I was exhausted, tired and dammit my feet hurt. I was trudging through dry grasslands not sure of why I had even decided this was a good idea. I was in the foothills of the mighty Santa Rita Mountains South of Tucson, walking along the Arizona Trail bound for Kentucky Camp, under the shadow of Mount Wrightson and just a couple small towns and a few dozen miles from the Mexico border. I had put myself through an ordeal and at the end of the day had absolutely nothing to show for it except a stinging, biting DNF. No, this was not the 2013 Old Pueblo Endurance Run, I am rewinding back to April 2011 when I thought it would be a great idea to enter myself in the solo “foot” division of the Arizona Trail 300 – an endurance mountain biking event held annually on a 300 mile stretch of the Arizona Trail from Parker Canyon Lake to Superior. I thought if I had a light enough pack and slept only a few hours here and there, I could make the trek in just over three days, maybe even beat some of the bikes. Instead, I had traveled 65 miles in about 20 hours including 4 hours of sleep shivering on the side of a frozen dirt jeep trail with only a thin space blanket between me and the elements. There was a nasty 12 mile road walk between Patagonia and Sonoita and I was not having fun. I didn’t have the drive or desire to continue and called home for a ride at Kentucky Camp, the site of my AZT300 drop. This was all in stark contrast to my first time at the Old Pueblo 50 Mile which turned into a redemption run for me this time around.
Driving South out of Phoenix is quite different than driving North. The highways North of Phoenix weave up into the mountains, lending immediately to higher RPM’s and higher elevations. The highway routes were blasted out of the mountains, sometimes clinging to cliffs, bridges spanning over canyons and leading towards the pines. Not so heading South. The road to Tucson is flat, straight, maybe some say boring in comparison. I zone out as I leave the large metropolis of Phoenix behind, but soon find my mind wandering towards the wide open landscape. Although I’m not driving through the mountains, my sight is upon them. I look to the right and see the dominating, rugged and jagged knife edged ridge of the Sierra Estrellas rising several thousand feet out of the Gila River valley. Memories take me back to an ill-fated attempt at a traverse. To the left are the San Tan Mountains, the site of our San Tan Scramble race and some great memories. A while later I look left towards Pinal County and the Superstitions. I am surprised as I cross the Gila River and approach Casa Grande that I catch the glimpse of snow capped peaks to the SouthEast. I can already see Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalinas. After a bend in the highway, stark Picacho Peak comes into sight in the distance, memories of my younger scouting days ebb and flow through my mind. The ropes and chains to the top of the peak are a lot of fun. Soon enough I am in Tucson and I make my way over to the packet pickup and straight on through to the small town of Patagonia about 20 minutes from the race start.
I ran in to Lisa Ann Kravetz and Susan Kramer at packet pickup and they offered to let me crash in their hotel room in Patagonia (I chose to join them in lieu of camping in my truck at the start). I joined them at dinner at the Velvet Elvis pizza place and I drank a couple of Breckenridge Vanilla Porters before heading off to bed.
I awoke the next morning after a good nights rest and drank a bottle of Vitargo and a little coffee before heading over to the starting line. We had to pick up our race bibs there at the start, so I pinned mine on and lined up shirtless at the frigid start line (there was still snow on parts of the course!).
We took off in the pre-dawn darkness and I immediately let a front pack of about 10 run away ahead of me as I settled into a comfortable rhythm. I was excited to be running this race for the first time and I wanted to run smart and have fun. I chatted with Chase Duarte who I believe was also running his first Old Pueblo – hard to believe considering he lives in Tucson. I ended up running with Oracle resident Nate Polaske back and forth for about the first 17 miles as I let the front pack of Todd Braje, Michael Carson, Korey Konga and others duke it out, hoping to pick up some of the carnage later in the day. The course was a mix of dirt roads, single track trail (Arizona Trail) and sandy washes for the first 13 or so miles and mostly downhill. It was easy to keep things rolling and Nate asked more than once if I thought the pace was too quick. I commented I wasn’t breathing hard, so it should be fine. It was cool out so I drank my first sip of water around mile 13 and took until 19 to polish off that first bottle. Thanks to a hearty meal the afternoon before, I also only ate a couple gels the first 20 miles.
I was surprised by the climb and subsequent giant downhill around mile 17 and savored the awesome views looking North towards Tucson. I was feeling good and it was a great day to be running in the Santa Rita Mountains. The scenery is high desert grasslands and very unique. It has a very old west cattle ranching kind of feel to it and I was digging it. Mount Wrightson (high point of the rage) was even snow capped to boot.
I caught back up to lead female Polly Campbell and a couple other runners as we made our way through the mile 25 aid station in something like 3:25 elapsed into the race and worked together up one of the biggest climbs on the course. While the other 3 ran every step of the climb, I mixed in a fair amount of walking whenever I felt like I was redlining. It almost felt like I was just screwing around, taking walking breaks haphazardly. Whenever I ran again however, I quickly caught the pack. Coming into the mile 29 aid, just before re-entering the Arizona Trail section our pack caught up to Korey Konga and another runner. Several of us were still together at mile 33 where Korey finally sat down for a break (he had a sloshy stomach) and Polly took off ahead.
