Are you ready to Test Your Limits? Big Pine just got even bigger with the official name change to Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine and some serious fun in store for all runners, crew, family and spectators!
If running at 7,000’ elevation just isn’t enough for you we have teamed up with Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course to take your journey higher: up into the tree tops! Zip, scramble, balance, climb… The Adventure Course is designed to challenge you both mentally and physically with courses that get harder the higher you climb.
Anyone registering for the race will receive a 10% discount off the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Passes (Adult passes with discount are $44 and Kids are $22.50) – there is no limit to pass sales so bring the whole family! The passes are also good for the entire year so buy now to get the savings and you can store them for a future Flagstaff adventure! Just want the discount and don’t want to run? We call that crazy! Nonetheless, here is the link.
While we are incredibly excited about how many activities are available on race weekend, we do want to make it clear that hotel bookings and start times on the adventure course fill incredibly quickly. This is a busy weekend for Flagstaff and we don’t want you disappointed to find a hotel or the perfect Adventure Course time slot is sold out.
We have decided to help make your registration decision a little easier! Thanks to Run Flagstaff the first 50 people to register for the race (any distance) and purchase at least one Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Pass will receive a free $10 gift card to Run Flagstaff!
Wanderlust Brewing will be sponsoring the Team Red White & Blue Charity Beer Garden at the event and hosting our Thursday Packet Pick-up at their Tap Room! Wanderlust is quickly growing their name in the running community and loves what we do as much as we love their beer! You never know… you might even find a running-celebrity pouring your drink!
Aravaipa has secured a $169 room rate at Little America Flagstaff Hotel for Saturday June 13th. However, Friday bookings are not guaranteed and need to be made ASAP as the hotel is almost sold out. Hotel Information: Little America Flagstaff, 2515 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (928)779-7900 *Ask for the Aravaipa Room Block
Of course, we have tent camping options secured at Fort Tuthill County Park right by the start/finish. In fact, you will run past our campground each loop for easy access to your supplies and crew. Camping options are also available on Ultra Signup and we can make it even easier for you by setting up your tent and cot rental prior to your arrival if you don’t have or want to bring your own!
If I register for a Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Pass how do I sign up for a time?
If I register for the race and purchase an Adventure Course pass how will I get my $10 gift card?
As a few of us sat around Friday night preceding the 6th annual Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs finalizing a few details for the race, drinking a couple of beers, we would usually be sitting around a campfire. With warm temperatures already greeting the Phoenix area in mid-March there was no need. We sat around in short sleeve shirts and took in the night. The race starts on the Eastern end of the White Tank Mountains, a range that marks the Western boundary of the metropolitan Phoenix area. Looking towards the peaks we could see hundreds if not thousands of stars, constellations and more. Gazing back towards Phoenix, the stars slowly give way to a soft bright glow that drowns out the night sky and instead we see twinkling city lights. It was going to be a hot one in the morning.
Runners began to arrive and check in at 6:00am to an already brightening sky. Our propane heaters stood silently inside of our box truck and the neatly stacked logs in the fire pit unlit. Friends greeted each other and pre-race rituals were performed. Volunteers checked in and loaded up backpacks of goodies to transport to our remote aid stations. This year they hauled shade tents too, a welcome reprieve from the coming relentless sun.
At 7am 22 hardy souls toed the line for the 50 Miler. Warnings of extreme heat and recommendations to carry multiple bottles and hydration packs fell deaf on some ears. A few runners left the start line with just one bottle in tow. The first few miles of trail along the Ironwood and Waddell Trails are flat and wind through giant saguaro forests – the signature plant of the Sonoran desert. At mile 2.5 things change as runners turn right onto the Mesquite Canyon Trail and begin a rocky climb up to the top of the range, passing one aid station and an old ranch along the way. Once along the top of the Ford Canyon Trail heading towards Goat Camp, the trail mellows out and a perfectly cut single track snakes its way in and out of canyons below the communications towers sitting atop the mountain peaks. Early leader Chris Palmer of Scottsdale was the first 50 miler into Black Canyon but he must already have been feeling the effects of the heat as he was beat there by 50K leader Charlie Ware of Tucson who started 30 minutes later. Palmer later dropped which opened things up for Ben Volk of Paseo, WA to take the lead and hold on to the win in 10:58. Michael Mayberry of Tempe was 2nd in 11:15 and right on his heels was our lead woman and 3rd overall, Jana Gustman of Pacific Palisade, CA in 11:16. The attrition on the 50 miler due to the head was especially brutal this year with exactly half (11) of the field finishing the full distance.
