Monday, November 26, 2012

Deja Vu -- I Recognize This Yucky Feeling...

...from the last time I did the Redington 50k!

I can't remember that old song, or jingle, whatever it was, that had the line in it "second verse, same as the first", but wherever it came from, that phrase was stuck in my head because, really, yesterday on that route was eerily similar to the last time I was on that route. I had two goals going into this event. (This  was not a race, by the way; it was just a TTR training run. In other words, I did this for FUN, not for a T-shirt or a pint glass or a medal. It was just what was on the TTR schedule for this weekend, so that's what I did. I'm not even training for anything. Just burning calories. I have now reached trail runner insanity.) Anyway, my two goals were as follows:

1) Have a better experience than last year
2) Beat my last year's time

I accomplished one of those, I beat my time. As far as having a better experience... well, maybe I did. That mountain at the end was not quite as bad as it was last year. The rest of it pretty much was, though.

This is actually not that hard of a run, by TTR standards. It doesn't have the kind of climbing that our last couple of runs have had (Agua Caliente hill, Lemmon Ascent). I don't know what the total elevation gain was, maybe a couple-few thousand feet? Tame. And there were lots of places where it was almost flat, and it was runnable almost the whole way. It was obvious at the beginning that the sun was going to be the biggest factor (well, aside from the distance, of course). I know when I am only slightly chilly at the start in T-shirt and shorts that it's going to be really hot later. I was smart this year and had stashed a bottle of frozen Nuun at the place where the AZ Trail crosses Catalina Highway. That way I could pick it up when we got there and spare myself having to carry a frozen bottle down the 2.7 miles of trail between the start and the highway. I would then carry it up and over the hill coming out of Molino and stash it again at the bottom of the big hill. See? I'm not always stupid!

The first 2.7 miles is a big drop from the Prison Camp parking lot to Molino Basin. It's a nice way to get started, with a couple fast, easy miles. Once we cross the highway at Molino, there is a pretty short and not too difficult climb up to the saddle. From the saddle you can look out at an endless sea of mountains. I was trying to figure out whether they are the Catalinas, the Rincons, or a mix of both. Anyone? Yeah, I could look at a map but I am a little too lazy for that.

On the other side of that saddle is the drop of about 1000' if I remember correctly from last year. I didn't have elevation on my watch today so couldn't check that. That is so much fun to run down, unless you are thinking the whole time about how miserable it will be to climb back up a few hours later. At the bottom there is a stock tank and that's where I stashed my bottle, on the west side where hopefully it would stay in shadow all morning and still be cool when I got back to it.

From the stock tank the AZ Trail follows a jeep road for a while and then turns into trail again. I got a little disoriented there because there were a lot of little side trails, but I managed to stay on the right trail the whole time. After a couple miles on trail, the trail comes to a dirt road and picks up again on the other side a little ways to the left. This is well-marked and it would be hard to get lost here. From this point it's 4 miles, mostly a gradual climb ending in a drop down to another dirt road where our aid station was, at just over thirteen miles in.

I'd had a pretty good run up till now, even though the trail was very sunny and exposed. Deja vu officially kicked in at the aid station. It was just like last year. I scarfed down little triangles of PB&J, looked at the cooler full of soda, thought, "I want a Pepsi," told myself, "No, you'll make yourself sick and ruin your run," pulled out a Pepsi anyway, drank half of it, told myself to leave the other half for my return trip, and then chugged the other half too because it tasted so good. My stomach promptly blew up like a balloon and I regretted the Pepsi instantly. I sometimes wonder why I just cannot seem to learn some lessons. Is it stupidity or something else? Self-destructiveness maybe? Who knows. Anyway, from the aid station it was another 2+ miles to the turnaround. There was no reason for me to do those extra 2+ miles. I could have just turned around at the aid station and been satisfied with a marathon for the day. But nooooooo, I had committed to 50k so I was going to do 50k.

I walked out of the aid station, walking delicately because of my stomach. Not 100 yards up the trail I decided it was too hot and took my shirt off and threw it on a rock. I walked along thinking how unfair it is that I can't burp. If I could burp I could just drink soda like a normal person and not get the shaken-up soda can feeling that has ruined so many of my races. Eventually the caffeine kicked in and I wanted to run, but I could only run for short distances because of my stomach. I stopped and stuck my finger down my throat, thinking, fine! I'll just puke it up then! but my stomach clamped down stubbornly and refused to let me puke. See, stubbornness runs all through my whole body.

