Saturday, September 22, 2012

Flagstaff 50k race report

This was perfect timing for this race - one month before Dallas and I attempt our first Grand Canyon R2R2R. After taking 6 weeks off after Zane Grey 50 because of an aggravated anterial tibial tendon, I slowly worked my mileage back up. 

To get ready, Dallas and I ran Mt. Lemmon (Sunset Loops, up to 9,100 feet elev.), 21 miles of Esperero Loop (up to 7,000 feet elev.), 22 miles of Mt. Wrightson (a double - 9,400 feet elev.) and a 24 mile loop up Mt. Humphreys (12,633 feet elev.) We progressively did longer and longer runs, increasing our elevation and elevation gain. I trained smart this time, and did not increase my mileage too much on any given week. By the time of the race, my longest mileage week was only 40 miles. But, with the long runs at elevation, I was as ready as I was going to be. I was also doing the stepmill once a week at the gym, as well as 1-2 weight/kettlebell workouts a week. I was looking at this as more of a training run for the Grand Canyon double crossing, but was going to give it my all nonetheless.

There was a 50 mile option and a lot of Tucson people did that one. 50k would be hard enough. 

I showed up to see the 50 milers off at 6am, as I had to get my drop bag in before then. Tom, Christie, Tim, Mike and Korey were running the 50 miler from TTR. Mike commented that this course probably wasn't too technical. Right...more on that later.

Sun peeking up right before the start

The flat start and finish. The only flat part of the race. :)

We started at 7am, one hour after the 50 milers. I wore a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve over the top. Within 2 miles, I was burning up, so I pulled the long sleeve off. Even with cooler temps in the morning, it was looking to be a warm day in the mountains. Most of the 32+ entrants were zooming past me in the first 5 miles to the Sunset aid station. It was the first climb of the day - 2,000 feet - and I was doing my usual strategy. Slow at the start, save some for later. It can feel bad to be in the back of the pack at the start, but for me, it is the smartest thing to do. I need to have something in the tank for later.

I ate 2 dates and potatoes after topping out at the 1st of 3 passes at Sunset aid station and off I went-downhill 2,000 feet on the Heart trail. Jamil Coury was taking pictures in this section along the course as was Bret Sarnquist.

Lululemon skirt flapping in the wind 

Flying downhill - both feet off the ground!

I did pass a few people here, but they soon passed me once we got to the bottom. I was running well on the downhills, even though they were really rocky (a lot of small, loose rocks - so much for this race not being technical Mike). The views of the mountainside were amazing - a kaleidoscope of Fall's changing leaves.

 The race followed a dirt road for quite a while, and I got into a groove following Deb and Andrew. It was slightly uphill, so I used my friend Troy's method - 50 steps running, walk for a partial minute, 50 steps running, and so on. I finally arrived at the next aid station - Schultz Tank - at about 13 miles into the race. 

This aid station was familiar as it was used at the other Flagstaff 50k several years ago, and it was also where Dallas and I started our Humphreys 24 mile loop 3 weeks ago. 

I ate another date and some potatoes, got some water in the pack, and off I went. This is the second climb of the race. We jumped off the dirt road and back on single track. I honestly don't remember much about this section! It was fairly rocky in spots, but I remember it being pretty runnable. 

Still behind Andrew and Deb

Heading back up to Sunset aid station

I arrived back at Sunset aid station at about 19 miles into the race. I got some more water in my pack (more on that later), mixed with Hammer Endurolytes Fizz, but could not eat. I downed some Perpetuem that I had in my drop bag, which paid off handsomely later. Once I got going, I was behind Andrew again; this time, running through the trees full of changing leaves.

Andrew and I chatted for the whole descent. It was nice and runnable for a mile or so, and then the horrific, monster rocky downhill started. It went on for quite a while.

Just a sampling of the fun looking back up

We were pretty slow on this section, but were careful to not trip and fall. Once we got to the bottom, after dropping 2,000 feet, we had to climb back up - you guessed it - 2,000 feet! Back up to Sunset AS.

It was on this 3rd and final climb (which was our first descent of the race) that I found my mojo - around mile 23 or so. The Perpetuem kicked in or something! I told Andrew that I felt like running a bit, and unfortunately,  after that, I lost him. I  think I passed 3 women and 2 other men during this section. One switchback after another, in the blazing sun, I power hiked up the steep incline with enthusiasm. I can do this! 

I finished this brutal 8 mile loop, getting back to Sunset about mile 27. I found out later that many people ran out of water in this section. I'm so glad I had stayed hydrated throughout the race until then and that I had filled my pack up well with water - I was almost out when I reached the aid station. Todd from Sedona was there, having finished a separate race earlier in the day - the Flagstaff trail marathon. He was so encouraging, as were all of the people at the Sunset aid station. They said, 'you are doing awesome!' It made me feel so good and got me really pumped up to finish. 

I was wiped out from the climb, but stayed a few minutes to catch my bearings. I got more water, ate a few more dates and potatoes, and got the heck out of there. I ran my butt off for the next 5 miles. I did not want all of those people I passed on the uphill to catch up to me. I had worked too hard. There is a little uphill on the last 5 miles and it was difficult, but otherwise, it was 5 miles of downhill. I looked behind me a few times - and ran as fast as I could.

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. Nick Coury handed me a finisher's pint glass and my 3rd place female award! Oh my gosh! I couldn't believe it. I was so happy that I passed those women. No wonder they said I was doing so well at the last AS.

Total time: 8:28
Total distance: Around 32.75 miles. It was a 'heavy' 50k
Total elevation gain: About 7,000 feet. 3 climbs of about 2,000 feet and a lot of up and down in between. I need to get my new Garmin uploaded to my computer to get the actual.

I also ate 6 gels during the race - a few more than I wanted to, but I needed the sugar boost. Overall calories - about 1,500 with the dates, potatoes, Probar and Hammer Perpetuem. I think the Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tablets might be helping, too. I normally use Nuun (no sports drink) in my pack, but the last 2 runs that I had a PR on I used the Hammer product. Maybe I'm superstitious, but I think I'll keep it up. 

Training, good nutrition/hydration (no blisters, ma!) and smart race strategy made for a race finish that I'll never forget. 3rd place female! It felt really wonderful. 

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