A Humbling Experience... Flagstaff 50 Mile Endurance Run

Course Info!
Elevation  of race was between 7,000 and 9,000 feet. The course featured five significant climbs on Upper Oldham (1850+ ft), Lower Weatherford (1750+ ft), Friedlein Prairie Road (1100+ ft), Little Gnarly/Brookbank (1400+ ft), and Heart Trail (1900+ ft).

To celebrate my year anniversary of ultra running I decidedto give the Flagstaff 50 Mile Endurance Run a shot.  I knew this would not be an easy run, but felt like I needed to challenge myself with a run that scared the hell out of me.  A few days removed from the event, I have mixed emotions, but know I have gained a ton of knowledge from this experience.
This morning I got a text from my buddy that said, “Lots of fun W/good people over shadowed a sucky run….” That text really hit the nail on what this weekend was about.  Yes we went up to Flagstaff for a race, but we also went to enjoy the fellowship we share as runners out on the trail.

5 minutes until the start of the race I walked to the startline.  Buffalo Park brings back many memories from high school cross country meets and the hope was that I wouldstart and finish another race there.  Idecided to run with a regular watch since I knew I would be on the trail longer than 8 hours which is my Garmin's limit.  At 6 AM I joined 27 other runners on a 50 mile Journey.  We ran through the park then crossed into the forest on a trail leading up to the Sunset Aid Station.
I was keeping a steady pace early hiking and running.  The plan was to try and stay at 15 minute mile pace. Looking at the map and elevation profile I figured there would be areas in the race I could move faster, but I wanted to be conservative early.

I knew I was nearing the top of the climb an soon ran out of the woods into a prairie with tall grass. It was a relief to be at the top and have the aid station in site.(Elevation 8908)  As soon as I got to the aid station a worker had my drop bag for me: She even grabbed my sweaty shirt, beanie and gloves and put them in my drop bag. I ate a piece of banana, grabbed a few gummy worms and headed down the trail.  The view was worth the fee of the race.  
Leaving the aid station, I had it in my mind, that the next stretch I could open up my stride and fly down Heart Trail, but instead I struggled to keep my footing.  The trail was very rocky and during training I had rolled my ankle a few times and was hoping to keep it a non-issue.  Finally I was at the bottom of the trail where we begin to gradually ascend back into the forest on the Little Elden Trail.  This is when the 2 front runners of the 50K race passed me. They had had started an hour after our race and it looked like they were flying.
I followed the trail markers then turned left on the forest service road that lead to Shultz Aid station at mile 12.8.  The road was run able but was at an incline and with many more miles to go I decided to hike hard.  The volunteers clapped and shouted encouraging words as I entered the aid station. 
I left the Shultz Aid station and begin the climb up theWeatherford Trail.  I begin to feel the effects of the elevation and was breathing hard.  When I came to the next junction (elevation8878) I stopped and stared at the trail sign. If I went right I would be off course and on my way up to Doyle’ssaddle. Of course I stayed on track and went left on the trail heading for Freidlein Prairie road.  The next section was mostly down hill and I should have been able to run but my legs were hurting.  A runner I had spoken with earlier in the run had caught me and we began to chat again; it helped me to take my mind off things and it got me running. 
Nearing the Kachina Aid Station, at mile 18.9, I saw the number one runner in the 50 mile race.  I was worried about making the cut offs and was relieved when at the aid I saw a few more of the lead pack and realized I was not far from the leaders.  The next section was 3 miles out and 3 miles back.  My new found excitement did not last long.  I could not keep a steady pace/run for more than a couple of minutes.  It took me 2 hours to go 6 miles. 

As I returned to the Kachina Aid again at mile 25, I was at the halfway point of the race.  My stomach was upset and I dreaded the thought of another gel.  I was also crushed to find out I was in last place.  It broke my already shattered spirit.  One of the volunteers told me I was doing great and I was an hour ahead of the cutoff.  I decided to keep going.  I left the aid station and walked a bit but did not get far before turning around.  I was mentally and physically done.  And so my day ended at mile 25 after 7 hours out on the trail. 

I am trying hard not to dwell on this.  Maybe I should have dropped down to the 50k run.  This will for sure be a humbling experience and help me to refocus my running goals. One thing for sure is it has brought me back to reality.  I am not invincible. 

I think this race will grow and be one of the great ones.  As always Aravaipa puts on one heck of anevent!  Every aid station worker I came in contact with made me feel like a king for the few moments they helped me out.  Even after I dropped and waited formy ride they continued to make sure I was okay. 

Event Tech Tee


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