I at some potatoes and salt and gave chase. I finally caught up to her on a technical section of trail, not one of her strengths. I passed her and soon was winding through a wash. I caught a glimpse of Michael Carson up ahead who was in 2nd place at the time and thought to myself, “Crap how am I catching him, he shouldn’t be here!”. He was having a rough day with nutrition and said he started to quick. It was nice to have familiar company (we’ve paced each other at several hundred milers) and we joked about trying to stay ahead of the surging Polly.
We passed some guys shooting guns and on a steep climb that we were content to walk up, we yelled back and encouraged Polly who was just crushing up that thing at a full running gait. Coming into mile 40 aid, it was all 3 of us together and I saw this as an opportunity to make a move. I slammed a Red Bull, ate a handful of potatoes dipped in salt and took off fast. This next section was a gradual uphill on a dirt road that meandered back and forth through the forest. Energy drinks in ultras are glorious! I wanted to get out of sight of them around a bend so they didn’t know where I was at. I succeeded and soon felt the hot Arizona sun beating down. Fortunately, there were some snow banks on the side of the road and I repeatedly grabbed some and placed it on my neck.
The next section became surprisingly technical and there were abundant stream crossings. I at some point didn’t really see any footprints on the dirt road and wondered if I was still going the right way. I consulted my map I had folded in my pocket and I was still good. I came into the final aid at mile 46, ate some blueberries and potatoes and just happened to ask as I was leaving how far ahead the leader was. They replied that I was in fact the first through! Turns out the leader Todd Braje had gotten very lost somewhere past mile 40. This got me pumped and I took off for the finish at Kentucky Camp.
The final couple miles were hot and I just keep dumping water over my head and looking over my shoulder. The worst part about this race is you can see the finish line from about 2 miles out, but then have to keep running AWAY from the finish before dropping into a series of canyons to bring you back up there. I was looking over my shoulder the whole way until I got sight of the end and cruised in for a 7:42 victory. Michael Carson was just a few minutes back and Nate who I ran with early on ran a smart race for 3rd. The amazing Polly Campbell crushed the women’s course record to finish in a time of 7:55 and 4th place overall.
I went into this race with little expectations, ran my own race and disregarded much of the advice one might follow in a typical race: I didn’t take salt caps, didn’t wear a watch, no shirt at the freezing start line, drank very little, had a carefree attitude about the whole thing and went in on minimal training. Sometimes experience and a little scrappy running pay off! I was quite pleased and honored to come away with first place in this historic AZ ultra.
The Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run spans the length of the historic Highline trail beneath the Mogollon Rim, an escarpment on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The entire Mogollon Rim stretches for over 200 miles across Arizona, but our little run along the highline trail spans a mere 51. While dense Ponderosa Pine forests cover much of the land above and beneath the rim (pretty much as far as the eye can see), the 1990 Dude Fire burned over 28,480 acres of land beneath the rim (affecting many miles of the highline trail between Washington Park and See Canyon), destroyed 63 homes and claimed the lives of 6 firefighters. This fact is important to the toughness of the race as the trail is now exposed to the beating sun, dead-fall and major erosion.
I’ve been camping beneath the Mogollon Rim since I was a kid, attending scout summer camp at Geronimo, backpacking into Horton Creek and even a couple of winter time “snow” camps at Geronimo. I hiked several of the trails leading out of Geronimo to earn patch segments, went horseback riding along parts of the Highline and even drew water from Horton Springs. But my first encounter with the legendary course and ultra that is Zane Grey came in 2007. I was coming off my first “100 miler” which I completed at the ’06-’07 Across The Years 24 hour race and suffered from an intense case of Iliotibial Band Syndrome that plagued me from January, through my trip down to the Copper Canyons in March all the way up until Zane. That year the race was run “in reverse” so we started at the 260 Trailhead and I suffered my way through an intense 12:50 finish at the Pine Trailhead.
I would have run in 2008, but I was in the midst of an 800 mile long hike the length of the Arizona Trail. I actually made it to the Highline Trail section of the AZT just days after the race and remember seeing all of the footprints from the race still fresh in the dirt. I returned in 2009 with a few more miles under my feet as well as some extensive course knowledge (I spent 4-5 days doing trail work on all parts of the course leading up to the race that year) and ran easy for the first 30 miles before taking the lead and cruising on to my first ultra victory in 9:34. This of course filled my head with all sorts of grand visions of success going into the 2010 race. I took off fast from the start and imploded by the time I hit the Fish Hatchery at mile 33, limping in for an 11:49 finish (2 hours 15 minutes slower than the previous year). I then decided I needed a break from the race, from the pounding rocks and beating sun. I continued to do trail work in 2011 and 2012, cutting away all the fallen trees between Geronimo and Washington Park, but on race day I instead manned the Washington Park aid station with Aravaipa Running.
I knew I had to return in 2013 as the trails were calling my name, especially after my 2012 victory at the inaugural Mogollon Monster 106. My training since MM106 had been less than ideal. I limped along through October and November, running through a lot of pain and took off almost 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and early January completely from running. I raced a 50K in Central America in February, Old Pueblo in March and Crown King in April, but my mileage has been quite low (30-50 mpw) compared to last year(100+ mpw). I went in with a casual attitude and a determination to run a smart race.
