With so many great opportunities to hike, climb and adventure around Tucson I rarely take advantage of the outdoor destinations outside of Phoenix. But this March I was tempted up to White Tank Mountain Regional Park to take part in the 1/2 Marathon length of Araviapa Running's Mesquite Canyon Race. The Mesquite Canyon Race has 50km, 30km, 1/2 Marathon and 8km lengths and is the sixth, and final, race in the Desert Runner Trail (DRT) Series.
I arrive at the start just after the 50km runners start and have plenty of time to get my number, take a few sips of coffee and see the 30km runners head off before I line up for the start of the 1/2 Marathon.
Start of the Mesquite Canyon Half Marathon
I start near the back, no need to go out too fast, and settle into an easy pace behind a runner in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. The first few miles are relatively flat and wind thru the Saguaro and Cholla on the Ironwood, Ford Canyon and Waddell Trails - I don't really know the course and, even with other runners around, appreciate the ribbons and signs Araviapa Racing has placed to mark the course.
After a few miles the course turns west onto the Mesquite Canyon trail and the first climb begins - as the grade steepens the runners spread out.
Runners on the Mesquite Canyon Trail
At the Mesquite Aid Station the course turns onto the Willow Canyon Trail. A bit more climbing takes us up to a section of flat trail on the hillside above Willow Canyon, a chance to recover and take in the views of the canyon.
The Mesquite Canyon Trail along Willow Canyon
Too soon (for me anyway) we start to climb again - Ford Canyon Trail and then back onto the Mesquite Canyon Trail around point 3032 - and, after a bit more walking than I thought I would do, the course starts to head downhill! The views put a smile on my face and I pick up the pace - but soon faster runners fly by me, at first I am surprised by their speed, but eventually I realize that some of the lead 50k runners (including 50k winner and Salomon Team member Eric Bohn) are streaking by.
By the time I am back to the last few miles of relatively flat trail thru the desert I am tired! I press on and on and eventually hear faint cheers from the finish that grow closer and closer until I finally come across the finish line! 2:32:59 - certainly not speedy, but a great time for me! I sit for awhile and enjoy the drinks and food, cheer for other runners and watch a few of the DRT Series winners collect their awards before heading back to Tucson.
Tired but happy after finishing!
I really loved my first experience at Mesquite Canyon - wonderful course in a location I am not sure I would have ever seen otherwise, Araviapa Racing does a great job running the race, nice variety of course lengths to choose from and plenty of friendly people to run with - I think I might have to go back next year!
Balega Soft Tread Quarter - Nice fit and feel, a bit of cushion but not too bulky - I have been using these for several months now and are my current favorite for trail running.
Salomon S-Lab Gaiters - Comfortable enough that I don't have to stop and adjust during a run, quick and easy to put on/take off and great at keeping dirt and debris out of my shoes!
Mountain Hardwear Mighty Power 3/4 Tight - Soft and stretchy with mesh panels that provide some extra breathability, almost too hot on this run (certainly not a summer item in Phoenix/Tucson!) but these have been great for me all winter.
The North Face Velocitee Short Sleeve Crew - Light, comfortable and a great price!
Head Sweats Summit Hut Race Hat - A quality hat with a nice fit.