Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Crown King Scramble: April 9, 2013

Rock Pointing the Way to go
The Crown King Scramble is a new, old race. What I mean by that is that it is a revival of a race from times of yore. Once again, the boys over at Aravaipa Running put on a stellar event. This race was one that appealed to me due to the point-to-point nature and it seemed more of an adventure than a race. The race starts at Lake Pleasant and ends in the small mining town of Crown King. Uphill the entire way! Here is a little background on the restart of this iconic event: The Resurrection

Night Before
Now on to the 2013 version of the CKS. I went into this race with a general confidence that I would be able to do well but I knew that the entire uphill nature of the event would prove to be difficult. I was also going into this without my normal crew (not there was crew access anyway). Instead, I was given the pleasure of camping out the night before with my buddy Keaton. He may have caught the ultrarunning bug. I hope. We camped out right on Lake Pleasant within rock-throwing distance of the start line. After setting up our tent we spent the evening skipping stones and looking longingly into one another's eyes....kidding. After the normal camping shenanigans, we feasted on scrumptious hot dogs, bear claws, and too many root beers before hitting the hay. I was quite excited so sleep did not come easy and 5am came quickly. Due to the proximity of our campsite, I was able to roll over and watch the early start from my tent. I finally decided to get up and go through my pre-race rituals. I ate some more bear claws...too many to be exact and soon it was time to start.

Our Campsite

Start-Cow Creek-Miles 0-8.5
Pre-Race Cheesing
After the early starters were off and running I emptied the systems, checked in, and dropped off my drop bags. Then it was the fun game of hurry up and wait. We started promptly at 6am and from the start Trent Briny and Kalib Wilkinson took off out in front. It was obvious right there that the race was between them. I settled into the chase pack of about 20 of us and was quite satisfied with the easy pace we were keeping. As soon as we hit the dirt road, this pack began to string out and I ended up behind a group of about 5 guys, none of whom I knew. The pace seemed easy but may have been a little quick knowing what was awaiting us at mile 15...more on that later. The course stuck to a rolling dirt road that we basically had all to ourselves. The first aid station came up quickly and I realized that I hadn't eaten much of my food yet. This was a bad thing because I had planned to carry most of my food between aid stations and designed my drop bags to grab and go. I found myself very quickly out of storage for food. I forced myself to eat a Clif bar and some coke at the first aid station but it was apparent that I was going to have some storage issues as all I was carrying were two handhelds. I stuffed the pockets as full as I could and was on my way.

Start line 
Sun coming up over the lake behind us. 
Cow Creek-French Creek-Mile 8.5-15.3
I left the Cow Creek aid station alone, which I didn't mind, and quickly settled into a rhythm. I decided to slow down because the day was getting hot and I wanted to be able to survive the ensuing climb. The dirt road started to narrow and wind a bit more and the views were incredible. We also began to pass some of the early starters which was fun getting and giving encouragement from them. I soon noticed that my legs felt particularly heavy and my left foot was starting to feel a bit weird. I had been having some issues with my Plantar Fascia region for a while but it never seemed that serious. Earlier in the day I had been running with Jamil and I told myself that I should just stay with him as he is a more seasoned runner than I. Of course the early race good feelings took over and I was out ahead of him up until about mile 14. A mile out from the aid station Jamil clinically passed me on the uphill and offered some encouragement as I told him I was feeling kind of rough. The French Creek Aid station was adorned Tropical Style and I took some time to refill my food and get ready for what was next. I made sure not to hang too long in the aid station as I would get sucked in by the party they were having. 

French Creek-Silver Mountain-Mile 15.3-19.1
Immediately after leaving the French Creek Aid station, the course gets a obvious face lift. The lull of the dirt road is transformed into unpredictable jeep road and starts going uphill a bit more drastically. I am used to running on jeep roads as much of my weekend training is on jeep roads around Wickenburg but I was already a bit tired from the rolling hills I had been on the previous 15 miles. The course was still beautiful and I would often look back to see the lake and you could no longer see the top of what we were running to so it did not seem as daunting. My goal at this time was to try to not fall any more in the standings and stay ahead of the 1st place female. The course was still a lot of fun and there were some very sharp down hills that I would've loved to see the leaders bomb down. If you look at the Garmin Data below you'll notice that Mile 15 is the last sub 10-min mile I ran until the final downhill 10+ miles later. As I came into the Silver Mountain Aid Station I made sure to take in the view and thanked the aid workers for being up there is this aid station seemed like a real trick to get to. As I was leaving the lead female came into the aid. I now made it my personal goal to stay ahead of her at all costs. 

