**Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine 54K Race Report from Aravaipa Ambassador, Amber Fifield**
I am sitting on my couch, still sporting the slightly-stiff-muscles hobble indicative of a good tough running effort; in this instance that effort was Aravaipa’s Inaugural Flagstaff Big Pine 54K. The events of the race, and indeed, of the weekend, are still so fresh in my mind that I feel the need to put them to computer immediately. Even though I have other adventures still begging to be written, I feel this one must take precedence.
In the month after my Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim crossing, I took it very easy with my running, just doing a couple of easy miles here and there, letting my body recuperate. So going into this race, I was not as “trained” as I might like, but I knew I could finish the distance.
This running weekend actually began on Thursday, peak-bagging Four Peaks just outside the valley (which I will write about later). Then on Friday Matt and I headed north to Flagstaff (Flag). Neither of us had ever climbed Mount Humphrey’s, the highest peak in Arizona, so we decided to try to bag that, too, while we were in town. Do you see where this is going? Nearly two peaks in two days (we didn’t quite make Humphrey’s), and then a big race on the third day. Sounds like fun to me!
After our Humphrey’s adventures (which I will also write about later) we went to packet pick up and grabbed our bibs for race day. We then headed to the campgrounds at Fort Tuthill, just outside of Flag. We found our friends and talked and enjoyed ourselves until it was time to crash for the night.
My race began at 7:30 in the morning on Saturday. In order to get up as late as possible, I’d already packed my drop bag, and I slept in my running clothes. In the morning, my husband and kids surprised me by being at my race start! I hadn’t expected to see them until later on in the day. I lined up in the chute, along with my friend Kathi, for our race. The 108K racers had already taken off half an hour earlier, (there would also be a 27K and a 13K race starting after our 54K). Jamil (the race director) gave race instructions, the horn blew, and we were off!
The Race: Loop 1
As usual, I started out too fast, knew it was too fast, tried to slow down, but gave up, knowing eventually I’d end up slowing down. The race took place on an approximately 8.4 mile loop in the forest of Fort Tuthill, with an aid station about half way through on the back side of the loop. I rarely get to run in the trees anymore, so I immensely enjoyed this time in the big pines. The sounds of the birds were beautiful, and the smell of the pine needles under my feet was soothing. The wind whistled through the trees as I ran in and out of the sun splashes brightening the forest floor. The path we followed varied from forest service roads, to double track, to single track. Some sections were smooth and easy to run, while others were rocky and made great places to catch a toe and crash. Because I would have access to an aid station every four miles or so, I decided to run without my pack and instead run with just a handheld water bottle. This was the first long race I’d ever done that on, and it worked out really well.
The Race: Loop 2
I felt good when I finished my first loop, and headed out on my second. About 1.5 miles in, my toe caught and I crashed hard. My water bottle caught the brunt of my fall on my right hand, but I also landed hard on my left hand and both knees. To add insult to injury, a few people saw me fall, so my pride was injured. (On a side note, I don’t know why falling in sight of people hurts my pride, but showing the blood after a fall makes me feel badass.) Anyway, I immediately got back up and started hobbling. The pain was intense; I couldn’t use my left hand. I kept the tears at bay for a few steps, but then I couldn’t hold back any longer and I cried and felt sorry for myself for a few minutes. Once I was able, I started running, sort of, again.
That second loop was really hard for me. I wasn’t even half way done with my run and I was in pain with blood running down my leg and into my sock, and blood all over my hand and wrist. As I moved, I took stock. I was still able to run. Other than he obvious bruising and blood, I wasn’t injured, so I decided I didn’t have a good reason to quit. I had to keep moving and I was going to finish my race. Quitting just wasn’t an option if I could still move forward.
The Race: Loop 3
As I came into the start/finish aid station, Andy, my husband, was there cheering me on but when he saw me he said, “Hey! Your knee is leaking!” Thanks for that. I described what had happened as I snarfed down some food. Matt had finished his race (13K) by this time, and he let me know it had gone well. There were some black clouds building so I needed to get out on my next loop. I knew it was going to get colder, which was okay. Even at this higher elevation, it was warm enough on the course that I had stripped down as far as I could. I grabbed my tank on my way out for the third loop. On this loop I began feeling better. My pace wasn’t any better, but that was okay, I was now just in “get this done” mode. The monster storm rolled in and hit me about half way through this loop. It began with wind and huge thunderclaps, lightning, then rain. Then it began to hail. The temperature dropped significantly, and I was running through freezing hail balls in shorts and a tank top. I turned my trucker hat around front to keep the hail out of my face, and thought briefly of hypothermia, but I actually felt okay. I was generating enough heat from running that, while I was slightly chilled, I was relatively comfortable. I just knew I couldn’t stop running or I’d be in trouble. As I ran back into the start/finish aid station, Matt saw me and asked if I wanted my rain coat. I didn’t know, but said sure. He and Andy helped me switch into a dry tank and get the rain coat on. Andy grabbed my trash, Matt grabbed my food. I know between each of my loops they did so much more than I have mentioned here, they were an amazing crew. I was so completely in my one track mind of getting this race done that all I could think about was getting out of the aid station and onto my next loop. I’m afraid I can’t verbalize the full credit that is due.
