats Bonnie!

Walking a few laps with Bonnie. Photo: Teodor Beekneeyosec

Photos: Jeremy Fountain

Then I walked a little faster with Kristen Rothenberger, my new ultra friend. We collected laps as we shared our personal stories and kept each other moving. It's beautiful and uplifting when we have companions on our journey.

And Faith and Hope were not alone either. Jon was tending to them. They needed to be let out of the henhouse to forage and exercise their legs in the backyard as they do twice a day. Jon cleaned their run, and prepared their food and snack while I was collecting track laps.

Jon had to wait until sunset when Faith and Hope walked their way up the coop ramp to go to sleep for the night. (Hens are blind in the dark; darkness is their cue that it's bedtime). Jon left our home at 8:15 pm and arrived back in our crew area at nine.

By the time I had reached mile 45 (180 laps), I was running an average 16:30/min pace. I had less than twelve hours to go. And sleep deprivation was surfacing earlier than usual. I usually begin to get sleep deprived between mile 70 and 75. I think I knew why I was falling asleep this early and super slowing down.

Since we got our hens in late March, my sleep pattern has changed and I get up at sunrise or earlier to let the hens out of the coop. The Thursday before D3, I was up at 5 am, tending to the hens but couldn't fall back to sleep. I don't know how to sleep during the day or how to nap.

Friday morning I got up before sunrise to tend to the hens. Then I spent the day making, preparing, and packing my special diet; no foods with preservatives, additives, food coloring, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, and insecticides. They were the cause of my eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a rare autoimmune disease of the esophagus.

And of course, I can never get any sleep the night before any race. Going into D3 on this Mother's Day weekend, I had been awake for forty-eight hours. Anyway,...

After about ten at night on the track, the temperature began to drop. While a couple of male runners ran bare-chested, and some female runners wore tanks, and other wore shorts, I was cold and the only runner wearing our lovely D3 light pink swag beanie, my blue NJ 100 fleece jacket, and my old knitted scarf. I traded my Asics for my hiking sandals. My feet, especially my right foot, were numb and hurting from neuropathy.

I have permanent nerve damage in my right toe and parts of my foot due to myelopathy of the spinal cord as a result of severe neurological B12 deficiency. I have neuropathy on both feet and lower legs. I have been on B12 injections for life since 2009. You can read more about it here. I also have benign cramp fasciculation syndrome. I experience painful cramping in my feet, toes, calves, and fingers when at rest and in my sleep. I was happy that I did not experience an episode during my twenty-four hours on the track.

Joe Lovanisci in the 12-hr event, which he won, and a layered me with nine hours left on the clock. Photo: Jon Gilbert

I was way behind but finally logged 50 miles in a little over fifteen hours. After a couple of miles layered up, my upper body got hot, so I removed my warm fleece jacket and put on a my light white running jacket. I traded my Capri leggings for my long running/yoga pants because my legs were cold.. And then at about 10:30 pm Jon drained two blisters.

I struggled to stay awake the last twenty miles or so. To help me to stay awake, I pulled out my iPhone earbuds and listened to my eclectic music on Spotify: Mike Maher's As Good as It Gets, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes I Don't Want to Go Home, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes's Wake Up Everybody, Abba's Dancing Queen, Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine, The Trammps Disco Inferno, Marvin Gaye's Gotta to Give It Up, Public Enemy's Fight the Power, The Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight, Nashville's Sanctuary and A Life That's Good, Marc Anthony's Mi Gente, Mylie Cyrus's The Climb, and other songs that kept me slowly moving as I shuffled my barely dancing feet, gestured with my hands like a maestro, and sang along in the cold night air just to keep me awake. It worked for a few miles.

I took a couple of ten-to-fifteen-minute naps just to stay awake. Then I got cold again and put my fleece jacket and scarf back on, along with my gloves. After a couple of slow laps, a new day was breaking and the end was nearing.

