Tushars Marathon Race Recap

Last year at AC100 one of our running friends walked into packet pick-up and told us about this amazing race that he did the weekend before.  Now this isn’t someone who runs a race every once in a while, this is someone who runs just as many or more races than us.  He told us that we needed to run Tushars, that it was hands down the most beautiful course he’d ever run.

So flash forward to June or so and we were looking for some additional summer races and we realized that Tushars would fit into our schedule so we registered, me for the marathon & Sean for the 100k.  I was a bit nervous since I’ve never run at that high of altitude before but I was excited to see the beauty that was Tushars.

We flew into Las Vegas & then drove the 3.5/4 hours to Beaver, UT the next day. We stopped in St. George for some lunch and supplies before driving the rest of the way to Beaver.  Once we got there we had to call the resort before driving up the mountain (no cell signal) to let them know we were on our way so someone would be there to check us in.

We started our drive up the mountain and were greeted by the most beautiful views & cows sitting by the road.

We got to the resort, checked in, changed & then headed over to the packet pick-up.  We dropped Sean’s drop bag off, got our bibs and then headed out to get Sean’s streak run in.

Afterwards we took a few photos and then headed inside for dinner.  They had a pasta dinner for the runners, it was pretty inexpensive at $7 per person.

We went back to our condo, got our gear ready like normal and then I went to bed early.  Sean’s 100k started at 5am, my race started at 7am.

We got up around 3:45am, got ready & then headed up to the start.  It was pretty low key, I saw Sean & the other 100k runners off and then headed back to the car to take a nap.  I got a little sleep until about 6:15a when I got up to eat a half of my Lenny & Larry’s apple pie cookie and go to the rest room.

And then it was time to get started. The start was pretty low key.  Noah, the race director told us about the markings & to make sure that we read the signs at critical intersections to make sure we took the correct trails.  Miss a sign & we could be out there a lot longer than we expected.

The night before there had been a lot of rain so they had put some carpets out in really muddy section at the start of the course, which was nice so we didn’t start the race with super muddy feet.  As we ran down the ski slope it was a bit muddy but not too bad.

I had decided to wear my Altra Running Timps for this race.  I had a brand new pair that I had sitting on my shoe rack for months and thought it might be a good time to try them out.  I normally wear the superiors which would have been fine for this course, but I did like the extra cushion of the Timp, even though the grip isn’t quite as good.

I quickly started hiking pretty early on.  I was happy to be out there but I didn’t have any illusions that this was going to be easy.  Surprisingly my breathing wasn’t too bad, considering my sea-level training.  I didn’t hear my heart beat in my ears very often but interestingly, the pain I’ve been having in my abdomen near my left ribs (the diaphragm) was an issue the majority of the race.

I just took my time hiking up, enjoying the view.  There was a lot of climbing and being over 10,000 feet definitely made it slow going.   The rib pain was really annoying and honestly I felt like quitting at almost every aid station.  I got to mile 7/8 and the first aid station.  There was one girl there and no cars, it appeared to be out in the middle of nowhere so I got some ginger ale, refilled my pack and kept going.  I couldn’t quit with no way to get out of there lol.

From there, we headed up, climbing a really rocky section, and then from there it would be up to the peak. I had a guy pass me who had started late.  He was hiking really well while I was taking short breaks every 100 feet or so to catch my breath.

I made it to the top of this section & then we actually went down again before heading up a beautiful yet seemingly never ending path to the peak.  Up & up we went.  I had taken my long sleeve off at one point but then as we were climbing up, I needed to put it back on and added my buff to be around by ears.  It was getting windy and pretty cold as we made our way up.

Once we got to the open area, it was windy, but not super cold because of the sun.  I was passed by an older guy, he had to have been in his 70s, who powered up that hill like it was nothing!  I, on the other hand, was trying hard to make it from ribbon to ribbon without stopping.  Being close to 12,000ft was not easy for me.  Finally I made it to the top!

Jubs was up there taking photos.  It was soooo windy & freezing.  I don’t know how she was able up there for hours!  They had a hole punch that you were supposed to punch your bib to show you had made it to the peak.  I went to get my phone out of my pack to take a photo or 2.  It was so windy that my phone almost blew out of my hand.  But I was able to get a few photos before I headed down the mountain.

