2023 Coldwater Rumble 100 Mile Ultramarathon Race Recap

The following race recap of the 2023 Coldwater Rumble 100 mile ultramarathon was written by Hart Strength & Endurance Client Sally Wood. Coldwater Rumble 100 miler is held on a 20 mile loop, covering desert trails that wind through the foothills of the rugged and jagged Sierra Estrella mountain range in Goodyear, AZ.

The Coldwater Rumble 100 was an incredible race – I absolutely loved it. 10,000’ of climbing over the five 20-mile looped course in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, and I felt really well-prepared and well-trained. Thank you, Coach Geoff!!

It was very technical and the rocks were crazy! Never-ending! I heard there were more rocks than ever this year, because of all the recent rainfall, but because I was well-trained I had enough extra time banked (and extra mental toughness and fuel in the tank), to take on everything the course threw at me that weekend – the expected and the unexpected!

Picture of the aforementioned rocks!

Overall, my feet held up incredibly well (no shoe or sock change – I wore the same Injinjis and Salomon Ultra Glides the entire time, with only about 4 small blisters at the end, despite the rain and sand! I think my feet were wet for about 14 hours…) My hydration and nutrition were great, energy stayed up. Things got hard at points on loops 4 and 5 for sure, but my pacers were AMAZING and kept me going, kept my spirits up – distracted me when I needed it, and made me go faster when I needed a kick! 

I definitely had an amazing crew!! My crew chief, Lindsey, I randomly met at the Cuyamaca 100K in October (she was there crewing for her husband, and happened to set up at a picnic table next to my hubby and kids, who were crewing me – and she helped them get organized).

Turns out, she’s great friends with my 1st pacer, Mylissa! Small world! So she offered to crew for me when she found out I was running this race, because she lives 15 minutes from the startline! Mylissa was amazing as my Loop 4 pacer, miles 60-80. She had never run more than 13 miles, so this was a big goal for her, and a really fun way for her to dive into the ultra running community. She had a blast, and is now contemplating her first marathon, yay!

My second pacer, Nicole, I met for the first time as we headed out on Loop 5! Lindsey had found her on a Coldwater Rumble/Aravaipa Running Forum online. She was amazing – she had paced this race 4 times before, and knows the course well. 

Sally and her Coldwater Rumble crew

Sally’s Coldwater Rumble Race Recap:

Sooo… How it all began… 

The Night Before the Race

The night before the race, Mylissa and I camped at the Start/Finish. It was a perfect set-up. Our large, comfy tent was about 10’ from our 10X10 pop-up tent – which was set up along the chute where I would come in/out as I finished each loop. Having everything so close together was perfect!

We had a cozy space heater inside the tent, so we were nice and warm – and were lulled to sleep to the sounds of HUGE packs of coyote howling and yipping in the mountains around us. We tried not to think too hard about the fact that we’d be running WITH those same coyote the next night… 

Race Morning

5:15am – woke up nice and early, plenty of time for some coffee and oatmeal – made on my Jetboil, fun! Forgot to eat my banana – and I forgot to K-T Tape my knees, which I was going to do as a preventative measure. Oops! 

6:55am – Toeing the startline, ready to go! A short speech from the race director, then we were off!

Sally at the start of the Coldwater Rumble 100

Loop 1: Miles 0-20

A nice group of about 100 runners, and I was about ¾ of the way to the back… It was dark but the sky was lightening up quickly. About a half mile in, I suddenly realized I’m running next to this really nice guy I’d met at a trail marathon I’d just run in LA (Paramount Ranch) and we were stoked to see each other! Chatted away for about another half mile, then I looked over at him and took my eyes off the VERY rocky trail for 2 SECONDS and BAM!!! Full on face plant onto the ground.

SO. HARD. Landed on my hands and knees – my left palm took the brunt of it. My knees were all cut up and gorey (very impressively so – I got a lot of comments for the next 19 miles, until I finally got cleaned up at Headquarters!), but they at least felt ok.

Sally’s knees after her tumble!

My left hand hurt pretty bad – it was instantly hugely swollen, and my entire palm turned black & blue. I thought I might’ve cracked my thumb, but I was ONE MILE into the race. There was no way I was going to stop! Luckily, because it was so chilly, my hands were freezing so I think that helped with the swelling… After about 5 hours or so, it didn’t hurt nearly as much. 

Sally’s hand, post-race.

Then about 10 miles in – I got a pretty bad migraine. No idea why, it’s only the second time I’ve ever gotten a migraine while running. Usually running helps my migraines. But the weather was changing, barometric pressure was dropping as the rains were coming – and I’m VERY sensitive to changing barometric pressure. SO it could have been that? Luckily, I never run without my migraine meds, and within about an hour, I started to feel better.

Otherwise, Loop 1 was gorgeous – the sunrise in the mountains was breathtaking, and the cacti all around were so beautiful. An absolutely stunning place to run! The fresh air felt amazing! 

