Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mountain to Fountain 15k Race Report

Great Horned Owl

My day started with a Great Horned Owl hooting from the top of a palm tree in Fountain Hills. Owls were always a thrill to see and hear. These creatures were otherworldly to me with their big eyes and haunting calls at night. Plus, they eat live, bloody prey. I peered into the tree to try to see him, until the husky bird flew away. Hopefully, he was a good omen for the day.

Fountain Hills was one of those planned communities on the edge of suburbia that was a little tattered around the edges. In the center of town was a giant fountain that spewed a large volume of water in the air. It can be seen from miles away. When it was not being a fountain, the structure was unsightly, like rusty remains of a ship wreck sitting in the lake. The charm was lost on me.

The race was point to point from McDowell Mountain Park, so runners had to take buses to the starting line. I was silent during the ride and ignored the conversations, since I had no urge to be social at this early hour. The last time I did this event, I didn’t get to Fountain Hills early enough and the bus took fifty minutes. I didn’t remember why it took so long to ride nine miles. Buses can get swept into a time warp and reappear at their destination much later than should be possible.

This bus got to the park in plenty of time, so that I had an hour to sit around and get really bored. This was a pretty area with lush Sonoran desert with Saguaros and Palo Verde trees. Silver  Brittle Bushes  bloomed  yellow daisies. The sun hadn’t yet warmed the air and I marveled at the stupidity of the runners who had taken  their warm clothes off well before the start.

This race had prize money, so it attracted a lot of elite runners far superior to lowly me. The route was basically downhill, with some nasty climbs. I had no illusions of a fast race and I lined up behind the faster people to stay out their way.

The first mile was an ascent, but I was in a good mood from seeing my owl friend. The next two miles were even better. Flying downhill on the scenic road was effortless and fun and my speed was what was fast for me.

Then the cramps hit, the lovely warning that my bowels were angry and wanted to empty themselves. For all the money the race organizers spend on beer and prize money, they use nothing for porta-potty rental on the route. The 9.5 miles was barren of anywhere to relieve oneself except for trees and bushes. I couldn’t hold it that long. Desert plants were not great cover with their tiny leaves.

Pretty, but not a good place to hide your business.
I briefly considered going off road to a side section with  real rest rooms, but that would waste a lot of time. I studied the configuration of trees and bushes on the side of the road as possibilities. Lots of people were streaming by and the thought of exposing myself to this crowd was not pleasant.

I found a likely spot, and hoped that it wasn’t someone’s private land that I had soiled. I felt better for a while, but I still had problems. I ran hard, then had to slow down repeatedly when the cramps hit. My expectations dived and I tried not to get depressed. No personal record for this race, just the attempt not to be totally terrible. To get to the finish line clean was now my ultimate goal.

The road has a steep, long climb a few miles from the end, but I was too consumed with controlling bodily functions to even notice or be tired. Cramps hit again partly up the hill and forced a rest .

The desert gave way to Fountain Hills suburbia and I could keep going without slowing down. My hip and glut pain from another event flared up, but it was bearable. I had done a tough eight mile off road trail race two weeks ago, under the delusion that my body would not have any lasting pain. That assumption was false. Everything was under control for now.

I reached the finish line in under ninety-two minutes. The time was nothing to get excited about, but at least my underwear was clean. Sometimes, the conditions had to be dealt with as they were and I could only do my best, which may not be much to others. The high had eluded me once again. No prizes, nor P.R.s, but at least I got a free beer.

The owl was just an owl, not an omen.