Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Coldwater Rumble 52K

Getting to the starting line of the Rumble was met with a lot of frustration, then finished with a world of gratitude. After things didn't go in my favor at Javelina, my urge to complete a hundred miler swelled. I wanted to finish what I started so bad that it hurt. And I had just the plan to kill that pain:

Coldwater Rumble 100 miler.

I had three months to (heal) train, the timing was (shitty) good. I began constructing the grand-plan of my 100 mile "redemption race" while hobbling around on a couple of bum knees. But Lord knows, I was determined.

Eventually (entirely too soon), I began training again. I was pounding out some solid runs, even set a PR at TTR's Cowhead Saddle. I followed that by getting off course with Korey at McDowell, a 50 mile race I shouldn't have been running in the first place. I now consider that a blessing in disguise.. All of this while throbbing knee pain continued to scream at me:

It hurts.
You're an idiot!

A dreadful ending to my 2013 racing season had beat me into submission. There wasn't going to be a 100 mile redemption race at Coldwater Rumble. Woe is me. The signs were clear, it was time to reluctantly take that "forced time off" from running. "Can't do Coldwater" I dramatically proclaimed to Kristi, "This is awful!!"

I decided to take that "forced time off" and rest. In a very short amount of time, eleven days to be exact, both of my knees bounced back. I began to run again and the pain had miraculously vanished.

Do you believe in miracles?!

"So I think I want to do the Coldwater 52k" I explained to Kristi, "I am sure I can get in good enough shape by then.." It wasn't the race I had originally planned for, but last year's Coldwater 50k was the very race that helped me decide to let marathons take a backseat, and focus on becoming an ultra-runner.

What a fitting way to unfold 2014!!

In the four weeks I had to train leading up to the race, I pushed the envelope as far as I possibly could. Putting in as many miles that my newly recovered legs could handle. Everything went as good as I could have hoped for. I capped off my training with over 40 miles and a shit-ton of gain in the final weekend leading up to the Rumble.

I was ready.

It is a sacred feeling to be heading into a race feeling healthy. I was relaxed as Kristi and I cruised out to Goodyear, AZ. I put in the work and my body felt great... and I wasn't hurt. Kristi even decided to participate in her first trail-race, a four mile option that Aravaipa Running had also included. Those Coury brothers know how to run a business! And run!!

We safely arrived in Glamorous Goodyear and checked into to our suite. I even managed to catch some shut-eye, which is a rarity before a race. Actually, it is just a rarity. I digress.

The morning greeted us a bit warmer than expected. We arrived at Estrella Mountain Regional Park about an hour before the 52K. Kristi's race was an hour after mine, so this time there was the added element of BOTH of us being nervous. We chatted it up a bit with our buddy, Aravaipa's own (con-man) announcer Michael Farris and soon it was time for the 52K racers to line up.

I wished Kristi luck in her first ever trail-race experience and made my way to the start. I had already studied the field prior, so I knew who I was up against. Michael Carson and Bret Sarnquist were who I felt would be the most competition. Also, Rick Valentine had some strong races under his belt and would be gunning for a win. Standing at the line, I could feel this was going to be a battle.

I was going to suffer and I was craving it.

The moment before a race begins is precious. The determination is palpable. It is priceless.

~At the starting line, soaking it in.

The countdown concluded and the race commenced! The first few hundred yards a group of us stayed relatively close, even enjoyed some banter along the way. We hit the trailhead and the race began!

I have gotten a little better at holding back in races so I was staying very relaxed. No one wanted to take the lead position, so I gladly accepted. I was running conservatively, making sure not to make any serious separation. It felt good. I felt good.

Staying right around an 8 minute pace I eventually widened a gap and I was running all alone. I popped my headphones on and went into my zone. I envisioned crossing the finish line in first place. I would throw my hands up and shake my fists! Yeah! I won!!

I continued on and I daydreamed. I thought about where I have been and where I am now. Who I am. I have meaning. I love my life. Looking back on how it was, a life full of gifts squandered. I have a new outlook. This is a gift I will not squander. I run.

I soon hit the Coldwater Aid Station and began loading up. I had been chomping on Clifshot Blocks all morning and felt fully charged. I was out of there in seconds!!

Around 10 miles into the race I was jerked out of my comfortable dream state. There was a runner rapidly approaching me. I yanked out my headphones and slapped myself back into game mode. "Okay, Sion. Get it together" I told myself.

"Hey, how are you doing? I'm Sion" I said, only looking to get an answer to who he was. "I'm Rick, nice to meet you." This guy had a stiff pace going and I began to feel a little winded for the first time of the day.

Rick looked solid, like he was on a Sunday stroll. "How you feeling?" I asked. "Besides the heat, I am feeling good" he responded, "we don't have this kind of weather in Idaho.." I tried some pessimism,  "Good, 'cause we only have 20 some miles to go.." I said with apprehensiveness peppered in my voice.

Rick and I arrived at the Pedersen AS and quickly gobbled down some food. We both agreed that the bean burritos were delectable. As always, Aravaipa Aid Stations were stacked and packed! I bolted out of there and Rick quickly followed. I let Rick go ahead and followed behind.

Once again I felt winded. I remembered a wise man once said, "If you are running a race with someone else, chances are one of you isn't running your race."

