Fellas, my run at the Black Canyon 100k went damn well this past Saturday, in that I finished and enjoyed the journey. It's finally sunk in over the last day or so. I finished back down in north Phx in 15:21 in the dark. My good friend Dan Carter paced me in the last 25 miles and I can't thank him enough.
We cruised over to Phx on Friday and checked in at the Pearl Izumi factory store, grabbed a solid dinner with some relatives that evening and scored a deal on a cheap roadside hotel on the eve of the race up near Prescott. Spending my Valentines evening sharing a bed with my running mate in a cheap hotel was exactly what I had in mind. After a typical prerace routine of 5hrs of subpar sleep, we were packing up for the race start in Mayer, AZ ready for what was expected to be a very warm day. It was 36F at the start just before sunrise, so I checked in and waited in the car until the last minute to duck out to the line. RD/ultra badass Jamil Coury signaled the horn for the start and we were off at 7am. The course started with a lap around a track, followed by a short 1 mile escorted run through the small town to the trailhead at the edge of town. From there it was 61 miles of blissful singletrack winding it's way gracefully south back down into Anthem, AZ, easily the best I've had the privilege of running.
I dropped my arm sleeves within 15mins of running as the sun rose on the horizon and so did the temps. Shorts and a singlet were all I wore for the day. I cruised the first 19 miles and surprised Dan with my pace, just a moderately steady pace but making good time. He met me at each aid station as there was a forest service road that paralleled most of the course for easy crew and aid access. By the 50k aid station the temps were near their peak, topping out around 89F in the canyon, possibly warmer depending on the aspect of the trail. People were struggling with the heat. I averaged about ~60oz of fluid (x2-24oz. Handheld bottles and nips from my hydration bladder) between each aid station, the longest stretch was an 8.7 mile stretch at the warmest part of the day. Fortunately I urinated about 6 times out on the trail and each time was clear, so I was doing well on hydration and fueling ( used Tailwind Nutrition multi hour mix in one bottle, 1-2 gels an hour, and an occasional hammer nutrition bar or pro bar as needed to satiate my stomach).
I finally met up with Dan at mile 37 to finish out with me on pacing duties. It was in the high 80's when he joined me and many had dropped out at the Black Canyon City aid station due to heat and typical ailments that plague a long run. I swapped out of my shoes (Nike Zoom Wildhorse) and into an old pair of Pearl Izumi Trail N1s- feet felt sorta shitty, but I wanted to feel a different kind of shitty. Immediately after leaving the aid we crossed the Agua Fria river and started a long climb back above the Canyon. Cramping started to kick my ass in the quads so I had to throttle back on effort to keep them at bay. Dan led me out and we settled into a nice quiet running pace and pretty much enjoyed the approaching evening among the saguaros and palo verde of the Sonoran desert. I forgot how beautiful the desert is in this part of the country.
We hit mile 50 in exactly 12hrs30min and moved through the station quickly. I was still ahead of the AS cutoffs by nearly 2 hrs, but knew my pace would drop as night fell and I fatigued. The station captain was confused for some reason and told us we had less than 3 hrs to do the final 13 miles. Sounds like plenty of time right? Notso much. We still had one big climb left out of the canyon and I was moving fairly slow coming in to this AS, running, but slowly through the dark by headlamp. I felt panic sink in and I kicked up the pace significantly and Dan followed behind me. We didn't talk at all for the next hour or so, just focused on management of effort and decisions made on the trail. In the final miles we passed about 6 runners and ran it in casually and enjoyably as soon as we knew we had a buffer on the finish cutoff. I really enjoyed the final 3.7 miles after leaving the last aid station and took the time to slow down and listen to coyotes yipping and howling at the full moon. Crossed around 10:22 PM with a big ass grin and a tear in my eye. Jamil handed me my finishers buckle and quietly shook my hand and I thanked him for putting together such a hard course. Connected with some fellow runners post race and shared some war stories.
I learned a lot on this one. Heat will cut you off at the knees and end your day if you're not mindful and deliberate in every decision you make. Combine hard effort and exposure for extended hours and you'll succumb to heat fast, many did and I'm glad I made it through without issue. Fueling- haven't quite nailed it and I still feel like I'm just throwing things down the hatch and hoping for the best. This go around was mostly successful on the fueling front despite my lack of confidence in this area. Cramping- I still get them, almost always located in my quads, consistently popping up around mile 25-30 in my longer runs. They come and go and I'm learning to manage them, but their presence easily added and hour or so to my overall time. Pretty sure it's a muscular imbalance somewhere and I'm determined to sort that out this year. Pace- smooth and efficient running is the key. Focusing early on my breathing and effort allowed me to move through the first half in great time with plenty in the tank for the second half. Pain- 100K feels a hell of a lot harder than 50 miles. Everything compounds the longer you're out there and pain seems to magnify. You definitely have to settle in and embrace what comes.
My friends and family have asked what's next? What they really mean to say is, " are you going to run a 100miler?" I'm not sure yet, too soon to tell, but I'm already looking at the Stagecoach 100 in Sept near flagstaff and daydreaming of the possibilities.