November 12, 2016 was a rather significant day for me. It was, also, a very long day along the Colossal Vail 50/50 Arizona Trail Run course. All 34 miles of it were calling my name. My body was screaming "Dave!", toward the end of those lengthy, tortuous miles across the Arizona desert. A day in the desert where challenges and goals were met. Boom!!!
Bright and early near the start line
It had been 10 long years since I ran the Pederson Ridge Rumble (35 miles - Sisters, Oregon) and 5 years since I ran a segment for the Team I Challenge Diabetes in the Canadian Death Race (23 miles - 6500 feet or so, of elevation gain - Grande Cache, Alberta, Canada).
The day started off well as I reached the parking lot at La Posta Quemada Ranch, next to the Colossal Cave Mountain Park. How would this day go? Would I have a great run, good run, a mix of running and walking or the dreaded DNF (did not finish). Would my diabetes and blood sugar behave?
Only one way to find out!
On the walk to the start\
I watched the 50 mile group stride past me and onto the beautiful Arizona Trail. A half hour later the 50k troopers toed the line and went through the pre-race talk. The nerves had been activated, spinning, churning and clunking in the background. In the foreground was the memory of the last two weeks of training, which had not gone well, by ultra running standards.
Ok, it was a little cool for Southern Arizona
Countdown brought reality to the surface, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.........and away we go! There were about 100 runners in the 50k category. The race director had warned us that the most likely spot for participants to fall was in the first couple minutes of the race. A crowded trail littered with a plethora of rocks, with runners anxious to pass did prove his point. At least it was a short way to carry the injured runners back to the start.
Cienega Creek, early in the race
Mid Route - suffering is half over! - Photo by Damion Alexander
The sun had just risen above the ridge line of the Rincon Mountains and and I was making good time. In typical race happenings, I was probably moving faster than I should. Running in a pack causes one to move a bit faster. By mile 11 I was doing well as the terrain took us through some ups and downs through the beauty of the Sonoran desert. Those 'ups' would total about 3,000 feet. With an out and back course we would even out by the 34th mile.
Runners and the Rincon Mountains in the background
Video of the I-10 Tunnel and it's occupants
Just past mile 11 my grand start began to fade and took on another dimension. I was not feeling so good. I had initially attributed that to a fast (er) start, serious lack of sleep and whatever else I could come up with. I was wearing a CGMS (Continous Glucose Monitor System) to check on how my blood sugars were treating me. They were doing well, I thought, as I made semi frequent glances at my insulin pump for readings. They had appeared good, but my CGMS was not favoring me as I motored forward, with some hitches in the engine. I now was feeling like I did not want to endure another 22 miles. Maybe one mile at most. This was motivated by the fact that the first aid station was nearing and I had a drop bag positioned for my stop. With my blood sugar looking good (111) I began to question the accuracy of my CGMS and my decision to run 34 miles.
I sat down, took a couple of huge breaths and pulled out my blood sugar meter to zero in on an actual reality. Meter read 52. Normal blood sugar is 100. I grabbed a precious packet of Honey Stinger Pomegranate Chews and indulged. And then the next packet. I now knew why I was beginning to have a rough day. Duh. Diabetes is a major reason I take on such challenges, though it offers back, a few road blocks, bumps or scary creatures along the way.
I will endure.
Somewhere close to the 1/2 way point. Photo by Damion Alexander
l left the aid station with a stomach full of energy chews and a feeling that I was heading away from the DNF (did not finish) category. The five miles to the next aid station included a nice upward trend to the high point of the course and the following downhill to the halfway point. It also included a runner in a 40 gallon hat, which brought a smile to my face.
Video - Do not know who this is, but, seems appropriate.
Aid Station at 17 miles
At the half way point, my blood sugars were pretty solid and I was doing good in the energy department. My legs had a few minor issues. My iliotibial bands were screamingly tight and I was nearing cramp hell at the back of my legs. I motored on...
The remote restroom at 17 miles
I dealt with another low blood sugar, after the aid station, but not quite the punch that mile 11 had delivered. I would catch the next aid station at mile 23 and access my drop bag for the last time. I do not even remember what I grabbed, but, could not have been much as blood sugar was not yelling 'feed me', 'feed me'!. Blood sugar/CGMS were playing fairly now and readings were almost normal. Grand, sometimes, to be normal.
One of the factors in my favor was a lack of blisters. The Injini toe socks had earned their high praise.
Around mile 28 I was passed by a seriously nice looking gal named Kaitin. Let me re-phrase that. Not the nice looking comment, the speed involved. She cruised by me. What on earth was she doing so far back in the race? I picked up my tempo, temporarily, and ran with her for maybe a mile. Kaitlin was dealing with some severe stomach issues and proved the point as she would needed to stop and release her guts to the desert floor. We ran/walked together, or in proximity, to each other, for the next six miles.
Passing back through the I-10 Tunnel. At least I was ahead of this guy!
The end was near. It had to be! Coming up over a rise revealed a beautiful setting with the mountains surrounding me and finish line below. It had evolved into a bit more challenging day than I had signed up for, but, I was very thankful that I had made a step (roughly 70,000 or so steps) in the right direction. I enjoy unique challenges and finding the finish line, whether it be at the end of a 34 mile race or a completed project.
I came across the line and received my special 50k finisher rock which sits on my desk at work. It is a reminder that I am still alive and kicking and will continue to seek adventure, challenges and more rocks.
Finish line below