Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Trail Run Series

Race #1 - 8/1/09: Meadow to Samaniego Ridge Trail
The Summer Trail Series was a 3 race series put on by Cat Foot Racing, with 2 races on Mt. Lemmon and one in the Tortolita mountains. Zac was interested in doing some trail runs, and I'm always game for killing myself on rocky mountains, so we signed up for all 3 races. The first race was at the very top of Mt. Lemmon, starting on the Meadow Trail and down part of Samaniego Ridge. It looks flat on the map, but it was basically all downhill followed by all uphill.

Zac, Krista, and I chose to do the shorter 4 mile option over the 7 mile option. I know that on steep, technical trails, 0.1 of a mile can easily feel like a mile, and I didn't want to be out there for 5 hours. Besides, with all the riding, my running mileage had dropped off a bit.

There were 19 racers total, with Krista, Zac and I going for the short course and everyone else the long course. We took off in a group, and I immediately felt the 9K ft in elevation. Holy cow where did my lungs go? Sure enough, the trail was a bit flat at the top and then we started the rocky descent down. This was the first time I got into a really good groove and felt great on a technical descent. I held the momentum well and picked pretty good lines. Zac was right behind me and we cruised all the way down to the water stop where we turned onto the next trail. We hit a switchbacky singletrack and popped out in a field. I was worried we had missed the turnaround arrow, but sure enough it was just on the other side before a slight uphill. We turned and started the gnarly climb back up. It was all hiking there.

I figured for sure the fastest racers were going to catch us, but it was just Zac and I. I tried to run as much back up as I could and hiked where I couldn't. On the last part of the trail I made a wrong turn and had to turn back. Zac finished and so did the first leader of the long course. We snacked on cookies and bagels as the others came in, many with tales of falls.

That week it took until Wednesday before I could walk up and down stairs without clinging to the banister for support. Turns out the downhills shredded my legs and I was cursing living in a 2 story house after that.

Krista, Zac, and I representin' the short course:

The trails were blooming with flowers at the very top of the Lemmon:

Race #2 - 8/8/09: Alamo Springs Trail

Zac and I live in NE Tucson, so it helps to have a race to motivate us to drive to the Tortolitas for a run. Race #2 was at the Alamo Springs Trail in the Dove Mountain area. We got up at 4 AM to hit the road to be there in time for the 6:30 AM start. This race started a bit earlier to help beat the heat.

18 runners participated, and we had more racers doing the short course with Krista, Zac, and I. This run started off on the Wild Burro Trail. I had remembered this portion of the run from the winter trail runs out in this area. For the short course we turned onto the Alamo Springs trail, and then Lower Javelina. We pretty much climbed up along the side of a mountain. There were some very cool rock features that we had to scramble around. I was dragging from lack of sleep, so Zac got ahead of me. I took this (poor) pic on my cell of him on the climb:

He's in there somewhere. The problem was, he was wearing a white hat and each time I looked for him his little white hat was bobbing along as he was climbing higher. I needed to stop looking ahead so much. The nice thing was that we were in the shade of the mountain on this part. We climbed back down and ended back in the wash. There was a little note on an orange sign that said to take the wash back to the start. So I followed the wash and cheered for the racers up above on the climb as I headed back. I hit the aid station and knew the path that we had taken up was right there, and got back on the path. When in doubt, always go back the way you came.

I almost made a wrong turn on the way back where the trail took a sharp turn and I continued straight. I looked down and saw no footprints, so backtracked and found the path again. Thankfully that took me to the finish where the snacks were (it's all about getting to the snacks). Zac had finished a few minutes ahead. As we snacked on the breakfast goodies, we looked for all the other racers coming in. I think people came to the finish from every direction. Some ended up on a golf course, others back in the wash. But hey, it happens in trail running. Everyone had an interesting story of where they turned and ended up and what happened on the trail.

Overall it was a great race, and good motivation for Zac and I to make it out to the trails on that side of the world.

Race #3 - 8/15/09: Butterfly Trail

The final race of the series was also the most technical as it was on the Butterfly Trail on Mt. Lemmon. Zac and I chose the 4 mile option over the 10.2 mile. I knew how gnarly this trail was, and the short course was going to take me plenty of time to complete. Earlier in the year, Zac and I had run the north side of Butterfly, starting at the top and going about 2 miles in before heading back. This time we would be starting at the bottom at the Palisades parking area. A few years ago Zac had tried to ride this trail while I tried to run it, and it was in pretty bad shape where the trail disappeared off the side of the mountain. This year much trail work had been done, and the trail had been re-cut in many areas, and lots of downed trees had been removed.

My legs were dead tired from a 40 mile mountain bike the day before, so I knew I'd be taking it pretty easy on the trail. I packed my camera so that I could take a few pics on the trail to help take my mind off the climbing. As we started, I tried to stay with Zac but my legs wouldn't have it. So I hiked and ran where I could. The trail was in great shape. For the short course, we ran out to the intersection at Davis Springs trail, and back. It was a lot of descending on the way out, which meant a lot of climbing on the way back. But it was nice and cool on the mountain, and the cooler temps helped because it was also humid and I kept having to use my hat as a washcloth for my face from all the sweat.

Race registration and racers getting ready:

One last check of the map:
Ott reviewing the course with everyone before the start:
A shady spot on the Butterfly Trail:
I was able to catch a pic of Zac as he headed back up from the turn and I was headed down:
A welcome sight on the trail...the turnaround!
Little hiker dude in a tree:

A rolling portion of the Butterfly Trail:

View from the trail:

Climbing back up:

Another rocky climb:

Lead long-course runner heading to the finish:

More long-course runners finishing up the trail:

Hanging out at the finish area where the snacks are:

This race had the biggest turnout of racers, and it was the first time most of the racers were doing the short course. At the end those of us that had done all 3 races got a great Cat Foot Racing coaster in the shape of a cat paw. Zac and I have them displayed on the window sill of our workout room. Ott and crew did a great job organizing the events, and we are looking forward to the winter series of races. See ya in the winter on the trails!

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