“The Toughest Trail Marathon in Arizona” and oh boy was it tough!
Friday morning I went to hot yoga then headed up to Flagstaff for the marathon. This week I really tried to prep as much as I could before this race. There’s not a lot of running training you can do before a half, you gotta just bank on all the miles you’ve put in all summer, so focus shifts to what you eat and what your mind tells yourself. The race site didn’t have the course map up so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into! But I really tried to eat carbs that would fuel me, lots of water, and stayed away from things like fried foods or dairy that wouldn’t agree with my stomach.
This race was small. About 400 runners. The expo was just a table outside of a coffee shop but they gave out lightweight hoodies instead of shirts and I was jazzed to say the least.
I packed my dinner to eat in the hotel. I stayed in the cheapest place possible which meant no fridge or microwave for me. I made a pasta and spinach salad with lemon basil vinaigrette which totally hit the spot!
The race didn’t start till 9am for the half-ers which felt so late to me. But when I woke up it was only 45 degrees! That’s COLD to this Phoenician.
The course. Okay. Look at this thing. There was a 10K, half and full marathon option. The 10K was the red loop. The Half was the red + black loop and the Full was the red + black loop twice. And the elevation starts around 8,000 feet! And climbs all the way up to about 8,600. I was quite worried about the elevation. That’s about 7,000 higher than I’m used to!
I got about 3 miles in before I reevaluated my goals. This course was hilly. Plus a trail run plus thin elevation cold air. I just wanted to stay under 3 hours. Actually, I was worried about finishing at all. I have ran trails before. Desert-y dirt trails. That’s NOT what this was. This was forest trails. Let me tell you, it was beautiful when I could look up at it. But I couldn’t look up! Every time I did, I would trip or twist my ankle or slide on a branches and sticks that covered the ground. I twisted my ankle so so so many times. One time was pretty hard and I was scared I was really going to do some damage before the NYC marathon. I started on my mantra early on, repeating in my mind a line I got from the book Build Your Running Body “There is one finish line and it’s at the finish.”
I was slipping and sliding all over that course. I trained pretty hard to break the habit of picking my feet / knees up so high that I’m wasting energy but for this course you HAD to pick your feet up so high or else you’d jam your toes into a jutting rock.
So it was slow going. You always go a little slower uphill, right? But downhill I’d have to go just as slow! I was sliding on the dried pine needles or loose rocks that littered the course. I tried to push it on the rare straight stretches of the course when I could.
Now I do want to say that the race support was excellent. The signage was clear and flags lined the course to mark where to run. There were a ton a great volunteers and water stations just about every 2 miles. Plus most of the stations had oranges, bananas and/or pretzel chips. It was a really good set up and that really impressed me.
But the mile markers were a bit of a mess. The provided pre-race info did warn that due to the type of course, the miles were more approximated and “may not match” what your GPS says. And mine sure didn’t. For most of the race my watch was saying I was about 1/2 a mile further than the mile markers so I had it in mind that I was going to run about 14 miles. No biggie.
Mile 8-10, I was advised, were the big big uphill miles. I ran for as much as I could miles 1-8 and then let myself take a walk break for the big uphill. Miles 10 and 11 we’re okay, I was tired but I was moving. Then I wanted to really lay it all out on the course for miles 12-finish, again thinking it would be closer to 14-ish miles.
I saw the mile marker for mile 12 and my watch said something like 12.25 and a volunteer pointed down the path telling me the finish was that way. So I picked it up and…. ran about 100 feet and there was the end! What??
I really wish I had pushed harder on mile 12 but I thought I had 2 more to go! Not less than a quarter mile! Haha.
Oh well. I collected my medal, skipped the free beer and headed straight for the food truck. This race provided free lunch! It was a bit of a wait since all the runners (for every distance) and volunteers got a free meal but hey, it was free!
Gringodillas food truck! I’ve never heard of this place before (it’s local to Flag) but it was awesome they set up shop for us and everything looked so good! I got the Sly Dog with bbq pork and cole slaw and it was delish!
All in all I felt really great during this race. Parts were hard for sure but I wasn’t depleted at the end and I KNOW I can continue on (which I’ll have to come November!) I had a good more miles left in this tank and NYCM won’t be a trail and is basically 0 elevation so all of that will make it a little bit smoother. But NYCM does have all those bridges….
Next up is the South Mountain Classic and then I think I’m hanging up my trail racing shoes!