Aravaipa Mesquite Canyon 50K Race Report

My excitement was through the roof on Saturday afternoon; I had just peed, and my pee was an excellent light yellow color! I was all ready to crow about this to my friends until I realized where I was: at a Luau party in a beautiful home with people who don’t particularly enjoy running. Note to self: not an appropriate environment to discuss bodily functions. I calmly walked out of the bathroom, oddly still wrestling with the desire to boast about my urination prowess. The struggle is real, folks, the struggle is real.

Why was I so exultant about my ability to pee and its color? At 7:30 that morning I toed the start line for the Mesquite Canyon 50K, the finale for the DRT Series put on by Aravaipa Running. After any long run, especially if it is also a warm run, my goal afterwards is to drink until I start peeing. If I also pee during the race and/or directly after, all the better. So, my ability to urinate at my friend’s party (some giggles here, this is funny) had me extremely proud of myself.

My main thought at the start of this race was how ready I was for a long run. More and more frequently I find myself craving this familiar, quiet, settled-in frame of mind. I was ready to go.

The race started out fast and easy along the base of the White Tank Mountains at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, before running through the first aid station (at mile 2.4) and then turning right up into the mountains. I was quite familiar with this first switch-backing climb, having completed it a couple of times before at other races. It’s steep, but I had a good power hike up and before I knew it, I was up and out.

I was quickly at the second aid station at Mesquite Canyon and again, rather than stopping I merely made sure they had my number (they were checking runners in and out of the aid station) and kept going. As I hiked up the hill from here I reflected that this was probably going to be a very slow race because I was hiking so much of it (lots of uphill).

When the grade wasn’t too steep I ran, just working on keeping moving at a steady pace. I ran for a long time with my new friend Jonathan, discussing trails and trips. Eventually we hit trail that was brand new to me and I was enthralled. We were just a little below the towers, and the views out over the valley from these mountains were stunning, not to mention that we were running on single track and the luscious desert landscape that was closer in was simply begging to be gazed upon.

I knew that sometime soon I would be coming upon the first of two gnarly hills in this race, “Goat Camp”. After swooping along comfortably for miles, I rounded a corner and the trail simply dropped into a pristine example of divine, rocky technicality. My heart soared as I picked up the pace, arms flung wide for balance, allowing my feet to fall and slide down the slope. This dance I can do, I know it well. There was no time to think, I simply ran with gravity and we were one.  

Once the hill flattened out, I could feel the fatigue in my quads from my fun. I also needed a bathroom. Like really bad. I was desperately hoping for a toilet at the Bajada aid station, but just in case, I started eyeing the wash I was running next to for likely relief locations. Thankfully there was a toilet and I didn’t need to use nature’s litter box.

13.3 miles into the race and I felt great. The day was proving comfortable. Beforehand I’d been concerned about the heat, but that was not even an issue on this day. I refilled my pack and headed back out. I now had to climb UP the magnificent hill that I’d just bombed down. I ran along easily on the lower portions which were a gentle incline and then hiked the rest. I was up quickly and gone, back towards the Mesquite Canyon aid station.

I was feeling good until I started to feel my usual beginning twinges of side stitches. Why? Every. Single. Time. So frustrating. I had to slow down periodically because they’d get really bad, but when I was able to run through them, I tried to figure out what was going on. I tried breathing out when the foot on the same side as the stitch struck the ground. That sort of helped, but then what do you do when it spreads to both sides??? So, nope. I tried tightening my abs. Nope. Relaxing my abs. Nope. Then I tried just relaxing my whole body, especially my shoulders: “Ahhhhh.” I started to feel better! These stitches have become an issue on most long runs. They tend to eventually go away after a handful of miles (usually six or so) but I’d rather not deal with them in the first place.

I was able to pick my pace back up into Mesquite Canyon aid where I refilled my pack again. I was starting to chafe so I lubed up. I also snarfed a bunch of food and reapplied sunscreen, forgetting the small of my back. Oops.

I was off again to climb the hill out of this aid station for the second time that day. But this time I would be turning away from Bajada aid and towards the final stretch of the race which included the second gnarly hill in Ford Canyon. I only had about 8 miles left and I was done.

The trail up to Ford Canyon was fun; slightly technical, single track, pretty sights. I chugged along until the trail crested, and then it was a super fun bomb down the hill into the Ford Canyon wash. The wash was, well, a wash. Nice thick sand to slog through, with no clear trail per se. But it was pretty obvious that the wash was the trail, and the black polka-dotted orange ribbons placed as course markers simply confirmed I was going the right way. At a couple of places the wash was interesting with white rocks I had to scramble over (I love scrambling). I had assumed the entire Ford Canyon was in the wash, but suddenly, the trail veered up and to the right, out of the wash. I rounded a corner and there was this huge white boulder cliff face that, if there’d been flowing water, would have been a magnificent waterfall. I was exclaiming and hooting as I ran down the Ford Canyon trail. It was all filled with big rocks and again I was hopping all over and having a blast! I rounded a corner and suddenly, there was the Ford Canyon aid station. I took a second to eat a few bites, but then was off, having only about 2 miles left to the finish.

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Coming into Ford Canyon Aid Photo Credit: Matthew Hinman

I pushed these last miles and did my best not to walk. For the final mile I picked up the pace. My breathing was ragged but I knew I was almost done. I kept seeing the finish line tents in between the bushes, but I never seemed to be on the final stretch, until I was, and then I was done.

My friend Benedict was at the finish line taking pictures and he gave me a sweaty congratulatory hug. I was given my finisher glass which I filled with coke, and went and talked to my friends, who were either there giving congratulations or had had good races themselves. I also claimed my free pizza from Freak Brothers (nomnomnom) and relaxed, waiting for other friends to finish their races and for my husband to come and pick me up.

Remember how I’d been concerned that this would be a slow race? Well, I finished in about 6 hours and 30 minutes, which for me was phenomenal and I felt good about it. I was 7th female and 25th overall.

I also finished this race with some beautiful examples of excoriation (chafing- cool word, right?) and bright red sunburn (this on my lower back where I forgot to reapply that sunscreen). The stinging upon contact with hot shower water was exquisite (said with much sarcasm).

This race is by far my favorite of the DRT races. I’d wanted something with some climbing and technicality as training for Zane Grey and this delivered. My watch gave me somewhere around 4700 feet of climbing and as I’ve already said, this had some really fun technical stretches. That combined with the scenery made this race an epic way to end the DRT series and one that I can’t wait to run again.

