The Adrenaline Night Run 65k represents my third ultra in three weeks. That's a nifty little fact, but what it really means is that I'm a bit tired.
I was originally scheduled to run the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile trail race the weekend, but had to change my plans due to logistics. Getting from South Africa, then back home, then out to rural Western Pennsylvania was just more travel than I was going to be able to manage. However, I could take a quick flight to Phoenix on Saturday, run this race through the night, and catch a quick flight back home on Sunday morning. In and out like a thief in the night! PLUS!!!! Being a night race, I could use this to my advantage because my body would still be running on African time! Now if my legs would run on African time....
Customized hydration pack, ready to do some damage!
I would like to thank my buddy, Leon Lutz, for hooking me up an awesome headlamp after mine suffered a terrible mishap! Thanks buddy!
The Adrenaline Night Race is part of the Aravaipa Running group of races. These are the same guys that put on the Javelina Jundred and the Coldwater Rumble. I've run several of their races, so I was pretty enthused to be running this race too. Nobody does a better job of throwing a trail race/party!
Jo and I love running in Arizona and we seem to find ourselves down here quite a bit. Jo would also be running the 13k race before spending the rest of the night keeping me fed and hydrated. I love it when we run together, even if it's not technically "together".
Speaking of traveling to Arizona for races...
We were last down here in January so I could run the Coldwater Rumble 50 mile trail race. While we were here for that race, we totaled our Hertz rental car. It wasn't our fault, but when I returned the car, the right fender was ripped off, the bumper was dragging on the ground, and it was barely recognizable. So admittedly, we were a bit surprised when Hertz handed us the keys to a brand new Camaro. I had rented an SUV as a crewing vehicle. What self respecting trail runner shows up for a race in a BRAND NEW CAMARO?!?! And more importantly, why would they trust US with it. Our track record is spotty at best.
Given the right circumstances, we can destroy this one too!!!
The 65k race begins at 7:00 PM and Jo wouldn't start her race until an hour later. Like most of the Aravaipa Running events, this is a loop course, which I really like. This loop is 13k and I'll run it 5 times. I like this format because it allows me to run the first loop while making mental notes, then I can improve my game plan as the race unfolds. I usually do very well on multiple loop courses.
Pretending to wander around while sizing people up
Getting my bib and SWAG before the race
It's important to mention that it was HOT at the start of the race. It wasn't warm. It wasn't "sunny". It was a ridiculous and oppressive heat that would force most sane people to stay indoors with an ice pack soothing the warmest, sweatiest parts of their bodies. I would say it was AFRICA HOT, but I was in Africa a few days ago. This was MUCH hotter.
It was 106 degrees at the race start. This should have been a huge concern for most people but I felt like I was the only person that even noticed it. The heat was a concern because I've suffered with dehydration symptoms a few times this year. If anything was going to derail my day, dehydration had the greatest chance.
Jo and I getting ready to get this thing done!
Listening to pre-race BLAH BLAH BLAH...
We got started promptly at 7:00. I had planned to go VERY easy on the first loop because the sun would be beating down on us for another hour or so. So, as usual, I went out with the leaders.
I have so little self control
Chasing skinny people. It's a compulsion!
Almost immediately, a small pack broke away from the rest of the field. I was in it. We created a huge gap between the front 6 and the rest of the field. In my defense, it was a pretty comfy pace, but maybe not smart for a 40 mile race and definitely not smart for 106 degree weather. No need to let logic and common sense get in the way of an epic display of self destruction though.
After a mile of hauling ass, the leader evidently got tired of toying with us and totally checked out! Now we were a 5 person pack, following the skinniest of our original group. I'm not exaggerating when I say this dude left us in his dust. At first I thought he had lost his mind and would eventually blow up. Little did I know I would spend the next 7 hours hunting him down.
Desert at Dusk
As we were running in a tight pack, I started to size these guys up. They were all chatting and laughing and seemed to be out for a casual little jaunt through the desert. Meanwhile, I was dead silent. Just watching. It struck me that I didn't like what was happening and in an unusual moment of maturity, I slowed my pace and let the remaining runners pull away from me. This is much harder than it sounds. If you're a competitive person, it's excruciating to watch your competition put distance on you. But this is what I did.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch....
Jo got started with her race at 8:00. This put her an hour behind me. My race plan assumed I would be finishing my fist loop not long after she got underway. I had planned to eventually catch up to her, run a while, and then pull away to finish my second loop. It didn't work out quite like that.
Jo managing to look sexy even during a hot trail run through the desert. Only my wife would do a trail running "selfie"
This 8 mile loop has one aid station near the midway point. I planned to blow right by it all night long. As we neared the aid station, I was still catching glimpses of the lead pack but I was running all by myself. I had a huge gap on the people behind me.
Sun is almost gone. Thankfully!
