Friday, October 21, 2016

Race Report: 2016 Flagstaff to Grand Canyong Stagecoach 100 2 Person Relay

Last month, I had an awesome opportunity to spend a long weekend in Arizona running and enjoying the outdoors with my best bud. We ran the Stagecoach 100 2-Person relay, and were the first to cross the finish line in 17+ hours. I ran the first 54, and my friend took us home for the last 46. Here's my quick recap!

Quick Stats:
Total Time: 9:24 (17:12:49 for full 100 miles)
Total Distance: 54 Miles
Place: 1st Place, 2-Person Relay Division

Arrival in Flagstaff
We grabbed the rental car from Phoenix and headed up to Flagstaff, dropped our stuff off, and knocked out an easy shakeout run in Buffalo Park. I was excited to get back there after last summer's experience at the Rob Krar Ultra Camp, and to test the lungs in the altitude. 

After the shakeout, we ran some errands and headed to a friend's house (who was also a volunteer at Rob's camp last summer) who kindly cooked us dinner and had a little gathering. The food was amazing, and the company was fun. It was a great way to start the long weekend. 

Start of the Race - 55K Mark
There's something comforting about toeing the start line of a race put on by such an ultra legend like Ian Torrence. I had confidence that the course marking would be solid, aid would be great, and volunteers would be on point...which was definitely the case!

The race started at 8:10AM, which was awesome since I was on East Cost time. I started with the plan to take the first hour easy as I got sense for the altitude (we climbed to about 8K feet in the first few miles), and then hammer the later miles, which was a net downhill. 

I was able to keep to this plan for the first 50K (around 5 hours), but then I started to slow way down. The downhill and hard dirt roads really crushed my legs. I was quite surprised by how early the fatigue set in - it was either my low training volume, or the result of hammering a little too hard early on.

The 55K mark was the next big aid station where I was greeted by my relay partner. I spent a couple extra minutes at this aid station re-adjusting my pack, taking in calories, and chatting with my buddy to take my mind off the pain. I had 20 miles left, and had to get my head in the game!

One of my favorite sections!
The Last 20 Miles
The theme of the last 20 is pain, solo running, and what seemed like endless stretches of dirt road. The long, straight trails made it one of the more difficult ultras I've run from a mental stand point. Not a ton of climbing or technicality, just...long and straight. I had to use a lot of mantras and singing to get me going!

At about mile 49, I started to experience I really sharp pain in my left hip. It wasn't quite bad enough to make me stop or walk, but I did have to massively alter my stride, which of course put pressure in other weird spots. With the pain and weird stride, plus no finish in sight, I started to get a little bummed out, and worried I was going to be a lot later than I had planned. 

I kept moving, but when I realized I had 3-4 miles left (my watch had been a little off), I decided to call my relay partner and let him know I was going to be at least an hour...I was moving so slow, and the sun was slowly starting to go down! As I was talking to him, there was a slight bend in the road, and at the end of that bend was the most beautiful sight I had seen in hours - the aid station! I hung up the phone and ran as fast as I could to the finish. I was SO. HAPPY. 

Chris, my relay partner, ready to bring us home!

Finishing the Race
It took me a long time to get the car out from where the relay exchange was located, but once we were out of the ranch, it was a close drive to where we ended up staying for the night. I checked into the hotel, grabbed some food, and watched some college football until I decided to mosey over to the finish. I was able to figure out that my relay partner would be coming in around 1am, so I went back, watched TV, and then headed back to see him finish. 

He had a great race and we were super pumped to be the first 2-man relay team to finish. We ended up walking back to the hotel (very close to the finish), having a late-night beer, and then passing out. 

The next day we were actually up fairly early, so we headed to the finish for our awards, and then over the the Grand Canyon for some sightseeing. It was a great weekend!


Training Leading Up
September was my worst month this year in terms of total time, mileage, and ascent. This had me a little worried heading into the race, but I had to remind myself that I had just run a solid 50K 4 weeks before, and was feeling very healthy and rested. I also couldn't beat myself up because it just wasn't in the cards - I needed to recover from the MD Heat Race, and work/work travel dominated my waking hours. Ultimately, I got it done, and was happy to be healthy for the first part, but definitely think I could have benefited from a little more volume. That said, there's really nothing I could have done about it (except be sleep-deprived, which I refuse), so there's not point dwelling!

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