Guest Post: Mountain to Fountain 15K Race Report

By , March 26, 2013 6:42 am

I am really excited to share a guest post from one of my favorite people – my girl, Chris!

130320Chris

You may remember Chris featured in such posts as “Long Grove Turkey Trot 5K Race Report.” Hee hee. Chris and I first met in our running club in 2011, and have been taking the same Wednesday night strength class together for quite some time. Chris is one of those girlfriends you always want to spend more time with, because she is so damn sweet, nice and funny. Very funny. Very silly. We could get in a lot of trouble together. 

But I digress. Chris is also inspirational. She was in an awful car accident a few years ago. It left her in a full body brace for four months (and confined to a wheelchair for a brief portion of that time). She had a broken lower lumbar spine, face, ankle, toe, right clavicle… and lost a few teeth and part of her tongue. Her mouth was wired shut for three months and she had to re-learn to walk (due to the muscular atrophy). She was a runner before the accident, and quite devastated by it. The doctors weren’t sure if she would run again. Yet, here she is, kicking ass and taking names. I am proud to know someone like her! Have you ever had to deal with a huge recovery like that?

Okay! On to the post, as told from Chris (bold text from me)…

Destination races are one of my favorite ways to enjoy the area that I am visiting while on vacation.  And, while many people laugh at the fact that I race over my vacation – I realize that my runner friends out there would understand my insanity.

In January, I tossed out my top three choices for races in the Phoenix (AZ) area to a few of my friends to get their opinion on which race they thought I should attempt while on vacation.  One was a local 5K , another was a 4 mile race close to the area, and the third option was a 15K (9.3 miles) that was about 35 minutes away from our time share.  Needless to say, every person that was affiliated with the running and/or multisport club that I belong to selected the Mountain to Fountain 15K (on March 10, 2013).  While I was concerned by taking on that level of mileage a couple weeks early in my half-marathon training, I was definitely not let down by their suggestion.

In addition to the mileage concern, I was a little unsettled by flying in on Saturday afternoon, and running the following morning (due to potential dehydration from the flight), yet my mind was more settled after talking to one of my friends.  I was scheduled to arrive in Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, which would have given me some time to stretch my back and legs for the race the following morning.  For me, this is an important part of my race preparation, as I have a spinal fusion in my lower lumbar region and a herniated and bulging disc in my cervical spine.

What steps do you take to prep for a destination race?

While the race began at 8:00 am, participants were required to arrive early, because they had to transport everyone by bus to the start line inside of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  The first bus left at 5:30 am, and the last bus left at 7:15 am.  The plan seemed like a good one, until United Airlines delayed our flight; leaving an hour later than originally scheduled.  The delay meant that our flight would arrive in the early evening versus the later portion of the afternoon.  However, that was just the beginning of the eleven total delay notices that I would receive on my cell phone while waiting to board the plane.  Our plane eventually departed Chicago at approximately 10:30 pm, and due to the time difference, we arrived at around 11:30 pm in Phoenix.

After a long wait in uncomfortable chairs at the airport, and a three and a half hour flight, my legs and back were rather sore.  While my plan to stretch and visit the swimming pool for some hydrotherapy was foiled, I was determined to participate in the race, as I had been looking forward to it for the past couple of months.  The race description intrigued me, as it seemed different than most races, and offered “an extremely fast downhill” for the first 5K, a steep climb for the second 5K, and rolling hills for the remainder of the race.  Needless to say, I had decided to try to remove any time-related goals that I had created in my mind for this particular race due to the physical discomfort that I had experienced from the flight delay, and focus on my primary goal, which was to finish the race.

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Elevation profile from here

On race day, we had to leave the Phoenix area at 5:00 am, in order to allow for enough travel time, in case we experienced any challenges with driving instructions.  Once I arrived at the staging area in Fountain Hills, I knew why everyone was wearing warm-up pants and long-sleeved jackets, as it was in the low 40’s in town.  Plus, the temperature dropped even lower once we reached the start line, near the top of the mountain, where it was in the 30’s.

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However, it did not take long (around mile 3), and I was peeling off my arm bands due to the heat.  We were on the main road to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, which was in the full sun.  It was beautiful, and a welcomed change from the snow and cold weather in Chicago (especially now, since winter seems to NOT want to go away!).

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The race had a great group of volunteers staffing each of the water stations, and emergency medical responders in multiple locations on the course for precaution.  There were individual runners and teams that participated, which added a higher energy to the race.  The teams were competing for the first place prize in their respective divisions, as they won the weight of one of their teammates in beer – Kilt Lifter beer, to be exact (image below).  Each race participant also received a can of Kilt Lifter beer at the party following the race, as well as a complimentary massage from a local massage therapy school.

