I found out about the Chase The Sun Run on the Running in the USA website (I was looking for a different race at the time). Then Tri Girl Joyce sent me an invite on Facebook, so I decided it would be a good race to do. This was a 10K trail run through Tucson Mountain Park, starting from the Ironwood picnic area. And, as you can guess from the name, the race started at 4:30 PM, so we would be chasing the sun.
This race was put on by the USA Orienteering team. This was the inagural race, and it was sold out with a whopping 13 people. Big races can be fun, but I also like to do small, grassroots events like this where you find out about them through word-of-mouth or obscure internet searching. The Tucson cyclocross series used to be like this (it is no longer around) and the Arizona Endurace Series is like this. Smaller events mean cheaper entry fees, and it's pretty much a "show up and race" feel.
Since I was coming from the exact opposite side of Tucson, I gave myself an hour to get to the event. I got to the Ironwood picnic area and found the tent where check-in was and we got our numbers. I used the trip to the bathroom as the jog to warm-up. Then it was time to strip off clothing and get ready. I had brought a wide array of clothing because I didn't know what to expect weather-wise. I decided on my TTG capris, my long-sleeved Underarmor shirt, and TTG top. I put a headlamp in my hydration pack "just in case." I also wore the pack so that I could practice with it. I may be wearing this pack in Saipan as it will definitely be hot and humid, and I want to be used to runing with the pack.
At around 4:30 PM we headed to the start. We got instructions on the course markers. There would be flags in the ground marking the turns, and we were to turn in the direction of the markers. There would also be streamers in the trees to follow. We were to ignore all other splinter trails. At 4:35 PM we were off and running. This was a training race for me for XTERRA Saipan, so my instructions on the training plan from Coach Scott were to go hard during this race. So I shuffled my way through the runners, chatting with everyone for a bit before finding and open spot where I could set my pace. The first part was a bit breezy, and my eyes were watering like mad. For the first part, the trails were pretty flat and not too rocky. As it progressed we got into some small roller hills, kind of like Fantasy Island, where you go down a short downhill followed by a short uphill. The organizers had also put mile markers out on the course, which is rare in trail running. But the markers were exactly spot-on as far as distance, because my Garmin was showing the same distance.
We headed west for a few miles before making a sharp turn and heading east again. After this turn I could feel we were going up a slight incline, and this would last for the next several miles. Thankfully I had the tracks of the faster runners to follow as well. This section had a bit more gravel, and we had to watch out for cholla balls that I'm sure the wind had knocked down from all the cactus. At the 3 mile mark I was beginning to wonder if I could hold the pace and make it. At this time, two other runners caught up to me. I needed to take my mind off of how far we were, so I started talking to the guys behind me. They were happy to stay there and let me pace, so I asked where they were from and how they found out about the race. One runner was Tom and the other was Pete, both from out of town. They had found out about the race from the same website. Thankfully they were both willing to chat, and we talked about running races, Garmins, and the upcoming races we had. This really helped make the miles go by. Sometimes it's tough to tell if the other runners around you are willing to talk, but I'm glad both Pete and Tom were.
The last few miles we were parallel to Kinney Road, and this section got really rolly with the small hills and I felt like it was exactly like Fantasy Island. The course flattened out and I saw people up ahead, and sure enough it was the finish. We crossed the finish line (yes there was an official line drawn in the sand) and I walked around a bit right after to cool down. I thanked Pete and Tom for running with me as we all had a great time out there. I finished in 58:20, for an average pace of 9:21. This was the fastest 10K I've done so far, and it was on trails so I was really happy with my time. Plus, I avoided tripping or falling, which is always a bonus with trail running.
The USA Orienteering crew had a nice spread of snacks of bagels, bananas, clementines, and hot chocolate at the finish. I put the layers back on and enjoyed the snacks and talking with everyone while the others came in from the run.
This was a fantastic race and really well organized and fun for the inagural event. This would be the perfect race for any beginners to trail running because the course is pretty flat with no gnarly technical sections. You aren't on a mountain with the risk of death if you fall off the side. ;) I was able to run the entire thing, whereas other technical courses often require hiking in spots. I asked if the race would be held next year, and the USA Orienteering team is planning on it, although it may be on a different weekend as they have to work around their training and racing schedule. So if you have a goal to try trail running in the future, be sure to check this event out.