The Race: Loop 4
Dry tank on plus rain jacket, I began my fourth loop. As I ran, I hopped around the mud puddles and thick soup that had collected from the deluge. The sun came back out, and I very quickly had to remove the rain jacket. I chugged along, figuring that slow and steady running was the fastest way to finish. Again I had just one thing on my mind, and that was to finish. I don’t have much to discuss about this loop other than that within the last couple of miles a second deluge began. This one didn’t have the hail, but it was directly over my head. The rain was very cold, and even though I had my rain jacket with me, I didn’t know how far back the other racers were and I didn’t want to waste any time to put it on. Somewhere in my last mile I began to inadvertently whimper. Then I was at the last turn towards people, then the campground, then the finish line was in sight. I heard people cheering me the whole way, and I ran as hard as I could across the finish line.
The finish is a blur. I was handed my finisher mug, and everyone came over. I started shaking from the cold. Kathi, (who finished the 54K as second place female- my friend is amazing!) completely understood and said that it was funny how during a race we can do whatever it takes, but as soon as we cross that finish line, everything immediately stops. It’s so true. My body was done.
I had a warm shower and dinner and felt a million times better. I had to say good-bye to Andy: he had to get back home, but I stayed to volunteer at the night race, the inaugural Blackout Night Run.
On an incredible side note, there was a unicorn sighting at the race! There was even the tell-tale rainbow poop of a unicorn found nearby. This is very exciting news!
I hung out with friends in the Beer Garden, cheering Kathi’s husband and son out on their race, the night 13K. I stayed up just long enough to see them both finish, and then I had to get to sleep so I could get up to volunteer at three in the morning. I slept well, had fun volunteering and chatting with people. I was there in time to see the last person on the course finish. He was finishing the night 54K, and I have to say, I give him props. I’m not sure I could run that long of a race at night. He did great. Afterwards I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, then packed up and headed home.
This was an incredible event and was everything that I love about Aravaipa events. The course was well marked and the food at the aid stations was excellent. As I have mentioned before, I love the running community here in Arizona. So many of my friends were at the race, some who were there to volunteer and cheer us on, others were there to run, and still others were with us in spirit, unable to make it up for the race, but thinking of us and hoping for good races on our parts just the same.
On a side note, I noticed during this visit to Flag that the elevation did not bother me like it has on other occasions. While climbing Humphrey’s I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. During the race the only thing that really stood out was once I got tired, running up the little hills took too much oxygen. Even that, however, wasn’t bad at all. This is very encouraging to me because in the past I have really struggled to run at elevation.
So did my almost double peak bagging have an effect on my race? Of course it did, but it was worth it. Both Four Peaks and Humphrey’s were amazing, but so was the race. Even with the dual peaks, I still finished Big Pine as 7th female and 20th overall. Probably more importantly however is that I feel great about my effort. I gave it my all and I had a blast!
Adrenaline Night Runs are over, the course de-marked, and the truck all packed up ready for the next adventure. However, the performances of last night are still playing over in my mind. At a wedding reception today, with a table of runners, the conversation quickly turned to Sion Lupowitz’s domination of the course and his progression as a runner. It was a performance of strength and beauty watching him power through all 54K with no one in his rear view. With the new shorter distance (from 64K to 54K) there was no mark besides the “W” on which to set his sights; yet, he left the bar high in his wake running 4:00:09 (7:09/mile). Daniel Crane followed in 4:21:30 and RWB’s Tommy Lunetta in 4:59:16. The women’s race was won by Jane Larkindale of Tuscon in 5:29:27 who was 3rd female at this year’s Zane Grey. Speaking of Zane Grey, of the 6 podium finishers in the 54K 4 could also be found crossing the finish at last month’s Zane. Megan Galope, one of those 4, was 2nd in 5:56:33 and Elizabeth Forestell was 3rd in 6:36:33.