Mile 20: Finished Loop 1! I think in about 5:05 hours or so? Pretty good time, considering the fall and the migraine! Decided I should take the time to stop by the medic tent to get my leg wounds cleaned and bandaged – They kept re-opening and bleeding and looked pretty nasty by then.

So the aid stop that we’d planned as 5 minutes became 25. AND I got my period while stopped there… Which I was expecting, but STILL. I was hoping it would hold off a day or so! So then I had that to deal with. 

Loop 2: Miles 21-40

Started out on Loop 2 feeling pretty great! So great in fact that after the Coldwater Aid Station (around mile 25 I think?) I WENT THE WRONG WAY on the washing machine course!! OOPS!

I just ran out of the aid station and didn’t look at the signs! Aravaipa warns us up and down that every year someone does this – and to ALWAYS read the signs… and I didn’t hahaha… I just blissfully started running! I realized I was going the wrong way because I started seeing 100 mile runners coming toward me – which they shouldn’t be doing at the point in the course!

So I stopped a nice guy and asked him – and confirmed that yes, I was going the wrong way. I back-tracked and got on the correct path. I think I ran about 1.5 to 2 miles extra? This set me back in terms of time as well… 

The rest of the loop was gorgeous, I was fueling and hydrating well, and felt great. I was eating way more than usual because I had decided before the race had even started that, for the first time ever, I wanted to try using the aid stations (usually I’m completely self-sufficient).

So at every aid station I ate the gluten-free items that I could: usually some potatoes with salt, a date or 2, AND a sliced pickle or 2. AND I continued to eat my own food as per usual, too. My goal was to finish this loop before dark, and I think I got in just as the sun set. Yay! Just over 6 hours – not too bad considering the 25 minute aid stop and the extra 2 miles! 

This was about a 10 minute aid station stop – I changed into a dry tee and fresh long-sleeved shirt, so I wouldn’t be cold overnight, as well as fresh shorts. Took my contacts out to give my eyes a break and wore my glasses. Ate a bowl of spicy pad thai cooked by my awesome crew (sooo delish!), grabbed my good headlamp and handheld light. My amazing crew did all of this for me! I didn’t touch my feet (no sock or shoe change) because they felt great. Then I ran out of there. Feeling good! (No poles yet).

Loop 3: Miles 41-60

Loop 3 – first night loop. Memory is pretty foggy about this loop! I remember long stretches solo, with no other runners around, which I kind of like – it was really peaceful. I remember wishing I had caffeine – not because I was tired/sleepy, but because I wanted a little jolt of energy in my legs. Then I tried a delicious soup at an aid station. Probably a mistake. That, or something else, I’m not sure, suddenly moved through my system quick and I needed to GO.

Having never experienced that particular urge during a run or in the mountains before, haha, I was completely unprepared. That emergency has NEVER happened to me before, and I had nothing – not even a kleenex. SO, I had to clench my cheeks (all of them) and speed walk to the next aid station/porta potty. I was SO bummed because not only was it 2+ miles away – this was a runnable section (one of the few less rocky sections!) and I definitely COULD NOT run. I was determined not to have a bathroom emergency! Luckily – I made it! Barely!! Never been so happy to see an aid station glowing in the night! 

So that slowed me down on loop 3 – and then it started raining too. I think loop 3 was about 6:40… This HQ stop included another round of Pad Thai, then I grabbed my rain coat, and my pacer Mylissa – and we were off!

Loop 4: Miles 61-80

Up until this loop, hydration and nutrition were great. Eating every 30 minutes, drinking all my Skratch, etc… But at some point on this loop I just decided I didn’t feel like eating. Hahaha – no idea why! I didn’t feel sick, or bad, I just didn’t want to. I think I was getting… crabby?! I’m not sure!

But the funniest thing happened! At one point, it was pouring rain so Mylissa and I both had our hoods up, and she was in front of me… My watch beeped, so I told her it was time for a snack. I needed to slow for a second to get out the Skratch rice cake, in the dark, in the rain, with my glasses fogged up and covered in rain – and with the SUPER rocky trail – it wasn’t easy!

So I get it out and open it up and we’re trucking ahead again – with Mylissa in front of me. I took one bite, and decided I just didn’t want to eat it, so I wrapped it back up and put it in my pack. Mylissa asked me if I ate it (she had been prepped by Lindsey and her hubby Jimmy to make SURE I was eating/drinking) and I fully LIED!! HAHAHA! I never lie! I told her YES!! So funny!

Then, about 10 minutes later, after a long conversation I had with myself in my head, I convinced myself that I really did need to eat it. So I took it out again – and when Mylissa heard the wrapper, she asked what I was eating. I nonchalantly said, “my rice cake”. And she said, “I thought you already ate it!?” And I said, “NOPE. I lied…” Hahahaha! So funny! After that – she watched me like a hawk. 

