Tag Archives: Aravaipa

On Eating and Running in Circles: Javelina Jundred K Race Report

I did it! My goal this year was to finish the two races I’d DNF’d: my, “Year of Redemption”. In April I finished Zane Grey and this past Saturday I finished the Javelina Jundred K. So now I’m going to tell you all about my race. Yay!

My friend Becky agreed to crew and pace me, so we rode together to the race. As we were making our way towards Jeadquarters there were port-a-potties lacking lines! Score! I got the prerace movement out

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Photo Credit: Pete Chavez

of the way and then we continued to find our friends in the Jeadquarters crowd. We found the pop-ups and were greeted by Aimee who was there to crew Tomio who was running the 100 mile (he was already out on the course), and Pete and his friend Frankie. Soon enough it was time to make my way to the start.

I’ve heard a million race starts, and I know this course like the back of my hand thanks to living here for years and running here all summer (loop one 22 miles, all other loops washing machine 19.5 miles), so I didn’t really notice what was said. I lined up with the 226 other runners just telling myself “don’t go too fast”. My plan for the day was to maintain 12 minute miles for the first two loops, then just finish the third. I was a little concerned about the heat of the day, so I was wearing a long sleeved button-up white shirt. The purpose of this was to keep the sun off of me as much as I could (I was going to be tired enough without the extra drain of the sun), but also keep me warm while I was chilly in the morning, and cool during the heat. I’d actually never tried it before, so it was a shot in the dark. Aside from pace and heat concerns, I really just wanted to get going. The taper had been driving me insane and I was in dire need of a long run. I couldn’t wait!

Standing there, looking at all the other runners, the sunrise over the mountains, the Start/Finish line, I felt a sense of completeness. I remembered the day three years ago when I set out on this same race and how that day went. Poorly. Exceedingly poorly. I remembered the runner I was then, the friends who were there. I thought about what a different place I was in now and how strange that was. I’ve learned so much. I was ready to do this.

Jubilee counted us down and we were doing the race-start shuffle. Spectathletes were cheering as we rounded through Jeadquarters and headed out into the desert. The first two miles are on Shallmo Wash trail: note, this is not IN a wash (thankfully) but next to one. It’s a nice trail. As with any race start, we were all fairly bunched, but quickly began to string out. I worked really hard to keep my pace down, but I felt like I was crawling when I was in the 11’s, so I went with that. I kept my breathing slow, steady, easy. As runners passed me I forced myself to let them. I did pass a few runners at the beginning, but not many. Mostly I just focused on my groove. I had too far to go to blow it all in the first few miles.

Once we hit Pemberton the trail widened considerably and we were all able to run much more comfortably. I hadn’t really paid attention to how far the aid stations were (which is usually the first thing I do for any race), but I was pretty sure there was one a couple miles in. This was Coyote aid, manned by the Hashers. I was running with a full pack, as I’d decided to pretty much just carry whatever I’d want with me, mostly only stopping at the stations if I needed water. After running self-supported all summer, I somehow found it difficult to wrap my head around not carrying things with me. Coyote aid was just four miles in and I was completely fine. I was pleasantly surprised however to see a port-a-pottie… what?!?!? I toilet at a remote aid station??? I was elated. I was already in need of one and this was so much easier than the usual desert dart. After this quick pit stop on the outskirts of the aid station, I ran through, vowing to stop later for a quick Hasher pick me up (if you’re unfamiliar with the Hashers, they are a drinking club with a running problem, so this means alcohol).

I ran. Held my pace. Settled in around 11:30 and just trotted along. I felt someone drafting off of me, which irritates me. I don’t know why. I picked it up a bit and they held on.

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Photo Credit: Jon Christley

We got into Jackass Junction aid and my friend Jon was there to take a picture! This made me smile because during my first 50 mile race (the McDowell Mountain Frenzy), also at this park, he was at this same location, although at that race this aid station is called Granite Tank. Anyway, he took my picture then too. I confirmed with him that there was one more aid station on the course before Main, so I ran through. Because of this, I lost my draft. Finally.