The 27K also saw some blazing fast performances with Adam Danks racing to the win and new course record in 1:54:49 (6:50/mile). 2nd and 3rd place was contested by 37 seconds by constant podium finishers at Aravaipa events: Van Patterson of Tempe in 2:00:14 and David Santiago of Mesa in 2:00:51. The women’s race showcased the power of trail-camaraderie: winner Jaclyn Knoll and her faulty headlamp were guided to the finish by Jess Adams with the two of them finishing side-by-side in 2:22:37. Amy Rasor, who just 2 weeks ago won Ultra Adventure’s Grand Canyon 100, was 2nd in 2:29:04 and Emily Gerlick 3rd in 2:31:44.
In the 10K Phil Slama, who before the start claimed not to be “racing,” couldn’t contain his competitive nature and broke the old course record of 40:28 by running 39:47 (6:24/mile). Alec Fillmore was hot on his heels and also came in under the old record with a time of 39:56. Aravaipa Ambassador, Jeremy Pager, was 3rd in 41:36. Jeremy is having a great year with not only a prolific racing schedule but some consistent performances including top 20 in a stacked field at this year’s Black Canyon 100K – we look forward to watching him compete at next weekend’s San Diego 100! The women’s race was almost as close with 1:02 separating 1st from 3rd. Lora Jones won in a time of 50:43 improving on her 3rd place finish at Sinister Night Runs 9K earlier this month. Melanie Spitalny decided her 4th place finish at Adrenaline last year wasn’t good enough and knocked just under a minute off her time to take 2nd in 51:38. Melody Pickard was only seconds behind her in 3rd running 51:45. Congratulations to all the runners! Full results can be found here.
The heat was a concern earlier in the day with temperatures settling to 100° for the start of the 54K but the night turned out to be beautiful and a near-full moon just added to the ambiance. There were two runners hoping for additional heat with the 2 oldest participants in the 54K (James Ehasz, 62 and Karsten Solheim, 78) both registered and training for this year’s Badwater 135. The Team Red, White and Blue charity beer garden was rocking from about 7pm until Midnight with a measly 3 cans of beer making it back on the truck. It was great fun to have the owners of Huss Brewing out to show us how it’s done and a big thank you to them for co-sponsoring the festivities with Blasted Barley. We will be at Huss Brewing after our June 17th Wednesday night group run at South Mountain. Join us for the run and a cold beer after to help say thanks to Huss Brewing for their support! Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this event happen, many of whom volunteered from setup to breakdown and really helped make this event the party that it was!
Next up is a brand new adventure with Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine and Blackout Night Runs. We have so many fun options lined up for all the runners between a beautiful course, packet pickup Thursday at Wanderlust Brewing (including having them at the race selling beer for Team RWB), an opportunity to check out Run Flagstaff for Friday’s packet pickup, and of course the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course tempting you on each loop to test your limits not only on the ground but up in the trees. Online Registration is still open and will be closing at midnight on Tuesday June 9th (registration will also be available at packet pickups and on race day). Purchasing a discounted pass to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course with registration will also earn you a $10 gift card to Run Flagstaff! Can’t wait to see you there!
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!
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.
Heading over to Memorial Park on race morning of this year’s Silverton Alpine Marathon & 50K, I was hit with a few drops of rain. The skies were cloudy and dark in the pre-dawn hours leaving me wondering what the runners would be in for during the race. As darkness gave way to light as runners checked in and prepped for the day’s event, the skies looked ominous, but were holding out. Nineteen 50K runners took off at 7am for the short out and back on the last part of the course. The first runner, Dennis Pollow Jr. was back through the start/finish line in Memorial Park at 7:32 and was off to complete the marathon course.
Marathon runners took off at 8am, set to chase down the 50K runners who had all made it back through Memorial Park by the time they started. The course follows the Alpine Loop jeep trails in the San Juan backcountry through the old mining towns of Howardsville, Eureka, Animas Forks and Gladstone. En route, runners climb over the 12,960 foot California Pass at mile 16 and the 12,730 foot Hurricane Pass at mile 17. One of the unique parts of the race is the marathon & 50K times are typically about 1 hour apart, meaning it is truly a race to see whether a marathoner or 50Ker will finish first!
Runners were treated to aid stations spaced 4 miles apart on the course staffed by experienced and enthusiastic volunteers, runners themselves. Leah Fein from Durango who has previously won the 50K has staffed the Animas Forks aid station the past two years and even went for a run to the top of California Pass before her shift started! Dan Novak of Ouray has been helping at most of the Kendall Mountain Runs for the past 15 years and also the Silverton Alpine events for the past 4-5 years.