The 50K was next to go at 7:30 with 67 runners toeing the line. The race featured strong local runners from Tucson (Charlie Ware), Prescott (Michael Versteeg), Flagstaff (Bret Sarnquist), Waddell (Arrick Nietert) & Mesa (Adam Steidler). Charlie took the early lead and was the first runner into Black Canyon and Mesquite Aid Stations with Versteeg close behind in 2nd. The rest of the front runners battled close through the heat of the day as everyone descended into Ford Canyon, the most treacherous and hottest part of the course. Charlie emerged through the canyon first and held on to win in 4:24 with Versteeg 2nd in 4:32. Local Arrick Nietert placed 3rd in 4:43. On the ladies side, local Phoenix runner Laura Encinas was 1st woman in 6:18. Erica Smith was 2nd in 6:26 and Meggin Kirk of Scottsdale was 3rd in 7:02. The 50K finisher rate was much higher with a total of 60 finishers.
The 30K is comprised of a single loop utilizing the flatter Mule Deer trail before ascending the brutal Goat Camp trail at mile 7, a climb that is featured twice in the 50 mile race. Once runners top out, it is a fast section of single track along the top of the range with expansive views of Phoenix out to the East and a screaming 1800 foot downhill from the top of the Mesquite Canyon Trail down to the valley floor. 58 year old Kevin Tuck ran away with the victory in 2:34 ahead of Schuyler Hall of Tempe who finished 2nd in 2:38. Rock Steady Running founder John Storkamp of Minnesota rounded out the top 3 in 2:41. On the ladies side, Jane Murawski fresh of a win at the Elephant Mountain 50K a few weeks back took a commanding 1st in 3:14. Contance Wannamaker of Texas was 2nd in 3:37 and Jaclyn Knoll was 3rd in 3:39.
Over 100 runners participated in the classic 1/2 marathon course which completes a lollipop loop of the Willow & Mesquite Canyon Trails. This is not your average 1/2 marathon with over 1600 feet of climb! Ryan Warren of Litchfield won by a wide margin in a time of 1:43 with David Santiago 2nd in 1:52. Huffman Shorty was 3rd in 1:55. The women’s race was won by Kelly Nichols of Flagstaff in 2:08 who also won last month’s Elephant Mountain 12K. 2nd place was Jessica Goswitz of Houston in 2:09 and 3rd was Ashley Crump of Mesa in 2:14.
The 8K is our shortest offering at Mequite Canyon and features and out and back course along the flatter, winding Ironwood and Waddell trails. Brett Dubois won in 30:52, Blair Zimmerman was 2nd in 31:40 and Garrett Godoy was 3rd in 31:43. Deana Hall-Ollis of Scottsdale won for the ladies in 38:21, Erica Miles was 2nd in 38:41 and Jen Laughlin was 3rd in 39:31.
We want to thank all of our volunteers who really made this race a special one this year. Maricopa County Emergency Communication Group provided amateur radio support at all of our aid stations for the sixth straight year. Despite the hot temperatures we had a record number of total finishers for the event. This concludes the 2014-15 Desert Runner Trail Series. We will be posting overall winners of the series shortly and look forward to hosting the 6th year of the series starting with the Cave Creek Thriller on October 17!
Full Results are now available.
Photos will be uploaded soon here.
Sweet M Images was also out on the course – look for photos from them in about 1 week!
