Friday, March 27, 2009

Old Pueblo 50 Mile 2009 Race Report

~52 miles
7th overall out of 124 finishers
Official Website
My Picasaweb Album
Official Results
GPS watch data report

The head wind was killing our gas mileage and had been for the past 100 miles. It was Friday afternoon and Dan, Mom, Matt and I were pulling into the Fleet Feet running store in Tucson, AZ having driven down from northern New Mexico all day. We were there so Dan and I could run in the 20th Old Pueblo 50 mile trail race south of Tucson. Neither Dan nor I had run in this race before and we were looking forward to running a new course. In fact, Dan had never run a 50 mile race before so this was going to be big for him. Mom and Matt had graciously offered to join us to serve as our crew.

After picking up our race packets we drove out to near the start line at Kentucky Camp, an historic homestead not far from Sonoita, AZ. The wind was blowing, as it had been all day, so we found a relatively sheltered camp area in the valley a mile short of Kentucky Camp in some grass. For dinner we cooked up some tortellini and sauce and hit the sack pretty early opting against a campfire given the strong winds.

4:00am came all too early but I had slept very well so I easily awoke to make my standard pre-race breakfast of one cup of strong coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese. As I finished eating my bagel the masses of runners began driving by on the dirt road towards the start line. Dan, Mom, Matt and I arrived at the start line around 5:20am finding time to obtain our cloth bib numbers, drop our drop bags in the appropriate piles and huddle around with friends Ryan, Susan and Nicole waiting for 6:00am to come so we could start running and warm up.

From Old Pueblo 50 Mile Run, Tucson, AZ, 2009-03-07

I opted to start without a headlamp based on the suggestion from my friend David who'd run this race a few times before. I lined up just behind the first row of runners on the start line and wished Dan a good run. At 6:00am sharp we all did the usual hooting and hollering to signal the start of the race and headed off and up the initial 200' climb on the dirt road. I started the race in shorts, no gloves, a visor, sunglasses and a long sleeve shirt over my short sleeve shirt. It was about 30 degrees at the start but no wind so my clothing situation was perfect for me. After starting up the hill, I saw the lead pack already taking off and reacted accordingly by upping my pace and keeping them in sight up the hill. It was dark with no moon but there was already enough ambient light to run without a headlamp. Once we crested the initial hill it was plenty light and we were really off. I ran a few paces behind a runner I didn't know and we were running in about 6th and 7th place. We kept a good consistent pace going through the first aid station at mile 3 where I didn't stop and continued on up the hill. At mile 3 we turned off the main dirt road and headed up an old two-track before turning onto some sweet single track along the Arizona Trail. Along this section the sun came up and the scenery was beautiful. I love the desert and at sunrise it was magical. We had to pass through a few cattle gates along this stretch and I even managed to jump over one rather than opening and closing it behind myself. I knew I wouldn't be doing that on the way back over this section later in the day.

I ran into the mile 7 aid station at 1 hour, 2 minutes (1:02) and realized Iwas moving pretty fast. I was feeling good, though, so I made the stop quick picking up a couple gels and my extra hand bottle before continuing downhill on the dirt road. We made a hard right turn onto another dirt road that I nearly missed but volunteer in a truck pointed me in the correct direction. I was getting a bit warm so I pulled off my long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist. I wouldn't have a chance to drop it off before the aid station at mile 25 where I'd first see my Mom and Matt. At this point I was pretty much running by myself and would continue to pretty much to the end. The run down in this sandy road canyon was great and I ran through a ranch where two dogs were hanging out next to the road. They were very friendly so I took the opportunity to stop to tie my shoes and pet them briefly. Awesome dogs. Further down the road I came to a triangle intersection. The right fork was flagged and the left fork was not so I went right but immediately after that there was flagging going left back towards the left fork. This didn't make sense to me. Why would they flag it to the right and then back left immediately afterwards when they could have just flagged the left fork initially? So I opted to not turn left and stayed right for a bit. After about 100 yards I hadn't seen a flag so I turned back and ultimately got back on track. I rolled into the mile 13 aid station with much relief after second-guessing myself for the last 10 minutes at 1:53. I slammed a packet of Carbboom energy gels and refilled my bottles with water for the climb up to Gunsight pass. As I left the aid station, two other runners came in just behind me so I felt motivated to really push a bit up the climb.

It was getting warm but still nearly perfect running weather as I ascended the pass. I had heard the backside of the pass was very technical and I was looking forward to seeing that and running it as I enjoyed technical running. At the top of the pass I finally had a view towards Tucson as well as the view east that I had much of the morning. Running down the backside was indeed very technical and took some solid concentration to keep from twisting an ankle or tripping. At the bottom of the hill it was more fast dirt road runnning south along the base of the mountain to the aid station at mile 19 at 2:48. I again ate some more Carbboom energy gels and refilled my bottles with water. As I started to leave the station I started to head out on the wrong road and was quickly corrected by one of the volunteers. Another one said, “Head down that way and soon you'll turn left on another road.” There just happened to be a road heading left just a few yards out of the aid station so I jokingly started to head down that road and said, “oh yeah, right here?” and looked back smiling. It took them all a second or two to catch my joke as I headed the correct way.

