Saturday, February 28, 2015

2015 Coldwater Rumble 100 Miles Run

This was my first big race of the year as I wanted to complete a 100 miles race.  It was highly recommended by David, a friend whom I met a few years back in Lean Horse 100 and had since kept in touch, through Facebook and when David and Shannon came to Singapore to do the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon twice.  The Coldwater Rumble Trail Run was organised by the Aravaipa Running.  Last year, the 100M race comprised of running 5 x clockwise loops in the rugged and jagged Sierra Estrella mountain range in the Arizona dessert.  This year, while the route remained largely the same (there were several new miles due to the many trails being re-worked at the Estrella Mountain Regional Park recently), the loops were in washing-machine style.  I.e. Loop 1, 3 and 5 in clockwise direction while Loop 2 and 4 in anti-clockwise direction.  This allowed runners to meet each other face-to-face, several times.  The reason for the change was also to allow some variations in the otherwise, monotonous running of 5 exact loops.

The Coldwater Rumble 100 Miles Race Route

Prior to my flight to Phoenix, David gave me a lot of information on the race, as well as weather in Phoenix.  He also told me not to worry about bringing any food or supplies so that I won't need to bring along a big luggage.  He and Shannon also offered to accommodate my stay in their guestroom, as well as picking me and sending me to the airport since it was only about a 45mins drive.  On top of that, David also asked me what I would like for dinner the night before the race, as well as breakfast on race day, so that Shannon could prepare the food I need.  This was the most stress-free trip for an overseas ultramarathon.  Due to the few trips to USA this year, I decided to fly in on Friday, the day before the race!  David had assured me that the weather was really good and it almost never snowed in Phoenix, especially in the low altitude areas.  So it would be unlikely to have flight delay due to bad weather.  I took a gamble and the flight connections worked.  And I arrived at their place on Friday mid afternoon.

I immediately went to unpack my luggage and prepare my stuff for the race - like the headlamps, batteries, spare batteries, trail shoes, spare socks, gels and sports drinks like Red Bull and instant noodles that I had been using regularly in my ultramarathons.  David passed me my race packet which he and Shannon helped me to pick up the day before.  He also showed me the ice box which he had prepared and stocked up with chocolate milk, coconut drink, etc, less the ice.  I was really grateful to them for taking such good care of me.  I returned to my room to get ready my running attire and race bib.  By 6:00pm, I was all set and we waited for Shannon to pick up their son Elijah and come home to cook dinner.  Shannon was great in preparing the stuff for cooking.  She made everything looked so easy and simple.  Sometimes, you needed to have a lot of patient and it was something I lacked as I had no interest in cooking.  Dinner was served shortly and I enjoyed the home-cooked food, something I missed terribly these few years.  Then it was time for bed.

 The Coldwater Rumble Race Pack and Elijah - David and Shannon's Little Helper!

 Pasta, Chicken And Prawns For Carbo-Loading and Shannon, David & Me!

There were 6 races: 100 miles, 52 miles, 52km, 20 miles, 20km, and 4 miles, with each race being flagged off 30 minutes apart.  David was running the 20 miles race and his starting time was 8:30am - 1hr 30mins after I started my race.  David aimed to leave the house by 5:20am as it would take about 40~50mins to reach the parking lot.  So Shannon woke up before 5:00am to fix my breakfast.  :(  Breakfast included bacon, scrambled eggs, toasts, tomatoes and orange juice!  It was the best breakfast I had eaten for a long while!  I thanked Shannon before leaving with David.  When I stepped outside, it was cold.  So it was nice jumping into the car with the heater on.  We reached the parking lot at about 6:15am and we went to deposit our ice-box and my drop bag at the Coldwater Aid Station.  (We would be passing by the Coldwater Aid Station twice every loop so that was the only aid station where we could put our belongings).  David also assured me that the ice-box would be very safe as there were many volunteers and supporters hanging around the start/finish line where we put our belongings.  I went back to the car to keep warm until 10 minutes before start where I reluctantly went to join the rest at the starting line.  At 7:00am sharp, we were off!

What A Hearty Breakfast!

The air was cool but once I started running, I felt fine.  There were 4 segments in every loop: 3.4 miles, 7.9 miles, 4.2 miles and 4.5 miles to make up the 20 miles in a loop.  This was palatable as it meant that the most I need to run before I reach the next aid station would be 7.9 miles (around 12.7km) - unless I got lost.  The terrain was mostly rolling hills, something which I liked.  There we also a few hills but nothing too difficult.  At least, not in the morning where it was still bright.  I tried to keep pace with the runners in front of me so that I wouldn't get lost.  But slowly, the gap became bigger and bigger, while the front runners disappeared beyond the horizon.  I managed to reached the Coldwater Aid Station without any problem.  Unfortunately, our drop bags had not reached.  I asked the volunteers if I could leave my long-sleeve shirt on the chair as I didn't wish to carry any extra load.  They assured me that I could leave my stuff on any empty chair and they would safeguard them.  Besides, we were in the middle of the dessert.  :p  After thanking them, I left for the next check-point.

