Valley of the Sun 21k
Mesa, AZ - March 10, 2002     T   R   S  
San Diego Street Elite

The second annual Valley of the Sun Marathon took place Sunday 3/9 in Mesa, Arizona under great conditions. Last year there was only a 5k skate. This year a half-marathon skate was added. Unlike the previous weekend, winds were light with comfortably cool temperatures in the low 50s. Around 50 skaters line up for the pre-dawn 6:15am start.

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 shortly behind.

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.


Copyright © 2002 - San Diego Street Elite