Monday, September 04, 2006

The Jerome Hill Climb

I got my sorry butt out of bed this morning around 5:00 AM because my ride to the Jerome Hill Climb was showing up at my house at 5:30. One of my friends called me yesterday and asked if I was going to the event and wanted to know if I was interested in car-pooling. Cool. Car pooling meant that there was no way for me to back out of the race gracefully.

What ever is going on with my right foot didn’t disappear overnight. The outside edge of my right foot was tender once again and complained a little when it hit the hard wood floor as I stepped out of bed. I think the darn thing is just lazy and really wanted to stay in bed. A couple of Ibuprofen took the edge off and I was outside and ready for my friend to show up for the 90 minute drive north to the former mining town of Jerome.

The drive to Jerome was uneventful and we arrived 50 minutes before gun time. Since Jerome is perched on the side of a mountain, parking is very limited. This year, parking and race registration was on a flat area one mile from the start line. By the time we got our bib numbers, used the porta-potty and ran down the hill to start line, we only had 5 minutes to spare before start; not nearly enough time for a decent warm-up.

The club sponsoring the event was unable to get the appropriate permits required to use the old school house at the lower reaches of the town this year, so they moved the start line about ½ mile up the course and started at a small parking lot of a regional park. They also extended the course at the top by 160 yards to try to stretch it out a bit. In this configuration, the course still climbs 1000 feet over 4.6 miles. However, by taking nearly ½ mile off the front end, we hit the first hill almost immediately after the start gun went off at 8:00 AM.

After the gun went off, I immediately feel in behind my friend Bill. This is the same fellow that I tried to chase down in my last 5k. Bill had taken off very fast and was motoring up the first hill a little faster than I wanted to go, so I fell off his pace and simply focus on the first climb. However, something happened to Bill as we reached the steepest part of the first hill and I slowly caught up and passed him as we continued to run up the hilly streets in Jerome. I was very worried at this point, knowing that Bill always crushes me in these events and now I had him behind me. Surely I was going too fast.

At the old fire station, the route veers off onto a fire road and passes the event’s parking area at the one mile mark. After this point, the next ½ mile section is the last flat portion we’ll see until the finish line. I picked up the pace and started to fret about the 10% average grade coming up quickly between 1.5 and 2.5 miles into the course. The 4 minutes it took to run the flat section flew by and the real grind of this race started at the 1.5 mile mark. Parts of this section of the course are very steep, in excess of 15% which forced me to walk a couple of times to keep my heart from flying out of my mouth. I was sure I’d be seeing Bill flying by me as I power-walked up the very steep portions; but no Bill. In fact, no one passed me during the sections I walked.

My first real challenge developed near the end of this very steep section. Since I really hadn’t warmed up, both calf muscles tighten and both feet started that tell-tale tingling sensation at which time the evil voices in my started screaming, “your feet are falling asleep, you’ll never make it too the top, stop now, …” You know the drill. Self doubt tries to take over you’ve got to work to silence the noise between your ears on top of dealing with a very real physical problem.

Fortunately, from the 2.5 mile mark to the end, the average grade is only 2% with excursions as high as 4%. After the brutal 2nd mile, parts of this section actually feel flat. The voices of negativity quieted down; however, I couldn’t feel much of anything through my feet; it was akin to running on a pair stumps. At least my problem was symmetric. On the plus side, no one was passing me and I was slowly catching up with three guys 100 feet in front of me. I finally caught up to one of the runners at the 3 mile marker and then immediately got passed by a gentleman who looked about my age. We exchanged pleasantries and since it was obvious that I couldn’t match his pace, I wished him the best; but still no Bill.

The last 1.6 miles was more of the same. On the one hand, I couldn’t reel in any of the folks in front of me; on the other hand, no one passed me. On each hairpin turn I could see what looked like the last turn of the race coming closer and closer. As I got within 100m of what I expected to be the last turn before the finish line, a fellow running back down the hill wished me luck and told me cheerfully, “Only two more turns to go”. TWO more turns … just where the hell was the finish line any way?

I finally got to finish line in the same position I was in 1.6 miles earlier. Bill finished 79 seconds later. On this course, the finish is just a line of chalk across the dirt road, 10 feet before a rather large cattle guard. No wonder the course had to end here. The club had set up refreshment tables haphazardly placed on semi-level portions of the hill side. After downing several glasses of Gatorade, I found the all important beer cooler and grabbed a Tecate (this is Arizona). There’s nothing like having a beer at 6000 feet after a quick 44 minute climb.

Since the fellow I came up with needed to get home before noon, we took off together and ran back down the hill to his car. Running down the hill was a whole easier than running up the hill. This is the first time I can remember a post race cool down run at a pace 1:30 faster than my race pace.

I took nearly a minute off my average pace up the hill as compared with last year and finished 48/98 males and 9/23 males 50-59. Not many casual runners show up to this event. You’ve got to wonder about anyone willing to drive all the way to Jerome on Labor day for an event that you not only need to run 1 mile to get to the start line, but also need to run 3.6 miles to get back to your car after the event. I know I’m crazy; evidently, I’m not the only one in this state.

Training for the week:

Mon – 4.6 mile, Race, 9:43/mi avg pace. 4.6 mile warm-up/cool-down

Other Random Photos

Looking down on the starting area (to the left of the white building) from the 1 mile marker. The road on the left side of the picture is the first major climb.

Looking back into Jerome from the 1 mile marker

Your author approaching the finish line at 6000'


DawnB said...

Congratulations, great race. I wish I could give race reports like you. I'm so causal with mine. Anyway this week I'm following your advice, this is the comment I posted on my blog, tell me what you think:

Thank you Phil. The Norwalk half is on Saturday. I've been doing anywhere between 60-75 miles week. For the rest of this week I'm cutting back: 5 miles- tues, 7- Wed w/5 at about 8:50, Thurs 5miles and rest on Fri. How's that. We'll see what happens on Sat.

DawnB said...

by the way thank you for sharing those great pictures. Looks like your have a wonderful time.

Feminist Runner said...

Those pics are cool. That race sounds amazing.
I am so impressed with your improvements. Hills can be a killer and you rocked this one!

Runner Chic said...


Just this past weekend I was trying out my new clips on my bike and took a fall. Shoulder still hurting. If you find a magic cure for your foot let me know.

As for the race… WOW.. sounds like you left “Bill” in the dust. Great run!!

By the way…. You are look like you keep dropping more and more weight!!


Stumbleguy said...

Really enjoyed your great report, Phil. I suppose if your feet go to sleep then you can't feel them hurting!


D said...

Great photos. I think I might have stayed in bed for this particular race - sounds brutal.

Michele said...

Wow sounds like a tough race, but you did awesome. Those are some STEEP hills!!! Guess I won't wine to you about any hilly races I do. I got nothing on you.

Ann Ewbank said...

Way to go! Only the brave coonquer the Jerome Hill Climb!