Monday, February 2, 2009

An awesome AZ Trail race

I think it's wonderful when a friend, who has taken a break from race reports, writes one because of a great race you had together. And we did!

For the running races, I like to find someone that is around my pace and try to stay with them during the race. Yesterday morning I drove down to the ranch at Colossal Cave park and immediately found Shari in the parking lot. We warmed up together and joined the very cold group of people at the starting line. At 7:30 AM we were off for an 8 mile run.

The run started out on the road, which helped to space out the group a bit. With 250 racers, this was the largest trail run I had done. By the time we hit the wash there was a bit of a bottleneck, but not too bad. We started up a huge climb and I think being in a lot of people helped to keep us from going out too fast (which, no matter what, I always tend to do in a race). It was singletrack for several miles. We tried to pass where we could, and with Shari in front I stayed right behind so that I wouldn't loose her. We also tried to keep talking. This helps take the mid off of the run for a bit and helps to keep the effort in check. We would talk to some of the gals in front of us until they had to stop and walk and we kept on. At one point I remember the rocks changing and we ended up in a shaded area with trees. I figured the view must be amazing, but in a trail run you can never take in the view because you are always watching the ground in front of you and where to put your feet.

Most people were cool about passing. Many would say "On your left" or "Passing left" and that gave you a chance to move a bit so they could get by. But in the technical rocky section in the trees some guy snuck up on me and came down and around me hard without saying anything. I yelled "Runner up!" but it was too late and he was already forcing his way around Shari. That pissed me off. How hard is it to wait until a safe spot to pass and alert your fellow runners? We continued on and I noticed he wasn't pulling away from us. "Mr. Blue Shorts" (as I called him) was running not much faster than us. Now I was REALLY pissed. Aggressive passing and he couldn't back it up with the pace. Dork.

At the 4 mile mark I checked my watch and it showed 47:16. Shari wanted to beat her time of 1:34 from last year, and if we maintained the same pace it would be really close. We were stuck behind a girl but thankfully we reached a dirt road that opened up more room. It was a downhill, so I took the chance and moved in front and passed the girl, with Shari right behind. She pulled the first half, now it was time for me to pull the second half. We hit a steep uphill and took short strides to get up it. Thankfully there was a downhill and flat afterwards. We both took that as a chance to down Shot Bloks and water. Best to get the nutrition in on the easier Jeep roads than the technical singletrack.

We got back on the singletrack and headed back on the trail. We were passing a lot of people this second half. I think this means we paced the race good by not getting passed too much for the first half, and passing more people on the second. Right when we got back to the rocky wooded area, I saw him...Mr. Blue Shorts. He wasn't far ahead! "I want to get him Shari!" I said and she replied "I know." But it was all about timing the attack. We worked our way up the hills and in the flats and downhills got closer and closer. It was really pushing the pace but Shari was sticking with me. There wasn't much talking now other than "We're doing good, keep it up, almost there." Now it was about focus.

The last 2 miles we stalked Mr. Blue Shorts. On one of the tight switchbacks he could see I was right behind him. Dang it, I was found out. On the uphills he and the group in front would make a gap, but we could close it on the flats and downhills. Unfortunately there was one group of large uphills at the end to climb. We caught a group of runners and by the time I made up the gap I was behind 6-8 runners. It was fast downhill on singletrack now, and there was no place to safely pass, especially being in such a long line of runners. There was a bit of a gap between me and Shari, but with only half a mile left I knew she could make it. I glanced at my watch. 1:24. Shari would definitely have her goal in the bag!

We flew down the singletrack hills and hit the wash. I looked up the inside for a place to pass, but there were too many loose rocks and I couldn't find a good line. We made it across the wash and on the uphill afterwards everyone was sprinting. Time to sprint to the end and see if I could get under 1:30. I pushed it hard with the arms flying front and back for max propulsion and crossed the finish in 1:28:19. I heard Holly yell "Go Elaine!" and put my arms up and smiled but had to bend forward because I was panting hard. I turned around and saw Shari cross the line just 5 seconds later. I had to give her a hug at the end because we ran a great race together and I was so happy she crushed her time from last year.

My goal was to average 12 min/mi or better during the race, and it was right at 11 min/mi. I was definitely wasted because it was a longer run with technical spots and lots of singletrack, but was really happy with how we did. Especially how close we finished behind Mr. Blue Shorts. Next time we shall pass him!

Congrats on a great race Shari and thanks for pushing me during our awesome race! :)

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