I felt I was holding a good pace here along the rolling dirt road but looked back at the top of a hill to see another runner behind me—the first I'd seen in many miles. So I stepped up my pace a bit as I passed the end of the dirt road through a gate into some private land for a bit. I could now see the mile 25 aid station and was looking forward to seeing Mom and Matt for the first time since the start. I heard the cowbells beckoning me into the aid station and reached it at 3:43 where I ditched my long sleeve shirt, refilled my water bottle and grabbed a gel flask for the big pull up the hill to mile 29. My goal was to run the entire hill and I set off and did in fact run the entire hill except for a short stint where I had to urinate on the move. This section up the hill was pretty warm and dusty thanks to some decent traffic along the road. As I neared the top of the climb I started to turn left onto the road we had initally turned right onto after aid station at mile 7 but was corrected by another volunteer. This was odd for me since I rarely, if ever, have trouble following a course. I came into the aid station at mile 29 at 4:24 and the woman there said I was in fourth place. I knew that wasn't true and was sure I was in 6th or 7th place. I grabbed some more gel and filled up my hand bottles with water and HEED before getting back on the portion of the Arizona Trail we had run in the morning.

I ended up walking a good bit of the climbing on this section and was happy to run down into the aid station at mile 33 at 5:10. Apparently I had a drop bag here but had forgotten about that so I just filled my bottles and kept on going. Leaving this aid station we were back on a dirt road running up a slight incline for a bit before turning left onto a more technical road and down into a drainage complete with an old windmill and some water in the creek. I was still running alone and really enjoying being back in this area on such a beautiful day. As I neared the aid station at mile 40 another runner, Mike, came up from behind. We had leap-frogged a bit since mile 28. I felt I needed to “go see a man about a horse” so I pulled off the course and found a suitable tree and rock to take care of business. Back on track I came up on the mile 40 aid station to the sound of, “Now that's what I'm talking about!” This was a now-familiar sound to me as I have heard this man at a couple of different races in the last year. I gave him the knuckles as I passed by him into the aid station at mile 40 at 6:29. Mom and Matt were here to help me with a quick time through the station so I filled up both hand bottles and grabbed some more gel. One of the station volunteers offered to take a photo of me and Mom so we posed briefly for the photo op.

From Old Pueblo 50 Mile Run, Tucson, AZ, 2009-03-07

From the mile 40 aid station it was a long, gradual grind up a dirt road along a nicely running creek. Mike passed by me again here and we talked briefly. He was from Phoenix and hadn't run this race before either. We informally paced each other along the road and onto some singletrack which led to a technical dirt road and then a crossing over the stream again before some nice singeltrack to the mile 46 aid station. Here, Mike moved out quickly and I tried to keep moving fast too. A quick bottle fill up for the final stretch. A short distance out of the station Mike and I encountered another cattle gate that he graciously left open for me. From here I would barely see him much until the final stretch to the finish. This section to the finish was longer and more difficult than I had expected. We crossed down and through a couple of drainages, climbed a long hill and then paralleled the finish line area running along a mesa top. It was definitely getting warm now and I was ready to be done. My GPS watched beeped mile 50 at 8:20:29 but I was still far enough from the finish that I could not see it. Now I really wanted to finish under 8:30 and was really pushing it and slowly coming back up on Mike. I averaged about 9:00/mile for the last three miles and finally could see the finish line at the top of a small rise. I put my head down and was sprinting as hard as I could towards the finish so I could come in under 8:30. But then I hear the crowd saying, “No, go back, you missed a turn.” Sure enough, I was supposed to go right around a truck instead of left. So I stopped dead in my tracks, rand back and around the truck the correct way to finish in 8:30:21. I probably wouldn't have made it under 8:30 anyway but....

I sat down to my quart of chocolate milk and enjoyed watching a few more finishers before Dan came in at 9:39:40. The post race scene was great...burgers, beer, music, good chat and fine weather. This race was really enjoyable and I hope to make it down there again.


Jeff Valliere said...

Awesome Jason! Way to go!

Matt & Patty said...

You rocked! Awesome indeed!

Anonymous said...

"That's what I'm talkin' about!" is the familiar voice of Bob Bachani. You probably remember him volunteering at the Telluride Aid Station at Hardrock last summer...he will be runnning HR this year.

Jason Halladay said...

Thanks for that, anonymous. Absolutely that's where I've heard Bob before! And he was at the Ghost Town 38.5 mile run this year as a runner. Good stuff and very recognizable!