And now my tale has come full circle. From the race I went to my friend’s Luau party and you know the rest!

Run on.

Featured Photo Credit: Matthew Hinman

Aravaipa Black Canyon 60K Race Report: Why Women have the Advantage when Running in the Heat

I have to tell you that I believe women have an advantage over men when racing in the heat. This is not based on any scientific fact, nor on any studies and is therefore anecdotal in nature and likely entirely erroneous. With these cautions in mind, you proceed in reading the rest of this post at your own peril. Any conclusions you come to are based on this decidedly unreliable information.

So there I was running the Black Canyon 60K. It was glorious, I mean seriously glorious. The start at Mayer high school was freezing cold (I’m pretty sure I can say that literally). We started out our race with a brisk jog around the high school track and then headed off through town towards the Black Canyon trail. Hitting that sweet single track, my head settled comfortably, and with familiarity, into long run mentality. My entire body relaxed.

I have run all of the sections of Black Canyon trail from Mayer to the New River trail head, albeit never at one go. On this day I was only running the first 38 miles. Because I knew the entire trail, I was well aware of how downhill the first 20 or so miles were, so my plan was just to try to not go too fast. I figured if I kept my overall pace at about 10:00 minutes/mile I’d be fine since that was a super easy downhill pace for me. Some miles were faster, some were slower, but overall I held it there pretty well.

I ran along, chatting with Matt, having a great time enjoying the views. It was a different experience having him there with me for that first part of the race. I’m so used to running these longer races in relative solitude that it felt really odd (but nice!) to have someone there to talk to. It was along here that Patchouli Dude first caught up to us.

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Me, Matt, and Patchouli Dude Photo Credit: Ron Ceton

 

I call him Patchouli Dude because, well, he wears Patchouli (totally original, I know). We talked for a little bit- he was from out of town and was really enjoying the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and not knowing what the trail ahead of him was like. He and I would leap frog back and forth for the remainder of the race.

I blew through the first aid station- it was only a few miles in and I didn’t need to slow down for anything, so I pulled ahead of Patchouli Dude.

As we continued our descent, I could feel the desert begin to warm up.

Coming into the second aid station I refilled my pack with water, grabbed a few bites and moved out. I think I got some sunscreen here too.

I started to feel a little tired in the next stretch, and it was warming up, but all was well, for me, into the next aid station. I was quite happy to see a porta potty here! It was disgusting, and yet, I am always so thankful for nasty toilets when I’m out running. Oddly, it’s sort of a bit of luxury out in the desert. Unfortunately, Matt and I had to split up here. We walked out of the aid station, but I was ready to run again shortly, so I took off.

I’m not gonna lie, the next stretch was hot. It’s a shorty, only around 4.5 miles or so to the next aid station, but oof. I trudged along, feeling every pulse of the pounding Arizona sun. Patchouli Dude passed me. I just kept in mind that it wasn’t that far and I had plenty of water. The aid station couldn’t get there fast enough, and I was so glad to see it! Here I refilled my pack with water again and headed straight for the ice chest.

Remember how I said women have an advantage over men in the heat? Well, here it is. At the ice chest I stuffed my bra with as much ice as I possibly could. The first cubes hitting my skin made me yelp, but I kept filling, getting ice all over and around, ahem, everything. I instantly cooled down. Not only do women usually wear sports bras which easily hold loads of ice, we have greater surface area (read: we have boobies) which allow for more contact with ice leading to better evaporation and cooling as compared to men. See? Women have an advantage in the heat!

I left this aid station with much jostling and rattling occurring between my hooters, however I was no longer even remotely hot. I felt like I was running on a comfortable sunny day, not a care in the world. I ran along, at some point I passed Patchouli Dude, but I don’t remember where.

Somewhere along the trail I fell, though thankfully it was a slightly inclined part of the trail. I had blood running down my pinky and my leg, but it looked way worse than it really was. Somebody called it “trail paint” and I think I will use that from now on! Love it!

Somewhere on one of the awesome downhills I had to slow down because something in my calf was bothering me. I walked for a bit and stretched to try to get it to go away, but it was hanging around for the day. So I tried running to see if it would get worse. It didn’t, it was just there, so I just took it easy on the downs to not make it worse.

Eventually the portable A/C system between my breasts began to disappear. It’s ice and it was hot, so I suppose that was expected (sigh). But just as I was out of ice, the first river crossing came into view! The other times I’ve done this section of the trail it was just a little creek. This was a deep, running river, at least for Arizona. Perhaps for anywhere else it was just a creek crossing. Anyway, as I ran down the hill to the RIVER (I’m sticking with river, it was a river) I chucked my pack on the bank, ran into the middle of the river and laid full out. The water was COLD. I popped back up, grabbed my pack, and ran on up the hill.

That river crossing kept me cool until I hit the next aid station, at which point I was starting to feel hot again, and a little nauseous. I again stuffed my bra with ice and again I felt so much better. I refilled my pack with water for the final miles to the finish.

I ran along feeling pretty good. I felt fatigue in my legs, but overall I felt okay. Coming down to the second RIVER crossing I was again running low on boob ice, but a quick dowse in the water and I was good for the final few miles to the finish. I walked out of this crossing because it’s sandy with big loose river rocks and I was tired. Behind me, you’ll never guess, it was Patchouli Dude! I hadn’t seen him for a little bit. He said, “You have no idea how hard I had to run to catch you!” Aw, so sweet. We chatted and I mentioned that there was now a big hill before the down to the finish. He was no happier about this than I was.

This hill… The first couple of times I ran this route I was unable to run this hill. I was at the tail end of about 18 miles each time and I was tired and the hill just felt so big and so difficult; I always had to walk it. Then one day I was out and just did a quick out and back from the trail head I was now running towards and realized this hill was not as steep as I’d always felt. Bolstered with this knowledge, I did my best to run it, and you know what? I actually ran the hill! Yeah, that’s right! On the last few miles of a 38 mile run, I ran the hill! Ha-ha! Take that, hill!

I crested the hill and I could hear Patchouli Dude behind me. I really wanted to stay ahead but there was a rock in my shoe. Typically I don’t worry about this and just keep running and it’s not a big deal, but this one was under my arch and not moving and was hurting quite a bit. I had to stop to take it out. Patchouli Dude passed me and I didn’t have enough left in me to catch him again. So we ran into the finish line and I cheered him on, “Run Patchouli Dude, Run!” He finished a few seconds ahead of me.

