Posted by: cadavidson | June 24, 2013

Colorado (God’s Country) Vacation (training)

My family was fortunate enough to be able to take a vacation this year. After considering a cruise and other possibilities, we elected to stay closer to home and go to Ouray and Estes Park in Colorado.

I’m registered for the Imogene Pass Run in September of this year. This race starts in Ouray, climbs Imogene Pass, then descends into Telluride for a downhill finish. I figured this was a golden opportunity to get some training time on the course.

The start of the road to Imogene Pass.

The start of the road to Imogene Pass.

My first morning in Ouray, I ventured out on my sturdy LaSportiva Wildcats and Nathan hydration pack to check out the course. Upon arriving the night before, we were all awe-inspired by the beauty of Ouray, so we alll ventured out for a little run around the very small town. We ran to Lower Cascade Falls. It’s a short run of about 2 miles total, but there’s a little climb up a dirt road to the falls. It took my breath away. I began to think, “How am I going to run, let alone race at this elevation?” I was amazed how short of breath I was and that running up the dirt road hill took so much effort. I’m glad I was not looking at heart rate. Seeing the sky-high numbers probably would have put more apprehension into me.

I ran to Yankee Boy Basin, which in this photo shows 8 miles away. The first mile or so was rough, I started to doubt weather I’d actually be able to run most of this course. Ouray, CO is nesteled in the San Juan mountains, about 25 miles north of Silverton at 7800 feet. Imogene Pass is 13, 100 feet and Telluride is about 8500 feet. The first 1o miles of this course are all up hill to the top of the pass, the last 6 -7 miles are straight down into Telluride. It’s difficult for a flatlander to train for such an event. There is some very vague evidence and vague research that links heat training with altitude training, that heat training can simulate altitude. That’s about the only hope I’ve got… Heat and a bunch of miles. Sure, I will venture up to Flagstaff and Mt. Humphreys (12300 ft) a few times, but living at altitude is the real advantage, not so much training at altitude.


About 2 miles in.

About 2 miles in.

The first 6 miles of the road to Imogene Pass are very runnable. It’s a wide dirt and gravel road, and surprisingly, there are a few houses situated along the road. What a great place to live!! I’m glad I was able to spend some time on the course. Gear selection will be interesting, I don’t think a beefy trail shoe is needed, although, if the weather gets bad (snow or rain), a bit more protection and tread would be in order. I felt cool the entire time, I even donned gloves and a windbreaker for about a mile when I was deep in a canyon and the wind was whipping through me. I shed the gloves and windbreaker as soon as I was back in the sun though… I was surprised how quickly I seemed to acclimate. The first night I felt awful, my first run on the first morning I felt much better, especially after the first mile or so uphill. By the second morning run, when I also ran part of the Imogene course, I felt so much better. I was able to push the hills feeling much like I do in Phoenix when I push hills. This was definitely a good sign.

The runs in Ouray were certainly the highlight of my trip. Beautiful country.

I was pleased with my training while in Colorado. I managed the following runs:

6/9/2013: To Yankee Boy Basin, 13 miles 2900 feet climbed

6/10/2013: To Lower Bird Camp, 10 miles 1800 feet climbed

6/11/2013: Family Hike on Engineer Pass trail, 10.25 miles, 3650 feet climbed

6/13/2013: Estes Park to Rocky Mountain National Park, 11 miles, 660 feet climbed

6/14/2013: Ft. Collins, Lory Park, 8 miles, 400 feet climbed

Posted by: cadavidson | May 16, 2013

Strava & KOM – Zane Grey Redemption (but not really)

I’ve been using Strava for about a year, logging each and every bike ride. Initially, I had understood Strava as a GPS app, on iPhone or Android, that you turn ON when you roll out of your drive way and turn OFF when you roll back in after a bike ride. I was wrong. It’s actually way cooler! Turns out you can upload Garmin GPS files to the Strava web site and track your runs as well? Silly me, I’d always wondered how and why so many people took the trouble to wear or carry their smartphone on their runs. Bike rides I could understand, since bicycle jerseys have plenty of pocket storage available, not to mention room to mount smartphone devices on handlebars or arrowbars. I wasn’t going to start carrying my iPhone on runs. Turns out, I don’t have to. I can just upload runs to Strava the same way I upload runs to Garmin Connect and Training Peaks. Yes, I upload runs to three on-line locations! Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like WordPress plays with external embedded content, else I’d put those workouts here in this blog.

Otherwise, training has been solid post the Zane Grey Disappointment.

Cycling: 7 rides, 209 miles, 3733 feet climbed
Road running: 1 tempo run at 6:59 pace for 8 miles, 305 feet climbed
Track session: 1 track session, 7 x 400 @ 1:15 – 1:20
Trail running: 8 runs, 8 miles, 14 hours, 8953 feet climbed.


Hills, Hills, Hills!

Hills, Hills, Hills!

Right now the next race on the agenda is the Jerome Hill Climb, and pending a timely registration and a bit of luck, the following week will be the Imogene Pass Run from Ouray to Telluride in Colorado. Elevation!!!

Posted by: cadavidson | May 6, 2013

Flagstaff 1/2 Humphreys’ & Kachina

Norma and I headed north this weekend to attempt the Humphreys’, Weatherford, Kachina loop in the SanFrancisco Peaks.

I knew we’d risk not being able to make it all the way to the Humphreys’ saddle where the Weatherford trail terminates and joins with the Humphreys’ summit trail for the additional 1.5 miles to the Humphreys’ summit – all 1.5 miles about 10,500 feet. Nevertheless, we’d give it a go. Trip reports vary as much as a couple of miles depending what you read.

The mileage is in the vicinity of:

Humphreys’ trailhead to Saddle: 3.8

Saddle to Weathorford , Kachina Junction via Weatherford trail: 10.5

Junction to Humphreys’ trailhead via Kachina trail: 5.1

For a total of somewhere around 19 miles.

We arrived at the Humphreys’ trail head at approximately 7:30AM. It was chilly, but the whipping wind made the temperature feel far colder.

Norma and I ready for the Humphrey's, Weatherford, Kachina loop.

Norma and I ready for the Humphreys’, Weatherford, Kachina loop.

We set off across the open field that, in the winter is the bunny hill for beginner skiers (such as myself), at a good fast hiking pace. The first couple miles uphill starting at 9400 feet take my breath away! Almost as soon as we got into the trees on the other side of the clearing, we began seeing patches of snow. Not good – if there’s any snow down here, there’s got to me FEET of snow up ahead.  We hit the one mile mark and the snow hiking started. I’d call it ice hiking though, since the snow was not soft at all. I was fortunate enough to have elected to wear my La Sportiva Wildcat trail shoes opposed to my Hoka One One. This ended up being a good decision. I think the Hoka’s with their larger surface area and less aggressive traction would have acted more like snow skis that running shoes.

Norma hiking through a snow / ice patch.

Norma hiking through a snow / ice patch.

We continued on. I kept a keen awareness to the fact that uphill hiking in icey, snowy, and slick conditions is much easier that downhill. While our plans were to do this as a loop, so we would not have to come down through this same stretch, I knew that there was a good possibility that we’d have to ditch the loop idea due to the snow and ice. I knew the snow was only going to get deeper and there were going to be more snow and ice sections of trail as we ascended higher and higher. At 2.25 miles we ascended a long, icy, slick, steep section of trail. We made it through half of and Norma was still going great. I wasn’t getting a “warm and fuzzy” about what lay ahead on the trail. We turned around.

The trail became more "icy" than "not icy."

The trail became more “icy” than “not icy.”

I think Norma wanted to keep going up!

I think Norma wanted to keep going up!

We passed several hikers while slipping and sliding our way back down. The hikers who we stopped to talk to and had plans of summiting, or at least making it to the saddle, all had crampons or other means of preventing slips and falls. The route we were going to take wasn’t going to be exposed to long falls as we would be below tree line for all except for a couple miles, although I did have some doubt as to the condition of the Weatherford trail along the inner bowl of the SanFransisco Peaks. The inner bowl is exposed to the North,  so over the winter it doesn’t receive much sun. There are some rather exposed sections able tree line along this two mile section of trail.

