Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sinister Night Runs 54k: Sand, Sun and Scorpions

 Another Amazing Aravaipa Running Event

I'm really not very good at running these shorter distance ultras but I keep finding myself running them. Partly because I need them to maintain my base and partly because I just love trail running, even when I suck. Because of my self acknowledged suckiness, I came into the Sinister Night Run 54k with very low expectations, an open mind, and a cooler full of ice cold beer.

Beer, Babes and Running Shoes. All I Need to be Happy!

The 54k race starts at 7:00 PM, which fooled me into thinking it would be cool and comfortable at the start. It was actually 95 degrees and the sun was taking its time dipping below the horizon. We were running a rolling, 9k loop with an aid station near the middle, so I decided to run with a single handheld bottle full of ice, water and Hammer Endurolyte Fizz Tabs. The secret to success when running desert races is to conserve, hydrate and focus on making it the distance. There's always a lot of attrition in these races because of poor planning. That usually works to my advantage.

As stated earlier, I suck at this distance so there's no need for me to try to race up front with the guys that clearly DO NOT suck at this distance. My plan was to lay back while the sun was still up, do some course recon on the first loop and focus on keeping well hydrated. Simple enough...

By mile 2, my running clothes were saturated with sweat and I started to sense the physical indicators that suggested dehydration was already coming on. I had nearly drained my handheld, but I was losing the battle. It was WAY too early for this crap.

I'm about 99% certain that I was the first runner that actually stopped at the first aid station. Most runners that frequently run up front won't stop that early in a race, and I'm usually no exception. This time, I had no choice and I stopped long enough to load up on ice water. Because I hadn't planned to stop, I didn't have any Endurolyte Fizz tabs with me, so I was temporarily screwed for electrolytes.

After leaving the aid station, I slowed my pace so I could better control my fluid loss. I began to get passed and I struggled to remain patient in these early miles.

I hate being passed.

The sun was setting during the first loop but the temperature remained unchanged. There was a gentle breeze blowing across the desert but it was hot and provided no relief whatsoever. These conditions can be dangerous because the dry heat and warm wind cause sweat to evaporate, giving a runner a false sense of actual fluid loss.

I finished the first 9k loop in about 51 minutes. I loaded up on fluids, sucked down some Hammer Peanut Butter gel and rolled right back out.

The field was thinned out by now, but the 9k race was starting at 8:00 and soon enough, I was being overtaken by a stream of speedy runners on fresh legs.

I clicked off the next few laps with no issues. I continued to drink far more than I thought I needed and that seemed to keep me properly hydrated. I hammered a gel at the end of each lap and managed to maintain a very even pace throughout the run. I didn't feel great, but I was getting by.

Running in the desert at night is one of my favorite things. The sky opens up to a sea of stars and the air carries dozens of unique scents, one of which is the foul smell wafting off my body. I don't think I'll ever get used to the pungent ultra stank that seems to reach it's savory peak around mile 30. It's just gross.

I had been tracking my progress after each lap as I crossed the timing mat. Aravaipa uses a large monitor that displays your position in the race whenever you get scored. My patience and consistency was paying off and I had clawed my way into 5th place after 45 kilometers. I had one more lap left and still felt good, considering my rocky start.

I was actually surprised how well things had gone up to this point. A small part of me knew that it wasn't likely to last. It never lasts.

I started my 6th and final loop in good spirits. It was a beautiful night, I was having fun and things were going well. I coasted through my final aid station stop and then hiked and ran with a few other runners before darting off into the desert all alone, absorbing the serenity of my final two miles.

I can't say I was surprised when the hard packed, rocky trail came flying at my face. It's always times like this that I fall. When I allow my mind to wander and try to focus on all the positivity of the run. That's when I fall. It's a very rare occurrence, but when I do hit the trail with my face, I usually do it in epic fashion. For example, I've only fallen 7 times during trail runs (now 8) but I've broke my ribs twice and have sustained a wide range of serious injuries. I don't fall well.

I was running pretty fast when my toe grabbed that invisible rock and catapulted me, temporarily airborne, before I augured into the trail, plowing coarse angular sand down the trail. It hurt.

I rolled onto my butt and tried to clear my head. The dust was thick in my headlamp and I couldn't see my surroundings and seemed to have lost my handheld bottle somewhere. I simply sat until the dust settled enough for me to locate my bottle and assess my injuries. As I was wiping the blood off my fresh trail rash, my eye caught some movement near my foot. Thats when I noticed the belligerent scorpion looking up at me with a look of total disdain. He was postured for an attack with his tail and stinger poised to strike. Annoyed by my circumstances and his menacing presence, I was in no mood for his crap. I brought my water bottle around and shot him right in the eye with a full stream of my Endurolyte mixture. This really pissed him off! He scurried around trying to look intimidating, but let's face it...he's a BUG.

I picked myself up, dusted myself off, flew the bird at my scorpion buddy and headed down the trail toward the finish.

Stupid Bugs

I always feel like an idiot when I fall on the trail, but I take some comfort in the reality that there are way more embarrassing ways to fall.

For example....

I managed to finish the last two miles without falling or being attacked by scorpions and I crossed the finish line in 5:44:03, taking 5th place overall. Another great Aravaipa race in the books!

Me and my Bride Post Race

I can't say enough about Aravaipa Running and all their great races. I also want to express my gratitude to our awesome friend, Maria Walton, for hosting us for the weekend. As always, we had an amazing time in Arizona and can't wait to get back.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and share in my experience.

Happy Trails!


  1. Another great read. Sorry you fell down and got to personal with a scorpion. But got back up and still finished 5th. I have never been in a desert at night, your telling of it made me feel like I have been there now.

    1. I try really hard not to fall down but things don't always go my way. Thanks for reading!

  2. Wish I could've stuck around Kelly for a beer but I was ready for a shower. You doing the next night run? Should have a Leines ready for you at the next race. Great race btw for you as well.

  3. I think I'm planning to be there, Ryan. Leines make everything better!

  4. It was really neat to meet you and Jo. You both do amazing things and I told Glenn, "I just got to meet my version of celebrities!". Nice job on your "short" run!

    1. It was awesome to meet you both, Katie. I hope we get a chance to meet again at another race sometime and we can hang out longer. Keep up the great work!

  5. Oh no! Stupid falls. People are always surprised with me since I am so graceful when I am paying attention. The second I drift off though, look out! I have fallen up stairs, down stairs, on road runs, and every other way you could imagine. Glad you were okay though :)

    1. Yeah. Stupid Falls!!! Bound to happen every now and then.