As I was heading down, in some crazy wind, with so many rocks everywhere, I could see a storm coming to the left of me.  I was hearing thunder and then when I was almost to the bottom it started raining.  So I got my rain jacket out, but it on & then got to a critical intersection.  Marathoners headed to the right and crazy enough, less than a 1/2 a mile on that path & it was bright, sunny & warm! So I took off the jacket & stowed it back in my pack.

I kept moving, we were on a fire road at this point and as I was going down from the peak, I did see the aid station from afar.  We had to go down & then go back up in order to get to it.  On this section, I was pretty much done.  My chest (or diaphragm for that matter) was really sore and I was having trouble catching my breath.  And we just kept climbing.  A few cars passed me in this section along with a few 4 wheelers.  It seemed like it took hours but I finally made it up to the aid station.  There was one guy behind me.

I got to the mud lake aid station and I was seriously ready to quit.  The two very nice volunteers were like you have plenty of time, I was still about an hour or so ahead of the cut-off, but if you really want to quit, Matt Gunn is going to be back in a few minutes with some other drops.  By this point, the guy who was behind me was in the aid station.

We chatted for a few minutes and he said he’d stay with me if I wanted to keep going.  After a short deliberation I decided to keep moving, mostly because they said that this next section mostly downhill for 5ish miles before a climb to the next aid station, which was 6.7 miles away.

So we ran slowly past Mud Lake which really did just look like a huge mud puddle and down the mountain.  I kept looking back to see where the guy John was and he was following me from a little bit of a distance.  I was mostly power hiking at what felt like a decent pace, I guess that ginger ale and a few pretzels at the aid station really helped.

We kept motoring along down the mountain, once we got to the bottom, we were treated to a beautiful view of a small river.  We had to walk across 2 logs to get across and then we started heading up again.  I would take a quick break here and there but I was ready to be done!

We made it up to a camp ground and another fire road.  We started on a gradual uphill climb that would get steeper the further up we went.  I was moving pretty good in this section hiking strong.  I kept looking back and John kept getting further & further back.  I thought I should wait, but then I looked back and he was sitting/laying down on the side of the trail & I knew I just had to keep powering along so I could finish.

In this section there were a lot of 4 wheelers, I saw an older guy with an oxygen tank drive past me.  Another older guy passed with his grandson behind him and said he’d be back & would give me a ride, um, no thank you lol.  I passed a couple taking photos of the race signage who told me I was almost to the top.

I finally made it to the aid station, refilled my hydration adding in some carbo-pro.  I saw the 2 volunteers from Mud Lake & they were like we just got here so you made decent time!  There were just 4 miles to go!  Jamil told me that they were rolling, but it didn’t really matter because I was mostly hiking at that point so off I went.

It looked a little like it might rain again and the downhill towards the beginning of this section was pretty technical so I hiked down.  There was a small creek crossing and then it was a nice single track.  I saw the 2 ladies who I had been following from a distance up to the peak.  I really thought I was going to be the DFL female and didn’t think I would run into them again.

Eventually I caught up and passed them.  Not long after I passed them, I was having some trouble finding the next marker & I thought they might pass me again.  I finally found the marker and a bunch of cows.  This is kind of funny.  One of the cows was staring right at me as I was making my way around the trail, as I got closer to where he was, he started peeing.

I kept moving up & then down.  I eventually made my way back to the beginning section of the race that I remembered and headed down towards the finish.

As I was about a mile from the finish, I was actually running down the trail, I ran into the older runner who had passed me on the climb to the peak.  Yet another person I never thought I’d see again.  He wasn’t sure he was on the right trail so I think he was waiting to see someone else?  In any case I told him I remembered this section, he was standing by an abandoned house that we passed at the beginning and then we had to go under a fence.

I felt a little bad because I was feeling relatively good, tired of course, but just wanted to be done, and I passed him in the last mile of the race.  I thought he would catch me on the uphill climb up to the finish when I stopped a few times but he never did.  I ended up finishing 9 seconds ahead of him.

I finally could see the finish line! I ran through the muddy section and of course in the last 25 feet of the race got mud all over my clean shoes, lol.  But I was finished!  I had done it, the highest race I’ve ever done, 7,000 feet of climb in 26 miles, up to 12,100 ft!

After I finished, it started to rain, phew, I missed the rain!  I sat at the aid station for a while drinking ginger ale and got a vegan quesadilla and some oreos, which are accidentally vegan ;).