Heading down from Hurricane Pass, our lead marathon runner and now Silverton local Andy Wellman passed the lead 50K runner and went on to win in a time of 3:39:36, a great time on this tough course! He was followed up by Marco Zuniga of Durango who finished in 3:55:52. He recently placed high at the Pikes Peak Marathon and was contemplating whether or not to run almost up to race start. Our first female marathon runner was Keri Nelson of Gunnison who won in a time of 4:44:35. Keri holds the course record at the Kendall Mountain “K2″ Double. Elizabeth Davis was not too far behind, finishing second in 4:57:52.
There was no stopping Leila Degrave of Leadville who ran a very strong 50K to set a new course record in 5:04:23, placing second overall. She handily beat out the lead female marathon runners. There were a total of 19 finishers in the 50K, our ultimate finisher being Hurricane Carter of Crested Butte in 8:13:32. The marathon saw a total of 28 finishers and everyone enjoyed a great post run barbecue in Memorial Park. Thanks to Julie Danjou and Blaze Braford-Lefebvre for helping at the barbecue, Montanya for donating a free Coor’s beer to all finishers, Ken Webb of Quiet Bear Art for the race awards, Megan Kimmell for holding packet pickup at Mobius and Rodger Wrublik for the equipment used at the finish line and aid stations.
The clouds built up around the course most of the day, but it didn’t rain until the last 30 minutes of the race when we only had 2 runners left out on the course. Thank you to all of the runners and volunteers for making this summer’s Silverton Alpine Running events a fun recreational opportunity for the town. We’ll be back next year. Until then, Run Steep and Get High!
The Estrella Mountains stand as looming giants south of Phoenix, the rugged peaks jutting high in the sky. nestled below the majestic giants are the single track trails located in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, not as daunting but not to be underestimated. Like the rest of the night series, the temperatures were warm but manageable as the sun sunk in the sky. Runners who had participated in Sinister, Adrenaline, and Vertigo had an idea of what lay ahead. With options of 15k, 31k, and 62k, over 175 runners arrived planning to run between one and four loops.
The loop’s elevation profile.
The course rolls through the foothills of the Estrellas, climbing gradually for the first half and descending the second half, with a few extra hills thrown in for good measure. Total climbing for the loop is around 700 feet. The trail is rocky like the mountains it is born from, with both wide and narrow single track sections. The winding stretches on the back side make the course compact together, giving runners lots of opportunity to see each other on the loop.
The 62k field was filled with ultrarunning veterans, including Siniser, Adrenaline, and Vertigo ultra winner Cristian Rios alongside Adrenaline and Vertigo ultra winner Jenn Thompson. Lisa Raykowski returned after her victory at the Vertigo 31k, and Amy English was back after winning the short distance at the previous two Insomniac races. The ultra competitors lined up as the sun dipped low in the sky before sprinting off to catch their only trail miles in the light. The 31k runners followed as the last streams of sunlight escaped over the mountain silhouettes. Finally, the 15kers clicked on their headlamps with the last glint of the day faded as a muted glow. With the sound of the horn, all of the races were underway.
The 15k race begins.
The trails at Estrella are rocky like the mountains they’re born from, and tough like the runners that tackle them. The course is full of open expanses that allowed runners to see each other for miles, headlamps bobbing across a wide landscape.
Runners start as the day finishes.
The sky turned to black and the runners continued on their first loop. Cristian is first through the start area as usual, with a quick transition and several minute lead on the field. A few more men follow before Jenn comes through as the women’s leader. The rest of the 62k runners continue to come through as the time ticks on.
Lights stream in to the finish area.
The 31k runners hit the halfway point as they arrive at the main aid, Andrew Builder and Lisa Raykowski leading the men’s and women’s races. Spectators sit back and enjoy the new “Aravaipa Cafe”, lit with overhead light ropes and situated with bistro tables, cool refreshments, and even minty treats. They cheer on the runners coming through, venturing back into the darkness for more.
Refueling at the aid station with Fluid.
The first 15k runner to finish was David Fiesoli from Italy in a time of 1:09:42. On the female front and clocking her third consecutive win was Amy English in a time of 1:30:19. As more runners finish the atmosphere builds, runners enjoying the post-race refreshments of iced coffee, mac & cheese, and vegan quesadillas. Cristian comes in from his second loop with an even bigger lead in the ultra, but is forced to stop as the result of injuries a week earlier when hit by a car while riding his bike. The lead is quickly picked up by Trent Peelle, veteran of the Javelina Jundred. Jenn holds strong to the women’s lead. Andrew Builder comes in to claim the 31k crown in 2:54:24.
