Race: Elephant Mountain Trail Runs, 12K
Runner: Kiona Ogle
Race Date: 02/04/2023
Location: Cave Creek Regional Park, Cave Creek, AZ
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The scenery. The desert landscape is beautiful this time of year!
- The course. The trails are challenging, but very runnable. There are a few long hills that are challenging, but they are followed by downhill sections that are fun for running fast!
- The organization. The race is put on by Aravaipa, and it is exceptionally well organized.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
I used to be able to park on-site, but this year, people running the 12K (and two other races) had to park off site and take a bus to the race location. I prefer the convenience of parking on site and having access to my pre- and post-race gear.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
There’s good chance that you’ll run through or smell horse poop.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I really enjoy being able to pick up speed and stretch the legs on the downhill sections. There are a few relatively long downhill sections that are very runnable (pretty smooth, minimal rocks). Also, I’ve run this race four times over the past 5-6 years, and the weather has been perfect every time! The longer distances likely experience some heat later in the day, but generally not the 12K.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Be a little conservative the first mile or so, which involves mostly running up switchbacks. There’s another challenging hill section from about mile 3.5-4.5, and don’t feel bad about walking the last steep section! Also, I suggest bringing fluids, even though this is a relatively short distance; the air is dry, and it can get warm.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
This was my fourth time running this race and this course, and I learned from past races how to tackle the hills: “steady and strong.” Also, the first time I ran this race, I had a major fall because I tripped on my shoe laces (the bungee type) — so, I learned to use regular shoe laces and double tie!
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Don’t go out too hard, be a little conservative on the first uphill section, and you need to turn-around at the aid station at the out-and-back section (I missed the turn-around my first time, and I ran an extra 1/4 – 1/2 mile).
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
Stunning!! I will keep coming back.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Yes, relatively tough. There are some challenging hills, and a short, moderately technical section through a desert wash.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Exceptionally well organized by Aravaipa!
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Yes, competition is generally pretty strong. I was second woman this year, and the first place woman set a course record and finished first overall. She was flying!
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Easy to register, so far. But, I do worry that as the Aravaipa races get more and more popular (their size grows every year) that there’ll be a time when one will have to register far in advance. Also, I like to camp at the Cave Creek Regional Park (walking distance from race location), but the campsites are often booked far in advance; I couldn’t camp there this year.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
I rarely stop at the aid stations, so can’t say much about them. But, important to note that they are cupless — you have to bring your own water bottle, etc.
Weather and typical race conditions
Weather is almost always perfect, but can get hot for the longer (ultra) races. If it hasn’t rained in a while, the trails can be dusty, which is most noticeable at the start, but once it thins out and there are fewer people running near you, the dust isn’t an issue.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
I always wear a hat, sun glasses, and sun screen. Trail running shoes with good traction are great for allowing you to let loose on the downhills.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Generally, yes. And, people often bring their dogs, too. There’s a play ground for the kiddos.
How’s the Swag?
Great. Really nice t-shirts and post-race option of a unique, hand-made “metal” or a glass or mug of some sort (wine glasses this year). Podium finishers also get unique, hand made trophies. The trophies and metals seem to change each year. There’s usually a “swag shop” on-site, and I often raid the sale bins; can get some great deals on hats, neck gators, shirts, and other items.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 out of 5; yes, I’d recommend it, reluctantly (I don’t want the race to grow too much more in size!).