….and My Story Runs On….
“Come on, you’re already trained” she said. These words coming from my friend Suzi who years ago swore she would never trail run yet ran me in my last mile of my 1st 50K, just did her first ultra in February (Black Canyon 60K) and now decided to do her 2nd one. My boyfriend Greg kidded around and said, “Serves you right. Now you know what it feels like when you’re trying to get people to drink the Kool Aid.” Soooooo….I signed up for Aravaipa’s Crown King Scramble 50K.
This race is no joke…The Crown King Scramble is a point to point uphill 50 kilometer foot race which starts at 1700 feet elevation and tops out at mile 28.7 at 6520 feet elevation before a final 600 foot descent into the finish. This is the elevation profile:
We had an option for the early start at 5am and I’m glad we took it. Not only did it get us out of the heat for the one hour but more importantly, it took the edge off for getting to the first cutoff (disqualification point) at mile 15.3 in 3.5 hours. (After the cutoff experience at Antelope Canyon, I knew I didn’t want that extra stress again.)
I considered going for a personal record (my best time for a 50k is 8:19 but I knew this race may not be the right one). And of course, I was “lucky” again and had the same issue as my last 50K (yes, it was that time of the month again!). I decided I was just going to enjoy the race and our beautiful Arizona landscape. One of the things I love most about trail running is being outdoors and enjoying nature.
We barely got there in time and got in the start line about 2 minutes before starting. This was the first ultra for Deb and Kerri, Suzi and Krista’s 2nd, and my 4th. Unfortunately Elaine had the flu and wasn’t able to join us (she’s done two 50 milers but hadn’t done a 50K yet).
I normally like to do my body looseners but didn’t have time for that. My plan was to run the first 15 miles as much as possible as I knew I would be hiking a lot of the 2nd half. The weather was perfect. It was still dark so we had headlamps but we got to see an amazing sunrise! I love that I know quite a few people that are trail/ultra runners. I ran into several friends along the way and got to catch up with them a bit. I met Deborah and Mark a long time ago when I co-taught a ChiRunning workshop for the Mountain Milers group in Prescott. As much as I wanted to run this part, I was in no rush and wanted to conserve energy for later. This first half had some rolly polly hills but nothing crazy yet. The night before, I had reviewed a few of my ChiSchool videos on breathing and steep hills so I started focusing on my form and matching my breathing with my footsteps.
From miles 15-19 we started getting the harder hills. I was by myself on and off and totally OK with that. I love to run with people just as much as I love being alone on a trail. I saw Chris, Amanda and Mechaela. I couldn’t wait to get to the Mile 19 aid station as I know several of my friends were volunteering there. It’s always great to see your friends at aid stations (it’s always a hard choice to pick in between running a race and volunteering at one!). I normally stick to my nutrition plan (thanks to Brooke who helped with my 50 miler!) but the theme of their aid station was Fiesta and they had some Tecate so I had to have a small shot glass of beer ;). Surprise: Baby G Growler was there as well! He is the mascot of Running for Brews Tempe (a social running club that I’m in charge of) Right before this I saw my friend Krista and she wasn’t feeling too well. We got up the aid station and I told her to cool off (it was getting warm) and get some food down. There is also an elevation change to consider for this race and it’s easy to feel nauseated (I felt it several times). She felt better and we moved on. My TomTom died at some point because the storage was full. This never happened for me and was a good learning lesson.I hadn’t downloaded quite a few of my training runs apparently so it didn’t have enough storage for my run. I was a bit annoyed at first but it was a blessing in disguise. When you don’t know what mile you are at, it’s quite liberating. We just kept setting our next goal to get to the next aid station.
I ran into a few more friends. Marina and Jamie were doing their first ultra. Marina’s been having some calf issues so I gave her a few tips on how to limit using it. I also met Becki and ran into Lynsey (both of their first ultras too!). We did quite a bit of leap frogging for the remainder of the race. At some point, I tripped over a rock and had a little tumble. Not a big deal…it’s actually been a long time since I fell trail running so I was due for a fall. I normally am able to catch my balance before falling but my hydration pack was full and I couldn’t counter balance the fall. I barely got a few scrapes on my hand and we kept moving. I heard my friend Tommy coming up behind us and he’s a great runner and positive guy. He ran with us for a bit, shared his big smile and positive energy and then moved on.
The Fort Misery Aid station was at mile 22.3. Apparently they win Best Aid Station contest every year and it was evident by the amount of alcohol they had available. Again, not something I would normally do but I was feeling good so I had a small Bloody Mary and was proud of myself for resisting the Fireball shot.
This was the hardest part of the run. You can see how far we climbed. We passed creeks which were great for dunking our hats and buffs. I walked through them purposely as the cold water felt really good on my feet. I had an extra pair of socks for back up but never used them. We also had to deal with ATVs and cars four wheel driving. We knew this would be possible as they can’t close the forest road down. It was a bit annoying although most people were very nice.The smell of diesel from their vehicles was worst than the dust they were creating.
It’s really weird because sometimes you look back and think, wow, what was I thinking/saying for all that time? Somehow the time goes by chatting with friends and enjoying the scenery. I have lived in AZ for over half of my life and have never seen this part of our state.
One of my favorite parts was when we started getting into the pines. The tag line for the race is “spines to pines” because we leave the desert landscape at Lake Pleasant and get to Crown King which is at 6700 feet of elevation. I love the smell of pine trees and hearing the wind blow through the needles. The slight breeze felt good too. The last aid station was 2 miles away from the top of the hill and we knew we had 2 miles of downhill after that. We were close! We kidded around about our heavy legs and whether they would remember how to run downhill (free energy!) after doing so much hiking.
Running downhill was no problem and before we knew it, we were in “town” and people were directing us to the finish line.
My official time was 8:45:22. Considering I had no expectations for this race other than enjoy it and finish it, I’m happy with it! As a matter of fact, this is a 50K I would consider doing again. I love a challenge and I love hills. If I do it next year, I may try and PR the course but for now, I’m just happy to have my 4th Ultra under my belt. I will say finishing a 50 miler 6 weeks prior to this definitely boosted my confidence. I also love to finish a race feeling strong rather than feeling like a truck ran over me. I finished strong and even though I was a bit sore the next day, I felt great!
I personally would recommend this race. It’s no joke so make sure to train for the hills and elevation (physically, nutritionally and mentally). Read other blog posts to get the scoop but make sure to have a buff to cover your mouth and nose when there is dust being kicked up. If you are worried about time, do the early start. It was well worth not worrying about the cutoffs and having an hour in the cooler weather.
I would also recommend spending the night. We stayed at one of these cabins (highly recommend them!) and enjoyed Crown King. We had dinner at the Saloon and breakfast at Prospector Mall (both were yummy). And last but not least, you cannot leave Crown King without visiting the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club on the way back to I-17.
Not only was this another great race, but another great weekend with good friends! Love my running friends and the fact that I have more of them getting into trail running but more importantly into ultra running! Thanks to Aravaipa Running for putting on another amazing event!
From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)