Flying Miller Kick!
Everyone is having a good time out on the race course, especially Michael Miller with his gravity-defying finisher leap to 3rd. Shortly Lisa Raykowski comes in to win the women’s 31k in a time of 3:14:44.
Lisa Raykowski takes the 31k title.
Mark Cosmas and Jay Danek have a photo finish.
More and more runners finished as the clock flipped past midnight. Runners having a great time and cheering each other on.
The girls come in together!
After Trent called his race at 3 loops, the men’s lead was taken by Paul Bonnett, who kept his lead the final loop to win in a time of 6:47:46. The indefatigable Jenn Thompson three-peated for a winning women’s time of 7:46:39. Her boys volunteered throughout the race, and jumped to greet her at every lap.
Iced coffee bar at the finish line.
At the end of the night, John Vanderpot rounded out the 8 finishers of the 62k, taking the remainders of the iced coffee with him to make the long drive home to California.
All had a great time at Hypnosis and we look forward to next year.
The final race in the Insomniac series is the Javelina Jangover on September 21-22, featuring distances of 7k, 25k, 50k, 75k, and 100k. Come out for a full-moon night run!
Recognition goes out to our sponsors for the race: iRun for their continued support of the trail running community, Nathan providing gear and 20% off products to the race, Fluid for providing the sports drink, Black Diamond for providing discounted headlamps to runners, and Activate for handing out samples.
I’ll start by saying there were two things I failed to execute on this run… I needed two water bottles (only had one) and needed to fuel at a higher level, in spite of a good finish.
All week the monsoon effects were drying out and temps were looking favorable for better conditions than Vertigo two weeks prior. Check; great. This holds up to be true. The start temp is lower and the air is drier. Compared to Vertigo, a 6.5 mile loop, this is 9.5ish. Each had an aid station midpoint or so. Check; great. I’ve run the course before with Xterra, and while this is backwords of Xterra, this is still a plus. Check; great. Since fall 2012 I’ve been running in Saucony Xodus 3.0 trail shoes; a 4mm drop, the shoes felt great from the start, even though I previously had been wearing Brooks Cascadia’s. Current pair has 200+ miles on it, so I inspect the shoes and while a few lugs are missing on the Vibram sole (have learned this sole is not ideal in wet conditions), good to go. Check; great! First Endurance EFS electrolyte mixed in bottle… good to go! J
Beautiful desert evening, dry compared to previous weeks, and a meteor shower on tap to boot. I arrive at Aravaipa City 6:45PM; get badge, find some shade. Legs feel good, no stomach knots, just a desire to put in a long run. Following the 7pm ultra start, we line up and get the go signal at 7:30pm.
The first 4 miles were wide track, fairly smooth, some sandy sections, with a gradual uphill climb to highest elevation on loop. Carried a modest pace, and time went by quickly listening to Jay Danek chat with Paulette Zilmer. True to form, Jay flies downhill… tonight was no different, as my headlight filled brightly with his dust. Trail became more technical at this point, with some gnarly ankle twisters waiting to ruin your night… found that downhill I had to adjust light more down on trail for these rocks, only to lift at the subsequent uphill (glad I put new batteries in before race). Into the aid station we went, greeted by wonderful volunteers yet again. Refilled the bottle, scooped up some potato, and off to finish lap 1.
Trail had a lot of U-turns and S turns (with them gnarly rocks in wait) that makes one feel like you are going more backwards than forward. A very sandy descent down into the wash, a short ascent back up across a service road, and more S-turns leading to final loop switchback. It was great during the climb to look back into the valley and see the march of headlights; at this point the ¼ moon was nearly gone on the western horizon. After cresting the climb, one can see the Start/Finish line with all the lights aglow, but careful. The initial downhill had some rocks in strange places, so attention is required. Once off the steepest part, the runner is free to fly to the finish.
Lap 2 was a repeat, and par for the course, all the hills seemed longer and taller. I came up to Pat Devine, his first race adventure, first distance past 14 miles, first night run, and we chatted into the aid station. I didn’t stay long at the aid station, and headed off to finish the course.
Overall, I like this course. I ran my 20oz bottle dry prior to final ascent, and finished dehydrated. Elevated temps and I just don’t agree, so I’ll either carry two bottles next time (and fuel better) or run the shorter version. Undecided!