I finished my first loop in about 1:20. I felt good and decided to keep that pace for the rest of the race. I assumed I would eventually pass most the field if I could hold myself together and stay focused on that slow pace.
The second loop proved to be a challenge because we now had people from two other races clogging up the trails. The majority of the course is technical single track, so passing people can sometimes take time. The other alternative is to shove them off into the Chollo cactus so I could ease on by. I decided to reserve that option for the later miles if needed. This race was going to be an exercise in patience, so I used this congestion to my advantage.
It was fully dark now and we didn't have an kind of moon. The Arizona desert is a beautiful place to run at night but I had never seen it so dark. I was passing people, keeping an eye out for Jo, but I never saw her. I eventually finished my second loop without ever seeing her, and I hoped she had already finished. When I crossed under the start line, I scanned the crowd but she wasn't there either. I refilled my hydration pack, grabbed some Perpetuem and headed off into the night.
My third loop was where I made my biggest gains. People were falling apart and the carnage was almost absolute. I was passing people that were in total survival mode. The total fatigue caused by the heat and trail conditions was taking a huge toll.
In addition to the fatigue, people were literally dropping all around me. I've never seen so many people trip over rocks in my life. I witnessed dozens of painful crashes that made me cringe and shudder. It was painful to watch. Thankfully, I stayed upright all night.
Just as I finished my third loop, the power went out at the start line. We went from full illumination to total blackout. When I was blinded by a flash, I realized it was Jo taking a picture of me. I was happy to see her again and in one piece. We had a quick exchange while she took care of my hydration pack.
I had been battling a few tummy cramps, so I decided to duck into a nearby portable toilet at the start line. I instantly had flashbacks of the Antelope Island 100 miler, where I had lost my lamp in the blue water, so I quickly took my lamp off and held it in my hand. I scanned the inside quickly before taking a seat...and then...CRAP!!! Literally....CRAP!!! Somebody had somehow managed to crap all over the toilet seat!!! I didn't have time for housekeeping duties (doodies) so I abandoned this effort and headed out.
I asked Jo to let me know my race position when I returned for my final lap. With the power out, we had no idea where I stood in the race. We exchanged a quick kiss and I was off!
The fourth loop was lonely. The other races were done and the ultra field was heavily scattered. I saw almost nobody. I ran straight through the aid station and returned to the start line once again.
I had been holding my pace almost perfectly so far. I had passed a lot of people but didn't know if they were in my race or a shorter race. I was blind to my position but was a little curious.
Coming in to finish the 4th loop
Jo immediately met me when I crossed the start line and told me I was in 2nd place overall. I wasn't completely surprised but I hadn't seen some of the early front runners and didn't know what came of them. It turns out, they eventually dropped, which was exactly why I stopped chasing them in the early miles.
All my loops had been between 1:20 and 1:27ish. I really wanted to finish in under 7 hours, so I headed out as quickly as possible.
I was pretty beat up by now and I felt like my pace was slipping. I focused on the night while I ran, noticing shooting stars and the listening to the coyotes howl and yap off in the distance. I lost myself in the desert as I ran and it helped the miles slip by.
Once again, the trail was a lonely place. I wasn't passing and I wasn't being passed. Unlike most my races when I'm up front before the finish, I wasn't even bothering to look over my shoulder. I just ran through the night and enjoyed the peace.
I met my goal and crossed the finish line at 6:59:10, solidly taking 2nd place.
Smiling like an idiot! Loving what I do!
A well deserved post race beer!
This was a dangerous race for me because I frequently forget to hydrate while running. I know it sounds stupid, but it's a fact. I get so immersed in the run that I tune my body out until it begins to fail me. I've been working on this.
During this race, I remained focused on hydration and nutrition from the start. I ingested ample amounts of Hammer Endurolyte Fizz and Hammer Perpetuem. I maintained an intelligent pace and stuck to my plan. While it's frustrating to see the leaders pull away, ultras have a way of correcting that issue in the later miles if we can be patient.
Chatting with the race management
I was really happy with the course and it played into a lot of my strengths. It's not an easy trail and it has never ending rolling terrain. There are several long, runnable flat sections, but the up and down is constant. I decided early on the walk every climb and run the flats and the descents. That's exactly what I did and it probably made the biggest difference in my race. This is a slow course due to the terrain, so I embraced it and managed my race accordingly.
I have loved every Aravaipa Running event that I've entered and this was no exception. Nobody does it as well as these guys and I've become addicted to their races. If you haven't yet, you should check them out.
Jo also had a great time and as always, she did an amazing job of managing my race and taking care of me. I don't know how other runners can handle it without having somebody as skilled as Jo to help them get it done. She's definitely my secret weapon!
We're taking it easy for a few weeks as I rest and prepare for the Black Hill 100 mile trail race in South Dakota. It's time to regain focus and get mentally prepared for another adventure!
Thanks for following along. I hope to see many of you out on the trails very soon!