Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blue Pants Winter Trail Run Race #1 - Wild Burro Trail

The Wild Burro Trail is a 10 mile long trail in the Tortolita mountains. I have never been there, since it's on the opposite side of the earth from my house. But I wanted to do some of the Blue Pants Racing winter trail runs to help improve my trail running. So Saturday morning I got in my car and drove away on a very calm morning. When I turned onto Oracle it became a bit breezy, and by the time I made it to the trailhead at Dove Mountain, it was downright gusty and cold. I ran to the registration table and grabbed my shirt and number, and went right back to the car to take shelter. Everyone else in the parking lot was doing the same.

The windy conditions really messed up my wardrobe choice. I decided to go with my TTG tank top, TTG jacket over that, and a wind breaker over that. A little before 8 AM everyone left the comfort and shelter of their vehicles and strolled a short distance to the start. Laszlo tried to count everyone, then decided to just let us all go. So we were off heading down some trail around some mountains I had never been to.

I tried to stay with the pack for as long as possible. The first 1.6 miles were decent trail, nice and smooth and flat. Then that changed when we started climbing mountains. And I mean really climbing. There were a ton of switchbacks and steep sections around boulders where I was using my hands to get up the rocks. I figured hiking the technical sections justified walking, but I couldn't really count it as a walk break since the hiking was keeping my heart rate just as high. Granted, I don't wear a HR monitor, but I think when you can feel your heart pounding in your throat that counts as high. I got warm and my long-sleeved layers ended up in a mess of laundry tied around my waist. The wind had stopped at this point, so I was wishing I had one less layer to deal with. Oh well.

We climbed, and climbed, and climbed. Most of the group was gone, and I ended up leap-frogging 2 girls that were staying together. They were slightly faster when they were running, which was a very small amount of time for much of the trail. I hit the first water station, which was a nice little sign with water bottles under it and 2 plastic bowls of Snicker bars. Snicker bars? Now we're talking! No Gu, no Shot bloks, just Snickers. I took 2 and pocketed them. You never know when chocolate will come in handy.

About this time a gal named Jen caught up to me. We had been pretty close to each other the entire race, and decided to stick together for the rest of the run. Besides, we were now out on the furthest part of the trail. There was a great view of Tucson and all, but I had no idea where my car was other than it wasn't on the mountain we were climbing. It's always hard to tell in running races who you can talk to. Some folks put on the tunes and tune out. Thankfully Jen was a talker, so we talked and ran and searched for the trail. For the most part it was easy to follow, but in a few spots where washes or rocks were, it was tricky to spot the exact turn to make. Plus, the talking helped to take my mind off of the mileage.

The trail run pretty much climbed the first 5 miles, and then decended the next 5. Descending hurt just as bad, and was tough to do in some of the steep boulder sections. At one point we lost the trail for a bit, but turned around and tried other options and finally found it. Not far after that was a second water station with volunteers. Even though I had water with me, I partook of the water they had since they hauled it all the way out there. I also downed one of my Snicker bars. Chocolate makes me happy. Forget that my legs are screaming in pain and are about to fall off. I have my chocolate. Yummy.

We were in a wash at this point, so we were able to run somewhat quickly. I was just happy to be done with the mountains. I told Jen that if she wasn't there with me, I would probably be walking. She agreed. Always good to have someone there to push you. We came up on a volunteer that was walking with a lady that had her hand wrapped up. She had fallen early on and dislocated a finger, but appeared to be in good spirits about it and was just about done with the trail. I think that was the only major injury of the whole race, which is amazing given how steep and rocky it was. We rounded a corner and found a group hanging out at a table. Turns out that was the finish! Laszlo punched in our times on his Blackberry and we were done. Lots of goodies were available on the table, so we had a quick snack and headed back to the parking lot.

I finished the 10 miles in 2:28, which was just under a 15 min/mile average pace. Given how tough the trail was, I was happy with that. I tend to do the first mile on the Deuces Wild XTERRA course in about that time as it has quite a rocky section followed by a steep climb. Funny how I could have done a half marathon on the road in that time. I think this hurt just as bad, if not a bit worse from all the climbing. I was also glad I had my trail running shoes on. Even though they aren't as comfortable as the road shoes, they make a difference on the rocks.

Overall it was a good race and made me get out to a different area of Tucson. Trail Race #2 is a 5 miler in Starr Pass, and Jen and I are hoping to be able to meet up and run together again.

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