After registerring for the race at the last possible minute (literally, the night registration closed), I promptly began finalizing plans of how to actually get to the race. The problem was this: the race is on a Saturday (as most are) and my sponsor, crew chief, and support team works every Saturday. Did I mention that aforementioned person is actually all the same person? Yes my wife is the best support a running bum like myself could ever ask for. I am still sad that she was not there to experience my first ultra but even in her absence she made her presence known. Right before the rice she texted me to check my wallet and she had left me a sweet note and some cash to buy a shirt since I had opted for the no shirt option during registration to save some cash.
The awesome thing I've found about running and the running community is although when you race you hope to compete and finish ahead of the next guy, that next guy never seems to be sore over getting beat and in turn you never seem to be too upset when someone finishes ahead of you. This became very evident in the lead up to this race. Last January I raced my first Aravapai Running race (Coldwater Rumble 31k) and it was during this race that I met Alex. Thanks to the interwebs Alex and I have kept in touch and he was willing to give me a ride to the race. He did place a small asterisk on this ride. He said that he could not guarantee a ride home if I finished in front of him. He was obviously joking and this was obviously not giong to happen as Alex has been posting some pretty decent results as of late.
So after meeting up with Alex and his crew and bidding my sweet wife farewell for the day we were on our way to Cave Creek Regional Park in north Phoenix. I had hiked some of this trails that the race would be on but it was over a year ago and had no recollection of what lay in store. Alex was encouraging the entire way and fielded my many questions. My plan going in to the race was to run slow as possible and just finish. Being as this was my first run at this distance and my long runs up until this point had barely exceeded 16 miles I was a bit worried how I would fare late in the race.
We got to the race plenty early and milled around as people started to trickle into the race. I had 3 goals for this race. #1 was to finish. #2 was to go under 6 hours, and my last goal was a lofty one but I wanted on that was out there to spur on and that was to not got chicked. I achieved 2 out of the 3 and you'll find out which was missed as you read on.
|Start/Finish Line aptly decorated for Halloween
Soon it was 7am and at about 3 minutes to the gun we casually lined up behind the start line. I had originally planned to run shirtless as I knew the day would warm up quickly but I was a bit chilly and left my shirt on. I planned on ditching it after the first lap. The race started with a short section on the shoulder of the road and then down some single track for about 3.8 miles and then you turn around and come back. This out and back section turned out to my least favorite section because it was hard to find a rhythm with all the rocks and washes that it took you through. At the turn around I found myself in about 7th place and was immediately horified. I had vowed to not look at my watch becaue I knew if I did I would over think my pacing and such. Well I glanced at it at this point and noticed that I had ran this part way faster than I had planned. I didn't let this bother me and run by feel.
After the first aid station the course turned back on itself and once you were done with the out n back you hit your first real climb of the day. I was able to run the entire climb and felt great to be on some less technical terrain. It was on this part of teh course that I was able to pass a few more people. I was also regretting having my shirt still as the sun was now up and it was already starting to warm up. By the time I got to the second aid station, I was in 4th or 5th place. Again, way better than I had planned but I felt good. From the second aid station it is about 2.5 miles to the start/finish. You immediately begin another climb out of the Go John Aid station and then it dumps you right back down to the start/finish. By the time I hit the start/finish I was in fourth place and still feeling really good.
|About a mile out from the Start/Finish Lap 1
At the Start/Finish I picked up some more gels, coke, water, and some pretzels and quickly headed back out. I noticed that the leader was still in the aid station and didn't look to be feeling too well. I believe he ended up dropping. I was not looking forward to the out and back section as I now knew what awaited me. For some reason the trail was okay on the way out but was pretty miserable on the way back. When we got to the turn around I was able to count the guys coming back at me and I was in 3rd place about 5 minutes back of Alex, who was leading. This is where my race started to go downhill. As I was about to start the first big climb for the second time, I decided to rid my shoes of some rocks that had found their way in. I also used nature's restroom. I was starting to feel a bit queezy and could tell that he gels were wanting to exit my body but couldn't decide which end. I was able to get the rocks out of my shoes but my legs had lost much of their pep and I was forced to power hike the climb. I was still moving well and my hiking was definitely efficient as I was passing runners from some of the other races as they were running up the hill. This was encouraging and I was soon able to start running again. Then I ran out of water. This section from the first aid station to the second is a long 6.8 mile section. I ran out of water about 2 miles out from the aid station and was quite cotton-mouthed upon arriving.
I took my time here, drank plenty of fluids, ate some food, and took some salt as the day had grown pretty warm. I know you are not supposed to experiment on race day but I figured since this was my first I might as well get the experiments out of the way. This was my first time taking salt tablets and I have read about what they can do to some runners. I made sure to drink plenty of fluids with them and I was soon feeling their benefits. I was able to run/hike the climb out of the aid and then run the entire decent. I had fallen back to about 7th place overall and was not only chicked, but triple chicked at this point.
After the Start/Finish aid station I made it my goal to try and regain some places and at least catch the ladies that had passed me. Nothing against them, I just didn't want to get beat my women. Well that didn't happen. My stomach was still trying to decide how it wanted to rid itself of what I was putting in it. After an unsuccessful potty break at the restroom, I soldiered on with my hike/run strategy. Thankfully we did not have to do the out n back portion on the last loop but I was still not able to climb very well. I fell back on my other goals for the race and decided that I did not want to lose any more places on the last lap. I was able to maintain my place and even started to feel pretty good toward the end of the race. I was able to run the last climb out of the last aid station and finished in 7th place.
I had always wondered what I would feel like at the end of my first ultra. Would I want to do it again? Was it everything I had thought it would be or that people had said? These were questions that were going through my head during the last lap. During that lap is when I decided that this was really fun. I think that is why I started to feel better overall and run the last portion. I finished with a smile and was and still am able to say that I can't wait for the next one!!
|Forced Smile to finish the day
So when is that next race?? Well nothing is set in stone as of right now but the next race in the series is Pass Mountain and I am hoping that I will be able to run that one. Of course there are the logistics of registration and figuring out how to get to the race, but hopefully I will be able to bring my crew with me this time as that was one thing that was missing from the finish line of this race!
**All photos are taken from Aravapai Running Website**