We returned to the cold Humphrey’s parking lot. It’s difficult to go back out into the cold when you’ve already abandoned the primary objective. In our case, we’d abandoned our Humphrey’s, Weatherford, Kachina Loop. We decided we’d head east on the Kachina Trail and turn around at the Weatherford junction. Had we been able to run the loop we were hoping for, we’d have encountered this section of trail between miles 13 and 19. We’d be starting fresh this time with only 4.5 miles in our legs.

Me running some beautiful single track.

Me running some beautiful single track.

Norma running the single track.

Norma running the single track.

Norma was getting angy with my slow pace... so she knocked over this aspen.

Norma was getting angry with my slow pace… so she knocked over this aspen.


I was amazed how pretty this section of trail was. Most of the Kachina trail is within 200 feet in elevation of the Kachina Trailhead at 9300 feet. The entire trail skirts the south and eastern flanks of the Kachina Peaks with steep slopes above and below. The trail was mainly of two types: single track and more technical rocky terrain. The single track was typically through large grassy meadows. I notice that there were often many felled Aspen trees in these sections. I can only hypothesize that they were knocked over or broken by avalanches pouring through the open meadows.

Norma navigating some of the Aspen deadfall.

Norma navigating some of the Aspen deadfall.

We made it to our turn around point, the Weathford, Kachina trails junction. Our total mileage at this point was 10, so I figured we’d gone about 5.5 on the Kachina trail. Our pace slowed a bit on the way back. Norma did great the entire time. We kept a good steady pace, and didn’t have to waste time with stops.

All in all, a really nice day on the trails. I nice break from trying to beat PRs and Strava segment times in the Phoenix Mountains. Nice easy pace with some nice scenery. We’ll return to complete the Humphrey’s, Weatherford, Kachina loop later in the season. I’d estimate we will need to give it another month at least before we can make it to the saddle without investing in crampons and winter gear. Do they even sell that stuff in Phoenix?????

GEAR (because I love writing about gear):

Shoes: As I mentioned I wore my La Sportiva Wildcats. I don’t think I’ve worn them since my 2011 Zane Grey (anything to get my 2013 Zane Grey out of my head). I wore the Wildcats with smart wool running socks. I love Smart Wool socks. They’re the best. If you frequently read my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge Hoka One One fan. I’m on my second pair of Stinsons and love ’em. It was a really nice change though wearing the La Sportiva Wildats. They gave me good bite in the snow and ice. I was worried they were going to feel like boards under my feet after wearing the cushy Hoka’s for the past 5 months, but they didn’t. I think this is a testament to both Hoka and LaSportiva. LaSportiva – it’s obvious. But people criticize Hoka so often for being too cushy and weakening people’s feet. Well, I transitioned very nicely into the Wildcats.

I used my Garmin 310XT which never lost signal, not once and has the battery life to get me through long days on the trail.

I wore my new Nathan 2PL hydration vest. I’m growing to live this vest more and more. I love the easily accessible pockets on the fronts of the shoulder straps. A nice place to store items that need to be readily available like a camera, electrolyte pills, GU gels, etc.



The weather was cold in the shade and warm in the sun. I wore three layers; short sleeved technical shirt, long sleeved tech shirt, and an Asics running jacket.

Posted by: cadavidson | April 28, 2013

Zane Grey 2013 RR

After failing to document my previous Zane Grey 50 experience, I told myself I’d immediately write my 2013 race report. Documenting a 50 serves so many purposes, I think most importantly – the race reports help ME in the future. Recalling certain parts of the trail, nutrition, and even gear choices. The documentation can also help other would-be participants in gathering information for their first Zane Grey attempt. Last, but not least, it’s fun for me!

My pacer, Jason, and I arrived in Payson Friday. Picked up my packet at the Payson Best Western at 4:00. We got to connect with lots of ultra-friends. Chris Price was there with his SoCal crew which represented well. Chris is a great runner who thrives in the technical terrain. I figured he’d be at home running along the Mogollon Rim. This race was set up to be very competitive; Jamil Coury, James Bonnet, Chris Price, Mike Foote, Brett Sarnquist, Domenic Grossman just to name a few. I had very, very high expectations for myself this year I wanted to run 10:30 and based on training, I figured I’d be close. In 2011, my first Zane Grey, I ran 11:41. I was very pleased at this time, but I felt like I had so much more left in the tank at the finish. I did take this race cautiously, as I’d heard so much about this race being “The toughest 50” and  “post graduate” ultra. Not a good first ultra. Oh well, I figured. I’ll be cautious…. and it led to success.

The race started on time, as usual, Joe Galope does an excellent job organizing this event. I wanted to start aggressively, but avoid going out too hard. In 2011, I got stuck in the early conga line. There is some nice runnable trail in the early miles, so I wanted to take advantage. My nutrition over the first 8 miles consisted of 2 GU gels and a full hand held water bottle. My splits over the first 8 or so miles into Camp Geronimo were a good sign – 10:16, 14:13, 10:07, 9:53, 10:01, 10:40, 9:35. This put me at the Geronimo aid station at just about 1:15. I felt good. My first aid station bag’s purpose was more of a drop-off bag. I took off my long sleeve cotton shirt which I wore at the start, and probably could have done without, headlamp, which I used for the first 30 minutes, and gloves, which I took off after about 30 minutes as well. The terrain over the first 8 miles is very runnable. Not many rocks…. yet!

I spent only a minute or so at the aid station. I decided on only using one water bottle into the first two aid stations and that I’d pick up my hydration pack at Washington Park. The race’s website advertises that the toughest miles are 33-44. I agree with this, however 17-25 and 25-33 are also difficult. This section is very exposed and route finding can be tricky. I continued to run well out of the first aid station, but started to get some weird twinging of cramps. I avoided full fledged cramps, but I was concerned to have these symptoms so early. The strange thing was the location that these cramps decided to set-in; my groin and the sides of my calves. I thought a lot about what may have caused this and I think it came down to these many, many sharp changes of direction. Can’t think of anything else. I was fine nutrition wise here as I’d had one pack of Clif Blocks, a GU gel, and a full water bottle of GU’s Roctane fluid replacement drink – the aid station’s drink of the year. Again, miles 8-16 (really it’s a little more than 16) are very runnable. I came trough the aid station at approximately 3:15. Good smooth trail, a lot of up and down, but not too rocky…. yet!  My splits in this section were all between 9:45 and 11:30. Still right where I wanted to be.

I recalled the miles 17-33 to be very challenging in my previous Zane Grey run. The trail is very exposed here. There is a lot of running through grassy areas where the trail is very hard to find and the rocks start to appear. Because of this; I elected to put my Nathan HPL 2 liter hydration pack in my Washington Park aid station bag. My plan was to wear this hydration pack through Hell’s Gate (mile 25), through the Fish Hatchery aid station at my 33, and part with it at See Canyon aid station at mile 44. I like the Nathan running packs because they have little pockets on the straps which are easily accessible while on the move. This would be my first race with said hydration pack.  In 2011 I used only 2 hand bottle through out and I recall being very low on water on occasion. I tend to require a lot of nutrition during races. I’m a bigger runner; 6’2 and 175 pounds or so (depending on how bad my diet is bad, or very (bad)…

There is an aid station at Hell’s Gate at mile 25. This aid station is in the middle of nowhere, so one lucky volunteer drives a jeep in usually, sets up a tent and fills water bottles for runners. There is no drop bag access here, but the aid station is well stocked. I arrived at this aid station at approximately 4:50. I was still feeling pretty good here. The twinges of cramps had subsided by this point, but I just wasn’t feeling “good.” Ian Torrence entered the aid station just behind me and left before me. This would be last time I would see him. He went on to run a great race.  I filled my hand bottle and hydration pack with ice GU Rocktane and was on my way.

During the miles from 25 to 33 the doubts started to creep in. I don’t know if there are any runners during a 50 mile race that don’t have doubts at some point. I lost the trail a couple times in this section. On the worst occurrence, I probably lost 10 minutes. It’s through the grassy areas where this happens. A large grassy area will end, and you hope there is a yellow ribbon (course marker) , at the point you exit the grass area. Trouble is the grass, which would be couple feet tall if it was standing up, is all matted down. So, it ALL, looks like trail – like someone has run through. I’m not sure why this is – maybe it’s been trampled by Mogollon Monsters (this is the link to the Mogollon Monster 100)  If there’s not, you’ve done something wrong and you back track until you see a marker. I had to do this twice, but only one of those occurrences really cost me any time. I was prepared for this as well. So, it didn’t cause me any stress. I started reconciling a DNF and pulling the plug on the day at the mile 33 aid station. I just didn’t feel the energy to put my body through the effort of another five plus hours on the trail and the trials that were sure to only get more intense. I think I had just about reconciled myself to a DNF. I arrived at the mile 33 aid station in 14th place. I was really doing well. I didn’t feel great, but part of thinks I just haven’t run enough ultras to get used to how bad you’re supposed to feel for half of the race.

