All we could do was laugh out loud as we trudged and waded our way through a chest high sea of grasses which had completely covered up what was left of the eroded, rocky and deteriorated Highline Trail. It was dark and eerie, with a full moon overhead and who knows what types of creatures rustling in the bushes all around us. Any attempt at running was futile as we would either roll an ankle on a hidden rock, slip on a large tuft of grass or step on one overhanging stalk of grass and stumble as the other leg tried to lift through the tangled mess of vegetation. We would always be scanning for the next piece of orange ribbon hanging from a high branch, but our true lifeline turned out to be the white reflective diamonds, the signature trail marker of the Highline Trail, many of which had fallen off or been damaged from years of neglect on what is supposed to be a National Recreation Trail. Thanks to the hard work and dedication over the past couple years of one Justin Lutick, a fresh batch of these markers had been tacked into trees every 100 yards along the trail providing the perfect trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. Even with my extensive knowledge of running on the Highline Trail, I was having a tough time finding my way while still moving efficiently. I knew that others would fare far worse…
I first found out about Jeremy’s dream to organize a mountain 100 miler in September of 2011. I stumbled across his sleek looking website and intriguing race name – very fitting for the type of course he had designed. Looking over the route, I knew it would be a tough race, but wasn’t convinced it would be as difficult or as slow as much of the pre-race hype had led one to believe. I didn’t really know what to think of all the talk of how the race was a cross between Zane Grey and Speedgoat with a little Hardrock thrown in or some calling it a double Zane Grey. No one had yet run the entire course in one go and although I hadn’t run all of the cabin loops, I felt like the significant time spent up on top of the much more mellow rim would at least make for a reasonable winning time. Plus, I much prefer having a solid climb and descent (there are 4 each of these in the race going up and down the rim itself) to the momentum busting ups and downs of the Zane Grey course.
Since this was an ultra in Arizona that I wasn’t having to direct, I was definitely intrigued about entering it myself and as I finally got into shape this year, I knew that there was a good chance I would be lining up myself for the inaugural running of this Arizona mountain 100 miler. With a less than stellar summer of training leading up to the Leadville 100 and what I felt was a mediocre performance, I recovered quickly and set out to really get myself in shape. I had two 100 mile weeks along with a 47 mile / 15 hour pacing job out at the Wasatch 100 that ended up being 3 weeks out from race day. With that in the bank, I started my taper, adding in one final hard workout with a mountainous 26 mile night trail run out my back door at South Mountain which I completed in 3:55. With the work done, I really took it easy the final two weeks, only running a couple miles a day with the exception of a 28 mile three day weekend marking and sweeping the Flagstaff 50 course.
There is something captivating about inaugural races in general, especially first year 100 mile races. There is so much unknown out there that is very exciting to me. No one knows exactly how tough the course is, what kind of times will be run, whether the aid stations will be setup on time, or how good the course markings will be. There is a lot of room for adventure that just isn’t quite possible when running well established races where everything has been so dialed in that all you have to worry about is putting one foot in front of the other until you are done. It seems there have been a lot of new 100 milers popping up all over the place, many organized by enthusiastic runners who have never directed a race before and who have only been in the sport a short while, lacking much experience in racing longer distances themselves. There is not a perfect substitute for experience, but hard work, dedicated research, passion and enthusiasm can go a long way. I’ve now directed over 40 ultras in the past 4 years and personally run 40 in the past 7 years and I know that I have learned a lot over this time about how to deliver a safe, quality event. I knew that Jeremy was coming into this with limited experience, but he did have a passion and put in A LOT of work to ensure that the event went as well as it could. I also knew that Jeremy often gets lost as his website emphasizes (www.getoutgetlost.com) and he has been lost at one of my events where he went right past our course markers at a junction. Nothing against Jeremy, but I wasn’t going to take any chances and made sure I knew the layout of the course and carried laminated course description cards with me for each section of the race.
My one other experience at an inaugural 100 (The Moments I Live For Part I – Grand Mesa in 2010 – Race Report) taught me how important it was to study course maps and race descriptions, to trust my instincts and be prepared mentally for anything. A certain section might take a lot longer than anticipated, mileages might be off, the trail could be rougher than you thought and there may be some unanticipated cross country sections you weren’t expecting. All in all, Grant Mesa was way tougher than I thought and it humbled me a lot. I also had the time of my life and had an authentic adventure. I was prepared for the same at the Mogollon Monster.