NOTES / THOUGHTS on HYDRATION and FUELING
This is the 4th night race I have done, starting with the Javelina 25k last fall. The desert dry heat and winds can play on your mental state and lead one into a false sense of hydration; one would think that I know this at 49, but I still make bad choices. Mrs Coury summed it up best after a visit to the first aid tent at Cave Creek Thriller in 2012, saying ‘it’s not just how you hydrate during the race, but how you prepare your hydration 24-48 hours before the event. I like my coffee, but this means day before and day of race, no coffee. She mentioned that on the day before, drink some electrolyte. I’ve learned to watch the fiber in the diet; too much means a visit to the PJ more times than necessary. And for me, no yard work day before; it takes too much out of my hydration effort.
Friday I ran 5 street miles with 3 miles 12x repeat fartlek (200m at 10k pace with 200m jog) to keep legs loose for race day. It was nice out Friday morning, and I always drink a 16oz glass of orange juice before early runs. However, I did have a cup of coffee, and with temps being cooler (so it seemed) I failed to drink any electrolyte. Saturday morning I decided to trim a few bushes that were annoying me… I had light sweat, but came in and drank 12oz liquid after 15 minutes exposure. No big deal, right? Tried to take early afternoon nap; nothing doin’. Just can’t sleep. At 4pm, I eat a large baked potato, and have a glass of electrolyte. This time is was 12oz with Nuun active hydration, while during the race, my first water bottle is always filled with First Endurance EFS electrolyte; this has worked well for me to keep legs from cramping (not a pleasant experience).
I believe I started the race rested, fueled and well hydrated. I sipped on the bottle every mile, and made sure it was empty at every aid station. Given the demise at the finish, two water bottles (one with water, one with electrolyte) would have worked much better.
As for fueling, I did eat at the aid stations; mostly diced boiled potato, but also chips and pretzels. I had a liquid shot with me, but chose not to use it; bad choice. I had some other goodies in the pack as well, but as they were on the backside, chose not to swing the belt around and get them out; another bad choice. So I am now going to be looking for belt that will hold 2 large bottles in back, with snack pouch in front. I just don’t like carrying the bottles… but I know this is another option.
Live, learn, move forward! Happy trails to all. J
I had two completely different experiences between running the Adrenaline middle distance race and the Vertigo shorter distance 10K race. At Adrenaline, I felt great through the first 8 miles, not so great at miles 10-12, and then ended up jog walking miles 12 through 16 due to stomach cramps, dizziness, and exhaustion. The only thing that worked for me was consuming ice cold water. After I finished, drank a ton, and drove home I felt so much better. I realized that I must have had mild heat exhaustion. I had focused on eating a lot prior to the race and didn’t drink enough before the race and during the race. I also did little to cool my core temperature during the race.
For Vertigo, I decided to run the 10K at the last minute. We had driven back from San Diego that day and had already run a 26 mile training run during the week. However, my 15 year old high school cross country runner son Jonathan wanted to run the 10K so I signed up with him. We both hydrated a lot during the afternoon and before the race. We followed Nick Coury’s advice from the Scottsdale Beat the Heat race and pretty much stayed inside our air conditioned car except to watch both earlier races start and to register. We quickly stretched and kept drinking. We both soaked bandanas and tied them around our necks. My son decided to run shirtless since that is how he normally trains. I decided to completely soak my shirt in cold water prior to the start of the race. I also completely soaked my head in cold water. We both took one handheld bottle with us to the start as well as our lighting source.
My plan for the race was to take it easy and not over heat. I definitely did not want to end up dizzy and jog walking this race, even though it was only a 10K. As the race started, my son quickly moved to the front and I plodded along. Many younger runners passed me in the first half mile. As the trail started to climb, my legs began to loosen up and I pretty much kept my pace. I passed quite a few runners until about 1.5 miles when I didn’t see any more 10K runners until right before the finish. I realized I must be somewhere between the lead runners and the rest of the pack but I had no idea how many runners were ahead of me. I greatly enjoyed running the course through the still of the night and occasionally passed a few runners who were in the longer races. The only person who passed me at about two miles was Jamil Coury who was absolutely flying down the trail with his camera and bright light!
As I approached the aid station, I felt great but was starting to get a little hot. I dumped my remaining water from my handheld on my head, resoaked my bandana, filled up on fluid and ice, thanked the volunteers and ran off down the trail. The miles were clicking off slightly faster after the aid station as the course seemed to be more downhill and I knew I was unlikely to overheat before the finish. I passed one 10K runner with around a quarter mile to go. I almost caught the 4th place finisher but he saw me coming and then left me in the dust. I crossed the finish line and had no idea where my son was or what place I was in. I was told I finished 5th which was hard for me to believe. I finally found my son (turns out he had gone to throw up in the desert) and he told me he finished first! We cooled off, ate some food, watched some more runners finish, and he collected his awesome plaque and loot. We then headed for home as he was not looking too well.