The next 5-ish miles are all easy rolling downhill. I made myself keep the pace over 11 minute miles. It was HARD. This section is meant for flying. But I did it, and rolled into Rattesnake aid just as I needed more water. Perfect. Quick fill and I was out.

Next was Escondido, and this was the only time I would have to run it as the remaining loops were not on this trail. Starting on the north end, I like the first few miles of this trail as it just glides downhill and is pretty. Then you hit the southern end and blech. It’s exposed and as soon as the sun rises, it gets it full force, so it’s always hot. So I just pushed on through, continuing with the easy, light breathing. I chatted with a woman briefly about my Luna’s. She was very interested in them and what it was like running in them. I love my Luna’s. They are all I run in. My feet stay cool and can breathe and don’t feel suffocated and confined. They’re great.

Soon, Escondido was done. I looped into Jeadquarters and stopped at the pop-up for my lunch. I downed

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Photo Credit: Colleen Zato

most of a can of cold ravioli (SO DELICIOUS), and a baggie of blackberries (OMG), and a baggie of pears (all the nomz). My amazing friends took care of refilling my pack. I felt like I was being super high maintenance, “I need this and this, no, not that.” As I mentioned, I’m so used to being self-supported, it was strange to have help. I didn’t know what to do. But I so appreciated each of their faces. They were so amazing and so kind. I put on the socks I’d brought in case my feet started to need a little something, which they did, and I was set. Time to go.

On a side note, my friend Kathi made me try Hammer’s Recoverite. It’s a drink. It has shit in it that’s supposed to be all good for you. I don’t know. What I do know is that drinking it before, during, and after my long runs has made a HUGE difference. It might just be the forced hydration, but whatever, it works. I drank a full thing before (like 750mLs + two scoops of powder). Then on this stop I drank another 750mLs of it. I felt great.

I started out on loop two which headed out Cinch to Scenic trail (I would come back into Jeadquarters on Shallmo Wash). Cinch and Scenic are very gently uphill. Easy grade. I felt good, so I continued with my same easy breathing. I like greeting the other runners as we pass by each other. I usually say, “Good job” to everyone. Some say it back, or something similar. One guy was a dick and said I was showing off because I was running uphill. That pissed me off and I had many conversations with him in my head over the next bunch of miles. Maybe I should say thank you. The irritation gave me lots of creative imaginations to picture and I was entertained. 

Moving on, this loop was similar, just reverse of the first. The sun was now blazing in all its glory, but I felt very comfortable. The white shirt did its job superbly. In addition, I’d left the sleeves loose and unbuttoned, so the breeze blew up and cooled my arms. As the trail became a little steeper, I would walk for a few steps here and there before continuing running. Again, easy-easy. One guy I remember passed me and I saw him ahead of him for a while. He suddenly disappeared and I wasn’t sure if he’d stopped to poop or just taken off. I saw him later and he said something to me about me getting ahead of him, so he must’ve been off-trail.

Now it was warm. When I came into Jackass this time, my friend Andrew was there volunteering and refilled my water. The slider on the bladder was ridiculously stiff, so we struggled with that for a bit. I put some Squirrels Nut Butter on it in an attempt to lube it up. I don’t know that it helped, but it did make my fingers slimy. Eventually we got it and I was out.

Now I started to slowly pick people off. It was hot out for most people. I was in my element. I maintained my easy breathing and just ran. I still felt good. I got into Coyote where another friend (I think it was Jason???? Starting to get fuzzy….) refilled my water again. People were looking really overheated. I decided to try a cider from Angry Orchard that the Hashers had out. Yummy.

The last few miles back into Jeadquarters I vowed to run, but I was starting to feel pretty tired. Plus, a spot in my right quad was kind of aching. I finally just had to walk. I walked for maybe half a mile (note, I

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Photo Credit: Marie Feutrier

was now somewhere around 40 miles, so all distances I mention from here on out should be viewed through that lens) and then ran again. My friends Vincent and Marie were waiting as I ran into Jeadquarters to take pictures! They’d also snapped a bunch of other runners as well. (Marie is a professional photographer, you can connect with her on Facebook.)