Going into this race I definitely was on top of my mental game. I was hungry to run fast and run hard and I was confident in my training and my ability. After 7 years of running ultras, I’ve finally exercised some consistency to my training in 2012, starting out the year with a solid buildup with a 50 day run streak and then having many weeks of 100 plus miles. I also moved to within a mile of trails at South Mountain which has revolutionized my training, offering the ability to run steep, technical trails on a daily basis. With two months at altitude, living in Silverton, Colorado this summer and a countless number of long runs 4-8 hours coupled with several key pacing jobs through the night in summer hundreds (Hardrock, Grand Mesa and Wasatch) along with my own run at Leadville, I was super stoked to be running long and going all night. Basically my stoke meter was at an all time high to be racing for 100+ miles and my body was tuned to do just that.
I decided to sleep at the Pine Trailhead on Thursday night, setting my tent up within feet of the start line to keep everything low key and focused. The elk calls throughout the night was eerie, but didn’t keep me up too long as I dozed off to sleep. I woke up at 8am, ate some breakfast and just sat around, chatting with others arriving until the 10am start. I tried not to think about what we were going to do… its really hard to conceptualize running for that far and that long. Better to just focus on the stretch at hand and enjoy the surroundings, making sure to take care of eating, drinking and route finding.
As Jeremy counted us down, the typical ultra “space bubble” formed around the starting line – no one wants to step up to the line! So I just walked right up and when he said GO, I took the lead out of the awesome metal starting gateway. I was followed by Brian Tinder and Sean Meissner, both favorites in the race and we took it out at a reasonably casual pace for a 100 mile race. Just jogging along, joking and keeping things easy. It was kind of nice to be heading out of the Pine TH on a different trail than the Highline. I commented to Brian that it was going to be fun seeing so many new trails on the course. Within a mile of the start, an anxious Alex Kaine decided our pace was too slow and literally sprinted past us, heading out of sight within minutes. He said as he went by he would be the guy we would be passing at mile 12 when he blows up… can’t say I could argue with that assessment. 100 milers are often times about patience and this was not a showing of that.
I led the second pack of Tinder, Andy Pearson and some other guy whom I didn’t catch his name to the base of the big climb up Pine Canyon and then dropped back a little bit, just trying to keep things easy. I hiked strong, kept dumping water on my head to keep cool and retook the lead of the second group by the aid station at the top where I didn’t break stride as I exchanged for a single bottle with my crew of Sabrina and Michael Carson. After a short but fun cross country section along the highway, we took the General Crook Trail across the the Milk Ranch Point Road. Tinder and I ran this section together all the way to the next aid station at Dickerson Flat at a fairly fast pace. I didn’t feel like I was keeping with my typical conservative mentality, but it felt good to just open up the legs so I went with it.
After Dickerson Flats, we turned onto the Turkey Springs Trail for the descent down to Geronimo and I commented to Tinder that I was just going to relax and take things easy and I wasn’t going to bomb down this. Well I did relax, but just letting gravity take me down the super rocky and technical trail, but soon gapped Tinder as my technical skills are a little more in line with this type of terrain than his. I soon recognized this section of trail as I had done a hike with Nick, James and our friend Jake here a couple Decembers ago. This would turn out to be a very valuable memory when I came to the junction with the West Webber Trail (where we would climb back up to the top of the rim at mile 97 in the race). When I came to the juncion, there were about 7-8 flags all going right (up West Webber) and only after stopping for a minute did I see the one flag down to the left around a bush. I knew Geronimo was down to the left, so I took off in that direction. I thought for a second about waiting for Tinder, but I didn’t know if he would be one minute or 10 minutes back. I decided to go and I kept whooping for a minute or two down trail in case he heard me. It was at this point I noticed I was making fresh tracks on the dirt and suspected Kaine had taken the wrong turn back there (turns out he never made it onto the Turkey Springs Trail after the Dickerson Flats aid station).
When I arrived at the Geronimo Aid Station at Mile 18, they confirmed I was in the lead and I let them know that there was a questionable junction that people would likely get lost on. I felt bad for not trying to fix the markings, but there was little I could do and I was in the racing mentality. I felt a huge boost knowing I was in the lead and ran quite a bit of the climb up from Geronimo. I was feeling really good and I knew this next 9 miles better than any in the entire race since I do trail work here every year. I had never run along the Highline Trail in the fall and was surprised at how different it looked with tall grass, ferns, and trees in full growth. Everything was a bit tougher to get around, but I still made good time and was soon coming into Washington Park at mile 27 for the first time, still in the lead. I made a quick transition and headed out for the second climb to the top of the rim.