I camped out at the Pine Trailhead the night before the race, which was a surprisingly popular spot this year. I pitched my tent a few feet from the start line and rolled out of bed at 4:30am just in time to hit the restrooms, check-in (after they started calling my name), stuff about 10 gels into my shorts and eat a few bites of cold mashed potatoes from the previous nights dinner. I walked up to the start line with less than a minute to race start sporting my most ridiculous race day outfit to date – a circa 1999 Scott Jurek style cut-up belly shirt (I chose my bright yellow Mogollon Monster shirt), devil monkey board shorts and bright pink knee socks. Not sure how I’ve evolved to this point, but there I was….
As Joe counted down from 10, I stepped right up to the start line and shot out into the lead for abut the first 50 yards before letting Dominic Grossman take over in the early morning darkness. I quickly felt my heart rate shoot up, my breathing become labored, so I just eased off the pace and let what seemed like 20 guys and gals pass me. I knew the first few miles don’t matter all that much and I focused on keeping my breathing under control, thinking about all of the tough, hot miles ahead. I was just ahead of James Bonnett for the first short climb, but as I continued to hike as we neared the top, he passed by and I was by myself. I just jogged along as I took a few glances over to the right to catch a view of the early morning glow hit the ponderosa pine forest below. I passed two more runners along the section of trail to the first aid station at Geronimo, but was mostly just alone. I ate 3 gels along this section and drank about a half bottle of water.
Coming into aid stations is always a huge mental boost for me. I tend to go into a tunnel vision, focusing on getting exactly what I need and getting through as quick as possible. I had my bottle topped off and was off to make the climb out of Geronimo, still running alone. Just 5 days prior, I had been running along the same stretch of trail lugging my chainsaw to clear any downed trees. It was much nicer to be running with just a couple of bottles of water on race day! The Highline Trail through this segment has been receiving some extra attention over the past year and several sections of the trail have been rerouted past some bad erosion. The new trails were nice and smooth, but seemed to meander more than the old “direct” route. I passed David Metzler and Anthony Culpepper through here and caught up to Van Patterson as I was entering Washington Park.
I exchanged bottles with Sabrina here and finally took off my “belly shirt”, not breaking stride. I was pumped, feeling great from taking the early miles so easy and sprinted towards the creek crossing, noticing that I had passed Michael Carson and Kerrie Bruxvoort at the aid station. Michael yelled ahead to me, and honestly it would have been nice to run with him, but I was in the zone at this point. I kept a solid pace of running and speed hiking the uphills as I made my way towards Hell’s Gate. This section had been in the dark for me at the Monster in September and super overgrown with thigh high grasses so it was nice to see it in the day. I continued to drink well and I was eating gels or chomps about every 20 minutes. I started to feel the heat through this part as it becomes more and more exposed. About a mile out from Hell’s Gate aid I passed by Jason Leman and Dominic Grossman (who was having some knee troubles).
I still felt good, chugged an entire bottle of water, filled up both of my 24 ounce bottles I was carrying, grabbed one potato chip and headed up the short but steep climb out of the aid. I glanced back and saw Jason Leman coming into the aid before I crested the top, but that would be the last time I would see him. I suspected I was now likely in 5th place behind Chris Price, Mike Foote, Scott Jaime and James Bonnett. I had a pre-race goal of top 3 and sub 9 hours and was feeling like I might be able to pick off a couple more runners before Fish Hatchery.
Those next miles between Hell’s Gate and Fish Hatchery are always a blur to me… it is hot, rocky and nothing really changes all that much to me. I just focused on running as much as I could, hike as efficient as possible when my effort level rose, drinking water and eating gels. My knee was beginning to give me some trouble here, but never got too bad. I approached one of the radio checkpoints 2 miles out from Fish Hatchery and one gentleman asked me if I had seen bib number 8. I told him I hadn’t passed anyone and figured someone out of the top 4 was lost… one down. I rolled into Fish Hatch soon enough, sucking the last few ounces of my water bottle dry and quickly ate 3 potatoes with salt and drank two big cups of GU Brew. Sabrina helped me with my one bottle waist pack, handed me two fresh water bottles and I was off to chase down the leaders. Joe informed me somewhat confusingly that I was now in 3rd place, but I wasn’t sure if he said Chris Price or Mike Foote had somehow dropped behind me.