After a 4 year hiatus (it went off to college), the Copper Basin 50K returns to Prescott, AZ on April 11, 2015. Keeping in tune with the past two editions in 2009 & 2010, Aravaipa Running will be hosting this as an unsanctioned “fun run” on a new section of the Prescott Circle Trail that we’ve yet to incorporate into the previous two editions.
We created the Copper Basin 50K to introduce trail runners to the Prescott Circle Trail and to escape to the pines as the valley begins to heat up into mid-April. Now that the run has “grown up”, we’ll be starting and finishing downtown on Whiskey Row. A short mile or so through town and you’ll be on trails heading towards the South Eastern portion of the Prescott Circle Trail. The 50K will be an out and back course with some limited aid along the way.
If you don’t want to run the whole 50K, we won’t stop you. Well, we mean we won’t make you continue all the way to 50K. It is a fun run so we really don’t care what you do. Well, except have fun and run. The finish will hopefully be at a bar on Whiskey Row that has an outside patio where you can go immediately from a tasty finish to a tasty beer.
Write down your time when you are done and how far you ran. Simple.
Here are the basics:
In addition to this “fun run” there will likely be a happy hour gathering Friday night at a bar in town as well as bar hopping after the finish on Saturday night. We will be on Whiskey Row after all.
There are plenty of camping options both free and for a fee around Prescott and lodging options in town. Please consider joining this gathering of friends to run in Prescott and do a shot with us!
Team Red, White & Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB members from the Phoenix chapter have been running alongside Aravaipa Running for a couple of years now. Our organizations typically cross paths the first Wednesday of each month at our Aravaipa Group Trail Run whenever we host a location at Papago Park in Tempe. Team RWB is easy to spot with their bright “eagle” logo shirts and positive attitude. Team RWB had a large presence at last year’s night run series and it is only natural to increase our partnership with them in 2015.
Aravaipa Running is pleased to announce Team RWB will be the official charity partner of the Insomniac Night Trail Run Series for 2015. With this partnership, Aravaipa Running will be serving beer at all series events with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Team RWB directly. Additionally, Team RWB will have a presence at all series events both on the participant and volunteer sides.
The complete race calendar can be found online at the Insomniac Running website or below:
If you are interested in finding out more information about Team RWB please come to our local group run the 1st Wednesday of each month at Papago Park, visit them at any Insomniac Night Run or find a local chapter to join. Remember, not just veterans can be members, but also anyone interested in connecting with veterans and encouraging them to become active through physical or social activity.
Founded in 2013, the Insomniac Night Run Series features eight night trail running races from May through November across Arizona. Each race features multiple race distances with courses completely on trail systems at regional parks.
The 6th annual Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs are upon us. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. Not just the time this year, these first two months of 2015 but even the last 5 years! Just 5 years ago I was preparing to direct my first ever 50K that I created from scratch at a mountain park that I’ve been hiking, camping and mountain biking in since I was a kid. This would prove to be not just your ordinary 50K either. I was sending runners through two “hazardous” sections of trail, deemed the “most extreme” by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation department. So much so that they highlight the Goat Camp and Ford Canyon Trail on their park maps with a very appropriate “double black diamond”.
The Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs take place in the White Tank Mountains which run North / South along the western edge of metropolitan Phoenix. The great thing about the trails at this regional park are that they actually climb up to the top of the mountain range. They rise sharply out of the saguaro studded desert floor through several named canyons riddled with boulders, rocks, differing species of vegetation and plenty of wildlife. I’ve seen families of Javelina, lizards and snakes in these mountains and I remember seeing a photo posted at the front of gate of a wildlife camera in the high reaches of the park capture a mountain lion on film.
I’ve always loved the White Tank Mountains and the ability to share their beauty and ruggedness with others really gives me great joy. I like hard, tough and adventurous places to explore and the White Tank Mountains offer that all on marked trails (ok and the occasional creek bed).