As I began the ascent up the Arizona Trail, the first thing I noticed was the lack of any markings… not a single flag. Fortunately I had done this trail once before in my 2008 Arizona Trail Thru-Hike and I knew it was the only way up. I continued to climb – mostly hiking and still never saw a flag the whole way up. I knew many would be questioning this section later in the day. I hit the rim road, turned right and read on my course description that I had 4.5 miles to go to the turn off for the Houston Brothers Trail and aid station. About a half mile later I pass a car pulled off on the side of the road where an older couple was attempting to change their blown out tire. I bit my lip as I passed by and finally succumbed to asking them if they needed any help. The woman instantly took me up on my offer as she though her husband was going to have a heart attack. I stopped, went back and jacked up the SUV all the way until we could get the new tire on, tightened the lug nuts and dropped the car, all the while looking back over my shoulder to see if anyone was catching up. The woman finally asked if I was out hiking with a friend and I told here I was in a race. She then gasped and told me to get going… her husband trying to offer me money for my time, which I declined and headed back on my way.
The rim road was a bit hillier than I expected, but the views were amazing. It went by quickly, but I was soon feeling very sleepy… not a good thing to be feeling at mile 32! When I got into the Houston Brothers Aid Station staffed by Grandpa Jim, his wife and Matthew Schmidt, I decided to slam one of the Monster Energy drinks supplied by the race. This turned out to be a good call, since I instantly perked up and ran every step all the way to Pinchot Cabin aid station at mile 41. This was a beautiful section of trail, especially with all of the fall colors – red, yellow, orange everywhere in some of the small canyons! One of my pre-race goals was to get to mile 50 back at Washington Park by dark, so I was pushing pretty hard through here. I hit the Pinchot Cabin Aid Station staffed by ultra veterans Linda Van Tillborg, Kate Hansen and Tom Ford right around 5:45pm and knew my goal of darkness by WP would fall short. I still wanted to get as far as I could before turning on my light, so after slamming back some mashed potatoes and guacamole, I hit the short road section before joining the Fred Haught Trail. I ran most of this section, taking in the last bit of light filtering through the tall Ponderosa Pines and still feeling really good.
Darkness fell upon me as I was on the Arizona Trail just before I hit General Springs Cabin and I clicked on my light for the steep descent down into Washington Park. It was here that I started seeing runners coming towards me who were climbing up at about mile 29 in the race. They were startled to see me ripping down the trail and asked if something was wrong or if they were going the wrong way. I don’t think they quite believed I was already almost to mile 50. I hit the aid station, ate some mashed potatoes, drank a Red Bull and picked up my pacer, Michael Carson who was fresh off a win at the inaugural Flagstaff 50 Mile the week prior. We headed out on the Highline towards Hells Gate and ran most of the first few miles until we hit the dreaded seas of grass which halted us to a stumble through the darkness and killed our momentum. It was all about trying to not lose too much time and not get hurt. The rustling in the bushes turned out to be a bunch of harmless cattle who would dart across the trail and sometimes run in front of us, unleashing some horrific farts along the way. After an eternity, we finally saw lights for Hells Gate and fueled up, thanking Noah and his crew again for being out there. We next just focused on not missing the turn for the Myrtle Trail which neither of us had been on before. We found the turn easy enough, and hiked up, following the maze of a trail to the top, avoiding wrong ways by steering clear of the blue flagging along the way.
