I recently ran my longest trail distance ever by completing Aravaipa Running’s Elephant Mountain 35km. It was an exciting, exhausting, and humbling experience.
Two weeks before a race is not the time to switch to an entirely new brand of trail shoes. But with numb toes and nerve pain from my existing shoes, I had no other option. Feeling your feet while you race is kinda important.
And so, with minimal miles on a new pair of shoes, I toed the line at the Elephant Mountain 35k in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Heading out on the rocky course, I was feeling pretty good until I hit the switchbacks of Go John and realized that I had forgotten my pre-race inhaler puff for my asthma. Not a great start. I would really regret that mistake for the next few hours.
Aside from the whole, not able to breathe really well on the hills thing, the first half of the race went well. Elephant Mountain is an out and back course – heading up to the Spur Cross aid station, where you turn around to re-run the same trail back to the start.
I felt great at the turn-around. Gave the thumbs up sign to a few friends at the aid station, and headed back. Everything was in place. I was fueling and hydrating well. And, I could feel my feet. All good.
I was back out on the trail and beginning the trek back to the Go John trailhead where the finish line awaited. But about a mile or so into my return, I started to feel fuzzy and lightheaded. No problem, I thought. It’s over 80 degrees out here in full sun. I must be either dehydrated a bit or need some salt. Fortunately, I mix pink Himalayan sea salt and lemon juice in my front bottles, since I sweat so much. I know, gross.
This two-pronged approach seemed to do the trick and I continued my forward progress. But, try as I might, I just couldn’t get any “get up and go” in my legs. No matter what fuel I threw at them, my legs were done for the rest of the race. I had no choice but to just trudge it out.
Fortunately, it was about this time that I happened upon another girl in a similar situation. Hannah and I spent the next 8 miles or so together. Sometimes we picked up a few others and formed what we called our train. It made the suffering a bit more bearable.
My finishing time goals had long gone out the window; now I was just going to finish! And since my car was back at the start, that was never a question.
Finally, we crested the hill that revealed the top of the Go John switchbacks. Without a word to Hannah, I took off. I was so happy to know exactly where I was, and how far I was from the finish that I was going to end this, now! And so, with lots of loud groans as I mustered past hikers on their way up the mountain, I made my way to the finish where I knew a group of AZ TraiLeggers friends would be waiting.
It wasn’t pretty, but I did it; finished 22+ miles of trail. My longest distance to date on the dirt. And, the longest distance I have completed since the LA Marathon 14 years ago. I’ll take it.
The next morning, I awoke to my 5 year old telling me he didn’t feel well. And thus began a week of our family battling the flu. At least now I know what happened to my legs out on the trail.
Don’t worry, Elephant Mountain, I’ll be back. And with a score to settle.
*** A special thank you to my amazing husband and son, for always supporting me in my running endeavors, to Aravaipa Running, for putting on such a great race,tTo Acel Compression socks for helping me quickly transition into new shoes with no issues, to Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, and to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for keeping me chafe free!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”