Silver Mountain-Fort Misery-Mile 19.1-22.3
Although there was only 3 miles or so between these 2 aid stations, it still took me over 30 minutes to cover that distance. The course was still going up and down, but mainly up as we wound our way through the lower Bradshaw mountains. I made sure to take time to dip my hat at every stream crossing but there were not many of those to speak of as of yet. I was still hiking quite well but my downhill legs were starting to hurt. I guess its a good thing this race is mainly uphill! The day was starting to heat up and because the course followed a stream, there wasn't a lot of moving air. Things were getting hot. COming into the Fort Misery Aid station, I was given a lovely mist shower by one of the aid station workers. Again, I had the problem of too much food on board due to my over planning and overfilling of drop bags. I made sure to eat and take in some liquids and quickly made it out of the aid station before the lead female came in. 
Shuffling along after Fort Misery

Fort Misery-Oro Bell-Mile 22.3-27
After leaving Fort Misery, I noticed the course stopped going up and down as much and we mainly were going up. We were also leap frogging over a stream every half mile or so. This was nice to get a chance to soak my hat and cool down. I even thought about sitting in the stream for a bit but I wanted to make sure to stay ahead of the lead lady. Then at about mile 24 or so, I was met with what would be the biggest challenge of the day. The course takes a sharp turn and then goes up....and up....and up...for what seemed like 10 miles. Looking back it was probably closer to 4 or so but it was long. The gradient wouldn't be bad if one were fresh, but I was far from fresh. I did my best to run what I could but most of it was hiking. I settled into a decent run/hike rhythm but it was obvious that I was losing ground. I kept looking back and noticed that I was being caught by another male runner but was not able to see the lady's leader. As we made our way up the hill I noticed that the cactus were now becoming larger trees. Were gaining elevation and the cacti were giving way to pines. Pretty awesome! I also noticed that many of the bushes were littered with ladies undergarments. At first I thought it was from weekenders having a good time in the 4x4s but then saw the signs for the Oro Bell aid station. I was a little concerned if this was going to be an aid station run by nudists. I was soon caught by the next guy and did my best to stay with him but he was hiking better than I was. At the Oro Bell aid station, I was met by an enthusiast, fully clothed group of volunteers who poured a whole pitcher of water over my head. This aid station got my vote for best aid station, even if they did lie and tell me we were almost to the top of the climb. 

Getting passed on the climb up to Oro Bell

About to get a shower
Oro Bell-Finsh-Mile 27-31
After my shower at Oro Bell, I left the aid station with Scott Modzelewski. We ran together the rest of climb and it was nice to have some company. We were now on forest road in alpine pine forests and the air seemed cooler up here. At about mile 28 we crested the "forever" hill as I like to call it and it was all down hill from here. My legs were not used to running but I was soon able to find my rhythm and I felt like I was flying after having hiked the last 6 miles or so. Having never been to Crown King, I didn't know what to expect. The only prior knowledge I had of the town was this picture of the finish line. 
I soon heard the cheers of the town and snaked my way through the dirt "streets" to the finish. I ended up finishing 23rd overall in a time of 5:35 which is better than my first 50k time so I was pleased. The food, beer, and most especially the awesome beer mug we received at the finish line were awesome. This race will be one I plan on doing for years to come. It is already on my calendar for next year! 

Finish Cheesing

Getting my mason Jar Mug

Jog on!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Elephant Mountain 50k-2/23/2013

This race report is brought to you by someone who neglects their blog...8 months between posting pretty much nullifies the need for a blog. Having said that, the following is being written for my own sake rather than that of the reader. Most of this was written immediately following the race and never published due to the author's laziness.
Runners Descending

Elephant Mountain is a new 50k put on by the boys at Aravaipa Running. This was going to be my 2nd 50k race and I was confident I would be able to avoid some mistakes I had made at my first one. The race was run on some of the same trails as the Cave Creek Thriller so I had a little knowledge of what to expect. Luckily this time I was crewed by my lovely wife and I would get to see her 2 times during the whole race. 

Start-Go John Aid-Mile 2.6
The race began like any other ultra, low-key and easy. THere was about a pack of 10-15 of us that slowly made our way up the first hill. I had originally planned on power hiking this hill because I didn't want to go out too hard (a common habit of mine). Of course I got caught up with the other runners and  ended up running the whole thing. About halfway up the climb I was caught by Alex Kaine. If you do not know Alex, get to know him. This guy is good. I had been looking for him at the start but was unable to find him due to his habit of arriving fashionably late. My pre-race strategy was to stay with him as long as possible since he knew what he was doing and I didn't. Alex and I got to the time in about 3rd and 4th and were taking it easy as the field began to spread out. We all came into the first aid station relatively close and we all went through without stopping. 
Alex and I at top of 1st Climb

1st Descent 

Go John-Roger Creek-Mile 2.6-5.6
This next section was where many of us had never run before due to the newness of this race. Soon after the aid station Alex, started to make a wrong turn and I quickly corrected him. Shortly after this the course begins a slow, gradual climb and I found myself feeling really well and actually was in the lead. I decided to ride out the good feeling and just keep running. My pace was never labored and I slowed on each uphill but was still out ahead of the other runners. As I approached the Rogers Creek Aid station I noticed that the aid station workers had not even set up yet. Luckily they had the water jug ready and I quickly refilled my water bottle. While I was waiting in the aid station, the next two runners came in and out. Neither stopped. I quickly left the aid station to catch up to them.

