2012 Mesquite Canyon 1/2 Marathon Race Report

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
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.

Mesquite Canyon
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.

Willow 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.

Long Downhill
Heading downhill!

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.

Finish
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!

Gear Notes:

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.

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