I ran strong through the next section and the miles flew by quickly, especially after hitting a Red Bull Energy Shot. I crossed Horton Creek with news that #9 was 10 minutes ahead and #6 was up by 20. This gave me a boost now that I had a confirmation that I was in 3rd and some solid numbers to go by. A couple miles later another radio operator let me know that I was now only 4 minutes back of the next runner. I surged ahead at this point, hoping that I was also closing in on the lead runner. I didn’t wear a watch in the race, so I had no way to gauge how I was doing split wise between sections. About a mile before the See Canyon aid station at mile 44 I saw Mike Foote ahead and after a while passed him up. He wasn’t looking all that good and said he was just kind of out of it. I hit the final descent into See Canyon and bombed down to the aid station, switching bottles for the last time and took off without even grabbing a bite to eat (like I had planned). I called out “How far behind am I?” as I was leaving and received the devastating news of “21 minutes”. I hadn’t gained at all and with only about 6 miles to go, it was almost hopeless…
I still continued to run strong for the next 2 miles, wanting to be done more than anything at this point. I had forgotten about Mike since he was looking so bad when I passed him and figured 2nd would be a wrap at this point. I had quit eating gels before the last aid and thought maybe I could just go off adrenaline. Well that plan fell apart when all of a sudden Mike shows up and surges past me. Crap. I quickly slurp down 3 more gels and feel a noticeable boost. I run as well as I can, but my knee continues to bother me and only worsens… I finally see the 1 mile to go sign and before long turn the corner on the finish line to cross in 9:04:59, just 2 minutes behind Mike.
In the end, I came away with a 30 minute personal best on the course, and a 3rd place finish and I’m pretty damn happy about that. The post race finish line festivities were a lot of fun, with beer drinking, antics and some great finish line food. Not sure I will make a repeat appearance at next year’s Zane, but I will be back for my sub 9 in some year to come.
Fluid Sports Nutrition is partnering with Aravaipa Running to provide the liquid nutrition for the inaugural Insomniac Night Trail Running series. Fluid will supply Fluid Performance at the aid stations throughout the night series, along with samples to runners at the race. Fluid Performance Drink combines ingredients that work in unison together and provide more benefit than taking them individually. When consumed during exercise training and competition, Fluid Performance provides the stable energy, electrolytes, and taste you need to perform. Fluid Performance Drink is also easy to digest thanks to its gluten-free carbohydrates, it is dairy free, and contains no unnecessary ingredients.
Where to Purchase Fluid Sports Nutrition Products
Fluid Sports Nutrition is offered at Aravaipa Running’s partner store, iRun, located in Phoenix. Runners are encouraged to explore Fluid product each Thursday before the night series races at the packet pickup held at iRun from 4-7 PM. iRun stocks a full range of trail running shoes, gear, and nutrition that will make your training and racing enjoyable and successful. Owner and long-time Phoenix trail runner Mark Cosmas and his staff of knowledgeable runners are ready to help out!
The first race of the Insomniac Night Series is just a week away, with the Sinister 9K, 27K & 54K kicking things off May 4-5, 2013 at San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Registration is available online until Tuesday night, and will be available at packet pickup and race evening.
Black Diamond Equipment has stepped on board to sponsor the inaugural Insomniac Night Trail Running series. Black Diamond will be offering discounted pricing on two of their headlamp units that may be purchased with registration or on-site at each Insomniac events. Lighting is important for all types of night running whether it be on the streets around town or hitting the local trails. Not only is it critical to light your path while running to avoid rocks, curbs and other obstacles, being seen is something that shouldn’t be brushed off. Trail and road running safety at night is as much about being seen as being defensive and a good light will go a long ways towards being noticed.
Runners interested in purchasing a headlamp may choose from either the $12 Gizmo (MSRP $19.95) or $20 Cosmo (MSRP $29.95). Let’s take a look at these two lights:
Now with a slimmer, more powerful design, the Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp is a ready-for-anything light that’s useful in more places than you can imagine. From chores around camp to a mellow night hike, the Gizmo’s 3 SinglePower LEDs provide up to 35 lumens of brightness as well as dimming and strobe modes. The headlamp also automatically powers off after 2 hours to avoid accidental battery drain.
LED Type : 3 SinglePower
Lumens : 35
Max Distances : 15 m
Max Burn Time : 72 hours
Batteries : 2 AAA (included)
Weight With Batteries : 58 g, 2 oz
IPX Rating : 4
Featuring a sleek design and ample feature set, the 70-lumen Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp is equally at home cooking dinner at the campsite or rappelling off a multi-pitch route after the sun goes down. Standard distance and proximity modes, both dimmable, are complemented by a red night vision mode-extra handy when waking in the middle of the night-and all modes are accessible via one simple-to-use button. And with a housing built to withstand sprayed water from any angle, the Cosmo is ready to brave nearly any storm you may encounter on your adventure.
LED Type : 1 DoublePower, 2 SinglePower
Lumens : 70
Max Distances : 40 m (DoublePower LED)
25 m (SinglePower LEDs)
Max Burn Time : 150 H (DoublePower LED)
250 H (SinglePower LEDs)
Batteries : 3 AAA (included)
Weight With Batteries : 90 g (3.2 oz)
IPX Rating : 4
How To Take Advantage of The Offer
Register for any of the Insomniac Night Trail Runs this summer and select the option to purchase either headlamp. These lights will be available for pickup at each race! The first of the series is just around the corner, with the Sinister 9K, 27K & 54K kicking things off May 4-5, 2013 at San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Here are the ways to register:
April 8, 2013 (Phoenix, Arizona) – The 2013 resurrection of the Crown King Scramble did not disappoint in either fast times nor good times. With registration opening just 6 weeks prior to race day, a field of 147 runners signed up for the race from Lake Pleasant to Crown King up the old Crown King Trail 4×4 road. With a total of 6,750 feet of climbing along a point to point course from the Sonoran Desert to the ponderosa pines of the Prescott National Forest, this is a classic and tough ultra. The starting line was moved to the shores of Lake Pleasant, giving runners at the starting line a nice view of the Bradshaw Mountains they would be climbing to the top of all day.
