Sinister 54k Race Recap

The Series: Aravaipa’s Insomniac Night Trail Run Series consists of eight runs throughout the Maricopa County Regional Parks plus one at Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff. The series runs from April through November.

Race distances for each ranges between 5 to 75K. The passes offer a wide variety of options for anyone from a beginner to the top dogs. Some are Loop oriented and some offer a little of the loop “ish” notion. This is really great because crews and family can come, spectate, support and logistics are simpler.

For myself, I am using this Delirium Pass option to help augment my ramp up and building blocks for my Hundos this year (San Diego 100, June 9th and Leadville Trail 100, August 19th).

Delirium Pass (50K-54K)

April 29-30 — Sinister 54K — San Tan Regional Park
May 20-21 — Adrenaline 54K– McDowell Mountain Regional Park
June 24-25 — Hypnosis 54K– Estrella Mountain Regional Park
August 5-6 — Vertigo 54K — White Tank Mountain Regional Park
September 9-10 — Javelina Jangover 50K — McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Race Week: Planning training miles AND racing in a week was tough on me. I was certain I didn’t want anything too harsh this week and too long. It was going to be a 55 mile week for me with a 34mi race thrown in there. We’ve had busy weekends of late: volunteering for another Aravaipa Race last weekend and this being a night series race, these really take up both days Saturday afternoon and into the night on Sunday. This schedule will test me over the next few months. For those that are not aware I run, manage and host AZ TraiLeggers here in Phoenix with the great teamwork of my lovely wife Tara Christley. Traditionally, our runs are Sunday morning’s in the North Phoenix and Scottsdale areas. So, finding stand in help from my buds to help lead those is something I’ll be doing in the short term! Thank you Amy Starr and Aaron Berger!

Miles hovered around 18 for the week going into Saturday’s run mainly on lower than average terrain but still accumulating around 1000’ of combined climbing. The weather forecast looked outstanding for the weekend as well. We just came off our hottest days last weekend for those running the Dam Good Run out at Lake Pleasant. 99 degrees officially that Sunday from what I heard. Forecast highs for Saturday were only to be in the 82-84 range and that translates to chilly nights especially in the arid climate we have out in the fringes of the city and desert. This would prove to be the case as we shivered uncontrollably after the race was over!

ElevationTempSinister54k

Elevation Profile plotted against the temperature during the race.

Race Day: Normally, I would have had a meeting or two, phone call with my crew, lined up pacers, made a spreadsheet or three knowing me, packed 47 bags and cut the sleeves off a cool racing shirt all for a race over 50k. I’m happy to report I really didn’t do any of those things leading up to Saturday night. My wife and a group of gals signed up to race during this same time period: The Evolution Pass (9K-50K) with a ramp up starting with Sinister’s 9k and ending with Javelina Jangover at 50k. SUPER proud of them. Most of them are brand new to the racing scene with Aravaipa. Needless to say, I threw one drop bag together and a small cooler for me. No meetings, no calls and no plans. Again, this was to be a “training run” for me. I told my training partner(Meghan Slavin) my motto for tonight: “consistency” time wise, nutrition wise was my only plan really.. She was also racing tonight in the same race. This was a race she debuted as a pacer in 2014 when I did this same race. Many lessons learned that night! She still steps up to job every damn time so I guess this pacing job didn’t scare her off back at that time.

Nutrition: I had to adjust a bit for day and hold off for the Christopher Bean Bulletproof Coffee until around 4pm. This is not to say I did not have a coffee drink earlier in the day :). For this race, I planned it simple: Tailwind Nutrition and Honey Stinger. Water bottles only were the gear of choice. This being a 9k loop with an aid station around the halfway point made it easy to plan and manage this. This combination proved to be successful for me!

TheTWSystem

Carried dual bottles this night. (One, water only, the other with a Tailwind Naked stick pack per bottle). One Honey Stinger gel + 200cal Naked TW stickpack per loop would keep me fueled!

San Tan Regional Park: We rolled in around 6:10p. It would prove my wife’s 1st opportunity to load her nifty cart/wagon thingy up with all our gear. That thing is awesome! Highly recommended for crews! Still had plenty of time to mingle with friends and such before race start. This is a beautiful mountain range on the fringe of the far southeast valley. Miles of multi use trails with stupendous views in all directions. The trail this race would run on would be run on parts of the San Tan, Hedgehog & Littleleaf Trails. The 9k would have their one loop, 27k 3 loops and for us 54K’rs we would do 6. All in the same direction. This route has moderate elevation change +/- 500’ according to my trusty Suunto Ambit watchy thingy.

TheCart

Tara’s new cart! She loves this thing. This has been a long time coming. This will come in handy!

54kStartline

Start Line for all races. Counting down to the start of the 54k.

Race Start: 7pm. Had a chance to mingle a bit, use the porta potty at least twice and gather the light gear I spoke of earlier. Headlamps powered up and ready.. Super special people here tonight were not only close friends, Brandon Welling and his adventurous wife Odette and her kids, but the Wrocklages, The Painted Warrior (Stephen Sinek) and again my wife’s racing crew were all in attendance. I forgot to tell you. They call themselves Team RBF. RBF stands for Resting Bitch Face. Yes, this an expression my wife sports and is quite proud of. Their plans to wear their custom shirts and sport RBF faces were spot on!