My GPS hit 15.5 and I was still not at the turnaround, which is marked by a big AZ Trail sign. I kept going because, you know, it does not count unless you hit the turnaround sign. I hit it at 15.7. Then I turned around and faced a long, miserable slog back up to the aid station. Just exactly like last year, this is where the wheels fell off the bus. I walked every bit of that stretch and even stopped to pee at the exact same spot as I did last year. Forgot that my TP was in the pocket in my water bottle... which was 10 miles away by the stock tank. Oh well. It's not like it matters when you're going that far. I grabbed my shirt on the way back to the aid station but decided I was not going to put it on; too hot for that.

At the aid station I drank a Gatorade and a water and then some more water. I refilled my water bag and strolled out of the aid station like I had all day to get where I was going. My now-heavy-again pack was bouncing around on my back and something at the bottom of it was digging into my skin since I had taken my shirt off. I stopped to fix the poky thing but found that it was the place where the hose attaches to the bag, can't do anything about that. Oh well! It would just have to rub, then, no way was I putting the shirt back on. By now it was close to noon, and there was nothing but sun. Thankfully there was also a good breeze that kept it from getting too hot. Still, though... all that sun. And do you think I wore sunscreen? No! Of course not!

Even though I had stuffed myself at the aid station, I still had a GU about a mile later. This is not just any GU... it is peppermint-flavored holiday GU! I bought it on impulse at the Running Shop on Saturday and I am so glad I did. It is smooth and not overly sweet and did not make me feel sick at all. Well, at least it didn't make me feel sick until I accidentally looked at it while I was squeezing the last bit out of the packet. In my head the GU was white with red stripes, like a candy cane, like the package it came in. In real life it is approximately the color (and close to the viscosity) of motor oil. Ick! It's surprising, the things that can turn your stomach on a long run!

I hate this run, of course, but one thing I do like about it is that it breaks up nicely into manageable segments. From the aid station, it's 4 miles of mostly-downhill to the dirt road. Then a couple miles of trail to where it turns into dirt road. Then a couple miles on that dirt road to the stock tank. Then the climb up the horrible mountain, then the drop into Molino Basin, then the climb out of Molino and back to Prison Camp. I continued to have pretty awful problems with nausea the whole way but luckily ran into Renee at about Mile 23. She kept me going till the climb started at about the point we finished the marathon distance.

Climbing that mountain was NOT as bad as last time. I never felt like I was going to die and I did not have to lie down on the trail and I did not spend time hanging out in the bathroom at Molino like I did last time. It was miserable but no more miserable than I ever am at that point in a long run. The more-miserable part came on that last 2.7 mile stretch of the AZ Trail back to Prison Camp. It is a long slog uphill, minimal shade. My Garmin (well, Kathy's Garmin) warned me about low battery a couple times and then shut off at Mile 29-something. I felt like it was saying, "Screw it, I quit." I know the feeling! The AZ Trail roughly parallels Catalina Highway here and I know I cannot be the only one who has looked over at the highway and thought about walking out there and thumbing a ride to the Prison Camp parking lot.

My stomach was so awful by now that even the tightness of my sports bra was uncomfortable. I pulled the bottom of it away from my skin and walked along like that, getting madder and madder that I even had to wear a bra. WHY do I have to wear one? What kind of society is this where men can run shirtless but women can't? I mean, I fully understand that if I had a chest I would need the bra for support, but since I don't, why do I have to wear one? I have run braless before though with a T-shirt on, and it was not uncomfortable in the least. So, seriously, how come I have to wear one while Joe Bob with a huge gut can walk around shirt-free and get away with it? As soon as I'm done writing this I'm going to google "right for women to go shirtless" and join the political activist group that I'm sure is out there somewhere. Or else I'll just take a nap, one or the other.

