Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2013 Pemberton 50K: Hole in the Wall at the Cat House

Thirty-nine degrees and raining? In the winter, Arizona weather is often warm and sunny compared to most other places in the U.S., but somehow the past three times I've gone there for ultras, it's been cool and rainy, even cold.

That's how race day started. Dennis and I were barely awake at 4:30 am, listening to the rain on the roof at my dad's house. I was prepared for any weather, but wasn't looking forward to 50 kilometers of cold rain. I could have stayed home for that and had snow.

The night before, when we arrived in Phoenix, it was cloudy and breezy, but there was plenty of blue sky and it didn't look bad, other than the forecast, which was for rain.

By the time we got in the car to drive to Fountain Hills at 5:15, the roads were dry except for a few places, and there were a few stars visible in the sky. Promising blue holes overhead.

We left my dad's house and drove north to catch Chaparral Road to the 101 freeway. As we crossed Camelback Road, we saw a big coyote, wandering around in a parking lot, in the morning darkness. Must have been a rich coyote, hanging out near Fashion Square in Scottsdale. That's the first time I've ever seen a coyote in downtown Scottsdale.

We stopped off to grab my usual pre-ultra meal, a breakfast sandwich from McDonald's. I scarfed it down, knowing it was a short, fast pace I'd be running, and hoped I'd digest it in time. We drove through the ghost town of Fountain Hills, careful of the omnipresent Sheriff Joe deputies who love to catch people speeding at odd hours on the deserted streets with the 30 mph speed limit.

We arrived at the park and picked up my race packet. It was cold, but not terrible. Nothing wet was coming down from the sky, it didn't even smell like rain, but the sky was cloudy. It was dark until the race start at 7 am.


Brian Wieck and his mom, Joan, were at the table with other volunteers, handing out race bibs. Joan and Brian's dad, Keith, who was at a softball tournament, were our neighbors when we lived in Fountain Hills. We've been friends with Brian since he started the race, 13 years ago.



I hit the bathroom and got my act together before the start. I saw Robert Andrulis, and Chris Harrison, two of my ultra buddies from Arizona. Everyone was bundled up except for a few people in shorts, but hats and gloves, jackets and tights were the norm. I felt as cold as I ever do in Colorado. I wore my PearlIzumi jacket and my capri tights, neck gaiter over my ears, and gloves.

Brian gave the pre-race briefing in the faint sunrise. We lined up, and we were off...


I took off at a good pace, not too fast but one that would be a challenge to keep. I felt good on the first ascent and over the hill into the first aid station, I ran much of this talking with Robert. My legs were tired, they burned. I knew it was from the three hard 15ish mile days earlier in the week,and that was the point. I wanted to run unrested. I still moved well.

At the first aid station I saw Ric Hatch from Flagstaff, he's been working that aid station there since the beginning of the race, I remember working it with him one year when it rained. There was snow on the little knob of boulders above our heads, maybe 500 feet of elevation above us. I could feel sleet for about 5 minutes, but it didn't last. The sun went in and out from the clouds, but was mostly behind the clouds. Cold.

This year's race featured the new and improved Pemberton Trail. The last hour of the loop is no longer through the sand pit that used to drag on forever and ever and ever. Now there is a nice wide dirt trail that winds through the desert, with mostly a gentle downhill grade. The length is roughly the same as the old trail, but it makes it seem so much quicker now. And no sand! I don't know if it's faster because it's very twisting, lots of short, sharp little curves, but the surface is much better and it's much more interesting than the straight, sandy service road we used to run.

The second aid station had a canopy over it, and James Bonnett was there. I've known James since he was a little kid. Now he's all grown up. I grabbed some coke and pretzels and took off.

My stomach was not too happy in this section on the first loop. I realized several things: Too many beans the day before. I'd eaten black beans and rice for lunch and then had hummus for dinner, and I don't think it agreed with me. The McDonald's sandwich prior to running fast was the next problem. I think I'll save those for 12 hour and longer races in the future.

As a result, nature was calling. I felt like I needed to use the facilities, and I was afraid to stop because I'd told Dennis I'd be in between 2:15 and 2:30, and to be there past the timing tent with my stuff when I came through after the first loop. If I arrive late he always worries. That's one of the reasons he doesn't crew for me.

I got in at 2:25 and he had the camera (good), but he didn't have my stuff (BAD!). It was at the truck. It only delayed me about 2 minutes, but I whined, "Dennis!" He really is terrible at stuff like this. It's my own fault for asking him to do this for me, because I know better. But I thought it would save me time, and it backfired. The lessons will be repeated until they are learned. Some people are made to be crew people, some are not.


