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Coldwater Rumble Ultramarathon

On January 20, 2024 7 of us friends arrived at the starting line of the Coldwater Rumble in Phoenix, Arizona.  Not a shred of experience between us we stared into the cold morning air with not a single clue of what we were about to take on.  3 of us amateurs were “brave” enough to take on the 100km race, 3 others made a slightly better decision by taking on the 60km race and the 7th person made the best decision of all by competing in the 10 mile race.  I can only speak to my own experience as being one of the 3 who raced the 100km but I feel relatively confident my experience echoes across the other 6 of us as well.  I can’t recall how it came to be that we all thought this was a good idea or would in any way fall under the category of “fun” but here we were and these are my honest thoughts on the situation.



Coldwater Rumble start

I would absolutely do it all again.  I would not have said that a couple of weeks ago when I was still struggling to walk after the ordeal but now that the pain has subsided and I’m slowly forgetting just how brutal it was I am starting to once again think it is a good idea.  Because here is the thing, I’ve grown to enjoy running.  That’s as weird for me to say as it is for me to think. I’ve also grown to love trail running in particular.  Add in the other ingredients of being an inherently slow runner with a dash of stubbornness and you end up with an ultra runner.  I won’t get there quick but I will get there. I think that has been partially the draw for me, there seems to be less focus on finish times and more focus on just finishing.  Plus, I have no delusions of turning Pro anytime soon.  Back to the Coldwater Rumble!  We all started at roughly the same time, around sunrise, and headed down the same trail.  The 60k runners would do one Red Loop and then one Blue Loop while the 100k runners would do one Red Loop and then two of the Blue Loops.  At the end of each loop you took a spin through the Start/Finish line before heading back out.  The trail itself was rocky single track, the whole way.  There was also a nice section of deep sand and some sections that were extra rocky.  Other sections were less rocky but still rockier then you would like while other sections had rocks on top of a rocky section making it extra extra rocky.  You get the point. It was either rocky, extra rocky or sandy. I make it sound horrible but in reality it was only terrible.  I would totally run it again.  My watch told me there was 6,000 feet of elevation gain which seemed to be more then what it felt like.  Coming from Colorado the course felt pretty flat to me with really only one hill worth mentioning, so consider it mentioned.  When the sun went down it got a little spooky but mostly because I was running alone at the point. The fast people were all ahead of me and I had blown the socks right off the geriatrics behind me.  Eat my dust Grandma!  There were some fast people from the 100 mile group that past me though, that was pretty embarrassing and humorous at the same time.  It was like being chased down by the slowest zombies ever.


Coldwater Rumble Start

All in all I felt like I did ok.  For the first 40ish miles I was actually running at a decent pace given the distance but my beginners luck was starting to fade.  By mile 50, about the time the sun went down and the desert went dark, my legs had left the building.  It got ugly pretty quick.  Now I was the zombie.  I shuffled along, my feet barely leaving the ground, gravity was just to much to deal with.  I tried shuffle running, that didn’t work, so I resigned to just normal shuffling.  I heard animals rustling in the desert around me, presumably waiting for me to croak and eat my skinny corpse.  Occasionally I would see another headlamp and I would know that they to were being hunted by the vultures circling overhead in the night sky.  It was beginning to feel more like a survival show then a foot race.  I considered fashioning traps to catch food and cutting open a cactus for the water inside but fortunately there were aid stations that provided food and water.  Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches are better then raw squirrel any day.  I did finally finish the damn thing but not before clawing my way up the final climb, the one worth mentioning.  When I reached the summit and looked down at the bright lights of the finish line below me I knew I was almost there.  My only goal now was to not lose control on the descent and snap a femur on my way off the cliff.  Fortunately I managed to finish with all of my limbs in tact which I chalked up to a victory.  With the speed of a one legged sloth I triumphantly crossed the finish line, threw my hands in the air for the 3 people still awake at that hour and was immediately escorted to the vehicle to make our way home.  It was about the most lack luster finish to an event I’ve ever experienced but I was thrilled non the less.  Everyone else in our group of 7 survived as well, although we were all looking pretty damaged the following day.  Walking was difficult on our swollen feet, ankles, knees and just about anything else that is capable of swelling.  Eating was not a problem however so we spent the following day stuffing our faces to replenish the 100,000 calories we had burnt the previous day, this was arguably the best part of the weekend.

A few weeks have passed since this event and we have all recovered both mentally and physically for the most part.  In light of that, we have started hunting for the next big adventure, the next big way to challenge ourselves.  What that will be exactly is still a mystery but it is sure to test our limits much like the Coldwater Rumble did.


Coldwater Rumble sign

Coldwater rumble trail, Estrella mountains

aravaipa running, Coldwater rumble

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