This time when I came in, my husband and kids were there! I was super happy to see them. I wasn’t sure what time they would be by. When you’re the runner, you’re out and going and the time quickly slides by: not so if you’re a spectathlete. As the spectathlete you have a few minutes of frenzied excitement when your runner comes in as you get them all situated, but then they’re out for a bunch of hours and you’re waiting again. Not that this time is boring! If you plan it right, you have yourself a party and it’s great! It’s also really fun and inspiring to watch all the different runners with all their different stories and journeys that brought them to this moment, doing this thing. Anyway, my point was that it was encouraging that my family was there. Andy was asking me some question that I simply could not understand while I ate some Spaghettio’s (unfortunately these did not taste anywhere near as amazing as the ravioli’s had). He asked me repeatedly. I think he even reworded it. Still nothing. Ultra-brain had set in. I ate more blackberries, more pears, sweet potatoes, a potato, another Recoverite. Becky replenished my baby food fruit squeezy’s that I like to eat while I run. For some reason when I’m shopping for these I always think banana sounds so yummy, but then when I’m running it become revolting. So ixnay on anything with banana (it turns out something with peaches in it though was superb: just the right amount of sour). At some point I realized how much fruit I was eating. I love fruit. I live on it, good stuff, but this was a lot, even for me. This made me think about how much I was going to poop the next day, and this amused me.

As I got ready to set out on my last loop, Andy gave me a hug that really lifted my heart and stuck with me the entire rest of the race. In his voice I heard pride in me; that he believed in me. If you ask him he’d probably look confused at this sentiment and tell you he’d just farted and was relieved, but I’m going with he was proud of me.

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Photo Credit: Marie Feutrier

Becky and I set out together. From previous races, I knew that I have a tendency to get a little wacky after about 45 miles. I just get emotional, start crying, can’t hold myself together. I just needed her to be with me. She was so amazing. I’ve known Becky for years and we’ve run many adventures together. So many memories! We went all deep right away discussing life and work. She really helped me with something I’d been struggling with. Before I knew it we were in and out of Coyote (although before leaving Coyote, I got to say hi to my friend Mitzi. Her smile always lights up a race!).

I walked large chunks of the next section. I had lost a lot of my agility and this part has some rocks I was not maneuvering as I would have liked. It was a good rest. When I hit the back side, I picked it up again until I began to feel really incredibly NOT hungry. I know from past experience this is a precursor to badness and that I’m actually SUPER hungry. I needed to start putting food in me or I was going to get sick. I ate a Perpetuem tablet. These are strange little beasts, also by Hammer like the Recoverite. They are a chalky white hockey puck that you chew. When you chew them, they become sort of chewy as opposed to chalky. Super weird. They also apparently have good shit in them. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is what finally stayed down at Zane, and these little suckers take care of runner hunger like nobody’s business. Eating one of these was enough to get me solid again and I ran into Jackass where they were grilling burgers. BURGERS. I tried a vegan one because they didn’t have any meat ones and almost gagged. I like vegan burgers, but not right now. I think my friend Tim found and ripped me off a corner of a real burger and I took one bite and knew that was the stuff right there. It was so greasy and delicious. The grease really is what made it perfect.

I’d had the urge to cop a desert squat for a few miles, but I’d held off knowing there would be toilets at Jackass. Part of me was a little dismayed with myself (how soft are you? what is this, a marathon???) but mostly I was really happy and thankful for this nasty (I mean seriously, you’ve heard horror stories of how runners “feel” during a race, right? Now imagine all of that is compiled into one location.) place to park it for a few and not have to try to balance and avoid falling over off of tired quads and calves.