Brian puts on such a good race, and it benefits the park. It's a fast trail race too, defnitely has the potential for a PR. It is highly recommended by this blogger...


I took off on the second loop and immediately started obsessing about Dennis not being there, and then I felt bad for getting annoyed with him, and pretty soon my brain was spinning around inside my skull again, and it was slowing me down. Finally, on the way up the ascent, I had to tell myself, "Shut up and run!"

Another time when I found my mind wandering I brought myself back to reality by thinking of running for Team Gab. I really needed to do my best out there. If a 6 year old can endure two years of torturous medical procedures just to stay alive, I can run a 50K without whining.

Still, I was mentally discombobulated. I could not concentrate or focus, I did move pretty well, but I know I slowed myself down by being a head case. I walked a few times on the ascent but not for very long. My legs were still burning, but no worse than on the first loop. Mostly I was thinking, menopause sucks. How long will this last? For the first 8 or 9 miles of the second loop, my mind was bouncing all over the place.

Once I got on the Pemberton again, I pulled myself together. I felt strong and ran the last hour hard, a bit faster during the last hour than the previous loop. I had hoped to finish in under 5 hours but it wasn't happening. I settled for my 5:06 and change, and I felt good about the whole run, even with my temporary mental flake-out.


Brian congratulated me at the finish line and I went over to see Joan and get some chili. Dennis was working the finish line, collecting tags off of bibs for the timers. I apologized to him for being the RPB.

I talked with my friend Chris Harrison for a while. He's excited to be doing the Zion 100 in April. I'm a bit envious...

I didn't even come close to placing in my age group, I got my doors blown off by all the 40-something women, but I don't care about that. I got the workout I wanted and a solid 81 mile week, and I learned how to talk myself down from my crazy hormonal state, which I'm sure I haven't seen the last of....

I did run it 12 minutes faster than in 2010. I am going to have to rest to do well in Decatur in 4 weeks. I have 2 more weeks of high mileage and then I taper.

After the race, we hung out for a while and talked with people we know. I was talking to Will LaFollette, whom I haven't seen since before I left Arizona. I almost didn't recognize him! But we got to talking, he's been injured so hasn't been able to run. We got on the topic of retirement. Yeah, that old dinosaur concept from the last century...

This is off the topic, but I have an idea for a new retirement benefit for our generation: body removal from your workplace. Take your last pay check and deduct the cost of removing your body when you croak on the job. Perfect for our generation, who will have to work until we croak.

Brian did the awards, and we hung out just a little longer, then we left before I froze my butt off.
There was another event at the park, one of those obstacle course races. It was crazy, there were a million people and school busses in the lower part of the park, plus Sheriff Joe's deputies. They are everywhere. But no NRA stickers or Steven Seagall sightings. Not even a single black helicopter.

We stopped and saw Houdini and Huey at the park visitor center before we took off. Houdini is the Gila Monster, Huey is the rattlesnake. Both of them are well-cared for at the visitor center thanks to my friend Woofie.


Then we drove by our old house before we left Fountain Hills and went back to Scottsdale.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, it was a relaxed visit with my dad and stepmom. I went for an easy run on the canal Sunday morning, and it was cool but the weather was perfect, clear skies.


The only excitement, if you can call it that, was when my dad was trying to pick up the cat, the cat clawed him and he somehow lost his balance and fell into the wall with his shoulder, leaving a cat-shaped hole in the drywall. Tom & Jerry couldn't get any better than that. We teased my dad about it relentlessly, the cat hole in the wall. Both my dad and the cat are okay, or we wouldn't be laughing about it...
We flew back to Denver and got home early Sunday evening, and the girls were thrilled to see us. They seemed unstressed, Morgan always takes good care of them.

And back to the old routine on Monday morning...

2 comments:

giraffy said...

I cannot imagine running a 50k on tired legs. Maybe that's your super power.

I would have lost my mind if I told my husband to have stuff for me, and he flaked. You're nicer than I am :D

THANK YOU again for running for Team Gab!!

Alene Gone Bad said...

After your husband has done this to you a gazillion times, you finally should learn not to ask him for anything in a race. Therefore, it was MY fault. I am not nicer than you are. You should have heard me in the old days, before I realized this about my husband.

I think you could run a 50K on tired legs, you're already a marathon expert...

Keep the Team Gab thing going...