Grandpa Jim's 50K Race Recap
We got to the North Mountain Visitor’s Center a little after 5 a.m. The visitor center would play host to the finish line and the mile 23 aid station. It was also where we would park and be shuttled to the start of the race. We piled into the 3 vans and headed to the starting line. I knew this was going to be one very demanding journey through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The starting line for the race was at intersection of Cholla and Inverngordon. When we got to the intersection, got out of the vans, and gathered awaiting the start. Some stretched, others ducked into the bushes for a last minute potty break, and I nervously fiddled with my watch hoping it would sync before the race started. I was relieved when it finally did.
The race started with one runner jetting out for an early lead as the majority jogged up Cholla Lane to meet the Cholla Trail. Heading up Camelback Mountain, I was at the back of the pack along with my buddies Tim and Giles. We hiked single file by way of head lamp, which added to the adventure. As the sun rose behind us, I could see the top of the Camelback Mountain.
Tim and I stayed together most of the way down Echo Canyon. We were chatting, joking, and talking about ultra runners and races. When we got to the Echo canyon parking lot we had only traveled 3 miles and it had taken us about 1 hour and 45 minutes. I sent a text to my wife. I know this is a race sin, but I was trying to give her an idea of my progress since she planned to be at mile 17, the Dreamy Draw Trailhead. We left the Echo Canyon parking lot headed west towards 36th St. and Lincoln Dr. When we got there, there was a mini aid station. The workers had an ice chest with water bottles and gels. I grabbed some gels and a bottle of water. Tim, Giles, and I were now running together heading north on 36th St. to our next destination, Piestewa Peak.
Aid Station (Mile 7)
We checked into the aid station fueled up and were on our way. I had never been to Piestewa Peak and would not have imagined my first time would be during a trail race. I followed slowly behind Tim and Giles as we began our ascent. I was breathing hard and pushing just as hard to make the climb. The trail was congested with hikers. Tim and Giles waited for me at the top and I was grateful for that.
Half way down Piestewa Peak is an alternate route that takes you on a trail back and around the mountain and back down to the aid station. The climbing had begun taking a toll on my legs. I was behind on my calories and the gels were upsetting my stomach. I drank as much water as I could, knowing I could fill up my pack at the 12 mile aid station.
Aid Station (Mile 12)
I filled my pack with water and drank a cup of Gatorade. I snagged a bottle of water and bag of Lays potato chips to take with me. We were now back on the trail headed east towards 36th St. As the street came near I was running full stride downhill and I twisted my left ankle near the bottom. I thought my race was over. I told Tim and Giles to run ahead and I would try hard to keep up. I got back in stride as we were now on trail 8 heading north towards the 40th St. trail head.
Aid Station (Mile 17)
Tim, Giles, and I ran into the Dreamy Draw Trailhead aid station together. After we checked in we walked down to a picnic table near the parking lot where mine and Tim's wife were waiting. They had snacks, cold water, and other goodies waiting for us. It was great, not only did I appreciate it but, it gave me a much needed moral boost. We thanked them and headed back on the trail.
We ran through a tunnel under the 51 freeway. Guess what was waiting for us, more hills. I was hiking hard up the hills and running as strong as I could on the flat and downhill sections of the course. Giles had pulled ahead and was looking strong. Tim told me to go ahead and he would catch up. He was looking for a Twix candy bar from his camel pack.
It was nearing noon and getting warm. I begin to fill my mouth with water from my camel pack then spit it into my cupped hand. I then splashed it onto my head and back of my neck. As I crossed under Cave Creek Road through the tunnel I knew I was about two miles from aide station at mile 23. At this point it seemed like I was walking more then running.
I came to a fork on the trail and went right. As I began to approach a golf course, I knew I had taken a wrong turn. I turned around; luckily I had not run too far off the trail. I refocused and got back on the course. I was soon running under 7th Ave. and I could see the aid station.
Aid Station (Mile 23)
As I came into the aid station I saw my wife and friends sitting on some rocks. After checking in I chatted with them a bit and contemplated dropping from the race. As I put my camel pack back on, I could feel cold water leaking down my back; the cap had not been threaded on-correctly. Once it was fixed I walked over to Grandpa Jim for instructions on the last 7 miles. I struggled to comprehend the instructions he was giving to me. I limped out of the aid station and did not get far before I decided to call it a day. I had ascended 5564 feet. I wanted badly to complete North Mountain and Shaw Butte but not at the risk of injury. My first DNF (did not finish). This course kicked my A$$.