As Becky finished up at the aid station, I sat in the dirt for a little while. It felt good to sit there. The cross-legged position was a welcome shift in direction for my tired hips and butt. My friends Carly and Amy were there volunteering! They were both super busy, but Carly gave me a, “I survived Jackass Junction” bracelet (Jackass is an all-night part-ay, underline and drag out the “ay”) and Amy gave me huge hug and told me she was proud of me.

Becky and I set out again, now on the easiest stretch, downhill. But I was getting very tired. I ran until I was too tired and needed to walk for a minute, and then I ran again until I couldn’t anymore. Downhill felt great until I was tired of that and then I wanted uphill. Then uphill felt great until I was tired of that and wanted flat. At one point I saw a race marker with a reflector that was on a tree. I thought it was someone’s headlamp, so I said, “Good job.” I then realized what it was and that my head had started to go and laughed. That’s funny right there.

We did this running/walking down into Rattlesnake. I think I’d stopped telling people good job. I was tired and talking was too much. Thankfully Becky was still telling people good job. We got to Rattlesnake. I think I downed a coke. The volunteers were so nice and were saying, “No, wait, what do you need? What can we get you?” I don’t know exactly what I said, just that I knew I was close and needed to get to the finish line. I needed to MOVE.

The last four miles are kind of a dark blur. I just moved as fast as I could make myself go. Walk run walk run walk run. Turn onto Scenic. So close. Turn onto Cinch. Almost there. Music from the finish line. Pick it up. Glow in the sky from the finish line. Pick it up. Into the light of the finish line. Run with all you’ve got. Just a quarter mile left. Blow past Jeadquarters aid. Faster. Down the straight. Go faster. Round the bend. All the pop-ups. Faster. My people cheering me. NOW GO!!! On the toes, arms and legs a pumping blur, full open stretched out run. Shoot across the finish line. Done. Bend over for a few minutes. Don’t fall over. Upright. Where are the buckles? I need my buckle. 

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So that’s my JJK experience, although of course it doesn’t end there. Afterwards I hung out at the pop-up. I changed out of my wet clothes because I was starting to freeze. My friend Cam was there and leant me his puffy coat and got me a sparkling water. Adam, Chris, and Jonathan were there to tell me congratulations. I’m sure there are other friends I saw out there who helped me and talked to me helped me and my ultra-brain has forgotten. I’m sorry! I really appreciated every single person I saw! You made my race! 

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We made it! Photo Credit: … Uh… Aimee? I can’t remember! But on Becky’s phone!

I am especially thankful for my husband and family. My daughter came flying in to tell me she was having so much fun running around. My son told me he’d had a blast by staying at the DJ tent rather than greeting me (priorities people, come on- mom finishes races all the time. I don’t always get to DJ). Andy was there getting me everything I asked for, even going all the way over to the Freak Brother’s Pizza to find out about that for me. Aimee made sure I was comfortable and situated. Becky and I relayed our experience as we waited for Tomio to come in. I wanted to see him off on his final loop of his 100 miles. The one time I’d seen him on the course he’d looked really strong, and Aimee was able to track his location, he wasn’t far.

He came in solidly, sat down and everyone took care of him. Well, I didn’t. I was done moving. I applauded from across the pop-up. I was most impressed when, after he’d been all doctored and fed, he just stood right up out of the chair. Dude was 80 miles into the race, running like a beast, and stood up out of low-hanging camp chair like nothing. No hesitation, no testing tight muscles, just up and at ‘em! Nice!! After we cheered him off, it was time for me to go. I was cold and filthy. I wanted bed, food, a shower. All the things. Andy stayed right by my side all the way to the Jeep. I was wobbly and spent.

We got home and a shower won out first. I was really, really tired and really, really hungry. Tired won out, however I knew this meant I would wake up at some point absolutely ravenous… and I did. Two am? Three am? I walked out to the kitchen, then walked right back into the bedroom and told Andy he needed to get me food, it was unwise for me to be standing. I was too spent and too hungry and didn’t need to be getting woozy.

