Here it Comes
It's amazing how quickly perceptions can change. A little over a year ago my idea of a weekend was hanging out with friends, housework, going to coffee or breakfast, maybe taking a trip somewhere. While I still like to fit all of that in it's certainly taken a dynamic shift in how I spend my weekends.
This weekend would be a great example. The Plan? 50 Mile "Fun" Run.
I remember last April when I signed up for the Copper Basin Fun Run 50K how I thought "why is it called a fun run if it's 30 miles..." only to then realize later it's simply denoting the fact that it's not an official race, just an organized training run so to speak. At the time I remember thinking how idiotic that was, how crazy to think of just going out to run that long and you don't even get a t-shirt or credit for it on Ultrasignup.com or some kind of prideful boast to show you completed it.
Now? I LOVE the "Fun Run." Don't get me wrong. I LOVE gearing up for a big race, starting off the race knowing i'm going to have to run hard all day and with every person I pass I'm that much closer to first. (not that i ever get that close but you get the point.) With a Fun Run though you are usually able to go out into areas that you cannot have an organized race due to it being in a nationally recognized protected area, a reason that many trail races have gravel roads, fire roads or even pavement sections. You just can't have a great trail race in the great wilderness areas out there. It's great on one hand but disappointing when you look at how absolutely incredible some races would be in the right areas. Like the Superstition Wilderness Area near Phoenix, Arizona.
Most Beautiful Place outside the Grand Canyon???
The Superstition Wilderness Area is a protected collection of desert mountains, canyons, rivers, slots, and diverse vegetation ranging from 2,000 ft to 5,000+ in elevation. It's in Apache Junction, Arizona an eastern suburb of Phoenix and part of the cities surrounding skyline.
The Wilderness area is unique for many reasons and more so for the reasons pertaining to trail races. One is it's just so diverse in it's terrain. You have massive saguaro cactus, forests of Teddy Bear cholla, buckhorn cholla, prickly pear, and every variety of cactus out there. You'll run across white rock bedrock, past sandstone cliffs, massive pillars of rock, slot canyons, forests of cottonwood trees and all along a perfectly rocky, rugged, ruthless stretch of singletrack that goes on...and on...and on...in a collection of trails over 140 miles long.
As it is already the area is set up perfectly for an organized race. First Water Trailhead is large enough to hold the vehicles for parking, restrooms are there already, overflow parking is available. The trail is wide in the start, major trail intersections are already marked with fencepost. One major trail, The Dutchman, travels all the way across, North to South, and meets with the Peralta Trailhead. Peralta is also home to a large parking area which is perfect for setting up aid. The trip back to complete the loop includes the 1,500 ft climb in the two miles up Peralta to a spectacular view of the area and the majestic Weaver's Needle. Coming down Peralta is a dream trail. Ridgeline running while overlooking massive canyons, red rock singletrack on the edge of the drop off, flying down the ridge on what feels like a magazine cover for National Geographic.
50 Miles of "FUN"
Knowing all of this through the Superstition Wilderness 50K I put on back in Janaury for some friends as well as other hikes and runs I've done out there I'm even more excited to see what a 50 mile trip through the Wilderness will hold this Saturday. My friends from the East Coast make the argument often that there are no "wilderness" areas in Arizona when you don't have forests. Conventional wisdom may say that to some but when you get out into the desert in those lonely canyons you suddenly realize you can't possibly be in anything more "wild" than where you are right then. Some of those areas in the 'Supes are so remote, so untouched, so wild people get lost, bewildered and in a heck of a lot of trouble really quick. It's as wild as it gets regardless if there are little trees.
Training for this run was going great up until last week when I slid into second base playing softball of all things and destroyed the first 2.3 million layers of skin on my left shin. That perpetual pain left me with a massive road rash on my leg, major swelling for a week on that leg and ankle and a 101.2 degree tempature the following night as my body continued with the internal mantra of "You are a moron Jeremy. You are a moron. Look what you did THIS time." So due to that slice of luck I was not able to run a lick all week long. I hiked 4.5 miles in the McDowell Mountains Sunday morning for the first bit of exercise all week. Felt ok so I played softball again Monday night with no issues minus another slide on the same leg (luckily wrapped this time but no less painful...and no less stupid). Wednesday morning I ran with the WMRC group which was the first trail running I had done since the Cave Creek Fun Run Marathon 10 days prior.
So you could say I tapered. I had a great base going into last week after completing the 25 miles of rough Cave Creek run last Sunday and feeling absolutely wonderful afterwards. So I'm feeling ok that I didn't get to run last week and should be fine for Saturday. Knowing the 'Supes I'm sure there is some hiking involved as we push our way through Ironweed and catclaw as blood drips into our socks.
Harder than Zane Grey?
So come Saturday we'll see how in shape I really am. My real goal of course if Zane Grey 50 on April 16th which I was fortunate enough to complete last year in my first attempt at a 50 miler. I'm really looking forward to tackling that course again this year with a lot more miles and a lot more experience under by belt. My one thought though is...what if Zane Grey isn't even as hard as the Superstitions??
Very possible. We'll see.