Water cascading from the skies in sheets welcomed Team USA to Mexico on Friday, July 18. It is the rainy season after all in the town of Ajijic when 11 inches of rain during the month of July is not uncommon.
Eight athletes from six states comprise Team USA, and all arrived — some after lengthy delays— in Guadalajara for the short drive to Ajijic which is situated at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains and adjacent to Lake Chapala. The 11th NACAC Mountain Running Championships will be held tomorrow, Sunday, July 20, 2014, as a race within a race. More than 700 athletes of all ages and abilities are expected to compete in the open division which is held concurrent with the championships.
All of the men of Team USA — Eric Blake, Ryan Woods, Danny Martinez, and Jordan Chavez — are first-timers at this race as is Brandy Erholtz of the women’s squad. Maria Dalzot, Amber Moran, and Christine Lundy all raced on the mountainous course three years ago earning team gold.
Due to the rain, which fell all through the night on Friday and into Saturday morning, wet and slippery conditions could be a factor on this rock-strewn course which races up and down Chupinaya Mountain over a 13.8-kilometer route.
Lundy, who arrived early on Friday, went out for a run before the rain started to fall and noted that the stream crossings were non-existent compared to her last visit to Ajijic when a few of the streams required navigation over rocks underfoot and water levels reached well above her knees. “It was tough to know where the right footing was with so much water,” recalled Lundy. “Today, the streams ran nearly dry.”
Of course this was before the skies opened up and the deluge began. Later in the evening, Team USA enjoyed a pizza dinner in town and Lundy remarked, “I think the stream crossings will be a bit more challenging after this rain.”
Lundy went on to describe the course to Erholtz, “It is absolutely beautiful. The views, the waterfall, the terrain. You’ll love it. When I first ran the course it was pretty much sight unseen. I think it’s a good idea to at least check out the rocks and footing on the early stages of the trail. That part can be a bit tricky.”
Both agreed that a course preview the following day would be a good plan.
After breakfast and a side trip to the local thermal pools, Team USA was planning to visit the race course. Team Leader Richard Bolt would run the entire route to check conditions and get a feel for the keyhole-shaped course and find optimum spots for photographs during Sunday’s race.
Without Canada in the mix, it will be just two countries vying for NACAC Championship honors. The Canadian selection race for the championships was held just a few weeks ago and none of the athletes were able to coordinate their schedules to make the trip to Mexico. When travel plans failed to pan out for the selected athletes, there was little time to recruit replacements.
Follow the race on Twitter @usmrt with updates happening live fro the course provided a solid signal exists. Additional details on the event are available at this link.