First I asked for a glass of milk. Then all the spaghetti. Then a glass of chocolate milk. I was still hungry, but felt like this would hold me over until morning. Morning came and Andy mentioned Filiberto’s breakfast burrito. I think a bit of my inner beast showed its face, like a light growl, just a bit of fang. He was out the door and back with Filiberto’s in no time.

It has now been nearly a week and I feel so incredibly good. Like ridiculously good. My hip didn’t act up once during the race and now feels mostly normal. My stiffness and soreness has been super minimal. I’ve definitely felt way worse. Apparently actually putting in a full training effort while knowing and listening to your body’s signs, plus a strong taper, is a good idea. Who knew? I am forcing myself to not run at all this week. It’s hard. I’m going crazy. After months of 40-70 miles/ week I crave it. I miss it. I need it. It’s life, it’s breathing. But it’s okay. Rest now to run much later.

Now the inevitable question, what’s next? I don’t know. This was my Year of Redemption. Finish the races I’d never finished. Prove to myself I can do this thing. It’s been a journey. I’ve learned a lot.

She looked at it and said, “It is good.”

Next? Well, as much as I don’t want to, I need to focus on school for the next few months, so no big races. My deep drive lately has been to get back into the wild. I love people, but I’ve been around people too much lately. Time to disappear. Time for quiet.

Time for adventures.

 

 

 

 

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Silverton 1000

             On a whim I took a weekend jaunt back up to Silverton, CO, and jumped in on the Silverton 1000 race. I couldn’t help myself, I needed to be back in those mountains. Grabbing the kids out of school early on Friday, we made the trek, driving along the Million Dollar Highway in the dark. I’d heard about the deer issue along that road and we were able to count 20. Who knows how many were just out of our line of sight. I was as freaked out driving that as I get about rattlesnakes in the summer. Lovely. Anyway, it was fine and we arrived in Silverton around 11:30pm. Totally wiped, I somehow managed to set up the tent that Aravaipa gave me, get all our crap into the tent and grab a few hours of chilly sleep.

              The Silverton 1000 is on a one mile loop on the outskirts of Silverton. Taking place at 9,318 feet (Silverton’s elevation), it features 250 feet of gain per mile. There are a number of different events in this one race- being woefully untrained, I was just there to toss in 6 hours. Many people were doing multi-day efforts. They were seriously incredible to watch!

              I picked up my bib and was all set for the 9:00am start (LOVE the late start!). My goal was to get in as many miles as I could by 3:00pm. I wanted at least 20 and was hoping for around 24, but whatever. This was to be fun!

              I enjoy races that are of an hour format like this was. They have a much more relaxed feel to them. I hiked the ups and ran all the downs and flats – lap after lap. Having the aid station available to me every mile made it nice because I didn’t need to carry any water or food. Plus, there were wild raspberries on the trail! There were two laps where I purposely walked the entire thing in order to get some rest, and I picked lots of berries on the way. Doing laps like this is also fun because you get to see everyone regularly and chat about how they’re doing and where they’re at.

               As I ran the day away, my kids played in the woods and made some new local friends! Forts and dams and mountains, oh my! It was sad that it was only for the day, but we plan on reconnecting whenever either of us is in the other’s vicinity. It really made my heart happy for my kids to get to experience the woods like that. I also did a couple of laps with each of them which was fun!

              The first half of the race I held onto my 4 mile an hour “big” goal pace just fine, but my complete lack of training and sleep started to catch up with me and I had to slow down on the second half. Who knew a measly 250 feet of gain per mile would start to feel exhausting? I finished up my 6 hours with 22 miles, which I was happy with!

              There were 4 of us who ran the 6 hour event, and I got 1st girl, 2nd overall! Yay!

              After the run, I walked down to Avalanche Brewing for some dinner and just enjoyed the feeling of my favorite town. Tourists were coming and going, and I wandered slowly and relaxed. The kids and I then went to bed early to the sounds of Jamil making a new Mountain Outpost.

