Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Farewell to Forties...Pemberton Trail 50K 2014

Absolutely the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Or maybe the second most beautiful. It was up there, among the top 2 for sure.

This morning I ran the Pemberton Trail 50K, the race that my friend Brian Wieck has held in McDowell Mountain Regional park near Fountain Hills, AZ, for what seems like the gazillionth time.

The race is 2 loops on the approximately 25K Pemberton Trail loop in the park. This is my old stomping ground, I used to run here all the time when I lived here, just 4 miles away from home.

A low-key, family-run race, Brian and his mom Joan and dad Keith have been involved in this event since the first year, back in 2001, I believe. I am not sure what year he actually started it but I think it was then. Joan is still making the pots of post-race chili, among the many other things she does for the event.

Started out as the perfect morning. it was cool at the start but not cold. I started in shorts, gloves and my lightweight Team Pearl Izumi jacket, which I stripped down to my short-sleeved jersey after the first loop. About 5 minutes into the race I was already kicking myself for not bringing my phone, we were treated to the most incredible sunrise over the Superstitions and Four Peaks imaginable.

Pink, orange and red streaks across the sky. The next photo I borrowed, thanks to Mary Laibe, one of the runners. It really was spectacular, you had to be there of course to experience it.
photo credit: Mary Laibe

Being 11 pounds lighter and 3000 feet lower in altitude, it was hard to judge my pace, but I do know the trail and landmarks well, and I hit the one mile mark at a decent pace, faster than I usually start. This being the first ultra since my injury and my last ultra being in the 40-49 year old age group, I wanted to at least run better than last year. Last year I ran 5:06.

I ate a huge breakfast before I left my dad and stepmom's house, so I really didn't feel hungry for the longest time, I didn't even take a gel during the race. All I had was water and some S-caps, and a couple of small cups of Coke. That is unusual for me, I usually eat, but I just didn't need it today. Still burning off the nursing fat, I guess.

I ran in my Pearl Izumi H3s, this is the first time I've run a trail ultra in them. It seems like they worked very well for me, I will know for sure in the next day or two as I feel any sore spots after the race. But I had no problems with blisters or any issues with the surfaces. I did wear my gaiters, which I'm glad I did, the trail was dry and loose, they haven't had much rain.

I tried not to push it too hard going up the first hill on the first loop. At one point I was getting ready to pull over to water a cactus, when my old friend Dan Gabalski caught up to me. We've known Dan and his wife Heidi for 20 years, since Heidi was one of my students when I taught at Western State College. They live in Flagstaff now. They used to live in Colorado, and luck would have it, they ended up moving to Tucson when we moved back to Colorado from Arizona in 2006.

Once we got on the new section of the Pemberton heading east I felt so good, it feels like a roller coaster with those curves and rolling hills.

I finished the first loop in 2:20, and ran over to the truck to dump my extra clothes and pick up an icy water bottle and gels. I decided to start listening to music at that point, grabbed my ancient MP3 with the trance tunes on it. I might actually upgrade to an ipod this year...

It took me 3 minutes at the truck then I had to pee again soon after I hit the trail. I struggled a little but was able to maintain a decent running pace up the hill again. At the first aid station I grabbed a ltitle cup of coke and slammed it. Then I regretted it, I felt like it was going to come back up. Fortunately it did not. I couldn't believe I still wasn't hungry!

I was running, but dragging ass a bit in the middle section across the park, but once I saw Penis Rock, yes, that is a landmark on the course, I knew I was almost to the turnoff to the roller coaster again. Once I turned back on to the roller coaster section I got a second wind and maintained the same splits from the first loop. I felt great running down that section.

The other boost I got was in the second aid station, both loops, seeing James Bonnett working there. His dad Paul used to be director of Across the Years before Aravaipa Running took it over. I have watched James grow up from when he was a little kid. It's always great to see him and I'm glad he's still involved with the ultra community. They're sort of like family, after all these years.

James told me I looked a lot better than the 4 people ahead of me. Incentive.

I got passed by very few people in the entire event, I think only 3 or 4 men passed me after the first hour, and on the way down toward the finish I passed about 10 people. All men. It was only in the last hour that I started to feel the warm air, I knew I needed to get done before it got really warm. I think my Badwater sauna training might have finally worn off.

I must have been going pretty fast down that trail as it straightens out toward the end. At one point I almost bit it, but caught myself, I did feel a good yank on my left hamstring, yes, the one I injured last year. But so far it seems to be fine. If I didn't catch myself, I would have done a major faceplant and probably some damage to my wrists, face, knees, or who knows what. Lucky.
I finished in 4:54:32, a full 12 minutes ahead of last year's time. I knew I wanted to run under 5 hours, but had no idea what would happen, because I'm not doing nearly as much mileage as I was last year at this time. The weight loss helps so much!

I saw lots of old running buddies down there, it was fun to hang out at the finish and see everyone and catch up. I also met a new Colorado Team Pearl Izumi member, Mike, who was down here from Leadville.

It was 66 degrees at the finish. A little change from 13 below, that it was when I left Denver on Thursday.

I stuck around for the awards. I have no idea where I placed, again, being at the top of my age group puts me way in the back. And there are some wicked fast Arizona runners at that race every year. I think the women's overall winner ran an hour faster than me.

But I was happy with my evenly paced race and my strong improvement over last year, in my first race back. It's a good way to exit my age group in ultras. I'm not sure if I'll do anything short before my birthday, but my next ultra is March 29th in Kansas. And by then I will be officially 50.

This will be a long day, I am going to see my niece tonight. She has the lead role in her high school play.

I'll be here for another few days, I plan to soak up the warmth like an iguana. I just hope my body survived today intact. Look out, Sally O'Malley!
You can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can't take Colorado out of the girl. Still life with beer, my post-50K treat. I earned it.

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