Rogers Creek-Spur Cross-Mile 5.6-10.7
This section contained the biggest climb of the day. It was also the most beautiful section as the sun was up by this time and the trail was very green due to the amount of rain we had over the winter. I quickly settled into 3rd place behind the other two out-of-town runners and we spent the next 5 miles chatting it up and enjoying the climb and views. My crew was meeting me at the Spur Cross Aid station where I was planning on making a quit pit stop and then we would return. I had told my wife that I was hoping to be there in about an hour and 45 minutes from the start but it was apparent that I was way ahead of schedule. Once again as we dropped into the aid station, the volunteers were still setting up. My wife later informed me that they were not expecting us and were very surprised. Luckily she was there early. I quickly changed into a short-sleeved shirt, switched water bottles and slammed a clif bar. My aid station time was too slow again and I had to play catch up to get back in touch with the other two guys. 

Spur Cross-Rogers Creek-Mile 10.7-15.8
After the turn around the course turns back on itself and heads back toward the Cave Creek Park. We would now get to climb the long downhill we just bombed down. We would also be sharing the trail with speedier 22k runners. It wasn't long before we noticed that there were a couple of guys gunning for us. We had about a 5 minute lead on the next guys but they were obviously working together. The hunt was on. We also spent a lot of time moving over as the trail was single-track and there were a lot of runners going both directions now. I was starting to feel the effects of the day and began to regret my decision of going out in front earlier in the day. I came back into the Rogers Creek Aid station in 3rd place and all three of our pack spent about 30 seconds refueling and taking part in the now fully stocked aid station. 

Aid Station Party

I'm in red getting some H20
Rogers Creek-Go John-Mile 15.8-18.8
I left the aid station in 3rd place and was starting to labor pretty bad. I did my best to stay with the other two guys but their experience was becoming apparent. About a mile out of the aid station I dropped a gel and because I am a gel whore and each one is precious I stopped to pick it up. This tiny pause caused me to drop back about 20 seconds from the other two. I needed the time to gather my thoughts and pull things together if I was going to be able to finish. Soon we came to the Go John Aid station and I knew the upcoming section was quite technical as I had run in it in the other direction during the Cave Creek Thriller. I checked in filled up water again and made it out, still in 3rd. 

Go John-Start/Finish-Mile 15.8-23.8
As I said, I knew what to expect on this section of trail as I had hiked and ran it before. However, things look very different in the other direction. I was still able to see the two guys in front of me and made sure I could always keep an eye on them as I ran/hiked my way around. This section has a pretty decent climb in it and I did my best to run as much as I could but my feet were starting to hurt and legs were starting to go. I was soon caught by two speeding guys from Boulder, CO. I was now in 5th place. My thoughts quickly shifted to the thought of my lovely wife who would hopefully have made it back to the start/finish line with some snacks, music and kisses. As I came into the start/finish I found another gear as there were lots of people around and you can't look like crap in front of spectators and definitely not in front of your wife. This is also where things got a little weird. I was a little ways out from the start/finish line and I met the two guys who had blazed past me earlier in the race. Because I was stuck in my own head it didn't dawn on me that they were going the wrong way. I was just blown away that they had caught be previous running mates from the day. 

Start/Finish-Go John-Mile 23.8-26.8
Once at the start/finish aid I realized that they were going the wrong way and I told the RD that I believe they were running the final loop in the wrong direction. This wasn't a major deal being as the loop would still result in the same distance but it would make things interesting if someone going the correct way was in contention. I quickly left the aid station and made my way out the same way we started. I made sure to turn Left instead of continuing back on the trail as the previous guys had. I was pretty much alone the rest of the race minus a few of the shorter distance runners. I was surprised how well I was able to climb but anytime a downhill showed up my quads checked out. I suffered up the initial climb and then down to the Go John Aid where I again topped of my bottles, informed the workers about the other guys confusion. They thought that my initial running buddies were in 1st and 2nd so things were going to get interesting. 

Go John-Finish-Mile 26.8-31.2
About a mile or so out of the Go John Aid station I met the two charging Boulderites and told them that I think they went the wrong way. They already knew that because they had also met the other two guys as well. They decided to just keep going since the distance would be the same and see what would become of it at the end. I also noticed that I was being caught. I did my best to keep charging the uphills but every time I came to a downhill I slowed considerably. I finally caught and relegated to what would either be 4th or 6th place depending on what became of the two misdirected runners. As I came down the final climb I passed a runner who was going into the start/finish aid for his first time. Just as I ran passed him my right hamstring cramped terribly. He noticed my discomfort and quickly gave me salt. I walked for a couple yards and was relieved quickly. I thanked him and continued on my way. I was nearing the 5 hour mark and wanted badly to break that mark as I had made a bet with my students that I would. I did not want to shave my beard for a 5:01. Thankfully I was able to hold it together to finish a strong 4:54, a new PB. I ended up taking sixth as the RDs did not disqualify the other two guys since they still completed the distance. That is the great thing about these ultra races. Many will still get credit just for putting in the work. I wonder if it would've been different had the race been closer?? 

Special thanks to my lovely wife and crew for keeping me motivated, fed, and inspired the entire run. 
Finish, wife photobombing in the background

Also a special thanks to the guys I spent about 20 miles with...great times!!

These are the guys I ran with most of the race
Also...here is the race report from winner Jerry Armstrong

Next up: Crown King Scramble