I beat the 8 hour mark, which for this race I felt really good about.  I took 25th overall, out of 64, and 11th female, out of 32. I sat there enjoying the finish line camaraderie while waiting for Matt to finish, and chatted with a new friend (Israel) who I also leap frogged with on the trail, and I found out Patchouli Dude’s name (it’s Todd).

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My new friend Israel, Me, and my Trail Paint Photo Credit: Israel

Later I went down to the 100K finish line to get me some free (for all finishers) Freak Brother’s Pizza. I hung out with my buddies (thanks Jon and Erica!) until I’d finished snarfing those marvelous calories. I then headed for home; tired, but incredibly happy and content, with another incredible day in the desert under my belt.

Me and Erica

Erica and I at the 100K Finish Line Photo Credit: Erica

So are you Yay or Nay on icing it up while running? How do you keep cool during a hot race?

Featured Image Photo Credit: Not Me, Maybe Matt?

Smelly Armchair Musings: On Scary Dreaming

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

 
Full quotes, even short ones, don’t typically stick with me. I think, “Oh, that’s nice”, “inspirational”, “funny” etcetera, and then I forget about it. I don’t know where I first heard the above quote, but it is one that has never left my mind. It is also one that I gain a deeper understanding of as the years go by.

I began running and going back to school at approximately the same time. Then, I didn’t have a specific direction, I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I didn’t have a definitive goal in mind. I just knew I wanted…. something. Needed… something. I began running as something that was just for me. It was mine and it belonged only to me. I’d also had babies and I really didn’t want to be fat, so there was that. I’d never been into sports, and had never done cross country, so this was new territory to me. The more I ran, the more I realized what an amazing gift our bodies are, how capable and strong they can be. I started going back to school because I’d always enjoyed school, excelled at it as a matter of fact (except in handwriting- I’m really, horribly bad at handwriting). While I loved my children and our family, I just couldn’t stay at home. Again, I needed an indefinable…. something. There was this ache, this need, there was something I needed to be doing and I wasn’t doing it. I felt like God had gifted me an ability to learn, and I owed it to myself to see where that would lead.

In the beginning, running was not a dream. It just was. I was doing something, and that was all that mattered. I started out running with the plan to just be able to run one mile. It was difficult, but I was able to do it. Then I had a friend who said, “Hey! Let’s run a half marathon!” While life took that friend and I in different directions, I’m sure if you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that those were fateful words; running long distances is now a passion. At the time, a half marathon was a scary long distance. I didn’t know if I could do it; it was well beyond my capacity. Not at all so now.

In the beginning, school and a career were not dreams. Wanting to see what I could do, I first pursued an Associate’s degree, then a Bachelor’s degree. I honestly never thought I’d finish the Bachelor’s. Not because I didn’t think I was capable but because it was intangible to me- you could almost say it was a baby dream. I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it. Then, suddenly, it was done. Of course I knew when I’d have all my credits completed, and I did really well in school, and yet, I was just done so suddenly, I didn’t know what to think.

My husband mentioned once that somehow in me, my running and my pursuit of school and a career are intricately intertwined. This is true.

For me, a long race is all about breaking it down into manageable parts, staying on top of the important things (food, hydration), and keeping a steady pace. School has been that too. I broke that down into degrees (Associate’s, Bachelor’s) and when even those became such big pieces that I couldn’t handle them, I broke it down into semesters. Sometimes, when I was crying in bed because it… was… all… so… very… hard… I had to break it down into individual assignments. Sometimes that was the only way I made it through, and that also kept me on top of the important things. I had to take a little longer than many of my peers to finish school, taking fewer credits at a time, in order to keep a steady pace and be able to finish each semester. Long runs are like this. Sometimes the parts that sounded easy and manageable in the beginning are way too big. When you are crying on the side of the trail because you are puking, everything hurts and is falling apart, and you still have oh so very far to go, you must instead simply become one foot in front of the other. There is no other way to the finish line.

Upon completion of my Bachelor’s, my PhD dreams became more real, and that is when my dreams actually began to scare me. The quote from the beginning of this post is from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia, from her speech to the Harvard graduates of 2011. The above quote is part of her speech wrap-up, and yet her entire closing is full of impact and meaning:

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough. If you start off with a small dream, you may not have much left when it is fulfilled because along the way, life will task your dreams and make demands on you. I am, however, bullish about the future of our world because of you. We share one defining characteristic that prepares us to transform our world — we are all Harvard University graduates. When we add to that the traditional quests for excellence for which we are known, there is no telling what we can accomplish.
Go forth and embrace a future that awaits you.”

Did you catch that? “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.” I’m now scared- pursuing my PhD scares me.

Back in the fall, I entered my name into the lottery for Zane Grey. A little background; coming across the Zane Grey 50 mile trail race was the first time I’d ever heard of ultra-running. This race runs point to point on the Highline Trail from Pine to Christopher Creek near Payson, AZ. The description on the website says, “Regarded as the toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 mile trail runs in the country.” Running this race has been a dream of mine since I first heard about it, and yet it has never been anything I thought I could ever do. My friend Kathi pushed me, as good friends are wont to do, into entering my name into the lottery (she entered her name too). In order to enter my name and even be considered I had to list my prior ultra finishes. I did so, but felt wholly inadequate, knowing I would not be chosen. I mean, this was ZANE we were talking about, and who was I? Guess what? I got in. I’m now scared- pursuing Zane scares me.

While Ms. Sirleaf’s speech was directed towards Harvard graduates, it is applicable to all people. Not all of us are Harvard graduates, not all of us will become the president of a country, and yet, every last one of us has a dream of some kind. Do you want to be a mother? Father? Astronaut? Engineer? Gardener? Runner? Hiker? Swimmer? Dreams are transforming. I know I’m not the same person I was when I began this journey. What began as an indefinable urge to DO SOMETHING has metamorphosed into definable dreams. My dreams have changed me, scared me, and will continue to change me and grow me. Perhaps as a part of this process I can have a positive, transforming impact on my little corner of the world.

PhD, Zane Grey, these bring a good scared to my soul. They are big to me. Huge. They are beyond my known capacity. What if I fail? There is always that possibility and it makes me want to throw up in my mouth… a lot. But do you know what is even scarier to me? What if I never even tried? That, my dear reader, is tinged with regret, and regret is something I will not willingly choose.

Smelly Armchair Musings: On the Beauty of Being Yourself

“Just follow her feet. Just follow her feet. Just follow her feet. Oh god, where is the aid station?”