TeamRBF

Team RBF. RBF faces engaged…

Loop One: Our field was fairly lightweight. We had around 29-30 starters I want to say so it was never crowded. The sun was just dropping below the mountain tops at the start so headlamps were fastened but not turned on as of yet. We all took off. I was able to hang for a few with Stephen and Thomas. It was great running with those guys for a tad. Meghan was ahead of us and looking strong! Loop one felt good but slightly faster than I wanted. I was hoping I wouldn’t regret that later. That “consistency” plan again. Targeting to get in around 55-60 min, not stopping for aid. I couldn’t believe how smooth the trails were since I raced this same race in 2014. It was awesome! Only a couple gnarly sections which weren’t even that bad at all.. It was already cooling down and the wind had subsided a bit. All was good.

54kStart

54k racers starting down through the chute.. Meghan Slavin in blue skirt. Me, in the red, saying I’m taking this 1st loop “easy peasy”.

Loop Two: After coming in to a huge cheering crowd which was awesome! I had to find a tree for relief. The Potty lines were long as the 9K’rs were soon to be starting.. This broke the space up between Meghan and I for the entirety of loop two. I tried to stay on pace with the 55-ish minute arrival time and things felt better now that things were warmed up. The RWB folks were holding down the aid station at the San Tan Aid 2.5mi mark. Aravaipa has been doing something cool of late. Going cupless.. They sell these nifty collapsible silicon 7oz cups which pack away and travel nicely.. Some folks were using these as directed. Coming into the end of each loop my goals were again to finish at least 40oz of water, Taiwlind and a Honey Stinger Ginsting Gel. I just used this as my caffeine source for the night. Just enough for me!

Loop Three: At the main Start/Finish I would be asked every time by someone what they could get me.. “Water Please” seemed to be my thing. I just wanted to stay true to the nutrition plan I put in place.. It seems to work for me. At this point though, as I left, the quads were feeling some binding up so pickles and or juice were sounding pretty good. Meghan had shouted out to me while starting Loop Three so we were able to hang here and for the rest of the race which was pretty cool! She was doing great. Tonight she had every potential to be in the top 5 or less. I was sure of it! This lap slowed us down a tad though.. It seemed in the desert, warm and cold pockets were showing up here and there.. Thought for a second: I may need to break out the arm sleeves Aravaipa so graciously included with our goodies but I managed to not need them after all. Sporting my new Tailwind Trailblazer red shirt and shorts and a Run Steep Get High Buff would prove to be all I needed. This loop did have us interacting a tad with the 27k folks and the fast 9k’rs were moving right along. Man, it’s so awesome to see the younger kids out on the course. I believe two boys were probably in the 12-14yr old range but hard to tell for sure.. They were like a blur when they smoked past me!

Jon54kStart

That new Tailwind Trailblazer shirt though! Thanks Tailwind! 🙂

Loop Four: After having my wife, help out a bit with the bottle transfer and Brian Slavin offering me some pickles and even a sip or two of Bundaberg Ginger beer seemed to hit the spot!! Starting out felt kinda “eh”.. on this one. At least for me. 17ish miles in now, I was feeling like the legs were feeling the burn from earlier. Again the quads… Everything else felt great. We managed to hold running to anything that was flat, downhill and even some of the more mellow hills. There was a tad of wind at our faces during this loop but temps were still perfect.. (73 ish range according to that watchy thingy I spoke of earlier) Stopping to chat a bit and get a water refill at the San Tan aid station was a quick but necessary thing to do real quick. Time wise, we are still on at this point and feeling happy.

Loop Five: It was great to see the crew again, friends and the girls of Team RBF had left at this point. Darkness was in full swing. This loop would prove to be the longer of all loops. We set out on this but knew power hiking anything that even resembled a hill was the strategy at this point. Leaving for loop 5, we had just found out where Meghan stood in her race position wise and it was awesome! Podium finish for sure and based on our not seeing anyone for what seemed like forever we had a feeling I was in the 6th position based on what Brian knew at the time. I was happy. Some quieter time on this loop due to the fact, some pain and other misc issues were present. Nothing major but we pressed on. Things got exciting when we saw what appeared to be a young teeny bopper rattlesnake! All night, we figured we may see something but the temps were cooler now and to our amazement, we rounded a corner and there he was taking his sweet time meandering across the trail. He only had a couple rings on his tail and two maybe three rattle chambers.. Not even a sound out of him though. That was cool but we had a race to finish! On to the Start/ Finish.

Loop Six: After getting refreshed and going again, it was nice to know we wouldn’t see the same portion of trail again for the night. We felt all the 27k folks had already come in, the cheering crowds subsided and we heard a few friends were doing great but still out on the course. Darkness was in full swing as well. Although I never really felt sleepy, it was past the 1:00am hour. We did more running this loop and felt generally a whole lot better than loop 5. Stopping at the San Tan Aid Station quick enough to see they had the Beers, Red Bull and Fireball on the ready for weary travelers! Thanks again to Team RWB for cheering on rocking out and keeping us going! We came up the last climb and powered down the towards the finish.. There’s something about seeing the lights in the near distance of a night race and knowing you’re on the home stretch.. The music going, the few who were there cheering us in.. It was awesome! Finished my “training run”.

SinisterFinisherAward

Finishers bottle! Really cool and different!

RaceSwag

These series always has some really cool swag. Our old backpacks from years ago are still holding up. This one is going to replace the old one though.

Results: Final time: 6:43:29, 6th Male and 8th overall. This compares to my early Ultra days by a 7:31:50 time so, I was real happy. I really enjoyed this race.. It was yet another spectacular event hosted by all the great folks at Aravaipa. It was nice catching up with Hayley pre race, saying Hi to Patty, hearing Jubilee’s announcing skeels and chatting a bit with Noah throughout the night. Course markings were spot on! So many folks there started their night series race and plan to do more! Huge congratulations to all and Thank You again to my wife for her crewing skills and a few of these pics you see here 🙂

We will see you all in three weeks at Adrenaline!

Thank You for reading!

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