16 January 2016

Valley of Fire Backcountry Trail Race

I knocked out my first race of 2016 this morning with a half marathon.  It was part of Calico Racing's Valley of Fire Backcountry Trail Race which had five distances available in the 5-50K range.

The race was held on BLM bordering the north side of the Valley of Fire State Park and was about 1.5 hours from our house.  The half distance started at 7:30 AM and packet picket was at the location prior to the race so my wife and I left our house around 5 AM to ensure we got there with no issues. The directions to the trailhead were easy to follow and because we showed up about an hour before the start, we were able to get a parking spot by the finish line instead of the overflow parking lot which was 1.75 miles away.  Winning!

After checking in, I hit up the facilities and my wife filled up my water bottles. I made a decision to run with my Orange Mud HydraQuiver to avoid hitting up aid stations.  Once that was done, it was chilly, around 35 degrees, so I stayed bundled up and listened to the course directions for the first set of runners, the marathoners and 50K runners, who started running at 7 AM.

A few minutes before my race started, I went to my car and swapped out my winter hat for a visor and dropped off the hat along with my jacket.  After that, it was time to head to the start line so Joyce, the race director, could give us directions. Once that was done, she counted down the remaining few seconds to 7:30 and then we were off like a heard of turtles.

The course was an out-and-back format on a 4x4 trail through the BLM. The running surface was primary on damp sand which had filtered off the surrounding red sandstone over the eons. This surface was easy to run on near the beginning/end of the race but wasn't very well packed starting about a mile into the race and made for some interesting footing. The course started with a short uphill section followed by a steep downhill section which was a little over a third of a mile long. After reaching the bottom, the race began an overall gradual climb through Mile 5 before starting a decent descent to the turn around.

There were aid stations and BLM pit toilets at the 3.1 mile mark which was the 10K turn around and at the half marathon turnaround. One of my wife's friends was working the first aid station and snapped a picture of me as I passed the station (see to the right).

So how did the race go for me? Overall, it went well. Other than slowing down a bit on the 1.5 mile climb out from the turn around and majorly slowing down on the final hill climb near the finish, my pace was pretty steady and the running felt good. I finished in 2:17 which was decent for the elevation change and running surface conditions. After my disappointing 2015 which was full of injuries, it was nice to get this one under my belt to start out the year.

Next up: Mardi Gras Masquerade Half Marathon on Feb 6th

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