Old Pueblo 50 Mile and Tucson Trip Preview

As I type, I’m airborne in route from DC to Tucson, Arizona. As with many of my vacations, this one […]

By on February 29, 2008 | Comments

As I type, I’m airborne in route from DC to Tucson, Arizona. As with many of my vacations, this one involves a race -the Old Pueblo 50.

The Old Pueblo 50 miler is run in the Santa Rita Mountains well south of Tucson and within a three-hour run or so of the Mexican border. Folks have told me that the entirety of the loop course is runnable over a mix of dirt roads and single-track. A former race champion has informed me that the course is similar to Mountain Masochist in that there are no flat sections on the course. That said, data from last year’s race on Motionbased.com put the total elevation change at 8,000’+, which is less the 9,000’+ Motionbased showed for my 38 mile run at Mount Mitchell last weekend. Given that OP50 is closer to 52 miles and that Mount Mitchell was almost entirely runnable (aside from some technical climbing AND descent near the summit), I anticipate the climbs at Old Pueblo to be quite reasonable. I’m more worried about the elevation given my problems above 5,400′ last weekend. Old Pueblo starts at 5,100′ and then runs between 4,031′ and 5,847′ with all but 10 miles above 5,000′. Time to suck some thin air, I guess!

I’m not yet sure about the footing is like at the OP50. Regardless, the La Sportiva Fireblades or my newly arrived Raceblades should prove adequate or at least I hope so as they are the only trail shoes I brought. (I should be posting a review of the Raceblades this coming week.)

On thing I do know is there should be plenty of aid on the course. After the first aid station 3 miles into the race, there are 8 more aid stations that are between 4 and 7 miles apart. That aid will be key as this winter bound boy will be seeing temps in the 70s as well as plenty of sun. Definitely a two bottle race. Thankfully there are drop bags, so I won’t have to carry the 15-20 gels I plan on using on Saturday.

However, this trip isn’t all about Old Pueblo – that’s just an excuse to head to Arizona for some winter-time trail running and some ultra comraderie. Tonight, I’ll meet up with VHTRCer Sean Andrish and his father, Jack, for dinner. Way too early tomorrow morning, Inov-8 runner Steve Burton will pick me up and we’ll head down to Old Pueblo together. While I’m at the race I hope to finally meet Angie of One Pink Fuzzy as well as catch up with the ultra cool Olga.

Tomorrow’s 50 miles will kick start what’s sure to be a big mileage long weekend, as I’ll be staying with Steve after the race. The last time Steve and I spent some time together I logged 155 miles with over 40,000′ of climb in just 10 days. I think the plan this weekend is to get a moderate run in on Sunday and log a longer run with a summit on Monday. Steve’s already mentioned the Finger Rocks Trail in Tucson (10 miles and 4,000′ climb) as a possibility.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to (other than the trails, desert, friends, and great weather) is seeing big cacti! I’ve never seen a cactus in the wild bigger than some small ground cover.

Big cacti near the Finger Rocks Trail trailhead.
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.