Tuesday, May 6, 2014

54k TrailRace. In the Desert Heat. So Sinister.

"TrailRunnerGuy" Ramblings.
Arizona Trail-race Ingredients: Heat. Overtaper. Undertrain. Peer Pressure. Make it a challenge, right?  

Big picture:  When a whole bunch of your fellow trailrunning friends sign up for the Aravaipa Sinister 54k less than an hour from home, one does not simply sign up for the 27k instead.  My first thought: This was probably going to hurt. A lot. My second thought;  pretty much the same as the first.  Eventually pulled the trigger on the "submit registration" button through the AravaipaRunning.com site meant there was no going back now.  I sign up for a race, and I run it. Through sickness and in health. And heat. And aliens.

My concerns: I had missed a lot of training the prior 4-5 months. Was in bed sick for over a week at one point. Then strained my calf and hammy pretty bad on the very first run back on the road (duh). One more week+ of nearly zero running (or 11:00/mi swearing and walking a couple times, then retiring from running at one point. Then un-retiring.). Add another couple weeks of only 1 or 2 runs nursing these issues.  Finally, it was do or die time at the end of March: 4-5 weeks of approx 40-45 mi/week. Usually only on 3 total runs to get my 40 miles. Not a great approach, but much better than before. This upcoming 54k (roughly 34 miles on this course)...it'll be a good pain though. Right? Sucker.

My friends: Chris, Adam, and Kevin had already signed up for the long one, so after I did the same, I then decided to help spread the suffering.  Apparently I helped convince my San Diego fellow freak ultra-friend Leslie aka "Ms Ragnar", to join in on the fun.  I received a text screen shot of her confirmation page just a couple days before the race.  Very cool.  Gonna be a party in the desert. 
Proper Attire. For safety, of course.
Historically on this date, temps are usually no higher than 90* for a 7:00 p.m. start and quickly cools as the sun goes down around 8:00 p.m..  Pretty warm, but not a big deal.  But wait..., the forecast was increasing each day leading up to the actual event. First 92-ish, then 95, then 98...just super. Gonna be a pretty warm one.   

Random background: After some 20+ mile, mid-day, 5,000' climbing death-runs last Summer with Patrick and Jenn, I knew I had to manage my fluids much better than usual (a Moon Pie and a Cherry Coke in 100 degrees just don't cut it, trust me. I needed a special kind of therapy after that.).  Specifically, I wanted to avoid a return of the bulging alien-mating ritual that took place my legs. There could be nothing worse than a public, embarrassing feature of that circus freakshow.  Go ahead. Picture me rolling around the dirt. Mostly fetal position yet some arched-back, and doing a sort of kung-fu "stretch this calf, clinch that hammy, and don't shart my pants." All while in short shorts. It's actually quite hilarious to see it in person. Ask around.,  Only thing that could be worse, while all this is happening, try to feed me some mushrooms and watch me convulse in an Olympics-worthy rhythmic gagging.

John, Leslie, Chris.

Kevin, Adam, John
Finally, to race day.  It's friggen hot out. Nothing like the 110s/115s we eventually acclimate to during late-Summer, but we're just not really ready for that yet. At least I'm not.  Some thermometers were showing at or just over 100 degrees.  Leslie made it to town, possibly driving faster than recommended, but we met up at the Toby Jones residence in Queen Creek, got changed into our "Team Neon-short-shorts-wear", received our pep-talks from Toby, and were off to the San Tan Mountain Regional Park to get underway. 
Loops #1 and #2.  The 54k is a series of 6 loops over a 9km counter-clockwise loop. Passing through the finish line after each completion.  The entire course very runable, mostly flat, with a few hills and some rocky sections.  Maybe just 400' or so of climbing over each loop.  Pretty uneventful first couple loops. Started out way too fast with the top guys, and after 1/2 mile realized I'd be facing the kung-fu fighter/pants-crapping ritual if I didn't slow it up right away.  Settled back into a very comfortable and conservative pace. Chatted with a few guys who were 100k/100-mile veterans just out for a very long training run. Some ripped through it like an easy 5 miler, and some ended as victims of the heat.  Having said that, as the sun sets in April/May in the desert, it usually cools pretty fast. This day did not cool very fast...at all.  No worries though, just run smart and have fun. 
Loops #3 and #4:  After a couple more loops and running a bit on and off with Adam, I finished my 4th loop (23-ish miles) still feeling decent.  I then see Chris (and a few others) somewhere in the dropbag area, Chris sitting in a chair, head down, looking "not 100%." Uh oh.  His wife said he got pretty dizzy and wasn't feeling well. (He ran those first 4 loops pretty hard.) He eventually got himself set up with a head/hair thing full of ice cubes in hopes he'd cool down and recover.  Gave him a few extra minutes to regroup, get some add'l calories in him, and dragged him back out there. Look at me being all demanding and stuff! ;) (usually it's the other way around and full disclosure: for me, that short break was likely a blessing in disguise.). 
Before we depart I see Kevin. Looking "not super. Drunk-like." Turned out his eyesight went completely wacky and couldn't see 2 feet in front of him (pun intended). He wisely stopped after 24 miles and became the "Supportive Blind Man."  Felt bad for him as I knew he was totally capable of finishing the whole thing...  Okay, back to the race, let's go already, Chris - only 18k left! We've got this! For the early part of this 5th loop we were pretty much power-hiking most of the hills and slow-running the rest.  Adam had see-sawed back and forth a bit, both ahead and then behind us as he had some leg stuff going on. He would later bounce back - in a big way.    

