|Valley of the Sun 21k
Mesa, AZ - March 10, 2002
The half-marathon course is one of the fastest around, with a net elevation
loss of 700 feet. After exiting the park at Usery Pass, skaters proceeded
downhill from the mountains for five miles. The next three miles went
through a new residential developement and were uphill. Then it was gradual
downhill again for the rest of the way to the finish. Pavement quality was
mostly smooth, but with some rough sections.
Right off the start Jeff Neal (Ski Pro) attempted to separate the pro men
from the rest of the field. His attempts were successful since the park
road was slightly uphill and rough. Kevin Puhlman, Eddie Wachter (Tucson),
and I followed to form the lead pack exiting the park.
The first downhill was long, but moderate, along a smooth two-lane road.
With effort, our speeds easily exceeded 35mph. Uncomfortable with the fast
speed, Eddie and I watched as Jeff and Kevin pulled away. The two skated
together for the remainder of the race.
The way to the finish went through a rough section of road followed by a
right-hand turn for the final sprint. Jeff and Kevin were together at this
point and began their sprints after making the right turn. Side by side,
both hawked at the line, but with Kevin victorious. Unfortunately, Jeff
lost his balance crossing the timing chip mats and fell hard. He was
transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken collar bone.
The women's race was a battle between local speedster Michelle Medina
(Predator) and Mallory Fracale (Mogema) from Las Vegas. They were in the
same pack for the first half of the race. The long, moderate uphill midway
was the breaking point. Although both were tired, Mallory was able to gap
Michelle halfway up.
The uphill was immediately followed by a moderate downhill, but the terrain
was then relatively flat for the remainder of the race. With this
knowledge, Michelle fought hard to catch Mallory. However, Mallory was able
to keep away and crossed the line by herself. Michelle finished only
The half-marathon course was fast and fun. Kevin and Jeff finished in only
35:23. After dropping off the lead pack, Eddie Wachter and I took it easy
and skated the rest of the way together. (He had to fix his loosened frame
on the uphill.) The skate was very scenic as we watched the sun rise over
the moutains and illuminate the valley.
This was only the second year for the Valley of the Sun Marathon and many
logistical issues had yet to be worked out. The early start meant that
participants had to board shuttle busses starting at 4:30am. A long line
formed as many people tried to get on the last busses at 5:30. At the
starting line, restrooms and the bag drop-off were difficult to find. And
then there was the find-your-own-bag-when-they're-randomly-placed hunt in
the claim area at the finish.
Even despite these problems, the event was promising and we hope the
organizers fix these logistical issues. As the marathon proves itself
through participation, hopefully the City of Mesa will grant the
organizers permits for a better course closure and start times. We'll
definitely be back again next year.