Some strong ultrarunners traded snow for sand at Aravaipa Running’s Across The Years (ATY) race, a fixed-time multi-day running event that took place between December 28 and January 3 at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. The unexpected cold desert temperatures may have helped Canadians come out on top. Charlotte Vasarhelyi (Ont.), Dennene Huntley (Alta.), and Pablo Espinosa (Que.) placed first, second, and third overall in the 72-hour race.  

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Charlotte Vasarhelyi at the start line. Photo: Bill Schultz

Runners go for 24, 48, or 72 hours, or six days. Although the clock never stops, runners are free to start on any day, walk, stop, rest, eat, and sleep whenever they choose. 

History

ATY started in 1983, and used to be held at Washington High School on a cinder track where runners ran 400m loops. Today, it is held at the training facility for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. Runners run 1,689.5m loops, and the course consists of 85 per cent dirt paths and 15 per cent asphalt. Timed events like ATY provide an opportunity for runners of all abilities to reach their goals. For example, one can register for a 48-hour race with the goal of running 160K (100 miles). Everyone finishes, and there are no DNFs. Huntley loves the looped course, as she could see runners of all abilities close together. 

Canadian Results

Twenty Canadian runners, with an average age of 54 persevered in the frigid desert, proving their strength. “The Americans love us at ATY,” says Huntley. “They told us ‘you are tough as nails and smile while you’re doing it.'” 

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24- hour Canadian Results

Rhonda Loo, 43, Alta. – 108 laps, 182.466K in 23:51:81 (3rd female)
Mike Cameron, 49, Alta. – 96 laps, 162.192K in 22:55:30 (9th male)
Monica Winnett, 45, Ont. – 95 laps, 160.502K in 23:54:36 (9th female)
Lori Alexander, 59, Alta. – 74 laps, 125.023K in 16:19:38 (13th female)
Mars Wolfe Lafreniere, 40, Alta. – 63 laps, 106.438K in 16:57:34 (21st female)
Bryan Sternszus, 38, Que. – 63 laps, 106.438K in 23:52:41 (28th male)
Barry Hopkins, 65, Alta. – 33 laps, 55.753K in 7:20:52 (76th male)

This was Loo’s first 24-hour event, and she qualified for the 24-hour Canadian Team.

48- hour Canadian Results

Steve Tomajko, 66, Ont. – 96 laps, 162.192K in 36:27:27 (25th male)
Teresa Meunier, 59, Alta. – 96 laps, 162.192K in 40:29:15 (23rd female)
Charlie Upshall, 74, Ont. – 96 laps, 162.192K in 42:58:05 (32nd male)

72- hour Canadian Results

Charlotte Vasarhelyi, 42, Ont. – 238 laps, 402.101K in 71:57:53 (1st overall, starting on December 28)
Dennene Huntley, 41, Alta. – 224 laps, 378.448K in 71:41:50 (2nd overall, starting on December 29)
Pablo Espinosa, 38, Que. – 215 laps, 363.242K in 71:57:56 (1st male, 3rd overall)
Michel Gouin, 58, Que. – 172 laps, 290.594K in 71:51:44 (4th male, 8th overall)
Gary Black, 58, Ont. – 100 laps, 168.950K in 71:50:16 (16th male, 30th overall)
Susan Hui, 53, B.C. – 98 laps, 165.571K in 71:41:51 (16th female, 35th overall)
Chantal Morin, 52, Que. – 97 laps, 163.881K in 71:07:44 (20th female, 38th overall)

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Charlotte Vasarhelyi winning the 72-hour race. Photo: Bill Schultz

6-day Canadian Results

Terri Biloski, 42, Ont. – 296 laps, 500.092K in 143:58:26 (5th female, 18th overall)
Joe Cleary, 78, Ont. – 211 laps, 256.484 in 143:42:19 (24th male, 36th overall)
Scott Burton, 39, Man. – 207 laps, 349.726K in 83:15:39 (25th male, 37th overall)

Biloski not only ran over 500K, she volunteered for eight hour shifts in the food tent. She didn’t spend her downtime resting over the six days, she spent it volunteering to help others. 

Despite Huntley’s crew getting caught in a mini-tornado and staying awake in freezing temperatures, her race felt like a dream. With the guidance of coach Ellie Greenwood, Huntley ran 57K further than her 322K goal. She strategizes by alternating between power walking and running–never walking more than 750m at a time. Huntley fuels off of real food including croissant sandwiches, bananas, watermelon, mashed potatoes, and lots of oatmeal. She also uses glucose tabs, and drinks water and CarboPro. Her stomach never got upset for all 378.448K. “The only thing that is sore is my voice and my lips. From the cold.” 

Next year, race director Jamil Coury from Aravaipa Running may name the 2019-2020 race Across The Decades.

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