Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mt. Wrightson Ascent

I finally got up the courage to join the Tucson Trail Runners for my first event ever with them and their first event of the season - the Mt. Wrightson Ascent. Mt. Wrightson is located south of Tucson (about an hour or so) in the Santa Rita mountains and is the highest peak in the area. It is in the beautiful Madera Canyon recreation area. Even though I have lived in Tucson 22 years, I have never been there, although I have always heard such wonderful things about it.
I caught a ride with Bruce and his friend Joel, which was nice, so I didn't have to worry about finding the place. All the way down to Madera Canyon, I kept thinking to myself, "Are you crazy? You aren't in the same league with these people! What were you thinking?" I always have fear that I'm going to look bad with a new group of people. I'm not sure when I'll get over it, but at least I can recognize how ridiculously ridiculous the thoughts are and I still take action in spite of the fear.
Anyway, when we arrived, the weather was a little cool, which was perfect! I immediately found Joyce, who I had met at the Tucson Trail Runner potluck, so it was nice to see a familiar, friendly face! She is about one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.There were about 20 people there to do the run. It starts in Madera Canyon at 5,420 feet elevation and goes up to the top of Mt. Wrightson, which is at 9,453 feet elevation. Whew! I knew it would be a hike up at best, since it is only about 5.4 miles up. 4,000 foot elevation gain in 5.4 miles! Hike, hike, hike. My plan was to take the Old Baldy trail up, but then cut over to the Super Trail on the way down.
There were quite a few decent runnable spots on the way up, but it was pretty steep most of the way, especially near the top, so I did do a lot of hiking going up. I paused for a moment at the memorial for the 3 Boy Scouts who died in 1958 when an unpredicted storm hit the area; I had read about it previously in a hiking book. How sad. Such a reminder that nature is unpredictable. I have a lot of respect for nature and the power it holds.
I finally made it to the summit in 1 hour and 59 minutes! Ed was so nice to capture the last part of my ascent and my 'touchdown!' gesture. Thanks Ed for the pictures! The views from the top of Mt. Wrightson are pretty spectacular - 360 degrees. Although I was excited to be at the top, I didn't take much time to rest. Because it had taken me so long to get there, I figured I better hurry on down and not make anyone have to wait on me. After talking with some others, and given the time factor, I decided to just take Old Baldy trail back down, since Super Trail is longer. What I also heard is how overgrown the Super Trail was, and after having Butterfly trail flashbacks, I decided to forgo!

It took me about 1.5 hours to get back down. I was able to run quite a bit, but the rest was slow going because of the: 1) steepness, 2) overgrowth on trail (not like Butterfly trail, though!) 3) rocks and roots and 4) because going up wore my legs out! Total time up and down was about 3.5 hours. Not bad. I wish I was a little faster, but I'm just not in that kind of speed hiking/running shape and I was also playing it safe.

Oh, but the wildflowers were amazing! Lots of yellows (fields of them!), purples, reds and whites. Just so pretty. And the trail is very shaded for much of the way, which was delightful.

I saw a lot of wildlife - 2 large deer, a squirrel, a hummingbird, lots of beautiful butterflies, and a snake (King snake?) The deer bolted too quick for a picture. I had to leap over the snake - he didn't seem very interested in moving - he was right smack in center of the trail. Lots of bees because of the wildflowers. After reading Jeff's blog post about the bee, I made sure I kept my mouth closed.

A lot of runners were already in when I arrived, but there were still a few out on the trail, so we all chatted for a bit. The runners that took the Super trail down were pretty scratched up and were already starting to itch, so I made a good choice skipping that one! Just as the last runners came in, fat raindrops started coming down, so the whole crowd split pretty quick.

I forgot to mention - on the way down Old Baldy trail, I ran into Troy! He mentioned he was running late getting to the trailhead and quickly sped past me on the way to the summit of Mt. Wrightson. Unfortunately, I had to leave before he got back down. I swear that guy has the biggest smile I've ever seen. It was great to see him.
The fastest guy got up to the top in around 1:15. Crazy! The Tucson Trail Runners are a pretty fast and experienced group of trail runners, and I enjoyed my first run with them very much.
I'm already sore from the run. I think I overstrided a little too much coming down (some fast descending!) which has caused my shin to ache a little. I'll just take it easy for a few days.
I ate raisins for this run and had lots of energy. They are much cheaper and have everything and more than do other energy blocks/gels, except salt. However, I use Nuun electrolyte replacement, so I should be fine. The combo seems to be working good. And raisins are a lot cheaper than Clif blocks, which are my favorite. I'll still use the blocks from time to time, but on longer runs, they almost get too sweet for me.
Next up: training the next two weekends with Shari, and possibly Julie, for the upcoming Catalina State Park 11 mile trail race on September 27th. We'll be out at Catalina State Park running the exact course to get ready. Shari saw a bobcat (mountain lion?) out there the other day when she was by herself (not on the course, but on the road). We should be fine in a group, but I think she got a pretty good adrenaline rush! Makes for a good story, Shari!
Touchdown! Bagged a peak! Life is good.


Joyce said...

I'm honored to be on your blog! And you did fantastic on this run! You should definitely come out to more TTR events. I plan to do Sabino Basin and Charoleau Gap, so I hope to see you there. And I'm going to have to try raisins!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

woo hoo!!!!

And Joyce is truly awesome; I love her!

HappyTrails said...

I am the same way - I always worry I am going to "hold people up" by being too slow or not in good enough shape - I guess we should stop worrying so much and just have FUN! Good job getting out and doing it!

RunningTroysLife said...

that waS super fun. Glad we ran into eachother.