During the summer, 19 Arizona firefighters tragically lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire, and the Hotshots Run To Remember And Never Forget was created to honor their memory and raise funds for their families. It’s modeled after the Dipsea Race, where runners are started at different times based on age and gender so the faster runners chase the (theoretically, at least) slower ones. The first runners get a 25-minute head start and subsequent groups start at 1-minute intervals. My station in life garnered me an 8-minute advantage. The first 19 finishers would be awarded with numbered T-shirts, and the first to cross the line would receive a beautiful fireman’s axe.
I really needed to get some bike miles in for my upcoming Half Ironman, and because the road to the race has wide bike lanes and few lights, I decided to pedal there. I figured the ride would take me about an hour, so I set my alarm for 4:40. It was still dark when I left, but I had just bought a sweet 500-lumen lamp and was ready for it. The air was thick with humidity.
Going was slow, and I blamed sluggish morning legs. The sky turned a gray-blue as I rode and it was very peaceful. I had packed my running shoes and clothes in a drawstring backpack and it kept shifting to the side, which was a little annoying. There were a couple of stranded bikers on the side of the road a few miles from the park. They asked if I had a spare CO2 cartridge and a patch. This was not their first flat of the day and they had run out. Fortunately, I was able to help and that made me feel extra good about my decision to bike to the race. It took me 1:12:51 to reach the race site (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050073), but I still had time to get my number, change into my running clothes and shoes, and suck down a Clif Shot.
I would be starting at the same time as my friend Amy. Both of us were treating this race as a training run. Then I noticed that she had some Mace attached to her hydration vest. She said it was in case she ran into any hostile critters, but I think she might have been planning to take out the competition… 🙂 The race director kept calling for the different start groups, and most of them were pretty small until it was our turn.
From the start, it felt like I was left in the dust. Enough time had passed since my ride that I didn’t have the rubber-legged feeling I get during a triathlon, but I was definitely feeling its effect. On the plus side, it was still cloudy and there was a nice, refreshing rain. The early part of the race was paved but hilly. There was a working ranch nearby, and the scent of horse hung in the air. The first two miles were run at about 8 minutes a piece, and I was happy with that. Amy was long gone, though. As I ran by one woman she said, “I go to your Body Pump class.” I didn’t recognize her, but it was a fairly large class and it seemed like a lot of the faces change from week to week. It’s silly, but I felt like since I was the instructor that I should be faster.
The staggered start made the passing situation interesting: I was able to pass some people easily and other people were dropping me like a hot potato. My mental DJ was in a cultural mood and had selected Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera Aida for this morning’s festivities.
Soon it was trail time. I had worn my Saucony Mirages because they were the most stable shoes I owned, but they weren’t really suited for trail running. Parts of the trail were fairly smooth, but in other places several rocks jutted out of the ground. I hit a few of them awkwardly and my ankles yipped but didn’t buckle. I soaked in the surroundings. The musky scent of skunk lingered in the air. In some places, the dirt was a beautiful red color. The skies brought Newton Faulkner’s song “Clouds” to mind.
Stop looking down at the ground
Pick it out of the clouds
No one’s gonna put you down
Just let it out let it out
With the staggered starts, some obviously faster runners came up behind me, and because it was a single-file trail, I had to step to the side and let them pass. It was an interesting challenge to constantly keep adjusting my pace and foot placement, but I am a road racer at heart. I didn’t want to run too fast and risk a fall. The silly, egotistical side of me wished that I had a sign on my back that said “Hey! You do realize I rode my bike here, don’t you?”
A little after the six-mile mark, there was a dramatic steep and rocky climb, and I did something that I don’t think I’ve done in a race since I was in junior high: walk. Post-race reconnaissance revealed that I wasn’t the only one. When I finally reached the top, there was less than a mile remaining. I heard footfalls behind me and this time the Body Pump lady passed. At this point, I was feeling confined by the trail and wishing for an open stretch of road where I could just run the pace I felt like running. It was trail until the end, though, so there was no finishing kick. I ended up finishing 30th taking the handicap start into account and 29th based on raw time. Amy was 16th, and my friends Keith (3) and Steve (10) also finished in the top 19.
I ate a banana and a Honey Stinger Waffle to fuel up for the ride home. I hadn’t tried the vanilla flavor before and it was outstanding. I hung around for a while and actually started to feel chilly. In Tucson. In September. The ride home was enjoyable and much quicker (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050102). It was still cool and there were some large, beautiful white flowers on the side of the road that I hadn’t noticed in the dark. All in all, it was a great morning. While I wasn’t fast, I got a heck of a workout and probably saved a gallon of gas.