Racing in the Hundo’s after doing a Hundo…
OK, this recap won’t be the novel San Diego was I promise!! Although this race was over in around 8hrs, at points it felt like an epic 50 miler given the elements!
Phoenix as with the rest of the southwest was experiencing some of the most extreme temps ever recorded. Multiple heat records were broken around not only Phoenix but other parts of the southwest. Snow pack would be melting at a rapid rate for those doing WS100 and other high mountain states. Heat advisories in Phoenix was a daily thing for the last couple weeks.
Usually, Arizona does start seeing in influx of humidity and Monsoon season officially kicks of this week. Up till now, mainly just very hot, dry and only slight humidity was the story. The forecast highs for the weekend were to be 115 degrees for both Saturday and Sunday. We had already reached 119 this week in the greater Phoenix area.
Race time adjustments were announced Thursday from Aravaipa and some talk of even cancelling the race due to heat advisories.
Nevertheless, race day was approaching. I was born and raised in Arizona and have been doing most of my summer running thus far either around the 6am range or 6pm range.. The heat for me really hasn’t kept me from training per se.. You just learn to adapt, hydrate properly and prepare.
Hydration.. That is most important since Arizona’s weather is largely a dry heat. On this night, we would also have a slight wind for most of the night. This was both a good thing and bad depending on how you looked at it.
I was just coming off the San Diego 100 miler two weeks prior and really had only run a combined 33 miles since that race. My post race plans always include deep tissue massage, a lot of foam rolling, LOTS of sleep(I managed to average 8hrs since that race/night), oh and lots of good food! I don’t calorie count at all these days knowing how much training I’m doing and this race was so close, I just kept shoving it in!!
The pre race protocol I have been sticking to for the last few months is Pedialyte, lots of coconut water, kombucha and a large juice from Nekter the day prior. Increasing the amount of turmeric, sea salt, lemon and even some pickle juice in those days is also working for me. Again, all things I am ironing out going into Leadville this year.
This race was the 3rd in the Insomniac summer series for Aravaipa. It took place next to PIR for those of you familiar with the area.. The Estrella Mountains are quite expansive.. The main park is just west of this area we would be using for the race. The technical and long loops are here. I haven’t done this course since 2014 when it was a 60k and on the trails at the main park. Racers would be arriving around 7 for tonight. The 54k would start at 8:00, 23k at 8:15 and 8:45 for the 8k.
These trails were no joke. The elevation profile is included below. Besides the scorching heat wave (ie. Blast Furnace) runners would face, technical, rocky trails with mostly single track and climbs would await us. I even heard some folks saying they were just “fine” knowing they were only doing the one tech loop! For us 54kr’s, we would run the 8k tech loop route once and the outer long loop 3 times.. Yep, that’s right! My Garmin read 3015’ of elevation gain over the entire course and it sure felt like every foot of that for sure!
Ambient temps hovered around 105 at race start. The winds were picking up and the clouds provided an awesome sunset and relief from the “fire in the sky”. By the time we would wrap things up, temps would drop to a mere 96. Whew, what a relief! Yaaaaaaaaaahh right…
Folks were piling in and racing would start soon. The looks of giddy, excitement yet scared all to hell were pretty obvious going into this heat! Some adjustments from longer distances down to the shorter ones were being made “real time”.
Before Tara and I left the house and at the last minute, I thought about all the ways I could stay cool. A strategy of mine was to keep ice on me at ALL times during this race.. One small investment I made for SD100 was the cool off bandanna from Zombie Runner (absolutely worth every penny)!! I also had to find a nifty way to keep ice on my noggin during my race. I’ve tried a few things in the past, frozen sponges, bandannas and the like and nothing was going to last in this heat.. See below. I dumped the contents of a headlamp from a baggie I had and decided, this would be it! Fuzzy texture and small enough to place under my hat directly on the grape!
The race for the 54k had about 25-30ish runners. All of us because of the advice and rules of the RD, Noah, had our packs, bottles and at least 60oz of fluids on us. Headlamps, Tailwind, Honey Stinger gels, back up flashlight, everything was a go! I unfortunately had not had a chance to socialize much before this event due to the focus I had on getting gear ready, drop bag/cooler to the start and such.
We were off! 8pm start time. The wind had kicked up enough but trust me, it was like a hair dryer blowing directly on your face! The 8k was our first loop in a clockwise direction on single track. We would be pretty tight for the 1st mile and a half and I was able to sneak out into an open position with the handful of leaders out front. Stephen Sinek was running this one again. I was able to chat with him briefly. Brandon Welling, a great friend of mine also raced this one on the old course and I was expecting huge things from him tonight. He was out front at this time, guessing in the top 3. He’s one fast dude!
The convergence of the two loops on the hillside had Aravaipa putting a water station here for all runners. Unmanned but critical as the night went on! More on that in a bit.
