understanding on the upper and lower limits of that zone. Transferring that to race day you are really able to approach your racing objectively by assessing what RPE you are at and you know from your training how long you should be able to sustain that given effort for. Leading up to Flagstaff there was a lot of focus on vertical since it is The Flagstaff Sky Race, which left me running multiple laps on the steepest section of hills behind my house since getting up into the high country is very difficult for me to find the time for these days. Fortunately I love the backyard trails here and usually don't mind doing pretty much all my training on them.
Was feeling pretty solid and confident the week leading into the race. My wife, son, and parents were coming with to help crew for me at the race and we had planned a family vacation out of the trip going to Sedona after the race. Planned the flight the day I was getting off shift to maximize the amount of time off that I would have, and ended up getting pretty much no sleep for the 48 hours before the flight. That dovetailed into traveling 8 hours with a almost 2 year old through the airport and getting rental cars to drive north from Phoenix which left me pretty crushed the day before the race. Good lessons learned and hopefully can avoid repeating that in the future.
Morning of the race was feeling pretty good. Temperature was slightly chilly just about perfect temp for starting a race and it was looking to be a perfect day to run. I was really excited to get out onto the trails around the Flagstaff area, it is a area that I have always wanted to check out and was really looking forward to see what it had to offer. Race started out and immediatly starts with 2 laps on a pretty burly climb up Elden Peak. Legs were feeling pretty good climbing and was excited to be out racing with a solid group of runners. Topping out at Elden lookout and heading back down from the first climb the sun was just coming up and the descent sets you up with an amazing view of the town of Flagstaff, was really amazing and it's those moments which are always really special when you have the excitement from racing, amazing sunrise, in a new area, and surrounded but a bunch of others sharing the same experience which I truly love about trail running. The descent down was a bit more technical and switchbacky than I had anticipated and was pretty happy to hit the trails closer to the bottom where they smoothed out a bit so the legs could roll instead of doing a bunch of downhill braking early in the race. Headed back up for climb 2 to the Elden lookout topping out coming through a gauntlet of Aspen that were in full fall colors at the top. Coming off the top of Elden Lookout I could tell that stomach was a little bit off, 2 hours into the race and I was already not really wanting to take down too many gels and I had to force myself to drink water a bit more than I was used to. Dan Kraft was really close behind me at that point, which was of no suprise so I tried to come off the peak and turn the legs over a bit heading into the next aid station which is mostly flat rolling singletrack. Coming through the sunset aid station the trail starts a really nice mellow downhill section to the Schultz Aid Station.
The climb up snow bowl was just ridiculous. I felt like I was back on the fire line hiking up some gnarly slope to get to our piece of line of the day. Some parts of it were so steep I felt like I could almost use my hands to help climb up it. Joe Gray came charging up behind me from the 39k race about 2/3 of the way up the climb and I tried to hang on to him for as long as I could.
Coming to the top of the mountain it was pretty socked in with clouds and snow was falling, which made it a pretty epic summit, I wouldn't expect anything less from a sky race :) The decent down to the finish was mostly off trail down a ski run and my legs and knee were completely blown, I haven't had a race where i felt like my knees were so wrecked at the end of a race. Luckily there wasn't anyone in sight behind me so I decided to try and avoid sustaining any injuries on the way down and took it pretty easy on the descent. Finished in 4th place overall 6:03 against a field of great runners. Didn't feel like I ran up to my full potential, but was happy to pull off a decent race, have my family there to share the experience with me, and catch up with my friends the Ricks family after the race. Flagstaff was a really amazing course and experience and I learned a lot of good lessons which hopefully if I'm smart, not saying that I always am, will carry with me from here on.
Here is a link to a video Aravaipa Running made of the race which I thought did a great job of showing the beauty of the course! Flagstaff Sky Race 2016