              Because our first night was a little chilly, we borrowed some extra sleeping bags. It turned out that it was really good we did so. I actually got all stupid hot and sweaty during the night and was removing layers, but in the morning, there was frost all over! It would’ve been a miserable night without those extra bags. I did my best taking down and packing up my tent. It kind of looked like a toddler on crack packed it (sorry about that Dave). We reloaded the car and were on the road back home on time – no problem!

              MY TAKEAWAY: Silverton is incredible, but I think you already know this. We drove for around 9 hours and arrived late Friday night, then left Sunday morning to drive another 9 hours back home. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not even a question. Would I do it again? YES. I would do it just for Silverton. Throw in the Silverton 1000 to boot and you’ve got yourself the makings of the best whirlwind party weekend EVER. EVERYBODY can come up for the race. It’s a one mile loop! Kids can run amuck in the woods! Even people who don’t run can come and hang and hike a loop when they feel like it (if they feel like it) and see everybody and have a party. Where the 1000 takes place is a great place for camping and people can camp all over. Party all along the trail! Not into camping? Silverton is small and everything is within walking distance, including great hotels. Next year peeps! Let’s make this happen!

*Featured image photo credit of the 6 hour finishers belongs to Dave James.

Kendall Mountain Run – Silverton, CO

Silverton Colorado, my dear one. How can a fairy tale upon which I’ve trespassed only once, and briefly at that, become my heart? How did that happen? It has been two weeks since I visited nirvana, and I must return.

Silverton is a tiny old mining town in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. The train from Durango comes in during the summer days bearing loads of tourists who shop in the shops, eat the local food, and take in the local history. At night, after the tourists have left the town is very quiet and you are left with looming mountains and a bright open sky.

THE VACATION PART

We decided on a weeklong family vacation to Silverton, culminating in mom (that would be me) doing the Kendall Mountain 12 Mile Run. This run begins in downtown Silverton at 9,318 feet, goes to the top of Kendall Mountain at 13,066 feet, and then back down into town. I was nervous about the altitude, but figured I’d have an idea of my adaptability in a week.

After a long tiring drive into town, we arrived at the Triangle Motel which was our basecamp for the week. We’d paid for a super basic room with no kitchen or microwave or anything, and they upgraded us to a suite for free! It was clean and comfortable and we loved it. We all crashed hard that night.

On our first day we hiked to Ice Lakes. I have never seen lakes this color of turquoise! The mountains were blanketed in wildflowers. There were streams flowing everywhere. The hike is uphill all the way to the lake, but it was so much fun! While I didn’t struggle with the altitude (amazing since I always do) our son was getting over a pretty bad chest cold and really had a hard time. So by the time we made it up to the lake, the afternoon storms were rolling in and it was time to get off the mountain.

After finishing the hike we drove the Million Dollar Highway into the neighboring town of Ouray where we walked on the main street just a bit. I’m afraid the Ice Lakes hike killed our son though, so exploring Ouray was short and we just ate and went back to the motel. The mining history visible on this road was incredible and all I wanted to do was stop and explore it all.

The next day I went and explored a tiny bit of the Colorado Trail from Little Molas Lake. From this campground, I headed east on the trail, quickly crossing over Highway 550 and entering a meadow where I had views of Molas Lake and all the surrounding mountains. I just wanted a short run on this day, so after getting to an incredible water fall at about 2.5 miles out, I turned around, stopping to watch deer in the meadow on my way. Turning around was difficult with all of that trail stretching out ahead of me!

After getting back and showering, we visited the Silverton Museum located in the old jail. Again with the mining history- it’s amazing. I don’t enjoy history in general; I REALLY don’t care about all the dates of who did what to who. But this was personal. This wasn’t dates. Walking through this old jail I could imagine the people who’d been here before and their lives. Learning about the bar brawls, the hard mining life, and the houses of ill repute, I could see these young men’s lives. In the black and whites on the walls I could see their faces. Their lives, their stories, were real.

