Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fleet Feet AZ Trail Race

Last year was the first year I had done the Fleet Feet AZ Trail race out at Colossal Cave. Shari and I ran it together and had a fantastic race. So this year we both registered and planned to run the 8 miles together again and hopefully beat our times from last year.

On race morning (Feb 7th) I woke up to rain and started packing clothing. I wasn't sure what the weather would be like once the race started. I parked at the race site and Shari and Renee were parked in front of me. We couldn't have planned that any better! I got out of the outer warm layer of clothing and decided on shorts, tank top, and arm warmers that I could scrunch up and down depending on the temperature.

Shari and I did a quick 5 min warm-up, then got in the mass of people for the start. The start of the run takes us down the road, because shoving 1000 people on singletrack all at once is not optimal. We did the first loop and hit the singletrack and began climbing. At this point it was a lot of shuffling through the group, trying to figure out where we should be in the pack. I just tried to hang on to Shari and not loose her early in the race. Out on the trail we saw a lot of people cheering including people from Fleet Feet, and some mountain biking friends of mine like Jon Shouse and Dave Barger, who were out taking pics.

Around Mile 3 we hit the technical section, which is a lot of up and down hills, and over rocks. At this point an older guy came up behind me and his breathing was annoying. It sounded like he was either coughing up a lung or having a heart attack. He also kept tripping. I suggested he pass me so that I wouldn't get lung butter on my TTG jersey. I was hoping he would leave me in the dust because I really didn't want to have to perform mouth-to-mouth on this guy if he keeled over. Unfortunately my plan didn't work, and he decided to hang out between me and Shari. I had backed off the pace a bit so there was about 15 yards between us, but the guy stayed right behind Shari. The guy totally biffed it and crashed in the trail, but he got up and kept going. Shari asked him if he was ok, and apparently he was because he finally passed and kept going.

The course kind of makes the shape of a "P" with an out-and-back early on, and then a loop at the top. Last year we had the front runners come by us while we were still on the out-and-back. This year we made it to the loop of the "P" without getting caught by the fast people. So that must have meant we improved! We reached a dirt road with a steep climb, and took that hike as a chance to get out our food and get our snacks for the run back. We finished the loop of the "P" and got back on the out-and-back section for the final leg of the run.

We wound our way around the singletrack, and could see up ahead people were falling and crashing everywhere. Shari and I took a couple of the uphills as a chance to hike and get a quick breath, and then were back at it again once the trail leveled. About Mile 6 we turned and got up on a ridge and were greeted with a strong headwind. That wind was cold! Time for the arm warmers to come back up again. We knew we didn't have much time before the grey skies over us started to dump their water. Sure enough, about half a mile later a light sprinkle started. We were on the uphill at this point so a light sprinkle was kind of refreshing.

At about Mile 7 I wasn't sure if I could make it back. This was by far the longest of my trail runs lately. We climbed up the hill that we had previously had fun running down. At this point Tara caught up to me, as Shari and I had been the rabbits she was chasing. We chatted and the talking helped me to keep my mind focused on the trail and not on how tired I was. We reached the final downhill and it was all downhill back to the wash. By now the rain was officially coming down, but we only had a little bit left to go. We crossed the wash, ran across the road to where the cheering spectators were, and crossed the finish line. I grabbed whatever people were handing me (medal, water, etc) and just wanted to keep walking because I couldn't catch my breath. I wandered around the finish area until I could breathe again, and caught up to Shari and Tara to say thanks for a great race.

We went back to the cars to get out of our wet race clothing and into our dry rain gear, then wandered over to the food area. By this time the rain was really coming down and the temperature had dropped significantly. I ate a bit of food, but was zoning out so I said goodbye to Shari and Renee and headed back home where I defrosted in the hot shower and collapsed for a nap.

I finished in 1:25:17, which was an average pace of 10:39 min/miles and a total of 3 minutes faster than last year. Shari and I were both happy with our improvement, so we'll see what happens next year!

I thought this was a great pic of me and Shari before the race. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Me, Shari, and Renee before the race. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Running on the singletrack, early in the race. (Photo by Jon Shouse).

In the train of people. (Photo by Jon Shouse).

Shari and I in the train. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Watching the trail in front of me. The guy behind me is the one that fell later on. (Photo by Dave Barger).

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