Packing in he nutrition at mile 33 aid station.

Packing in he nutrition at mile 33 aid station.

I arrived at the mile 33 aid station at the Fish Hatchery at 6:50. This pace would still be good enough to get me to the finish line in around 10:30. This would be a great time and right around where I wanted to be 10:00 – 10:30. I filled my hand held bottle and hydration pack here. I even asked the kind aid station volunteer – “Is the bladder filled to the top?” I knew this next stretch would be rough. She replied “yes.” The aid station volunteers at this aid station, as with every aid station at the Zane Grey 50, were excellent. Thanks volunteers!  My family was at this aid station. I was looking for them at Washington Park and was so disappointed when they weren’t there. They drove up the night before and stayed at the Payson Best Western. Later I found out they missed me by about 10 minutes at Washington Park (the second aid station at mile 16), due to a wrong turn on one of the dirt roads below the rim. It was a real pick-me-up to see them at the aid station. Suddenly, pulling the plug became “not an option.” It’s hard to explain that to your kids… My pacer, Jason, who was suffering from diahrea and vomiting for much of the night also decided to give it a shot and pace me. I was fairly certain he wouldn’t recover enough by 11:30 on race day to pace me, but he was a trooper and was going to tough it out.

Heading out of the Fish Hatchery aid station. In 14th place here.

Heading out of the Fish Hatchery aid station. In 14th place here.

This is where the trouble started, Jason and I headed out from the aid station at a really nice 11:00 pace. Unfortunately, we were running a nice pace on the wrong trail. We went a good 1.5 miles down the trail and I could tell we weren’t on the right trail. What was misleading was that we continued to see small stringy orange ribbons on trees once in a while. I hadn’t seen this exact style of ribbon up until this point, however lacking any other trail markers (yellow – good trail, blue = wrong trail), we figured we must be ok. Eventually I stopped and said” we should be on the other side of the creek by now.” So we crossed, I ran up the bank on the other side and to make matter worse, ran across a yellow ribbon. Yellow ribbons typically mark the course. Only this time, the yellow ribbon was tied to a horse shoe pit on someone’s private property. Not good. I headed back down and Jason and I returned back up stream towards the aid station where we came across another runner, Dave Metzler,  and his pacer they had taken the same wrong route. On our way back up the aid station, we also cam across another runner, Stephen Stromberg, yet another runner who’d gotten off course.

We finally made it back to the correct trail, nearly all the way back to the Fish Hatchery aid station. This detour cost me 4 miles and approximately 80 minutes of looking for trail. I was very deflated. I mentioned the thought of going back to the Fish Hatchery aid station and dropping out. Thanks to Dave Metzler for helping to convince me to press on. Even though I continued on, I didn’t do it with very much enthusiasm. I resigned to a slow jog and fast walking mostly. My pacer, Jason, started to have stomach problems again. I elected to press on alone. I felt horrible about this decision for the next few miles. Things were not going well – it seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong. I’d lost 80 minutes, I’d run an extra 4 miles, and I’d abandoned my friend and pacer, and I’d bruised my ankle with what else – a rock. Next, I ran out of water. I asked a couple of ham radio operators who are scattered around the course and assist with tracking runners how much further I had to the next aid station, they replied “4.8 miles.” I thought, “that can’t be right.” But it was. I’ve never been out of water with 4 miles to go before an aid station in a race where I’ve already run 40 miles. I didn’t know what to expect and I already wasn’t feeling “right.” I decided that I’d be ok if I didn’t get m body temperature too high, so I figured I could fast walk without too much trouble. My fast walk pace was around 18 minute pace. Slow, but I knew I could make it to the See Canyon, mile 44 aid station.

I figured my wife, Norma, would be worried. I’d been in 14th place at the Fish Hatchery aid station. She would be waiting for me at the 44 mile aid station and would be worried when so many people were arriving at the aid station, and I was still not there. About half a mile from the 44 mile aid station I saw her walking up the trail to me. I could tell she was concerned and asked if I was ok. I explained my water situation and the situation with Jason, my pacer. Before I left Jason I told him that once he got to See Canyon to just stay there. We would pick him up there. When I finally arrived at the aid station my time was approximately 11:15 minutes. I’d already blown my goal time and was only 30 minutes away from my 2011 time. I was deflated. But, I had no thoughts of throwing in the towel here at my 44. Six miles after what should have been 42 miles, but due to my being off course, was actually 46, doesn’t seem like such a long way. I alerted the medic at this aid station to my pacer’s situation.

My daughter paced me for the last six miles. I seemed to recall the last six miles being pretty fast. I recalled, that there was a big hill just out of the aid station, then the trail flattened out. I was wrong. The hill lasts for three miles or so. Once over the final hill, the terrain is much more runnable. My daughter and I ran off an on, but mostly fast walked.  I just had no motivation. My time was blown, by body was aching, I’d badly bruised my right ankle on a rock earlier. Just a rough day all around. It was super nice though to have my daughter pace me. We chatted and enjoyed the scenery.

We arrived at the finish line in around 12:50. Over an hour slower than my 2011 time. It was so nice to see friendly faces. Everyone stays around; Brett, Chris, James Bonnett (male winner). I saw Dave Metzler again, the guy who encouraged me not to pull the plug at mile 33. Just a bunch of great guys. There is something special about the ultra runner community. Something different from all the other endurance sports I’ve been part of. Different that triathlon, even different from road racing like marathons. Everyone is so inviting. They don’t even talk about their own race – only congratulating you on yours and asking questions about your race. Very special… Fittingly, Joe had a finisher’s prize this year. A rock! With a smiley face. I’m glad he found some rocks with smiley faces, cause the millions of rocks I came across were angry rocks!!

Snapshot and finisher's smiley rock.

Snapshot and finisher’s smiley rock.

In summary, I didn’t have the race I wanted to have. I’m very disappointed with my time. I wish I had kept my head in the game a little more and pressed a little harder even though I wasn’t going to make my time goal. I’m proud that I finished though. I’m glad I don’t have to explain a DNF in this blog!

Gear (because I love writing about gear)

Shoes: Hoka One One Stinson Evo with double layer smart wool socks (note to self – this was a good combo).

Shirt, shorts: regular running shorts and running shirt. This worked well.

I wore a regular ball-cap style running cap throughout the entire day. This worked well, however I would consider a wider brimmed hat from miles 16-33 next time.

Nutrition (because it’s important)

I used Clif Bar Shot blocks, GU Rocktane gell, Salt Sticks for electrolyte replacement, and GU Rocktane fluid replacement drink supplied at aid stations. I had 5 packages of shot blocks, 8 GU gels and about 20-25  Salt Stick pills.

Posted by: cadavidson | April 23, 2013

Ready for Zane Grey?

The Zane Grey 50 miler is this weekend – April 27th. I’ve been looking forward to this race since my wife and I went to spectate last year, as I was nursing a bum-foot. I’m hoping to take about 90 minutes off of my 2011 time. Some fast people this year, hopefully lots of people around my goal pace. Some fast folks from SoCal including Chris Price and Domenic Grossman. Some of the normal fast AZ folks as well like Jamil Coury from AravaipaRunning, Bret Sanrquist, Ian Torrence, and last year’s winner Catlow Shipek. I’m striving to finish in this excellent company with a top 10. My pacer, the venerable Jason Harrell, assures me we will be in good company at the finish!

To date for 2013:


638 Miles

64,199 feet of elevation gain

95:23 running time


1414.69 miles

27,825 feet of elevation gain

79:32 cycling time

Zane Grey Gear (because I love writing about gear)

Shoes: Hoka One One Stinson Evo

Socks: Smart Wool – Phd Run

Shorts: undecided on either traditional running shorts or compression, Shirt: typical short sleeved running top. Hat at all times (it’s going to be hot), sunglasses.

Illumination: I will use my Petzl headlamp for the first couple miles. In 2011, I think I only had it turned on for maybe 30 minutes. This year’s even starts two weeks later, so I expect to only need it for 15 minutes or so. There are enough rocks in the first couple miles to not take the risk of an early fall.