I finally finished and I think Ross said my time was 7:43, which is better than the 8-something I had last year. That should be a 7-hour run if I could just get my act together. The lying down in the Prison Camp parking lot, the wanting to eat but being way too nauseous, the thoughts of never wanting to trail run again, all those were familiar from last time. This time I actually sunburned bad enough that you can see the outline of my sunglasses on my face, something that's never happened before. Also, I stayed nauseous the whole evening last night and couldn't eat. So at least it was a good day calorie-wise if not in any other way.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Really Should Change The Name Of This Blog...

... to "The Uninspired Trail Runner", since I don't do anything resembling triathlon anymore and haven't touched water in a swimming pool since... I don't know... maybe November? LAST November, that is. I have pretty much gone over to the dark side of trail running. Even though I claim to hate it, I am out there every weekend with TTR even when there is no race on my agenda till April at the earliest.

Anyway, shame on me for neglecting this blog. "The Uninspired Trail Runner" doesn't have the same ring to it as "The Uninspired Triathlete" so I guess I will just keep the name for now. I am really uninspired as far as writing goes because this blank blog entry has just been sitting here open on my computer since last Sunday, when I ran from Sabino Canyon to the tippy-top of Mt. Lemmon on trails. Well, okay, I did not actually RUN. I ran most of the first 10 miles and not much after that in a total of 18 miles. Hey! 10 miles of running out of 18 is good for me in a TTR run.

This one was one I did not want to miss. There's just something about running to the top of Mt. Lemmon on trails that is so badass-sounding I could not resist it. I mean, who does that? Outside of TTR runners, of course, most of whom do it faster than I do, but I mean of real world people. That's just a crazy thing to do, all right, maybe not as crazy as running to the top of Pikes Peak, but right up there. So of course I had to do it. I don't really worry anymore about whether I'm in shape to do these runs. I just fuel up and go for it and figure I'll be out there as long as it takes and finish when I finish. I guess my body is finally used to the fact that it just has to keep vertical and keep moving for long periods of time.

This run required some logistics. It is point-to-point, not a loop, and Sabino Canyon to the top of Mt. Lemmon by road is something like 35 miles. Luckily Tim, the best ex-boyfriend in the world, nicely volunteered to drive my car to the top of Mt. Lemmon (with his bike in the back) and then ride down, leaving my car up there for me to drive down. So I picked him up early Sunday morning and we drove to Sabino Canyon together and then he left me there.

The first six miles of this run were familiar to me -- 3.7 up the paved tram road, then a couple more on trail to Sabino Basin. After that the run followed the West Fork Trail, which was completely new to me. That trail goes to Hutch's Pool. Hutch's Pool is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Tucson, and I had never been there. It is a deep natural pool in the canyon. I was excited to see it for the first time but should've listened a little more carefully to the instructions about what to do when I got there. I did listen carefully to the instructions for the climb up to Romero Pass, which were: Don't Turn Left. Take the Right Trail. Somehow "turn right, not left" stuck in my mind. This was unfortunate. I was making pretty good time (for me) on the West Fork Trail as I got up to Hutch's Pool. But I must have either missed the trail turnoff to the left, or else just subconsciously followed the right fork of the trail. There are lots of well-used trails that lead down to the pool so it's easy to figure out what happened.

I was running by myself at that point, not too far behind one group and not too far ahead of another one. I still thought I was on trail as I ran past some guys camping by the pool. "Your friends just went that way," one of them said helpfully, pointing to the trail that ran to the right along the edge of the pool. "Thanks!" I said cheerfully, and kept going for another five minutes or so until the trail ended, or got so faint among the weeds and boulders that it might as well have ended. I poked around for a while but decided that could not possibly be right so went back to the campers. I was wondering why the group of runners behind me hadn't caught up to me yet since I knew they weren't that far behind me.

The camping guy said yup, the trail did go that way for sure. I decided forget it, I would just hike back the way I came until I ran into the group behind me. But then I couldn't find the trail out of there, either. I did stumble upon the other camping guy heading back to his campsite with a camp shovel in his hand.  I asked him about the trail too, and he confirmed it went along the side of the pool. But just then I saw a red-shirted runner flash by up above me on the side of the canyon. "That's the trail I want!" I said. "Oh no," the guy said, "that's the West Fork Trail up there." Yup, West Fork was the one I wanted all right. But I could not for the life of me find a clear path up there, so I bushwhacked up the side of the canyon, which involved wading through waist-deep weeds and hoping desperately that it was too cold for snakes to be out.

