Sunday, March 25, 2012

Zane Grey training run


Dallas, Tom, Mike, Sarah, Chris and I started at the 260 TH, which is the 'end' of the Zane Grey 50 mile race (near Payson, AZ, which is NE of Tucson about 3.5 hours). We planned to run 17 miles to the Fish Hatchery TH - we had stashed a car there with aid - and run back for a total of 34 miles.



The sections we were running are from AS 33 to AS 44 (Fish Hatchery to See Canyon) to the finish of ZG (mile 50). Fish Hatchery to See Canyon is one of the most difficult sections in the race. Some really steep parts. I had already seen the first 33 miles 4 years ago, but I knew I needed to check out the rest of the race course to be mentally prepared for race day.

Dallas ran with me. I knew the other guys would be much faster than me, so we tentatively decided to stop on the way back at the See Canyon TH, cutting off 6 miles for a total of 28 miles. That is what we ended up doing. Mike, who finished the whole thing, came and got us, Chris and Tom. Sarah only went one way. I love run logistics!

There was a big snow storm the week before. We still had some snow on the ground in some places, but mostly MUD. Lots of it.


The creeks were flowing pretty good from melting snowfall, but we managed to get across them all safely. Cold water - good for the legs!

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About 6 miles from the finish, my ankle started bothering me. This slowed us down quite a bit. We also got off trail 2 miles from the finish. We wandered around for about 10 minutes, backtracked and found the spot we got off. Otherwise, we had no trouble following the trail in these sections. Even with the ankle and the wandering, my attitude stayed good pretty much the whole time.


This really is a beautiful course. Magical to me - although someone I know called it masochistic. It is that, too!







An unbelievable amount of rocks and hills. It really is kind of ridiculous how many rocks are out there. This run took its toll on my ankles and lower legs. I've been doing the Stepmill at the gym, so my glutes didn't hurt me near as much on the hills. The rocks are brutal.


Hands on legs, head down - up, up, up.


Can't someone rake some of these off the trail? :)

Some downed trees, although not many. This course has a reputation of having many downed trees, most particularly in the burned section prior to AS 33. A lot of people have been doing trail maintenance on the course prior to the race each year - thank you!



We got to the out point - Fish Hatchery - in 4:55! Geesh. We resupplied and headed back to See Canyon. The last hour I was doing a lot of walking - because my ankle pain really flared up. I did something to it at Old Pueblo - well, nothing I can really remember, but it started hurting me there.

Much slower than I thought I would be. I'll need to pick it up a bit for race day. This race is one up and down after another. Can't even run a lot of the downs very fast - piles of rocks everywhere!

Total distance - 28 miles
Total time - 8:45
Total elevation gain: 4,843 feet (seems like it should be much, much more)

I'm just going to remember the good things about it...

Diagnosis this week from the sports medicine doctor for the ankle - anterior tibial tendonitis, caused by imbalances in the lower legs. Rx - lots of calf stretching and Nsaids.

Zane Grey 50 mile is on April 21st - I will try and continue to train through the tendonitis, but I'll have to see how it all plays out.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 Old Pueblo 50 mile race report

2010 OP50 - Got off course by 3 miles - 54 miles total.
2011 OP50 - My Mom died suddenly the day before the race and I ran it while waiting on funeral arrangements.
2012 OP50 - well, there is a story - most certainly.

I arrived barely in time to walk the 1/4 mile rocky downhill to the race start, get my bib, stand in line to go to the bathroom, and line up at the start. 2 minutes later, we were off in the dark at 6am. I used my new hot pink knuckle light. Next year, I need to show up no later than 5:15am!

Everything was going great for quite a while in the race. I got into a groove, and controlled my speed in the first half of the race. I got to see a Jason, the guy I got off course with 2 years ago - he was crewing his very nice friend Scott that I ran with for quite a bit of the first half.

AS7 - saw Patricia who was crewing for Wayne, AS13 - saw Mary who was working the aid station, and at AS19, I got to see my friend Tricia, who snapped this pic of me:


Off I went to see Dallas at AS25. My IT band was still bothering me a little (I have been plagued with IT band pain in my left leg for weeks prior to the race) so I took two Aleve and it eventually subsided. I arrived at about 5 hours into the race feeling happy to see Dallas, Steve and Mike who were at AS25.


That was about the same time I arrived at AS25 last year. However, I was in much better shape this year because I wasn't loaded with grief about my Mom. I was on target for 11 hours to finish, which was my goal.


Dallas fixed me up, gave me a hug and a kiss, and I was off. After heading up the steep road that heads out of AS25, I arrived at AS29 less than an hour later in good spirits. It was starting to get hot, though.



Between AS25 and AS29, I began having bouts of nausea. Not sure why, but I can only conclude that it is related to the sugar from the Xood sports drink and maybe too much Coke. Now that I had this happen at Pemberton 50k and OP50, I'll have to change my sugar strategy for upcoming races.