Hydration: After much debate, I’ve decided to go with a Nathan HPL #020 2 liter race vest. I will also likely carry one hand bottle with Accelerade.

Here’s my nutrition plan!

Aid Stations Mile Accelerade Clif Blocks Hammer Gel Clif bar Salt Sticks Total Calories: Total Carbs: Total Protein:
Pine Trailhead 0 1 1 1 1 650 133 16
Camp Geronimo 8 1 1 1 0 400 90 6
Washington Park 17 1 1 1 0 4 400 90 6
Hell’s Gate 25 1 1 1 0 6 400 90 6
Fish Hatchery 33 1 1 1 1 6 650 133 16
See Canyon 44 1 1 1 0 4 400 90 6
Finish 260 Trailhead 50
2900 626 56
Posted by: cadavidson | April 10, 2013

R2R2R Report

I was fortunate enough to meet a friend of my sister’s at her wedding last June. Keith and her met in Spain, of all places, while studying abroad. Keith mentioned he’d been looking to plan a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (South rim to North rim, then back to the South rim) in the near future. Those plans came to reality April 6, 2013.

I was only a little apprehensive about joining for this adventure. I’ve had the Zane Grey 50 on my race calendar since well before the beginning of the year. I’ve set lofty goals for myself at Zane Grey this year; my goal is to take off about 90 minutes and run close to 10:00 hours. So, I didn’t want to fry myself and not be at 100%. But, the thought of taking a shot to improve upon my previous 12 hour time was too good to pass up and if I had any idea who I’d be running with, I wouldn’t have hesitated one bit… some great guys!

I departed Phoenix about 4:00PM Friday April 5th after wrapping up some last minute work. I was hoping for an uneventful drive, and I got an uneventful drive. A few years back on our way up to the Grand Canyon for a hike, we saw several dozen deer and Elk along highways 180and 64. The huge animals were only a few feet from the roadway. Scary to think of hitting one of those big boys!

I arrived at Grand Canyon National Park and breezed through the park entrance, avoiding the $25 entry fee by arriving after the entrance fee was unmanned. I parked, and would spend the night, at the Visitor Center parking lot. The shuttle bus station at the Visitor Center was the our rally point for departure the next morning at 4:25AM just in time for the 4:30AM shuttle that would take us to our run’s starting point, the South Kaibab Trail head.

I set my usual flurry of alarms for 3:40, 3:45, and 3:50. I’m always afraid I’ll miss one… or two of them. I slept pretty well in the bed of the truck. Millions of stars – beautiful!

I awoke, assembled all of my gear and departed for the Visitor Center restroom. I figured I still had plenty of time before everyone arrived. I could see the shuttle bus station with it’s many benches and billboards from my truck. By the time I walked to the restroom and back out towards the shuttle bus area, there were already over a dozen running-apparel clad fit looking ultrarunners assembled. It was a pretty cool site. Just thinking about how we were all going to run from the South Rim, to the North Rim, and back – and be back before the sun went down. Many people, myself included, have done this as a multi-day backpacking adventure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I still say there’s something to be said for just hanging out in the Grand Canyon. But, the other side of me says – why spend three days doing this when you can get it done in less than 12 hours?

Our group consisted of runners from Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona – pretty cool!

We started down the trail at 4:45AM. In my previous to R2R2R trips (one successful and one unsuccessful), I’ve descended the Bright Angel Trail. This time, we were going down the steeper and shorter South Kaibab. I was a little apprehensive about this. I was wrong – it seems like the trail had some work done. It was super smooth, very few big step downs, almost no rocks trying to twist you ankles this way and that… In fact, I would argue that South Kaibab is more runnable, at least downhill, than Bright Angel! We made it to Cedar Ridge in about 17 minutes. That was pretty cool. Many folks hike to Cedar Ridge to view the fish fossils, that’s right fish fossils, for a day hike. We just descended that same day hike in 17 minutes. Just after Cedar Ridge, everyone started to realize how HOT we were, literally! I think we all had donned at least a long sleeve running shirt to start since the temperatures at the Rim were in the low 40’s.  The temperature really starts to climb almost immediately after stepping onto the first switchback. We reached the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch area in just about 70 minutes.

Keith and I on South Kaibab. Photo by Elan Leiber.

Keith and I running down South Kaibab. Photo by Elan Lieber.

Some people took time to fill up bottles and hydration packs here. I skipped as I knew water was on at Cottonwood and was reportedly on at Roaring Springs (Bruce Aiken’s former residence). The miles from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood are the most runnable of the entire trail – in both directions. I had settled into a group with Chris Price , Elan Lieber, Keith Yanov, and Dominic Grossman. These guys, as was the rest of the crew were super cool to run with.  So cool  in fact, that Chris Price is sort of a big deal. He had just won the Angeles Crest 100 by over an hour. I wouldn’t have even known unless I’d been told my someone else. I love triathletes, after all triathlon is what got me into this endurance running and racing craziness 15 years ago, but there is something really cool about the attitude of ultrarunners (not to be confused with the attitudes of normal”runners”). It’s not about competition or results, even though those are important, it’s about running WITH people and enjoying the great outdoors.

At Roaring Springs - aka The former Bruce Aiken estate

At Roaring Springs – aka The former Bruce Aiken estate with Chris and Lewis. Photo by Elan Lieber.

We ran low 9:00 minute miles through this gradual climb from Phantom Ranch to the Cottonwood Campground. Even though the trail is tame here, it does still climb from 2500 feet to 45oo feet in only 6.5 miles. I, along with a couple others, filled our hydration packs here at Cottonwood. We’d had reports that water was ON at the Bruce Aiken water stop, but I was a little apprehensive. We’d had a cold winter with a lot of snow in the high country, but we’d also had a warm spring. The water gets turned off here to protect against frozen pipe bursts. The nice pace we’d settles into along the stretch between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood became more run, then power hike, run, then power hike after Cottonwood. It’s often said that the real climb of the North Rim starts at Cottonwood. Since Cottonwood is at 45oo feet and the North Rim tops out at just over 8000 feet, it’s a 35oo foot climb in 8 miles from Cottonwood to the North Rim. That’s a big climb, that’s rather unrelenting. It’s usually quite hot, even in the spring and fall months.

Climbing, climbing, climbing, the north rim. Photo by Chris Price

Climbing, climbing, climbing, the north rim. Photo by Chris Price

North Kaibab Trail. Photo by Chris Price.

North Kaibab Trail. Photo by Chris Price.

We topped out on the North Rim at right about 5 hours. Since the North Rim was still closed, it usually doesn’t open until May due to the large amount of snow received, we had the rim all to ourselves. I thought that was pretty cool. Normally, the North Kaibab trail head parking lot is full of cars from backpackers and day hikers. Not today, we had the trail head and parking lot to ourselves. We sprawled out for a good 30 minutes here. I’d decided to go light on food. I had plenty, but limited my calories to those from gel, Accelerade, and Clif Bars. I thought I’d be happy with this until Lewis brought out dried apricots, Chris pulled open a bag of jerky, and Dan unwrapped a giant ciabatta sandwich. I was thrilled when everyone  shared their goodies. I felt bad that all I could offer was a Clif Bar or a salt tablet – no takers.

5 hours after starting we're on the north rim.

5 hours after starting we’re on the north rim. Eating! Photo by Cory Davidson.

Keith arrived at the rim and we decided to all descend. I wanted to get a little bit of a headstart because I’m such a slow downhill runner. I probably got a good 5 minute head start, but within probably 10 minutes Chris flew by, then Elan Lieber. When I applauded Elan for his downhill running speed he reminded me that he had young legs. I think this was the first time I ever had the slightest thought of being older than someone while running.  I chuckled… I was amazed how quickly Chris and Elan went by. I really tried to push the downhill, after all it should be free speed and I knew my pace would slow drastically once I hit the Bright Angel trail and the trail would start to tilt upwards.

