Tag Archives: Not running

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)





Smelly Armchair Musings: On Taking Time Off

We runners are an enthusiastic bunch, aren’t we? I say this as I sit comfortably smashed into my couch, on the tail end of 3 weeks? 4 weeks? Of not running.
What happened??????

  • IT Band Pain

A couple of months ago I participated in the Javelina Jundred K. If you follow this blog with any regularity you will realize that I did not write about this race- there is a reason for that. It was my very first attempt at the 100K distance, and it was my very first DNF (Did Not Finish). Right after the race I was not in a mental place that was conducive to blogging. And now it has been so long, it is highly unlikely I was get as far as effectively revisiting that event in cyberspace.

Anyway, my point is that at that race, I encountered horrible IT Band pain and had to stop. Since then, I have had twinges that sometimes become more than that. Overall there’s nothing major, just something there.  I have not had any issues with this in years, since switching to minimalist shoes in fact, and I don’t know what started it off now. Whatever, it sucks.

  • Life Happened

I discovered that I was not Wonder Woman, and that I can’t do everything. In the midst of selling my home and packing and moving and children, and holidays and EVERYTHING, I realized that I was tired and needed to stop. So I did.

  • Running Partner Sidelined

Right around the time Life was blowing up for me, my running partner needed a break to heal some of his nagging injuries. So…

I decided that for once, I was going to give myself permission to stop. It’s funny that I had to “give myself permission”, right? That’s part of why I said that we runners are enthusiastic; we can’t stop, we love what we do, and we do it until we physically can’t do it anymore. I know numerous people who are sidelined with various running-related injuries right now, and it sucks. I know; I’ve been sidelined before. Not being able to do what you love is excruciating. While these past few weeks have been hard for me, I know that I needed this down time, both physically and mentally. I needed everything around me to just stop. While that couldn’t happen completely, giving myself permission to relax and slow down really helped.

Update: I went for my first run of 2015 this morning. It was just 7.5 miles, but the trail I chose is a pretty good work out: lots of rocks to jump, and over 1,200 feet of climbing. Running felt good. Being out and moving in the desert was wonderful. I could tell I’d lost some fitness: the run took me way longer than it should have and I couldn’t run sections that I’ve been able to run in the past. Overall, though, I was happy, and most importantly, content. I know that the fitness will spring back.

When I opened my running calendar to record my miles for the day, I was surprised to see I didn’t have any “scheduled” training miles written in! I currently have a completely blank 2015 training calendar. While I don’t know if I’ll still be able to do all of the events I was planning on, I’m looking forward to filling in my calendar and planning out some epic runs… pain free I hope!


When I first began running in minimalist shoes, I sprained my foot severely; so much so that both the doctor and I thought it was broken. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, but I had to wear a boot for six weeks and could not run during that time. After that experience, I was careful to build up my minimalist running abilities very slowly, not wanting to ever not be able to run again. I bring this up now for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, my husband reminded me of it and how I would just start randomly crying during that time. Secondly, the theme of not running goes along with this blog post that is rolling around in my head and must come out.

Normally… well… normally may not be the correct word. I have what? All of seven blog posts? Okay, up until this point, I have written about my running adventures. I was starting to get bored with that, as I often do with many things in life (I get bored easily). Then I was hit with a beast of a stomach virus and had to miss a group run I was extremely excited about (see Black Canyon, that’s where we were going). The experience made me start thinking about my blog and writing about the experience of not running. This post would be my anti-adventure.


My son was Typhoid Mary, bringing the sickness home and spreading it to my daughter who showed symptoms a couple of days later. The night before my run, I prepared as usual thinking everything was fine with me. By 2:30am, everything was so incredibly not fine. So I made it downstairs to call Matt at 4:30 in the morning and let him know that I couldn’t go on the adventure. Then, somehow, I made it back up the stairs and collapsed into bed. Or by the toilet. I don’t really remember which now, it’s a horrible blur.

I was devastated. I normally catch colds during the fall and winter months, but nothing like this winter. Back in February I caught a respiratory flu and spiked a fever of well over 102° for two days. That caused me to miss the Pemberton 50K race I’d been looking forward to that was one week later. Approximately two weeks later, I was finally starting to feel mostly normal again and back to my regular energy while running. Then I got food poisoning that hit me during a run after eating out. I didn’t know it was food poisoning at the time, I just thought my stomach was extremely pissed off at me. But then two weeks later, I ate at the same place, had the same meal, and got even more violently ill, this one also hitting me in the middle of a run. (I am never eating at that place again, in case you were wondering if I am just a glutton for punishment.) Then I catch the stomach flu and I don’t get to have my adventure with my friends. I need to stop acquiring every passing virus or bacterium! From now on, I am absolutely getting the flu shot. That should help me with at least that half of the microscopic world. Although, as I think about it, I don’t think I caught a single cold this season! Hurray for small victories? Or knock on wood because the season isn’t over yet?

