You know that song that gets stuck in your head, repeating over and over? When you don’t run with music on the trails (which is always a good idea in the Arizona desert), you tend to spend a lot of time repeating the same phrases over and over. The “Everything is Awesome” race was a little annoying. The Mesquite Canyon 30km I ran last week was narrated in my head by Steve Austin from Broken Skull Ranch. It was very fitting.
I’m not a morning person. My husband calls me a bat because I don’t like lights. So getting up early for a race is always a challenge, let alone eating much before the start. But as this was my final daytime race before the summer night series begins, I shoved as much food as possible into my mouth as I drove out to the White Tank Mountains for the Mesquite Canyon 30km race set to start at 8am. I knew I was going to need every calorie I could get that morning if I wanted to survive Goat Camp.
I arrived at the park entrance a good hour before the race was set to start. I was meeting the owners of Squirrel’s Nut Butter at their aid station before heading over to the race start. I’d stumbled upon this amazing anti-chafe salve at a few local races and was immediately hooked. I’ve tried almost every kind of lube on the market. I tend to chafe. A Lot. And it’s never pretty or fun. This stuff not only keeps me from chafing, but also heals any areas that have chafed because I forgot to apply lube. You know, those upper arm areas that rub against your pack… So, I was really thrilled when Chris from SNB contacted me and invited me to become an ambassador. This was a no-brainer for me. And SNB had a huge box of goodies waiting for me that day. It was a great way to start the morning.
The Mesquite Canyon 30k race is the final event of the Desert Trail Runner series by Aravaipa Running. And it’s a doozy. But the White Tank Mountain trails never disappoint. So, after quite a few obligatory pre-race selfies, I lined up at the start and got ready for the (hopefully) four hours ahead.
The first 4-5 miles of this race are mostly rolling double track trail that are completely runnable. These miles ticked off easily as I did my best to pull on the reins to conserve energy for Goat Camp. The first aid station was staffed by the good folks at Squirrel’s Nut Butter, and was situated at the start of the toughest part of the course. After refilling my pack bladder, I headed off for the climb ahead. I think the elevation profile says it all.
And so, I began the slow climb up Goat Camp. Fortunately, I’d remembered my inhaler this time. Because the 50 mile and 50 km racers left earlier, and were traveling in the opposite direction, there was a lot of cross-traffic. This made the climbing a bit slower as I was stepping to the side of the trail a lot to avoid a collision. It was at about this time of the race that I began to hear Steve Austin’s voice in my head. I’ve been binge-watching Broken Skull Ranch lately. And climbing up Goat camp, I felt strong and powerful. I may not be super fast, but I can usually plug along and grind through it.
After what seemed like forever, I reached the top of Goat and let out a yell. I’d made it! And though there was still a lot of race ahead, it was mostly downhill from there. Fortunately, the weather had been kind to us this day. Mesquite Canyon is usually a really hot race. This year, the temperatures were in the mid 60s. But even in 60 something weather, with the direct sun and no shade, you can still sweat a lot. And so the 9.3 miles between aid stations meant that I would run out of water in my pack with about 3 miles to go until the next aid. At this point, I had settled behind two guys who were cruising along at a good pace. But now that I was out of water and reticent to start sucking down too much of the pickle-juice-like concoction in my front bottles, I told the guys I had to make a break for it and off I went.
I clicked off the next few miles quickly. I just wanted water! Thirst is a great motivator. And, I had a goal finish time in mind. I was going to complete this race in under 4 hours. A quick stop at the second aid and my pack was full again. I knew my time was going to be close, but the aid station guys gave me the final mileage, and the course was a bit short. That would be the break I needed.
I didn’t even pause at the final aid station; this was going to be tight. And nausea had kicked in despite the water, sodium and 5 Honey Stinger gels I’d consumed during the race. I so desperately wanted to walk, but there wasn’t any time for that. So, step after step, I trudged along. It’s amazing how long that final mile of a race can be. You can see the finish line tents in the distance, but then the trail turns and you feel like you are running the other way.
But finally, and with 4 minutes to spare before my self-imposed 4 hour deadline, I did it. I crossed the finish line, grabbed the finisher reward glass being handed to me, and flung myself on the ground. I’d given everything I had to finish that race and do it under my goal time, and it took everything out of me. But then, I started to look around, and see the smiling faces of all of the friends I have met on these trails and at these races, and suddenly, I remembered why I do this. The friendship, the camaraderie, the freedom you feel when running the trails and Skipping Over the Rocks. It is worth every single painful moment.
**Special Thanks to my sponsors: Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me stocked with anti-chafe, healing lube, to Aravaipa Running for putting on another great event, to Acel Compression socks for keeping my feet and legs health, and to Honey Stinger for giving me fuel to run. And, thank you to my husband and son for always encouraging me to reach for my dreams.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”