Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mesquite Canyon 50 Race Report

I had been looking forward to running the (inaugural) Mesquite Canyon 50 mile for a while now. I tapered properly. I had eaten well (even while attending a conference in Dallas all week). Everything was feelin' good.

Until I got home. Ugh.

I have never felt allergies like this before in my life. Thursday and Friday I felt like death. A closed throat, itchy eyes and overwhelming fatigue made toeing the line on Saturday seem like a near impossible task.

But somewhere in between, impossible turned to "well, I'll see how I feel when I get out there" to "hmmm, perhaps I'll just drop down to the 50km", until eventually, you say "we'll see how I feel after 50k"

To say it was a day of ups and down with a ton of mental struggles in between would be an understatement.

The day started with an amazing sunrise
Feeling about 60%, I toed the line with about 40 other souls looking to tackle the White Tanks that day.

Right from the start, my breathing was labored and my legs felt sluggish. I didn't feel like I was pushing so the mental anguish of knowing I was already in a hole started to eat at me right from the beginning.

And I was thirsty. I had gone through a full bottle before even hitting the Mesquite aid station only 4.2 miles into the race. Yikes.

Having run this race a couple years ago, I was mentally prepared for the climb out of the valley and resolved to take it slow and methodical - trying to conserve both energy and water for the 9-ish mile stretch to the Black Canyon aid station.

I wasn't feeling horrible when I reached the Black Canyon aid station but I wasn't feeling awesome either. I decided to also stick with my two bottles rather than my Camelbak. I won't admit that this was dumb but I will say that by the time I got to the Mesquite Canyon aid station again (9.4 miles and 1,600' of climb later), I was wishing I had taken my Camelbak. Trying to choke down a gel using tepid water is one of the worse things imaginable.

It was about this time that some crazy sh*t started going through my head. I was tired, it was hot and the Mesquite aid station did not have ice. As the first wall of the day started to descend, I was seriously considering multiple excuses to drop out once I hit the finish line. I definitely had some things going on that would have completely justified bailing...
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of balance
  • Side aches
  • Chaffing south of the border
But any ultra-runner will tell you, at some point you just put your head down and run (or walk). Put one foot in front of the other. Or slide over the White Tank boulders on your ass like I did. Whatever gets you closer to that finish line.

The one and only thing that went well the entire day was my nutrition. Had it not been for that, I would have been finished at the 50 km mark or earlier. I ate every 30 minutes without fail. That's not to say I gagged a few times or vurped some EFS back up trying to release some pressure but 99% of it went down and not up...which is good!

Feelin' it after 50k
Even prior to reaching the 50 km finish line, I had committed my mind and body to the remaining 19 miles of the race. I took my time at the aid station, ensuring I had some real food, some Vitargo, soda and ice-cold water. Mentally I was back into the race and felt pretty good as I headed out for the final 30k. The terrain between the start/finish and the Black Canyon aid station was moderately flat and I found some encouragement that I was in fact, still running up hills in spite of all the reasons I had wanted to quit earlier.

In the strongest heat of the day, it took forever to cover those 5 miles to the Black Canyon aid station. It's a stretch where you pass several park structures and parking lots that look like aid stations...ugh! I ended up being more disappointed each time I looked for it so again, I just put my head down and told myself to just do the distance...the aid station would show up eventually.

At the Black Canyon aid station, there was carnage all over the place. One dude was sitting in the shade talking about how he hadn't peed all day. Another gal was on her way out as I was coming in...but as I sat down in a shaded chair, she came running back and hurled chunks in the bushes. "SAG requested for bib 4xxx", the HAM radio operator exclaimed. I did my best to ignore everything around me and just focus on the beast that lie ahead.

Goat Camp. Again.

This time, I took my Camelbak. Loaded with ice and water, it made all the difference in the world under the ominous afternoon sun. I have no positive words to say about this ascent so I will refrain from repeating any of the swear words I uttered that afternoon :)

The only good news about reaching the top of Goat Camp is that the remainder of the journey is downhill. You're still hopping boulders and dodging rocks but in my opinion, down is better than up!

It was about this time that the sun was getting lower in the horizon and getting cooler. The longer shadows meant a lower heart rate, lower water consumption and a better attitude. I honestly think the last 10 miles were my best...

In the back of my mind, a daylight finish had seemed possible but I wasn't taking anything for granted. My headlamp was packed safely in my Camelbak but I was not ready to take it out just yet. I started getting excited as the "to Finish" signs started appearing now that daylight was starting to fade.

In rare form, there was no monster hill at the end of the race and the Coury brothers actually gave some distance back on this race. We ended coming in at 48.6 miles. I was definitely not sad about this.

Sunset on March 23 was officially 7:11 - I came in at 6:51! I'm calling that a daylight finish and a 50-mile PR (by almost 2 hours compared to BH50)
Celebratory diet cola!
Thanks again to Aravaipa Running for a great day and all the attention to details. I was happy to finish and to be a part of the inaugural 50-mile race.

  • 41 registered 50-mile runners
  • 17 50-mile finishers
  • I finished 13th overall
  • 8th among all men

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