|Endurancewife and SuperKid happy in the Arizona Sun|
We landed in Phoenix on Thursday morning, greeted by blue sky and 70 degree temps. Within an hour, my wife and I were sitting on the patio of an excellent vegetarian restaurant called, "True Food Kitchen" in Scottsdale, AZ. Needless to say, it was awesome......and I appreciated every moment after several months of cold, icy, training in Boulder.
We drove to Queen Creek...which seemed to be about 30 minutes from the Phoenix Airport. I broke away and used a borrowed mountain bike to scope the 10.3 mi loop of the San Tan Scramble 50k course. At the park, I paid the $6 parking fee and let the park staff know why I was visiting. They were welcoming and used a highlighter to mark a trail map of the course for the race. They let me know the course markings were already in place.
I rode the course and quickly had to dismount several times due to thick desert sand. I was glad I had found the time to check out the course, because these sections of deep sand can be devastating if they hit you by surprise. The course was a basic loop course, with rolling hills, single/double track, and 10-15% soft sand. The trail moved in and out of dry river beds. The terrain was littered with cactus, shrubs, and stereotypical desert background. Truthfully, quite beautiful to me having come from such cold climate in February!
The course loops three times...during each loop, a steep hill must be navigated to the final aid station before finishing the 10.3 mi loop. I parked the bike and ran this vertical section in preparation for the race. The footing was excellent, compared to Colorado. The rocks were laid upon the softer desert sand, so the descent was very soft. The climb itself was not quite "runnable" in my terms...but the vertical ascent itself was not very lengthy, so I planned for a necessary run/hike to navigate this hill during my race planning. Having seen the course first-hand, I headed back to town and rested for Saturday.
Being from out of town, I had to reach out to the local running community for assistance with regard to logistics. Local stud, Jeremy Dougherty, was kind enough to offer me a ride and pick me up at 5:30am...what a guy. We made our way to the race start area. The organization was apparent from the on-set. The registration process was smooth and easy. The tables were well-marked and the volunteers knew what was going on.....you believe that!? I got checked in and ran some warm up miles on the road into the park.
|The race started shortly after a brilliant desert sunrise in Queen Creek, AZ|
At precisely 7am, we took off....
|50k Race Start (photo: Aravaipa Running)|
I tuned into my heart race early in the race. As usual, I recognized the influence of adrenaline and fought my tendency to run harder. I held back despite feeling like I was barely jogging. Local studs Jeremy and Jay headed out amongst the lead group in the first few miles.
|Jeremy Dougherty (left) and Jay Danek (right) tearing up the trail in the first lap of the 50k: photo aravaipa running|
I approached the hill at mile 8 and headed up for my first pass. As expected, the first climb was easy.
|Ridge line atop the Goldmine Trail in the last 2 miles of the lap; photo aravaipa running|
I came into the start area to start lap 2. Jeremy, Jay, and Adam Barstad were running together. I tucked in behind them in an effort to pace my 2nd lap. Within a couple miles, Jeremy and Jay stepped back and I found myself behind Adam. His stride reminded me of San Diego ultra stud Ben Hian.
|Pacing with Adam Barstad in lap 2|