Once on top of Myrtle, we had a short cross country section to the Rim Road and after a left turn and a half mile of road, we turned right on Forest Road 321 for a 3.5 mile sprint to the Buck Springs aid station. We just absolutely crushed this section, but started to question the route when we didn’t find a single confidence marker. I wondered at one point if the aid station crew was late setting up, but then we finally saw a light and a well staffed aid station in the middle of the forest with a roaring fire and lots of hot foods. I taped a hot spot on my foot, ate some cold potatoes, and a bowl of fresh fruit all while sitting next to the fire. I still wasn’t wearing a shirt at this point and figured as long as we were moving well, I would stay warm. It was at this point that the stated mileages between aid stations in the course description and aid station distances given by the volunteers weren’t quite adding up. I just told myself it didn’t matter and it was what it was. We took off for the U-Bar trail and our last visit of Pinchot Cabin. After about a mile of really good markings, they soon became less and less frequent, to the point that we would run 10-15 minutes without seeing anything. But then we would reach the next trail junction and a small piece of reflective tape would guide us onward. I’m pretty sure someone pulled the flags in this section and there were some turns we made by directly following the course description that I’m sure would be virtually impossible to find without. As we came out of one canyon, we hit a barbed wire fence where the trail appeared to dead end. No sign of a marker, ribbon or trail beyond the fence or to each side. We stopped for a few minutes, contemplating whether to drop back into the canyon and re-reading the description several times. Finally, I took a chance, went through a gate in the fence and picked up a VERY faint trail. This went on for a while and we finally found a ribbon! We were still on track, but wondered if ANYONE would find their way past that one.
When we go to Pinchot Cabin at mile 72, I wolfed down some food and finally grabbed some warmer clothes after an extended stop to visit a little and get a better flashlight for Carson. We were soon on our way to Houston Brothers, but I was starting to get stiff and lazy. I did manage to run quite a bit of the gradual climb, but it wasn’t as effortless as before. We didn’t stop long at Houston Brothers where I drank another Monster drink and we then took to the rim road. We turned off our lights here for some long stretches, just running by moonlight.
The drop back into Washington Park was uneventful except for passing a few runners who were pushing the cutoff into mile 50. I sat down at Washington Park for a few minutes to eat more mashed potatoes, tape my ankle which I had rolled, and eat some nori rolls made by Traci Danek. Only about 20 miles to go at this point and it was about 3am! From here we set back out on the Highline and it was slow going. It was warming up again and I was just feeling the effects of the miles and time on my feet. I wasn’t as nimble as earlier and I had to stop after 4 miles to fill my bottle up from a stream. We were really looking forward to the daylight at this point even though that meant I wouldn’t be finishing before the sun came back up (one of my other pre-race goals). The tall grasses through here were quite annoying and my mind was playing tricks on me. I kept forgetting sections of the trail through here and what came next. We finally crested the last uphill before the long descent into Geronimo and dawn was starting to break.
A final fill-up at Geronimo from Sabrina and we were off to tackle the final climb. I was a bit frustrated that we had to do the 6 extra miles and giant climb, but one we made the turn for West Webber, I kept telling Carson that we were just out on a training run and enjoying a new trail. This helped me mentally to distance myself from what I had done so far and enjoy what I think is the most beautiful section on the course. We finally topped out, and headed down towards the super rocky Donahue Trail. This thing was insanely rocky… way worse than anything on the Highline (or maybe it was just that I was now over mile 100!). We hit the Highline Trail fairly close to the bottom and cruised into the Pine TH and our last crew spot before the finish at mile 104. From here it was just a victory jog under the highway, some super soft pine covered cross country section and finally pavement to the finish. Jeremy drove ahead of us, making sure we didn’t miss a turn and finally came around the final corner to the “finish line” which hadn’t been setup yet. Jeremy gave me a high 5 and I was done! 22 hours 24 minutes for over 106 miles… my first hundred mile win and first course record!
I had little information on how far ahead I was and was even looking over my shoulder coming through Town. I found out at the finish that 2nd place Andy Pearson had just gotten into Washington Park at mile 85, where I had passed through 5 1/2 hours earlier. Turns out he finished 5:41 behind me in 28:04 and a total of 9 runners finished, some within 15 minutes of the 36 hour cutoff.
This was definitely the most solid race I have ever run. I typically would stay a lot more conservative through 50 miles, but I was basically hammering it starting at mile 8 and I didn’t really let up until Mile 75 when I started to get lazy. I never got lost once on the trail thanks to my extensive course knowledge and pre-hikes, laminated course description that I carried, general navigation skills, and intuition.
I have to thank my incredible crew Sabrina Redden for being up all night feeding me mashed potatoes and driving all around the course and my awesome pacer Michael Carson for giving me company through the night and sharing an incredible experience. Jeremy did a great job with the race considering this was his first gig as race director. His dedication to pull this event off was evident and I know he learned a lot after this experience. I’m really looking forward to see how my time stacks up in future editions, but I can’t say I will return next year. I would hate to ruin my incredible experience I had this year by bombing out next time! Best of luck to Jeremy with next year and congratulations to all of the finishers! Thank you for a great adventure.
