When I first got into trail running, for some reason this race popped up on my radar early. Beyond the local races in Arizona, it looked like one I’d like to try. It just so happened that my buddy Tom really wanted to run it as well, and the stars aligned to make it happen this year.
I drove up to Flagstaff from Phoenix on a Thursday so that we could spend Friday road tripping from Flag to Los Alamos, New Mexico. The drive there wasn’t too bad, and after a quick mile or so run to shake our legs out – we felt pretty damn good and ready for the race the next morning.
We stayed at an Airbnb, and got to chat up the owners, who both worked for the National Park Service. I’m not going to lie – it made me a bit jealous, and doing something working in the forest is something Laura and I will probably look into at some point in our lives.
We got to the Posse Lodge for the start of the race with plenty of time to spare. It was decently chilly out, so we spent a little time in the car, keeping warm. With a few minutes left, we got to the start line where I took this photo and we bid each other adieu until the finish.
Tom is pretty quick, so I didn’t expect to see him for quite some time. In fact, he had more than a couple hours to wait once he finished before I came in!
That’s not to say I was disappointed in my effort, though. The first half of the race was actually really nice. I kept a decent pace between running and power hiking hills. The weather was great. What more could I want? But then, we came upon the ski lift hill…
Having to go up this hill smack dab in the middle of the race was TOUGH. I imagine earlier runners through the area got a decent bit of running in as they climbed, but folks in my section of the race were all power hiking and walking.
It felt like a nice accomplishment at the top. The only problem? A decently steep descent, with miles of trail littered with uncomfortable rocks. My feet were having none of it at that point, and I wasn’t wearing my Altras with the added padding. I feel like that may have made a difference, but hindsight is 20/20.
For a while after that descent, I was in a rather grumpy mood, and it was hard to break out of the negative mindset. I never felt quite like that during a run before. I wasn’t going to drop, but I also wasn’t going to rush myself. That sure seems counterintuitive to running a race, but weird stuff happens in your brain on these long distance jaunts.
At a certain point with 5 or so miles remaining, I did the mental math and figured out that I could still finish under nine hours if I wanted. If I wanted? Hell yeah! I originally wanted to come in under eight hours. But since that was off the table, let’s make the nine-hour mark happen.
I was hustling pretty good (relatively speaking, of course) the last few miles and passed quite a few people who previously passed me while I was feeling sorry for myself. Each person I passed added back to my excitement and I used it to push myself even harder.
In the end, I’m glad to have made the run of four ultras in nine weeks, but it sure was taxing. I don’t know when I’ll run another ultra, but I’m in no rush at this point! We’ll see what happens. 🤔
Feature Photo Credit 📷: Jim Stein Photography
Also published on Medium.