Sally’s pacer, Melissa

We were getting close to cut-off times, so we decided that we shouldn’t stop and grab more snacks out of my drop bag at the final aid station – we just didn’t want to take the time. So I told Mylissa to just grab whatever from the aid station, and I’d sit by the fire for one minute to warm up while she also got more water for her water bottle.

Apparently, I was getting rained on, but neither the fire pit nor I cared! I was cozy. Mylissa, amazing pacer that she is, got me up and moving, and grabbed me a whole banana. Which I most decidedly DID NOT WANT. I remember marveling that she got a whole banana (this entire race so far, I’d been getting small pieces of banana). 

She was amazing. This banana was the only nutrition I had on me for the last 3.5 miles of this loop – and we really needed to pick up the pace because we were getting VERY close to the cut-offs, so I really, really needed to eat that banana. But I really, really did not want to.

Mylissa handled me beautifully – I was, in the end, as easily manipulated as a toddler, and she convinced me to eat that damn banana one very small bite at a time. Again – no tummy issue, I just Did. Not. Want. To. Eat. That. Gross. Banana. Yay for Mylissa though – she got me to eat it, and onwards we went!

It was absolutely pouring rain on and off (mostly on) during this loop – so I was glad I had grabbed my trekking poles. The rocks were a bit slippery, the hills were steeper than I remembered, and it was easy to lose my footing and stumble.

At this point we were running some, power hiking a lot. Mylissa kept me going, kept me motivated, distracted me from my own thoughts when needed with her wonderful, bubbly chattiness and bright positivity – exactly what I knew I would need on a dark and stormy night! We talked about music, Harry Styles, I’m pretty sure she sang to me a bunch… She was a wonderful pacer, I wouldn’t have made it without her. 

Loop 5: Miles 81-100

As it was, we made it into HQ with 8 MINUTES before the cutoff! I had 8 minutes before I had to turn around and be back out of that aid station! Lindsey really shined here, as crew chief, as she introduced me to my next pacer, Nicole, whipped off my sopping wet rain coat to take off my hydration pack from under it and replace it with my other hydration pack; she and Mylissa forced me to put my contacts in (I didn’t realize how impaired my vision was in the foggy, rained-on glasses!) and switched out my beanie for a baseball hat to protect my face better from the deluge. Threw my sopping raincoat back on and off I went with Nicole, for the final loop! 

Nicole immediately introduced herself as we trotted on the short, flat part to the bottom of the trailhead and said, “I’m going to push you, and you’re not going to like it. You don’t have to dig deep yet, but I’ll tell you when you do. You can yell at me, hit me, hate me – do whatever you need to do but you HAVE TO KEEP MOVING”. I loved her. That was exactly what I needed. I knew I’d never give up – and SHE knew it too. She said “You don’t look like a quitter to me. Let’s do this.” And we did. 

Sally with her second pacer, Nicole.

She cracked me up when I needed to get out of my own thoughts – she told me hilarious stories about her boyfriend hallucinating during the Cocodona 250. She told me how amazing the Tahoe 200 is – and how much fun I’m going to have there.

She told me when I needed to dig deep and get moving, and pushed me to the next aid station and cutoff time – and this time, we were 25 minutes ahead of the cut off! Woohoo! Doing great! I covered up my watch with my long sleeve, and just put myself in her hands, trusting her experience on the course and knowledge as a pacer (she has paced a LOT of runners) to tell me what to do.

I was in great hands. It was amazing to be able to let go of “how many miles to the next aid station?”, and “what pace are we going?” type questions, and just let my brain focus on getting the thing done. It was hard, for sure, but I was VERY determined. We were definitely gonna get there.

Sally on the self-reported “struggle bus”.

I had some very hilarious conversations in my head – there were these little, fluffy cacti that were sooo cute. But a bunch of them had been burned, so they were little piles of black, fluffy cacti. I was cracking myself up thinking that they looked like black cats, and thinking I can’t wait to tell my boys about the black Cat-c-ti on the trail! I went back and forth about whether it should be Cat-ti or Cat-c-ti, but decided we needed the “c” hahaha! I definitely wasn’t hallucinating or anything, but I was getting a bit loopy! 

And then at last, we were off the mountain and running the last ¼ mile in to the chute, and it was AMAZING!!!! About 18 minutes before the cutoff, at 31:42 minutes – and I am SO DAMN proud of myself!! I DID IT!! 

Thank you so much, Coach, for your amazing training plan, and your belief in me – I’m doing things I couldn’t even have IMAGINED myself doing a couple of years ago!! ME! And loving it! I can feel how healthy I am right now in body and mind – and being able to trust in that, trust in my training, KNOW that I am capable… Well, in those dark, rainy moments of an ultra – THAT is everything. So – thank you!

Thank you Sally for sharing a glimpse into your Coldwater Rumble 100 mile ultramarathon race experience!  It’s been a pleasure watching you grow as an ultrarunner and an athlete. We are so incredibly honored that we got to play a small part in your journey!

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