The race would start at the top of a boat ramp overlooking the lake and begin with a 1.1 mile stretch of pavement through Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Trent Briney (2:12 marathoner and 2004 Olympic Marathon alternate) and Kalib Wilkinson (2:19 marathoner and McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K runner up) took to the lead, casually chatting away as they gapped the field in the first quarter mile. They were completely out of sight of a large second pack of runners by the time their feet hit the dirt just outside the park. Josh Trevino, another local favorite for the race ran conservatively in what would be his first ultra. Briney and Wilkinson ran together through halfway with Kalib pulling away from Trent up the big climb of the race beginning at Mile 15. Kalib reached the mile 27 Oro Belle aid station in 3:32 with a solid 13 minute lead over Trent, but struggled in the final 4 miles. He held off Trent and finished in a time of 4:10:40, the 4th fastest time in the history of the race. Trent held off a surging Eric Bohn by just 30 seconds, finishing 2nd in 4:16:26. Trent & Eric had the 5th and 6th fastest times in the history of the event!
In the women’s race, Pemberton 50K course record holder Kristina Pham ran strong early on, staying in the second pack of men for the first few miles. She was two minutes up on three time Crown King finisher Tracy Shank at the mile 27 aid station and went on to win the race in a time of 5:39:46. Tracy was just behind her, finishing 2nd in a time of 5:40:19. New to the trail & ultra running scene and in 3rd place was Mel Branta in a time of 5:49:47.
The race finish line was once again located at the Crown King Saloon where runners were greeted with mason jar beer mugs, “I Survived the Run” stickers, a BBQ lunch provided by the local café and plenty of opportunities to swap stories about the days adventure in the large outdoor seating picnic area next to the saloon.
The aid stations on the course were staffed by long time volunteers and past race directors of the Crown King Scramble. The mile 8 Cow Creek station warned that “runners are welcome, but bandits will be shot”, mile 15 was themed as a Hawaiian Luau, mile 19 Silver Mountain was put together by the local Bronco 4×4 club, mile 2d2 Fort Misery was reported to be serving margaritas and mile 27 Oro Belle won the best aid station award with their “best support aid station” featuring bra’s hanging from the bushes lining the course.
A total of 137 runners made it to the finish line in Crown King under the overall 10 hour cutoff. Thanks to GU Energy for the awesome nutrition support all along the course, Maricopa County Emergency Communications Group for the radio support, Phoenix Rescue for medical, Yavapai County sheriff’s department for sending a deputy out to monitor the race, all of the amazing volunteers and the town of Crown King for the amazing finish line setting. Hope to see you all next year for the next edition of the Crown King Scramble!
The road to the 2013 return of the Crown King Scramble was a long one. I ran my first ultra in 2005, the first year the Crown King Scramble wasn’t held since it’s inception in 1987. For some reason it was never on my radar to enter the race when it made its return in 2006 and 2007 under the direction of Gary Culver and the Arizona Road Racers, so I never toed the line. I did run the Castle Hot Springs “fun run” a couple times and even directed it one year, so I was familiar with the first 9 miles of the course. I remember having a conversation with Gary Culver in 2007 after he announced he was no longer interested in directing the race and the Arizona Road Racers were seeking a new race director. I took two full pages of hand written notes, but after hearing about the multiple complicated permits, course issues with dirt bikers and the complaints about the dust on the course, I tucked away those notes and wrote off my involvement in ever directing the race. I mean who wants to run uphill on a dirt road, sucking dust and fearing being run down by dirt bikes and ATV’s?
Directing the race in 2008 didn’t interest me and nor anyone else associated with the Arizona Road Racers and the race would again go on hiatus. However, 9 runners did go out in mid-March of that year to do an out-and-back 50K from the mile 15 aid station up to Crown King and back, organized by this year’s French Creek aid station captain and former winner of the race, Laura Nagy.
In 2009, there was again no formal Crown King Scramble, but a “ghost run” was organized by a local runner Christopher O’Loughlin. There wasn’t a lot of notice put out there, and only two runners showed up greeted by eight volunteers! There was talk of bringing back the full race the following year and ambitious plans to add in 25 kilometer, 50 mile and 100 mile distances.
It seemed things were moving forward for a 2010 Crown King Scramble with plans for the 25K to be an out and back from Betty’s Trail Rides (the start of the 2006 & 2007 CKS) and a 100 miler with a 33 hour time limit continuing past Crown King along the Senator Highway towards Prescott. Permits were in the works, but ultimately plans for even the 25K and 50K fell through and there was no run in 2010.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and the requests from a multitude of runners and board members of the Arizona Road Racers reached a fever pitch. There was now some serious consideration of taking on the task of resurrecting the race. I vaguely remember driving back to Phoenix from Silverton in a caffeinated state, glancing over to the Bradshaw Mountains and thought to myself, “those mountains look cool, what the hell, maybe this would be worth it”. The challenge was made and thanks to the urging of ARR president Trent Collicot and the willingness of the Arizona Road Racers board of directors for entrusting the classic race to myself and Aravaipa Running, Aravaipa agreed to take on the race. The board made an initial approval for the transfer of the race to Aravaipa Running in late September at their board meeting and it was finalized in December.
