This race is bitter sweet.
On one hand, it is my favorite race. On the other hand, it also earmarks the end of the Xterra series. At this point, I remained undefeated in the world of short-courses so of course I wanted to win this last one. And, my short-course domination did not go unnoticed - in fact, a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Xterra trail race office located in Hawaii. It was almost like receiving a phone call from God. I mean, I have always said that trail running was a spiritual experience for me -- there is no serenity like that found on the top of a mountain.
But, Xterra did bring up a good point -- the trail race series has ended in Arizona. There are trails, and trail races, all over the country. Why not travel and see new sights? So that is what I am going to do.
In the meantime, let's relive Black Canyon and the reasons why it is my favorite race.
1) It is stunningly beautiful. I think all trails in Arizona are pretty, but this one is just a little different than the rest. Perhaps a little less gray and a little more green?
2) The course is intense. It begins going up a mountain. Although you can only admire the view for a short period of time because you must concentrate on the tricky descent. I say tricky because the trail is full of abruptly sharp turns and if you trip on a turn, you literally trip off the mountain. The trail is also extremely narrow. For this reason, it is important to start fast because your position on the trail may be your position for the next few miles:
Also, there are gates along the trail and you must climb over cattle-guarded ramps. I believe the ramps are for mountain bikes. If you are too mid-pack, you can wind up getting stuck in a line.
Once the race returns to sea level, it is easy to pass because there is no longer a trail or even officially marked path. There is a river crossing. I am sure if you stop and study, you can strategically cross the river without getting your feet wet. But it is a race, so who has time for that?? Plus, wet feet are part of the fun!!
Next, you run through some sand and rock and get to cross the river a second time. The race then goes along side the river, over sand and huge rock. It is up to each person to find their best way.
Eventually, the race finds it way back onto the trail and you return up the mountain. This part is pretty hard because your feet are wet and weigh an additional two pounds each. But, it eventually starts to descend again and you find yourself moments away from the finish.
It is a glorious, whirlwind of a race, especially when you don't go the wrong way.
And yes, I did indeed win.
3) PIE. The race is located in a small town that would probably not be known if it was not for their well-renowned pies. I am not the hugest pie fan but it is not a dessert offered to me very often. Aside from Thanksgiving, I never come in contact with pie. Needless to say, I brought home a lot of pie.
Just like the race, the pie is unforgettable.
It will still be a few years before the kids are ready for an Xterra race, but we are already getting ready.