- Sir Edmund HillaryWhat started out as a very chilly day in Arizona (28 degrees at 7 am) turned into one of the most perfect days you could ask to have for a run. On tap for this perfect day...a 50k (31.07 miles) jaunt through the desert at the SanTan Regional Park in Queen Creek, AZ.
The field for this race was not deep at all. Approximately 28 people deep. That's right, 28 people crazy enough to take on not only the distance but ups and downs of the Arizona desert. My goals for the day were to simply keep my head, enjoy myself, run my own race and not get hurt (right, April?!). For my first 50k, a finish would be just fine.
In typical fashion, I started the race with way more gusto than necessary and completely ignoring my better judgement to conserve and hold back some of the mojo for later. Of course, the first 6 or 7 miles are very enjoyable - the scenery, the smell of the desert and the excitement of a new adventure all mask the impending climb that awaits as you approach the steep and treacherous climb up the mountain. I called it "The Intimidator".
There was really no point in running up the mountain. (A) the rocks, grade and footing were dangerous and (B) you kept a better pace just walking. There were 2 parts to the mountain - the up had a few switchbacks and a moderate slope that was broken up by a few level landing areas. Once you conquered that, there was a short mostly-level connector that led you to the backside of an adjacent hill/mountain that had a much steeper and hazardous descent. This was just pure down. It was hell on the knees, ankles and toes.
...and then you have do it again...and again. Over 4,300 feet of elevation change.
|A treacherous descent|
Miles 19 through 25 proved to be the hardest for me. The uneven trails, the rolling hills and blisters where beating me down at this stage. Not to mention it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I resolved to walk/run as much as I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That strategy and a little rest at the aid station helped bring me back to life and muster up enough energy to face "The Inimidator" one last time.
I don't think I've ever talked to myself as much as I did on the final hike up this mountain. Though mostly swearing, I managed to positively reinforce to myself that it was the last time and that once I was down the mountain, there is about 1.25 miles to the finish. What's 1.25 miles after you've already done 30?
I knew my family was going to show up for the race to watch me finish but I did not know what time the were coming. To my surprise, they were waiting for me on the trail leading into the finish chute. It's such a charge to have family there to cheer you on. I have never been able to cross a finish line with them so this was a pretty special moment.
Despite the mountains, elevation, blisters, sand and dirt...I had a great time and really enjoyed the course and all the folks from Aravaipa Running. They're not big and the race is not fancy but they do a great job making everyone feel like a champ. Results from the race are here.
...and yes, I'm now an ultramarathoner...