2010 Pemberton 50K Relay 
Sunday, February 14, 2010, 09:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
You may wonder, "How do ultras differ from large road marathons?" Here is your answer, in pictures:

Last year, I became an ultramarathoner at the Pemberton 50K, and so it holds a special place in my heart. This year, my mileage wasn't nearly where it needed to be, but, after realizing how many of our trail running friends were planning on racing, Paul and I decided to enter as a relay team. With a half marathon two weeks prior, the relay leg of 15.5 miles fit perfectly into my schedule.

We headed up to Fountain Hills after work on Friday and I had an extraordinarily restful night of sleep at the Holiday Inn before waking at 4:30am to get some food in our stomachs before making our way to McDowell Mountain Park for the 7:00am start. Although I was planning to run my longest distance in a whole year, knowing that I was running half as far as most of the runners left me with calm nerves and a lighthearted attitude. Goal races are great, but sometimes it's nice to race just for fun.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our packets, wish good luck to our friends and be humbled by the race chatter in the bathroom line. I met a woman who would run the full 50K and then follow it up with the Lost Dutchman Marathon the next morning. That, is hard core.

I cheered on Paul and friends as they began the race and then headed back into town with Denise and Dori to search for Chris's sunglasses in his truck. Then, in the hotel room. Then in the truck again, where they were eventually found under the seat. It was a great way to kill some time as, when we we got back to the park, it was time to strip off my layers, slap on some sunscreen and fill my hydration pack with pomegranate XOOD. And wait.

Paul had given me a 20-minute window and I found it difficult to stand around in the cold squinting at the trail for glimpses of approaching runners while being ready to run at any moment. I even had one false start where I threw off my jacket and ran to the starting line only to find that the runner was not Paul. Is it bad that I mistook some random guy for my husband?

Paul arrived toward the end of his time window, having had trouble with one of his glute muscles. I was happy to finally be running and it was 6 minutes before I realized that I had neglected to start my GPS. With no mile markers and only two aid stations over 15.5 miles, this meant not having a great idea of how I was doing for much of the race. I contemplated starting my GPS late, but, instead, decided to embrace the "running for the fun of it" attitude and go old-school with just my stopwatch.

Last year, I averaged 3:17 per loop. Since I wouldn't need to save anything for a second lap this time, I was hoping to finish around 3 hours. With this in mind, I planned to reach the first aid station in 1 hour. I was a little disappointed to arrive in 1:05, but reminded myself that the first 5 miles was a gradual climb. I passed on the food, thanked the volunteers, ate some of my gel and kept on truckin'.

As I had started in the midst of Paul's equals, I had no steady company - just runners passing me by. But, everyone had an encouraging word as they went. I actually felt a little guilty knowing that most of them were on their second lap while I was starting fresh.

The course tops out around mile 7 or 8 and then offers some fantastic downhill running. It's gradual enough to give you some speed, but not so steep that it beats up your quads. It had been hard to find my rhythm on the first half as, on the uphill sections. I slowed and, occasionally, walked. But, now, I was cruising and loving it. And, really, how can you not enjoy a race with 360 degrees views like this?

Just before the second aid station, I got passed by Renee who, though on her second lap, was looking fresh and was excited about beating her goal time. It was uplifting to see a familiar face out there and, even more so, when I reached the next aid station and found that this 1/3 of the race had taken me just 1 hour. Maybe I could break that 3-hour mark...

This 3-hour goal motivated me to push it for the final miles, although now I regretted not having that GPS to tell me exactly how far I had left to go. I got a surge of energy when, thinking I had about 4 miles left, I came across a trail sign indicating that it was only 3 miles. Woo hoo!

Unfortunately, it was around this time that my IT band started acting up. My holiday running hiatus had done wonders for these grouchy muscles fibers, but, having worked them hard since the New Year, they were tight again, resulting in pain on the outside of my left knee. Knowing that continuing to run would not cause permanent injury, and that walking would only prolong the pain, I just kept running and pushed as hard as I could...although this was probably only about a 10-minute mile.

Paul walked out a ways to support me and then I got a boost from the Tucson cheering section just before the finish. It felt good to stop running, but I had enjoyed much of my run and was pleased with my time. While official results have not been posted, my watch showed 2:57:51. With Paul's time, we finished around 5:10.

After catching my breath, I headed right to the food. While I didn't get photos, this is where ultras really outshine their road counterparts. Unlike the standard banana and bagel combo at most road races, Pemberton offered croissant sandwiches, chili, chips, cookies, chocolate and, my favorite, popsicles.

Along with some food, I took 2 Aleve that Renee was kind enough to share with me. My only complaint was that there was no water - just HEED and soda. And it was mostly diet, caffeine-free soda. Seriously? We're burning thousands of calories out there! This is one of those times when sugar and calories are a good thing.

We hung out for another few hours to cheer on the rest of the Tucson contingent, including fellow Tri Girl Shari who, despite an injury, gutted it out to become an ultramarathoner.

All-in-all, it was another great day on the Pemberton trail. This is a fantastic race that I highly recommend!
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