Loop one was complete and I was feeling really good.. Ice loaded in the bandana, and in my baggie even when I came in. The crowd was cheering, life was good. My wife and team RBF had all started. All runners at this point were in the field. Again, I am so proud of all of them showing up on a night like this!! I heart this community!
3 more loops to go on the long loop. 15k each. With an 8k behind me and a target finish time of 7:30, I was trying to determine if this time would stand for me. XTerra events had been held here in the past so, I had exposure to the 8k route but had not yet run the long loop to date. Again, coming off San Diego two weeks earlier, I wasn’t trying to push myself too hard especially under these conditions. Leadville is my “A” race for this year!
This next loop would be where I would determine how much run walking I would need to do to manage the rest of the night. I only assumed this loop would come in around 1.5 to 2hrs. The terrain was a mix of a lot of single track, whoops, technical and some very runnable sections of non technical trails. Another fear of mine during the warmer evening hours was the threat of snakes! For tonight, it would turn out that I saw more “stick snakes” than real ones. Whew!
Pacers were allowed for our last loop. I had a discussion with Meghan putting her on notice I may elect to have her pace me for said loop. As I have written about before, having a pacer works well for me and I prefer to have one. It would be the finish of the 2nd loop that I verified with her I would see her in another 2hrs. Brian and Meghan were already helping myself and others this night with various tasks, refilling packs, water, anything really.. It was awesome. Crewing support is a benefit I have always been thankful for and they do such a great job.
The darkness of night and some pain were coming on as I left for loop 3. Distance was really spreading out between us.. I was still seeing headlamps of others which was a good thing. However, one of the last things I heard leaving the aid station was folks were already having heat related issues. I had passed Brandon earlier but super glad we had a chance to catch up on things. He and his wife Odette are adventuourists to the max and I was stoked to hear of their upcoming events. The time was around 11ish by now and expecting a target time of 1 am to end this loop and finish up the last loop.
As I rounded the canyon side of the long loop, I came across the aid station. Team RWB was staffing this aid station and as always, they were super accommodating and helpful. Huge Thank You to them. I was asking if they knew what position I may have been in relative to others. This was not something I normally seek out but tonight, I felt I may have been in the top five based on what I was hearing and seeing. I was remembering how I felt and replaying the quotes from folks saying “didn’t you just do a hundred miler a couple weeks ago”? The one gent said I was in 4th at that point. On I went and realize I was a tad behind schedule. One minor but major thing I may mention. The new pack I got is super comfy(Nathan Vapor Krar 4L). It made it’s debut at San Diego. The tinkering with the pockets and the bottles are not easy to deal with. Everyone that has come cross the two bottles at aid stations, my crew and including me complains about them. The tubes are a nice touch. The tops of the bottles are fairly “mushy” causing the action of screwing on the top a complete challenge especially when both hands are wet. Ditching the bottles.. they have seen their last race. Enough said about that!
I would come into the Start/Finish about 15 min after expectations but I was still happy with where I was. I needed caffeine and a re fresh and Meghan was ready to go! We weren’t there too long and off we went. I was expecting this loop to take a tad longer at around 2:15-2:30ish hours. It was a relief to have a pacer. I do not use headphoes except in extremely rare cases and conversation is something Meghan is really good at! I must also note she was working on ZERO sleep from the day before AND just came hot off a flight from a business trip. What a trooper to take on this task in this heat!! Did I mention I heart this community yet?
We found ourselves doing the run/powerhiking thing for most of this loop. I was pretty cashed at this point. As far as the pain cave us ultra runners experience, I was at the entry. Holding onto some good feelings and on the border of pain. The rocks just feel extra large and extra sharp after about 25 miles or so!
We came up on the RWB aid station again, they refreshed me and off we went. We glanced back often to see where the next runner was in relation to where we were. I was on track to get in just before the 8hr mark at this point. I was still taking in what Tailwind I had left and a couple Honey Stinger gels. A couple banana chunks and some pickle juice worked wonders for me 🙂 I knew it was going to hold me until I got the last 4mi done.
The unmanned aid station I mentioned earlier was cominig up.. It was so refreshing to just have a handful of cold water to splash on my face 31 miles in.. I was charged and ready to “run it in to the finish”. Coming down that last hill seeing the twinkling lights of the Start/Finish and hearing the tunes was a welcoming sight.
I would finish 4th overall at 7:48:13. Compared to my 60k in 2014 at 8:42:09, I was happy! There would be 13 of us finishers under these less than ideal conditions. Heat like this is no joke. I had ice on me all night.. The constant drip on my shirt, the slight wind, pre race hydration, nutrition being on point were all huge factors in my finish tonight.
Congratulations to ALL for all distances! Thank You from the bottom of my heart to my wife, crew, pacer and all of those supporting us out there! It means a lot. It really does. One step closer to Leadville.
Thank You for reading!