Results – 2012 Mogollon Monster 100
1st – Jamil Coury – 22:24
2nd – Andy Pearson – 28:05
3rd – Jerome Jourdon – 29:32
4th – Marias Toma – 31:05
5th – Shane Peltonen – 33:49
6th – Danny Speros – 34:21
7th – Rudolph Palmer – 34:48
8th – Alexander Kaine – 35:38
9th – Deron Ruse – 35:49
Running in Arizona isn’t limited to hot, desert trails winding around saguaro cactus and ocotillos. Although that is the typical scene around the Sonoran Desert surrounding Phoenix and Tucson, just a couple hours north brings higher altitude and the dense Ponderosa Pine forest surrounding Flagstaff. The town itself is at 6,910 feet and is situated at the base of Arizona’s highest mountain range – the San Francisco Peaks which rise up to 12,633 atop Humphreys Peak. Flagstaff is well known in the running community as a hotbed Olympic caliber athletes looking for high-altitude training. Flagstaff also offers one of the best mountain trail systems anywhere, with a local urban trail system, trails in the Mount Elden / Dry Lake Hills area right next to town, access to the 800 mile long Arizona Trail which runs through town, and the Kachina Peaks Wilderness which encompasses the San Francisco Peaks.
There is a very passionate and active community of runners in Flagstaff, but opportunities to run ultra distances in the surrounding areas have been limited to solo training runs and loosely organized group runs. Our hope with the Flagstaff 50 Endurance Runs was to create a tough, rugged ultra starting in town and traversing as many of the local mountain trails as we could fit in.
After over 2 years of planning, it was tough to believe that the inaugural weekend had finally come. With aid stations setup, course markings in place, communications teams assembled, and runners checking in at the local running store Run Flagstaff it was all coming together. The race was set to start out of Buffalo Park, a multi-use park near the center of town operated by the City of Flagstaff, which is also the site of the local cross country meets. The 50 mile runners took off into the Coconino National Forest just after dawn, heading for the first climb up the Oldham Trail. Michael Carson who placed second at this year’s Zane Grey 50 Mile led to the first aid station near the top of Mount Elden. Runners traverse north along a ridge offering up spectacular views of the rising sun and golden aspen leaves off to the East before dropping 1800 feet down to the Little Elden Trail below. A gradual climb up to Shultz Pass ensues, encircling the Mount Elden range before runners go right up to the Kachina Peaks Wilderness boundary.
Carson continued to hold his lead along the 9 mile out and back section of the course to the Rocky Moto Trail within the Fort Valley Trail System. Korey Konga was running about 15 minutes back in second place along this section before eventually trailing back to join Adam Barstad. Carson continued to build his lead over the final two big climbs of the day up to the top of Mount Elden and then the exposed Heart Trail. He finished in a time of 8:41 on a course that many called tougher than Zane Grey. Adam Barstad finished second in 10:27 and Flagstaff local Jason Henrie finished third male in 11:06. In the women’s race, Katherine Metzger of Prescott ran a strong race to finish 3rd overall in a time of 10:33. Maggie Beach of La Crescenta, California came in second place in 11:31 and Flagstaf local Janet Bain finished 3rd in 12:12.
The 50 kilometer runners enjoyed the same course as the 50 milers with the exception of the out and back to the Fort Valley Trail System. The race shaped up to be very competitive with 2:19 marathoner Kalib Wilkinson who recently moved to Flagstaff going up against first time ultra runner and local pizza maker Caleb Schiff, and Flagstaff local Karl Jarvis. Kalib led to the top of the first climb followed closely by 22 year old Prescott runner Zac Mendenhall and then Caleb. Kalib ended up dropping later in the day and Caleb rolled his ankle, paving the way for Zac to take the win in 5:12. Karl finished second in 6:06 and Seth Redden was third in 7:17. Our top women was from Flagstaff with Leslie Grabel winning in 7:56, Shannon McQuaid of Tempe was second in 8:01 and Renee Stevens of Tucson was third in 8:28.
The toughest section of the day turned out to be the 8 mile loop going down the Elden Lookout Trail and back up Heart Trail where runners faced a technical descent and steep climb along exposed trails that burned back in the 1977 Radio Fire. No runners missed any cutoffs during the day and our final runner in the 50 miler, Greg Grady finished in 15:37.