Most of the crew found the southward stretch from Roaring Springs back to Phantom Ranch to be the worst of the entire trip, the only exception was Keith. His most displiked part of the trip was arriving at the group’s rallying points, whether it was the north rim or Phantom Ranch, getting settled for a little break, then the group deciding – “well, let’s get going!” Chris and Elan had arrived at Phantom Ranch first. I think they were clipping off some really fast miles in this stretch of gradual downhill. Dan passed me about half way into the 6.5 mile stretch between Cottonwood and Phantom Ranch. I tried to keep him in-site and to key off of his pace, but he was too strong. The first half of this 6.5 miles is very hot. Seems like it doesn’t matter what time of year…. it’s always hot. I managed to run this entire stretch, though slower than I ran it in the opposite uphill direction only a couple of hours earlier. The downhill and the 30 miles already in my legs were starting to take their toll. I felt it important to run this stretch because it was the last really runnable stretch we’d encounter. No matter how many times I’ve hiked and run through the area north of Phantom Ranch called “The Box”, I never seem to recall how long it is. Bright Angel Creek is walled in here, hence the name “The Box” so the trail is only visible until the next turn in the canyon. Turn after turn…. always thinking and hoping it’s the last turn and that the “Phantom Ranch .3 miles” sign will be awaiting.

Lewis Taylor descending North Kaibab. Photo by Keith Yanov.

Dan descending North Kaibab. Photo by Keith Yanov.

My watch read 34.8 miles when I arrived at Phantom Ranch. Just when I rolled in, Chris ducked his head out of the Canteen and alerted me that he and Elan were inside. The Phantom Ranch lemonade is rather famous. I still don’t know if it actually tastes any better than other lemonade, but every time I drink it my body is in a relatively trashed state, and it hits the spot! No difference this time. I downed two lemonades and a King Size Snickers bar – calories! One by one the rest of our group rolled in Chris, Elan, Dom, Lewis, Keith, Dan, and myself. To Keith’s dismay, and relatively quickly after his arrival, we departed. I don’t think we stayed at the Canteen long enough. We should’ve hung there for a while longer…

The group stopped at the Bright Angel campground to refill bottles and hydration packs. The temp was starting to heat up. It was probably only low 80s, but it felt warm. I’ve done so many backpacking trips in the Grand Canyon during the months of June and July, that I’ve come to appreciate slightly cooler temps. I was surprised how runnable the bottom half of the Bright Angel trail was, all the way through Pipe Creek and up to Indian Garden (often confused with Indian Gardens). I think I struggled more in this stretch that anywhere else. I even started doubting if I wanted to put myself through this again in three weeks at the Zane Grey 50. It’s often said that you don’t want to be caught on the Devil’s Corkscrew in the heat of the day. We were caught. The Devil’s Corkscrew is the first big set up switch backs on the Bright Angel trail. The trail ascends here from Pipe Creek up to almost the Tonto Plateau in several very steep switchbacks.

The switchbacks of Devil's Corkscrew. Photo by Chris Price.

The switchbacks of Devil’s Corkscrew. Photo by Chris Price.

I knew from my many jaunts through this section, that once on top of Devil’s Corkscrew the trail flattens out into Indian Garden. I managed to run some of the stretch, but hiked much of it as well. Chris, Dan, Lewis, and Elan were already at Indian Garden when I arrived. We waited for Dom and Keith here. Chris, Lewis, and Dan decided they wanted to do the 3 miles round-trip out to Plateau Point and back. I elected to spend my time by starting on the switch backs of the Bright Angel trail and started off with Elan. I was pretty impressed that Dan, Lewis, ad Chris still had the desire to get in EXTRA miles at this point.

Elan and I headed up. I seem to always forget that the Bright Angel trail doesn’t start climbing the south rim in earnest until about 4 miles until the rim. Even past Indian Garden, the trail is runnable, though there was not too much running going on at this time. The first switchback is very noticeable. You walk and hike, walk and hike, until the trail is basically walled in – then you go UP! I don’t think there is a singles flat foot of trail from mile 4 to the top. Every step is uphill. From this point on I hiked. Past the 3 mile rest house and past the 1.5 mile rest house. It’s fun passing people along this stretch. Most have no idea that we’d just come from the south rim, all the way to north rim, and back. 40 miles by this point.

Past the 1.5 mile rest house, which we bypassed, Elan started to feel the pull of the rim. He felt good enough to get into a nice running pace here and ran a good chunk of the final 1.5 miles. I stayed in low-gear, power hiking mode. I managed to finish in a “running state” for the finish line photo.

Running the final steps. Photo by Elan Lieber.

Running the final steps. Photo by Elan Lieber.

My time was 11:10 minutes. Dom had his running time at 9:15 minutes or thereabouts, so we took our time for sure with rest breaks. None of us were looking to set any speed records on this trip, however I did want to go under 12 hours as this was my time from my previous successful R2R2R.

Elan and me just after finishing at Bright Angel trail head.

Elan and me just after finishing at Bright Angel trail head.

Thanks to everyone I had the opportunity to run with. It was a blast. Thanks also for snapping some nice photos. I’ve been in the depths of the Grand Canyon so many times, I often use this as an excuse to not take any new pictures.


As usual I wore my Hoka One One Stinson with double Smart Wool socks. They performed, as usual, outstanding! I did get a blister on the bottom of my right foot though, which is a first and is something I will need to watch out for at Zane Grey.

Hoka Dirty Dirty

Hoka Dirty Dirty

I used my Garmin 310XT. I had a lot of lot satellite signals on the return trip from the north rim to Phantom Ranch. I found it strange because I didn’t have any issues on the route from Phantom Ranch to the North Rim. So, the satellite issue only occurred on one direction of the out and back leg.


I used my Deuter hydration pack. I’ve had this pack for a long time. It works nice. It’s nothing special, but it’s comfortable, holds water, and doesn’t bounce too much. I also started with a hand held Nathan bottle, however half way down the South Kaibab trail my bottle was half way empty and my shorts were fully wet – big time leaky bottle. This really affected my plan to drink Accelerade drink mix from my hand held bottle, and use the hydration pack for plain water. I ended up having drink mix only at our stops because of this. I will not be using that Nathan bottle again…

Deuter hydration pack.

Deuter hydration pack.

I started the day with a long sleeve technical shirt over my Zane Grey 50 2012 tech shirt. The long sleeve, as well as beanie, came off just after 20 minutes and stayed off for the remainder of the trip. I was nice though, to have the long sleeve for when I finished. It was cold at the south rim in the evening.

I started with a Smart Wool beanie and Petzl headlamp. The headlamp was turned off at about 5:30AM and came off permanently at the Bright Angel campground on the way down. The

Posted by: cadavidson | March 26, 2013

Race Report – Mesquite Canyon 30k

My final tune-up before the all-important Zane Gray 50 and my upcoming Rim2Rim2Rim was the Aravaipa Running Mesquite Canyon 30k at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The timing of this event, particularly the 50k, is just about perfect for a good hard weekend of training in preparation for the Zane Grey 50. Since I have a R2R2R from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim, then back to the South Rim on  Saturday April 6th, I elected to get a final hard tempo-like / race pace effort in on this day. I like doing the Aravaipa Races, because they’re simply the best run trail events in town.

Race morning, as has seemingly been the case for all Aravaipa Running races this year, was perfect. Start line temperatures were in the low to mid 50s, with temperatures warming up to the low 70s by 30km race finish time.  While I didn’t taper for this race, I did take an easy day of training Friday with only a 25 mile road bike ride. Up until race day, I’d logged about 10 hours of training for the week. Pretty standard for me. With the weekend’s extra time allowance, I usually finish with 12-15 hours. I was really looking to put out a hard effort for this race. I knew the race offered a nasty climb between miles 7 and 10, but until mile 7 the course was flat and fast. My goal was to go out at 6:40 pace for the first 7 miles. Work hard on the hills, and run aggressively downhill; something I struggle with. I seem to get a little lazy on down hills, sometimes I think forgetting I’m in a race. To help with this, I’ve been wearing a heart rate monitor for my training runs, as I usually do, but I’ve been paying close attention to my heart rate on downhills and flats. Trying to maintain a hard, but sub anaerobic threshold, over uphills, downhills, and flats.


Miles one through five went better than planned. I was able to stay under 6:45 pace and even managed a 6:19 at mile two. I knew that I could go hard here because I would be changing from a fast run, to a slow climb and maybe even a power-hike for the middle miles. The usual suspects were in front of me during this stretch; Josh Trevino, Jules Miller, and Van Patterson. There were a couple other guys up the trail as well, who I did not recognize. This is a testament to Nick and Jamil Coury, the race directors, owners, everything at Aravaipa Running. Ultra runners are showing up to their races from out of state. Goes to show that putting on a good race, or even better, a good race series, will bring competitors.

