Rally in the Valley (of Fire) is a racing festival put on by Calico Racing. They offer a trail 1/2 marathon race on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, all at Valley of Fire State Park, one of the best state parks in Nevada. The course is different for each race. I raced one half marathon out there in 2020 and it was very challenging so, of course, I decided to sign up for all three of them in 2021! Here are a few photos from the 2020 effort. My friends Crystal and Brittany joined me out there as well so we all suffered together.
Most people who choose to run all three opt to camp out at the park, but I am not really one for camping, so I planned to drive back and forth each day, about an hour each way. After all of that driving, it might have been better just to camp but I do enjoy sleeping in my own bed. And showers are also good.
Day 1 - January 15, 2021
The Friday race started at 9am. I arrived around 8am and was eager to run. The cool thing about running a half marathon on three consecutive days is that you get to plan out your wardrobe ahead of time. For someone like me, who has way too many running shirts and shoes, this is really fun! For day 1, I went with the Don't Fence Me In Nevada t-shirt.
Here are some photos of the park before the race started:
In January 2021, we were still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we all had to wear masks at the starting line, but we could take them off once the race started. I was just happy the races hadn't been canceled because many had been over the prior 9 months.
Next thing I knew, we were off! Not too far into the race, I saw 3-4 bighorn sheep come scurrying down a large rock and run across the street. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a photo of that but a number of us stared in awe.
The course was difficult because large stretches of it were in deep sand or on very rocky single track trails where was difficult to even know if you were still on the trail. If it weren't for the course markings, I would have had no idea where the trail was. But the scenery was phenomenal and the weather was quite pleasant for January.
I pledged to take it nice and slow and was amazed at those who took off as if they had been shot out of a cannon. About halfway into the race, I rolled my ankle bad enough that I wasn't sure I would be able to finish the race. The rugged terrain brought pain each time my foot hit the ground. But I gutted it out and kept moving forward, slower than I would have liked, but I knew I would at least finish. And finish I did, earning my first medal of the weekend.
I finished the race in about 2 hours and 43 minutes. The course had a total elevation gain of over 1,200 feet, but that didn't really tell the story of its difficulty. I finished in 23rd place out of 48 runners. Honestly, I was proud to have finished the race given the difficult of the course and my ankle injury. I did not know whether I would be able to run the next two races on my hurting ankle.
Day 2 - January 16, 2021
Despite the soreness and swelling in my ankle, I decided to go back out for race number two the next morning. I taped my ankle for extra support and hoped for the best. I knew it would be grueling.
Saturday's race started at 7:30am. I decided to go with my red Andale 5k shirt for this race. Next thing I knew, we were off and running. A few selfies from the starting line and along the course:
Another tough course, but again with amazing views along the way.
My ankle held up. I was definitely in pain and sore, but I tried to be extra careful on the especially rocky parts. I was very happy to do be done with this second race.
I finished this race in just over 2 hours, 52 minutes, which was good enough to finish 19th out of 50 runners. The course also had over 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Would I return for race number 3? Of course I would!
Day 3 - January 17, 2021
I taped up the ankle yet again and headed back out to Valley of Fire on Sunday morning for race number 3, which also started at 7:30am. If nothing else, I was getting used to the drive, though I preferred the 9am start time we had on Friday!
I went with my Vegas Strong shirt for this effort and before I knew it, we were off! Some selfies from the starting line and along the way:
Another course brought yet more amazing views:
It wasn't always pretty and my ankle was very unhappy with me, but I managed to finish in one piece, earning a third metal and my very first buckle!
I completed the third race in 2 hours and 54 minutes, finishing 22nd out of 38 runners. Again, the course had over 1,200 feet of climbing. My goal was to finish faster than 3 hours, so I was definitely happy about that. I really had to push the last couple of miles to make sure I met that goal.
A total of 14 runners completed all three half-marathons. As far as cumulative time, I finished in 11th place out of 14. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but these were tough courses and I clearly wasn't as experienced at trail races as the other runners. And the ankle injury didn't help. The guy who finished first in cumulative time was more than 3 hours ahead of me!
Although I enjoyed this adventure, I was not too sad to hear that Calico Racing was putting a pause on this running festival for the time being. If they ever do another one, I probably won't be able to resist signing up, but I might just pick one race instead of three. Then again, maybe I won't be reasonable.
If you live in Las Vegas and have never been to Valley of Fire State Park, go! If you are ever in the area, stop by. You won't regret it because it is stunning.
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.