M2F4

I originally wanted to complete the race in 1:30:00, and had kept my pace intact until about mile eight, when I ran out of fuel (both electrolyte drink and gels), and began to have a headache.  I knew at that point that I was dehydrated from the high sun exposure.  As many would say, I was “running on empty.”  However, I still had a little over a mile to go, and a few hills left to conquer.  Then, at about mile 8.5, the hunger pangs began.  I immediately knew that I had to conserve my energy, as it was apparent that I had burnt many more calories earlier on the course than I had initially anticipated I would throughout the race.

Also, the two coyotes that crossed in front of me on the course definitely gave me the ambition to carry on, and brought a smile to my face, as it reminded me of similar experiences that I had with some of the members of the running club on one of our training runs in a local forest preserve.  It quickly became another ‘coyote run’ or training run for me, and took my mind off of the lack of fuel.  It made me smile, and their crossing was perfectly timed.

It was one of the most peaceful and beautiful courses I have experienced thus far in my running career.  It was exhilarating.  I could not tell if it was being surrounded so fully by nature that made the experience so grand or the fact that I did not have to race anywhere afterwards – just “enjoy the ride,” or possibly a little of both.  Whatever the reason, it was a race that I will remember for many years, and would recommend to anyone staying in the Phoenix or Mesa area in the springtime.  It was amazing.

What was your favorite destination race and why?

37 Responses to “Guest Post: Mountain to Fountain 15K Race Report”

  1. Love this guest post! She sounds like an awesome and inspirational lady. And I want to do this race. Or something like it.

    My favorite destination race was probably RnR NOLA. I’m not sold on the RnR races but the city is fun and the course takes you through some beautiful neighborhoods. There was also a lot of spectators, which was nice, and I did the half as a relay with my BFF. Plus, nothing beats beignets post race!

    • kilax says:

      She is inspirational! I love having someone like that in my life :)

      I have yet to try an RnR! Your experience sounds pretty much perfect :)

      • Chris says:

        Thank you both for your kind words.

        And, Kimberly, I would have to agree with you about the beignets. They are wonderful.

  2. Kandi says:

    Very impressive to recover from something like that and get back into sports she loves. Sounds like she ran an awesome race despite the delayed flight issues. I’ve always wanted to travel out west and run there.
    I’ve only done one destination race – a half marathon in Wildwood, NJ. We drove up the day before and I just had to make sure not to wear myself out by walking too much. When we went to Hawaii for our honeymoon I saw signs for a half marathon and really wanted to do it but we weren’t going to be on that particular island that day and I got sick anyway so I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

    • kilax says:

      I hope you get to do a race out west! Ooo! Are there any in Europe when you go?

      • Chris says:

        Thank you, Kandi.

        It sounds like you have your own race preparation plans too. It is challenging to balance the desire to go and see all of the sights, while also making sure that you are limiting the time on you feet. I hope that the half in NJ went well for you, and definitely keep AZ on your list of places to run in the future.

  3. Riyanti says:

    I agree that Chris is fantastic! And amazing. And fun. What a great guest post. I am glad you had a good race. Coyotes as motivators is such a funny thought, but I can totally see it. Looks beautiful too.

    • Chris says:

      Thank you, Riyanti! You are an incredible woman yourself!! Not to mention a great running partner. ;)

  4. Anne says:

    Coyotes crossed your path?! Whoa!

    I’m interested to hear more about Chris’ pre-run stretching regimen for her back, since I also have had spinal fusion (um, that’s my big thing I’ve recovered from).

    I did a destination race all the way in Indianapolis a few years back, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I can’t say I learned much from it.

    • kilax says:

      I will ask her about it! :)

      Next destination race… MI.. w/o a hotel… could be interesting!!! :)

      • Anne says:

        Oh, we don’t need a hotel for MI! Bob’s parents have a summer house about half an hour away from the race, so we’re set!

      • Chris says:

        Thank you, Anne.

        I try to implement a lot of the poses (and modified poses) that I have learned in yoga, as I have found them to assist me. While every person is different, maybe you will find yoga to be of assistance to you.

        Also, one of the most relaxing positions that I have found is one that they taught to me in the hospital. Lay on your back (in front of the seat of your couch or chair), and place your behind as close to the foot of the couch/chair as possible, and then place your legs up on the seat portion of the couch/chair with your knees bend. Then, place a light pillow under your tailbone, and focus solely on your breathing. For me, it takes the pressure away from the back, and makes me feel better aligned.

        Anne: Please let me know if my description makes any sense, as it may need some help. :) I can always attempt to get a picture to you.

        • Anne says:

          I do that one myself, so I know exactly what you’re talking about! I only do it when my back is really bad though, I hadn’t thought to do it on a more regular basis. It really does alleviate pressure, but that’s a good idea to help with alignment. I haven’t done yoga in years, but maybe that would be good too. Are there any poses in particular that you like?