Those two old crumpled pages of notes were dug out from my file cabinet that I had saved from my conversation with Gary Culver in 2007 and work began on contacting previous race directors and volunteers. A date of April 6, 2013 was set for the return of the race but the work had just begun with 5 land permits from various agencies, some that were foreign to me. A written proposal for the race was created, information on permits was gathered and everything was submitted in November. It was going to be tight with only about 4 months to go through all of the approval process and then obtain permission to open registration in time for runners to plan. On the event planning side, I asked James Bonnett a long time runner of the race to help with crafting the right atmosphere and feel for the event as well as help with the race day logistics. James and I finally drove the course together (my first time up there) on the same morning that the permits were submitted!
To save you from the intricacies of the lengthy permitting process, everything came together from all agencies with the verbal go ahead to open registration in mid-February. All permits were finalized come the week of the race and with all of the communications, medical and aid station captains set and James being there on race day, I was happy to be able to enter in the race myself for the first time. The town of Crown King was excited to once again welcome those crazy runners who ran up the hill from Phoenix. It was truly a rewarding experience for me to be able to run alongside everyone, experience this richly historical race myself and enjoy the finish line in Crown King with all my friends in the running community. The 2013 return of the Crown King Scramble drew 137 finishers which was just 10 shy of the 2007 race when it was last held. Look for the race to be held for many years to come under the Aravaipa banner as it is now apparent that running up an old dusty 4×4 road can actually be a lot of fun! Hope to see you all again next year at the 2014 Crown King Scramble and you never know, I may just have to toe the line again!
Once Arizona’s most competitive ultra, the Crown King Scramble is making a big splash in its first year back with a stacked field of runners on both the men’s and women’s side. Here we take a few minutes to highlight some of the amazing athletes that will be toeing the line this weekend. These athletes will be competing not only for the win at one of Arizona’s most historic ultras, but $250 in prize money going to the top man and woman to reach the finish in Crown King.
In addition to the $250 to the winner, runners are eligible for a $500 course record bonus. Men will need to break Dermot McGonigle’s 1996 record of 4:00:27 and women will be gunning for Ann Trason’s 2002 record of 4:34:13.
Those at home will be able to follow along live on race day at the finish line on Aravaipa Running’s ultracast (live webcam and instant finish line results). Periodic updates during the race will be posted to Aravaipa Running’s Facebook & Twitter as we hear updates from the course through our amateur radio support. Good luck to all runners!
Kristina Pham – Kristina has to be the favorite going into the race. She burst onto the trail running scene in 2010 with podium finishes at two Aravaipa races and a couple more during this season’s XTERRA trail races after several years of placing well in road races, marathons and triathlons. She smashed the Pemberton Trail 50K course record in 2012 in 3:47:02, becoming the first woman to break 4 hours in that race.
Erin Lostracco – Erin is new to the ultra scene, but has won the Javelina Night Run 50K and American Canyon 50K as well as a finish at her first 50 miler at this year’s Old Pueblo, finishing 4th woman in 9:34:39. She is our youngest entrant this year at 22.
Susan Kramer – Susan will be running her first Crown King, but she has several years of ultra experience. She recently ran her first 100 mile at the ATY 24 hour, placing 2nd female and 5th at this year’s Old Pueblo in 9:55.
Marie Repac – Marie is new to ultras, but has shown steady improvement over the past year. She is on a roll this year with wins at the Pemberton Trail 50K (4:09) and Elephant Mountain 50K (5:16).
Lindsay Scheiwiller – Lindsay is co-owner of the Sedona Running Company and well experienced in the ultra world. She placed 2nd at this past year’s Javelina Jundred and is sure to run smart and strong at Crown King.
Trent Briney – Trent is a member of the brand new adiUltra team and the 2004 Olympic Marathon alternate. He has a marathon best of 2:12:34 and placed 2nd at the 2012 JFK 50 Miler in 5:37:56 which is the 2nd fastest time ever on that course.
Joshua Trevino – Josh burst onto the AZ trail running scene in December with a win and course record at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25K and subsequent wins/cr’s at the Elephant Mountain 35K & Mesquite Canyon 30K. He has a marathon best of 2:24 at the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon and will be stepping up to the ultra distance for the first time in competition.
Kalib Wilkinson – Kalib lives in Flagstaff, but ran for Liberty University before jumping up to ultras in 2011. He has a marathon best of 2:19 and along with winning the Terrapin Mountain 50K and Holiday Lake 50K in Virginia, has placed 4th at JFK 50 mile and 2nd in December’s McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K in a personal best time of 3:28:50.
Michael Carson - Aravaipa Running team member Michael Carson will be running his first Crown King Scramble, but is no stranger to running and winning ultras. He has run 20 ultras over the past two and a half years, recording 6 wins and placing on the podium (top 3) all but 5 times. So far this year he has placed 3rd at the Pemberton Trail 50K in a personal best time of 3:33 and 2nd at last month’s Old Pueblo 50 mile.
