Race: Oracle Rumble 50K
Date: 28 January 2018
Trail: Arizona Trail From Freeman Road Trailhead to Oracle State Park
I couldn’t have felt more prepared. Possibly the most prepared for any race I have ever done. I felt like I had put in a good training block, and other than fighting off the winter time cold that had infected my entire household, I felt rested and healthy.
The evening before I double checked all my gear and drop bag and tried to go to sleep. As typical, I think I ended up with about 3 hrs total in sleep that night. Nerves, fear of missing the alarm, but mostly excited. Along with feeling more prepared than ever, I can remember a race I’ve felt more excited for. I had a big goal that I felt was very attainable.
I got out of bed around 3am. We had to be at the park ready for the shuttle to the start line by 5:40, and I lived about an hour from the park. Ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas along with some coffee. Finished breakfast, loaded up the car with my gear and hit the road around 4am. I needed to pick up my friend and training partner, Chris, who was also running this race.
We arrived at the park with plenty of time to check in, stage our drop bags and load up on the bus for the shuttle to the start.
Longest. Bus ride. Ever.
I guess it didn’t register with me before then how far we actually had to drive, and well, I forgot to pee before we left. I could hear my moms voice echoing in my head; “you better use the restroom before we leave!”. Well, I didn’t, and this proved to be a pretty uncomfortable hour-long bus ride. Once we finally arrived at the start, it became obvious that I wasn’t the only one, as there was a mad dash for the desert and porta-potties as soon as the busses came to a stop.
The start of this race was COLD. Well for a desert dweller like myself anyway. The temperature was in the low 30s. I opted to start the race wearing my flannel shirt. Everyone shed the rest of their cold gear they weren’t going to run with and left them in drop bags to be returned to the finish line and headed towards the start line.
I finished the rest of my Pro Bar Meal Bar and was ready to go. I was still feeling great and ready to run.
We got our quick race briefing, followed by a ten-second countdown and a shotgun blast signaling the start of the race! We were off. Looking back now, this is probably where my first mistake began. I had told myself that I wasn’t going to go any faster than an 11:30/mile pace for the first half. Well, I hit the first aid station around 8 miles at under a 10:00/mile pace. However, I was feeling great. The pace didn’t feel hard, my breathing was slow and controlled and my legs were still feeling fresh. I rolled through the first aid station stopping only to fill my water bottles. At that point, I was still carrying all the nutrition I needed on my vest. I continued along at a similar pace through the next 7ish miles into the aid station number 2. Still feeling really good. Similar to the first aid station, I just re-filled my bottles, this time I grabbed a banana and kept moving. Keep in mind, this first half of the race was pretty much all downhill.
Leaving the second aid station is when the climbing starts. Lots and lots of what seems like endless climbing. Long, steep uphills followed by shorter quick downhills. Somewhere around mile 18 is where the BONK set in. My pace started to slow and my stomach started cramping and was nauseous at any attempt to drink or eat. I pushed through the next few miles before deciding my bowels needed to be relieved. I pulled off the trail and took care of business. I immediately started feeling better. I was able to take in some water and a little tailwind without nausea returning. I picked up my slowing pace and thought I had survived. That euphoria lasted for about a mile before all hell broke loose. Must have been the calm before the storm. Out of nowhere, my stomach decided to toss up everything I had put in it that morning, at the same time, anything that didn’t come up, well, came out the other end. Luckily I was able to get off the trail again and steer clear of any messy accidents in my pants! Sorry for the details, but this is important, as I feel this was also the beginning of the end for me.
After this happened I was unable to recover. I staggered down the trail at a snail’s pace of a walk, and any attempt again to drink or eat ended up in more nausea and vomiting. By mile 24 all it took everything in me just to keep moving forward. I had no choice but to somehow keep moving because there was no aid station or drop points anywhere between miles 15 and 28. So I just kept walking……slowly. Around mile 26, I knew I was in pretty rough shape because I just stopped sweating. My skin just dried up and the beads of sweat that had been dropping from my forehead just disappeared.
Just about 7hrs after I started so confidently, I drug myself into the mile 28 aid station. After a valiant effort from the wonderful aid station personnel to make an attempt to refuel me and get me back on my feet to the finish line, I made the decision to tap out. I just had nothing left in me. In my mind, my race was over at mile 24, but due to aid station spacing, it officially ended at mile 28.
Overall, this was a beautiful course that takes you through some very scenic parts of the Arizona Trails desert landscape. Very well organized with fully stocked aid stations and extremely positive volunteers! This would not be a race that I would recommend to someone new to ultra running however. With the vertical gain and far spaced aid stations in the back half of the course, this can prove to be a challenge for anyone that might be prone to find themselves in trouble like I did.
This was only my second 50k attempt and have learned that I really don’t know what I don’t know about this ultra running world. That is what keeps me motivated! No two races are the same. It’s a constant cycle of preparation and learning. I know within this DNF there are many lessons to be learned and applied to the next one. I look forward to continuing to push my body to see what it is capable of.
Always remember; If you’re not succeeding, you’re learning. Stay motivated, and stay humble. Until next time thanks for reading my Thoughts From The Trail!