Recap: Xterra Arizona Trail Race Series

Remember when I told you about my crazy idea a couple weeks ago?  This weekend it became a reality…and it couldn’t have gone better.

My body woke up on it’s own at 3:30a.  I guess that’s one of the perks of waking up at 4a on a regular basis…come race day you won’t have any issues jumping out of bed.  Soon enough I was heading to Estrella Mountain to meet up with some of the Cholla Chicks who were volunteering for the day. (Did you know if you volunteer you earn a free entry for a future race in the series?  Pretty rad, eh?)

Headlamps were required as on-site registration started, but before we knew it the sun was beginning to rise.

Registration/time chip collection was organized and speedy, moving people through efficiently.  As I’ve said before, this was my first experience with the series but from what I understand they are growing steadily in popularity and participants. Even with the increase in numbers things seemed well in control.

Before race time we took a quick moment to snap a photo to send to our fellow Cholla Chick, Amy, who was running the Chicago Marathon. Go, Amy, Go!

Photo compliments of Michelle

In addition, Mandi and Michelle showed me the kick butt race signs they made for me.  Am I lucky or what?!

First off was the 20K group.  Most people would be getting nervous at this point.  Not me.  I don’t get nervous for races.  My trick? I just treat them like regular ol’ training runs.  Then again, I’m not in the competitive bunch either.

Within 15 minutes it was time for the the 8K start. I was ready to roll.

I’ve never had the experience of starting a race with so many people with such little passing room. Welcome to the world of trail running. Initially I was having issues because I wasn’t sure how to pass people without seeming rude or killing myself attempting to pass.

The first mile of the race was challenging to say the least.  Nausea came out of nowhere requiring several bouts of walking and I landed wrong on my left ankle not once but twice.  Thankfully I was able to shake it off, got used to the rules of passing on the trail, and things started to fall into place.

As always. I carried my own hydration and fuel so there was no need for me to stop at aid stations, but I heard nothing but good things about those that took advantage of them. They were well manned and stocked with gatorade, water, and PowerBar fuel options.

Photo compliments of Erin

From what I heard this is one of the more technical trails in the area.  Basically what that means is that footing on the trail can be challenging with large, loose rocks.  In other words my ankles had be able to take the twists and turns of my foot strike and I had to be “on”.  My eyes were focused on the terrain in front of me and not what was around me.  With that being said I made sure to take a few moments to stop take it all in and even take a few photos.  Yes, I know it was a race but it’s important for me to live in the moment and take it all in.

I was greeted not once, but twice with climbs at mile 2 and 3.5 and also reminded that the flat lands of northern Ohio have not helped me prepare for hilly terrain.

The last mile was mostly all downhill.  Surprisingly downhill can be just as much of a challenge as going uphill.  Thankfully I kept my footing and ran it in and claimed this.

Talk about some sweet bling. That is one awesome medal. I couldn’t believe how heavy and large it was!

I have never seen such a large spread of post-race fuel. PowerBars, bagels, oranges, bananas, muffins, and even eggs for those that were interested.  It was fantastic.  The volunteers were hard at work keeping everything replenished and no one walked away unfulfilled.

After the runners poured in it was time for the awards presentation.  Instead of trophies, marked pint glasses were awarded.  I think this was an excellent idea.  Trophies are great but when you can actually use the “trophy”, even better.

No surprise, but I didn’t podium (Heck, I’ve only placed in the top 3 in two of my races and no podiums were present…someday.). That didn’t hold me back from cheering for those that did.  Congrats on a job well done!

Intermingled amongst the awards, random raffle prizes were given away ranging from gift certificates, technical t-shirts, foam rollers, HeadSweats visors, boxes of PowerBars, Yankz laces…the list goes on!  HINT: if you do one of these races, stick around for the abundance of prizes. As time went on the MC even mixed in some fun challenges to earn the raffle prizes. Lucky for me, I stuck around, didn’t have to do any crazy challenges, and still won some PowerBars, Yankz, and a gift certificate!

What a way to kick off racing here in Arizona and experiencing another moment in our Arizona Adventure.  I couldn’t have asked for a better race or better experience.  Excellent course, fantastic staff/volunteers, hardcore bling, gender specific t-shirts, and a ton o’ fun with friends.

If you’re looking for an excellent race series you’ve got your answer with Xterra Trail Run Arizona Series. Lucky for me there are 3 more races this winter season, plus 3 more free pre-race trail run training sessions at the venues. By following them on Twitter and Facebook I keep up to date on training session info and race updates.

Want to hit the trails with me?  Sign up.  I’ll see ya there!

Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)

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