On this day, February 9, 2013, I ran with my friend Dawn at my first ultra, the Pemberton 50K. I’d wanted to “be an ultra-runner” for a while, and on that day I’d set out to try to earn that badge. I was a newb.

Dawn; she is amazing. She’s run numerous races, ultra and not, all over the place. She is kind and always has a smile and a word of encouragement for everyone. She loves her family, loves her friends, and loves the trails. This woman exudes calm, acceptance, generosity, kindness, humbleness, and grace. She taught me so much about myself, and all while simply being herself. She probably has no idea of the impact she has had on my life (well, perhaps until now).

Up until the Pemberton 50K, Dawn and I had been on group runs together. Just talking, chatting about whatever. We were friends and I enjoyed her company.

So we ran the Pemberton 50K. This race consists of two loops of Pemberton Trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. It’s a good first ultra because it has minimal elevation gain and is relatively smooth running.

For the first loop, being the newb that I was, I ran too fast, I know that now. But at the time, I felt great, the pace felt fun, I was having a good time. Dawn was behind me a little bit. We came into the Start/Finish line aid station and Dawn, being much wiser than me, took a moment to stop and eat. I kept going.

As soon as I started on the second loop I knew I was in trouble. The flat course no longer felt flat. I couldn’t run. Everything hurt and my legs wouldn’t move. Dawn caught up to me while I was walking, and she was still running strong. I don’t remember now all of the words that were exchanged- I remember seriously hating life and hating the “hill”. She was kind and cheerful, as always, but not in an annoying cheerleader way, she was just herself. I ended up following her feet; she pulled me in this manner for miles (5? 6? 7? I don’t remember now.). All I remember of this time is her solid feet, consistently covering trail, and my struggle to keep watching them and not stop. It hurt. Eventually we came to a remote aid station and I just couldn’t run anymore. I told her to go ahead. I still had a bunch of miles (5? 6? Again, I don’t remember) to go to reach the finish line, and I needed to walk for a while.

So I walked. And felt sorry for myself for walking. One person passed me. Then another. I was still walking. Eventually enough people passed me that I decided that was enough of that, I was going to run again. So I did. It was a shuffle, really. Every little bump in the trail felt like I was climbing a giant mountain. My legs wouldn’t lift, but at least I wasn’t walking anymore.

Eventually I made it and I crossed the finish line of my first ultra. And Dawn was there and she congratulated me. I felt awful. I was cold. I remember leaving there and going to Starbucks to get a huge hot chocolate to drink- I was dehydrated, and hadn’t eaten well, and was a mess.

And that’s my experience of my first ultra, but this is about so much more than that. Every time I run any race, at some point the going gets hard and ALWAYS Dawn’s voice is there: “Just keep moving. One foot in front of the other finishes.” On my “Adventure Runs” (My friend Miguel calls these Amber Adventures) that I pursue in the desert, again, Dawn is always with me. This beautiful woman gave me so much more than she will ever know. These words don’t describe the impact she has had on me. I look up to her.

So why write this? Trail running is about community. We need each other, or at least, I do. Dawn never knew the impact she had on my life, she was just herself and she helped me to become the person I am today because of it. Perhaps this is a reminder to me. I don’t know, and will never know, my impact on the lives of those around me. How does my mere presence affect them? What about my words? My actions? I don’t know. But I love my community- I will choose to be there for them, to pour into them, as I have been poured into, because this is who I am. Perhaps there is someone out there who will always hear my voice on their runs, just as I always hear Dawn’s. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is my choice to love those around me while I am here simply because I can.

Thank you Dawn.

Aravaipa McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Mile Race Report: On Running Far, Perseverance, Breaking Down, and Accidentally Accomplishing a Long-Held Desire

What does it mean when you eat a good pizza dinner at 7:00pm, a second dinner at 10:00pm, and then are woken up by your body screaming for food at 1:30am and again at 6:30am? For me it means that I finished my first 50 mile race!

Morning came too early Saturday and I was a bundle of nerves. As per my habit for this Fall’s  Desert Runner Trail Series I had not effectively trained. While I had managed to complete the first two races of the series (Cave Creek Thriller 50K and Pass Mountain 50K) they were not 50 miles, and I had never run 50 miles before. The closest I’d come to 50 miles was my R3 Canyon crossing back in May for which I’d trained. So… nerves. Could I finish? What if my side cramped up? What if I got nauseous? What if my muscles refused? What if, what if, what if?

I had prepared my pack the night before. I know many experienced ultra-runners don’t carry a pack, preferring to stay light with a water bottle or two. From my experience at the Canyon though, I decided I wanted to have my pack with a few staple items in it so I knew I’d have the nutrition I wanted. The biggest thing I learned at the Canyon was “Eat early and eat often” which I planned to do for the race. This way, the aid station goodies would be a bonus! I also had my electrolytes which I seem to do well with when I take one/ hour. I also decided to forgo the drop bags- I couldn’t think of anything I’d really need that would be worth slowing down for.

I arrived at the race about 25 minutes before the start. I knew the day would get warm so even though it was probably in the 40’s, I was wearing shorts and a tank and arm sleeves. I stood by the fire and shivered until it was time to go. 44 of us toed the start line, full of hopes, worries, excitement, and expectations for the day ahead of us. Only 33 of us would finish.

When the horn went off, I did my best to keep my pace down. This is so difficult at the beginning of a race, but I knew if I had any desire to finish, I had to keep it slow. You may remember Karen, the woman who was out for a training run during the Cave Creek 50K, and who I ran with for quite a while there? Well, she was out at the Frenzy, running her first 50 mile too! She asked me what my strategy was for the day, if I had one. My answer, “Just don’t go too fast.” She laughed and said she didn’t think that’d be a problem for her. (Ultra Sign-Up had also predicted that my finish time would be 12:20 and I wanted to beat that at least, if not finish in 12 hours.) This beginning part of the trail, though, is nice and easy rolling. It’s difficult to keep the pace down, as I discovered last year when I ran the Frenzy 50K. We, along with at least one other woman who was also running her first 50 mile, ran together until we hit the first aid station (around 7 miles in, only 43 left!), Escondido Aid. I grabbed a cup of coke (mmm… coke), a bite to eat, and moved out. I would see them all again on Thompson Peak- more on that later.

Rolling up Pemberton Trail from Escondido I just ran easy. This section of trail is wide open, smooth, and gently uphill. I’ve run it many times, so I knew what to expect for next 5 miles to aid station number two, Granite Tank Aid. Coming down into the aid station (12 miles down, only 38 to go!), my friend Jon greeted me and took my picture. I dumped some sand out of my shoes, grabbed a cup of coke, and walked out.

