In my build up for the ZaneGrey50 this April, I’ve been logging most of my miles on the trails. Mainly up and down Shaw Butte and all along trail 100 in Phoenix. In addition to these training runs, I’ve done a few trail races as well including the Cactus Cha Cha (see race report here) and the Pass Mountain 26K trail race (see race report here). I’ve been impressed with the way Nick and Jamil Coury organize their Aravaipa Running trail series, that I decided to do their Coldwater Rumble in Estrella Mountain Regional Park on 1/20/2013. There were 50 Mile, 50k, 31k, 19k, and 4 mile options. What a range of choices! I had previously run the 26k at Pass Mountain, which started me in the DRT Trail Running series, so I figured I would register for the 31k, where my results would provide points going toward the DRT series standings. The distance also appealed because of the Zane Grey 50 mile trail race on the horizon.
Race morning was cold, but not nearly as cold as it would have been had the race been run the previous weekend where the surrounding desert areas of Phoenix saw temps dip into the low to mid 20s! Really, the weather was perfect! As seems to be the case with all Aravaipa Running events, the 50 mile started on time at 7:00AM, the 50k started on time at 7:30AM, and I was off, on time, at 8:00AM. The first few miles were generally flat with a few wash crossing, but generally pretty fast and non-technical. I had decided to wear my Hoka One One trail shoes for this race. I’d been discussing with many people, “why don’t people where Hokas for shorter trail races,” so figured I’d give it a try. My first few mile splits were 7:46, 7:29, 7:57. I felt comfortable, never in trouble. I probably should have started a little faster. I was accompanied by the second place overall finisher, due partly to a wrong turn by the by a fellow runner near the finish, Pawel Perdion. The races takes place near the Aqua Fria and Gila River delta. Most of the year, there is only a trickle of water in either river, but many years ago local indian tribes made this area their home. There was allot of deep sand running. I felt my effort increase quite a bit when a sand stretch was encountered. It’s hard to say, but I would estimate that in the first 11 miles, a good two miles of the trail was through deep sand. The stretches usually weren’t more than a quarter mile or so in length.
I made the call just before the race to not carry a water bottle. I usually carry hand held bottle for trail runs over an hour where water is not going to be available. The course did have aid stations at miles 5 and 10.7. This means that from mile 10.7 to the finish, nearly 9 miles are dry; no water, no food. I did carry two Power Gels in my shorts pocket. I arrived at the mile 5 aid station feeling good. I drank two dixie cups of gatorade and grabbed a handful of peanut butter filled pretzel pieces. I ate the pretzels on down hills for the next mile or so. I saved them for the downhills because they seem to make it difficult to breathe through my mouth, which for me, is necessary on uphills! I past the eventual first place women, Heidi Rents, just after the first aid station at mile 5. Pawel was gracious enough to wait a few seconds for me at the aid station since I had run in front for the first 5 miles. Only a mile later though he was almost out of site. He went on to finish second overall. I don’t regret not making an effort to stay with him. It was too early to risk push too hard.
Miles 5 – 10.7 were also comfortable. I ran these miles alone, however was able to pass many 50mile and 50k runners. I made an effort to talk to each of them. Trail racing is so much friendlier than road racing. Other runners and racers actually want you to do well. Refreshing! Having these 50mile and 50k runners on the trail helped me to route find, I rarely really ever had to locate trail. Rather, I would just look ahead a couple hundred yards and I would usually see at least one other runner. Miles six through 11 were consistent with paces as follows: 7:31, 7:53, 7:21, 7:02, 6:43, 6:48. At the aid station at mile 10.7 I drank three dixie cups of Gatorade and grabbed another handful of peanut butter filled pretzel bites. Again, I ate them one at a time over the next mile or so. I was a little concerned here about not having enough fluid. After all, I opted to NOT carry a hand held water bottle.
The back half of this race was more difficult that the front half. I was passed by Brett Sarnquist around mile 12 or so of the race. I realized he was behind me early, and I think that’s usually style. Start conservative and finish fast. When he passed, I told him the world was now “right” again, now that he was in front of me. He warned me that the second half was a little more difficult that the first. He was right.
The front half of the race had a few small climbs out of some deep washes, but lacked climbs of any duration. Mile 14 changed that with a 160 foot climb on a not so smooth section of trail. I topped out and was greeted with a nice downhill. While the second half was more difficult that the first half, everything was still very runnable, with decent footing throughout. The trail was also in great shape all day, no wash outs, no mud, just perfect. Over the final 10 miles even more runners were encountered, now the runners including participants from the 50mile, 50k, 31k, and 19k. It sounds like it would be crowded, but it wasn’t. Everyone is super friendly and super-courteous – moving over slightly to allow other competitors to pass. My splits from miles 12-15 were:7:34, 8:08, 8:50, 7:56. Miles 13 and 14 were the only miles where I felt uncomfortable.
The final three miles had some long steady uphills, which I don’t mind at all. I do allot of my training on Shaw Butte, which has a one mile climb gaining over 600 feet in elevation. So, I like the long grinding sure footed climbs where you can get into a rhythm. I sometimes struggle on shorter steep climbs that have big steps, small steps, and loose footing. These types of climbs and technical descents are currently my weaknesses. My final miles splits were 7:30, 7:29, 7:32, 8:21.
My splits confirm, the second half of the race was more difficult than the first, however the second half was completely void of sand running. The first half was generally flat, the second half was filled with almost all uphill or downhill. Much less flat that the first half.
I crossed the finish line in 2:30:03, in what I thought was 5th place. Turns out I was 4th. Apparently Brett missed a turn very near the finish and after trying to get back on course for a while, decided to call it a day. So, the results show I was 4th, but I was really the 5th best runner on this day.
The Aravaipa Running events are the premier trail series in Arizona for a number of reasons, but one of the best features is their posting of results immediately. I’ve been frustrated recently about other local running events companies that cannot figure out how to get results out. Sometimes, they can’t even post the results at the race at all. Aravaipa has results posted instantly once you cross the finish line as well as on-line. It just makes sense. Besides, what’s the purpose of having electronic timing if you’re not going to provide results. Great job again Aravaipa Running.
I’m long overdue for a Hoka shoe review. I wanted to try them at a race. In conditions where the effort is high and the last thing you want to worry about is your shoes. I wanted to see for myself if there is a valid reason for not wearing the Hoka One One trail shoes in a fast trail race. This race was a great proving ground. I don’t want to mix topics and review the shoes here. But now, since they’ve been thoroughly tested, that update will be coming soon.