Split Time CUM AVG Elevation Gain Elevation Loss Avg Pace
1 06:44.3 06:44.3 24 59 6:44
2 06:19.8 06:32.1 0 43 6:20
3 06:44.0 06:36.0 113 139 6:44
4 06:34.7 06:35.7 24 0 6:35
5 06:32.4 06:35.0 47 57 6:32


I knew starting somewhere around my 6, 7, or 8 the going would get tough. Sure enough, the trail started tilting upward at mile 6. I still able to keep a good effort here. Having Van Patterson, who finishes in front of me in every one of the Aravaipa Races in front of me helped. I keyed off of him a bit and knew that I probably shouldn’t go too hard here. He usually finishes in front of me, so I figured he should be in front of me here.

Despite the gradual uphill during miles 6 and 7, I was still keeping a nice pace just behind him.  I knew though, that we’d encounter the big hill soon enough.

6 07:52.4 137 0 7:53
7 8:44.1 265 0 8:44
8 14:23.1 811 0 14:23
9 12:43.5 556 24 12:43

I spent probably 50% of the time running (barely) and 50% of the time hiking miles 8 and 9. The elevation gain in the two miles is substantial at over 1350 feet in just over 2 miles. The trail is also very rocky throughout this section with some large step-ups. Another thing that slowed things down here some was the traffic on the trail. 50km runners, who started 30 minutes earlier, were already coming down this section of narrow and steep trail. Everyone is super-cool though, always trying to give each other as much room as possible without running yourself right off the trail. I past Van Patterson and told him he’d probably see me later (when he would pass me). I also passed a couple guys who I had not seen at the Aravaipa events before. Turns out these were the out-of-towners. The weather started heating up during this stretch, as some of the breeze generated by running quickly subsided during the slow grind up the steep slopes. I wasn’t very far in front of the folks I passed on the uphills. I would still hear and see them as we wound in and out, up and down through the canyons and drainages. On a couple of occasions, I would think we’d topped out, then the trail would pitch straight up the side of a drainage.

After my Gel debacle!

After my Gel debacle!

I knew the course would ascend the steep side of the climb, and descend the gradual climb. I assumed from this, that the downhill would be less technical than the uphill. I was right! The downhill was beautiful! Very smooth, very runnable, and very fast. The only thing slowing me, and many others, was the constant stream of other runners and recreational hikers. I try to be as accommodating to the other competitors as possible without running myself right off the trail – as did everyone I encountered. Even the recreational hikers were kind and gave as much room as possible.

10 07:34.3 41 126 7:34
11 07:45.7 88 75 7:46
12 07:15.9 49 266 7:16
13 06:53.9 0 310 6:54
14 06:39.3 0 264 6:39
15 07:53.4 68 219 7:53
16 07:24.1 0 586 7:24
17 06:52.9 84 33 6:53
18 06:25.6 0 98 6:26
19 02:44.8 10 0 6:27

I managed to run a couple of 7 minute miles down this stretch. I was caught my two of the runners who I passed on the uphill. This seems to always be the case. I’m just not a great downhill runner. The stayed with the second runner for about a mile, and he helped me keep that sub 7 minute pace. I lost track of him when I stopped at the aid station at the bottom of the never-ending descent. I hoped I would be able to run a final few flat and fast few miles and potentially pass him, but I wasn’t sure.

Nearing the bottom of the long descent.

Nearing the bottom of the long descent.

Mile 16 still had almost 600 feet of descent! I kept a 7:24 pace for this mile, which is good for me. I think the final aid station was within this mile too, so my split would reflect that as well. I did use a hand-bottle for this race, so I would chug a small cup of Gatorade at the aid station and have my  water bottle refilled. The aid stations are much faster when all you need to do is fill a bottle, rather than drink 4 cup-fulls! I also used three PowerGels during the race. I think I tend to go through a lot of calories when running. I probably should have had a 4th. My plan was to take them every 30 minutes (:30, 1:00, 1:30). That plan seemed to work well.  I never cramped nor felt really bad.

I knew we’d bottomed out at the end of mile 16. I felt really good still and could see the 7th place runner a ways in front of me. I made it a goal to catch him, and I did. We chatted for a few seconds, then I saw the 5th place runner. 5th place sounded so much better than 6th, so I made another goal to catch him. I caught him pretty quickly, but didn’t see anyone up the trail. I knew, though, that I needed to continue running hard or I’d be caught. Both runners who I’d passed still looked pretty good and were running sub 7:00 trail miles still. My splits for miles 17 and 18 were 6:52 and 6:25. I’m glad I ran those last two miles as fast as I did, the next two finishers were only 16 and 25 seconds back!

My Race Data (no HR)

Training Peaks Data

Mesquite Canyon
30k Race Results
March 23, 2013

Place First Name Last Name Age Gender City State Country Finish Time
1 Joshua Trevino 29 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:11:51
2 Jeremy Hurl 37 Male McMinnville OR United States 2:20:44
3 Jules Miller 27 Male Mesa AZ United States 2:22:12
4 Kevin Tuck 56 Male Salt Lake City UT United States 2:23:13
5 Cory Davidson 35 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:24:05
6 Zachary Martin 25 Male Boulder CO United States 2:24:21
7 Ryan Witko 29 Male Brooklyn NY United States 2:24:29
8 Brett Busacker 27 Male Minnetonka MN United States 2:26:02
9 Van Patterson 38 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:30:42
10 Rob Decot 45 Male Flagstaff AZ United States 2:36:11

All in all, I was very pleased with this race. I never felt bad (probably should have gone harder) and felt like I could have run the last two miles faster than I did. I had been struggling a bit during the end of some of the recent long trail races, so I’ve made it a point to negative split some of my 13 milers from my house to Dreamy Draw along trail 100 and back and I’ve also done a couple of progression runs where each of 10 miles is progressively faster than the previous, finishing with a 6:10 mile.  I finished with a time of 2:24:05 and managed to come in before a couple of guys who normally beat me.

Next up

4/6/2013 – I’ll be joining some fellow ultra runners from Los Angeles and Oregon on a Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim.

4/27/2013 – Zane Grey 50. There are some super fast folks showing up this year including Jamil (Aravaipa Running RD),  Catlow Shipek (last year’s winner), Chris Price, Scott Jaime, etc, etc. My goal is to run sub 10:00. So, I figure the more fast folks up the trail, the better…

Gear (because I love writing about GEAR)

Again, I wore my Hoka One One trail shoes with Smart Wool socks. I still haven’t met someone who’d bought (or I say invested because they’re so expensive), that has not absolutely loved them. A while ago I heard someone say they’d train in them, but not race in them. I don’t understand that. They’re not heavy. I’m still looking for a weakness in them……. I elected to wear traditional running shorts, a sleeveless top, visor, glasses and a One Direction hand held water bottle (with pocket for gels).

Posted by: cadavidson | March 4, 2013

McDowell Mountain Duathlon Race Report

Way back in 1998, when I started this endurance racing madness, the McDowell Mountain Duathlon was my very first multisport race. I remember the morning of the race, my truck wouldn’t start (of course). My dad accompanied me to this race and I was hooked! I did not even have cycling shoes! I just ran, hopped on my bike, cinched down the toe straps on the pedals, and rode off. I sort of miss the ignorant bliss and simplicity of not knowing what to do. It gets so much more complicated, and stressful (although I like this kind of stress), when you know how you’re supposed to handle transitions and gear…

I revisited the Desert Classic Duathlon in 2005 as part of my build up for Ironman Arizona. In 2005 I managed a 5th place in the 25-29 age group. Since I don’t have any other pictures, and since I thought it was really funny, I’ve posted a pic of me during the 2005 edition. The funny thing is: I’m wearing the EXACT same top and EXACT same shorts! I still have the same sunglasses and, arm warmers, and helmet (I normally still use the lid pictured, however for this race, I chose to wear the helmet I wore in 1998).

I hope my readers can find the humor in me wearing the EXACT same kit 8 years later!

I hope my readers can find the humor in me wearing the EXACT same kit 8 years later!


This would be my first multisport race since that 2005 year. I was really looking forward to this race. There’s something about the geekiness of getting gear ready the night before a multisport race. Multi pairs of shoes, glasses, transition towel, bike stuff,  etc, etc.. that I find really fun. I visited packet pick-up the day before the race in Tempe at TriSports Tempe. Nothing additional needed, so I managed to escape without dropping any serious cash, which is always a problem at such stores!