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Coming into Granite Tank Aid. Photo Credit: Jon Christley

The next 6.5 miles consisted of a loop, which would come back to Granite Tank Aid, in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve on trails which I’d never run before. They headed out way north, near some cool boulder formations. The trails were mostly narrow, which I love. I began this little side loop with walking and eating because as I’d been running up Pemberton I’d felt some hunger setting in already. Note to self: do not wait to eat once you feel hungry when running. I’d waited too long to eat, and struggled with the evil Bonk for the next couple of miles until what I’d eaten made its way into my bloodstream. Then I was better and took off again.

I ran back into Granite Tank Aid (about 18 miles down, only 32 left- just a 50K!) and filled my pack with water for the first time. The next 10.5 miles to Dixie Mine Aid would be long and the day was warming up. I’d stripped off my arm sleeves and Jon sprayed me with sunscreen. I was so thankful for this. I’d put on a little bit of sunscreen in the morning before leaving home, but I’d known then it wouldn’t be enough. I downed some more coke and belched in a most trail-lady-like fashion, and headed out.

The beginning of this section again heads out onto trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. These were trails I’d run the year before during the 50K and I loved them just as much this time around as I did then; narrow, winding between boulders, fun! I ran easily along, enjoying the views of Tom’s Thumb and the McDowell’s. Eventually I came down out of the Preserve and back onto Pemberton Trail. Again, I know this trail well and chugged along. By now I was passing by 50K runners. It was nice to see these other people out on the trail. I passed by one girl who was running strong. She asked how my day was going. I answered, “Great!” and she replied with, “Fuck yeah!” Awesome enthusiasm! It made me smile.

We turned off of Pemberton Trail onto Coachwhip Trail, beginning the ascent into the McDowell Mountains. The trail became a little more technical, and it was warm, so I slowed down some, speed-hiking the bigger hills. The views from here are some of my favorite in this area. Climbing up Bell Pass, if you look back behind you the desert is spread out below, with the mountains right next to you. It’s awe-inspiring. Upon cresting Bell Pass it’s a crazy fun, technical, switch-backing downhill until you hit the Thompson Peak road, which then continues downhill into Dixie Mine Aid.

Coming into Dixie Mine (About 29 miles done! Over half way! Only 21 miles left!), my friend Justin greeted me and refilled my pack while my friend Brett got me… can you guess what? Yup, coke. We chatted for a few minutes. Another friend, Bradley, was there resting for a bit during his 50K effort. My left IT band was feeling a little twingey, so I was concerned about that, especially considering that I now had to climb up Thompson Peak.

Thompson Peak. It’s hard. And it’s incredible. The climb up to the towers on top of the peak is about 2.3 miles, with, I think, about 1500 feet of gain. Most of that gain is in the last mile with grades sometimes reaching upwards of 49% (at least according to my Strava). I’ve climbed this mountain a few times before, which I was so thankful for. It would be disheartening to me to hit this climb this far into a race and not have been expecting it. I climbed and pushed and my heart pounded and my breathing raged and my calves burned with an angry fire. I stopped twice, I think, for a couple of seconds to slow my heart down, and then pushed on. I crested the mountain, made sure my bib number was recorded (to verify I’d climbed the whole thing) and ran back down.

On the way down, my IT band twinging turned into aching pain. I managed to find a weird hitching running motion that I could do and did that as much as I could down. One woman on her way up asked me if I had any electrolytes- her quads were cramping. I gave her two. On the last really steep section I came across Karen again and the other first time 50 mile woman- they were looking strong and were all smiles! I hitched into Dixie Mine Aid (50K down! Less than 17 miles to go!) again and refilled my pack. I drank yet more coke, ate more food, and headed out. At this point, the first sign of fatigue set in. I’d set my arm sleeves down at aid station, and left without them. Thankfully I realized this right away and was able to retrieve them.

I hiked the brief climb out of the aid station and then the trail followed a ridge before heading downhill and eventually winding back down to Pemberton. It was in this section that my state of mind become apparent to me. I’d been taking my electrolytes consistently every hour, but now I wasn’t sure if I’d taken the last one, or what time the last one was at. It was just over 5 miles of easy running to the Gate Aid Station, but my IT band was kind of angry. So I ran, then walked for a minute to calm it down, then ran again. I did this the whole way into the Gate Aid (About 39 miles down! Only about 11 to go!). I drank coke at Gate Aid and refilled my pack. The next aid station was only a 5K away, but it was the Start/Finish line. I knew I didn’t want to linger there since that’d make it hard to head back out for the final loop. So preemptively filling my pack was a protective measure against stopping my race early.

I left the Gate Aid, and thankfully the volunteer there saw my arm sleeves, which, yes, I’d set down and forgotten again. I would be coming back to this aid station, but I wanted to hold my sleeves because they were protection for my hands in the case that my increasingly tired feet tripped and I fell.

I covered that 5K as quickly as I could. The woman who’d needed the electrolytes had caught up to me by this point, and thankfully her quads had calmed down and not cramped up on the way down from the peak! We ran together off and on, and I was still able to run pretty well. I was tired, but I felt great.

There’s this last little hill that has to be crested before coming into the Start/Finish line. I power-hiked this, coming up with the most creative curse words I could. I still felt just fine, other than the twinging IT, but I was grouchy. I ran into the Start/Finish line and grabbed some food. My friends Erica, Laurie, Krista, and Matt were all there and greeted me. I grabbed more food, downed more coke, and grabbed some food to go. Matt walked me down the parking lot to where the trail took off out into the desert again. I’d covered 42 miles and I only had 8 left.

It was 2 miles back out to the Gate Aid station and it was easy running. But, my tiredness showed itself and I tripped and fell on a non-rock. Thankfully I’d had my arm sleeves and the damage was minimal. I grabbed coke and pickles at the aid station and moved out. As I was descending a small hill, Karen ran into the Gate Aid above me and yelled and waved!

6 miles left and it was still light out. I had a second wind and ran solidly for a mile and felt good. Then I started to feel a twinge in my left foot. So I hiked a little, but kept running. I was tired, but my muscles still felt strong. But. My. Foot. With about 3 miles left, I couldn’t run anymore, the pain in my foot was so bad. I was angry, so very angry. My muscles were still good! I could run, but for this tiny, horrible spot in my foot! It got dark and I hiked as hard as I could, and sometimes even that set my foot off. The pain made me start crying, then I’d tell myself to stop it, I had to get to the finish line. I’d get it under control and then start sobbing again, then get it under control again. This happened over and over. I could see the lights of the people behind me and I was so very slow. I just knew they were all going to pass me and there was nothing I could do about it.