Brian Folts – Has won and placed on the podium at many Aravaipa DRT Trail Series races over the past couple years, finished many Ironmans, other triathlons and 10th at Pikes Peak Ascent in 2012. This will be his first 50K. Fresh and loose.
Eric Bohn – Eric runs for Team Salomon, lives in Flagstaff and won last year’s Mesquite Canyon 50K in a stout time of 4:10. So far this year Eric is returning to form with an 18th place finish at the Moab 55K & 15th place finish at the super competitive Chuckanut 50K.
Jamil Coury – Jamil will be toeing the line at his first Crown King Scramble this year. He has lots of ultra experience and wins at several Arizona ultras including the Paatuwaquatsi Water is Life 50K, Zane Grey 50 Mile, Man Against Horse 50 Mile, Old Pueblo 50 Mile & Mogollon Monster 106 Mile.
Paul Bonnett – Paul is a former champion of this race, winning both the 50 km version and 50 mile versions. He will be in contention for the masters win.
Van Patterson – Van has been a part of the Aravaipa trail running scene since January 2011 and has recorded many top finishes at various distances from 9K up to 100 miles.
James Willis – James lives and trains in Flagstaff and placed 6th at the 2004 Crown King Scramble. He recorded a win at the 2011 McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K and podium finishes at several other ultras including the 2011 Bootlegger 50K and Mesquite Canyon 50K.
Sion Lupowitz – Sion lives in Tucson and is new to the ultra scene, but has finished the Old Pueblo 50 mile the past 2 years in 4th & 5th places and finished 4th at this year’s Coldwater Rumble 50K.
Other Notable Runners
We want to make mention of some other runners who have some historic significance to the Crown King Scramble that will be adding to the flavor of the event this year.
Chase Duarte – Former winner of the 50 km event and 8 time finisher.
Paul Norberg – Seven time finisher of the Crown King Scramble.
Melissa Masteller – Six time finisher
Debbie Leftwich – Six time finisher
Joe Galope – Six time finisher and race director of the Zane Grey 50 Mile
Karsten Solheim – Four time finisher and Arizona Ultrarunning legend
Ok, so you’ve heard the hype, caught the Crown King Scramble bug, somehow convinced by a friend this was a good idea and signed yourself up for this point-to-point monster of a course. Now you are just one week away from scrambling your way from the desert to the pines, driven forward by that elusive cold brew at the finish line. “Wait, did you just say one week away, holy crap!”
With so many first timers taking on the race this year, we thought it would be a good idea to pass on some wisdom from those who know this race intimately, in the good times and the bad. James Bonnett has shared some tips he considers key for Crown King Scramble virgins. James first ran this race when he was 11 years old and has finished as high as 2nd place.
Tips For Running The Crown King Scramble
1. Make sure you check in at the starting line at Lake Pleasant even if you pick up your bib early at iRun on Thursday, it’s mandatory!
2. If you have any thoughts of taking the early start do it! Waking up 1 hour early and having to run 30 min in the dark is worth it. Not only will you get an extra hour to complete the race you will get an hour of cooler weather. Early start signup
3. Heat! Yes this race is known for all weather conditions from sun to rain and even snow. This year we are expecting heat with our April date. Current forecast is for 87 degrees as a high in Phoenix. This race is run on the southern facing side of the mountain so even if its not terribly hot your exposed to the suns rays all the way until about mile 28 where you will finally hit pine trees. I have personally run the race where I have overheated at the bottom and then was running through snow the second half. although very unlikely this year.
4. Make sure you have someone with warm clothes at the top (finish) or a drop bag with warm clothes for the finish. Like I mentioned it can chill out at the top, we are sitting at 6,000 ft after all. Also having some spare cash at the finish is good as well for beer, other snacks or souvenirs. Remember, lunch is included for all runners
5. I would recommend having a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, bandanna, and at minimum 2 water bottles. The bandanna can double as a face guard protecting against dust from ATV riders on the course
6. Once the race starts do not go out too hard on this course. Doing so can cripple you on the second half. The race does not start until mile 15.
7. Speaking of mile 15, I would take a good hard thought here. As much as I want everyone to finish, from here on out if your in a bad spot you may want to think twice before heading on…. It’s kinda up from here
8. Have fun at this race and let us know what aid station was your favorite! We will have an aid station contest! Have fun with the aid stations
9. Stream Crossing: possible stream crossings from mile 20-25. I don’t recommend bringing a change of shoes since there are crossings before and after the Mile 23 aid station at Fort Misery. Your feet will dry out within a couple miles
10. Ways to stay cool: keep cold water in bottles or packs. dunk yourself in stream crossings, wear a hat or visor, dumping water on your head to cool body temps. wear light colors. wearing lose clothing helps as well.
Finally: Party!!! Get to the finish get some grub and hang out! This race has always brought everyone together at the end. Help support the saloon and buy some beers. Maybe a friend at a cabin will let you bum a shower at a cabin
Look Forward to seeing everyone at the start and the FINISH!
P.S. I Finished this race when I was 11 years old so if could do it back then so can you!
