Race Report: 2022 McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 mile

Last week in Phoenix, AZ, I ran my first 50 mile race with friends and support from our loved ones. The race was the McDowell Mountain Frenzy put on by AravaipaRunning. Part of their desert race series.

Coming into race week, I felt undertrained in part due to some hip and knee pain that limited execution of my training plan. But I managed to complete my longest training run, 34 miles, a couple weeks beforehand and felt ready to add another 16.

After the long drive to AZ, we picked a room and settled into the Airbnb. It was a big place with pool, hot tub, roof deck, and a sand volleyball court which we decided was too risky to use before the race. It also featured a neighboring horde of dogs that picked choice moments throughout the night for group howls. Never forget to bring earplugs.

The days leading up to the race brought weather reports that predicted a small chance of light rain. I didn’t prepare for rain, so I hoped for the best. The day before the race, rain had vanished from the report. Then on race day morning, the rain prediction was back. Light rain in the afternoon, 0.4in total.

What went badly:

  • Knee pain reemerged after the first 16 miles. Had to go much slower after that.
  • Over an inch of steady rain after noon. Drop bags were left in the rain.
  • I wore road shoes as I find them more comfortable and like feeling the terrain. However I may have been worse off using them in the wet muddy conditions. Poor traction.
  • The second half of the race is mostly downhill, but it was hard to move fast and stay warm with the mud, cacti, and rain. I ended up very cold and had a hard time warming back up. My long sleeve was soaked and felt like it was making me colder so I stuffed it in my vest pack. At the 42 mile aid station, I got a lecture from the staff about how I didn’t look well and must need more nutrition. I think they misread my pallor for a nutrition issue and not the cold. Maybe it was both. With help from my partner and friends, I swapped into 3 layers of dry clothes including a borrowed Polartec fleece jacket and stood in front of a heater for 15 minutes before taking on the final miles. Luckily the rain had mostly subsided to a light drizzle.
Temps from my Garmin watch. Body heat wasn’t doing much warming for a few hours. 55F doesn’t even sound low, but it got me.

What went well:

  • Nutrition. I ate at every aid station and think I had enough calories to burn. Milk tea in all the drop bags was a win.
  • Great support.
  • Didn’t overheat. Didn’t need the cooling buckets the aid stations had setup (folks there also didn’t expect rain).
  • Didn’t fall on a cactus like an unfortunate fellow runner.
  • Didn’t lose any clothes to Jumping Cholla. Dislodged from the rain, they lined the trail borders and in a couple places floated in the stream that formed in the center. Ran by someone’s abandoned neck gaiter that was stuck with one. Escaped one that attached to my shoe thanks to a fellow runner’s running poles.

Lessons learned

Prepare for rain. Dry bags, rain jacket, trail shoes. Extra clothes in all bags.

Plan speed around the weather. I finished middle of the pack, which was fine given that my primary goal was just to finish. If I were strategizing for time, I should have gone faster from the start to make the most of the good weather conditions.

You can’t win a shoe sponsorship with a homemade award. The race featured a prize “golden shoe award” with a Solomon running sponsorship for 10 pairs of shoes for the first place male and female finishers. At the finish line Ally surprised me with a golden toddler shoe “consolation award” which the race announcer was stoked for and we stepped up the podium for pictures.

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