By now I was hiking in blind faith. I was on a trail, but couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen an Aravaipa flag. I’d get worried I’d gone the wrong way and would start watching closely for a flag, would see one, but would then forget when I’d seen it after I passed it. I kept expecting to end up on a different trail, not realizing I’d be approaching the Finish line from the far end of the parking lot, and this concerned me when I wasn’t seeing what I expected to see. Finally I could hear the Finish line. Then I could see it, though it seemed so very far away. Then I was suddenly at the end of the parking lot and knew I hadn’t gone off trail. Somehow no one had passed me yet. I started unreservedly sobbing, so badly did I want to be done. I hobbled as fast as I could up the parking lot and across the finish line. Immediately I collapsed in a pile of tears on the other side. I’d done it. I’d run 50 miles. Remember my goal of finishing in 12 hours? I’d finished sub-12. I’d finished what I’d set out to do into the arms of my dear friends and family. When I’d come through the first time, Matt had texted my husband who was now there to greet me along with our kids. I was just crying and crying. And then… then someone told me I was third female.

Wait, what?

That couldn’t be right. I knew there were people ahead of me. I’ve never placed in an Aravaipa race. I’ve always wanted to, but I’m not fast enough. My friend Laurie who was doing the timing confirmed it, I’d gotten third female. Me. In my very first 50 mile race, I, of all people, had gotten third. So the sobbing commenced again.

Eventually I calmed down and stood up. I warmed up by the fire while my husband grabbed my change of clothes from my car and ordered my free pizza from Freak Brothers (for all 50K and 50 mile finishers). Then, for the first time, I had my picture taken with the other top finishing, incredible ultra-women.

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My bib, socks, and award

And you know the rest. I now sit here on my couch finishing this blog, still hungry. I am resting. My muscles feel great, my foot is still achy. What are my plans? I will rest for the month of December and allow my body to heal from this incredible effort it just accomplished. I will see how I feel and determine future training based on that.

I will close with this: our bodies are incredible, simply incredible. There are very few living creatures that can cover distances like we can (if you want to have a geek discussion on the physiology surrounding this with me sometime, please let me know!). We can cover incredible distances because we want to. Take a moment to think about that. We can. I can. You can. Many runners have heard, “What?!?! Why would you run that far?!? You must be crazy! I don’t even drive that far!” These things are said in varying forms in regards to all distances ranging from a 5K to a marathon, to 100 miles and more. Many of us have even laughed along with the people saying this, perhaps even joined in the joking self-deprecation. I know that I have. I don’t want to anymore. This ability is amazing and life-altering. It’s not crazy to push your body to see what it can do. It’s not crazy to head out into wild places and experience this dazzling world. It’s crazy not to. It’s crazy to be surrounded by astounding beauty and to purposely choose to never experience it. I will experience this world I’ve been given- who’s with me?

Aravaipa Pass Mountain 50K Race Report: Hooray for Pizza and Coke!

Le sigh. My life is a whirlwind of my own making. I keep telling myself the frantic pace will calm down eventually. I am about 95% sure this is true. Of course in addition to my already frenetic life, I must run far. It’s fun.

Pass Mountain 50K. Honestly I was in no better condition for it than for the Cave Creek 50K, but I went out to finish it. Why not? My longest training run this time consisted of pacing my dear friend Kathi to her 3rd place finish at the Javelina Jundred K– this was about 15.5 miles. While that’s better than my 10 mile long runs for Cave Creek, it’s not much better. Plus, my overall weekly mileage remained crazy low. I think I was doing pretty good if I got in 30 mile weeks. Argh.

The morning of the race dawned beautifully. It was chilly which was nice for a long effort- well, not nice exactly, I prefer warm, but I knew this would help me out. The Pass Mountain races are typically smaller than some of the other Desert Runner Trail (DRT) races, and generally the ultra-distances have much smaller starting crowds, so as my “crowd” of 34 toed the start line, it was peaceful. It felt like a group of friends setting off on a run.

The Pass Mountain 50K consists of completing two loops, 15.5-ish miles each, within Usery Mountain Regional Park. The beginning of the loop is super easy- gentle downhill to flat trail that winds through the lowlands surrounded by cholla and saguaro, with epic views of Flatiron in the distance. It’s smooth trail with no rocks. Easy running. Easy to go way too fast. I settled into a pace that felt good and just decided to go with it. There were two aid stations on this loop, in addition to the finish line. The first was 3.5 miles out, and the second was about 3.5 miles beyond that. Then you had the 7.5 or so miles back to the start line aid. I ran through the first aid station and didn’t stop. I stopped at the second one just to top off on water.

After the second aid station, I knew the trail would require more thinking- it was rockier and there would finally be some climbing. But I was feeling so good. The miles were ticking by on my watch and I felt strong. Aside from one or two particularly steep sections, I just ran. Up over rocks, bombing down into washes, it was all good. I remembered at Cave Creek that side stitches started up around 9 miles, but today, on this glorious day, I had none of that. On the trail up to the saddle of Usery Mountain, you are just running along the side of the mountain when suddenly, BAM! The trail turns a sudden corner to continue following the mountain and out below you is beauty defined, the valley stretching off in the distance. It’s shocking, and incredible.

Upon cresting the saddle, I knew it was pretty much all downhill to the start/finish line. I took it easy, knowing I still had to do this loop a second time. It was such a breeze, and so much fun! It felt great just feeling my muscles doing their thing and moving through the desert. I finished my first loop in 2:53:13. Whoops, a little bit fast for me. Oh well!

