One asked if I was doing a 10k.
I responded, “50k!”
His eyes got big. “Woah! What is that like 29 miles?”
“More like 31 miles.”
“Way to go, man!” he yelled as I was almost out of earshot.
There weren’t very many of us doing the 50k and there were some registrants that appeared to be running late. All the other distances would be starting at a later time.
We started off with one runner going much faster than the rest of us and he would end up winning by a very healthy margin. I settled into exchanging 2nd and 3rd place with another run for the first 9 miles or so.
There were some absolutely spectacular views of the area. The morning sun with the rich vibrant colors of Cottonwood Valley had me looking at awe at my surroundings. Those are some of the best trail running moments. I wish I had a camera but taking a picture would almost ruin being in the moment and just experiencing it alone. I had to settle for mental pictures in these instances.
As I approached the aid station near mile 11, I noticed another runner in the distance.
“Is he running the 50k?” I thought to myself.
Sure enough, he caught up by the aid station. At this point, it became 3 of us running for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place.
As I approached the aid station, I didn’t notice a beautiful white mustang until he was right next to me on the trail! I knew there were wild horses in the area but did not expect to encounter any, especially like this. Fortunately, one of the aid station volunteers took a picture!
As I left the aid station, despite the exhilaration of the unique experience, I fell into a low. I was feeling worn down and things were heating up. I began feeling cramps/nausea. I quickly fell back to 4th.
I remained in 4th as I entered the main aid station. Rob reminded (warned) me, that I was currently out of medal contention. My friend Joseph had finished his 10k and enthusiastically greeted me with a high five. I used the restroom, got fuel, and mentioned my cramps. Joseph started suggesting some salty items. I opted for the pretzels. As I finished up, Joseph pointed to the distance at the other two 50k runners and said, “They’re right there. Go get them!”
After a couple miles of downhill, the next 6 miles after that were a mostly uphill grinder. The heat intensified. The three of us were trading places between 2nd, 3rd and 4th. We were all running low on water and fuel. At one funny moment, the three of us were clustered together and we all just started walking. I was in front and asked one of the other runners, Mark, if he wanted to pass. He chuckled and said, “Nope!” As we approached the end of this grind, Mark took off. At first, I let him go. Then, I didn’t want him to get too far ahead and out of sight, so I started running again too. We got on a smooth downhill that I have run plenty of times in this area before. I felt great and picked up the pace.
My Garmin stopped keeping track of distance around mile 23 but kept tracking time. This had never happened to me before but I knew the course well so it wasn’t a huge concern.
Mark and I arrived at the aid station at approximately mile 28 at about the same time. This was my chance. I fueled as quickly as I could and bolted out of the aid station! I grabbed 2nd place and refused to give it up. I tried to keep out of sight of the other two runners but on the last mile I could see Mark running hard in the distance. Fortunately, I had enough of a lead to hold on to 2nd place. I was ecstatic!
After arriving to the finish, Rob informed me that I had won the raffle! I won a free massage from Thrive Massage that I would sorely (pun intended) need after a 50k.
But it doesn’t end there.
I had signed up for the dirty double.
Wait. What was I thinking?
I returned later that evening to run the Moonlight Madness 5k. With a relaxed pace, I completed the 5k (making a total of 55k for the day) and was rewarded with a sweet Trails of Fury pilsner glass.
The whole event from beginning to end was an exceptional experience.