Loop #5:  Surprising really. I'm actually feeling pretty good as all 3 of us were together, able to pick up the pace a little, still power-hiking some of the steeper stuff and making decent time running the flats and downhills.  Adam's legs recovered very well, and Chris apparently got his core temp lower so he was back in business too.  Knowing we were about to have just a single loop left soon, I was finally confident my body wasn't going to fall apart.  My plan of consuming: a 20-oz bottle of some sort of electrolyte fluids, plus 2 salt caps, and a Gu/gel almost every single loop worked just as planned.  I actually felt great - no hints of cramping or stomach issues.  I was definitely getting tired, but still felt solid and any worries of a possible disaster were now almost non-existent.  The only remaining drama was forcing myself to choke down that final raspberry Gu without some sort of side-show.  Really, I couldn't pick a more nasty-ass flavor? Did I miss choosing the Rootbeer-Salmon flavored one? Worst thing to consume ever? Felt like it.  Best thing for me. No doubt. Calories = energy. 

Loop #6:  With no more food needed, on the 6th and final loop, the 3 of us basically supported each other and the pace just kept gradually getting faster and faster (this is all relative - we weren't running 5 min miles!).  One thing I noticed - all the piles of puke around the course. Seriously, like 30-40 of them. Guess it was hot. 

We did eventually see Leslie on an uphill section during her 5th loop.  She gave me the look. THAT look. You know the one: "thank you, you smelly jerk-faced jerk, for inviting me to this special desert hell." (or something like that).   I felt kinda bad, said a few positive words, and caught back up to Chris and Adam.  Knowing she's a total trooper and would finish no matter what, I didn't worry too much. 

Finishing Up:  Finally, with about 1 mile left you can somewhat see the finish area and hear the occasional cowbells and cheering.  Time to finish this bad-boy up and get some pizza! That last section (1/2 mi or so) we were really moving (or so it felt like it).  Coming into the finish we were somewhere in the 7:00's/mi pace and all crossed the finish line together. 
High-fives all around. Smiles everywhere. Convincing myself I wasn't going to hurl. (For the record.  Didn't.).  We finished in around 6 hours 19 minutes.  Hardly the time we wanted, but given the heat and "excessive aid station loitering", it was more about having fun and pushing each other around the course. Leslie, as expected, didn't ever consider giving up (duh!).  Even though she told me she retired from running and was taking up soccer again with 1 loop to go.  That decision was soon reversed.   She gutted out that last 9k loop and came in with another guy. And of course, all smiles. What a blast.

Next race? TBD. Though probably an Aravaipa one. Adrenaline in mid-June?   :)   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Whoa. Running with a race number? Twice?

As usual, it’s been a little too long since my last post.  Like everything though, the hardest part is just getting to the starting line.   And hey, I’m running again! More than twice per week!  Wow! ;)
Having spent the last year or so focusing on avoiding those silly, nagging injuries, less falling down (that still happens…),  and better/more consistent training, I've actually been having a lot more fun.

Finally managed to shove myself into a couple races with numbers pinned to my singlet (that’s a “tank top”, for you ‘youngins’.)  Yes, it’s finally sinking in that I’m not 23 any longer - I’m a…uhhh….”Master’s Runner...?” now… Yep, 40+ and facing the reality of adjusting expectations and goals. Still won’t stop me from trying to run fast though.  

The two recent races:  BlackCanyon City Trail 1/2 Marathon in March (Point to point, epic views, amazing single-track, ~1,800 of “upness”, superb race organization, and BEER at the finish.  Fully approve of that!)  And the 3rd annual Run for the Thirsty 10k at Reach 11 in North Phoenix in May. (Flat, packed dirt, fast, yet it was getting a tad warm for racing in the sunny desert.)

BCC 1/2:  I had run the BCC 13.1 the prior year on pretty weak training, plus one of the worst head/chest colds I’d ever had.  No refunds? No missing the event then - I’m stubborn like that.  I updated my emergency contact info and ran a decent effort without death.  Good enough for 37th overall and 5th in my age group in about 1:57 .   The 2013 run was different – still the same epic/fun course, though much better preparation - consistent training, fewer injuries, and a couple new excellent trail buddies (Chris and Jenn, both inspiring and dedicated Ultramarathoners – and not to mention, “fast!”) .   
Race day: Some bigger (aka “faster”) names on the entry list this year vs. last also made me focus a little bit more than I usually would.  Wanted to see if I could come close to some of these rockstars.  Being 37th OA last year, I was shooting for a top-20 finish, and at least 6 to 8 minutes faster.  The race started out a little quick (for me) down the fire road, but not too horribly fast like I usually do (this was mostly to avoid the bottle-necking single-track after approximately the 1st mile - you get stuck, you're screwed.). Don’t get me wrong, the course is amazing. Just really hard to pass on that single-track sometimes...  I managed to wind up 18th-20th place or so going into the 2nd mile and pretty much kept a steady, good-effort pace the entire way while passing at least 1 or 2 runners every few miles.   By the time I’d reached about mile 9, those near me were at least 2 minutes ahead or behind – so I pretty much ran solo for the final 4 miles to the finish (not including the last mile where the 9k racers merged with the 13.1 folks).   Final results:  13th overall, and 3rd in my age group in 1:47. A full 10 minutes faster than last year.  Being that the 2 fellas ahead of me in my AG were named Ian and Jason (that would be “Torrence” and “Ford”, two kick-ass 40+ year olds with super impressive running resumes), I was stoked to take 3rd out of the 38 in the 25-29 age group...I mean...40-44 group. Topped that off with a celebratory beer at the finish.  Happy Day! :)

