Jess recently finished (and won, which she fails to mention) the Coldwater Rumble 100. Here's her race report. Since the race, she recovered so well that she's already completed a 50 miler, but first things first; here's her account of her race.
This race is put on by Aravaipa Running, a really cool race company that puts on a ton of trail running events in Arizona and takes place outside of Phoenix in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park. It consists of five 20-mile loops that you do washing machine style (clockwise, counterclockwise, etc) which was great in breaking up the monotony of doing the same loop multiple times.
The course itself is deceptively challenging, despite the 9-10k of climbing over 100 miles. It was much more technical than anticipated, mostly due to loose rocks: so many rocks! And then there’s a stretch of about 4 miles through a sand wash. There are moments of relief from the sand, but those were mostly filled with loose rocks! And we had to cross dry wash beds – so steep little downs and ups that were hard for momentum. All of this made for a bit slower travel time than expected. But all in all, I loved the course; the desert scenery was quite beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Loop One – we started at 7am, just before sunrise but enough light that I didn’t need a headlamp. We began with a climb, which I was happy about – I was in the mood to start with a nice hiking pace. I could feel the excited energy amongst all the runners. The first aid station is only about 3 miles into the race, and from there you do a big loop back to that aid station (with an aid station at the far end of that loop) before finally looping back to the start/finish – it looks like an “8” on the map. I spent most of this loop chatting with a lady I met, Andi, and we had a great time talking about life and our love of dogs. The long stretch of sand that I was so worried about seemed like no big deal. My greater concern was all the rocks. I have run rocky courses in the past and had a miserable time in the late miles due to bad blisters and trauma from kicking and tripping on rocks. My plan going into this race was to take my time and just get to the finish line – not try to hit any specific time goal but only to journey for 100 miles. I thought my first opportunity to really prove that to myself was now in front of me – slow down, take it easy and even walk through some of the really technical rocky sections. So that’s what I did and it felt great to take my time and not beat up my feet early in the race.
Loop Two – it got a little warm during loop two but not too bad and there was a nice breeze. I definitely got into the “taking it easy” groove this loop and ended up going more leisurely than really necessary or appropriate. I was having a great time though and upon reflection, that’s what really mattered for this race.
Loop Three – the temps at the beginning of loop three felt the warmest of the race. I stayed patient and didn’t allow myself to think about how far I’d come and how far I still had to go. I still didn’t think the sand wash section was bad and watched my footwork in the rocks. My audiobook kept me company and I felt mostly happy and grateful to be out there. I started to notice my back was chafing against my pack, but my body felt solid, with no aches or pains and no fatigue.
Loop Four – I knew loop four would likely be the most mentally challenging. It’s in the dark, it’s decently far into the race but still a good way from the finish and I knew every section would feel longer than before. To keep myself distracted of all that and to stay in the mindset of the “journey” versus a “race”, I carried my phone and called a bunch of friends and sent a few texts. I had planned to mainly text but the course was too technical to look away. The beginning of the loop was mostly uphill so it was perfect for hiking and chatting! Talking with friends gave me a surge of happiness and excitement and I took off after the first aid station. I felt amazing, on top of the world! I thought I would have the most kick ass last 30 miles of the race. I would own it! I went back and forth with two sets of runners who were really nice and it was fun to have some people around me.
Then it all fell apart! Ha! I started to feel nauseous in between the second and third aid station (miles 69-77) of the loop. Everything slowed way down. The sand wash seemed waaaay longer than the previous loops and the chafing on my back became more noticeable. I knew I had to take care of myself in order to not death march the last loop. My ego went from sky high to down in the ground! I was able to laugh at myself for the highs and lows that come with running 100 miles. I took a 5-minute break at the third aid station and ate some cup-of-noodles which really helped alleviate my nausea. I finished the loop moving a little stiffly after the stop at the aid station but felt renewed.
Loop Five – I wanted to get going on last loop and was impatient at the start/finish aid station. I should have gotten some food but wanted to get going so I had one bite of food and was back out. Shame on me! I started out ok but could feel the lack of calories take hold again and the nausea came back. I was carrying food on me but I was so sick of it at this point, I wasn’t able to eat any of it except the ginger candy I had. Luckily the aid station was only 3 miles away and I ate more food there. I got my second wind and headed out, excited that I was closing in on finishing this thing! The night was magical: there was a full moon and the clouds had cleared so we had this bright moon lighting up the desert. I kept thinking there was a runner behind me and nope, it was just the moonlight.
I took a good 2 hours to get to the far aid station on the loop (mile 91) and by then the nausea was back and I had lost the wind in my sails. I was stumbling a lot on the rocks, but didn’t really care. The sand wash felt 6 miles long this loop and my back was on fire. At the far aid station I ate a little but just wanted to keep moving to get the last 9 miles done. This exacerbated how yucky I felt but I also didn’t care too much because I knew the finish was only about 2 hours away.
It’s amazing how the mind can take over. I didn’t eat again but once I hit that last aid station and knew I could get to the finish within an hour, all nausea and fatigue was gone. I pushed those last 4.5 miles and knew I’d at least be able to break 24 hours and finish before the sun was up. It’s funny how having little goals like that can be huge motivators at the end. As I got closer, of course my math was off and I kept thinking I was going to round the corner to the road (which meant I was about a quarter mile to the finish) and it seemed like it was never ending. I kept reminding myself to stay patient and then finally I saw the road. It was wonderful to see my good friend Robert Lopez waiting there for me at the finish.
The race ended up taking me 23 hours and 35 minutes and was a (mostly) wonderful experience. I have such mixed feelings about 100 milers – or I guess a better way to put it is I have such a wide range of emotions with 100s. Even though much later I find them very rewarding, I always ask myself (usually right after I finish), “are they worth it?” I do not find them easy; they are almost always a hard test of my abilities in one form or another. Yet this challenge – the highs and lows that it brings – is part of what drives me to continue with them.