San Tan Scramble 50k

by Richard Wednesday, March 19th 2014

I'm sitting, resting after completing the Elephant Mountain 22k, waiting for my girlfriend to come through the first lap of her first 50k enjoying the beautiful weather and recounting the past three races that have lead up to the Old Pueblo 50 mile race one week from today.

San Tan Scramble was my first 50k of the year and it was fantastic.  Everything lined up that day for a fantastic race and PR.  The morning was cold and dark as we huddled around the portable heaters waiting for the race to start. 

 

The course was three laps of just over 10 miles of mostly flat and rolling hills with wide smooth trails.  There was only one difficult climb and it was very steep.  The first lap was run clockwise, the second counter clockwise and the third clockwise again.  It was just enough to keep things interesting.  

I’m in the gray jacket and hood under the heater

I started the race I the dark, feeling great and looking for a fast time.  My previous best 50k time was 8:15 on a challenging course.  I knew I would be faster that day if for no other reason other than there was much less climbing.  I told myself to shoot for 6 hours but realistically I would be happy with anything under 7. 

Starting in the dark

The first 10 miles went by fast.  Really fast.  I had committed a cardinal sin of running and was wearing a new pair of tights and by mile 6 I was having some "issues" with some of the seams.  Up until this race I hadn’t used the small body glide stick I always carried my pack but today I was so thankful for it.  A quick stop behind a bush and a liberal application of the stick and most of my issues were solved.  The course started with rolling hills leading to a short climb to a ridge.  From there the next few miles dropped away to the last aid station where the tough steep climb began.  Over the top, it was a fast decent back down to the desert floor and a quick few minutes back to the start/finish line.

Great views southwest near the start

The first time over the high point

Lap 1 done

The second lap required more effort.  I finished the first lap right at 2 hours and I really wanted to keep the 6 hour finishing time an option.  The second lap started with the steep climb which was nice.  I put my head down and hiked up as fast as I could.  The back side was loose and rocky which wasn’t much of an issue on the way up but on the way down it was like running on big angry marbles that threatened to break your ankle with every step.  I slipped and slid my way past a couple of people on the way down and started to focus on getting back to the start/finish line for the 3rd lap.  I was running well.  There was a great breeze most of the day and even in the full sun, it wasn’t too hot.  A couple of rolling hills and an aid station later and I could see the finish line and the start of the third lap.  I kicked the last quarter mile and made it in again just over the 2 hour mark.  Below, finishing the second lap a little more focused on the effort.

Cool crested saguaro on the course

Lap 2 behind me

I was feeling great.  I got out of the aid station quickly and starting running down the guy in front of me.  As I caught up to him, he looked back and said "Did you see that guy?"  "What guy?" I replied.  The he told me that the winner had just finished.  Now I know that I'm a middle of the pack runner on my best day but it really deflates me when I hear that the winner is 1.) Done running and  2.) Over 10 miles ahead.  I think I ran about 3 more miles and I hit the wall.  It took another 3 or 4 miles of walking and slow running to get out of my head and get caught up on fluids and nutrition before I could muster up a running pace again.  By the time I reached the last climb of the day I was feeling good again and I caught two more people power hiking up the slope.  One more fell behind on the way down (road shoes suck on trails!).  I was on the last leg with one more runner in my sights and about half a mile to go.  I told myself "go get him" just as he looked back and took off.  We both pushed hard and I closed the gap but I couldn’t get there in time.  I finished in 6:35 and it was great.  

Done!

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McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25k Race Report

by Richard Thursday, December 26th 2013

The third race of the Trail Series with Aravaipa Running and of my season is the McDowell Mountain Frenzy.  I had planned on bumping up to the 50k for this race as a part of my Old Pueblo 50 training but I had been sick for the two weeks leading up to the race so I decided to run the 25k.  The race course was run around various loops on the Competitive Track at McDowell Mountain Park.  I believe most of the trails are designed for mountain bikes so they were smooth for the most part but consisted of lots of short drops and climbs.  I had run one of the Spartan races here earlier in the year as well as one of the night races put on by Aravaipa this summer so I was familiar with the trails and knew what to expect. 

It was a cold start, about 31 degrees but the sunrise was great.  You can see Weaver’s Needle silhouetted against the rising sun on the right.