I knew as soon as I started out on the second loop that this one would be slower. I argued with myself for the entire first 7 miles. My body wanted to walk and I had to keep telling myself, “NO! This is downhill! This is flat! You are NOT walking a flat or downhill!” So I made myself keep a running motion. It sucked. Using this drill sergeant in my head, I made it to the first aid station where I grabbed a PBJ and a watermelon. I walked out as I ate, and then made myself run the whole way to the second aid station. Coming in, I heard someone behind me and guess what! It was the same guy I beat at Flagstaff Big Pine, and who beat me at Cave Creek (I need to learn his name). I asked him if he was ready to kick my ass today (I was feeling pretty done), and he said, “We’ll see!” At this second aid station, I refilled my water, grabbed some more food, and headed out again. I was frustrated- 5 or 6 people passed me at the aid station. But, I made myself keep running. I told myself that when I got to the more technical uphills, I was allowed to walk those, but nothing else. So that’s what I did. I power-hiked each rocky uphill, and ran and ran and ran. Somehow I started passing people. I have no idea how that happened. My legs were shot. I was dreaming of cold, fizzy coke, and laying down at the finish line. Glorious finish line. And pizza at the finish line. Coke and pizza. Mmmmmm….. And then… I hit the saddle! I’d finished climbing! Suddenly my legs were good, I had a second wind! I was golden! Downhill is my thing, it’s what I’m good at, and I ran with all my heart. Swooping, pounding the trail, sliding the corners, the desert spread out around and below me, and with the finish line within my grasp, I gave it everything. I crossed that finish line at 6:03:56. I was fourth female, and twelfth overall! As soon as I crossed though, all I could do was stand bent over panting. My husband was there to greet me and congratulate me, and tell me about his race. He ran the 5K and did so well! He finished 8th male and 12th overall! My kids were there too, to tell me about their adventures (bees and sticks, oh my!) while I’d been out.  Jamil handed me my finisher’s glass, which I promptly took over to the aid station and asked for ice and coke. I drank three (or was it four? maybe five?) of those before feeling ready to head over the Freak Brother’s Pizza and get my free pizza (for all 50K finishers). I ate my pizza, and drank more coke, and was happy. I’d done much better than I expected, and I felt really great. Oh, and I beat that guy from the other two races. I’m assuming he’ll be at McDowell Mountain Frenzy next weekend, so I suppose it’s his turn to beat me now!

Speaking of the Frenzy, this will be my first 50 mile race. And I’m not trained. It seems this is the racing season of anti-training for me. However, I’m really looking forward to this effort. I get excited at the prospect of a long run in the desert, it’s soothing. I have a 14 hour cut off to get this thing done, so I don’t know how soothing it will be, but, on this side of race day, I’m excited.

Run on!

Aravaipa Cave Creek Thriller 50K Race Report: ALWAYS Pre-Grease Your Butt Crack, and Other Advice from a Tired and Happy Trail Runner

This is a long post. Here are the top 6 essential cliff notes for those of you too lazy to read the whole thing (you know who you are):

  • Always run long when training for a 50K: 10 miles is not long
  • Always go into a run with the mindset that you’re going to enjoy yourself
  • Push through feeling crappy: we all feel crappy at some point in time, it’s not a reason to quit
  • Watch for Desert Tortoises, they’re awesome
  • Always drink Coke in conjunction with running, it’s amazing
  • Always pre-grease your butt crack: butt crack chafing is unpleasant

The Beginning of the Story:

My morning began at 3:40am. I slept in my race clothes, so all I had to do was roll and go, grabbing my coffee and breakfast on my way out the door at 4:00am. Why so early? Aravaipa’s Cave Creek Thriller 50K began at 6:30am, and I still had to get there and get my bib and get on the shuttle to the start.

A little back story since I haven’t posted in a while: I haven’t been running much. Random weird injury, (blah, blah, blah) start running again, weird pains (blah, blah, blah), start running again, weird injury or pains somewhere else, (blah, blah, blah). So I allowed myself to take some time off. That’s what I told myself anyway; it sucked. My longest run was 10 miles, which is nowhere near enough to be well-trained for a 50K. I also really enjoy my long runs out in the desert; they are where I get my head to relax. Ten miles is not enough for that either.

Earlier this year, I signed up for the Aravaipa DRT Ultra Plus Series, which includes a 50K at Cave Creek, a 50K at Pass Mountain, and a 50 Miler at Mcdowell Mountain. There have been a few times I haven’t even started a race because an injury of some kind prevented me from training and I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t want to drop from yet another race. Plus, I kept hearing the strangest things like, “Rest is good for you, you’ll actually run a better race.” And, “I’d only run 10 miles for my longest training and I had my best race ever!” So I figured I’d go ahead and still give it a shot. I knew if nothing else, I could walk 31 miles. It would be miserable, but I could do it.

So, fast forward to the start line this morning. I was nervous about how the day would go, and was afraid one of my nagging injuries would rear its ugly head. I knew I was not prepared, but decided I was going to enjoy myself and give it my best. I was also really looking forward to the effort- It was a long desert run, which I have desperately missed. Plus, the weather was on my side. It had stormed the night before and we still had cloud cover, and a nice breeze.

My friend Erica was also unsure of her abilities this morning, but I had a feeling that she would win (she did).

Jamil, the race director, gave a few instructions, we waited a few seconds, and then it was time to take off. I started in the mid-back of the approximately 50 runners. Erica was gone like a bullet and I didn’t see her again until the finish line.

Anytime I run long, I break the distance down into smaller distances which I know I can do, and which don’t sound so long. For this run, I broke them down by aid stations, which is what I usually do when running a race. 9.1 miles to aid station 1, (I can run that far, that’s fine) 6.9 to #2 (so totally got that), 6.1 to #3 (psshh, piece of cake), 5.8 to #4 (what? That’s so short!), and 3 miles to the finish line (less than a 5K, total breeze).

To Aid Station #1: 9.1 miles

The beginning of the race consisted of my usual attempting to settle into a pace that was comfortable for me and which I felt I could maintain. I did so pretty quickly and felt great. The first few miles had a few little rollers here and there, but nothing major. Along the way, I heard burros braying and saw their little footprints on the trail! Mostly this whole section was all flat, which was great for me and my super non-training.

I breezed through aid #1. I was feeling really good, and loving the flat terrain, which was slightly soft underfoot from the recent moisture. I was also loving being out running far. I stayed on top of eating, and drinking, and salt intake. All was amazing. Then, it wasn’t amazing anymore.

To Aid Station #2: 6.9 miles (16 total)

First, the stitches started in my side. Normally this happens when I’m not running with very good form, and straightening up fixes the problem. It mostly did in this case. Then… well… I had to make a pit stop. Thankfully I had toilet paper. All better. I ran okay for a mile or so, then just started to bonk hard. I felt tired and heavy. Next, some nausea set in. The only other time I’ve ever gotten nauseous on any kind of run was at the Flagstaff Skyrace last year, and I think that was due to exertion at elevation. I have no idea what to do with nausea, and no idea why it occurred. I’d been doing great on my food and water intake, and not overdoing it. Ugh, whatever. Then the stitches came back hardcore. There was no more running, I was slogging, even though the trail was still flat.  When the stitches lessened, I ran again until I couldn’t (either due to stitches or nausea). Part of this race went through a desert corridor passing through Anthem (north of Phoenix). There were shops here, and the bane of my existence: fast food restaurants. Fast food makes me feel ill on a good day, which this desperately was not. Keeping my gag reflex in check, I managed to make it through here, and I walked into aid station #2. There I saw a couple of my friends (Jon and Thomas) and chatted a bit, while drinking the sweet nectar of the running gods; Coke. I was so excited to see this!!