Race morning went as expected for me – meaning, I was the FIRST car in the parking lot. That’s right, the only cars there before me were volunteers. And it wasn’t like all of the volunteers beat me there… I just like arriving early. Takes the stress out of worrying about traffic and rushing around the start and transition areas, particularly during a multisport event which includes setting up transition. Another benefit that my brother-in-law, who is training for Ironman right now, would appreciate, is the opportunity for multiple port-o-potty visits!

I would be in the first starting wave, which included all males 40 and under, at 8:00 sharp. I still qualify for this handily at 35! There would be two waves following me, over 40 men in wave 2 at 8:03 and all women in wave 3 at 8:06. My goal was to not get caught, which I thought was doable especially since I knew I would put some time into the over 40 guys on the first run. Chasing3 Productions did an awesome job of starting the race off on schedule. The race started with a roughly 3.5 mile run. I think the run was a little longer than 3.5, but close enough, besides trail runs are much more difficult to get accurate measurements on. The first .5 mile is a gradual uphill paved section. I started in about 10 position and felt good. As I age, it seems like it takes me longer and longer to settle into a good fast pace. Within 10 minutes I was into 8th position. I stayed in this position for the remainder of run 1. Run 1 over three miles of trail. I’ve been doing ALLOT of trail running and racing recently with the end goal of a good (hopefully 10 hours and top 5) at the Zane Grey 50 on April 27th. Most of my recent trail races have been part of Aravaipa Running’s DRT Trail racing series. The distances have ranged from 25 – 35k and have been on some great technical courses. Aravaipa has done an awesome job on these races! They are extremely well organized, start on time, present awards within minutes, yet still remain low-key as ultra running and trail running should be!

I completed run 1 in 24:20, for a 6:57 pace according to the 3.5 mile distance. I entered T1 in 8th and exited T1 in 8th position. I was glad to see I didn’t dink around and waste time and lose positions here.  My T1 time was 47 seconds. That’s 47 seconds to enter, find my transition area, take off running shoes, put on cycling shoes, put on my helmet, and get out of the transition area with my bike. I thought pretty good. The fastest T1 time was about 35 seconds, so I didn’t lose to much time.

My transition area on the blue and white striped towel.

My transition area on the blue and white striped towel.

The bike is where it all came apart. The course was shaped like a letter “T”. Once you exit the transition area, a right turn was made. The course was two out and backs along the top of the “T.” I missed the first bike turn-around. The turn around was at approximately mile three. Me and three or four others blew right through it. I take full responsibility for missing it, however the sheriff manning the position made absolutely no effort to alert us. The four of us were unsure if we  had missed the turn or not and rode about two miles past the turn around, for a total of 4 extra bike miles. Four miles extra on what should have been a 25 miles bike leg can kill a time. I figure I list about 12 minutes here at a 21 MPH average. The rest of the bike went well. I was never passed from the point I rejoined the course and passed a handful of people. I finished the bike in 1:27:08. The bike computer had my average speed at 21.1 MPH. I was very pleased with this. In the past, I’ve always lost so many positions on the bike. I focused on keeping my heart rate HIGH during this bike section. I find that I usually do not work hard enough on the bike. For instance I can run a 10-mile tempo run at a heart rate between 160 and 165 and feel relatively good. On the bike though, 160 feels very, very uncomfortable. If I ride to feel on the bike, I would not ride hard enough. My goal was to keep my heart rate above 150. I was around 149 – 155 for the entire ride. I can, and should have, pushed much harder. I’m glad I continued riding the bike hard. As I my extra miles back to the bike course I considered just rolling through the bike course because I knew that my chances for a top three were all but gone in such a short race. I really enjoyed riding my Pinarello FPQuattro during the bike leg. Nearly all the other fast cyclists had tri-bikes, so I took pride in passing several of them while comfortably riding in the drops while they were tucked away in the arrow position.

Sandy, Gravelly stretch leading into transition.

Sandy, Gravelly stretch leading into transition.

There was a short gravelly, sand section, probably 150 meters between the rode and the transition area. While the mountain bikers probably enjoyed this, it had potential to cause some problems for the skinny tired road athletes. Fortunately, I didn’t see anyone go down. Most athletes were smart and sort of rolled through this section. My T2 time was 54 seconds. This transition was about 10 seconds longer than I would have liked. I tried the strategy of leaving my shoes tied after T1 and trying to just slip them on during T2 before the final run leg. I had them laced a bit too tight and struggled for a few seconds to get them on.

I felt phenomenal during the second run leg. I passed several others during this 3.6 mile run. I knew though, that each person I passed, was still ahead of me on race time because they had started in a later wave. That missed first turnaround really killed me! I didn’t have the slightest inkling of a cramp, and generally felt excellent this entire run. My pace came in at 7:37 for a 27:20 final run. My second run time was the 8th fastest of the day. Which was exactly the same as my first run – 8th fastest. I’m certain that had I not missed the first bike turnaround I would have run this second run leg faster. I think I could have held on during the bike and maybe only lost three or four positions, which I would have made back up on the run. Had I not missed that turnaround, I think I might have been able to crack  the top10! In all of my years racing, this was my first error missing a turn, turnaround, etc…

All in all, a really fun day at the races. As much as I love running races, specifically trail racing, there’s a special place in my heart for multisport racing. I like the culture of ultrarunning so much more, but the multisport racing is really fun!

GEAR (because I love writing about gear):

Run – I knew this stretch of trail was not very technical, and since it was short, I left the Hoka One One’s at home. Anyone who follows my race reports knows that I love my Hokas! I decided to wear my Adidas training shoes. I didn’t go with a very light weight shoe, only because I wanted a little cushion from the occasionally jagged rock in this generally smooth trail section. As pictured I wore my 2005  Pearl Izume tri-shorts and a Sugio tri singlet. Both worked well. Fairly comfortable on the bike with the minimal padding and no chaffing or anything negative from the top.

Bike – I rode my newly acquired Pinarello FPQuattro. I did not use clip-on bars, just good old road bars. This bike is so comfortable, I can stay in the drops all day. I attached my Garmin 310XT to the handle bar mount before the race and wore my HR monitor during the run (without the watch since it was on my bike). I can push myself hard enough on the run, so I feel confident I’m going at the right effort on the run, but I need to know my HR on the bike in order to go hard! I elected to ditch the water bottle. The bike was 25 miles, or it was supposed to be at least, until I blew through the turnaround, so I figured just over an hour in cool weather didn’t require hydration. This was a good decision. I downed two gels during the bike and this was the correct level of nutrition for this race.  I was a little unsure if I should bring tools and a tube to change a tire if necessary. The field seemed about 50/50 split on this. I elected to bring my saddlebag with tube, tire levers, and CO2. Fortunately, I did not need it.


Posted by: cadavidson | February 24, 2013

Elephant Mountain Race Report

With the 2013 edition of the Zane Grey 50 looming, this weekend is a key training week in my build up. I decided to use Aravaipa Running’s Elephant Mountain 35k as the first of two back to back weekend run. 22 miles Saturday and 15 Sunday on tired legs. Should be a good lesson for the legs and body in general on running tired.

Race morning was cold, by Phoenix standards, the truck’s thermometer continued to drop and drop until I arrived at the starting area – 39 degrees. That’s really perfect running weather, just a bit cold to be milling around before race start. My goal was to run a fast time, negative split if at all possible, and use this as a measuring stick for where my training is lacking. I knew the race would be hilly, but I suspected rather good footing with little technical descending or ascending.

As with all Aravaipa Running events, the race started precisely on-time at 8:00AM, following the 50k start at 7:00AM. Out of the gate, the course starts climbing. The climb was smooth with a good gradient, the kind of climbs I like where I can get into a good rhythm. Technical ascents and descent are currently my glaring weakness.