Thank you to the Coconino National Forest and City of Flagstaff for permitting this event, the Coconino Amateur Radio club for providing communications all day along the course, our volunteers from the Sedona Running Company who ran the Sunset Aid Station, Ian Torrence and his team of volunteers at Shultz, Bret Sarnquist for taking photos, Run Flagstaff for hosting the packet pickup, Flagstaff Brewing Company for offering $1 off beers for finishers, David James for helping to mark and sweep the course, and all of our volunteers on race day. We hope to see you all next September for the second running.
The second annual Pass Mountain Trail Runs will feature 50 Kilometer, 26 Kilometer and 11 Kilometer race distances on trails within Usery Mountain Regional Park and the Tonto National Forest. This is the only race in the DRT Series that ventures outside of the regional park system and onto Forest Service land. The views from atop the saddle on the Pass Mountain Trail are quite spectacular, with the Goldfield Mountains spreading out to the east towards the Superstitions, and views of the Salt River to the north.
While the 11K features little elevation gain (with the exception of going over Cat Peaks), the 26K and 50K courses will conquer an 800 foot climb up and over the Pass Mountain Trail. 50 K runners will make a second trip up and over Pass Mountain before heading into the finish.
50 Kilometer Race
The three DRT Ultra Series points leaders in the women’s field will all be running this weekend (Deb Hamberlin, Margaret Dehesse, and Carin Schmidt) along with last year’s Pass Mountain 50K winner Paulette Zillmer. Paulette is coming off a win at the Bootlegger 50K near Las Vegas two weeks ago and will be looking for her first win in this year’s DRT Series.
In the men’s field, several of our top runners will be sitting on the sidelines since they just ran the Javelina Jundred this past weekend. Keep an eye out for Michael Smith and Scott Bajer who both raced well at last month’s Cave Creek Thriller along with Rhet Stinson who placed 3rd at last year’s McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K. Michael Carson, the DRT Ultra Series points leader will be out volunteering at the Meridian Aid Station, taking the week off after his first 100 mile finish at the Javelina Jundred!
26 Kilometer Race
The women’s race should be a close race down to the wire, as Lauren Besenfelder (winner of this year’s San Tan Scramble 25K and Coldwater Rumble 18K) goes up against Ivana Jourdan (winner of last season’s Mesquite Canyon 1/2 and McDowell Mountain Frenzy 10 Mile). These ladies went head to head at last year’s McDowell Mountain Frenzy 10 mile, with Ivana edging out Lauren by just 11 seconds! Michelle Patuto, the current leader of the DRT Trail Series will also be racing.
Paul Kramer who was edged out in the closing feet of the Cave Creek Thriller may be able to breathe a bit easier since Bret Sarnquist (who won the Thriller) ran the Javelina Jundred this past weekend (finishing 8th in 18:21). David Santiago who finished 6th at the Thriller will also be back for Pass Mountain.
11 Kilometer Race
Lisa Raykowski who placed 1st at last month’s Thriller and 2nd at last yea’rs Pass Mountain 10 Mile, will be running along with Amy Boodry who placed 2nd at last year’s Pass Mountain 9 K.
The men’s race should be close again, with Tim Merritt leading the pack after his win at the Thriller 10K, but he’ll have to contend with Bryan Dunn of Fountain Hills who won last year’s Frenzy 10 Mile. John Borrego should be close behind for 3rd place.
We will be broadcasting via our “Ultracast” on race day featuring instant results and a webcam of the finish line.
As the subtle glow of dawn appeared off to the west, runners bustled about the ramadas of the group picnic area; some checking in, others placing their drop bags along side the trail, and some catching some warmth of the umbrella heaters while chatting with friends. The morning was cool, but not quite brisk, ensuring a warm day ahead. At 7am, 41 runners headed out on their first loop of the 50 kilometer course led by Ian Torrence, Jay Danek, Scott Bajer and Michael Carson. They would first head out on the newly added out and back section along the Slate and Flume trails before completing the main Go John and Overton loop used at last year’s race. This new section features a relatively mellow elevation profile and a 1.8 mile section along an old dirt jeep road.
As the 50K runners headed around the back side of the Flume trail, hot air balloons could be seen rising up to the southwest amid a forest of saguaro cacti and cascading mountain ranges.
