… Hike… Walk… Run
Race #7 for 2012 is done and done: the Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run in Sonoita, AZ. This race is held in the desert mountains southeast of Tucson. I had been in the area a couple of times 20 years or so ago but never run or hiked the area. Parts of the course are on the 4WD Forest Service roads and parts were on the single wide Arizona Trail. There were a few shallow water crossings, a great deal of climbing and descent and not a lot of shade.
The morning was cold and clear, about 13 degrees on the car thermometer, calm and very dark out there away from habitation and lights. The stars were absolutely incredible. It warmed up into the 60’s and then cooled again to the 30’s over the course of the day. Minimal wind and lots of sun made for a beautiful day to be out in the hills.
Parking was easy at the site – no fee – and number pickup was organized. There were two one person bathrooms and given the remote location and number of runners, that was not by any definition enough. A few in the parking lot would have been a very good idea.
The race started on time though there were people trying to get through the bathroom lines and we headed off into the predawn stillness. The first part of the course was an uphill walk back to the parking lot. From there the light started coming up and we jogged off into the desert.
It was a beautiful day and the sunrise was gorgeous. There were places where the course was not well-marked and a couple of people did get lost – one got several extra miles of running around trying to get back on course.
I ran the first half very close to my projected schedule but the last half bogged down quite a lot. My last 1.5 miles were in the dark along a sandy trail following glow sticks hung in the bushes. It was a bit surreal but also neat in a way. I’d love to report I had some sort of hallucination about following the lights to the finish like following a line of stars… but I didn’t. My mind doesn’t readily let go of the current reality and seemed determined not to be found wanting at any point on that day.
Again, I want to give my crew a huge THANK YOU! By mile 40 I was pretty ragged – beyond tired, irritated, very sore. My crew patched me up and booted me back into the game (very timely!) and the rest of the course wasn’t nearly so bad.
The volunteers were great – cheerful and helpful.
It was about 35 degrees when we finished. There was still plenty of post race snacks and drinks for those of us who take our time. In particular, the chicken soup tasted like liquid gold.
* * * * *
So. I’ve been asked, “What do you think about while running for 50 miles?”
Well… I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but I was paying close attention to the footing for the most part. In some places it was comfortable and consistent and in most places it was rocky and complicated. There was a lot of climbing – more than I really wanted. I trained for a road race, I guess, and should have tried to find one. I wanted to do more running and less power hiking.
I was also constantly checking how my legs felt, how my stomach felt, how my shoulders and back felt. I was on my own quite a bit so I was paying close attention to the trail – trying to find it in some cases. I was projecting my miles covered, timing, miles to go. I don’t run on autopilot; its constant work.
But sometimes I’d play a song in my head or simply contemplate the scenery. For a couple of miles toward the end I walked and ran with another woman and we talked about jobs and families. The time did pass.
I am glad I did this. I’m not convinced I need to do it again, though! 😉