How could I not fall in love with a race named Gaspin’ in the Aspen!? I know it should have scared me, but it’s such a catchy play on words! I’ve wanted to register for it since I first heard it last year. 🙂 Located in the pines of Northern Arizona, on the trails of the Flagstaff Nordic Center, the name tells the race story well. So does this elevation profile from my Garmin. 🙂
Summer is my favorite time of year to head North and escape the sweltering heat found in The Valley of the Sun. Anxious to beat city traffic, we left work early to reach higher elevation and cooler temps. Our first stop was “packet” pick-up. It was really only an awesome shirt and a bib – not really a packet of any kind. 🙂 The back of the shirt says, “I kicked aspen!” which I love.
I was excited about this race and mini-vacation all week long. Then on Thursday I found out two of my runner friends, Danielle and Rob, were coming up to race the 5k and 15k too! As if that wasn’t awesome enough, I found out en route to Flagstaff that yet ANOTHER runner/blogger/friend was camping and racing too! You may remember her from my San Diego Race Recap last week – Missy, the Sugar Coated Athlete. I was stoked! Ahhh, the wonder of social media.
We set up camp at the Flagstaff Nordic Center which – as you can tell – took forever and was ROUGH. 😉 Then I immediately found my friend Amy who was doing the race with me (and coincidentally camped right next to Sugar Coated Athlete)! Amy and I set out for a little shake-up run to get the blood flowing, see the trail, experience the extreme lack of oxygen and beat the setting sun. I didn’t even bring my camera/phone along!!!!! What the?! We did remember our head lamps however… just in case!
Thankfully I was already somewhat familiar with the trails. Mr. Zucchini Runner and I had stayed at the Flagstaff Nordic Center a couple times last Summer. I was preparing for the Flagstaff Marathon, but due to a horrible, horrible cold; couldn’t do the race. 🙁 It was nice to get the legs and lungs moving and help them remember it’s normal to burn from lack of oxygen. 🙂
The next morning I was so laid back about the race, Mr. Zucchini Runner was in amazement. Where was the freak-out-mode hiding?! I think 90% of my stress on race morning is typically caused by 3 things: a) getting to use the port-o-potty before the race b) not getting to the race start on time due to traffic c) getting to use the port-o-potty before the race. 😉 Neither of those were a factor last Saturday, so it was smooth sailing. In fact, I rolled out of the camper 10 minutes before the race started. It was amazing.
Shortly after Amy, Missy and I were off and running in the beautiful, fresh, pine scented air…….. wait a minute?! Holy dust in the mouth GRIT. 0_O Arizona needs rain. BAD. Instead of the fresh, pine-scented air I had dreamed of all week, it was more like the cattle you see below… (Missy, I LOVED your Haboob analogy too – it made me laugh out loud. Now, the fact that BOTH Missy and I have included this in our post, should tell you how bad the dust truly was. Seriously. I woke up the next morning with a nose bleed and my eyes were practically swollen shut. It took them about 3 full days to fully recover.) -_- About 2 miles into the race, the herd spread out, making the dust more bearable.
This is more like it! Ahhhhhhh… pine-scented air!!
Amy and I ran most of the race together, with a little gap in the middle where we were apart. (This lady just won first place woman in the Adrenaline Night Run 13k the week before… she’s a rockstar.) It was so nice to chat on the downhills and gasp with a buddy on the uphills. On the last downhill, we both took off and I was able to keep the pace when it flattened out. I was hoping she could stick with me, but knew she was more tired than I was! At one point, I yelled back, “Come on Amy!” haha It was so nice to have a positive push to keep each other going. I’m always about finishing strong and she WAS RIGHT behind me!! (Oh yes, and did I mention she woke up the next day and hiked and ran a total of 23 miles down and back out of the Grand Canyon? Rockstar.)
At the finish I finally found Danielle and all the ladies gathered for a little post race recap, snacks and coffee. (From left to right: Amy, Danielle, Missy and myself (clearly, my eyes are starting to seal shut from the dust). Danielle’s husband Rob took 3rd place in his division – awesome job!
Mr. Zucchini Runner, Amy and I rounded out the weekend with some great food, treats and a beautiful hike through portions of the race course.
The hike was a good way to avoid lactic acid build up and therefore sore muscles, but I wanted to be extra sure, so I used some of my tried and true torture devices. 😉
On the drive home, you can see Sedona off in the distance. I can’t wait for our next trip North. 🙂
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