Living in Arizona in the summer is akin to living on the surface of sun. Temperatures routinely hit over 100 degrees for months at a time.
That makes summer running (which also happens to be the start of a lot marathon training schedules) a b*%#! And it also means it is really hard to find any local races and, if you do, they are mostly of the 5K duration and start pre-dawn.
Thank goodness that the Arizona summer months bring several full moons and the Aravaipa Running Insomniac Night Trail Run Series. This is a series of 7 night trail runs in the greater Phoenix area from May to November (and, trust me, it’s still plenty hot in November in Phoenix).
With welcoming names like Sinister, Thrasher, and Punisher this series is an awesome addition to the local summer running calendar.
Last night I ran the Vertigo 31K, my second Insomniac Series race this year.
Race distances offered included a 52K (5 loops of the 6.5 mile Sonoran Competitive Track trail at White Tank Mountain Regional Park), a 31K (3 loops), and a 10K (1 loop).
This trail featured steep inclines, swooping turns, technical descents, and rugged terrain – made all the more challenging by a huge thunderstorm and lots of running water the night before the race. So much running water, the road leading up to the park was closed the night before the race due to flooding!
The start of the race was staggered based on distance with the 52K starting a 7:00pm, followed by the 31K at 7:30pm and the 10K at 8:00pm.
Runners, even trail runners, are only so crazy so the combination of the distances, technical nature of the course, and the fact that it had “cooled down” to a mild 113 degrees by 7:00pm kept the race numbers manageable. This was great, as runners for all distances shared the same 6.5 mile trail loop. It was just enough runners that you didn’t feel like you were out in the middle of nowhere by yourself in the dark – every 10 – 15 minutes you would run by someone/have someone run by you. Add in a great start/finish line village and a remote aid station at mile 4.5 on the loop and it was just peaceful enough to allow you to enjoy the quiet and the stars.
Hot weather tempered my desire to blaze the trails with speed. It was 113 degrees at the start at 7:00pm and still 95 degrees when I finished around 1:00am. Still better than running during the day in full sun (and even hotter temperatures), but not cool by any stretch of the imagination!
I took it easy on the first 2 laps, which included a decent stop at the end of the second lap to really rehydrate, take my shoes off for a few minutes to help cool me down (and allow for some blister TLC), and drink something other than G2 and water (HELLO Diet Coke! Where have you been these last 13 miles…).
There was lots of climbing, lots of loose rocks, and some downhill sections that were more nerve-wracking than the 1-mile up hill switchback section that did NOT get more fun on each loop. The recent rains added some additional rocks and deep sand, but did help with controlling dust.
My last lap ended up being my fastest – I’m chalking this up on the fact that it had “cooled down” a bit, I just wanted to be done, and this was the lap where I saw a RATTLESNAKE on the trail. The turbo boosters kicked in and I just wanted to be away from poisonous things that could bite me!
[NOTE: In the moment I never thought the snake was going to bite me – or any of the other runners in the area. Said snake was just slowly slithering across a wide stretch of the trail, minding his own business. A runner ahead of me clearly saw the snake in plenty of time to avoid it and notify those around. That being said, I spent the final 4 miles of the race on EXTREMELY HIGH SNAKE ALERT (as opposed to my normal High Snake Alert status). A snakebite is just something I would like to avoid – especially one that happens at night, on the side of a mountain.]
Vertigo Night Trail Run by the Numbers:
- Race distance: 31k
- Trail Loops: 3
- Total time: 5:13 (Female winner = 2:45 – insane!)
- Sunset: 1
- Full moon: 1
- Fuel belt bottles of G2: 6
- Fuel belt bottles of water: 5
- Slices of fresh watermelon: 5
- Bean burritos: 1 (on last lap, 2 miles from end of race – I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid…)
- Potty stops: 2 prior to start of race (nerves)/2 during race (surprisingly, none as a result of the bean burrito…)
- Falls: 1
- Resulting in exactly 1 souvenir black and blue knee
- Rattlesnakes: 1
- Followed by exactly 1 freak out
- Tree roots I thought were rattlesnakes and freaked out for no reason = Too many to count
- Scorpions: 1
- Toads: 1
- Blisters: 4
At the finish, each runner received a race beer glass. The beer garden at the finish benefited Team RWB, which is awesome. Beer for a good cause is a good thing! I still had an hour drive back home and was REALLY hot, so I partook of some excellent ice water in my finisher’s beer glass – it was seriously good – trust me…
I’ll be back out on the trails at the end of this month for another full moon and some more miles.
Check out the rest of the series here.
How do you beat the heat during the summer running months? Have you ever run a race at night?
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Perfect Goofy Gail