Race Review: Cactus Flower Series Desert Marigold 6k at Estrella Mountain

Race Review: Cactus Flower Series Desert Marigold 6k at Estrella Mountain

Rain or shine, a girl’s gotta run!

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Much cooler t-shirt this time around!

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It’s May in Arizona, and the average high this time of year is typically around 92 degrees – not our hottest temps by far, but getting there. Despite this, we have been treated to awesomely cool temps and unusual rainfall this past week, and it took itself right into the weekend with heavy rain and thunderstorms yesterday and more wet weather this morning.

Thus, on our drive to the Cactus Flower Series Desert Marigold 6k this morning the I-10 was subjected to a torrential downpour that had me questioning my sanity (because getting up at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday, an hour-plus earlier than I get up for work, doesn’t make me crazy right?). As I checked out the Cactus Flower Series Facebook page and saw photos of some muddy, wet trails I was thankful to have my race series windbreaker in the back seat and reminded myself that I sign up for lots of mud runs on purpose so this should be no different.

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And then, as we turned down Avondale Boulevard, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, the sun started peaking through, and all I saw was the beauty of the West Valley: green pastures and trees, and the beautiful mountains ahead. It was a GREAT day for a run.

The Desert Marigold 6k was held at Estrella Mountain Regional Park, behind Phoenix International Raceway, and this park was just as gorgeous as the White Tank Regional Park. Rain in AZ really bumps up the beauty-of-nature factor, turning much of the mountain foliage green for a time, something that will quickly turn once the true warm weather is upon us. The drive to Estrella wasn’t quite as far and the freeway was plenty empty that early in the morning.

Parking at Estrella Mountain is the standard $6 rate per car load, but it’s paid on an honors system – a system that a number of race participants apparently felt no obligation to, as they drove right past the line of honest runners who were waiting patiently to pay the fee that helps support the maintenance of this awesome recreational resource. I will never understand people who don’t see that kind of behavior as stealing and was really disappointed in my fellow runners at that moment (still am). I think that if the race organizers can get someone to volunteer they should have someone waiting at the fee box to assist and ensure everyone pays their fee for future races at locations that don’t have regular pay stations. Alternatively, if runners can’t be honest, I think perhaps a parking fee should be built into future registration fees to ensure that the parks are adequately compensated.

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It was really chilly when we arrived, but as the sun rose higher it warmed up enough to ditch my windbreaker. The race organizers either intentionally or coincidentally took some of my advice from my review of the Saguaro 7k. The PA system was loud enough to hear, they delayed the race start just a bit as runners were still arriving and checking in, and the race was started it in waves that encouraged the faster runners to the start first in an effort toward safety on the trails. The only mayhem at this event was that the porta-potties that the race ordered were apparently never delivered, or were delivered to the wrong location. Though the lines were long, there was thankfully one permanent porta-potty there for runners to use. A minor inconvenience really, because if you were going to just run a trail somewhere you might not have restroom access anyway. Hopefully they get a refund!

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The trail itself was a series of short switch-backs that were mostly compacted dirt/rocks eliminating most typical trail run tripping hazards. It was once again very well-marked, though I got a little confused on the last switchback and thought I had accidentally cheated and taken a shortcut until I realized there was a U-turn that ran us back toward the one muddy spot of the whole race (which wasn’t much really).

My own run started out a little rough – after a tough week at the gym and the first bit of the trail being a slight uphill I was out of breath pretty fast and was surprised at how soon I had to start walking. But the first mile went by in around 11 minutes and I was taking fewer and shorter walking breaks. I actually made up time with each mile! My overall time for the 6k was 43:02 with an average 11:32 min pace. I came in 118 out of 167 overall, 80 out of 122 for my gender. I’m still not fast, but next weekend is our ChiRunning workshop so I’m hopeful. And my pace was better than the last race, so, baby steps. I ran with my Nike app again and this time it only paused my workout 3 or 4 times – I decided I’d just disable the pausing feature from now. I also ran with Charity Miles again (get it – it’s a free app you can use for running OR walking and your miles result in donations to the charities you select each time). I donated my miles to The Nature Conservancy (cuz nature).

Someone build me a lightbox so my that when I wait until 9pm to take photos they don't come out so crappy!
Someone build me a lightbox so my that when I wait until 9pm to take photos they don’t come out so crappy!

There was one perfectly placed water station along the route, and ice cold water and OREOS (again, yay!) at the finish line. I’m not ashamed to say I ate four and enjoyed all of them thoroughly. I received two medals at this one – the Desert Marigold 6k medal and the Spring Series medal (which I thought was weird – seems it should have gone to whoever finished the third race OR been mailed to those who ran all three, because if you didn’t run all three you didn’t technically earn it).

The next and final race of the Spring Series is the Estrella Cactus 5k which will be on June 6th. Registration is currently $35. It’s the shortest distance and the trails at Estrella are well established so if you’re looking to give trail running a try, or are considering doing the full Fall Series this might be a good one to sign up for!

Hope to see you out there!

– Jess

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