I think it was that night that the real personality of Silverton hit home. We went out to the Rum Bar where my friend Erica was working for the summer and where we found out that another friend of mine, Christian, was in town for the race too. We had game night and had a great time meeting people! It’s all about the people, always the people.

The next day (I think) I got up early and ran with Christian up to the Christ of the Mines Shrine and then a little way out the Rainbow Trail which is a part of the Hardrock 100 course. So fun!

Later, my family and I visited the Old Hundred Mine located just outside of Silverton, for a tour. Again, incredible. The kids had fun “panning” for gold while we waited for our tour to begin. It was drippy and cold in the mine. Our tour guide, who’d been a miner himself, made the lives of the miners real to us once again as he described the evolution of hardrock mining. I was seriously wowed by the ingenuity and feats of engineering that go into something like that.

That night (I think? It all begins to run together at some point) we went out to Avalanche Brewing for dinner and to say hi to Kelly (also in town for the summer) and then to the Rum Bar. We again had an incredible time hanging out with Erica and Christian and met a new awesome friend Jesse.

The next day we rented a Jeep and did the Alpine Loop. This 60+ mile, four-wheel-drive loop takes you on a tour of the surrounding mountains, passing ghost towns along the way. We stopped in the ghost town of Animas Forks to wander through the old buildings. On the way up Engineer Pass we saw a huge herd of sheep and numerous tarns (small mountain lakes). We stopped at the top of Engineer and watched the incoming storms, which eventually hit us as I took over driving. I really enjoyed driving the Jeep and it drove home how badly I need a four-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle! In so many places the road was super narrow with a steep drop off and no barrier, but that just made it more fun! It was wild and beautiful.

THE RACE PART

Race morning came and I felt great. I walked down to the start line which was literally the middle of the main street and no actual line. The gun went off (like an actual gun) and we ran. My entire strategy was just to make it up and back. I wasn’t concerned about my time because I know how much I typically struggle at higher altitudes. So I ran the easy parts and hiked most of the uphill. The lower, easier uphills I ran okay, but that was it.

Very quickly we were in the trees, with breaks looking out over Silverton, which we were very quickly above. Soon I saw the first 11K runners coming back and I of course thought how wonderful it would be to already be on the way down and almost done. But the peak… there was no way I could be this close and not peak it.

Just past the first aid station is where the mountain opened up its glory. There was this expansive, verdant meadow with burbling streams making their way down. I expected to see hobbits and wizards and elves drinking beer and smoking Pipe-weed. I got to watch the front runners come barreling past me- all focus and speed and drive. Runners are amazing people. The best part was getting to see my friends as they made their way back down, all looking strong!

This race runs up a Jeep road, but the last little bit to the top is a loose scramble. That was probably my favorite aspect of the trail. I love scrambling. It was loose and slippery and so fun! I was excited to run back down.

I hit the top and Jubilee was there capturing the looks of “WTH!” on all of our faces, with the Rockies spread out behind us. I touched the giant cairn there at the peak and then bombed back down the scramble. By bombed I mean did a running slide the whole way.

Normally the downhill is my jam, but on this day I got side stitches and instead was managing those the whole way down, but I was okay. I was just… so… happy!

As soon as I hit the flat for the run into town I realized how much gravity had been pulling me down the mountain. My legs were super flat. I rounded a corner and my husband was there taking pictures- he’d volunteered for the race. Our kids were nearby playing in the river. That was so nice! They followed me as I ran into the finish line.

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Kendall Mountain in the Background

Afterwards I hung out talking to everyone about their race. Everybody did so well!

That night there was an after party at the Rum Bar which doubled as a farewell party for Erica since she would be making her way back home. We stayed a little bit late, maybe spent a little bit of money… but what an amazing night.

THE SAPPY PART

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” Henri Frederic Amiel

This quote sums up my “summer camp” in Silverton. My heart was gladdened. I’m going to cheese it up now… ready? From dear old friends from Phoenix to dear new friends made during this dream, you brought light to my journey.

*Muah!

 

 

 

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?

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!