Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coldwater Rumble 52K Race Report

"This was a stupid idea for a long run." -- Me at mile 24.

My life is increasingly hectic lately, and it wasn't going to be any less over the next several weeks. I had been quietly working on the acquisition of Rough Creek Trail Run from Endurance Buzz Adventures and was basically going to launch the news over the weekend I was gone to Coldwater Rumble. My dog had to be put down (liver cancer), my husband and I had arranged our first vacation without kids in more than 5 years for mid-January, and then once we were back, my kids needed my time and attention. I had already committed to something each weekend day for the following 3 weeks. And my goal race of Antelope Canyon 55K on February 20th was looking at seeing me there with very very few training miles or long run chances. It was set to be a sufferfest of my own making.

So I got a great deal on airfare into Phoenix, Arizona, maybe because the Cardinals had won their football game and so it changed who was playing where/when and they weren't playing at home? I know nothing about football, but this was what I had heard. I flew out the day before Coldwater Rumble, having read a little on the website and not reading every single race report out there as I usually do. I looked at the elevation profile, which had no total elevation gain listed, but unlike Bandera 2 weeks before where I did 37 miles, there were no 300 foot climbs or descents here. My impression from the website was that it was mostly groomed sandy non-technical trail with maybe some rocks. Boy, would that illusion come back to haunt me later. Also, the end result of the elevation change (which ended up being 3100 ft. gain/loss) is just slightly under Bandera 50K, so that was a rolly-hill surprise!

Race Eve

I picked up my race shirt and bib. There are a million distances at Coldwater Rumble (100 mile, 52 mile, 52K, 20 mile, 20K, and 4 mile) on a multi-loop course so all bibs are color coded.

I snapped a quick picture of the start/finish line I would cross the next day.

I met up with friends Robert and Jess for sushi that night. And then was in bed asleep by 9:30 PM, since I planned to be up at 5:30 AM and wanted a full night's sleep.

Race Morning - Seeing Off Longer Distances

I arrived about 6:20 am to get great parking near the start. My race wouldn't start until 8 am, but I thought I'd get to see Jess start the 100 miler and see Robert start the 52 miler.

After seeing Jess off at the 7 am start of the 100 miler, I was able to get this great picture of dawn.

Then I was able to cheer the 50 milers off.

The little dots going up the ridge are the runners.

The first 20 miles

Me at the start line of the 52K

The course for the 52K is one clockwise 20 mile loop, and then reverse for a 12 mile smaller loop that is a smaller portion of the original 20 mile loop. I fell in very early in the climbing of the first couple miles with a guy named Jeff who was doing his first ultra.

It was good company, and we chatted about all sorts of running things. The 20 mile and then 20K folks caught up to us, then we hit the split off from the 20K (who do just the smaller 12 mile loop).
Runners dotted along the climb

The course was constantly rolling. And then at mile 9 we hit the sand. Oh goodness, so much sand. I felt like I wasn't even moving, I could feel my upper legs getting more tired. Jeff left me here, with more sandrunning experience as a local than I have. I had heard there was a few miles of deep sand and hoped this is what was meant by it and that there wasn't worse sand further in!

I came into the mile 11 aid station and refilled my hydration pack for the first time and grabbed a cup of coke. I asked if there was more of that sand and was told that had been the worst of it and it was mostly over. Phew.

I left out of the aid station for another 1/2 a mile of deep sand. Grrr. I was so ready for it to be over. Then it did end, and I could run again on much more tired legs.

We go through a cool section during this split where there are huge pieces of white quartz on each side. My picture really didn't do it justice.

I went through the aid station at mile 16.5 quickly with some coke. A short bit after the aid station, I ran into Jess who was looking stellar and strong at about 24 miles into her 100 miler (she would later win the overall female - she's such an amazingly strong runner).

Even though she was leading the race for the women, she still stopped to exchange hugs and to take my picture!

The end of the 20 mile loop is about 2 miles winding on a trail on the side of the mountainface. A mile after seeing Jess, I run into Robert. He's sporting a Big Cedar shirt too!

Then The Reverse 12 Mile Loop

 I came in at mile 20, refilled my hydration pack, had some Coke, put some ice down my sports bra and in my hat, and headed off. I was now reversing the miles I had just come from. There's a good size descent finishing the previous loop, but now I had to climb back up it. It was a slow hike. To keep my mind busy, I counted the 55K and 20 mile and 20K people who were headed towards the finish line.

It was getting warm, I think it hit about 75 degrees, and the course is fully exposed, so at the mile 23.4 aid station, about 3:30 pm, I sat for a moment under the shade of a tent and reapplied sunscreen, dumped a ton of ice in my hat and sports bra, and walked out.

Then, as I walked, I started doing the math about my current pace, my slowing pace, and the time of sunset. I started to worry. A lot. I didn't know if I could make it to the finish before dark. I started to jog. I ran down the hills, ran the flats, and ran uphill. It was slow, but it was faster than a walk. I kept doing the math of various paces for the last 9 miles. I looked on my phone at the time of sunset. But that time doesn't really tell last light. But I also knew I had to go around the mountain to get to the finish, and I would be on the east side, so the sun would disappear even sooner. I thought about calling Steve at home - someone rational and fresh to double check my math and pull up the time for civil twilight. But I needed to save my phone battery because it was the only flashlight source on me. I hadn't anticipated being out on the course so long. I could smack myself for not throwing a headlamp or flashlight in my pack.

 I kept running and got to the next aid station. 4.5 more miles to go. I asked the volunteer when the sun goes down here, swigged down a Coke, he said about 5:30 but it stays light out about another hour, and I thanked him and was gone. Less than a minute.

I saw Jess, and we quickly said hi, but I kept moving. The last couple miles felt like they were taking forever. Stepping around on the side of a mountain, going downhill, then uphill again - why are we going uphill? I could almost see the parking area, then dip back into the mountain on the trail to where it isn't in view anymore, and repeat.

Suddenly, Robert is walking towards me. He had talked about dropping when I saw him at mile 23 because he wanted to save his energy for his goal race in 3 weeks. I thought maybe he had just slowed down but was still in the race. But nope. He had dropped and hung out to crew Jess if she needed it and then had come out a mile from the finish to make sure I had a light if it got dark. What a considerate friend!!

He warned me immediately that this last section would feel like it went on forever, and it did not disappoint. Then, there was the last long descent filled with loose rocks.

I crossed the finish line with 33 miles in 9:45 and happily collected my finisher items - a Desert Runners Trail Series coaster and a beer glass!

 All runners were able to head over to the pizza tent and choose from 4 different types of wood-fired pizzas made right there onsite. A pretty cool perk. I was ready to get back to the hotel and shower, so I ate my pizza on the 10 minute drive back to the hotel.

All in All

Aravaipa Running (the race producer) always creates well-organized races from my understanding of their reputation and this was no different. The course was well-marked. While I'm not a huge desert girl, the terrain was pretty and interesting. The wood-fired pizza afterwards was a great gesture. And it was a fun sufferfest. On to the next sufferfest!


  1. hahahaha awesome race report. seems like u enjoyed it very much.. and this article made me enjoy too.. that was amazing to run 24 miles.. i wish i would ve took part in it too :)
    says Henry

  2. ^^ Awesome post! I am also a runner, but i feel amazing when you can run 24 miles. I hope that i may also get the same achievement in the future.