Mesquite Canyon also marks the conclusion of Aravaipa Running’s annual Desert Runner Trail Series which I created to highlight the best of trail running across the Maricopa County Regional Park system. I wanted to get people out to the parks and on to the trails. I’ve been given so much by them that I wanted to share that with others. We offer an opportunity for participants of all abilities from hikers to elite mountain runners to test themselves on these amazing trails and locations on the edge of our city.
If you haven’t yet checked out any of the Maricopa County Regional Parks, I encourage you to give this one a try. Come camp with us, run, hike, or heck even volunteer. Get outdoors and experience what nature has to offer. Getting away from the city for a night or even a few hours can be a restorative experience for the soul.
If you are serious about getting involved here is our schedule leading up to the 6th edition of the Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs which is sure to be an amazing day of trail running:
March 6-9 – Hauling water up to Mesquite Canyon Aid Station (required hiking a 50 pound pack up 1.8 miles)
March 7 – Mesquite Canyon Training Run #2 (Goat Camp Trail)
March 11-13 – Course Marking
March 13 – Race Setup & Camping Pre-Race
March 14 – Race Day & Camping Post-Race
March 15 – Final Cleanup
If you’d like to help haul water or course mark I’d be glad to exchange volunteer credits for this or a future race.
This is the first in a series of “Adventure Run Reports” that we will be hosting on the Aravaipa Running blog. Our first comes from Aravaipa Ambassador Amber Fifield who regularly seeks out adventures in remote mountains and canyons across Arizona. Here first report comes from the Black Mesa Loop in the Superstition Mountains.
Sometimes I need to get out into the wilderness and enjoy a little quiet wild-time. However, I don’t always have time for a long jaunt, and need to just “get my fix” and get home. This morning was one of those days.
I met a few friends out at the FIRST WATER TRAILHEAD, which was fairly busy since the weather is nice and the population in the Valley has seen its usual winter influx. My plan for the day was just to do the 9 mile (my Garmin gave me 9.2 miles) Black Mesa Loop (Dutchman Trail #104 > Black Mesa Trail #241 > Second Water Trail #236 > Dutchman Trail #104). One of my friends was getting over being sick and was out to simply enjoy some desert time. The other two were looking for a longer run and would be heading out to the Canyon Lake Marina and back after running Black Mesa. After signing the guest register, we began from the trailhead on Dutchman Trail (#104) with a nice, fast, gentle downhill. The desert was looking lush from all of the recent rains! About a quarter of a mile in the trail makes a fork. We went right to stay on Dutchman. Most people tend to stay left at this fork onto Second Water Trail which is wider and smoother, so we quickly had our solitude.
The Dutchman Trail through here is very clear and easy to follow, plus quite a bit of it is nice, tight single track. Because we have had rain recently, we had numerous stream crossings this morning, which is always a treat in Arizona! When crossing the streams it is important to look up to see the cairn on the opposite side marking the trail. I often run with my head down watching my footing, so sometimes I end up doing slight side jaunts until I regain the trail. Dutchman Trail has nice rollers giving you some climbing to keep it interesting, but nothing major. In general, the rocks are also not too bad, just watch your footing.
I think in the next week or two it will be the perfect time to head out to see the wildflowers. If you don’t know, as I did not know for years, Arizona has an incredible wildflower season. Each spring, the desert is absolutely blanketed with delicate flowers: oranges, yellows, purples, whites, reds, and pinks carpet the landscape. Different areas and elevations get the flowers at different times. This morning the Black Mesa loop was just starting to get a few flowers poking their heads out. I think any rain we get will cause an explosion of color!
The next trail we came to was the Black Mesa Trail (#241) which cut back to the left. One of these days, I plan to stay on Dutchman and head out towards Weaver’s Needle, but that will have to be a different day and different blog entry. Weaver’s Needle is very prominent here and the mountains surrounding the area feel welcoming.
