Aravaipa Black Canyon Training Run #1

It was a cold and windy morning in Mayer, Arizona. A group of around 30 of us stood outside of the Mayer High School track, waiting for the brief instructions of our adventure trail for the morning. We were running a point to point course, essentially from where we were standing back to our cars which were parked about 20 miles away. Jamil (RD of Aravaipa Running) reminded us that we would be running on a minimally marked trail, and that we were to be, for the most part, self-supported. We shivered and shook in our minimal running gear, wishing for more clothes, but knowing that as soon as we started running we would be plenty warm enough. Amid the gusts of icy air, we set off down the road through Mayer.

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We ran for perhaps two miles through the town, our pace moving along at a fast clip. It was too fast for me, but I knew that eventually we’d all string out and settle into our own paces. For this run, I was there with my friends Adam and Matt, and we were planning on sticking together.

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Once we got out of town we ran on dirt roads for a bit. Then finally turned onto desert single track. The scenery here was different from what I’m used to running in; it was open and grassy, with occasional shrubs to break up the smooth, golden high desert plain. I began to settle in, somewhere in the middle of the pack, enjoying the tightness of the track that allowed the grasses to brush my calves.

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Flying down a hill, I missed a turn in the trail, but was able to reorient right away. The main group out ahead of me had also missed this turn. Seeing that the turn was actually well marked with giant cairns and a sign, the main group went on. I waited for Matt and Adam, and once I saw Matt, I started off again. We’d gone maybe a quarter mile up the trail when I became worried; Adam wasn’t with us, and he should have caught us by then. After waiting for a few minutes and still no Adam, we turned around back down the trail. We came to the weird split off, and there was no sign of Adam, so we knew he’d gone off course. We yelled, and some other people responded! They headed towards our voices.  Adam wasn’t among them. One of the runners who came to our voices said there were others out ahead of them, and that he’d go run and catch them. He turned around and headed back out into the desert. Matt and I hung out until our friends came back.

Trail Shenanigans While Waiting:

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Finally, Adam came into sight, and we started off together again, that is, until we came to some sweet downhill and I took off. Over the next mile and a half I barely grazed the trail; I was having so much fun! I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud a few times, and had a huge grin on my face the whole way. When I came up on a windmill I stopped to investigate.

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At a couple of points along the trail, Sabrina was waiting for us with water and snacks. The aid station she had on the plateau was struggling to stay on the ground because of the huge gusts of wind. She was all bundled up against the cold!

This trail was a mixture of jeep roads and seriously tight single track. And, it was almost all entirely downhill. This was my fastest 20 mile run ever! It was sub 4 hours, and that was including our worry time for our friend! I am excited to go back out here and run this again and see how fast I can do it.

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Back at our cars, in true ultra-runner fashion, the group was hanging out, drinking a beer and sharing their experiences of the trail. I am usually unable to stay at these after gatherings for very long, but they are the essence of the trail running community. Trail running is of course about the trails, the mountains, and the scenery. How much vert (vertical) is there? Is it single track or not? But in the end, it’s really about the community. We share our stories, showing our new blood and dirt tans, describing how we felt climbing the hills or running the downs. We get to know each other, and meet some of the best people on the planet.

This run was actually the first training run of three for the Black Canyon Ultras. I ran the latter two training sections last year (here’s Number 1 and here’s Number 2), but I am excited to hit them again this year. And, of course, I can’t wait to get out there for the race!

Here’s a VIDEO of our run that Jamil made!

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