Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mesquite Canyon 50k and Other Recent Ramblings

The desert is HOT. Especially for a northern dweller who hasn’t run in shorts yet this year. Yes, I was that runner who was glowing white amongst all the bronzed legs of more ‘acclimatized runners’. So what was I doing in the desert? Well, a last-minute decision to pull out of Chuckanut and a need to get a race under my belt sent me packing my bags to Phoenix for the Mesquite Canyon 50k. What? Yeah, and it was awesome!

To back up as to how I ended up in Arizona, running through cacti, this is what happened:

Data collection for my dissertation
I was planning to race Chuckanut this year and was psyched because in the past couple years I’d missed the registration and it was full. But, my body had slightly other plans. What was wrong? Well good question. A couple weeks before the race I came down with the crud. Ugh. I felt like I was hit with a brick wall. I would be out for a run and it felt like every step was so much effort that I was just dragging my body around the trails. NOT a good feeling. So I did what any runner would do…..I totally freaked out and called my coach! After talking me through that this wasn’t the end of the world, I was told to rest. And I did. Physically anyway. It actually wasn’t hard; the thought of running was totally overwhelming. I did squeeze in a few walks that exhausted me way more than they should of. Hmm. As the days went on and race week approached I wasn’t feeling any better. What the %^*? I saw my Dr. only to find out that everything was normal. I was healthy. But I didn’t feel good! I made the decision to pull out of Chuckanut a few days before the race. So frustrating! But I was still just feeling shitty. I could hardly jog a couple miles without having to walk.

So what was the problem then? Well, as probably most people know I’m working on my dissertation study right now. I’m actually in the data collection phase- which means lots of long hours at the lab and worrying about every little thing despite it being out of my control. I was a mess. For a detailed account, consult Zach: he’s had to put up with a zombie-like, freaking out, stress case, otherwise known as Stephanie for the past few months. It was not good. (NOTE: at the time I’m writing this I’m done with 99% of my data collection) So when your mom told you not to worry so much or you’d make yourself sick……she was right J

Pre-race. Ready to go!
ANYWAY, on to happier things. Mesquite Canyon 50k. What a great race! I was feeling better the following week so decided to try my luck racing a 50k in the heat. The course was just outside of Phoenix at the White Tank regional park. It had it all- long climbs, technical sections, and some great smooth, single track. I had a great time racing and was humbled by the challenging course. The 50k started at 7:30am, and I showed up wearing arm warmers. I’m pretty sure people were giggling at me and I jogged around before the start. I wised up shortly before the race started and ditched them. At 7:30 it was a very pleasant temperature. I wasn’t cold…..that never happens.

The first couple miles were pretty flat, rolling through cacti studded sand. It was a nice warm-up. From there we began a 7-8ish mile climb up 1,500 ft to the top of the hills. The uphill actually wasn’t as steep as I was expecting and I was able to get in a good rhythm and
make good time up the hill. At the top of the climb we took a sharp right hand turn and descended down a very rocky, technical section for 2-3 miles. It was rough. The heat was also just starting to become apparent, adding to the difficulty. I didn’t move very fast down this section. In fact, I was passed by a few men, whizzing by me like billy goats. Oh well. I was trying to stay within myself because I wasn’t sure how my body was going to handle 31 miles.

Start of the Mesquite Canyon 50k
At the bottom of the hill was an aid station and the turnaround point. Yep, we were heading right back up that hill. I actually enjoyed the 3 miles uphill much more than the downhill. Sure it was tough and I was sweating balls, but it was fun J At the top of the hill we took a slightly different way back, which was nice, smooth single track for the next several miles. I felt good and was having fun cruising down the trail. My hydration and nutrition were going pretty well too (yeah Clif shot gels!). Just a few more miles to go!

Somewhere around mile 25 though the wheels came off. I was no longer feeling good and I was really hot and tired. Even though I was suffering greatly, I was present. There is something about being on that edge that makes me feel alive, and I embrace it. The last 5 miles descended through another canyon with yet more technical sections and some fun ‘sandy bottoms’ running. I didn’t really run very well here. I still wasn’t feeling 100% healthy and it was apparent. Nothing to do but keep running though.

Finally I saw the glorious site of the last aid station at mile 29. Not much further to go! I put on my happy face and braced myself for the last few minutes of pain. Honestly, the last two miles were a wonderful way to finish a race. The trail was pretty flat and fast. It was nice to run after the last few miles of 15+ min miles. I breezed on by and passed my sister on the side of the trail just before the finish. That made me smile! I knew she was coming to watch (she lives in Tucson), but I hadn’t seen her for months.

As I ran across the finish line I smiled. What a tough 50k! It wasn’t expecting that much of a kick in the butt. I have some tough, hot races on the horizon though, so this was great practice! PLUS, I was greeted by delicious food AND a skull trophy at the finish. Does it get any better than that?!


Thanks to Jamil Coury for putting on a great race and giving me the opportunity to race last minute! I’ll be back!

My sister and I.



  1. Stephanie, thanks for running our race and writing such a great report. Best of luck with the rest of your season!

  2. Congrats & Awesome Race Report!!! Shadow Boy & I Will Send You Positive Vibe This Weekend!! Stay Strong & Keep On Reaching 4 Those 2014 Goals

  3. Hello!

    I have a quick question for you, could you email me when you have a chance? Thanks! –Heather