Saturday, May 23, 2009

ARR Summer 5K Series

The first race of the Arizona Road Racers Summer 5K series was held this morning at Papago Park, home of the Phoenix Zoo. I really like this race. Every year, my club starts out the Summer 5K Series with an Age / Gender handicapped event. Runners are assigned a start time based on Age / Gender and get to leave the start line with everyone in their respective age group. Although this does make for a lot of passing during the first mile of the race, it has the advantage for middle-of-the-pack runners like me to see the really fast runners, as they blow my doors off going late in the race.

I didn't have a clue how I'd do this morning and didn't really care. I haven't trained hard in a long while and with the cloud cover bringing "cooler" temperatures, I really was looking for a good time. I ran into a couple of friends of mine before the race and chit-chatted a little and I sort of / kind of warmed up with a half-assed loop around the parking lot, but other wise, I was just there to put in a 5 kilometers on a beautiful Arizona morning. I didn't even bother with a Garmin or sports watch. Just me, shoes, socks, shorts, shirt and my iPod - needed my tunes

My timing handicap was 11:49, so I had plenty of time to mill around in the crowd after the starting signal went off. With 10:00 on the race clock, I pushed forward through the throng of runners crowded into the starting coral and got up to the start line with 5 seconds to spare. I took a deep breath and took off.

Immediately, started yelling at myself to slow down. I was running way to fast, my heart rate leaped into the stratosphere and my breathing immediately became labored; fortunately, I got the butterflies out of my system and settle in a comfortably-uncomfortable pace and started my non-stop banter with people as I passed them. Of course, I was getting passed also, which was ok; unless it was by a guy obviously older than me.

The one person I did expect to get passed by was Sara Slattery. Sara blew me running around a 5:10/mi pace somewhere early on mile 2. The woman is amazing and it's an honor to be running on the same course as a NCAA champion. I've been in other races with her, but she is always coming at me on an out and back course. In this race I got to see her from the back. She runs with no wasted movement. Her head is level, her shoulders square, everything is moving forward and moving fast. Just incredible.

At the turn, I dumped a cup of water on my head to cool off and started back to the finish line determined to keep up my pace as long as I could. Of course, I had no idea what pace I was running, but I could feel that I was on the edge. If I pushed any harder, I'd blow up for sure. I passed mile two still feeling OK and then got that extra lift when I passed the mile 1 marker on the outbound sector. Anyone can run a mile and there was no way I was going to back off now.

On mile 3 I passed a friend of mine I hadn't seen since I ran into her at the bottom of the Grand Canyon last year and slowed to chat for a few seconds before speeding back up. Somewhere in the back of my mind I became concerned that I might live to regret dropping my hyper-competitive friend. She is a lot stronger than me and is 4 years younger; so I just dug deeper and sped up.

Something must have worked. I finished up in 21:56 (7:05/mi avg pace). This was my 3rd fastest 5K ever and my first sub 22 minute 5K since 2006. Hot damn ... not too bad.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Skull Mesa

Yes, I know I said that the hike last week was probably the last good hike of the season. Well, I was wrong. I did a 19 miler up and over Skull Mesa in the Tonto National Forest today. It took nearly 9 hours and the trail was so faint in places that I was constantly back tracking and in the end, I walked (read: stumbled) down the middle of Cave Creek for nearly 6 miles when I couldn't find the trail back to my car.

It was really cool. It starts with 2.2 mile run with several creek crossing. Then a 2,200 foot climb to the top of Skull Mesa, followed by several hours of me walking around through thigh high grass looking for a trail in the rugged Arizona mountains north of Cave Creek, AZ. It concludes with a 5 mile plish-splash down Cave Creek when I just couldn't find the last section of trail I needed to get back to my car.

All and all a great day. Those of you with Facebook accounts can see the comments on each photo.

Those without Facebook can see the photos from the hike by clicking on the picture below.


2009-05-03, Skull Mesa Hike