Fountain Hills, Arizona, USA
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top.
I wasn’t sure at first about doing two races one weekend after another, but after a discouraging uphill race in Woodside, a downhill one seemed like just the thing to lift my spirits! The Mountain to Fountain is a nearly straight shot 15K from McDowell Mountain Park down to the eponymous fountain in the town of Fountain Hills.
I woke up from a dream where I was seriously angry at someone for stealing the Bat-signal (which sounded just like my alarm clock). I opt for a breakfast bar instead of a pop tart this time – still too darn sweet for this early in the morning. It’s a short drive up the Beeline Highway to Fountain Hills, and easy to find parking on the street. On the bus to the start I sit next to a woman who coincidentally used to live in Woodside! She also ran part of the course earlier and points out some things to look out for on the way.
The start is at a picnic area with a couple of ramadas and a trailhead for a nice little desert trail that some people are warming up on. I join them after checking my gear bag, mostly to take the chill off.
The race starts with a short uphill grade out of the picnic area, before we start our descent along the main road. When I signed up for the race I thought that the first part would be trail, but it’s paved road all the way. There’s the usual juggling for position; I think I’m going to be behind a woman in a sparkly purple skirt most of the way, but I quickly pass her as we get onto the open road. From here on I’m just enjoying the scenery and the novel sensation of running a sub-10:00 pace with little effort. Springtime is in full bloom and the road is lined with yellow brittlebush, blue lupine and the occasional orange penstemon.
At Mile 4 we pass through the park gate and turn right onto McDowell Mountain Road. A l-o-o-ong line of vehicles, loaded with boats, bikes, and what have you, are patiently waiting for us to make the crossing. Looks like everyone made the same decision to get out and enjoy this beautiful day! And then, suddenly – it’s the dreaded Mile 7 hill! Oh noes! This is what my seatmate warned me about on the way out: a mile-long hill just as you’re starting to get tired, and seems to last for bloody ever. I haven’t walked so far this race though, and I don’t walk now, although I drag to a pretty slow run before heading over the top.
I can see the fountain in the distance straight ahead now – that means it’s 9 o’clock! More cheer teams appear as the course winds its way into town and I motor it in to the finish.
Official time: 1:30:04.
The recovery area is a nice patch of grassy park overlooking the fountain, where you can get lots of standard post-race goodies and, if you’re willing to stand in another line, a can of Flagstaff microbrew and a slice of pizza from a local restaurant. (I save my beer for later since I’m driving.) I stick around long enough to learn that I’m not going to win any prizes (including the demi-random case-of-beer giveaways) and head out. Next time I think I might stick around for a proper breakfast at one of the patio restaurants; they all seemed to be doing a good business and smelled wonderful.