Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run

April 4, 2009

I took a week vacation to visit my brother who lives in Tucson, Arizona part time and decided to add this little race in for something different. While it is a road race, it is a bit different in a couple of ways: it is an evening race (starting at 6pm), and it has an unusual distance of 7.4 Miles (11.9km).

Unfortunately, I came down with yet another cold a few days prior to this race. Thankfully, it was rather mild, but still sucked some energy out of my body. I spent the entire day before the race traveling and ended up arriving in Tucson very late due to aircraft delays. I didn't really know what to expect of my body because of the long trip, the end of the cold effects, the evening start time, and a totally different climate. By looking at previous results, I was able to get a rough idea of the level of competition that would likely be there although not knowing the course made prediction more difficult. It looked very likely that I would place in the top 10 barring a complete race meltdown and placing in the top couple of spots might be within reach.

Compared to racing on Vancouver Island where I always know at least a few people who are competing, arriving at a totally new venue where I knew no one except my brother (who doesn't run) was different. It reminded me of when I first started racing and knew very few people at the local races. Being a desert down there, I was a little worried that it would be too hot, especially considering how cold and miserable this year has been here. Luckily, however, it was actually quite cool and standing around with shorts and tank top was a little chilly due to some breeze.

The course was an out and back one on a road used for tourism vehicles and walkers only. The course turns around when the road ends which is why it distance it so unusual. The course description says it is uphill on the way up so I was expecting some mild grades up, but it turned out to be steeper than had thought (with about 250m in elevation gain total).

Within the first mile, I knew that this wasn't going to be a stellar race for me. The legs felt heavy and while I didn't feel horrible overall, nor did it feel easy as it should at the beginning of a race. The dry air was also unusual for me and left me with a parched mouth almost right away. As already mentioned, the course was primarily uphill with a couple of flats and dips here and there. I was in about 6th place for the first couple of miles and was battling it out with a guy on the climbs. Even though I was not feeling great, I was still able to climb reasonably well and would pass this guy on the uphills only to have him catch me and pass me back on the flats and dip. Unfortunately, around the 2.5 mile mark he pulled further ahead and I really started to suffer and was unable to respond. The final mile or so up the the turnaround at 3.7 miles was steep and I was really feeling the strain. Miles 2 and 3 were my slowest with splits of 6:40 and 6:38 respectively. During this portion of the climb, all I hoped to do was hang on and avoid being passed by any more runners.

One of the runners if front of me looked to be suffering even more than me, however, and I gradually gained on him up to the turn-around. At that point he and stopped at the aid station and slowed to a walk and looked like he was suffering from cramps. I passed him at that point and I'm unsure it he finished or not. Luckily, once we headed back down, I started to feel better and it looked like I would be able finish the last half fairly strong. I heard footsteps behind me for quite a while on the decent and with about one mile to go, the guy finally caught up to me. He gave me some encouragement saying something along the lines of "Come on stay with me!" Feeling that I did have something left in me, I took his advise and picked up my pace a bit moving ahead of him and then pushing hard on the small uphill before the final decent. I tried to pull far enough ahead that I hoped he couldn't close the gap. I ran hard to the line, finishing in 5th place in 43:22. It was not a great time for this distance, but was much hillier than the most comparable race I can think here which would be the Cedar 12K. I beat the 4th place guy (who quite coincidentally is a co-worker of my brother's girlfriend) by a small margin. Results are here. The first place finisher won in around 40:45. There were approx 400 finishers. A nice feature of the race was the pre-awards entertainment. They had a cowboy doing rope and gun tricks for a half hour while results were being tabulated. Having entertainment is a good idea that other races should consider emulating. My final splits were:
5:33, 6:01, 6:40, 6:38, 5:05, 5:28. 5:55, 2:02 (0.4 Miles).

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