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:
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.