Awesome Husband

So I spent the day prostrate in bed, unable to even sit up. I wanted to sleep, but my back was killing me so I only did so intermittently and not very well. During this time, my husband was an absolute rock star. We were both in the house, but I didn’t have the energy to yell for him, much less to get out of bed, so he brought me my phone. I simply had to call him and he brought me ginger ale and saltines as my stomach desired. He was up and down the stairs a lot that day, always with a smile on his face! Amazing. I probably would have been grouchy if the roles had been reversed. I’m afraid I’m not as generous as he is.

The Missed Adventure

Matt texted me when their run was done and that they’d all finished safely. He also filled me in on their adventures that day, the biggest of which (at least that which stands out to me) is that they saw a Gila monster. I have never seen one in the wild and I always want to see any new wildlife. I almost started crying when he told me that. And there is the catalyst for this post. I missed adventures and I wanted to cry. I was already all emotional from not getting to join in the day, but ready to cry? Wow. Time to evaluate this.

Evaluation (That’s code for thinking out loud, sort of, since this is a blog post and not a conversation.)

I’ve been thinking about the things we love, our passions. Running is my passion, but it’s more than that. I am frequently asked if I am going to run this road race or that road race, and the answer is a resounding “No.” I have run a couple of road races, all when I first began running. Then I discovered that there are trails near me: gorgeous, technical, interesting trails, that are constantly challenging, even when I’ve run them a million times, and I have never run a road race since. I hate roads. And no, hate is not too strong of a word here. I grew up in the woods- the trees, rocks, and streams were my playthings. I remember having a friend over to play once and while we were deep in the woods, she asked me if I knew how to get home and if I was scared. What?!?! What a silly question! Of course I knew where home was and of course I wasn’t scared. And besides, I was at home. Too many people overwhelm me; the wilds soothe me. Too much noise causes me to start crying; the wilds have the perfect sounds. Road races have hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. They are loud. There are few trees or wildlife. The road is hard underfoot, with no dirt to dust my ankles and show the beauty of the land I have just traversed. Being dusty and grimy at the end of run is part of the fun. Just like when I was little, the dirtier I am when I finish the day, the more fun I have had. See? Running alone is not the sole source of my joy. I can run on roads, and occasionally I do when that is all that is available to me, but that is not where I find my true joy.

If running in and of itself is not my joy, what is? My joy, my heart, is in running a wild trail. I believe God put us on earth to enjoy it, to enjoy his creation. I think it brings God joy when we take pleasure in what he has surrounded us with. My running in his creation is, to me, the ultimate expression of my pleasure in his creation. My body is his creation, and I marvel at the intricacies that cause my brain to know what my feet are feeling, what my eyes are seeing, what my nose is smelling, what my ears are hearing. As each muscle tenses and releases, it works together with my eyes and feet, ensuring accurate landings among a myriad of rocks, and no rolled ankles. With all of the information flowing into and out of my brain, it is amazing that all of these things happen and yet I don’t need to focus on any of them. I can simply enjoy each sensation as it comes. Straining my muscles, breath, and heart as I climb hills? Incredible. Inhaling the scent of growing things and dirt? Unbelievable. Seeing wildflowers and wildlife? Priceless. Give me dirt and rocks under my feet and life growing around me any day.

Favorite Color

These thoughts of my running joy make me think of a question my husband once asked me. “What is your favorite color?” Not a particularly profound question, right? Well, my favorite color is red, scarlet red preferably. Then he asked me why that was. I’d never really thought about it, but the answer was immediately on my lips anyway, “Because it’s vibrantly, profoundly ALIVE.” I asked him why he wanted to know why. He said, “Because you can tell a lot about a person by why their favorite color is their favorite color.” And there you have it. Profound. Red is my favorite color because I love to be alive. I don’t want to spend my days in mediocrity. I want to be wildly alive for every single second I have on this earth. For me, I cannot do that in a city or on a road. I cannot do that surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t know or care about me. Sanitized surfaces and prepared experiences are empty to me. I need an adventure under my feet.

So What?

Just like that, I know why I wanted to cry when I heard about the Gila monster. As I lay in bed, too weak to sit up or help myself in any way (for the fourth time in the span of about a month and a half), I missed out on a sliver of dynamic life. I realize that my recent illnesses are nothing compared to those who have cancer or other debilitating diseases, and I’m not whining. I have simply discovered something about myself, about why I am the way I am. This discovery causes me to realize that other people have other passions, and even though their passions might be different from, or even the exact opposite of my own, that does not mean that they feel any differently about them than I do of mine. So, what is your passion? What makes you come alive? If you don’t know yet, I would encourage you to seek it. We have a finite amount of time on this earth and then we’re gone. Live the time you have.