After completing the out and back, the 50K runners headed up the Go John trail, encountering the first major climb of the day. The first couple miles of the Go John trail are smooth, wide enough to run side by side, and quite gradual. A nice surprise to those who ran last year was a 1.5 mile section of very rocky, eroded trail at the top of the climb that had been rerouted, cleared and widened by the park trail crew. This section went from a rocky trench to one of the most enjoyable and runnable sections on the course. The smooth section ends abruptly into the second major climb up to the high point on the course. This part weaves in and out of a wash and includes many steep pitches up boulders and jagged rocks. Upon attaining the saddle, a stunning view opens up to the north of open desert, untouched by development. There isn’t much time to take in the view, since the descent is rock strewn, steep and technical.
The clanging of a cow bell signified the location of the Go John aid station, nestled in a valley on the north boundary of the park. A small gate leads north into Arizona State Trust Land onto the Maricopa Trail which links up to other regional parks. The Go John aid station sits at the bottom of the final climb on the loop, but also signals the end of the truly technical section of trail. After that climb, runners join the Overton Trail for a quick descent back around the mountain into the start/finish area.
Michael Smith who placed 2nd at the Coldwater Rumble 50K this past January, came in at 1:38, only 50 seconds in front of last year’s DRT Ultra Series winner Michael Carson. Carson finished less than a minute back of Smith at Coldwater. Both were in and out of the aid station quickly and back out on their second loop of the course (identical to the first). Alexander Kaine was only 2 minutes back after the first loop and a pack of 4 came through at 1:45 (Don Solberg, Jeremy Schmuki, Scott Bajer and Jay Danek). On the women’s side, Kerry Herbine came through 1st in 1:57 (but later dropped), followed by Lori Hickernell and Deb Hemberlin.
The second loop spread things out a bit as Michael Carson took control of the lead, finishing his second loop only 5 minutes slower than his first. He put 12 minutes on Smith, who maintained his second place position, while Solberg came in 10 minutes behind Smith. Carson extended his lead and laid down an impressive 63 minutes final 10Km loop for the overall win in 4:26. Smith and Solberg held 2nd and 3rd, finishing in 4:48 and 5:05 respectively. Deb Hamberlin stayed strong through her second loop, taking the lead and going on to win in 6:12. Margaret Dehesse finished 2nd in 7:03 and Caren Schmidt in 7:12.
If you enjoy close finishes, it’d be hard to find a better one than in the 30 Km men’s race. Paul Kramer who placed 2nd at the Buckeye Endurance Runs 100K led from the start and seemed to be on his way to an easy win after coming through on his first loop in 1:35 with an 8 minute lead over Bret Sarnquist (’11 DRT Trail Series winner) and Van Patterson (’11 Coldwater Rumble 18K & ’11 San Tan Scramble 25K winner). Unbeknownst to Paul, Bret planned on taking his first loop easy and treating the final 10K loop as a tempo run. Bret did exactly that, blasting the second loop in 50:34, he caught sight of Paul on the final downhill of the course. Paul, not seeing anyone all day had settled into cruise mode. Bret came up on Paul in the final stretch and was able to time a final kick around Paul and up the hill to finish in first in 2:34, just 3 seconds ahead of Paul. We’re not sure how things might have turned out if Paul had seen Bret earlier, but it sure did make for an exciting finish for the spectators.
Michelle Patuto returned to the Cave Creek Thriller this year having competing in every DRT Series race on last year’s schedule (including 5 trail series races and the 50 Km at Mesquite Canyon). She was leading after finishing loop 1 in 2:04, followed by Mary Knott in 2:11, Katherine Redden in 2:12, and Lindsey Sheiwiller in 2:13. Michelle held strong and pulled off her first DRT Series win in 3:18. Katherine Redden from Austin, Texas placed 2nd in 3:28 and late starter Holly Miller edged out Lindsay Scheiwiller and Mary Knott for 3rd with a time of 3:30.
Over 100 runners joined us for what has to be one of the toughest 10 Km races in the Phoenix area. First off, the course is a bit long (sometimes the trails lend themselves to a certain course), second it features several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss, and third takes place on some fairly technical and rocky terrain. This didn’t stop a pack of talented locals from running hard and fast. Tim Merritt of Chandler was the pre-race favorite, having won the 2010 Mesquite Canyon 5 Mile. A pack of 10 guys formed at the front as the group headed off the park road onto the Go John trail. In the end, four runners hung on to finish within a minute of each other, and Tim was out front for the win in 47:46. Steve Rink was 2nd, John Hetrick 3rd, and John Borrego 4th.
