Sunday, March 3, 2013

Old Pueblo 50 Mile race report

Old Pueblo 50 mile endurance run: 50+ miles and 7,500ft of elevation gain in the Santa Rita Mountains.

It was 5:59a.m.
Pitch black, low 30's.
Sion and I were jumping up and down at the start line like a couple of teenage girls at a Brittany Spears concert.
Nate asked me “ So what are you going for? 7 hours? 7:30?”
I always lie when people ask me that, probably because I seldom meet my own expectations at these events.
“I was thinking like 8 hours.” I said, but I was really shooting for 7 -7:30, like he said.
We were off!
Let the always anti-climatic-shuffle-after-the-ultra-starting-gun begin.
Up the hill and to the left towards the mountains, the moon and the stars.
As I recall, the lead pack went something like this for the first 25 miles:
Todd Braje.
Michaeal Carson.
Sion, Charlie and me.
Behind us were Jamil, Polly, Nate and Ron.
Sion and I ran together for basically the whole first half of the race. It was a lot of fun. We get along well and always have plenty to talk about, but even when we don't, that's o.k. too. We were both feeling good. At one point I asked him what our pace was and he replied with “We're doing 7's”
I asked myself “Is that too fast?” but promptly responded with “Whatever.”
It was too fast. 
Sion and I both made the mistake of feeding off each others energy and chasing the leaders without actually admitting we were doing so. Sion kept saying “We're running a smart race right now.” and I would respond with “Hell yea, we are.”
Coming into the mile 7 aid station I saw Becky, and Lo and Behold, standing next to her, was Steve. It was an awesome surprise. Steve had planned on running OP50 and we had trained together quite a bit, but he was unable to make it to the race, so I didn't expect to see him out there.
“Those guys set a good pace.” I said.
“You're not far behind them.” He responded.
But Steve knows me pretty well, and while I could be wrong, what I imagine he was thinking was “What you're doing right now... It's stupid. Slow down.”
This whole course is pretty uneventful. Nothing technical. Nothing terribly steep. Just long gradual climbs and descents on dusty fire roads. Pretty much everything I dislike in race, but the views were beautiful.
Sion and I came into the mile 25 aid station together (entirely too fast) and there was Dallas cheering us on, as well as the infamous Mike Duer. I grabbed some sunscreen, ate a potato, put some glide on my nipples, loaded up on ClifShots and we were off.
The next climb was particularly irritating. It was about two miles of straight uphill with a wicked head wind. Sion had been warning me about this section we agreed to a run/walk rotation. About half way through the climb we could see a pack of runners at the bottom.
“Is that Polly down there?” Sion asked
"I think so." 
“Shit.” I said “We're about to get chicked.”
Polly Campbell is a phenomenal runner. About a month back a bunch of us did a 50K on the AZ trail and Polly did the whole thing with one 8 oz water bottle finishing in 04:39, while me, with all my gels and race vest full of water, bonked and finished in 5 hours. She also got first female at Coldwater the week before. She's one tough cookie.
At mile 29 I came in 3rd place behind Todd and Michael.
Becky said “Do you need sun screen?”
“Nah, I put some on already!”
“No, you need more.”
She started spraying me with sunscreen.
“Look at your neck! It's burnt!”
I was laughing.
Steve said “Babe, let him go.”
I had some sprite as Polly, Jamil and a few others came in and we all left together.
Between mile 29 and 33 is where my stomach issues really started to kick in. I was feeling queasy.
Polly passed me.
Jamil Passed me.
Ron passed me.
We all sort of ran together for the next 4 miles. We talked about running, racing and all of Jamil's ultra glory and good deeds.
Jamil asked “ How you feeling?”
“I'm feeling ok, I just can't get my stomach to stop sloshing” 
“Yea.” he said “I can hear that thing!”
We all came into 33 together. I sat down and they took off.
My stomach started cramping bad, I curled over in my seat.
I asked the Aid Station volunteers “Do you guys run this crap?”
They said no.
“Yea, well I don't know why I do this shit. If it weren't for that belt buckle I'd drop out, but I want that belt buckle, even if I have to walk the rest of the way.”