I felt a little left out when the 50k runners got started.  Especially when I saw that one of the runners was pulling a tire.  She runs races pulling this tire to try to raise awareness for recycling.  I was impressed.  Half an hour later it was my turn and we set off.  I started at the very back of the pack, intent on starting slowly and picking up the pace later if I felt better.  That didn’t last long, as I got frustrated with the pace and I started to pass a few runners as we ticked off the first two miles.  The first aid was around mile four but I noticed it a few miles early which made it come very slowly.  Look closely and you can see the green tent on a ridge. 

Feeling good for the camera

This is the "world famous" fountain in Fountain Hills, AZ about 12 miles away

After the first aid, it was about 3.5 miles to the next aid according to my watch.  I started feeling a little better and the rolling hills were going by more quickly than I had remembered.  I continued to pass a few runners and came into the second aid station.  This felt like the highpoint of the run as I looked back towards the start but I found out later that it was not.  From the aid station the course ran relatively straight to the north, back to the east edge of the parking lot.  As I ran past my car I remembered that when I was planning for the 50k, I made up a drop bag which included a fresh pair of shoes.  I’ve never done a shoe change during a race and with the last loop only being 5 miles I decided it was a good time to try a change so I ran over to the car and made the swap.  I had started in Inov-8 245’s and switched to Salomon Sense Mantra’s.  The 245’s have much more ground feel in them and the Mantras were more cushioned.  The main reason I wanted to try the swap was to see if it would work well or if I thought I would need it in the OP50.  My shoes don’t usually give me any issues but the heel in the Mantras was rubbing the last time I ran them so I slathered some on both heels and a couple of other spots to see what happened.  I’m also trying out a new product called Trail Toes.  It’s an anti-friction product for your feet or anywhere else you’re having a rubbing problem. 

I headed back to the spot I left the course and rounded the corner to pass through the start/finish line to start the second loop.  I knew this loop was going to wander back and forth so I tried not to pay attention for the first couple miles to avoid getting frustrated.  The trail included a run through “The Chunnel” as it was called on the sign.  It was a very large culvert pipe which probably would have been fun to blast through on a mountain bike.  The last 1.5 miles were really tough.  First, you could see the finish line before the course went back behind the largest hill in the park.  Then I realized that, yep, I’m going up that hill.  It was a steep climb that took a lot out of me as I coughed my way up.  Coming over the top, I started running again and I realized there was a slim chance I would be able to break three hours but from that point I couldn’t see the trail had two more super steep and short climbs hidden in the last half mile.  I started cramping badly after the first one and stopped to stretch for a moment.  I realized I wouldn’t break three hours but I wanted to run across the finish line so a quick pause to stretch seemed like the right decision.  3:02 was my final time and it felt good considering how I had been feeling the weeks leading up to the race.  Here is a link to the race on Movescount: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move22245053

The shoe change was interesting.  After running 10 miles in one pair, the subtle differences between them you wouldn’t normally notice felt pretty crazy for the first few minutes.  The Mantras have a higher ankle cuff which felt really strange.  They also have a single pull lacing system which was hard to get just right after using normal laces.  I did really enjoy the extra cushion though.  It felt great and made my feet feel like they had done half the mileage they had actually done.  I’m planning on trying the swap again in the next race.  The Trail Toes stuff worked pretty well.  I haven’t used something like this before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I didn’t get any blisters or noticeable rubbing in the spots these shoes were rubbing previously.  I ran the same type of socks and put on a fresh pair when I switched shoes to try to keep the comparison fair.  I would definitely recommend trying Trail Toes if you have any spots you are having trouble with.

This was also the first race I tried out some custom apps for my Suunto Ambit.  The Ambit allows you to design apps so you can measure, estimate or calculate just about anything you want.  I have two on my watch; one that estimates your 50k finishing time and one that estimates your 50 mile finishing time.  They use your average pace, distance remaining and elapsed time to make the estimation.  It’s interesting to keep track of but it can be a little addicting. 

The next race is San Tan Scramble on 1/11/14.  I’m planning on running the 50k for sure.  With the OP50 coming up soon I’m definitely feeling pressure to log some good training runs, get healthy and stay strong.

Activities | Events

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket Review

by Kirsten Wednesday, December 11th 2013

The Ghost Whisperer Jacket is hands down the most used piece of clothing in my closet. This jacket is super warm, versatile, comfortable, comes in great colors, I have the women’s blue and it always gets compliments. To give you some context before reading on, I am an avid hiker, backpacker, climber and work at the summit hut! I get very cold easily as I grew up here in Tucson and I tend to be a little rough on my gear. 