Here are a few videos from AS29 where I am with Jason and Scott yacking about the hill and feeling sick. It continued off and on for the rest of the race. The ginger I put in my drop bags did not help. I think I was just consuming too much sugar.

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I listened to an 'Ultrarunner Podcast' on the section between AS29 and AS33, which is singletrack trail, and arrived at AS33 feeling fresh and happy.

I turned on another podcast, and off I went, headed for AS40. After that, things went really wrong.

Somewhere between AS33 and AS40, I realized I did not recognize where I was. I saw nobody around, in front or behind me. I looked down and saw no foot tracks - just horse shoe tracks. I ran for another minute, looked down, and somehow, convinced myself that the ground wasn't the right consistency for light tracks - too much rock. I kept running.

I reached an intersection of several trails and noticed that the trail I was on had a big flour 'X' on it. Instead of heading back, I was romanced by the blue/white ribbons I saw on a trail across the intersection. I reasoned that the trail to the left of the trail I came off of, which had blue/white ribbons, was the correct one, and somehow, I took the wrong one. So, ahead I forged.

No, nothing looked right, but I told myself that I just couldn't remember miles 33-40 from the last two years and this must be right. Ultra brain. Don't ever listen to it. Evil.

So, down I went, onto singletrack (although I could remember no specific singletrack from 33-40), and all of a sudden, a mirage appeared.

Jane Larkindale-fellow TTR. She was headed towards me. I looked at her and immediately thought I had lost my mind. Why am I seeing you? I asked. She said she was one mile from Kentucky Camp, almost done with the race where she would PR and become the 1st place woman. 

I had missed a right turn, and instead, went straight, intersecting with the race course on the other side of the loop. She said to turn around and head back to find the turn I missed. Back I went.

I was so afraid of backtracking unnecessarily when I first realized I was off course, that I deliberately kept going the wrong way. I continued to bash myself for my mistake. The air was out of the tires. I had lost all motivation. I tried to run, and could not. The race that was going so well was now turning into a long walk that I would likely drop from.

Ultrarunner Podcast! Got me so in the zone that I quit paying attention. Lesson learned.

I finally found the turn off that I missed, several miles down the way, and quickly ran into two TTR friends - Chris and Raoul. I was having a meltdown - a major pity party - and they worked on getting me through it. Thank you guys! After passing Chris, I asked someone where we were at mileage-wise and he responded - 36.5 miles. OMG!!!! I still have 3.5 miles until AS40!!! I almost lost it and tried to hold back tears. I had about an ounce of water. Thank God I picked up an extra handheld at AS33. I would have been toast otherwise.

I walked so much of this section. I felt competely defeated.

Arriving at AS40, I planned to drop. I saw Bob 'That's what I'm talkin' about' Bachani, got a big bear hug, and walked up the hill to see Joan. Joan talked me out of dropping and after a long break, I finally was off. Thank you Joan. :)

Within a half of a mile of AS40, I ran into Christie. She wasn't having a good race, which was a bummer, so I shared my tale of woe. I was so happy to see her. I wasn't happy that she was having a bad day, but commiserating with a fellow sufferer felt validating.

All I could think about was how people would think I was an idiot for going off course. How embarrassed I would feel. With the 11 hour goal gone, I aimed for 12-12:30 and was okay with that. However, the fear of what people would think of me continued to consume me off and on during the last 10 miles of the race and for days afterwards.

I dug deep to overcome my mental state, which was continuing to deteriorate. I slowly picked up the pace and ran quite a bit of the last 11 miles of the race (the race is actually 51 miles). I passed another Christy in our group about 3 miles from the finish - she was in great spirits and we chatted for a few minutes. I had been in front of Chris, Raoul, Christie and Christy before my mistake, so I claimed my little victory of passing them before the end and dragged my bruised ego to the finish.

I was freezing, for after 5pm, the desert cools off quickly. I had a headlamp on me in case it got dark (which I didn't have to use) but I was only wearing a tank top, skirt and arm sleeves. I just kept on to the finish, freezing hands and all. My ankle was feeling pretty excruciating at this point - I must have sprained it. Downhills were painful.

I was finally feeling a little better in my head the last few miles. I was pretty proud of myself, knowing that I was about to finish my longest run ever.

Finally, Kentucky Camp came into view and I finished. Yay. Almost dark.

Finish time - 12:32
Total distance - 56 miles!
Elevation gain - 6,700 feet

I was 95th out of 138 finishers. Hey, I wasn't last. :)

Guess what? Nobody told me I was an idiot. For days after the race, I had the most wonderful comments on Facebook from my friends. Once again, my biggest critic is myself.

"You're an inspiration Renee! I feel like it's really rare for me to approach (or cross) my limits, but it's exactly those times when I learn the most about myself. Way to stick with it!"

"Way to pull it back together Renee. I'm not sure I could have continued after. Super tough!"

"I knew you were too tough to drop! All you had to do was turn that negative energy into determination, and there you were. Way to go girl!!"


I am so lucky blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people in my life.