It’s been a long- 8 month running slog of injury, sickness, and recovery. While training for last spring’s Mesquite Canyon race with the infamous Goat Camp slog, I strained my upper hamstring tendon. I’ve been battling that injury all summer long. This battle lead to a full month away from the trails for a mental break, followed by a DNF from Cave Creek Thriller due to asthma issues after construction at my house all week. The flu then took me out of starting Pass Mountain and Punisher races. All of this was accompanied by a new injury due to pronation of my right foot leading to posterior tendonitis. To say I have been a bit of a hot running mess lately is an understatement.
But, I love the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 10 mile course (not so much the 5 mile course). So, after the go-ahead from my PT, I was finally able to toe the line again in a relatively healthy state. Yet another pair of new shoes with less than 3 miles on them to break them in was my only hope of conquering the two- 10 mile races in one day that I had planned. (Fortunately, the shoes would end up being a winner.)
Knowing that I was going to go for the podium in the night-time Mayhem if my body said yes after the morning Frenzy, I did my best to really pull on the reigns during that first morning race. We ran the course counter-clockwise which gave me a great opportunity to really scope out the night-time course that would be run from the other direction. Despite some sprinkles and a few miles of cold wind that reminded me of last year, the first half was relatively uneventful. I’d deliberately placed myself toward the back at the start so that I wouldn’t be pressured from behind to go out to fast. And it worked. I found myself really enjoying the miles and relishing the opportunity to be back out there again.
That was, until, I realized that what I thought was a full bag of Honey Stinger chews in my pack, was really an almost empty bag with 3 chews. 1 gel, 3 chews to get me through 10 miles. Since I’m not much of a morning eater, I needed more than that. And so, the final 3-4 miles were much more of a slog for me than I wanted as my battery completely wound down. But, in the end, it forced me to pace myself even more which was probably a good thing for my impending night race.
With McDowell being an hour from my house, I’d prepared to spend the entire day at the trailhead living out of my truck just like Javelina Jundred crewing and pacing days. Now that the sun was out, it was hot, so I spent most of the afternoon hydrating, eating cups of oatmeal, and taking a brief nap in the truck.
After rolling out my legs a bit, I was ready to start the night-time 10 mile race at Mayhem. Knowing that the first 3 miles of the race would be the most difficult due to some big rollers, my plan was to drop the hammer as hard as I could because I had no idea how long my legs would hold up. Due to my injuries, 14 miles was the longest run I had done in months. So asking my legs for 20 in the same day was a lot.
As we headed out, two of my guy friends darted ahead on the course and I took off in hot pursuit. A third guy that I had met just before the race was right behind me. As I began to tackle the rollers, I knew that I needed to let that third guy know he should pass me, but first, I needed intel. Were there any girls right behind him? Yes, there were two that were not far behind. Panic struck as I knew I just didn’t have it in me to ward off two chasing females. But, I decided to push as hard as I could for as long as I could and see what happened. After a bit, a fourth guy came up behind me but I had no idea if he was a girl or a guy chasing me down. It was only after he blew a snot rocket that I exclaimed “you’re a guy- thank goodness”. Not that I’m not known as the queen of snot rockets, but I digress…
And so I pushed on with everything in me, noting the dinging of my new Garmin with each passing mile. 3-4 miles in at this point, my stomach was already a mess. But, I forced myself to put 2 chews into my mouth every other mile to keep fueling the fire. A few glances over my shoulder told me I had lost the guy that was chasing me. But I could see another light just behind him and I kept telling myself- “that’s a girl, and she is chasing you down.” So I ran with everything I had. Never letting up, even for just a moment.
My headlamp began to grow dim , and fortunately, after the morning’s fiasco of being underprepared, I had a spare in my pack that I was able to easily swap out. The only people I saw the rest of the night were the oncoming 50 mile racers out on their final loop. So much wonderful encouragement from everyone I passed and all I could do was grunt or groan in response.
After what seemed like an eternity, but really only 2 minutes slower than my morning race, the finish line was in sight and I could hear Jubilee welcome the runners back. With one quick glance over my shoulder, I took off down the short hill and crossed the mat as 4th overall and 1st female.
After not finishing a trail race since August, tackling two in one day and winning the second felt amazing. It’s been a rough stretch for me for a while. But now the fire is back and I can’t wait to tackle more trails and races soon.
P.S. Note to self: After fueling on sugary gels all day, avoid chugging a bottle of Gatorade on the way home.
***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on such great races; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger for continuing to fuel my adventures, and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And thank you always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.
*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.”