Run for the Thirsty 10K:  Racing a 10k? Wait, what?  I don’t have the leg turn over for that!? (I ran 27 miles in training a few weeks before for a Boston Marathon tribute along the canal – I don’t run fast, I run far….)  After receiving a comp entry from the #FurtherFasterForever gang (on Facebook/Instagram) I couldn't pass it up.  Good cause, flat-as-a-pancake course, cool shirt, and out and back on a gravel/dirt path.   Was hoping to run sub-40:00 based on my training, but had no idea how that would go.  Figured I’d shoot for 6:15-6:20 pace and just see what happens.  

First mile: 6:18 (though I wouldnt know it at the time as I don’t wear a watch, and my iPhone (w/ Strava recording every exciting second) was in my little “manny pack.” (Hey, don’t laugh – it’s so small it was under my singlet and no one knew it was even there. J).   The leader took off like a mad-man – obviously knew what he was going – running around 5:30 pace.  See ya.  So I stuck with a group of 3 others the first few miles and figured the race was for 2nd place. I just didn’t want to end up a train-wreck with everyone pointing and laughing as I hobbled through the finish line with puke or and/or drool all over the front half of my body.   Other than an unleashed dog nearly taking out the guy next to me, the rest was pretty uneventful – just a steady pace, trying to hang on to my pace as long as possible.  Two of the guys in my group eventually pulled away and I just couldn’t hang on.  Ended up finishing strong in a 39:05 (6:18 pace).  Good enough for 4th overall and 2nd in my AG.  Hey, I’ll take it.  J

Monday, November 26, 2012

Back on the Trails. Again. Yay.

Been a while. Been living. Kids, work, moving, etc, etc.  Finally made it out for a run last night.  Embarassed to say...first run in nearly 3 weeks.  At least my achilles, both of them, don't hurt today.  Sure hope that trend continues!

Managed a few pics (viewed on Webstagr.am) from the run too. Check em out if you want.  You might like to see why we're spoiled in the Winter time in Arizona. Even a few from Ironman Arizona.  Oh, and it must have been at least 83* yesterday.  :-)  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Okay, yeah, yeah...I've been slacking again w/ the blog.  Or out running. and working. and living.  A few have asked about the Grand Canyon and the oval stickers for "Rim to Rim to Rim" or "Rim to River to Rim."   You can find them here:  http://www.cafepress.com/rim2rim2rim  and http://www.cafepress.com/rim2river2rim.  If there's another kind/type of sticker you want. Let me know as I may be able to add it.  :-)

You did it, didn't you? Or you've planned it, right? :-)
Did you do it? Run, hike, mule, crawl? Did ya?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer. Hot... Storms.... Humidity...

Can't believe how long it's been since I posted anything here. One thing I do know though. I've been slackin' on the training.  Big-time!  No more excuses about the heat, the storms, the humidity, etc.

How about I get my butt up once in a while actually get out there and do something?  Easier said than done sometimes, but if I'm going to even consider another run at the Grand Canyon this fall (rim to rim to rim), I need to get SOME sort of a base... and that won't happen while sitting on my booty!

(Only a sample - not a REAL "Slacker" Certificate:)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Summer's Over! Yay!

Now that the hellish firestorm we call the "Arizona Summer" is behind us, it's time to take advantage and run a little more - OUTSIDE.  No more night-time lows of 93 degrees and day-time highs of 114.  No more getting up at 4 a.m. to start a run and have it get progressively hotter every minute of my watch.  And no need to run on the "dreadmill" - only by choice once in a while when time is short.

On that note, I'm off for a nice, cool run! (Sorry to everyone who's not in the SouthWest and/or buried under 2 feet of snow.)  :-)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Javalina 12 Hour Run

Okay, pretty sure this means I'm committed. My $50.00 means 12-hours of running? Really? Yep.  The Javalina 12 Hour Run in McDowell Mountain Park.

I've done six of the 48-mile variety in the Grand Canyon (between 13 hrs 50 min to 18+ hrs), but never anything more than 26.2 with a race number pinned to my chest.  Guess that'll change this September.  :-)

Now...to train in the heat of the Arizona Summer for some serious long-@$$ distances.  Time to get my training schedule nailed down and be in good shape - or else!  More to come!