I do this thing where I plan holidays, events, and adventures before I even complete what’s up next. Before I even started my first ever marathon, I was registered for my 2nd, 2 weeks later. (Boston and then NJ 2009). Even in IRONMAN, I was booked for IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant only 2 months after I even started my first, IRONMAN Cairns. It’s just me; living life to the fullest and always looking forward. I think that’s how you live life completely; to the fullest. So before I even started my most recent IRONMAN, Arizona in November 2017, I had thoughts of the next season and was booked for IRONMAN Australia and IRONMAN Ireland. But, I had an idea. Lets focus on my run; which hadn’t improved for years. What if I could build volume and involve some Ultras to help fuel the desire and knock off some bucket list items? And really cement some Muscular Endurance! So in November, I registered for 2 Ultra-marathons (longer than 26.2miles). The first was run today, the Oracle Rumble 50KM Ultra. The next will be in 5 weeks, the Old Pueblo 50Miler.
New Years till Race Day
Our trip 11 day trip to Lake Mead and Las Vegas took a hamper to the fitness I had been building post IMAZ. But we got back and I got right into the run volume (because I was starting to fear running 50KM and 50Miles). So I ran a 55mile week, then a 56mile week, and in the lead up to the race ran 10miles. I worked to be as vegan as I could. As a result of the diet and 17 hours of training per week over swim, bike, and run in preparation for IRONMAN Cairns, weight dropped 3 pounds to 182 and 8% body fat. The day before the race I was drinking a 2 liter bottle of sprite, had a half package of starbursts, and made a pasta dinner as part of my carbo-loading. Bed at 9ish.
Up at 3:30AM. Banana, Larabar, Bagel with vegan butter, and a RedBull. 1hr15min drive from Sahuarita, AZ to Oracle State Park. With temperatures of 35F, Fiona and I gathered around the campfire pits to gather some warmth along with other runners in the 12K, half marathon, 50K, and 50Miler that started to arrive. We saw our friends Fernando and Robert who were doing the 50miler and heard the National Anthem. Fiona waved by to me as I boarded one of the 3 school buses that brought the 150 50K and 50Milers on a 40+ min drive to a very remote section of the Arizona Trail; a 790mile long trail that extends from the Mexican border to Utah. We chatted on the bus and soon were driving on corrugated-dirt roads; this was the first of many times during the day I felt like I was back in the Australian Outback where I had lived for nearly 7 years and competed in 2 ultras. The first was a 50km that I had created going on a net-downhill and on pavement from Standley Chasm to Alice Springs. We had 4 people and I covered the 31 miles in 4:42 at 9:03/mile and 131HR back in 2014. The next was a 45KM Ultra along the famous Larapinta Trail. Fiona and I both ran this together since I had proposed to her at the top of Mt Sonder. The race started by climbing the 4,400’ mountain and finished along the Finke River, the oldest river in the world. I covered the 27.34 miles in 5:08 at 11:18/mile and 136HR.
We got out the bus, took some photos, hit the loo, and I started at the front. My goal was sub 5hours because it’s a nice round number but I didn’t know if I could do 9:24/mile as I had learned the course was longer than 50K (because in Ultra, they are never really exactly the distance). I had my Altra Trail shoes, some sugoi socks, WattieInk Triathlon shorts and WattieInk Singlet that I used in IMAZ, my IMAZ Cap. I had an AltraInspire 2 liter Camelpak that holds 2 small bottles, one with ARO Caffeine supplement, and one with the B Vitamin Fizzy drink you can buy from Costco. I had 3 packages of Clif Shot Bloks with Caffeine, and in the bag I had a pack of Salt Tablets, a HotShot crampkiller, and some toilet paper. I also had some running gloves to start.
As the gun went off, we headed south along the road before we hit the Arizona Trail and into the sun. Wearing a hat helped me keep the rising 7:30AM sun out of my eyes. There were a lot of people going pretty fast and I was impressed with opening miles of 7:38, 8:07, 7:56 . The first 11 miles were mostly downhill and I even got aggressive in mile 11 with a 7:09 mile. During this time I was eating 100 calories every 25minutes. I also had some potato chips at the first aid station (of 2) and also had a first time experience going #2 in the Tent-Outhouse which felt like a kids toilet seat. The singletrack trail was sandy, rocky, and technical at many times. And usually I had 2 to 6 people either 200meters in front or in back of me. But with 3 races starting at the same time, I had no idea what spot I was in.
I broke the race up into % complete. Knowing that I was 10% and then 20% etc and so on. The toughest part was the hill at mile 12/13 that climbed 600’. But, I did cover the half marathon in 1:53:52. The scenery was amazing with the snow in Mt Lemmon off in the distance and other Mountain Ridges in the Gold town of Oracle. The colors of pristine green cactus, brown earth, and blue sky was surreal. My legs started to feel fatigued around 2 hours in. By 18 miles in I was happy and enjoying myself and started to sort of block the fatigue of the legs but my feet were coming ever close to the ground and I nearly wiped out twice. One time I did fall and catch myself with my hands.
At one point early on I was 3 feet off of one guy and he went the wrong way “Umm, I think we’re off the trail.” Then, it happened to me and a guy behind me told me to go straight. I covered the marathon in 4:16:07 and was pretty happy with that. I was slowing down with the climbing of the hills but I just kept moving. Soon, I was at the 3rd aid station with 4.5 miles to go. I had a half PB&J sandwich earlier and this time had something small but had the awesome volunteers fill up my bottles with Coke and Mt Dew that both exploded up into my eyes as soon as I started running. I had sticky face for the rest of the day. Now, we were on a dirt road without any flags (of which there were all day long). I was worried I was going the wrong way and at 28miles, you’re not thinking clearly so I ran 400meters back and saw the 1st female who said no go forward. I turned back around and she came within 50meters of me. Under the highway, to the right, “damn, she’s in the 50k”. I had to continue running up the sandy wash incline for the next 2 miles to make sure I held her off. Some more technical sections and then about 800meters in the distance I saw what I knew was my wife ready with camera. She got a great video. Thanks babe!
I knew I was close to going sub 5:25 and was working to get there. My watch had me under by 7 seconds but official time had me finish in 5:25:09. I was stoked to learn that I finished 7th overall!
Some quesadillas, chips, soup, and even a beer. We hung out for a while and I was also happy to see Fiona took 4th Female in the 12K! Great job FiFi!!! For dinner I made homemade Vegetable-Lentil Soup from the book Simple, Tasty, Good (vegan book, excellent), and a vegan fake meat chicken schnitzel. No Five Guys today!
Thanks to the Race Director and the volunteers for putting on this race in the most remote section of the Arizona Trail. This was a great first 50K and I had a blast. Also, thank you to Fiona for staying around and supporting me while you could have been at home studying.
The day didn’t end with that. At home Fiona motivated me to flush out my legs with 5x500yard swim with fins and a 50min upper body gym session.
I’m sort of fearing the 50miler which is why it’s my goal to run a half marathon tomorrow to hit 56 miles for the week. Ultimately, I struggle with the goal of “just finishing” but that is my goal. Timewise, I would love to go sub 10 hours and if not that, then I don’t really care. Stay Tuned, 5 weeks to go!