In the women’s race, Lisa Raykowski of Phoenix won her first DRT race after a string of 2nd place finishes last season in a time of 56:12. That placed her just ahead of Jona Davis of Scottsdale who ran 57:44. A special shout out goes to our youngest finisher Loganne Stepp of Chandler who finished in 1:50 at nine years old! She completed the run with her grandfather Ted Buxton.
Thanks to everyone who ran this weekend and we look forward to seeing you out at Pass Mountain on Saturday, November 19. We leave you with a few parting shots:
The 2nd annual Cave Creek Thriller will once again jump start the Desert Runner Trail Series. The race is nearly a sell out, with over 190 runners currently registered. Although the distances are the same as last year, the 30 Km and 50 Km courses have been changed up to include some of the other trails within the park. An out and back spur along the Jasper, Slate and Flume trails will take runners to the southern reaches of the park and reduce the total number of loops. There will also be a new remote aid station (Flume) at the turn-around on the out and back. The main 10 Km loop of the course (utilized by all races) will remain the same combination of the Go John and Overton trails.
If this is your first time out to Cave Creek Regional Park, be prepared for a tough set of race courses! The Go John trail is especially hilly and rocky, while also providing the most secluded and stunning views that the park has to offer. Life gets a bit easier on the Overton Trail where the trail smooths out and is mostly downhill back to the finish line. Cresting the final hill of the course a 1/2 mile out, you’ll get a glimpse of the orange tents at the finish line and will have one last screaming downhill to the end.
As this race again falls on Halloween weekend, we are holding another costume contest. We’ll be giving out “Zombie” awards to the best showings!
Another exciting Aravaipa Running innovation that will make it’s official debut at the Cave Creek Thriller is the new “Ultracast“. Nick Coury, the developer of the project explains, “The Ultracast is the new standard in running webcasts. Updates and results are streamed instantly, without a second’s delay. Now, family and friends all over the world will be able to watch your progress in real-time!” Be sure to share this link with family and friends who will be able to watch a webcam of the finish line and see your results pop up instantly. This new feature will become standard at all Aravaipa Running events in the future.
We’ll end this year’s race preview with a summary of the top runners going into next weekend’s race.
50 Kilometer Race
This year’s ultra crowd should like the fact that there will be more than a dozen runners (last year’s field size), meaning more company out on the course. Last year’s winner Jay Danek is returning and we bet he’ll be looking to get a jump on the DRT point series. Jay is also coming off a win at the Javelina 12 Hour on October 15. 2010-11 DRT Ultra Series winner Michael Carson is a last minute entrant and with his recent wins at the Paatuwaqatsi Water Is Life 50K and Man Against Horse 50 Mile, is a clear favorite. Expect Alex Kaine and Tamas Varga to be within reach along with 1998 Hardrock winner Ricky Denesik from Telluride, CO. On the women’s side, Lori Hickernell (who also recently won the Javelina 12 Hour with 75 Km) will be back to defend her title from last year, but will have to contend with this year’s Lean Horse 100 winner Deb Hamberlin.
30 Kilometer Race
Out to test the new 2 loop course will be last year’s DRT Trail Series winner Bret Sarnquist coming down from Flagstaff. He’ll be going up against Tony Delogne from Sedona who won the inaugural Pass Mountain 50 Km, Jordan McKnight of Safford who placed 2nd at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Km and 4th at Pass Mountain 50 Km, and David Santiago who won the Master’s DRT Trail Series last year. Michelle Patuto, last year’s 2nd place finisher at the CCT 30 Km will be returning and is looking to be the favorite so far.
10 Kilometer Race
There are currently 77 entrants registered, so expect a bit of a crowded start as the course narrows directly onto a single track. The 2010 winner of the Mesquite Canyon 5 mile, Time Merritt will be racing, so we’ll see how he does on a much tougher course. For the women, Lisa Raykowski (2nd at several DRT Series races) and Jona Davis (3rd Mesquite Canyon ’10) should have a good battle up front.
Make sure to join us for packet pickup on Thursday at iRun from 4-7pm. Enjoy 10% off anything in the store when you pick up your packet. If you have any other questions about this weekend’s race, you can contact us by phone, email, or join us for the weekly Papago Park group trail run on Wednesday at 5:30pm.
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