We met some campers back on Black Mesa and said hello, and then proceeded up the one “big” climb on the entire loop. I think the toughest part of this climb is the rockiness. If it weren’t for that, it would be much easier for me to run up; it certainly isn’t very long. As it was, today I hiked it. It was here that my friends and I completely split up, and I didn’t see them again (but I checked in, and we all had a great run!). Once I got to the top of the hill, I began running again. It was cloudy this morning, with all the hallmarks of a storm rolling in, and on top of Black Mesa itself the wind was gusting and I felt a deep chill try to crawl into my bones. Thankfully I was quickly off the mesa where the wind was not quite so strong.
Running down the west side of the mesa is a blast! It’s fairly rocky in places, but the downhill just sings. Plus, the views here are gorgeous- they look out onto more wilderness, which at the moment is incredibly green.
The base of the mesa to Second Water Trail (#236) is smooth and easy to run. I was at the intersection in no time, where I turned left back towards the First Water Trailhead. I knew I had about 2 miles left to go, so I began to push.
As I mentioned at the beginning, most people who hike from this trailhead head out on Second Water Trail. I had to slow down quite a few times for groups of people who were also out enjoying the outdoors. I saw a father and his children, a group of campers, a boy scout troop, and numerous other small groups of individuals all soaking in the beauty of the day.
Second Water Trail is relatively smooth. It does have some rocky areas, but nothing too major. It has some fun places to hop over boulders and a few corners to zip around. The way back to the trailhead has one climb up out of a wash, but it’s perfectly runnable, unless you’re tired, as I was today. However, before I knew it, I was back at my car where a friend of mine who is injured was hanging out waiting with donuts!
This loop is a great trail for a quick run, or a relaxed hike. My Garmin read 1,068 feet of elevation gain over the entire 9.2 miles. This trailhead is a great place to start at if you want to enjoy some time out in the desert with your children, or introduce visiting family members to the beauty of Arizona. You could of course do a simple out and back if you are looking for a hike or run that is perhaps not quite so long, or that is a little easier.
The only amenity at the trailhead is the pit toilets which are kept clean and well stocked. There is no water, so make sure you bring plenty of your own.
THIS LINK will take you to a map showing the trails we ran today. They are on the left side of the image.
We’d like to thank Amber and look forward to more of her adventures this year. You can read more at her blog: “Runner Girl Go”
Aravaipa Running is incredibly excited to announce the 1st annual Big Pine 108K to be held June 13-14 in Flagstaff, AZ! We will also be offering a 13K, 27K and 54K that morning and hosting the Blackout Night Runs as a new addition to the Insomniac Series that evening! In scouting race courses we are always on the lookout for something new and exciting and a location that allows us to make the race a community affair. We have found just that with Big Pine and its location at Fort Tuthill County Park.
All runners will get to experience the Soldiers Trail and Highlands Trail Loop. The course is mostly graded wide forest paths within the shade of the ponderosa pines. However, as you reach Highlands Trail the views open up at the top of a wide and expansive mesa that draws back the curtain to miles of mountains and rolling forested hills. With only 4160ft of climbing in the 108K it is designed to be a fast course and one that would work well for beginners. However, do not be fooled into thinking there is no challenge, as almost the entire course is over 7,000ft total elevation.
For runners coming from the Phoenix area this will be a great reprieve from the summer heat with the likelihood of temperatures dropping into the 40s in the evening! However, for runners across the country this is a great chance to explore Flagstaff – the mecca of distance running – and bring the whole family along for the ride. That weekend boasts a beer festival and a horseshoe tournament at the park. Camping will be setup with the convenience of tent and cot rentals available. Camp games, a bike park, and a ropes course are a small portion of what this race location can offer!
We are pleased to be able to partner with Team Red White & Blue for this race and the entire Insomniac Series to help create an event where runners of every level can participate. The cutoff for the 108K will be 24hours and is optimal for those who have yet to step up to the distance for fear of stricter time limits. In fact, every distance has until 7am Sunday morning before final cut off and is a great opportunity for first-time ultra runners!
