2014 Old Pueblo 50 mile Endurance Run Report

by Richard Friday, April 4th 2014

The morning started for me at 2:30 am with an alarm clock.  I managed to get more sleep the night before than I would have guessed considering what was looming for the day.  2 scrambled eggs, one Eggo and a bottle of Gatorade went down quickly and I was off to meet Jeremy Davis for the ride down to the start.  We arrived more quickly than we expected and waited in the car for a while before heading down the hill to Kentucky Camp and the check in. 

The weather would be the defining variable for everybody that day. 

At 6:00 am, we had a rather informal start and the pack of runners headed up the hill and out onto what would be a truly challenging day.  It was in the mid 40’s that morning and the wind was building quickly.  By the time the sun came up, I was on the first high point of the course and the view was amazing to the east.  Rich rose and orange colors, silhouetted mountains and low silvery clouds were everywhere.  The wind was howling but the morning was great.  I caught up to Jeremy and we were discussing if he should pick up his jacket at the next aid station or when we came back through at mile 29.  We quickly came down the backside of the ridge and found the mile 7 aid station.  Jeremy decided to grab the jacket, we topped off on water and snacks and headed off. 

Somewhere after the aid station it became apparent that someone had removed the markers showing where to turn and if you were still on course.  I was lucky to be running with a few people who had been on the training run a few weeks earlier on this section.  It was (and still is) very hard for me to understand why somebody would remove the markers.  Some runners thought it may have been some of the other people who were in the same area that day.  Other runners thought it was just random people out to cause a little havoc.  Either way, it was an awful thing to do and could have put runners in real danger if it had occurred later on the course. 

Jeremy and I made our way to the next aid station (mile 19 I think) where we found two other Summit Hut runners.  It was nice to see some familiar faces.  We didn’t stick around though, there were too many miles to cover and I was feeling really good.  We made our way up and over Gunsight Pass and started working our way back down the north side when the rain started.  The forecasts were calling for steady rain starting around 11am, wind 20-30 mph gusting to around 45 with a total accumulation of around an inch.  It was 9:55 when the first sheet of rain hit me.  There was no gentle shower first, no light sprinkle build up.  It went from dry and windy to sideways rain instantly.  The rain was cold and unrelenting for the rest of the day.  I had a very light sil-nylon jacket with me that went a long way until I got back to my drop bag at mile 33 for my real rain jacket.  Jeremy and I got to the 25 mile aid without any real problems and celebrated the half way point.  I had a really gross waterlogged PB&J and we started looping back toward the 7/29 mile aid station.  

From here on out I actually don’t remember much.  The weather dominated my thoughts as it continued to rain hard and steadily get colder.   I tried to stay mindful of eating and drinking enough to stay warm and to get moving faster at the first sign of cold in my feet or hands but it was a losing battle.  I made it to my drop bag at mile 33 and was able to pick up my rain jacket and refill some food.  The jacket made a huge difference for a while.  I was able to mostly dry out on top and got a lot warmer until the jacket was overwhelmed by the unrelenting rain.  At some point at the aid station I had unknowingly hit the pause button on my Ambit.  I covered almost 5 miles with it paused before I caught another runner who was asking how much farther the mile 40 aid station was.  When I looked down and saw the time wasn’t moving I was crushed.  Normally that kind of thing would be frustrating but no big deal but I was exhausted and cold and it was just enough to push me over the edge.   My pace slowed and I got cold and hungry as I hit my mental low for the day.  It took a few minutes but I pulled it together, ate a ProBar and got moving down the trail again.  The ProBar was close to 400 calories and I think I really needed it. 

The last few miles into the 40 mile aid station were tough.  Stream crossings started to pop up everywhere as more and more rain was washing down the canyons.  Most of the streams were swollen up to or beyond their banks.  The water was ice cold and full of mud and was really taking a toll on my ability to stay warm.  I came into the station and tried to eat some warm chicken chili but once I stopped moving I could feel the cold really setting in.  Staying still was not an option if I wanted to finish.  I topped off my water bottles for good measure and started shuffling down the road toward the aid station at mile 46.  The volunteers at 40 let me know that it was closer to 7 miles to the next aid and about 11 to the finish.  I really appreciated the honesty, the extra distance would have been a moral buster if I didn’t know about it. 

It was starting to get dark as I came into 46.  I grabbed a handful of M&M’s and kept moving.  Still raining, getting colder and the trail kept getting worse.  This section was on the Arizona Trail again and the trail is cut into the hill side above the road.  The trouble is the trail was below the ground level of the slope of the hill so it just filled up with water like a trough.  The choice was to slosh through more ice water or risk the high grass on either side.  I knew there were prickly pears in the grass and rocks on the trail so I trusted my instincts and took each trough in stride, in the water sometimes and in the grass others.  I had really wanted to finish the race without using my headlamp at the end but that was getting tough.  I could occasionally see a runner in front of me as they went through gates with their headlamp but I was convinced I could get there without another stop to dig into my pack.  I knew I was getting close to Kentucky camp and when I saw a light on one of the buildings I couldn’t believe it was almost over.  I made my way up to cheers and smiles as I crossed the line at 12 hours 40 minutes.  My girlfriend was waiting for me on the porch of the main building and I could barely keep it together as she congratulated me.  Inside there was a fire and a place to sit and that was all I could have asked for.  I got changed, ate a hamburger and started to try to process the day. 

Since the race I’ve heard that there were around 140 people who started the race but only 61 finishers.  Several people were found on the trail in bad shape from the cold wet weather and I can’t say thank you enough for the volunteers working this race.  There was always somebody at each aid station, no matter how crowed it was, asking if I need anything, filling my water bottles and helping me get moving again.  It was an amazing effort on their part, THANK YOU!!!!

Activities | Events

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!

Activities | Events

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

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.  

Activities | Events

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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