...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.