Sunday, December 9, 2012

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Mile Race Report

My plan for this race was to try 2 new strategies:
#1 Run my own race and don't try to go out with the leaders
#2 Eat more calories (2 ClifShots every hour + aid station food)
Turns out those two small choices worked out well..

We started at 7 a.m. at the Mcdowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills, AZ. After our 1 minute pre-race briefing we were off. To be honest Aravaipa Running does such a good job directing races and marking the course that they could probably get away without a pre-race briefing.
Michael Carson and Brian Tinder set the leading pace at what looked like 6:45-7:00 per mile and as I had promised myself, I held back. I wore a Garmin, which I usually don't do, and everytime the pace got faster than 7:40 I'd have to tell myself  "Too fast, Korey. You've gotta back off."
Most of the race was on fairly easy rolling single track through the desert. The temperature was near perfect all morning and didn't get past the mid 70's in the afternoon. It was nice to run on fairly flat trails. It made keeping a steady pace easy.
There was one significant climb/descent between mile 20 and 22. It was up a service road which was described by the RD's as "extremely" steep, which my friend Mike Walker and I had been making fun of prior to the race. Turns out it was no joke. I'm pretty sure it was only between 1,500 and 2,000ft but it seemed to be straight up, which made the toe slamming descent worse than the climb.
When I was about 1/2 mile from the peak, Michael Carson was blazing down. "Good job!" I said. Not too far behind him was Brian Tinder. "Good job!" I said again. When I got to the top, the volunteer was sitting next to the cell tower on his cell phone and said "Hey! I can't get any bars up here." I needed a good laugh! 
I said "I thought those guys were bullshitting when they were talking about this 'EXTREMELY' steep climb!"
He said "Nope... It's my first time up here too, I'm just glad I don't have to run 50 miles."
I just laughed and headed down.
I managed to run a 6:59 mile down the mountain, but even that was a challenge. My toes were slamming against the inside of my shoes, but it was too steep to just let loose. I'm surprised I didn't get a black nail! I saw my good friend Dallas towards the bottom and he said "You're in second, keep running smart." I said "Awesome!" but I thought to myself "I'm in 3rd, I know I'm in 3rd."
I saw my buddy Mike and he asked how I was feeling. I simply yelled "That hill is a Bitch!"
My pace varied for the next 6 -7 miles after the descent between 7:30 - 9:00 per mile, slower as I hit a rough patch (I usually do between mile 24-26) but I just kept telling myself  "Hey! you get your Ipod at mile 30!"
I got to the mile 30 aid station with my drop bag. Sucked down a ClifShot. Drank some ginger ale. Filled my water bottle. Chugged it. Ate an S-cap. Filled my water bottle again. Grabbed my Ipod and was on my way. Dramamine by Modest Mouse was playing when I turned it on and I couldn't have been happier. I left that aid station with the biggest smile on my face.
The next 8 miles I kept a pace between 7:30 - 8:30 per mile. At mile 32 I had beat my 50K PR by 50 minutes. At the mile 38 aid station Adam Barstad told me I was in second place. I asked what happened to the 2nd place guy and he said "I don't know, but there's only one guy ahead of you." I was still kind of hesitant to believe it.
From mile 38 on I struggled quite a bit more than I would have liked too. I kept telling myself  "12 more miles, Korey. You run that every day. 10 more miles, Korey. You really do run that every day. 8 More miles, Korey. If you ran that in the morning you'd be mad at yourself for doing a lame-ass run. 6 more miles..." And so it continued.
During the last 11 miles of the race I would  randomly see a nice shaded spot and lay down for a minute or see some soft sand and sit down for 30 seconds or come upon an unmanned water stop and just sit under the table for a minute. This made for at least six 11 minute miles, which cost me about 20 minutes in the race. Something to keep in mind next time.
I came through the mile 45 drop bag location which was at the start/finish. I grabbed a Red Bull out of my drop bag.
I drank half my Red Bull. And I was off with the fam-bam cheering me on. It was awesome to have them there supporting me. That in itself is a feeling unlike any other.
The last 5 miles were slow going. Between 8:30 and 10:30 pace.
At mile 49 I came up over a hill and saw a guy in a blue shirt walking and I thought to myself "There is no way!"
I kept trying to step behind bushes so he wouldn't see me and take off because I didn't want to chase him, but as I came up over another roller he turned around and looked straight at me. I just took off as fast as I could, but to my surprise when I caught up with him at mile 49.5 he was still walking.
I was expecting to have to sprint it in, but he told me he couldn't run anymore.
I came through the finish line in 1st place in 07:26:27 with my family jumping up and down and screaming for me. It was awesome! It was my first time running 50 miles and my first time winning a race since I started running almost 3 years ago. It felt amazing. All that hard work finally paid off!

Aravaipa Running put on a great race as usual. I didn't get confused at any of the intersections. It was well supported and there were plenty of aid stations. Thank you guys for another great experience and a big thank you to all the volunteers who spent their whole day out there on the course. Thank you thank you thank you!
Also thank you to all of the other runners out there defeating great distances. EVERY SINGLE person I meet on the trails offer words of encouragement: "Nice job!""Keep it up!" "Looking good!" I just love the sportsmanship involved in ultra running. It doesn't matter if you're running a 6 hour 50 mile or a 10 hour 50K, we're all out there doing something amazing and encouraging one another along the way and that is a great feeling.

Feel free to follow me on twitter @koreykonga

For those of you interested in data: 

Race face

Coming through the finish line

Nick Coury and myself at the finish line

 The always creative Aravaipa trophy

Pretty stoked about the days events



  1. I'm stoked for you man! You looked really strong going up that huge climb, I think you put like 7 minutes on me and I wasn't moving slow! I was happy to hear that you won, but I'm sure not as happy as you were. Great running, I hope to see you at future comps.

  2. Thanks Marco! It was good to meet you out there. Good luck at Antelope Island 100, I'm sure you're gonna kill it!
    See you around