I lead the preview run for the Cave Creek Thriller and Thrasher races with Aravaipa running a week before the main event. And I was reminded that if given the choice, I’d rather race at night in the dark any day. So, just a few days before the race, I switched from the morning 24k to the evening 33k. I had the training and was ready for the extra miles.
This race, I was able to properly prepare during the week and days before. I just didn’t anticipate it raining all day long before the race. Fortunately, the rain let up just a few hours before my 6pm start. So, while there was no rain, the trails were definitely muddy and wet.
The start of the Thrasher 33k race looked more like the start of a summer evening ultra with only a handful of women. Still, I was nervous because I had no idea what kind of conditions the trails would be in at this point. Fortunately, they really weren’t bad. But, they weren’t great either.
When you run trails on a regular day, you choose the smoothest path, avoiding the rocks. When you run trails through rainy, muddy conditions, you pick the rocky path, avoiding the smooth areas that are slick and sticking to the extra traction the rocks will give you. But, running almost 21 miles on the rocks definitely takes more of a toll on your body than running the smooth dirt tracks. My goal became to just keep moving and try to avoid falling.
Shortly into the race, I realized that I was in the 3rd position for the women and would probably stay there. But, I wanted to make sure I earned that podium spot. And so, I pushed myself up every single climb, down every hill, relentless forward progress throughout the three loops of the Overton and Go John trails.
This loop climbs about 900 feet each time. So, 3 loops meant over 2600 feet of climbing. And there weren’t a ton of us out there, so my music became my friend. No ear buds, of course; just the quiet sound of my phone to keep me company- at least until the top of Go John on the last loop.
As I rounded the corner getting ready to head for the final push, I saw a pair of eyes glowing back at me and froze. They were too tall for rabbit or coyote eyes and looked about the height of mountain lion eyes. And I know that they are out there somewhere. And then more eyes actually on the trail in a small group appeared. At this point I realized that mountain lions don’t usually travel in groups, so this had to be something else. Fortunately, I then saw the big ears, and knew that I had run across a herd of deer. And I had separated them. But, I had no idea if an upset buck was going to try something crazy. Thankfully, they seemed more afraid of me and my headlamp than anything else. So, I cautiously continued on, glancing their way a few times to make sure nobody was in pursuit. Funny how something so harmless as a herd of deer can seem terrifying when you are alone on the trail in the middle of the night.
The last 3 miles were painful as my body reminded me that it prefers to stay under 18 miles. But, just after a Rocky song came on my phone, I made the final push up that brutal tiny bump of a hill and crossed the finish line in 3rd place for the women, first masters female.
***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger for continuing to fuel my adventures, and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train; Trail Sisters for motivating and encouraging me every day. And a special thank you to Aravaipa Running for another fantastic event- I’m excited to continue the year as one of your new Community Leaders. And thank you as always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.
*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.