Eventually I drove myself back to the condo, took a bath with my Savasana epsom salts and took a short nap.  I didn’t know what time Sean was going to finish but I wanted to be at the aid station so he wasn’t looking for me.  There wasn’t any tracking since we were so far out there so I didn’t want to be late.

I got over there around 10pm.  Checked on things and realized that there weren’t too many finishers yet, so I went to take a short nap in the car.  I slept for maybe an hour & a half and then headed back to the finish line.

I hung out with a few other spectators, most of whom were waiting for 70k runners.  I chatted with a guy whose dad was also running the 100k, rang the cow bells when we would see head lamps coming in.  It was getting later & later, finally I asked Noah if he knew when Sean had gotten to the last aid station and it was around 12:45am so I knew I had a bit longer to wait.  It ended up being even longer because Sean got a little lost a mile or so from the aid station.

Around 2:30a, I think, he made it in!  I was so happy to see him & he was so happy to be done.  He sat for a little bit while cheering the others on & then I told him we needed to get moving since we had to be out of the condo by 10:30am.  We went back, he took a quick bath/shower while I packed up a little bit to get a jump on things.  We finally got to bed around 3:30 or so & I didn’t sleep much at all, the room we picked to sleep in didn’t have the best shades and as soon as the sun was up, it was shining in my face.

Sean was able to sleep decently and I started quietly packing up his stuff and finishing my own packing.  I ended up driving us back to Vegas with a stop at Zion National Park.  We wanted to explore a little more in the mountains but in order to get to where Sean wanted to go, it was going to require a bit more hiking than he wanted to do so we headed out.

Tushars was a bit smaller of a race this year than it has been in the past.  Aravaipa Running took it over but they didn’t have an official date until later in the season so I think that hurt them as far as numbers.  The volunteers, mostly Aravaipa employees this year, were amazing.  The course was breathtakingly beautiful and challenging.

I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a beautiful, challenging, well organized race.

PS. Photos aren’t necessarily in order of the race.   I couldn’t remember exactly where each photo belong so I just added them in how I saw fit. 😉

My Road to SD 100: Stop 2 Black Canyon 100k: A bump in the road

Last weekend, Sean & I headed to Arizona to run the Black Canyon 100k.  We signed up last year expecting a fast and mostly downhill course with a long time limit (which appealed to me since I know I’m on the slower side).

Unfortunately Mother Nature intervened and the week of the race, the race directors at Aravaipa Running had to make a decision to change the course to an out and back due to a forecast of over an inch of rain on race day.  They made the right decision because the original course crosses the Agua Fria river several times and the river was too high & too fast for over 500 runners to safely cross it.

So, the course went from having ~9,000+ feet of descent to being an even up and down of ~3,500.  Once you got to the turn around, you would start making your way back up to the start.

The race directors did an excellent job of communicating the change to us runners.  I saw it posted on the Facebook event page, on their website, received an email via ultrasignup and also even watched a live Facebook video where they discussed it and answered questions.

We got to Phoenix late Thursday night, we were staying with my sister, who lives about 15 minutes from the Anthem Outlet Mall, where the shuttles were originally supposed to pick us up to go to the start line.  Since the race finish was at the start line we didn’t have to take the shuttle after all so it was just a 45 minute drive to Mayer High School.

We headed to the expo on Friday afternoon, got our bibs and shirts.  We chatted with Ben & Zach Bitter at the Altra booth for a little bit, I got to try on the new Escalantes, which are so nice! I can’t wait to get a pair and then headed back to my sisters.

For Christmas, I had gotten my sister a pasta maker so she made us a yummy pre-race meal with fresh pasta and baked chicken.

While she cooked, Sean & I got our flat runner photos done and backed our drop bags.  Since it was going to be wet & rainy, we packed everything into 2.5 gallon zip lock bags to keep everything dry.

Since we only had to drive to the start line in the morning, we were able to sleep a bit longer.  I think we left the house around 5:20am and made the 45 minute drive up to the high school.

We dropped off our drop bags, hit up the bathrooms and then headed to the track where the race was starting.  It all happened so fast.

I saw Rachel, one of my fellow Orange Mud Ambassadors & we got a quick photo.  I also met Tara, @runwithtara, saw Malia, @rnrgrl808, her son ran the 60k and came in 2nd overall!! I also saw Jen, @jenlaughlin_18, who was like 2/3 races we’ve done together have been in the rain, lol.

