McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k Race Report – Renee Gale

Race: McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k

Runner: Renee Gale

Race Date: 12/03/2022

Location: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

Results: 125 Overall, 1st AG

Strava Activity Link:

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. This was my first 50k and I chose this race because it is one big loop, no repeat of any part of the course, my preference.
  2. My feet really appreciated the fact that a majority of this race’s single-track trails were compact dirt.
  3. I liked that I had many miles of runnable rolling trail before getting to the steeper climbs after mile 17 and that there was a lot less elevation gain overall than other 50k courses (~2800ft).

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

About four to five hours into running, it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy but it was consistent. The rain started to flow into the single tracks and at this point in the race, there were more rocks on the trail; It became more difficult to run due to both mud and slippery conditions. Since moving to Arizona in April, I’ve never experienced being cold while running. Being wet with temps only getting to the low 60’s, by mile 25 or so, I was shivering so much, I started to doubt whether I’d be able to finish. At times, my nose was so cold, I had to start breathing exclusively thru my mouth. The rain had been forecast so I had a rain jacket in my vest. I didn’t think it would help me since I was already super wet so I kept putting off stopping and putting it on. I finally decided I better stop and at least try. So glad I did because it actually did help – I finally stopped shivering and was able to finish the race.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Well, the longest I’ve run prior to this 50k is 21 miles. On all my long runs in this training block leading up to the race, I’ve never had an issue with having to “go”; I don’t know if that’s because it’s been hot since I moved here and I sweat it all out. But in this race, I had to stop four times and in the desert, the scrub doesn’t offer very many hiding places. The second two times I stopped, my shorts were wet from the rain and I had the most difficult time rolling them down. Guys definitely have the advantage – I did see one fellow ahead of me who just stopped along the trail, turned his back to us and went. Oh to be male in these moments!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I stayed on top of my fueling, never had an issue with energy. I held back in the first half as much as is possible for me. I was really unsure whether or not I could go this far. The last couple of months prior to this race, I had been having hamstring issues with my left leg and two weeks before, I fell and whatever I did when I fell did damage to that hamstring: it hurt so bad for a couple of days, I couldn’t run. But amazingly, somehow, someway, I managed 31 miles with a sore hamstring! I followed the suggestions of my coach and “hiked early, hiked often” and ended up pacing myself well enough to make it to the finish line. A big thank you to coach Frank who did such a great job getting me ready for my first 50k! He had me prepared for everything from pacing, fueling, and keeping a successful mindset all the way to having that rain jacket available.

Another super cool thing that happened that lifted my spirits: as I was coming into the third aid station, I heard someone say “is that Renee?!” and when confirmed gave me some cheers and encouragement. A thank you to Des and the other volunteers who greeted me!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Next time, I will put on any rain gear as soon as it starts raining. I didn’t realize how much getting wet was going to affect me physically and mentally. When I got to the finish line, I started shivering again, uncontrollably and the women at the aid station (where I was trying to sip some warm chicken broth but failing due to the shaking hands) took me to the medical tent to sit under a heat lamp and dry off. Being wet and cold dampened the thrill of finishing this race with a better than expected time of just a little over 8 ½ hours (I was thinking it would take me 9 to 9 ½ hours).

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Up until mile 17 or 18, the trail is mostly dirt single track and then from mile 18 to about 25, the trail gets more rocky. Mile 18 to 21 is the steepest section and everyone around me was hiking this portion. From mile 25 to the end, the trail is more like the beginning, mostly dirt. However, this is the section where it rained continuously so I encountered a lot of mud and puddles on that part of the trail. In my pre-race research, I had read several race reviews that commented that the last ten miles were the hardest. For me the hardest miles were from 18 to 26ish. There’s a last little climb at mile 29 but at that point, I encountered no more puddles and that was a relief.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It’s standard Arizona desert scenery. Normally I find lots of beauty on desert trails; however, this day was overcast and rainy so I didn’t enjoy the views as much as I might have were it sunny.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I’ve heard a lot of comments around the running community here in Arizona that this is a good course for first time 50k’ers. Compared to other courses, it’s on the “easy” side or shall I say less hard. This race also has a generous cut-off time of 15 1/2 hours.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Aravaipa puts on this race and they always seem to have their act together. This was the best-marked course that I‘ve run so far. They had big red signs for the 50k and big white signs for the 50miler. Whenever there was an intersection where there was more than one way to go, there was a warning sign right before the turns saying something like “critical turns ahead”. They also placed blue ribbons across any trail to indicate “do not enter”.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There were about 600 runners across 5 different race distances. This year the race offered a Salomon Sponsorship to the top male and female winner of the 50 miler so I would assume that would attract some good competition, at least in the 50 mile race.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The 50k had four aid stations all well stocked. Volunteers were very helpful with assisting me refilling my water. The distance between aid stations #2 and #3 wa 10.5 miles and the runners are warned to fill up at #2 to not run out of water. With the rain and the weather in the low 60’s, water was never an issue for me.

Weather and typical race conditions

We did not have typical weather. I think it was said that this was the wettest day to date this year at that race location. The forecast a few days prior was a high of 71, low of 55, and overcast with slight chance of shower. That slight chance materialized and the steady afternoon rain kept the high temperature near 60.

How’s the Swag?

When I got to the finish line, I was handed a small glass with the Frenzy logo on it, maybe a stemless wine glass?. It had liquid in it so at first, I thought it might be champagne or something (a little delirious after 31 miles!). It was just rain water. No medals at this race.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I would give this race an 8 out of 10. Very definitely an excellent choice for my first 50k!