Experienced endurance athlete? Looking to test your limits? Look at our 162K Challenge. Runners must complete the 108K Big Pine in less than 12 hours in order to start the 54K Blackout Night Run at 7pm with the rest of the field. Total cutoff time will still be 24 hours. Runners completing the 108K in fewer than 12 hours must wait until the 7pm start of the 54K but will be given a cumulative time based on their true finish. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for registration instructions!
Here were text submissions on Instagram & Facebook:
coffeeandtrails “Training for Arizona Ironman?” “Sure beats tempe town lake”
wandering_coconut “They said tubing down the Salt river would be fun”
fleetfeethkry “So, I asked for a bottle of Perpetuem to be ready at mile 23, and I get Sustained Energy! I mean, how do you…” “Man, I feel you. That’s uncalled for. Did you fart?”
biror1″I’m back stroking this section!” …”Butterfly, butterfly, butterfly!”
radrunner1 “The river is really flowing this year.” “Yeah, next year they should use a raft crossing here.”
stillrunning39 LEFT “Ummm coldwater rumble…”, RIGHT “wasn’t this fun…”
debrunsfar “I’ve got you man, hang on!”…”Help”
Mike Pagano “Bro I sware to God if you turn this water blue. Relax buddy just cooling off the “boys”
Jared Yanniello “I had doubts when you said there was a river crossing in Arizona, but this is just stupid. Just keep swimming.”
Melissa Dietzman Shoulders “Showering is so overrated!/ I know! I bet we’ll be able run an extra 40 or 50 miles! Where did you put the baby wipes again?”
Jacob Puzey “We’ll do anything for a little attention.”
Laura Reyburn “‘Let’s run 100k in AZ,’ you said. ‘It’ll be fun,’ you said.” “I’m going to take up triathlons. Is that your pack or mine escaping downstream?”
Aimee Kokubun “I think I’m done on this side. Maybe I should turn over to even out my tan?” “Don’t worry about being even, my chick totally digs my chest strap tan. She thinks it’s sexy!”
Ken Ellis Dude! Are you SURE this is how that old dude Ken Ellis hydrated when he ran the inaugural BC100K last year?…yeah dude, because he didn’t have a UD vest:)!
Michael Johnson “I thought this was a triathlon…..”
Nadine Stewart “Did you bring any body wash with you. I don’t smell so good. What are you talking about, I smell like I haven’t run at all yet.”
Matt Terminel “Oh Man!!! I need to cool off! Did you see how HOT the Pixie Ninja is?”…..”Why do you think I’m laying on my stomach!!!”
Nathan N Crystal Simpson “Marco?!? Polo?!?!”
Michael Tatham “I told you not to bring the Irish whiskey…. It’s better then the wine you brought last time….”
coffeeandtrails “Just keep swimming”
wandering_coconut “Damn fire ants!”
happytrigirl “It’s so freakin hot!!”
tonytrombone “Look!! Fart bubbles!!”
luism457 “I have seen this done on Jackass”
stillrunning39 “Woo! Now that’s a hydration pack!”
Photo Submissions from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
These two will win their choice of an Ultimate Direction Hydration Pack! Congrats Trevor and Steve!
We will send these four some Ultimate Direction swag!
Dan Keeler “Wait… What?! Where’s everyone goin’???” “Dude, I don’t think this is a tri…..”
Cory Axness “Backstroke? Breaststroke? Heatstroke!”
tonytrombone Guy on left, “Totally pooped em on that last mile”, guy on right “it’s cool, I’m taking a leak”
Now that the dust has settled and I can move around without any fear of the tendons in my feet ripping apart, I think the time is right for a Black Canyon 100k race report.
A little background: I am not an elite runner. I am a hobbyist who started running a little over two years ago, and entered the trail running and ultra scene a year ago. Black Canyon 100K would just be my second 100k race. I am what Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie fame) jokingly referred to as an “elite mid-packer.”