Sean & I got a quick pre-race photo and then we were off. It was already raining when we started.  The race started off with a lap on the track and then we ran through the town before hitting the trail.

The first part of the course was the muddiest of the whole race but I was wearing my new Altra King MT’s which were created specifically for muddy conditions.  They did not disappoint.  I felt so secure and was not slipping and sliding at all. There was only one small area where the shoes had some caking but it quickly fell off.  Sorry for the blurry pic, my fingers were already wet so I had a hard time even getting the phone to work. After this, I didn’t take it out again until after I dropped.

I felt really good the first 7 miles to the aid station.  In the last 1/2 mile I started to get a little bit of a stomach pain but kept moving knowing there would be a port-a-pottie at the aid station.

I got there, grabbed a few glukos gels from my drop bag and then waited a few minutes to use the bathroom.  The next section, I started slowly because of the stomach pain, but it eventually got better.  I enjoyed this section, it was absolutely beautiful single track.  I had a few close calls where I came  close to a few hard falls so I slowed down a bit and really started watch my footing.

Unfortunately tripping multiple times caused some pulling in my hamstring so I was dealing with that as I made my way into the 3rd aid station.  This is where Sean caught up with me.  I was not a happy camper, practically in tears, and not at all excited about running in the rain for another 12 hours.

After a few minutes of chatting with Sean, refilling my pack I decided to move on.  In retrospect, after I had heard some people talking about dropping to the 60k, which they normally don’t allow but due to the weather, they made an exception, I should have just dropped down at that point.

I slowly made my way up the fire road to the single track.  I was following 2 girls for a bit.  During this section, I was having a lot of pain in my right foot under the midfoot.  Literally every step was excruciating. Seriously this race was just full of rando physical issues.  It eventually went away but I was power hiking the majority of this section.

As I made my way to the aid station, I saw a photographer from Sweet M, who got this lone photo of me during the race.  I’m a little disappointed she didn’t get a full body shot but it does show how wet I was, my skirt was completely soaked.

Sean was waiting for me at the aid station and I put a few things in my drop bag, took way to long trying to get my bladder back in my pack, the bladder I was using wasn’t opening easily so every time I refilled it, I had to ask for help and we would fight with it to open.

We finally made our way to the turn-around, where I would have to sit down for a few minutes because I was feeling light-headed.  I had 2 cups of ramen and felt a little better.  We headed back up the hill and the rain just kept coming.  I was trying to move as fast as I could, but I kept feeling lightheaded and I wasn’t happy.

We got to the mile 37 aid station and I was super close to dropping but Sean convinced me to keep moving to the next aid station, which in the end was a smart decision.

This section was the last before it got dark and I was moving as fast as I could to get there. I was starting to get really cold and the rain just kept coming down.

When we got to the aid station, I told Sean he could continue on, but I was done.  I was so cold and it was just going to get worse as we got into the night, and into the windiest, most exposed sections of the course.

I walked into the aid station saying I was freezing and they directed me to the heaters to warm up.  One of the volunteers, who I would later find out was the founder of Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Stacy kept asking me if I wanted to get out of my wet clothes.  I didn’t have anything dry to put on so I said no originally.

Finally after I officially dropped, she told me that she gave me a dry Squirrel’s Nut Butter sweat shirt I could wear and pretty much made me get out of my wet clothes.  Sean asked me for my waterproof jacket to put over his other clothes because he was going to continue on.

I hung out in the aid station until they closed and I was able to get a ride to the finish line.  There was a cute little boy who asked to play some games on my phone so I let him play for a bit.

Once I got back to the High School, I got changed, even after getting into dry clothes, I couldn’t warm up.  I think I had on 3 sweatshirts.  I hung out with Ben at the Altra table chatting and interacting with runners who had questions about Altra.  I met & chatted with another ambassador, Kim while waiting for Sean.

My King MT’s were awesome on this course!

Now that I’ve had more time to think about the race, I don’t regret my decision to drop, because I know I was pre-hypothermic and continuing on could have resulted in putting myself in a bad situation.

I also know that I could have physically finished the race, while I had minor aches and pains, I was not injured but mentally I was checked out, not having fun and let that take over.

Running is hard, running ultras is harder and I think that the mental part is the hardest.  As I continue on with my journey to SD100, I think I will have to train my brain the most.

Even with a DNF I learned something important about myself and what I need to do to get to the next finish line.