After 3 and 1/2 years of not using this blog, I think the best way to re-start is with a recap of my Zane Grey 2013.
Now this was a great day, I came into it respectfully undertrained but there was no way I was going to miss ZG! I ran the 2012 race so I knew the demands of what lay ahead of me, and how much I would regret if I didn't do it. Going into a race knowing it’s not going to be your best day is a bit of a relief. It’s a comfort to accept the run-enjoy it-and-just finish attitude. I knew I had the distance in me and that I finally had a sound body, it’s been back to back injuries since January and running finally came to a point where I just had to suck it up, sit still, and heal. My head and heart were ready to carry me though the day.
Lucky me had Emmet on board crewing for me and solid ultra chick Michelle Patuto ready to pace the last 17 miles. We arrived at the race start 4:30 or so, checked in, and stayed warm in the car until 4:55. At the start line we found friends, said well wishes and then off to run. The first 8 miles of the race are during the sunrise hours, under pine cover and single track forest trail for the most part. The ascent during the first 8 is gradual and sneaky, there is a real potential to waste energy here as the morning air is cool, the trail is friendly, and spirits are high.
Aid station Camp Geronimo, 8 miles in, rolling through on happy legs, greeted by cowbells, and a little slip in the water crossing just before for all to see. I was the most out of it at this station, I had a groove going and didn’t want to stop, luckily Emmet was there to remind me to ditch my arm sleeves and trade my headlamp for sunglasses, I just wanted to get back and play in the dirt!
On to the next 9 miles until Washington park aid station 17 miles in. Tunnel vision happens during this race, the sights are breathtaking and the course is incredibly technical. It is hard to appreciate the beauty out there when your whole scope of vision is narrowed to the next 6 feet in front of you. During this portion runners begin to get a taste of the cruel red crumbly rock climbs. Coming into 17 legs are still fresh and this runner was still high and having so much fun. My crew was so ready for me I wanted to give them all sweaty salty hugs! At this point Pat Devine had joined our posse and I was a seriously pampered kid. Change of hydration pack, schemer of sunblock, a quick warning from Emmet to be careful of tripping, and back to the trail. About a ½ mile out I was served a nice slice of humble pie from the trail gods in the form a fast downhill trip. This is where I know I’m nuts because it was a great fall! I have always wondered if I were to trip on a fast downhill if the instinct to tuck and roll would be there. Well it was and I was thrilled! My shoulder and hip took the blow, I stood up, shook the dirt off, gave myself an internal high-five and kept on going from what could have been a really ugly fall.
Now the climb to Hell and the climb after, in hindsight all I remember is miles of the heat exposed crumbly red rock climbs and miles of the overgrown slippery rock-hiding grass. Hell’s Gate aid station at mile 25 is always an oasis but the Fish Hatchery 33 mile aid station is the goal on this stretch. There were a few parts here where my head was the only thing moving me forward as my legs were both giving me the middle finger.
About mile 30 I was cruising down and startled a huge rattler, this Mr Bitey must have been at least 4 ft. As I passed the snake quickly coiled up and readied to strike, I could hear it hissing and rattling behind me as I kept on running. Having grown up seeing these guys all the time in the AZ Mtns I didn't think to much about it until 10 seconds later I heard a very loud “Oh SHIIIIIIIIII***”, mental note, the next time I see a snake I’ll shout “snake” to warn those behind me, sorry guy behind me!
It may just be me but when you near an aid station on ZG there is a rush of adrenaline like no other. Michelle was about to run the last 17 with me AND it was only 17 more to go, yeah!!!!! I turn into a giddy kid out there. I wasn't going to mention the fall until after the race but of course the first thing Emmet said on seeing me was "your fall doesn't look to bad", can't sneak nothin past this guy. Emmet was spot on as usual with making sure Michelle and I were ready to go, and Pat was there to help too, it’s hard not to feel like a prima donna when you mention how a soda would be good and within seconds your friend has one for you. Thanks guys!!
11 miles to See Canyon station mile 44. Michelle was on board with my plan, we hike up any incline, no matter how small, and run the flats (there are none) and downhills. At this point my lack of training was evident, the legs were shot, and my stomach was churning. Without Michelle to chat with and give me feet to follow I am confident I would have finished an hour later than I did. The next 11 miles were exhausting and about 70% hiked, however the nice thing about slowing things down is you get to take in the views and really appreciate being out there, no matter how tired you are. The theme of my day was ‘you can’t DNF for being tired, but you can slow down’.
Getting to the See Canyon station at mile 44 is the benchmark to me, you make it past here and you have no choice but to finish! Happy crap best describes how I felt, aside from the legs my stomach was borderline nauseous so my calorie intake was nowhere close to what it should have been. The rationale was that if I ate and actually got sick the day would be over, I couldn’t risk losing the water in my body to nausea so I maintained salt tabs and small bites of potatoes. Just looking at a gel or honey stinger caused an unsettling wave of blork. But it was only 6 miles to go and all I had to do was follow Michelle!
I’m pretty sure the last 6 miles took me longer in 2012 than this year, my pacer drove me home and a few other people behind us too! The one mile to go sign is almost as great as coming into an aid station but coming into the finish, that is something else. This was a year of appreciating the race, the accomplishment, friends, and Arizona beauty. I'll take my 13:39 finish time with pride, however, I’ll be back but not without putting in the miles to train right. I know I have a competitive race in me but right now I gotta be a momma and a student without being stretched to thin, so ZG 2015, I’ll see you then. Meanwhile, Michelle if you need a pacer for 2014 I’d be honored to return the favor.
Staying warm in the car in the wee morning hours
Just before start, Deron Ruse, Marc Thomson, Me, Pat Devine
music at the start
Delerium at Camp Geronimo
fully taking advantage of photo ops as a chance to rest
I heart this girl, without her I might still be out there
the one and only Emmet crew-master
I thought I wanted a delicious IPA but ended up just holding the bottle
This crew cannot be beat, can you all plan to come back in 2015??? Please?