Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run


All XTERRA courses seem to be incredibly hilly. So I decided to do the Sabino Canyon Sunset run as a good race to practice going faster on hills. I had done this race once before, a few years ago, but that was when the road was still under construction from flood damage, and the course was only a 10K. This year we would be going all the way to the end of the road and back. A few months ago I made it to the end of the road for the first time. On previous runs I would usually run to Shuttle Stop #8, then turn around. On my first run to the top I realized the worst hill was saved for the end. Where Shuttle Stop #8 is at is the start of a very steep, long, and ugly climb. Once I reached the top my heartrate spiked into zones that probably don’t exist (Zone 6.2…really?). But it was a glorious downhill afterwards. So at least I knew what to expect.

I had done a training run a few weeks prior to this race and ran it at an average of 10:39 min/mile. My goal for this race was to run it at an average of 10:00 min/mile flat, or better. It was a stretch goal, but I thought I could get there. I told Coach Scott my goal, and he agreed it was doable, so I spent the weeks leading up to the race working on hills. It’s always good to get confirmation that your goals aren’t completelty out of whack.

Race day I got to the parking lot pretty early, and set off in the opposite direction up the Bear Canyon trails. This section of trails was away from the race crowds and gave me a chance to run for about 15 minutes to warm-up. I got to the starting line and picked a spot in the middle of the crowd, but off to the side. This way I could move off into the dirt if needed depending on how much the crowd pushed me around.

The gun went off and everyone took off running. I tried to stay at a steady pace at the beginning, because I knew this section was flat and would lead to the first uphill climb. I didn’t want to blow up in the first mile. I got to the top and freewheeled it down, then hit the first water station where the Tri Girls were. I was gasping for air, so didn’t have a chance to yell hello, but still got cheering from all the ladies there.

The first couple of bridges were pretty easy, then we hit the flooded bridge. I ran across and made sure I picked up my feet real high to not trip on anything I couldn’t see under the water. I settled into a group of runners that were running a similar pace, and we would trade positions back and forth. I also noticed that when you wear clothing that shows off your tattoos you get a lot of cheering from the tattooed crowd.

I hit Shuttle Stop #8, and it was time to settle into the climb. My goal was to not walk, no matter how bad I wanted to, and no matter how slow I went. I was going to do some sort of stride that was nowhere near running, but definitely wasn’t walking. This meant that I would get passed by those walking. I didn’t care. My goal was to run the whole thing and I was going to “run” no matter how slow my pace was. The road wound around the mountain side, and at points it looked like there was no end in sight. Just more winding road covered with people. I put my head down and focused on the ground in front of me, and just getting to that turnaround point. Finally the pavement changed and I crossed over onto the smoother section, which meant the top was near. I reached the turnaround and saw Jim from Master’s swim and the TriTucson series handing out water. I grabbed some water and started the wonderful downhill.

Running downhill is almost as painful as running uphill. The legs take a beating trying to control speed to where you don’t go rolling down the hillside. I flew down the big hill I had just climbed, and settled into an easier pace. My heartrate had been in zone 4-5 for much of the uphill climb in the canyon, so this was a chance for it to come down and recover some. I had forgotten my shoes had been soaked by the water crossings until I crossed them again. My shoes had squeezed out most of the water but once again filled up and started sloshing again.

I passed the TriGirl water station one more time and knew I was almost there. I just had to get up the last uphill and then it truly would be all downhill to the end. I reached the base of the hill and others around me started walking. I settled into my granny gear and got up the hill. The previous hills had taken a ton out of my legs and I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the end in time. I tried to run the last downhill and flat as hard as possible. The sun was now almost completely set by now, and I was chasing what little daylight there was left.

I pushed it hard over the line and hit my watch. I finished the 7.4 miles in 1:11:09, which was a 9:40 average pace. I had blown my goal time out of the water! Of course my legs were going to pay for it. I grabbed some water and spent some time stretching before getting in the car and heading home. Overall it was a great race on a really challenging course.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Impressive pace on that course - way to go!