Trail Head Sign
So I’m getting off to a decent start here for 2009. I ran the Fat Ass 50k on Jan. 3rd and shortly thereafter decided to run the Pemberton Trail 50k on Valentine’s Day. I was originally looking to do something in March but this local runner, Josh, said he was doing it so I figured it would be nice to have a familiar face at a race.
I drove down to Phoenix Thursday night after work. I met up with my buddy Lee (not Buddy Lee of the Lee Jeans commercials) for a few beers and crashed at his house. Friday I got up and went to Scottsdale to work on a paper for school and put myself out like a piece of meat for the cougars of Scottsdale. For you cretons a cougar is an attractive older woman, who has taken all her ex-husbands money because he slept with some young broad, and is looking for a young man to spoil. Well at least that’s the kind of cougar I’m looking for. Okay I’ll try to stay on topic. After lunch with buddy Lee and old Mark Watratz I drove northeast to the Mcdowell Mountain Park where the race was being held.
View from campsite
The area north of Phoenix is really pretty. There are a surprising number of mountains in the distance and, of course, the giant Suagaro Cacti are magnificent. After scoping out the park I went back to town and do some more studying.
A few hours later I got some food and headed back to the park to set up my tent. There were a couple of other racers there with their tents setup. This girl from California, Ashley, was cooking some food; and Dave who rode his bike up from Phoenix with all his camping stuff on his back. I was pretty impressed with this guy because he packed up all his gear after the race and rode the 35 miles back home. That night was way colder than I expected. I had a hard time warming up and when I finally did and started to doze off this family showed up making all this noise with their camping trailer and their bratty ass kids. Oh well, that’s about average for a campground.
The morning was butt cold. The race director started a fire that we stood around trying to stay warm. People started showing up slowly and then all of a sudden the parking lot was packed and bustling with racers and family. I didn’t strip off my clothes I had over my running clother until about 10 minutes before the race. It finally got light just before the 7am start time, and all of a sudden the race race had begun. Several people were still jerking around oblivious to the race directors repeated announcments the race was about to begin. Oh well, I guess they got the message when everyone started taking off. There were about 175 starters, some of which were running the two loops as a relay with a partner.
I warmed up pretty quickly except for my hands were freezing for about a half hour. Morning in the desert is beautiful. The pink hues on the mountains and the distant landscape looked exactly like a water color painting. This course was quite a bit flatter compared to the other races I’ve done. Before the day was over, however, I realized that flatter didn’t mean easier.
I started out pretty quickly and I knew I should have slowed but it’s just so hard when you are running smooth. My training had been going well leading up to the race so I just decided to go with it. I got to the first aid station, about 5 miles, in about 45 minutes. I didn’t feel strained whatsoever so I watered up and up and quickly moved on. The course rolled along like without much fare for the next several miles. I played cat and mouse with a couple other runners as we passed each other several times. I was still making good time by when I reached the 10 mile aid station, 1hr 40 minutes. At this point the course was mostly slightly downhill and very smooth. About 2 miles before the end of the first lap I knew I was going too fast. I slowed down a bit in an effort to save myself for the second lap. Still, I finished in about 2h 13min. At least I knew I was going to destroy my previous best time of 5h 55min at 50km. Soon after I began the second lap I knew this last 15 miles was going to be tough. Despite running well, I really wasn’t feeling all that strong that day. I had to escape in the bushes for a “pit stop” in about the same location on each of the two laps. Not being one to chalk such a freak occurance as mere coincidence, I decided the only logical explanation is there is a great disturbance in The Force in this particular area.
At some point between laps somebody must have used their mountain building tool and made all the hills 3 times larger. On the first loop I powered up all the hills barely noticing them. I thought I was golden when I reached the first aid station on the second lap. Just 10 more miles to the finish. For some reason I remembered the bulk of the hill being on the first third of the course but this wasn’t the case at all. I still had about 3 miles of tough going before things eased up.
By some miracle, I reached the last aid station in just under 4 hours. Although I was hurting quite a bit I knew I could suck it up for another 5 miles and finish strong. I knew I wasn’t going to equal the time on my first lap, but I was happy with how I was doing so far. My optomistic goal was to break 5 hours and I was pretty sure to do that. This race was totally different than anything I had done before. Because this trail was flatter, I ended up running about 99% of the time. I really wasn’t used to running at a constant speed for such an extended time and this threw me off a bit. My legs were really burning over the last 11 miles or so. However, most of the hills weren’t significant enough to warrant walking up. A few times I just had to slow down and walk if only for a few seconds.
I picked up my pace gradually over the last 5 miles and really gave it all I had through the finish. I just didn’t want to leave anything out on the course. Well I guess there was also the slight hope that some hot runner cougar, with the legs of a 17 year old soccer player, was waiting at the finish line, and was so impressed by my studly finish that she’d totally fall for me. What?? wierder things have happened.
Oddly enough, the pain in my legs only intensified when I stopped. I was actually in a fair amount of agony for a while. Eventually, the pain subsided some and I enjoyed the homemade chili and watched the other runners as they finished. My friend Josh won the race in 3h 30min. The young lady, Ashley, that I met the night before camping was the first woman finisher in 4h 15 min. I ended up in 30th place out of the 170 or so starters. However, 5 of the people that placed ahead of me were actually relay teams.
All in all, it was a good run on a wonderful day.