Also, I spent much of November and December with a nagging IT band issue, so my training was not what I was hoping for. On January 24 (three weeks before BC100k), I put together what I considered to be my strongest race ever in the Coldwater Rumble 52k, and followed it up later with a half marathon PR at Sedona a week later (which is not a course most would consider to be PR-friendly). So, despite the lack of a solid training cycle, I still felt like I was going into it in the best shape of my life.
Oh, and a week before the race, I sprained my ankle while goofing off in the Superstitions. Luckily it was mild, but it was on the mind.
One thing I did not have going into this race was expectations. I wanted to do well, obviously, but having only attended the middle of the three course preview runs, I didn’t have a whole lot of course familiarity. Also, Phoenix’s forecast high of 85 loomed as a potential game-changer – I expected a lot of carnage. As Michael Carson mentioned in his interview with Ultra Sports Live.TV, even those of us who live in Phoenix are no longer acclimated to hot weather at this time of year.
So, my strategy was simple: just take it easy. And take plenty of salt. I didn’t use any drop bags – just strapped on my Nathan hydration pack, threw in three or four chocolate Clif Shots (my favorite!), a bag full of salt tablets, an extra bottle (for electrolyte drinks), and a small flashlight.
I also loaded my GPS watch with the course map, but the course turned out to be well enough marked that I didn’t even have to look at it once.
At 7AM on Saturday, the moment arrived. It was more surreal than any race start I have attended. A full roster of elite ultrarunners were lined up at the front, with established veterans and young up-and-comers, and standouts in both the male and female division, hoping to claim an automatic bid for WS100. The figurative gun went off, and we started off with…a lap around the high school track. Nice touch!
To me, the most important part of any race is the beginning. The pace you choose makes a huge difference. And being very inexperienced at the 100k distance, I decided I should err on the side of caution, and go at a pace that feels very, very comfortable. No faster than 9:00/mile on a downhill, 10:00/mile on flatter terrain. I didn’t even think I could maintain those numbers late in the race, but at least they would feel slow at the beginning. It was tough watching a third of the field race ahead of me those first few miles. A mile in, while still on paved road, I looked down at my watch and saw 7:45, and immediately slowed down. Several runners passed me up during the first ten miles or so (spoiler alert: I saw all of them later on).
Because I was running at an easy pace, the first 20 miles were easy. After the Bumble Bee aid station, I continued to take it easy, but I started to pass people. This became the theme for the rest of the day. Runners slowing down, soaking in the creeks, gathering themselves at aid stations… And here I was, just having a great time!
I’m not saying that to brag, as much as I am to illustrate a point: patience early on in a race really pays off. I found the Strava activities for a lot of the runners I passed, and most of them were averaging between 8 and 9 minutes per mile the first 20 miles. I felt like I went out too fast, and all of these runners went out faster than I did. When you look at the math, you can run at an 11:30/mile pace the whole race, and still finish under 12 hours. And for those of us who are hobbyists, that’s a really solid time.
Anyways, back to the race… After that beautiful stretch from Soap Creek AS (half way point) to Black Canyon TH, I hung out at the aid station for a few minutes eating food, drinking liquids, etc., it was off on the run again. This was the part of the race I was most worried about, but I felt solid going up the big hill after the creek crossing. Passed a few more people in that stretch, and actually created some space behind me, when by mile 43 or so, I started to get fatigued. I stopped to use a bush, and noticed my urine was bright yellow. I ate another Clif Shot, took a salt tablet, and started drinking a lot more water. This stretch into the Cottonwood Gulch aid station would be my slowest stretch of the race. Once I got there, I stopped and ate for a few minutes. A lot of bean burritos, and some potatoes, mostly.
This seemed to do the trick. The four and a half miles to the next aid station were a breeze. I ran most of it. At one point, Julio Palma, who was the only runner who passed me after the 20 mile mark, caught up to me, but I actually beat him to the aid station by a minute or two. Feeling pretty good with just 11 or 12 miles in the race, I thought I had this one in the bag. I even did some math in my head, and sub-12 even seemed like a possibility! Honestly, going into the race, I would’ve been happy with sub-13!