Elephant Mountain 35k Profile

Elephant Mountain 35k Profile

My first few miles were very under control, never felt like I was pushing at all. I stayed in about 10th position for the first few miles up the first pass, then down. I was feeling good and the course was very well marked, as usual, so I felt like pushing ahead a little bit and passed a group of three runners putting me into 5th position by the Roger’s Creek aid station at mile 5.5. I was feeling good here. I decided not to carry a hand held water bottle again for this race. My decision was based on not carrying a bottle on the recent Cold Water Rumble race (see race report here) as well as the cool morning temperatures as well as the well placed aid stations positioned at approximately miles 5.6, 11, and 17. I downed three dixie cups of Gatorade and grabbed a handful of peanut butter filled pretzels (these are becoming a favorite). The only catch with the peanut butter filled pretzels is their oxygen sucking effect. I can’t eat them on uphills for whatever reason, the take my breath away! My first 5 mile splits were:

Split Time Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
1 08:19.0 314 0
2 07:39.7 149 179
3 06:53.3 0 200
4 07:33.3 74 64
5 08:08.5 227 0
Elephant Mountain 35k. Early on.

Me at Elephant Mountain 35k. Early on.

Just after the aid station, the usual and seemingly inevitable happened, I was passed by Brett Sarnquist. He was going so much faster, it wasn’t even a consideration to try to hold his pace this early. I figured, if I feel good during the back half, I would see what happens… Miles six to the Spur Cross aid station were beautiful. Some really BIG views at the tops of some of the passes.


These miles were filled with up and down. Not much fast and flat. The downhills were very fast though. I made good time on the downhills and took the uphills relatively easy. These were uphills that I enjoyed though, good smooth trail that allows a nice climbing rhythm. Around mile 10 I saw the first 35k runners returning back on the out and back trail. Brian Folts and Joshua Trevino were flying. They ended up running a full minute per mile faster than me. That’s fast! They looked good too, they were chatting, not apparently working too hard by that point. Joshua went on to win the race with a time of 2:26. At some point Brian was passed by Jules Miller for second place. These were some of the best miles of the race for me. I really felt good, even dropping a sub 7 mile for good measure!

Leaders early on

Leaders early on

Split Time Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
6 07:40.2 98 0
7 08:04.3 218 0
8 07:43.0 79 58
9 06:58.9 0 254
10 07:28.4 74 91
11 07:12.5 56 201

The Spur Cross aid station was located at the Spur Cross Recreation Area. I had only been here once previously and that was on my road bike. I really enjoy long road bike rides through Cave Creek and North Scottsdale. The road into Spur Cross from the town of Cave Creek has at least a mile of gravel and dirt, so it makes for a dicey road bike ride. There was a long decent into the aid station, longer than I had expected. Probably close to a mile of descending. The trail here was very wide, actually an old dirt or Jeep road I suspect. I figured coming back up would be tough. I saw the three runners who were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th place on this downhill. They all looked good. I was still feeling very good as well and had in the back of mind to put in a big surge towards the end to see if I could catch one of them. The Spur Cross aid station was well stocked as usual. After crossing the creek on a couple of wooden planks, I again downed three cups of Gatorade and grabbed a handful of peanut butter pretzels to munch on over the next couple of miles. I should also mention that I was using Power Gels on this run as well. I had a gel every 30 minutes.

The climb out of the Spur Cross Recreation Area and Aid Station was not all that bad. Again, it was more like a jeep road which allowed me to find a nice rhythm. During the climb I started to see how close everyone was behind me. No time to waste or I’d surely be passed by more than a few competitors. After reaching the top of the climb out of the aid station I figured I would increase the pace a little since I was feeling good and wanted to see if I could catch anyone on the return portion of the out and back course.

I don’t think it was the slight lifting of the pace that did it, rather just a matter of time, but I started getting twinges of hamstring cramps in both legs. I’ve had this issue before in marathons. In each of my two fastest marathons, 2:56 and 2:57, I’ve reached the infamous mile 20 and started cramping. Now, this wasn’t a marathon, however the time in which I started cramping, approximately at the two hour mark is very consistent with my marathon troubles. I need to get that sorted out..

Around mile 14 or so, Rob Decot from Flagstaff came flying by me. He passed just before a gate. This gate was about three feet high and was still closed. On the way out, I stepped over the gate quickly and was on my way knowing that on my return trip it may be a more gingerly step. Well, Rob hurdled the gate! I told him how impressed I was after the race. Had I tried to hurdle the gate, I think I would have hit my knees on the gate. My hamstrings would have cramped and I would’ve landed in a crumpled mess on the other side of the gate. As I suspected, I gingerly stepped over the gate avoiding a cramp. About a half mile from the return trip arrival at the Roger’s Creek aid station my hamstrings really started to go. I stopped a couple times for only a few seconds to stretch my hamstrings. This seemed to help. I desperately wanted to avoid a full-fledged hamstring cramp that makes walking, much less running, very difficult.

Still feeling really good!

Still feeling really good!


Split Time Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
12 08:30.8 245 51
13 07:22.4 43 115
14 08:21.7 229 28
15 08:18.2 168 64
16 07:32.9 0 199
17 07:42.7 0 99

Again, at the aid station at mile 16.5 I had my usual Gatorade and handful of pretzels for the road. James Bonnet, who is an ultra-superstar, was working the aid station and asked if I needed anything. I replied with “yes, your left hamstring.”

The final five miles went better than I thought they would at mile 16, but not as good as I was hoping at mile 11. I was able to stave off cramps by shortening my stride and really watching foot placement. I had one bad mile, mile 20, where my pace came out to 9:02. I think I stopped to stretch a couple times during this mile. I figured a few seconds here and there was much better than a complete hamstring shutdown that would leave me walking the final three miles and losing minutes each mile, rather than a few seconds. The plan worked – no major cramps and not too much of a let down in pace, with the exception of mile 20.

Split Time Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
18 07:31.9 0 186
19 07:48.4 25 161
20 09:01.5 205 0
21 08:19.8 205 26
22 07:00.4 0 388
23 01:16.0 0 51
 Summary 2:52:25 2,409 2,413

I ended up in 7th place overall. Two and a half minutes behind 6th place and four and half minutes ahead of 8th place. Overall I was pleased with my time and placing, but the cramping is a concern.

1 Joshua Trevino 29 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:26:55
2 Jules Miller 26 Male Mesa AZ United States 2:35:27
3 Brian Supertramp 26 Male Denver CO United States 2:38:01
4 Bret Sarnquist 34 Male Flagstaff AZ United States 2:42:27
5 Rob Decot 45 Male Flagstaff AZ United States 2:48:08
6 Van Patterson 38 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:49:56
7 Cory Davidson 35 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:52:25
8 Stephen Stromberg 38 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:56:49
9 Jeremy Dougherty 32 Male Phoenix AZ United States 2:56:50

Today I will be running 15 miles. This is the second half of my planned back to back big mileage days to condition the body for tired-leg-running. I’m pretty sore right now, so I will have to let things loosen up over the first couple of miles.

Gear run down:

I chose to wear the Hoka One One Stinsons again for this race with wool socks. I still cannot find a reason not to wear them for trail races. They’re absolutely fantastic! My legs just do not fatigue like they do with “normal” trail shoes and my feet don’t blister. I decided on my Asics running spandex for the little bit of compression (cramps are in my history), a visor, and gloves for the first two miles.

Posted by: cadavidson | February 20, 2013

Zane Grey 50 – 67 days and counting

The Zane Grey 50 race organizers sent out race packets a week ago. I think for all recipients, it’s a little bit of a wake-up call. If you haven’t been training, and training allot, it’s time to start! Actually, it’s probably too late to start… Here’s a nice photo of the mile markers along the Mogollon Rim. The Highline Trail, ascends and descends, the rim for all 50 miles. Up and down. Never on top of the rim, never below the rim. Always changing elevation.

I have established a time goal for this year – 10:15. That’s 90 minutes quicker than my 2011 time. In 2011 I was 19th overall in my first ultra. I’m hoping to be top 5 this year.

Fortunately, this far I’ve had a successful build up. No major injuries, thanks in large part I think to my change in footwear to the Hoka One One Stinson Evo! Normally, after 10 miles on the trails, my feet and legs are very fatigued. Not so much with the Hokas. Sure, I’m tired, but it’s not the acute soreness that forces a premature end to what was supposed to be a long run. My mileage still isn’t quite where it should be, but this weekend will be a big test.

I am running another one of Aravaipa Running’s Desert Trail Series events – a 35k at Elephant Mountain in Cave Creek, AZ. The 22 miles be a test by itself, however I’m going to back that run up with a 15-20 miler on Sunday. This will give my legs and body great “tired running training.” I’m most certain Sunday’s run will be rather tough, so I’m recruiting volunteers. Anyone interested? Seriously……

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