The next segment was mostly flat.  But there were sections of the route that were not clear as we need to descend into some kind of embankment, cross it, and go up to the other side.  On one such occasion, I went up and down the embankment for a couple of times before noticing the trail marking!  By then, the fast runners for the 52 miles race had started overtaking me.  Not long after, I saw a man sitting on the ground.  I asked if he was okie when I caught up with him.  He thanked me and warned me to be careful as there were many cactus around.  Apparently, he fell and got stuck by the cactus lying around him.  Ouch!  I left him and continued.  The sun was slowly coming out and I could feel the heat.  Running in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park was both fun and not so fun.  The fun part was about admiring the different type of cactus while the not so fun part was the constant changes in the trail footing which ranged from smooth trails (not for much), to sandy, soft trails, to small sections with small and big stones.  The guy who fell earlier soon caught up and passed me.  Before I reached the next check-point, ladies from the 50 miles race also passed me.  :(

After refueling my water, I aimed for the next check-point 4.2 miles away.  More and more runners overtook me including those in the 52km races.  It was rather depressing but I kept pressing on.  My initial target was to complete the first loop in 4hrs 30mins but I knew a more realistic target would be 5hrs flat.  I knew I had to try my best as I told Shannon that it would be great to say hi to them after my first loop.  Shannon and Elijah had registered for the 4 miles race starting at 9am and I wouldn't want to keep them waiting.  I reached the Coldwater Aid Station for the 2nd time and saw my long-sleeve shirt lying nicely on the same chair.  I went over to fold the shirt and put it into my drop bag which had since arrived at the Coldwater Air Station.  Then I continued the last segment of the run which was on undulating terrain, aka rolling hills.  I met many runners on their 2nd, anti-clockwise loop.  At just past noon, I finally emerged from the Estrella Mountain Regional Park and completed the 1st loop at 12:08pm!  I saw Shannon and Elijah who completed the 4 miles race about 15mins earlier.  After a short exchange of words, I bade them farewell and on my way for the 2nd loop.

The sun was very warm but with a low humidity, it was bearable.  The trail was not as crowded as earlier but it seemed harder on the anti-clockwise loop!  Either that was my imagination or it was really harder on the reverse loop.  After running 20mins into the park, I met David, who was running strong.  I told him that I met Shannon and Elijah when I completed my first loop.  Before we went different directions, he told me to text him should I need anything and he would see to it that I get what I need.  And if I wanted someone to pace, he would be more than happy to do that since he only ran 20 miles that morning.  I thanked him and continued to the Coldwater Aid Station.  If I found the first segment of the reverse loop hard, I had a shock for the second segment.  At one point, I was lost when I couldn't see any path or trail markings in front or behind me.  Having run it earlier, I thought I could recall the route but of course, running in the reverse meant everything looked different.  Just as I almost gave up, I found the trail where I was supposed to run on.  And so, I decided to take photos and not worry about the cut-off.  If I made it, excellent.  If not, it was fine.

At The Pedersen Aid Station - 2nd Loop!

For the next few miles, I jogged and walked while admiring the beauty of the vast dessert.  There were many cactus.  Some were very tall while others were short.  Some consist of a single stalk (okie I am not sure if I described it correctly) while others had numerous "branches" on the stalk.  Then there were shorter ones with a big head.  Once in a while, there would be runners passing me from behind and from the front.  I reached Pedersen Aid Station after 1hr 55mins (covering 8.7 miles).  I thanked the volunteers who had to stay in the dessert till noon the next day.  For the next 7.9 miles, I plodded along and whenever a runner overtook me, I would try my hardest to stay with him.  But most of the time, I succeeded only for a short distance before seeing the person disappeared into the distance.  It took me almost 3 hours to reach the Coldwater Aid Station!  Once there, I decided that I would stop once I completed 2 loops as I won't have enough time to complete the 3rd loop by 2:00am in the morning.  Instead of being stopped by the official after 3 loops, I rather stopped after 2 loops so that David could pick me up in the evening than in the early morning.

 The Vast Dessert With the Different Cactus!

At The Coldwater Aid Station - 2nd Loop!

I ate a small portion of hot noodle soup, grabbed my drop bag from the Coldwater Aid Station and left.  I jogged till the sun went completely down and took out my handheld lights.  There weren't many runners on the course as most have finished their respective races.  Those still running were attempting the 52 miles or 100 miles runners.  I text David to inform him of my decision to DNF.  :(  The last 3.4 miles seemed far.  No one had passed me since I left Coldwater Aid Station.  Nearer to the park exit, I saw lights coming from above but I couldn't recall having to run that high up earlier in the day.  There were 3 runners and I made way for them to pass.  While continuing my way up, I heard someone fell and was glad that I was ascending instead of descending, which was my weakest link.  I was both sad and relieved when I eventually crossed the Start/Finish line.  I went over to the race officials to inform them of my decision to stop.  Then I walked over to David, Shannon and Elijah who had all arrived.  Back at the Start/Finish area, volunteers were busy preparing food but I had no appetite, except to ask for a hot soup and also a bottle of coconut drink from the cooler.  After filling my stomach, we packed up everything and made our way home.

Race Start / End Area!

All in all, I enjoyed my trip to the State of Arizona.  The Coldwater Rumble was a great race and the race organiser had designed a course that's both challenging and refreshing.  The weather in January in Phoenix was just like in Singapore - hot and warm but in low humidity, although it was cold in the early morning and at night.  I had overestimated my ability for this race as running in the dessert was no easy task even though there were no mountain in this race.  I would definitely come back to take on the dessert challenge again next year but probably in the 52 miles or 52km race.  Once again, many thanks to David and Shannon who were such great hosts and had made my trip so stress-free.  :)

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