So, I let up on the gas and watched Rick pulled away. "Damn, this dude is having the race of his life or I am gonna witness some carnage along the way.." I wondered. On I went, alone once again. This time more aware of my pace. "Umm, I wonder if that is gonna hurt me?" I thought to myself, regarding the extra-effort I put in running with Rick.

A few miles passed and I saw Rick in the distance. I could see he had already slowed down. I made sure to maintain my pace and quickly caught up to him. "Is that you Sion?!" He shouted at me. "Yeah, C'mon man, lets go!" I encouraged him.

We soon arrived back at the Coldwater AS and refueled. We cruised out of there, I let Rick lead the way. I was following close behind, only now we were running my pace. I could tell he was beginning to struggle.

Whether you agree with this or not, I feel like one of the most fulfilling aspects of running and competing is that moment when you take control. When you pull ahead.

I do this because I love it.

Toward the end of the 20 mile loop I made my decision to pull ahead of Rick. "Hey, I am gonna pass by, man. I'll probably see you in a little bit.." I said. "Yeah, go ahead. No worries.." Rick replied.

The last stretch back down to Rumble Headquarters was screaming downhill and I made use of it! I rolled through the 20 mile loop in 2 hours and 35 minutes feeling in control of the race. I grabbed some Gatorade and shared a moment with Kristi (who had already finished her race!). Rick once again motivated me to make short time of the AS. I yanked my shirt off and flung it in the air as I bolted out of there. It was heating up.

~Wrapping up the big loop, 20 miles in.

Within minutes of leaving Headquarters I saw Carson rumbling toward me. "Ahh shit, there's Carson." I shouted as we passed each other. Carson giggled. "Dammit, he must be feeling good" I thought. Seconds later, Sarnquist followed suit, looking as solid as ever.

I knew it was only a matter of time before those guys would make this a race!! I was excited. I felt very good and knew if I could maintain my pace, I would win this race.

I felt great. No stomach issues whatsoever. Hydration intact and no cramps to speak of. Around 25 miles I galloped into the Coldwater AS for the 3rd time of the day. I was leading the race and the pressure was on. I quickly continued on, zig-zagging up the "all-of-a-sudden" more difficult trail. I felt a little over-heated.

I managed to hit the marathon mark right around 3 and a half hours. "Man, that's pretty quick.." I thought to myself. It was soon after that, probably at about 27 miles, I felt myself bonk pretty hard. This bonk was one of those viscious bonks, one of those mean bonks. A bonk not for the faint of heart. "Oh shit, this is going to get rough."

My pace had slowed but I was still running. I began using the good old fashioned "perpetual forward motion" mantra and focused on my breathing. I felt like someone was coming up behind me. I looked back and right on my heels was Bret. "What up, man?" I asked while trying to look as comfortable as possible. "What's up, Sion? Did the guy in the green pass you? He asked referring to Rick. "No. I don't know what happened to him..?" I was having trouble maintaining a conversation. Bret seemed excited to take over first place as he cruised up the trail ahead of me. 

At 28 miles, I had lost first place. The feeling was demoralizing. "Okay, Sion" I tried encouraging myself, "second place ain't bad. Hell, even if Rick or Carson catch me, third place ain't too shabby either." I remembered that just a month ago I was out of commission. I was on that required hiatus. "I sure as hell don't want fourth place, though.." I sadly thought. I took a deep breath and continued on the task at hand. 

I soon made it back to the Coldwater AS for the 4th and final time of the day. I choked some Gatorade down and filled up my handheld. As soon as I took off I saw Carson making his way to the AS. "Crap, Carson is going to catch me too.. Dammit!" 

Within a couple of minutes of leaving the aid, Carson comes running up behind me. "Good job" I mumble as he went by. "You too, man" he replied. "Yeah, right. Me too.." 

At this point running was extremely difficult. "With only a month of training, I am doing pretty good I suppose." I thought to myself. I picked up my pace and managed to keep Carson within view for a while. Eventually, he disappeared and I was on my own. 

I wasn't going to give up a top 3 finish.

The last few miles of the race was nothing short of torture. And I loved it. 

I continued at a nice pace and made it up that last steep climb before the descent to Headquarters. When I reached the top there was a lady standing there, gasping for air. "Do you ever ask yourself why you do this stuff?" I said to her with a huge grin spread across my face. She looked up at me and said, "I don't know why any of you do this stuff?" She on the other hand wasn't displaying a grin.

"We do it because we love it!!" I shouted as I began the final descent.

I pushed myself as hard as I could down that last stretch to the finish, leaving nothing behind. I shot through the finish line wrapping up 32.5 miles in 4 hours and 28 minutes for 3rd place overall. Not a bad way to begin the new year!

The homestretch!!!

Bret Sarnquist of Phoenix won the race in 4:19, while Susan Kramer of Cave Creek, AZ took the top spot for the women in a solid time of 5:19. Congrats to the both of you. Nice work! And as always, a big thank you to Aravaipa Running for continuing to bring quality events to us on the regular!!

When I look back on this race, I can't help but smile. Sure, there are a few things I could have done differently but with only a month of solid training, I performed about as good as I possibly could have. I worked through a serious rough patch and learned more about this amazing sport and myself. When I toe the line at a race, my intentions are to give it everything I have.

And that is exactly what I did!

On to the next one!!

1 comment:

  1. Baller! Always like reading your reports man. It's gonna be a solid year!