Cool Your Ass. No…wait! That’s not me telling you to get out of here! Stay…read on! Cool Your Ass is actually a new race hosted by Solemates’ Mark and Sharill Hellenthal in Prescott, Arizona.
Cool Your Ass is a cornucopia of ultra races, all contained inside Pioneer Park. You have a choice of a 6 hour race, 12 hour race, 24 hour race, or 100 mile run, all on a 3.15 mile loop. You just can’t do them all (but you can do a few of them, if you are crazy enough!).
The inaugural CYA weekend fit perfectly into my Burning River 100 mile training schedule. Just 3 weeks out from the race I needed to put in a long weekend, 15 miles on Friday, 25 on Saturday, and 30 on Sunday. The solution? Run in two of the 6 hour races on Saturday and Sunday!
Friday after work Maria Walton rolled into town and we took off for a sweltering 16 mile run through the rocks and boulders around Willow Lake and Watson Lake in Prescott. After the run I stopped to pick up a case of PBR and a bunch of bananas and we headed over to Pioneer Park to register and camp out. The race crew was setting up and some of the serious runners were going to bed early. We made camp next to Tim Hackett and cracked open a few PBR’s to enjoy to cool Arizona mountain evening. I slept in the back of my Honda Element with the hatch wide open. In the morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise out my back door.
Cars started arriving early Saturday morning, unloading runners and gear at the start/finish line. I grabbed some coffee and made my way to the start. I felt pretty underprepared. Everyone was setting up tents, tables, chairs, coolers, cots, lines of energy bars, multiple handheld bottles, electrolyte tabs, glide, clean socks, sunscreen, extra shirts, and more…maybe I should have brought some stuff?! I borrowed a handheld water bottle from Maria and hung my t-shirt on a friend’s table. I’ve been running with the All We Do Is Run crew lately. Less gear and more beer equals good times (maybe not fast times, but at least good times!). Oh well, it was too late to prepare now.
The start of the 6 hour, 100 miler, and 24 hour race was 7:00 AM. The weather was perfect at the start, but the Cool Your Ass name would definitely come into play later. A group of 30-40 people stood and watched the clock change from 6:59 to 7:00 AM, a cowboy shot a pistol, and we were off. I had no real plans for the day, I just wanted to get at least 25 miles in for my Burning River training. For the 6 hour race I would run in circles, around the 3.15 mile loop, and however many laps I could complete before the end of 6 hours would be my accomplishment for the day. I was hoping to run at least 8 laps.
We started running and I stayed close behind the first group off the line. Bret Sarnquist, a local Phoenix runner, was trying to get 50 miles in 6 hours. Hmmm…I for sure would not be running with him. He lead the pace, followed by Miguel Moreno, Deron Ruse (2014 Western States finisher), and Chris Stanfield. After a few minutes I was running in 5th place overall with a big opening between the lead pack and the rest of the runners. This was weird…I am definitely not used to being in the front.
The pace was quick, but doable. Miguel disappeared with Bret and I didn’t even consider chasing them down. Chris, Deron, and I ran together for the first loop, but then Chris took off ahead as well. Deron and I left the aid station together for the second loop, but before the third lap Deron had slowed and I was on my own. At this point I was in 4th place, still a very new experience for me.
The hours passed and the temperature rose. I started without my shirt and each time through the start/finish aid station I had Dad and Kathy spray paint my body with SPF 50 sunscreen. I would grab a little food (gummy bears, potatoes, watermelon, and Tailwind energy drink), refill my water bottle, and take off. About half way around the course there was an unmanned water station where I refilled my bottle, soaked my hat, and poured water over my head to stay cool.
Eventually I was running with Miguel again. He had dropped off from Bret’s pace, ran with Chris, and then ran with me. Miguel had a foot injury and was only planning to do about 4 hours. Pretty soon it was just me again, this time in 3rd place. Wow.
I kept pushing my pace, not so concerned with anyone passing me, but just trying to keep up with the guys ahead of me. As the 6 hour time limit neared I calculated the laps I could still do. I pushed hard and made it back to the finish at 12:50 PM, completing 12 laps, or 37.8 miles. Success, and my first podium finish ever, 3rd place!
I saw Chris sitting in a chair and went to congratulate him. He said thanks, but informed me that he was actually running the 12 hour race and was only half way done! This guy was going to run another 6 hours and I could barely keep up with him for the first 6! Wait…if he was in the 12 hour race…that means I actually came in 2nd place!
