This race hurt, real bad. Especially the last 12 miles. I haven’t felt pain like that in a while, it was a bit of a rude awakening. The morning started around 4am, as I couldn’t lay still any more. Nervous energy was bursting in every direction from within me. We (Tony, Dave, Marcus, Clint and I) gathered in the kitchen each doing our own pre-race routine and joking around. I think we were all really excited and nervous, because there was a lot of laughing going on. It was a good group to be with that morning. The laughter and raunchy jokes continued all the way to the start of the race. We pulled into the parking lot of the Estrella Mountain Regional Park. It was still dark out, but we could see the faint outlines of mountains surrounding us in every direction. This was going to be fun. Before I knew it, all the runners were herded into the starting area and we were off and running. One of the most spectacular sunrises met us in those first few miles. It was absolutely gorgeous. I ran in complete awe and let the scenery soak in. My legs felt good and the terrain wasn’t hilly like it is here, but it was rocky as all get out. I think I pushed the pace a bit too much in the beginning, but it felt good to be running so I just went with it.
One of my favorite sections in the first loop was a huge field of low cacti (about hip height) settled between the mountains. It was one of the coolest environments I’ve ever run in. I made some remark about it to the two guys (not these two in the pic) I was running with and they laughed at my childlike excitement over cacti. One of the guys told me that he carries tweezers in case he steps on a cactus, as they tend to go right through the shoes. He’s also experienced in treating rattlesnake bites. I decided that it would be a good idea to stick with him for as much of the race as I could. The terrain would switch from that into dried up river beds filled with deep sand and big rocks. Then into a couple of straight stretches of a sandy jeep road. That’s when problems started. Where does a girl go to the bathroom in the desert? Everywhere I looked there was only cacti and low scrubby bushes to hide behind. Oh well, gastrointestinal problems wait for no one. I ditched out on my running buddies and wandered off the trail and into the desert in search of a natural hiding place. I’ve never had any GI problems in a race before or in training really, so this was a first for me. It would come back to haunt me every so often until about mile 24 in the race.
There were really no big climbs in this race. Except for one. Up a mountain. The view was incredible from the top and I was thankful for some climbing. With the exception of that mountain, this course had rolling hills and extremely rocky terrain. I mean sharp, pointy, loose rocky terrain. Every step was uncertain and after 20 miles I was in pain. My legs have never hurt like this before. I rolled through the second to last aid station at mile 19 feeling great. At mile 20 I bonked hard. At this point I was run/walking alone in the desert. I could see no one in front of me or behind me. It was all cacti and mountains as far as I could see. My left butt muscle was in pain and my left knee was, too. I’m pretty sure I was limping. My emotions started to get the best of me. I was angry, frustrated and on the verge of tears. I wasn’t feeling well. I felt like screaming some swear words, so I did. Who would hear me anyway? Oh, the lovely guys at the final aid station probably did, as I crested a tiny hill. They eyed me up nervously as I scanned for gummy worms and bananas and slammed some Gatorade. I think I hung out at that aid station for probably 5 minutes, seemed more like 10. Only 6 miles to go from here I thought. I can do this. I was moving slow though. It had taken me almost 1.5 hrs to go those previous 6 miles. Finally things started to turn around. I was feeling better and less upset. My mind played tricks on me. I thought I didn’t have to climb that mountain again, but I was wrong. I muttered some swear words as I crested the beast. It was all downhill from here and at this point I wasn’t concerned about time, I just wanted to be done.
I was met with high-fives at the finish line by all the guys and Andrea and Kyle. It was a sight for sore eyes and weary legs. I finished in 6:16, my fastest 50k time to date. I placed 29th overall and 5th out of the women. I was happy to be done. We tried to go for a recovery run the following day, but that didn’t really happen. We were laughing so hard at each other, as we hobbled along like geriatrics at a painful 12 minute pace. While everyone else finished the run, Dave and Marcus and I spent our time like little kids throwing rocks into a hole in a cactus.
Looking back there are a few things I’d do differently, but otherwise I’m happy to have just gutted out the race. I’m also very proud of my friends who gutted it out that day. And to cousin Dave for taking the coveted ceramic armadillo first place trophy. He even fell off a cliff during the race. You’re an animal, Nacho!