It's 5:30 am Sunday morning and the sunrise is stunning. Only 1.5 hours to go. Photo: Jon Gilbert

With the stunning sunrise, came a small rise in temperature. I switched into my white running jacket. Along the way on the second to last lap at 6:21 am, Tony Covarrubias and I shared the track one last time as, sleep deprived and exhausted, we moved as fast as we could while chatting about Alaska, our grandchildren, and our hens, and holding each other up to pose for a selfie.

I didn't know Tony then, but in 2019 Tony logged 83.2637 miles. Today, Tony placed third male with 112.59 miles (453 laps). I had trained well for my third D3 24-hour, but I would not surpass the 81.0268 miles I logged in 2019. So, I focused on surpassing my 2022 68.1 miles when I managed to secure third place female but only because others, understandably, dropped due to the brutal weather--nonstop rain and gale force winds. I crazily held on to the end.

On this morning with 23:17:39 on the clock, I had logged 68 miles (272 laps). I had 42 minutes and some change left to surpass last year's miles and to make it to mile 70. I'd go on to circle the track eight more times, the last lap being a partial lap that would put me at 70.32 miles (282 laps) in my hiking sandals on Mother's Day morning. This year, my fastest lap was 2:40. Taking time to eat, rest, and change made my longest lap at 58:26, making my overall lap average 5:05. I placed 9th female and 16/36 overall. I was happy.

At 6:56 am, I took off with the flag for one more full or partial lap. I was than 10 yards from the timing mat when the clock ran out.
I completed the partial lap in 3:58. Photo: Jon Gilbert.

And it was great to share the track with Lisa Georgis again. Last year we tied in laps and 68.1 miles, but I ran the 24-hr about 20 minutes faster and secured third place female. This year Lisa crushed it and placed 4th female with an awesome 91.89 miles (369 laps). She was unstoppable. She just kept going and going. Congrats!

Lisa and I with our D3 mugs on Mother's Day. Photo: Jon Gilbert

When I look back to see what I had done differently going into this year's D3 24-hr, I think it was not getting enough sleep. Being a chicken lady and tending to Faith and Hope, who give me so much joy, has affected my sleep pattern and has contributed to fewer hours of sleep. I know I'm capable of more miles. Or maybe I do better in rain and gale force winds. Or maybe age is setting in; I'm approaching 64.5 years.

Jon and I are happy and tired and can't wait to get home to be with Faith and Hope. Photo: Jeremy Fountain

But I'm grateful to still be running and to be part of the D3 family. I love everything about this ultra. I'm loving my pink beanie and orange coffee mug. I look forward to running again in 2024.

While I went into D3 lacking sleep, this year I also went into D3 to collect miles of gratitude. At the 2019 D3 24-hr, I was running healing miles for Jon. The day after Mother's Day that year, Jon had his second stage IV cancer surgery.

At D3 last year, I was dealing with my own health issue, my eosinophilic esophagitis. When my doctors couldn't heal me, I healed myself after twenty-six years of food impaction episodes, enduring over thirty endoscopies, and after creating my own diet and eliminating preservatives, additives, food coloring, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, and insecticides. You can read more about my journey here.

Two months after D3 last year, Jon's cancer came back. He underwent more surgery followed by thirty-three consecutive days of chemo and aggressive radiation. We are grateful that his last scan in March looks great. And during this time, more blessings were bestowed upon us. Teagan, our third grandchild, graced us with her presence in November.

And a week before D3 this year, my book, Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times, was published. A couple of you have already purchased a copy. I'm so grateful for your support. You can order a copy here.

Track ultras are not boring! Just eat, keep moving, dance if you must, laugh, sing, and have fun with fellow runners, extraordinary and ordinary alike. You are never alone and you will never get lost. Run your own race and remember that the companionship of fellow runners, sharing joys, and suffering with smiles will get you to the finish. Every lap is a victory lap. Hope to see you next year.

Check out all 50K, 12-hour, and 24-hour results here.

Check out the tons of race day photos on the Dusk to Dawn to Dusk Ultras FB page.

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