          • Chris says:

            I’m glad that you find the stretch to be helpful, Anne. Triangle pose actually assists, as well as side angle pose. However, I would recommend a few warm-up poses prior, so that your muscles and back are prepared for that type of a stretch. I have also learned to embrace the “corpse pose” (sometimes with bend knees), as it allows for a high-level of relaxation for me, personally. I hope that some of those may work for you too. If not, then definitely search for a few that feel good, and work for you. Thanks, again.

  5. Xaarlin says:

    Very inspiring to read a come back story like this. The course sounds beautiful- just can’t imagine seeing coyotes on a path :) sounded like it was a good race despite the setbacks with the travel section of the trip.

  6. Ian says:

    Thanks for sharing a guest race report, great idea. McDowell is a great place to run. The JJ100 is held there and I’ve crewed and paced my friend who lives in Arizona to his first 100 mile in 2009. That race uses a 15 mile loop trail and when I paced Steve for a loop it started at 10pm under a full moon. Think that was his 5th loop. I barely needed my headlamp due to the light from the moon.

  7. bobbi says:

    Love reading a race report from one of my favorite people!! And I loved reading a bit more about Chris’ back story (I knew about the accident, but somehow, I didn’t know the extent of the injuries she’s suffered).

    What a gorgeous place to run! So far, my destination races have been limited to dirveable distances, but I’d love to do a San Diego race someday (I have relatives there).

    And “Kilt Lifter” beer cracked me up. Was it good??

    • kilax says:

      There was actually a write-up about her in one of the local magazines a few years back! It was really interesting! I could try to find it for you… er… in my email. Sigh. I think that was back in my yahoo email days ;)

      WHAT?! You have relatives in San Diego? We’re going. You + me.

      • Chris says:

        + Me (for San Diego; love that place!)

        You are one of my favorite people too, Bobbi, not to mention an incredible runner!

        As for the Kilt Lifter beer, I gave it to one of my family members, so I did not get to try it. I was more excited to sip on my chocolate milk post-race, as my quads were definitely feeling the hills.

  8. Emily says:

    Love love love love LOVE it!!! Chris – I had no idea what you had gone through with your accident and your rehab. You are truly an inspiration for all that you do and for your incredibly positive spirit. Way to push through all the challenges! And how awesome that you saw coyotes along the course – talk about the Wild West, eh? CONGRATULATIONS on your amazing race!!!

  9. Awesome guest post, this was a great read!

    Best destination race? ChiBloggersDoZooma, of course! What a blast.

  10. Wow! I love that story! Chris – you’ve done a great job at adjusting to your travel races! Can’t wait to hear about your next one!

    • Chris says:

      Thank you, Lauren. It has definitely been a learning process for me, yet have ‘enjoyed the ride.’ Best wishes to you, and your future runs/races.

  11. Erin says:

    Thanks for guest posting, Chris! You are definitely one of the nicest people I know and I love hearing about your adventures. I’ll be in Phoenix in April. You’ve made me want to see if I can find a race while I’m there!

    • Chris says:

      Thank you, Erin. You give me so much strength; watching you brave the trapeze. You are such an incredible multisport athlete. Plus, it has been inspiring to watch you grow as a runner. I am glad that you enjoyed the post, and definitely try to check out a race while you are there. One resource that I have found to be helpful is: http://www.runningintheusa.com.

  12. Gingerfoxxx says:

    Wowwww, i would LOVE to run a race like this. Coyotes? How awesome! I love the downhill in the middle, too!

    • Chris says:

      You would love it, Ms. Foxxx. As for the downhill, it looks much more steep in the elevation profile than it feels in real life. ;)

  13. Brenda says:

    Chris,
    I am amazed by you! Your life is truly inspirational. I want to be like you when grow up! Congratulations!

  14. Alyssa says:

    Great post and what an inspirational story! I’ve never done a destination race (wait, does an hour drive into Wisconsin count?) My boyfriend and I have talked about doing (well, me racing, him, spectating) a destination race and then vacationing a bit afterwards.
    I LOVE seeing wildlife on my runs- I mostly see deer, but I have seen a few coyotes, skunks, opossum, raccoon, and others.
    And I have to mention Kilt Lifter is a great beer with a great name, as well. My friend is from Arizona and she adores Kilt Lifter and usually smuggles some back in her luggage to share. It’s been a few years since I’ve had any!

    • Chris says:

      Wisconsin definitely counts, Alyssa. ;) And, I am glad to know that the Kilt Lifter has a strong following. I thought that winning a teammates weight in beer was an interesting, and comical idea for the race. It was fun to watch the teams fly, by cheering for one another on the course in their matching, decorative apparel. Here’s to your future destination race!

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