Unfortunately, a mile after leaving the Table Mesa aid station, my hamstrings started to cramp…both of them. And my groin muscles started to cramp. I trudged on, trying not to overexert those muscles. Palma passed me (for good) going up that hill, but I still felt like I was doing OK, as I started coming up on another runner.This was Jesse Alexander from Camp Verde, AZ – I passed him before the top of the hill, but he caught up, and we even chatted a bit as we approached another runner. At this point, the cramps entered my diaphragm, and I had to do something. I looked at my sweat-crusted shirt, and speculated that I needed more salt. I hiked for about 30 seconds, took a salt tablet, and struggled into the final aid station just as Jesse was leaving.
At this point, I learned that it was just four miles to the finish. The sun was just starting to dip below the horizon, so I readied my flashlight, looked down at my watch, and saw… 11:19. Even after a rough stretch, 12 hours was still a possibility! The first mile and a half or so was easy, on a flat fire road – I think I actually managed to hit a 9:00/mile pace at one point (which now, unlike at the start of the race, seemed fast). It was then back onto single track, and now I was running by flashlight. Through a couple of washes and up a short hill (the only stretch I hiked after the last aid station), and I finally heard the cheering from the finish line. Almost there! Then I caught a visual on it, and ran on in… Looked at my watch, and it said – wait for it! – 12:00.
My official time was 12:00:22, for a 20th place finish. I was immensely happy about it (but still thinking that maybe – just maybe – I could’ve shaved off 23 seconds somewhere), even if it was three and a half hours slower than Ford Smith’s extremely impressive winning time.
Two days later, I’m having a few thoughts on this race:
Race report written by Jeremy Pager, 2015 Aravaipa Running Ambassador.
I’ll start this post by being honest. There was pretty much nothing about Crown King Scramble that ever interested me. I had no desire to run uphill on jeep road for 31 miles.
That was until today. I’m not sure my preconceived notions about a race course have ever been so wrong.
Jamil and I spent the day driving the Crown King Scramble course so I could learn the layout and we could post signs reminding users of Aravaipa’s race on March 28th. My contribution to the outing was to exclaim “Unbelievable!” or “Stop! I need another picture!” at almost every turn. It was love at first sight.
The race begins at Lake Pleasant and winds its way through Sonoran Desert, climbing into higher desert landscapes with purple hues and expansive panoramas of the Bradshaw Mountains and the valley below. From there, the road climbs further into pinyon-juniper woodland and crosses multiple flowing creeks before entering the Ponderosa Pines on the final miles into the town of Crown King. There is almost no portion of this race that does not boast spectacular views; nor can one become bored with a singular backdrop as there are so many to choose from along the way.
It is fitting that the end of this historic race (celebrating its 24th running this year) is at the Crown King Saloon. The Saloon was built in 1888 in the, now, ghost town of Oro Belle before it was moved piece-by-piece in 1916 to its current location. On race weekend the town is transformed from tiny mountain community (inhabited by 133 residents according to the last census) to a festival of ultra-runners celebrating their achievement. From live music to ample amounts of food and beer the post-race festivities are not lacking at this event with numerous runners and their crew choosing to stay the night for the full experience.
Many runners have their own storied history with the race and their own personal obsessions. Aravaipa Racing Team member, Kristina Pham, is one example of someone who has made it her mission to challenge the course record; a record set in 2002 by none other than Ann Trason in a time of 4:34:13. Kristina is the only woman in the last decade to post a top-ten finishing time on the course! Aravaipa Running has decided to up the ante for this year’s women with an updated Course Record Bonus of $1,000!! That’s right ladies, a race that is going to pay more for your record than for the men’s. Not to worry, gentlemen there is still $250 in prize money for first place (same for women) and a $500 Course Record Bonus for besting Dermot McGonigle’s 1996 time of 4:00:27.
With less than 100 spaces still available the race is already set to be a fast and exciting year. Runners with an unrelenting passion for fun looking for an epic race with history, challenge, and breathtaking views should click here to start their journey.