I got up and walked about twenty feet and then sat in the mud, grunting like a pig.
After a few minutes I got up and a volunteer shouted “You o.k?”
I jogged up the road about ¼ mile. Walked another ¼. Then my calves and hamstrings cramped up along with my stomach. I laid down on the side of the road. I thought about going back to the aid station and dropping. I sat up and put my head between my legs. Then up the hill came Nate.
“C'mon man!” he Said.
“I can't. I've got cramps.”
And he was gone.
After a few more minutes I stood up.
“Even if you have to walk the rest of the way...” I thought.
I walked for quite some time. I would throw in a jog here and there, but mostly I would walk. It went this way for the next 7 miles. I was really stoked to get to mile 40. Ken Greco was there. He's just the guy you'd want to talk to if you were having a shitty day on the trails. And he had a RedBull for me.
He asked me how I was doing, I told him and then said “I think I'll just hang out for a while.”
I sat down. I drank some water. I ate some food. I ate some S-Caps. I sipped on my RedBull.
Then up came Sion and Charlie, looking equally as crappy as me.
“Hey guys!”
We all talked about how bad we were feeling.
I said “If I have to eat one more gel, I think I'm going to shit myself.”
Charlie responded with “Yea, I think I already did back there.”
A good laugh is the best medicine.
Ken put ice in our bottles, Ice in our hats, told us the rest was easy and then we were off.
Sion, Charlie and I ran together for a while. Then suddenly I started to feel o.k. I was able to keep a slow steady pace and as time ticked by that pace got faster. I pulled away from the guys and just kept going.
I ran into Ron at a confusing intersection who was coming back towards me.
He said “I think that's the wrong way, I didn't see any markers.”
So we headed up the AZ trail for a couple minutes in the opposite direction, but that looked wrong and we didn't see any markers, so we went back down and back where he had just come from. Eventually we saw a marker and we were on our way. This is where I started feeling really good again. I started popping off what felt like 6:30 miles. I dropped Ron and soon I came up on Todd who was walking.
“How's it going man?” I asked.
He didn't say anything.
I later found out that he had gotten lost a couple times and wasn't a happy camper.
And then there was Mike Walker.
Standing in the middle of the trail in a bright orange shirt in all his glory.
“Oh! I am so happy to see your face!” I said. “Where's your aid station?”
“Just down this hill, c'mon.”
We ran down to the sweet smell of the grill, had my stomach been feeling better I would've had me some bacon. They had awesome snacks at 46. Bacon? Coffee infused brownies? Genius!
I was bummed not to be able to eat any of it.
“How you feeling?” Mike asked.
“Oh, hands down, worst day of running I've ever had. Just...Horrible.”
“Worse than Flag???”
“Oh yea, way worse.”
“Only 4 more miles” He said.
Someone else chimed in “Well 5 more miles.”
“or 4 more heartbreaking miles.” Said another volunteer.
“Wait.” I said “ So probably like 6 miles?”
“No, about 5 miles.”
Mike re-filled my water bottle again, I thanked them and I was off.
There was only one more small climb in the last 5 miles, but the rest was very runnable and nothing eventful happened. It was nothing more than one foot in front of the other under the southwest sun.
I came through the finish line in 5th place around 8:15 or so with everybody cheering and clapping.

Thank you to all the volunteers, runners and even the bystanders at this race. For as bad as my race went, I had a great day. It's rare that I stick around and socialize, but this time I didn't really want to leave. I've met so many genuine people at these events and in the Southern Arizona ultra community since moving here last February. I'm going to miss a lot of you. Thank you for a memorable day.

See you out there!

 Coming into the finish

 Happy to finish

 Me, Polly and Sion at the finish

cowdog on a horse

Finishers buckle

Race finish photo's by Kristi Nelson


  1. congratulations! I always wanted to complete this I am way too old and not that interested. Love the photos! Thanks for publishing!

  2. Never to old. Not interested I can see. I'm not interested in EVER running that race again.

    Thanks for reading!