Our first eating place after leaving the park was a Burger King. Jonathan quickly went to use the bathroom and was looking pretty pale. I felt great and grabbed a shake and a burger. As we made the drive home, I was feeling awesome but Jonathan was curled up in a fetal position and felt like he had a fever. When we got home, he looked absolutely terrible! After we got him inside the house, we covered him in cool towels and gave him some more liquids until he eventually felt better and then he went off to bed. He woke up fine the next day although I did check on him a couple of times before I went off to sleep.
I definitely learned that keeping the body’s core temp cooler by soaking and resoaking clothing and by going out slowly was a key to me not overheating. For Jonathan, that was his first 10K race. In fact, the longest he had ever raced was the typical 5K cross country races and never in a race this hot. He definitely had enough to drink and even felt like he had too much fluid in his stomach during the race. But running shirtless and not cooling during the race may have resulted in him having heat exhaustion after the race. But who knows, as there were plenty of other fast runners that night who were running shirtless and didn’t get into trouble. I plan on using the same cooling techniques for the middle distance upcoming Hypnosis run and am looking forward to another great Aravaipa Running event!
The sun sets as the races begin.
Storms brewed in the afternoon to the East of White Tank Mountain Regional Park. But as runners begin to arrive the weather dissipates, leaving a light breeze and cooler than expected temperatures to run in. After the mild-mannered Sinister and the constantly rolling Adrenaline, the course at Vertigo promises a good mix of flat and smooth trails coupled with a short but steep climb and rugged descent halfway around the 10k+ loop. Runners choose between the 10k, 31k, or 63k races run through the starry night.
The Surprise Running Club made a strong showing.
The pre-race atmosphere is electric, with a village of runners, crew, and volunteers assembling among the Aravaipa Running and sponsor tents. The 63k begins with an hour of daylight left, allowing a quick but hot beginning to the race. Winner of the previous two Insomniac ultras, Cristian Rios is the clear favorite with a few more experienced ultrarunners coming close behind. The Women’s race is a battle between Adrenaline winner Jenn Thompson and Holly Miller, doing the race as a birthday run.
The start of the 63k.
After some raffle prizes courtesy of Nathan (who also provided gear to our winners), the ultrarunners in the group take off. Runners continue to arrive, many picking up their bibs and many more registering on-site. The Aravaipa Running Shop is active and selling apparel including our new trucker hats, each one hand-decorated with inspiration from the sonoran desert. Runners are checking batteries, filling bottles, and watching the clock count down the minutes until their race begins. Soon, the 31k assembles and takes off into the setting sun.
63k runner Andrew Heard comes through his first loop.
Before the 10k can begin, the leaders of the 63k begin streaming through. Michael Farris is on the mic shouting words of encouragement to the runners as they come by, as well as the ones about to embark. The last runners line up under the last rays of sunlight, and are off!
10k runners toe the line.
As the darkness engulfs the race, runners continue to stream through lap after lap. The 63k and 31k show themselves as competitive races, the leaders of each division coming in within minutes or seconds of each other. Many more runners appear in the distance as bouncing balls of light, growing until their smiling face are visible by the glow of the finish line. Crews fill the area, cheering and clapping as each new body arrives.
Jenn Thompson and Holly Miller arrive neck and neck in the 63k.
Some mid-race encouragement!
Soon, our 10k champions arrive with Jonathan Palmer winning in 51:59 and Amy English following in 53:49. Thomas Riggs finishes second for the men and Miguel Moreno takes third, while Eve Renneback and Ash Montoya secure second and third for the women. The 31k leaders come through 3 minutes apart for the men, and only 4 seconds apart for the women. Cristian Rios and Jenn Thompson are opening gaps in the long run by their 3rd loop, but other runners are hungry to catch them.
Our 10k winners!
Meanwhile, many more runners are finishing end enjoying the post-race refreshments. The mason jar finisher awards make the perfect cup for a refreshing cup of iced coffee, and runners snack on lots of fresh fruit and vegan Daiya quesadillas. Dan Springborn pulls away in the 31k to win in 2:42:13, and Lisa Raykowski wins for the women in 3:04:24. Ryan Warren and Paul Bonnett round out the men’s podium, and Margaret Smith and Michelle Sager place for the women. The races continue on, with upbeat music meaning crews and finishers alike are partying all night long.
