The second event in the Desert Trail Runner Series was held today at Usery Park on a mild, cloudy morning in Northeast Mesa, Arizona. Conditions were ideal for a fast race. I chose the 12K for a couple reasons. First, it coincides with my Saturday speed training. Second, the course had a healthy portion of smooth, flat surfaces to run with some pretty neat scenery too. Last, yet most importantly, Aravaipa Running always puts on a great race without any hangups. You can count on a well organized event with an accurately marked course and top notch aid stations. The post-race food hits the spot and finisher prizes and awards are truly unique.
At 8:30am it was go time. After a few hundred yards of road we hit the trail blazing. Seriously, the front pack was running 5:30-5:45 pace and I sat somewhere between 4th and 6th place during the first two miles. I wasn't concerned about the pace though, being mostly downhill on such an easy surface made it tolerable. Blevens and Moon Rock trails were gone before I knew it and I noticed the front-runner slowing down around mile 2. I made my move to the front. I didn't want to take the lead so early, which would mean pushing the pace and tackling a headwind for the next two miles on the Levee trail. That seemed to be the only way I was going to reach my goal pace of 6:00/miles, so I let it rip!
I could hear footsteps behind me until we collided with the 26K runners on the Cat Peaks Loop. Then it was unclear who sat on my heels. Cat Peaks Pass really slowed us down, although, after the climb my heart rate dropped and I caught a second wind. I felt good and continued to hammer the trail when it became less technical. I began to realize I could take the win if I just ran hard to the finish. After blowing past the final aid station I put down a sub 6-minute mile all the way to the end. Turns out, I beat the previous course record by over two and a half minutes!
Thanks again to Aravaipa Running for another great trail race, and to all the volunteers out there!