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.
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.