March 28, 2013 (Phoenix, Arizona) – Aravaipa Running today announces prize money for the return of the Crown King Scramble 50K. The first place male and female runner in the April 6, 2013 ultramarathon foot race will each receive $250. The Crown King Scramble has a long history as one of Arizona’s oldest and most competitive ultra marathons. Jamil Coury, who is reviving the race after a 5 year hiatus talks about the reason for adding in prize money: “Back in the day, this race would attract many of the top names in the sport of ultramarathon running from across the country. Some of the battles at the front of the pack are legendary. We want to re-foster this level of competitiveness for the first year return of the race and make a big statement that the race is back.”
In addition to the prize money for this year’s winners, a $500 course record bonus will be available to the first man or woman to break the event records. The men’s record was set in 1996 by Dermot McGonigle in a time of 4:00:27, while the women’s record was set by legendary runner Ann Trason in 2002 in a time of 4:34:13. Although set on slightly altered courses (the starting line was located in a different place), the distances are virtually identical. “Dermot and Ann’s times will be the ones to beat in order to earn the event/course record bonus” Coury adds.
Is there a shot at the records going down this year? Coury thinks the men’s field has a good shot with three top runners toeing the line this year. “We have 2:11 marathoner, adiUltra team member and Olympic marathon alternate Trent Briney coming in from Colorado, Phoenix local 2:24 marathoner Joshua Trevino who has set three course records at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25K, Elephant Mountain 35K and Mesquite Canyon 30K so far this year, and 2:19 marathoner Kalib Wilkinson of Flagstaff who has placed 4th at the JFK 50 Mile and at the top of several ultras. These guys could push each other right up that hill to a new course record as long as the heat doesn’t get to them.”
In the women’s race, Kristina Pham will be the one to watch. Her 2012 course record at the Pemberton Trail 50K of 3:47:02 shows she has the speed and talent to run a fast 50K.
Weather forecasts are a bit all over the place right now, with 10 day forecasts fluctuating between highs of 77 and 93. Coury adds, “That could really be the deciding factor between a course record run or not.”
The Crown King Scramble, fueled by GU Energy Labs is organized by Aravaipa Runing. Runners will start at Lake Pleasant Regional Park outside Peoria, Arizona in the Sonoran Desert and climb 6,000 feet up to the mining town of Crown King in the heart of the pine covered Prescott National Forest in the Bradshaw Mountains. Registration is still available here.
The Elephant Mountain Trail Runs were born out of the unique nature of the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, one of eleven Maricopa County Regional Parks. Spur Cross Ranch is one of the newest Maricopa County Regional Parks and features almost 11.5 miles of trails including the steep and rugged Elephant Mountain Trail, connections with the Maricopa Trail and the Cave Creek trail system within the Tonto National Forest. Spur Cross is a perfect place for an afternoon hike and picnic along the Cave Creek, or a jumping off point for an all day rugged trail run in the Tonto National Forest.
The original concept for the race had the start/finish at Spur Cross and a multiple loop course featuring multiple trips over the gnarly Elephant Mountain Trail, the highlight of the park. Further discussions with the park supervisor and the more sensitive nature of Spur Cross Ranch’s “conservation area” status led us to our current course with a start and finish within Cave Creek Regional Park and an out and back along the Maricopa Trail. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to include the Elephant Mountain Trail within the race, but it is highly recommended to check out on your own.
On race week, Arizona was hit with a very rare snow storm that brought accumulated snow to the streets of Scottsdale and Phoenix, while dusting the mountains and peaks surrounding Spur Cross Ranch. On course marking day, there was even snow alongside the trails within Spur Cross and Cave Creek Regional Park!
Race day turned out to be absolutely beautiful with clear skies, a cold start and comfortable daytime temperatures. At the top of the first climb over the Go John Trail a pack of 8-9 runners led the 50K and began their journey across the Maricopa Trail between the two parks. The sun was just hitting Elephant Mountain in the distance, providing a stunning view of the races’ namesake feature. The 50K runners return through the start/finish line after mile 24 before a final 7 mile loop all within Cave Creek Regional Park. Two Colorado runners, Jerry Armstrong and Ryan Lassen were in 1st and 2nd, with 1 minute of each other while Marie Repac of Scottsdale who was leading the women’s race had a comfortable lead over Deva Lingemann of Cave Creek. Jerry and Marie both held on to their leads, finishing first in 4:37:36 and 5:16:12 respectively. Ryan Lassen was just 23 seconds back of Jerry at the finish!
The 35K was a hotly contested race between previous DRT trail series race winners Joshua Trevino, Jules Miller and Brian “Supertramp” Folts. All three were close together at the Spur Cross turnaround, but Josh turned on the heat in the second half and ran away with the win in a speedy 2:26:55. Miller was second in 2:35:27 and Folts who took a spill out on the course rounded out third in 2:38:01. Gudrid Espensheid of Big Piney, Wyoming took first place for the women in 3:09:53, Kelly Patterson of Flagstaff was second in 3:20:06 and Ariane Buser of Sausilito, California rounded out third in 3:22:20.
The Elephant Mountain Trail runs will return next year on February 22 with the addition of a 22K!
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