Okay! Now I was back on trail but way behind everyone. What a buzzkill. I still had not solved the mystery of what happened to the other runners that had gone down the trail alongside the pool but decided to forget about it. I knew this was the right trail and that I had about three more miles before the trail junction where I had to turn right and climb up Romero Pass. This part of West Fork was a nice, smooth, totally runnable trail. It was climbing, but very gradually. Every so often I would catch glimpses of other runners way ahead of me. It was very sunny out. I had worn tights and a long-sleeved shirt thinking about temps on top of Mt. Lemmon, but it was a lot warmer than I had anticipated down here.

A group of runners came up behind me. It was a bunch of faster people who had been in the group that had taken the detour at Hutch's Pool. They had gone farther down the wrong trail than I had, and they said some other people had kept going, not turned back when they did. I was glad I was not in that group. This really is not the kind of run you want to do any extra miles on. That group passed me but we stayed pretty close together till we got to the trail junction. A left turn would have taken us to Cathedral Rock and the right turn went up Romero Pass. The group that was ahead of my group had stopped there to refuel so it was like a giant TTR party. I had stripped off my long-sleeved shirt so I was in just a sports bra. The cool breeze felt amazingly good on my skin. I couldn't believe how warm it was. I contemplated taking off my tights too and running in sports bra and thong, but decided that was a little much. (NOTE: I have hiked on Mt. Lemmon in a thong before, but that was with Krissy when ordinary rules did not apply.)

By this point, ten miles in, I had really had quite enough of running. Blacketts was waiting with the group at the trail junction. I asked him how he was getting down and he said he didn't know. I suggested he take my keys and drive my car down and I would meet him at Sabino. I was having vague thoughts of taking the Cathedral Rock Trail and having that somehow be a shorter return to Sabino but he informed me that was not true and we were now past the point of no return. Sigh, okay. I headed up with everyone else.

The climb up Romero Pass was not bad but once we got to the junction with another trail (the Mt. Lemmon Trail? Never did get the name) it became terrible. Straight up, boulder-scrambling required, practically hand-over-hand in some places. Amazing views across the Catalinas in all directions. I had been scrambling along talking to Craig and Sarah but suddenly was slammed with nausea that practically knocked me to the ground. I had no idea where that had come from but I had to stop and lean against a tree until it went away as suddenly as it had come, leaving me weak-kneed and clammy with sweat but able to keep going.

This climb went up to the top of a 7500' knob (as described on the map) and continued to torture me the whole way up. Nausea came and went. I wondered if it was the altitude but doubted it since Pikes Peak was twice this high and I never got nauseous there. This was a different kind of nausea, not the kind I usually get from swallowing too much air. I wondered if maybe I was coming down with a stomach virus and thought this would be a very crappy place to have it hit.

At the top of the knob the trail dropped down to the junction with the Wilderness of Rocks Trail. I had always hit this trail junction coming the other way on the Lemmon Trail and had always turned on WOR and wondered what would happen if I just kept going straight. Well, now I knew! From here to the end I was familiar with the trail, no surprises.

I was plain out of energy here. I managed to do some running but not much. With about three miles left to go I was feeling sick again and had to lie down on a rock. It was much cooler up here but that cold rock still felt so good against my bare skin! I stayed there until I started to feel cold and then ordered myself to get up and get moving for the last haul to the top.

The last part of the trail switchbacked up the mountainside to an old jeep road. When we hit the jeep road we still had a mile and a half to go, nearly all of it still uphill. I got my second wind when I hit the road and managed to run nearly all of it to where it spit us out up near Radio Ridge (9300'? 9100'? I didn't have my GPS but think it was one of those two). I wanted to take a nap up there but couldn't since I had someone coming over later and really had to get down off the mountain. Somehow I neglected to eat anything besides a Mountain Dew, even though there was lots of awesome food. The Mountain Dew finally settled my stomach and I felt fine again.

This was a good day's run and I finished in 5:47, which I think isn't horrible time for this run, but I haven't seen the other times so have no idea what they were like. It was awesome to explore a new trail and to get to the top of Mt. Lemmon on foot. Also, the one nice thing about lots of uphill? No new black toenails.