The Ghost Whisperer is a great technical piece. This jacket is perfect for backpacking because it is so light and so warm. I keep it in my pack or tent until the sun goes down and then throw it on over my t shirt or under a shell if it is really chilly. It is perfect to throw in a day pack to use while belaying and small enough to take (or keep in your pack) just in case the weather turns. Disclaimer: you do not want to store it in its pack pocket as the down will settle and be compressed – make sure to “fluff” it often if you are storing it this way for multiple days without use. 

The Ghost Whisperer is also an awesome everyday option. When I go to sporting events that are outdoors I always throw this jacket in my medium sized purse – I have been extremely thankful to have it on several occasions. In the warehouse at the hut winters get pretty chilly! When spring hit last year we had a get together with some co-workers and one co-worker actually said “You look great, it is odd to see you without your blue down jacket on!” 

Yes, I wear it that often. 

 

I think nearly half of the staff at Summit Hut owns this jacket and it is a customer favorite as well. Mountain Hardwear did a wonderful job with this piece and I think it stands above similar choices because of the quality, weight, color choices and fit. If you are looking for a piece like it, defiantly come in and try it on!

Check out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket on our website!

Gear

Pass Mountain 26k Race Report

by Richard Thursday, December 5th 2013

November 16th marked the second race of the season, Pass Mountain 26k at Usery Park in Mesa.  Four of my friends and Summit Hut co-workers (Dave, Charles, Ryan, Kirsten and Maddie) joined me for this race which was great!  For this race we decided to go up the night before and camp at the park.  Usery Park was busy but had great facilities including hot showers.   Charles arrived a little later and got this great picture of the campsite at night.

The evening was nice and cool and the following morning we woke up and started preparing for the race.  The forecast was calling for temperatures in the high 70’s and a small chance of rain.  It turned out to be a perfect day.  It was cloudy most of the day with a fabulous cool breeze. 

Maddie and Kirsten sporting their Selk and Dream walker sleeping bags first thing in the morning

The course was much flatter than Cave Creek and made for some fast times.  The first few miles were on dirt roads and I worked hard to turn in fast mile times. 

Fast miles approaching the first aid station, you can see the lead pack in the distance

(Left to right) Charles, Dave, Kirsten and Maddie looking very strong

After the first aid station we turned down a single track trail and started running back toward Pass Mountain.  The trail was pretty flat until just after the second aid station where it started to climb up to the pass to the east of Pass Mountain.  I had started ahead of my friends but most of them caught and passed me between the second aid station and the highpoint of the course.  It was hard to watch them run away from me but ultimately it was a good mental challenge for longer races to come.  Just before the top of the climb a runner had fallen a few minutes ahead of me and took a pretty good blow to the head.  There was a measurable amount of blood on the ground but it was great to see that five or six other runners had already stopped to help.  I decided to start moving toward the next aid station to let them know.  The injured runner did eventually finish the race and was smiling when he crossed the finish line. 

Climbing to the pass looking east

View to the north at the top

The back side of the climb was smooth and fast as it descended, winding back around Pass Mountain and started heading back toward the finish line.  There were several very short drops and climbs as the trail crossed small drainages. 

 

With around 2 miles to go I realized that I had gained on Dave and tried to put my head down and catch him.  He had no idea that I was there but he still managed to stay out ahead of me.   We passed the last aid station and had just over a mile to the finish line.  The course was mainly a loop with a short out and back to and from the start/finish line.  On the way out, I hadn’t noticed how downhill and sandy the road had been but I was definitely feeling it on the way back up.  The sun finally came out and made the last half mile seem really tough as I watched Dave pull away and finish a minute or so ahead of me.   I crossed the finish and was overall happy with my time.

Here is a link to the run on Movescount:  http://www.movescount.com/moves/move21365450

I challenged myself on this run to try to drink less water.  I have always struggled with the amount of water I’ve felt compelled to consume on long runs and this seemed like a good chance to try something different.  Normally I would have consumed 70-90oz of water for a distance like this but I was able to only drink 40oz this day without any problems.  My next race is the McDowell Mountain Frenzy on December 7th and I’m going to try to continue to drink less.  McDowell will be a bigger challenge as I plan to run the 50k but there are a few more aid stations so if things start to go wrong it will be easier to catch back up on fluids.   I’m hoping I can continue to need less and that will make for a lighter kit for OP50 in March.  The Holiday season is upon us and finding time to train is going to get harder but I’m hoping I can keep the mileage up and stay healthy.  

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The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!

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