The night before the race we went to Estrella Mountain Regional Park to get our bibs. The four of us checked out part of the trails that we would be running on the next morning and saw an amazing sunset!
We didn't have to wake up too early on Saturday morning since the 20K started at 8:45am. Mike, Crystal and I were running the 20K and Joe was running the 4 miler. The race also offers other distances including a 100 miler, 52 miler, 52K and 20 miler.
When we arrived at the park, there were already some distances racing and other people were arriving for the other distances. We made sure to go to the bathroom and then we filled our bladders with some water since the 20K only had two opportunities for water stops.
Right before 8:45am, we were called to the start line. The race announcer made a few announcements about following our specific bib color while out on the course (or we might end up running longer than we wanted!) and then mentioned that we had a special person running in the race. Lota, a 9 year old boy, was racing the 20K. The race announcer explained that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor AND that he was an ultrarunner. We all cheered him on and then got ready for our start in a few minutes.
After a quick pre-race photo with Crystal and Mike, we got ready to go. The three of us were close together in the beginning, but we weren't planning on running the entire race together. I didn't even really know how it was going to go since this was going to be my first (and Mike's) double digit run since my 50 miler back in November.
Follow your bib color!
Our race started promptly and we were off! Mike stumbled right at the beginning of the race, but he was alright. The beginning took us on the paved park road but we quickly turned right to get on the trails. We knew that the beginning of the race was going to be challenging and I figured I would be hiking up part of the trails. Crystal and I were together for a few minutes, but she went ahead of me after awhile.
First desert race
I just focused on having fun and taking in the vastly different scenery than we have in Rochester! The trails were dry, but there were some sections that had a lot of loose rocks. The trails were mostly single-track, but they were wide enough to get around people if needed.
The only wider section of the race
Flags marking the two-way traffic
I settled into a good pace and started to enjoy myself after a few miles. I got to the aid station around 3.5 miles. I grabbed some Gatorade and a banana and then continued on my way. The trail was wider here and there were some flags set up to separate the two-way traffic. We would return on our way back to this aid station in a few miles.
The trails were gorgeous and I kept staring at all of the mountains in awe. I did start to get warm, and worried a little bit, but I was able to drink from my bladder. I passed a few people in the next miles and only once questioned which way to go (I asked a guy behind me and he pointed me in the right direction).
Still following the 20K signs
The mountains were gorgeous!
I REALLY picked up the pace the mile right before the aid station. As I approached it, I could see it in the distance for what felt like forever. Finally, I got to the wider trail with the flags marking the two-way traffic. At the aid station I grabbed some more Gatorade and then kept going.
We didn't return the way we had come, since we needed a few more miles than that, and we went around the other side of the mountains. This part of the race had a lot of switchbacks and you could see runners going up them. We also started to have more two-way traffic because runners doing the longer distances would alternate which direction they did their loops in and they were heading out for their next loops. Everyone was really nice and kept encouraging everyone.
And more up
I walked up the switchbacks when needed and ran the flat and downhill portions. I felt like I should be coming up to the end soon, and eventually I ran off the trails and back on to the park road. I didn't really know where I was, but then I saw where we had started the race.
Cheezin' it up at the finish
I made the final turn toward the finish and saw Mike, Crystal and Joe cheering me on. I ran through the finish line and I was done!
I love these people! Photo courtesy of Crystal
For not really running much lately, I think that I did pretty well. My final time was 2:20:01 (and my watch registered 12.7 miles, not 12.4), and I felt really good once I got going.
Overall, it was a great way to spend time with our friends while visiting a new state!