I grabbed a beer and commandeered a chair. I was still really hot so I went to my Honda, sprawled out in the back and cranked the air conditioning full blast. When I turned on the car the thermometer read 120 degrees outside in the direct sun. I think the temperature was actually in the high 90’s. Either way, it was hot! Cool Your Ass for sure! I sat for 10 minutes before Dad came over and we headed to Grandpa Clemens’ house for cold showers, the cool air, and the World Cup game.
By the time we got back to Pioneer Park our friend Jess Soco (2014 Western States finisher) was out on the course running the evening 6 hour race. After putting in multiple laps Jess changed gears and volunteered in the aid station most of the night. We picked up some beer and set up chairs around the start/finish line and cheered for the other runners still out on the course. Chris finished his 12 hour race and won. The runners only doing one race during the weekend cleaned up and headed home. We stayed and camped for the night.
Eventually I climbed back into my Honda and went to sleep. The sunrise came early again and it was a weird case of dejavu. I got coffee and headed to the start line for the second day in a row. This time was different though, there were only 5 people in the Sunday 6 hour race, and two of them were me and Maria Walton, our second race of the weekend. Maria joked that she would be placing 3rd female (there were only 3 women in the race) and I added that I’d get 2nd male (it was just me and another guy).
As we waited for the start James, the other male racer, noticed my running hat. I wear a 2007 Rocket City Marathon hat from Huntsville, Alabama. I’ve been wearing it for 7 years in races, training runs, and along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. James said “Hey, I was there for that race!” I have never met anyone else who ran in the same 400 person, small town marathon in Alabama in December of 2007. Small world!
With that, the clock turned over from 6:59 to 7:00 AM and we were off again. I was pretty sore from the previous day’s miles so I started out slow. I was in 4th place and pretty happy with it, watching James and the other two ladies take off ahead of me. A lap or two later I passed one of the female runners, and then the other one. Well, second place again should be fine.
Coming through the start/finish line about halfway through the race Miguel told me that I had actually won the 6 hour race the day before. I knew that Bret hadn’t run the entire 6 hours, but wasn’t sure how he did. Although Bret was definitely faster than me I had officially done more laps, so I was the winner. Cool! I’ve never done that before. Then Miguel mentioned “Don’t you want to pick it up and try to win this one too?” Heck no man! I just found out that I won the previous day’s race, now I really didn’t need to run hard, let someone else have it!
The day heated up, but luckily the clouds moved in and the core laps were a little cooler. I swapped the handheld water bottle for my running pack and grabbed my headphones to listen to podcasts and music during my 5K loops. There were far fewer people on the course this time around and I was alone a lot.
The hours wound down and again I calculated how many laps I could complete before the end of 6 hours. I was on my last loop, feeling good and cruising, ready to be done, when I rounded a corner about 1.5 miles from the finish and saw another runner. “Please let that be a 100 miler” I thought. If it wasn’t a 100 miler, it was James, the guy I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the race. James took off so fast, and I was so tired from the day before, that I had been waiting all day for him to lap me.
The runner wasn’t running, he was walking. As I approached I realized it was indeed James…crap, I really didn’t want to run hard for the win. I caught up with him and we started jogging. He said the heat and altitude had started to get to him the last few laps. As we ran I announced “I’m just going to say this, I’m not going to race you, so either you are going to beat me or we’re going to come in together, but I’m not into racing today.” We talked a little more and when he found out that I had run the 6 hour race the day before he thought I was crazy. We both pushed to grind up the biggest hill of the loop, then broke into a jog again. At the next downhill section he said he was going to take advantage of it and I told him I’d see him at the finish. He took off, long legs reaching out and covering ground quickly. I kept him in sight, but he was looking strong. He crossed the finish less than a minute ahead of me, but I know that even if I had tried to race him there is no way I could have won, he was a very strong runner.
Finally, it was 1:00 PM on Sunday and I was done! Over the weekend, from Friday to Sunday, I had run 85 miles. 16 on Friday, 37.8 Saturday, and 31.5 Sunday. I was feeling pretty good for the Burning River 100 Mile Race in 3 weeks.
We stuck around and cheered for the 100 mile finishers. It was a great group of people and I recognized a lot of faces from ultra events in Southern California. The race crew cooked lunch for everyone and we enjoyed a fun awards ceremony, I even got my first overall winner trophy! It is a custom made piece of hardwood from someone’s property in Prescott.
The inaugural CYA ultra event was a huge success, and if you are looking for something challenging, fun, and hot as hell in July 2015, consider registering for the CYA races in Prescott, AZ. You won’t regret it! (Ok, you might regret it, but it’ll still be fun!)
2015 Solemates’ CYA Races – CLICK HERE