Race Report: Kendall Mountain Run

Not long after getting back from a wrestling related road trip to Los Angeles, I got a message from my buddy Chris about the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado.

He had signed up and was going to make the drive, and was looking to find a person or two to make the trek with him. In my head, I was like “heck yeah!” but I was trying to be realistic and wasn’t sure if it made sense in the midst of that LA trip and the big trip Laura and I had planned for August (more on that later!). When I mentioned it to Laura, though, she did not hesitate in telling me I should go.

It didn’t take me long to figure out her master plan: let me go run around in the mountains of southwest Colorado, then I’ll fall in love with it, and we’ll eventually move there. Well, in short – I think she can raise the “Mission: Accomplished” banner. I LOVED every part of this trip, from riding with Chris and Hayley, scrambling for a last minute camping spot, the run itself, exploring the San Juans, and being tourists in NE Arizona…

But the big takeaway? I loved the feel of SW Colorado – everything was so green. The trails were so soft. The small towns seemed to have a pretty good internet connection – so why can’t I work from there? Hmm… Stay tuned! The Pacific Northwest certainly made its case when we made our trip out there, as well.

Anyway… The run! Oh, the run. To my Phoenix trail running friends – think of Mount Ord with gorgeous scenery and a rocky scramble at the top. That’s pretty much it. It’s a little shorter on mileage, but similar in elevation – so you can count on it being a bit steep. It’s no joke, especially if you’re not acclimatized to the elevation.

And boy, was I not acclimatized! I did what I could for the first couple of miles, but after a while, I resorted to short bursts up the mountain with short breaks in between to catch my breath. It was really all I could do. It worked out pretty nicely, though, as I was able to stop and (literally) smell the flowers – take a few photos here and there, and just overall enjoy the run.

The rocky scramble wasn’t too bad – it was rather exciting moving past other people moving up and down that same section, and finally getting that spectacular 360-degree view at the top. The run down the mountain? Pretty dang fun, too! To a point, at least. For me, that lack of acclimatization came back again with just a couple of miles left. I was moving at a decent clip without a ton of effort but came to realize that I still felt short of breath. I even found myself run/walking a bit as I got into town. Never would I have thought that’d happen – but I didn’t want to make myself pass out or anything.

For the first time at the end of a race, I laid down at the finish in the grass to begin the recovery process. I eventually found my way to the free (!!!) beer tent and waited for Chris and Hayley to come in as well.

Heck of a good time. Would I do it again? Maybe! Would I consider some of the other runs in the area? Certainly! Maybe one day I’ll even be acclimatized to the elevation, and this sort of run won’t take so much out of me. Maybe one day…

Four Corners en route to Silverton! #aravaiparunning 📷: @clword77

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Camping at Monument Valley. This'll do.

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Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images

Race Report: Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50K

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.

About that time. See you on the other side! #jemez50k

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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…

Send help! #jemez50k #runsteepgethigh

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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.

A well earned finisher award today. Super unique, locally crafted pottery! #jemez50k

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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

Race Report: Sinister Night Runs 54K

In March of this year, I got revenge on the Mesquite Canyon 50K. Then, in April, I was able to take on the Crown King Scramble. A couple weeks later, Laura and I ventured to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a single go (rim to river to rim). Lastly, I had committed myself to a third ultra within a 9 week period by agreeing to join Tom in May for the Jemez 50K in New Mexico.

Why not throw in a fourth ultra for good measure? For my 35th birthday weekend, I decided that I shouldn’t think too hard about it and just run the Sinister 54K out at San Tan Regional Park. The course looked relatively flat in comparison to the other races on my schedule, so I should be able to get a decent time out of it. Let’s see what I could do!

All in all, this race consisted of six 5.6-mile loops.

The first loop

I ran most of the first loop with Raul, as we chatted about our other races and life in general, as trail runners often do. It was pretty enjoyable, and I was pleased with the pace we kept. By the end of that loop, Raul began to drop back a bit, and I could tell he may be in trouble of dropping from the race at some point. This race was in the midst of some heavy training days for him as he was preparing for a 100 miler.

The second loop

The next loop was just plain nutty. As I came in to finish my first lap, the 9K runners were lining up, preparing to start their race (a single lap of the course). I slapped hands with everyone as they made a tunnel for me to run through en route to the start / finish aid station. By the time I got back onto the trail, I could hear the crowd counting down the start timer behind me. I proceeded to spend the rest of that lap being chased (and often being passed) by this large group. It was pretty fun being caught up in the excitement of what was the first trail race for many people!

…and the rest

The rest of the laps sort of blend together in my head. It became a bit monotonous and grueling to see the same scenery over and over. On my fourth lap, the awesome Team RWB people at the remote aid station pretty much force fed me a Red Bull. Man, what a game changer. It pretty much powered me through the rest of that lap, and I yelled for more Red Bull as I approached them on lap five. Luckily, they had one can remaining at that point!

Motivation to finish within a certain time went out the window somewhere around the start of my last lap, but in my head, I did calculate that I could still finish the initial 50K of the race under seven hours, which seemed pretty appealing. I did, in fact, manage to accomplish that en route to the remote aid station – it was pretty damn rewarding to whoop and holler at that milestone all by myself in the dark. Ha.

I got to the remote aid station one final time to find a fellow runner seated with a beer in hand. That looked great to me. I didn’t dare sit down, but I pounded a Founders All Day IPA and continued down the trail to finish strong. Not a bad way to start my 36th year on this planet!

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images