Sunday, December 11, 2011

McDowell Mountain Race Report

McDowell Mountain Regional Park is quite a haul from the east valley so I was up at about 4:30 am, had some breakfast and then headed out to the race. That early in the morning, there is zero traffic so I arrived just a little before 6 am - time to check in.

The start was fairly uneventful though I did get the chance to speak with a couple guys whom I learned this was their first 50K. I also think this crowd was a little bit larger than the last race at Pass Mountain. In either case, the gun sounded and we were off.

I'm not sure if it was the week that I'd taken off or the breezy cold (read, 42 F) conditions prior to the race but that first mile (a) felt like a eternity and (b) felt like my quads were going to explode. I'm going to go with the cold and breezy conditions Monty.

The first 5 miles of the course was mostly groomed trail and a lot more undulation terrain than I was expecting. Not that it was bad, but compared to Pass Mountain (which was mostly flat the first 5 miles), this got the blood pumping right away.

I had really checked myself this time...not wanting to blow my legs up too early, I managed to keep my pace down near a 9:30-10 minutes per mile. With the undulating terrain, it wasn't that hard. My legs were starting to warm up but still, I could feel the muscles at the very core of my quads just screaming for relief. Miles 5 through 10 seemed to be this gradual uphill climb that just went on forever...nothing too technical, just a long, shallow grind.

Beyond this, I don't remember much until the descent to the Dixie Mine aid station - which is about 10 miles into the race. It is a decline to be sure but it really didn't seem to be that bad. I remember thinking as I was running back up it - "Is this the worse part of the course?" Certainly if it was, the remainder of the course had to be easier.

Beyond the Dixie Mine aid station, the time seemed to pass by pretty quickly. The terrain was either flat or slightly downhill (SWEET!) but there were no real climbs to speak of. Between miles 11 and 21, I had found a groove and was keeping a reasonable pace somewhere between 10-11 minute miles.

Mile 22: Wall #1 - The first real signs of pain had arrived. I stopped several times to stretch and loosen up the legs but things were definitely starting to hurt. My nutrition was great and the feet felt good but my quads were aching something horrible.

Mile 26: Wall #2 - The course takes you through the Start/Finish line before heading out for the last 5 miles. I walked up to the aid station here and my legs almost buckled. I was seriously doubting my ability to go out and complete 5 more miles. So I took my time and ate some potatoes, M&M's and a banana, chased it with a few cups of Dew and Coke and resolved to keep it going.

Now at this stage, I'm thinking that I have a shot at PR (personal record). My previous 50K's have been in the neighborhood of 7:58 and 7:43. This was the only thing keeping me going. In my mind, even if I walked the last 5 miles, another 1.5 hours would put me in about 7:30 which would be enough for a PR (eh, a PR is a PR right?!). Of course, walking and succumbing to pain is not how I roll so I sucked it up and ran the flat and downhill stretches during the last 5 miles.

Somewhere in the last 5 miles, I came across this sign.  My  nickname in college was T-Bone.
There was a lot of grimacing during this last stretch. I was doing my best to ignore the pain but dude, the downhill stretches felt like I had knives sticking out of my quads. In most cases, the uphill climbs were actually a welcome relief (did I just say that?!).

Even still, I made it back around and across the finish line - 6 hours and 32 minutes. A new PR (by a lot I was thinking). Comparing this race time to Pass Mountain, I had crushed my previous time by more than an hour! Turns out though, my inaugural 50k race at San Tan Mountain last year would be the bar to beat (6:43).

The not-so-good-news: I did not crush my PR.

The mostly-good-news: I improved massively from Pass Mountain to this race. Different course I know, but the clock doesn't lie.

The all-good-news: I have a new 50k PR. I beat the San Tan time by about 10 minutes.

Yes, I'm already thinking about the next race (Coldwater Rumble, January 21). I mean, look at the profile - how can you NOT be a little concerned about that elevation?!

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