Bust a move Miguel!
We pass midnight and the run starts to thin out. Finishers head home for some well deserved sleep, while others continue to circle the competitive loop. Cristian is slowing drastically, with his lap splits of 0:46, 0:52, 0:58, 1:06, and now 1:22 makes us wonder if his 4 minute lead is enough for the final loop. We notice his splits would have won both the 10k and 31k, but can he take the 63k over the fast-approaching Sion? Jenn on the other hand is looking strong in the women’s race, powering through her 5th lap after a nasty fall earlier in the race.
The moon shines brightly in a cloudy sky.
Finally Cristian comes in, securing his third Insomniac victory with a dominant 1:01 final lap. Good thing, he needs some sleep to get to work at 5 AM! Sion falls back due to cramping before being caught by Andrew Heard. They come racing around the final stretch, Sion taking the silver by only two seconds. Jenn follows shortly as the women’s winner, taking her second Insomniac victory in a row. Holly Miller takes second for a satisfying birthday run, and Vanessa Jones takes third. By the 5 AM cutoff, 14 runners finish the 6 loop ultra course.
Cristian Rios gets his award and Nathan Minimist pack.
A big shout out to all of the sponsors who have helped enhance the experience at Vertigo: iRun, Black Diamond, Nathan, Fluid, and Activate. Results are now available for the 63k, 31k, and 10k. Pictures from the event are available in our Aravaipa Photo Gallery. Please share your own race report with us here.
The next race in the Insomniac series is Hypnosis on August 10, featuring distances of 15k, 31k, and 62k. I hope you will join us for an all-night party!
Over 150 runners lined up on Saturday for the 36th Annual Kendall Mountain Run and 4th Annual “K2″ Double. Both races start at 12th Street and Greene and follow the Kendall Mountain Road 6 miles up to within 250 vertical feet of the 13,066 foot summit of Kendall. Runners then scramble up a steep trail to tag the summit marker before flying back down to town the way they came up. K2 Doublers make the ascent to the top twice for a little more than 24 miles.
The race was first held in 1978, started by running enthusiast Bill Corwin who modeled the race after a famous bar bet made back in 1908 which sent runners climbing straight up the front face of the mountain and hurling themselves down the avalanche chute facing town. That first runner made it to the top and back to town in 1:31:42. Rick Trujillo, a legendary Colorado mountain runner won the first edition of the modern day race in 1:40:01 and the current record is held by Sheldon Larson who ran a 1:35:07 in 1985.
After experiencing a deluge of rain during packet pickup at Smedley’s on Friday afternoon and a thick fog in town on Saturday morning, the skies cleared out and runners were treated to a perfect day on the mountain. Clear blue skies in the morning and several clouds rolling in by early afternoon, but we didn’t receive a drop of rain all day.
The first runner to the top was Daniel Kraft, 24 from Telluride who summited in 1:05, 11 minutes ahead of the second place runner. Daniel flew down the mountain for a first place finish in 1:44:54. Daniel won the Imogene Pass run this past year as well as placing 4th at the highly competitive Chuckanut 50K. Second place went to Logan Ott of Los Alamos in 1:54:28 and third was Drew Stimson of Colorado Springs in 2:07:38.
The women’s race was won by 23 year old Margaret Harkins of Telluride in a time of 2:16:13 with Becca Tudor also of Telluride finishing second in 2:19:38. Sarah Slaughter of Durango rounded out the top 3 in 2:26:06.
For those runners looking for a bit more of a challenge, the K2 Double is quite the mountain running feat. Runners ascend Kendall twice for close to 7,500 feet of climbing and the same amount of knee crunching descent over 24 miles of jeep roads and trail scrambling. Erik Skaggs, a recent Durango transplant who has won the Kendall Mountain Run before was the winner and new course record holder for K2 finishing in 4:09:26. In the women’s race, Jenn Shelton conquered the mountain twice in a time of 4:57:04 for the win finishing 3rd overall.
Runners were treated to a barbecue in Memorial Park post race featuring hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers on a beautiful Silverton day. All finishers received a commemorative glass pint glass and a wood token for a free Coor’s beer at Montanya’s! We hope to see you out for the 37th Annual Kendall Mountain Run and K2 Double next year on July 19, 2014. The next running race in the Silverton Alpine Running Series is the Silverton Alpine Marathon & 50K on August 24, 2013. Check out SilvertonAlpineRunning.com or call 602-361-7440 for more details!