Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run

You don't see this kind of view at the start of most races. At the Sabino Canyon Sunset Run you get this view and many more that are better. I ran the 2009 version of the race as my first hill dominant run. I say hill dominant because the first 3.7 miles are mostly all uphill. You turn around at the top and return the same way to the finish.

Sabino Canyon is just to the northeast of downtown Tucson in the Coronado National Forest. You might have taken the tram into the canyon as a tourist. You defiantly want to do the run. I drove 2 hours each way for just the run and it was well worth it.

Being in the national forest system, you have to pay $5 to park inside the gates. Here's a hint. There's a small parking lot outside that's free. Then you just walk an extra 100 yards and you'll be at the visitor center/ tram station/ race start.

It's all on asphalt road, two lanes wide with seven bridges that the runners cross over twice. Once going up and once coming down. There's a dip in the road for each bridge. Here's a hint. When the Sabino Creek is flowing strong, the water will flow over the bridges. So, on race day that means you're running in water to cross the creek. Deep enough to get your feet wet. See the pictures from the 2008 race.

You'll start out in daylight around 2735' elevation. At the turn around you will have risen about 600 feet to 3375. Half of it in the last mile. But, then you'll get to head back down the canyon. Then you get to fly. I ran down 10 minutes faster than my ascent.

The picture above shows you the last mile. The runner is returning, but above him you might be able to see the road and some runners heading for the turn. In many ways this feels like a trail run, without the trail. No rocks or roots to watch for.

But, hurry down the mountain. Because darkness approaches after about 45 minutes of running. Robert Seamon, of Tucson finished in 40:45 to win overall first and Paula Morrison, of Tucson was first female overall with a time of 48:15. Half the runners finished in under 1 hour 6 minutes. The last group finished in 2 hours and in the dark.

You could say my race was a series of ups and downs. Yeah, pun intended. I had early splits of low 12 minutes per mile. I walked some of the way. Mile five was the first full down hill mile. I did that in 8:06. Miles five and six literally flew by. But, as if by design the race director had one more hill for the runners to climb right before mile 7 ended. Pictured below. By the time I got there, all I could see was the silhouette of the runners as they reached the top.

At the top you could see a single light, about a half mile down the road. That's the finish. You can't see runners in front or behind you. Just the single light. If you can finish this race in under an hour, it won't be an issue. But, for the back half of the field, we ran in the dark. Plus, you get signs like this:

Now that will get you moving.
The Southern Arizona Roadrunners put on this race and do a great job. We had entertainment before the awards ceremony with a cowboy doing gun and rope tricks. The parents loved it, almost as much as the kids.

The awards for 1, 2 and 3rd places were these great framed photos. I had to get back to Chandler, so I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony. I'm sure it was a fun time.

SAR also does a good job at having people around to answer your questions. Here's Dave Hill with a great t shirt on. He's in front of the Performance Footwear sign. A great sponsor of races throughout Arizona.

Then of course, there's the eats. Peanut butter sandwiches, orange slices, bananas were the fare. A bit light compared to what there sister club, Arizona Road Racers, up in Phoenix does. But, it was fine. Heck, maybe all the fast runners got the good stuff.

The volunteers where friendly like always. The weather was perfect. All in all, it was a great day for a run.

Pat's Running Splits


wmd said...

I love looking at the photos from your runs.The scenery is always so gorgeous. I m jealous... South Jersey does not look as nice.

Sumo said...

Those are wonderful sights. 3.7 miles up! Then another at the end? You guys kick butt!

SuperDave said...

Beautiful scenery and darn tough run!
That kind of running will get you into tip-top shape in no time!

J~Mom said...

Looks like a great race!! Congrats Pat!

Irene said...

No matter what time you finished it looks like it was a wonderfully scenic place to run! Congratulations!

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Great race report! That is an interesting race, especially running it at the end of the day.

lifestudent said...

That looks like a fun race!

Some guy named John said...

Looks like a beautiful place for a race! And a great race if you aim for negative splits!

Adam said...

Nice race! (Great pictures too)

So, you went up 600 feet during the first 3 miles!? Sooo, don't read my relatively non-hilly race report over on my blog then. It will just seem whiny in comparison!

Your splits seemed pretty consistant based on the incline / decline. Consistancy is key.

Adam said...

I LOVE your suggestion to the new owners.

I DO have some red paint left over from painting our kitchen..... Hmmmmm :)

Jeff said...

Dude, you find more quirky races than anywhere I've ever seen. Fantastic!