To Aid Station #3: 6.1 miles (22.1 total)

I walked out of #2 and the nausea slowly began to subside. I ran off and on, as I could. Somewhere through here, I picked up a runner who was not racing. Her name was Karen, and we talked a little bit. She was out on a long run (20 miles) and was training for the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Miler! I actually was able to keep pace with her for quite a while and I started to feel much better. Right around where she joined me (maybe a mile or two outside of the aid station?) is where some climbing began. We walked the uphills and ran everything else. Eventually I needed a quick break, so she took off. I really appreciated her being there, she helped me out so much.

The views along this part of the trail are really pretty- there are mountains ahead, and it’s exciting to see them getting closer and closer. Somewhere in this section is where the cloud cover began to dissipate somewhat. The sun was definitely warm, but nothing overwhelming. Plus, I could see some clouds that looked a little heavy not too far off.

I was able to run into aid station #3, to where my friend Brett was volunteering. I suppose I was looking a little rough. But I was feeling so much better. Another friend, Greg showed up here to say hello, he only gave me a minimally hard time for hanging at the aid station for a few minutes. Again, Coke was to be had, so I had it. And I was off again.

To Aid Station #4: 5.8 miles (27.9 miles)

This was probably my favorite section of the whole race. The views are so pretty. Plus, that cloud cover I’d seen showed up, and showed up with a vengeance! It began to rain. I love running in the rain! As I crested a hill, I was able to look back over where I’d just been. There was a light mist from the rain; the cacti were super green, but the ground and rocks were black from the moisture. Absolutely gorgeous.

I was still feeling pretty good, considering a whole lot of fatigue, so I ran. I needed to walk occasionally, but all was well, I was even able to run some of the easier uphills.

I saw a Sonoran Desert Tortoise hanging out on the side of the trail! This is only the second time I’ve ever seen one of these, so I stopped for a couple of minutes to watch it.

There was a lot of downhill to the next aid station, so I ran mostly solidly. I was very excited because other than fatigue, I was feeling really good, and I knew I was almost done and would be able to finish. I ran into this last aid station, grabbed a few things (Coke!) and walked out.

To the Finish Line: 3 miles (30.9 miles)

While walking, I rounded a corner and saw the photographer. Agh! It was uphill so I was walking… crap. I didn’t want my race pictures to be of me walking- I had to run uphill! So I did, and smiled and waved, and then walked as soon as he stopped taking pictures.

Mile 28!- Photo Credit: Ron Ceton

Mile 28!- Photo Credit: Ron Ceton

It was a pretty good-sized hill, considering my fatigued state, but I was able to run a few small sections of it. At the top, I knew I only had two miles left and that it was all downhill. It was time to turn on the burners, what was left of them anyway. I ran as hard as I could. The side stitches reappeared with a vengeance, but I wasn’t going to stop. My heart rate must have been through the roof, I was breathing so hard. I gave these last two miles everything I had. I could see a guy ahead of me who’d passed me when I was feeling really bad, and I was out to catch him. He, of course, heard my freight train breathing, and was not about to let me by. With half a mile left, I’d severely closed the distance, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pass him. I, however, wasn’t going to let his finishing ahead of me be easy. After the race he came up to me and thanked me for that push at the end. As it turned out, at the Flagstaff Big Pine race, I’d passed him not too far from the end and he wasn’t able to catch me then. He wasn’t about to let me pass him again this time!

I crossed the finish line to my friends Laurie, Matt, and Kathi, and my husband was there too, with the kids! Erica had been in the beer garden, and she came over to congratulate me on my finish, and I congratulated her on her win! Crossing the finish line to your friends and loved ones is undoubtedly the very best part of any race. I had to just stand there for a few minutes to catch my breath though, then I went straight to the finish line aid station and drank Coke. I also ate my wood-fired pizza, provided free by Freak Brothers Pizza with my 50K race entry, and sat around talking to everyone.

Erica's Trophy! -Photo Credit: John Coleman

Erica’s Trophy! -Photo Credit: John Coleman

Remember how much I love running in the rain? The only downside to running in the rain, was, as I discovered upon my finish, butt crack chafing. If you have never had this, consider yourself incredibly lucky. I lubed up all of my normal chafing areas with an anti-chafing stick before the run and they were all fine, however I did not perform this preventative treatment on my crack. My legs were tired and a little stiff, but the thing that hurt the worst was my butt crack. ALWAYS pre-grease your crack.

I have to give a shout out to my husband- he recently took up running, and he ran his first race today, the Thriller 5K! The Cave Creek Thriller 2011 was actually my very first trail race, and I think it’s so exciting that his first trail race is the Thriller, same as mine! And he didn’t pick an easy one: it was a tough course, with a good amount of climbing. He did really well, and I’m so excited for, and proud of, him!

I ran the shortest distance offered at Thriller in 2011; it was hot and I remember how hard it was. It was so exciting for me to get to run this race again, this time the ultra-distance. So much has happened, I’ve changed so much since then. At that time, I never thought I’d actually be able to run this far, and yet, I’ve now done it multiple times. Going into the run, I wanted to finish in 7 hours if I could swing it; I didn’t think I could. My watch read 7:00:51! I will take it! While certainly not my best 50K time, considering my complete lack of training, I feel really great about this! While a 50K can be run on no training, I don’t really recommend it.

My first trail race, Cave Creek Thriller- Photo Credit: Aravaipa Running

My first trail race, Cave Creek Thriller

So, I finished. Even though I struggled with a bunch of different issues during my run, I had an epic time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Apparently enjoyment is a frame of mind: who knew? I will now take a few days off, and probably do a few days of easy hiking, and maybe a few easy runs to shake things out and see what’s in there. Next? Pacing my friend Kathi at Javelina Jundred for her first 100K effort, I hope (assuming no injuries pop up again) in two weeks, and then, DRT #2, Usery 50K. Can I runanother 50K on so little training? I don’t know. I’m hoping I can get back to regular runs, but if not, I plan to go out and give it my best.

 

(Featured Image Photo Credit: Andrew Fifield)