Monday, June 20, 2011

Because It Was There

Why do the Kitt Peak Ascent? Because it was there, of course.

Actually there were other reasons, including the following: it looked like a somewhat useful training run for Pikes Peak; I'd never done it before and probably would never do it again; my friends were doing it; and, most of all, I wanted to be able, when coworkers asked me on Monday what I did this weekend, to casually say, "I ran up Kitt Peak; what did YOU do?" and then add even more casually, "Yup, the race started at 6 p.m." To which they would then gasp, "Wasn't it HOT?" and I would be able to nod nonchalantly and say, "Yup," like it was totally NBD. Actually all of those were good reasons and I was very excited about this 10-mile race. Other than Boston, I don't remember the last time I was excited about a race of any distance, let alone something shorter than marathon distance.

Kitt Peak is a good hour from our house. By the time we got there, it was, yes, very hot (though not ridiculously hot like it's supposed to be on Wednesday -- 109? Really, Tucson?) and windy. It is the kind of hot where it's best to keep moving, because if you stand in one spot too long you start to feel like an ant under a magnifying glass. It was actually a relief when the race started because from then on, there was a breeze the whole way (truthfully, felt more like a gale-force headwind much of the way, but at least it kept it from getting too hot).

I didn't really have any grand plans for this race. I thought of it mostly as a training run. Still, I was curious to see whether I would beat Tim or he would beat me. 10 miles is the distance at which pretty much anything can happen between me and him. Anything under 10, he'll win; anything over 10, I probably will. He did beat me on our 10-mile run up Mt. Lemmon, though he was in pretty bad shape at the end while I felt like I had just finished warming up. Anyway, I was feeling great at the start and pretty much took off.

The wind was brutal, although we did get it at our backs for some of the switchbacks. The tailwinds were nice, but the headwinds were quite demoralizing. I just can't stand wind when running. It sucks the life out of me and makes me cranky. The views, however, almost made up for the winds. From the very start, pretty much every time I looked over the edge I wanted to swoon out of appreciation for the beauty of the desert below. Every time I wanted to quit, the views gave me a boost and I was able to keep on going.

The total climb was 3250 feet, supposedly (I got a different number on my Garmin). Unlike Mt. Lemmon, the grade was relentless. There was not even a single inch of flat or downhill for recovery. By the time I got to Mile 9, I was doing a walk-run-walk-run sort of thing, with lots of looking back over my shoulder to see whether anyone from WOG was gaining on me or not. Even though I hadn't set out to race this, by the time I got that far I knew I hadn't been passed by any women (though I also knew there were several women who had started in front of me and stayed there), so I did want to push as hard as I could in case an age group placement was a possibility.

I finished just as it was getting dark, in 1:55. Tim was 5 minutes behind me. In fact, all of the WOGgers (with the exception of the really fast ones, like Sion, who won, and Jamie, who was the 3rd place woman) finished within 5 minutes of each other, and most of us got an age group award. It seems funny to get an age group award in a race where my average pace was 11:33, but I guess that just shows how tough the course was. Guess all those training runs up Mt. Lemmon paid off! (And thank you, fast ladies in 35-39, for mostly staying home.)

We hung around at the finish line as it got darker and colder. We wanted to stay for the awards ceremony, but it just kept getting later and later, and, with no sign of the awards ceremony starting anywhere near the promised time, we finally got on a shuttle to ride down. I really did want to stay, but it was looking a little too chaotic with the shuttles, and I was envisioning being stuck on top of Kitt Peak till midnight (anyone else remember the Mt. Lemmon Marathon shuttle debacle?).

I have to say this was one of my favorite events ever, because of the combination of extreme beauty and extreme challenge. I will definitely do this one again!