February 8, 2011

XTerra McDowell Mountain Trail Race

A few hundred feet from the start, 15 miles to go...

Success at checkpoint #1.

Andrea and I planned this long weekend trip to Phoenix back in October, guessing that we'd want a break from the cold weather. However, once we decided to run a race during this trip, it became part vacation / part fitness gauge... and I would say we passed with flying colors!

I'll write more about the race at the end of this post, but here's the short recap: The McDowell Mountain XTerra event was a 15 mile trail race held on Super Bowl Sunday. I won the race in 1:28:19, and Andrea won the Women's race in 1:43:44 (and placed 14th overall, so she beat a bunch of fast guys as well!). We were both really pleased with our efforts, as this was a great indicator that our training is going really, really well. Barring any injuries or major setbacks, I think we're both headed in the right direction to run some more fast races this spring.

The McDowell Mountain course was all on relatively narrow trails. Part of it was rocky, part of is was just compacted dirt and sand. Lots of small ups and downs, a handful of tougher hills, and the last 4 miles was a gradual downhill cruise to the finish (which was extremely nice). Temperature at the start was in the low to mid 40s.

For our efforts, we each took home a bunch of swag... $100 gift certificates for new shoes, a box of Clif bars, 4 commerative glasses, etc. The XTerra people really know how to put on a fun event and hook runners up with lots of sweet stuff! And most importantly, we came out of the race feeling like our fitness levels are solid, but our best running is yet to come!

In addition to the race, we had a super-fun weekend hanging out with my parents. We went to the Suns/Thunder game on Friday night, hung out in the desert on Saturday, ate tons of great food (post-run) on Sunday, and did a fun hike up Camelback Mountain on Monday before flying back to SLC.

Some pics from the weekend below... more thoughts about the run after the photos:

Another shot of the start. It bottlenecked at the beginning, so I made sure to get out quick enough so I wouldn't have to waste energy going around people.

Andrea near the start

Finishing stretch

After finishing... feeling sore/tight, but pretty happy!

Andrea bringing it home

Now we're both done

Post awards, ready to head home!

Now some shots from the rest of the weekend:

Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook going at it on Friday night

Jesse James

This rock formation is called "the boot." It stands above the little town of Tortilla Flats. We made a quick jaunt up to the top to stretch the legs on Saturday afternoon.

A scenic view of the Tonto National Forest from the top of the boot

Hanging out on top of the boot

3/4 of the family

I only had ice cream twice on the day before the race. Pretty disciplined, huh? :-)

AFTER the race, you gotta refuel!

On top of Camelback Mountain, overlooking North Phoenix, on Monday afternoon. Nice to be hanging out in a t-shirt in 70 degree weather in February!!!

About 8 hours after this was taken, we'd be back in the snow world...

She's smiling because she knows she's going to smash all her PRs this spring :-)

The hike up to Camelback follows this winding ridge. Its a short but very fun "urban" hike

Check out that
Gila Monster! He is a venomous lizard (the only one native to the USA). They don't pack quite enough punch to kill a human, but a bite from one of these guys can still cause excruciating pain. They don't "release" their jaws when they bite, so you have to submerge the entire lizard in water to get them to let go if one latches onto you!

We walked around old town Scottsdale for about 5 minutes before realizing what we really wanted to do was go to Ruby Tuesdays and attack the salad bar!

A few more pics are on my picasa gallery.

More thoughts on the race...

This was my first serious competition in about 2.5 years (other than the Teva Games XC Mud Run in Vail, see inset photo on the left, its the first time I've actually competed since moving out west). My training for the past 3 months has been going better than ever, but without much of a taper (I still ran 121 miles this past week), I wasn't really sure what would happen once the gun went off. My plan was to simply run on the shoulder of whoever wanted to take the lead. So that's exactly what I did... I think 3 different guys led the race over the first 8 miles. Each time someone new went to the front, I just moved up with them and "stalked." I felt pretty smooth and comfortable. Between the 7 and 8 mile marks we hit two of the bigger hills, the pace slowed, and the pack started to bunch up. I sensed that the other guys were straining on the climbs, and I felt like I was just jogging up them, so it was time to make a definitive move. Knowing that a long uphill section was ahead, as soon as we hit the 8 mile mark I jumped to the front and just took off. No one responded, and within a hundred yards I was clear ahead of everyone. All alone out front with 7 miles to go... its been a long time since I've been in that position, and I have to admit it felt pretty damn good. I ran strong the rest of the way and finished well under my goal time of 1:30. Not anywhere near what I've done in the past, or what I know I'm capable of, but a solid effort and sign of things to come nonetheless! It was fitting that my parents were at the finish for my first race of the year... they've always been my biggest supporters, so it was great to share the excitement with them. And to make it all even better, it wasn't long before Andrea came flying in, finishing a fantastic race of her own! She's been running more mileage than she ever has previously, so it felt great to see her reap the dividends of all the hard work with such an awesome effort.

Next up (unless we decide to toss a shorter race into the schedule) is the Antelope Island 50K on March 26th. This is going to be a brutal race. Almost 5000 feet of climbing over 31 miles. I've got 7 more weeks to prepare. The goal for this week will be to just log a lot of easy miles and recover, then I'll be able to crank it up for 5 weeks, then taper for one. I'm starting to really believe that I have a chance to be very competitive at Antelope Island. After that race, I'll probably run a spring half-marathon and marathon, with the idea that all this mileage should translate to some fast times on the roads. Andrea is planning to run the 25K at Antelope Island, then focus on the half-marathon distance (and smashing her PR) for the rest of the spring.

Here's the front end of the results from Sunday:

Place Name City Bib No Age Gend Age Group Time
1 JAKE KRONG SALT LAKE CITY UT 360 27 M 1 25-29 1:28:19
2 ERIC BOHN FLAGSTAFF AZ 482 30 M 1 30-34 1:30:09
3 ANDREW DROBECK MISSOULA MT 436 30 M 2 30-34 1:31:08
4 BOONE EBEL CHANDLER AZ 432 31 M 3 30-34 1:35:20
5 SHAUN HALEY TUCSON AZ 404 43 M 1 40-44 1:35:32
6 DANIEL CRANE SCOTTSDALE AZ 448 27 M 2 25-29 1:37:47
7 BRYAN DUNN FOUNTAIN HILLS AZ 435 43 M 2 40-44 1:38:26
8 KEVIN TUCK SALT LAKE CITY UT 223 55 M 1 55-59 1:40:58
9 RYAN VENABLE SUN CITY WEST AZ 213 26 M 3 25-29 1:41:33
10 CHARLES WARE TUCSON AZ 211 26 M 4 25-29 1:42:12
11 ANDY KREBS CHANDLER AZ 362 36 M 1 35-39 1:42:21
12 RUSS BRANDT PHOENIX AZ 469 39 M 2 35-39 1:42:39
13 ARRICK NIETERT TOLLESON AZ 307 30 M 4 30-34 1:43:14
14 ANDREA NORTH SALT LAKE CITY UT 306 24 F 1 20-24 1:43:44
15 JOHNNY OLEN 39 22 M 1 20-24 1:45:01
16 TRISHA MILLER MISSOULA MT 316 31 F 1 30-34 1:45:02

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