The back side of Toms Thumb with Michael & Jay up ahead.
It's really become something of a novelty, the 50K. It has become this cute little number & letter sequence, nice and round, nice and achievable. You see a 50K on a schedule somewhere, someone mentions it, you have some free time so you think, "I could knock out a 50K this weekend. Sure, why not?" Exactly, why not? How about because it's still 50 freaking kilometers!
I won't make any excuses for struggling so much on the last ten miles of this run. It was a bit bizarre but in the end the struggle only helps me for the next race. I go through bouts of arrogance where I underestimate a run based on location, distance, or terrain when any one of those three can beat you down. In this case, the distance (29 miles), terrain (4,500+ feet of climbing) and location (local so it must be easier right?? No. 90+ degrees in 100% exposed trails...). My stomach took a turn towards the South Pole on the descent, every step was horrible, and only after a dozen trips to the rest room throughout the day did my body get back to normal. Yet my legs felt fine, feet were great and generally everything was great. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the Monster I had at mile 20 before climbing up the mountain but regardless, it was ugly and took a lot longer to finish the last few miles than it should have. Big thanks to Jay for waiting around for me despite how much I didn't want him to at the time.
What did I learn?
1) Don't drink energy drinks on long runs. Ever. After a horrific Red Bull incident in the Canyon I tried it again at Zane Grey this year 33 miles deep. Tried it again this weekend with the exact same result. My stomach just can't handle it. Plain & Simple. Stick with Mountain Dew.
2) I've been avoiding the heat. This became very evident as it got hotter and hotter and there was not an ounce of shade to be found. Which I knew going in, again....dumb.
3) Never think a local course is going to be easier just because it's local. Mesquite Canyon 50K will teach you this every time. This course is no different. Despite little water access I decided to leave my handheld water bottle in my truck and go with just water and gels for the run. Why? Because I run in the McDowell's all the time so it must be easier right? No, I'm a moron. The last dozen long runs I've done with EFS, water, gels, real food, and a variety of electrolyte replacements in a lot of forms. This run was hotter, exposed and faster than many of the past longer runs and I never should have left home without more electrolytes. Jay was great to let me use his handheld with EFS in it the last 4 miles to get caught up. Never should have come to that.
4) I'm a king at overestimating my ability. I assume I'm capable of anything at any time, not through arrogance but instead through the mindset that I can just keep plugging along if it gets a little rough. I may plan ahead but my backup plan is always, "I'll push through it." Which is a stupid plan. Especially when your stomach can't handle another step without fear of extreme embarrassment on the trail as you rush off to drop your drawers. Which only happens when there are hot women walking by. This luckily didn't happen this time but you never know. Avoidance is key. Stop being dumb.
5) No matter how miserable a run is it's never pointless and you can always learn something. The first 15 miles were great, fast and fun. The second half, well...if I didn't in some small way enjoy a little misery I don't think I would be an ultrarunner. So it actually was kind of fun despite how tough that one section was. Just makes me want to train harder, learn more and go back and run that same course, faster, harder and with no problems the next time.
Check out www.mcdowellmountainman.com for a full report by Jay on it with maps and photos.