Race Report: Crown King Scramble 50K

The Crown King Scramble: an infamous race that takes place every April, from Lake Pleasant up the mountain to the town of Crown King. To me, this became a sort of bucket list race – one that I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to do more than once, but also one that I wasn’t sure how to get it on my schedule.

This is happening!

Logistically, it seems to always be scheduled the same weekend as WrestleMania. My friends and I have made a habit of traveling to Mania, thereby eliminating this race as an option. But as fate would have it, I decided to skip this year’s big event – which freed me up nicely to run Crown King.

I talked it over with Laura and she decided she wanted to take her Jeep up the very roads we’d be running, so she could drop me off at the start in the morning and then we’d get together with our friends at the top for celebratory beers that night!

The Race

I sort of went into this race with a similar mentality as the Mesquite Canyon 50K, running at whatever pace felt comfortable. That worked out pretty well for me.. for about the first half of the race. Then it became tough, and power hiking became my MO for the rest of the race pretty much.

I was a bit disappointed in my inability to muster out much uphill running after a certain point, but my power hiking skills are (I’d say) above average so I still kept pace pretty well in relation to the people around my position.

Crown King 50K: The ultimate uphill battle! Happy to have been able to do this race this year.

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When all was said and done, I was happy enough with my finishing time. I know I could do better, and I’ll admit – part of me wants to give it a go again to see what I’m capable of. We’ll just have to keep an eye on that WrestleMania schedule!

via GIPHY

Post-race shenanigans

After the race, a group of us got together to run a beer mile. For the uninitiated, a beer mile consists of: (1) Chug a beer (2) run a quarter mile (repeat four times). I’ve done some pretty quick beer miles (sub ten minutes – nowhere near record setting, but I’d consider it to be pretty quick) – so this was nothing like that. I pretty much chugged beers and hobbled my way around the pseudo-course we had made up. Others with fresher legs were quite a bit speedier. Luckily (or not) this whole thing was captured for posterity:

…and for some reason (*cough* Erica *cough*), a human pyramid seemed like a good idea at the end. Don’t mind my poor form here – it’s the best I could muster!

Beeramid. #CrownKingScramble #beer #beermile

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To cap off the weekend, Laura took us home on the dirt roads en route back to the I-17. It wasn’t anything like the steeper uphill trails we took to get there, but it was still pretty fun to blast some country and kick up some dust!

Thanks for the hospitality, Crown King! We had fun running and Jeeping and eating and drinking!

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Let it be known: I survived the Crown King Scramble! Also, I apparently survived Jurassic Park!

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images

Race Report: Mesquite Canyon 50K

Last year, I attempted running the Mesquite Canyon 50K as my first ultra-marathon. It uh… It didn’t go quite the way I hoped it would. I linked up with some runners to listen in on some interesting conversations, but we all ended up taking a wrong turn that would cost us the race.

I was confident that would not be a problem this year, and I could focus on battling the trail itself. The race started off rather quickly, as they tend to. I told myself I would just run at whatever pace felt comfortable, and so the first third of the race was faster than I expected it to be. That would back to bite me in the ass.

The descent to Goat Camp is a rather steep one, but I managed well enough. The sun was out and it started to heat up quite a bit though, and I’d guess it was nearly 100 degrees by the time I got to that aid station. I loaded up my bandana with ice and turned around to head back up from Goat Camp. That climb was BRUTAL.

By the time the trail started to flatten out, I was toast. It was the hottest weekend of the year, and it sort of came out of nowhere. There wasn’t an opportunity to do any heat training, and for someone like me – that can be particularly detrimental. My pace slowed down, but I knew I had PLENTY of time to finish the race, though maybe not as fast as I had hoped I would.

It felt like I was wandering through the desert mountains for quite some time by the point where I got to the wash and then the white tanks. Man was that ever a nice change of pace, though! The sand made for not so great running conditions, but it kept me engaged. Then the rocks and the water were just something really neat to see. I scrambled past a troop of boy scouts as well as a few other day hikers and was soon on my way to finishing this race.

By the time I got to the end, the heat was really getting to me. Thankfully, I had some friends at the end who made me sit down and rehydrate / get some ice on me to bring my body temperature down and keep from overheating.

I was happy to get my revenge on this course, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be back for another dose!

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images

Pace Report: Black Canyon 100K

Pacing somebody during a race is a heck of a thing to experience.

At the time of this race, I had only actually completed a single ultra-marathon – the inaugural Whiskey Basin 57K. I had planned to run a couple of other ones, but life / illness / injuries would get in the way. When I saw a friend of mine post on Facebook that he was looking for a pacer at Black Canyon, it looked like a great opportunity for me to not only get in some extended mileage but also be a part of something bigger.

Having read multiple articles and listened to many podcasts about races and pacers, I knew it was something I wanted to do at some point. When Chris publicly declared he was looking for someone to help him get his Western States lottery entry, I decided to hit him up!

The day started for me at the Bumble Bee aid station, where I would work all morning with a crew of great volunteers, providing support for runners passing through. It was a different day for this race, as recent rains caused the race director to change the course from a point-to-point to an out and back. Conditions looked to be rough, as we saw many runners come through our tent soaking wet and covered in mud from that day’s rain. As runners kept coming through, I wondered how Chris was doing.

He looked pretty strong, both coming through the first time, and going past us on the way back. I started to get excited to run with him, and I packed my stuff up to meet him at the next aid station down the road.

Cold. So cold.

Once I got into my running gear and had nothing left to do but wait, I realized how cold it was going to be. Just standing around, I started to shiver – and I could imagine how he was feeling at that point, over 40 miles into his race. I’d be joining him with a fresh set of legs, looking to warm up as we moved.

He impressed me in the first few miles – I think there’s something motivating when you realize you’re not out there by yourself anymore. The pace was pretty solid as we trudged through the hills, and things felt great for a while.

The place looked like an infirmary

Then it started raining heavier. And we started getting into rougher territory. By the time we reached the final aid station before the finish (a little over 7 miles out), the place looked like an infirmary. Runners huddled around a single heater at the back of the tent. People (myself included) had our hands in our mouths to breathe life back into numb fingers. Everyone was shivering and considering their options. But we had to push through.

The rest of that race with Chris was something I would never have imagined. It was something I’d rather not experience ever again. But having done it makes me believe I could manage it if I had to. We ran through probably 5 miles of THICK mud. When we weren’t struggling to keep from slipping, we were exerting our legs to pull them out of pools of water and muck. This wasn’t any ordinary trail run – it was a power hike through crummy conditions. Would we even be able to make the midnight cutoff? “Hell, let’s just get through this,” I thought. We’ll sort that out later.

After what seemed like forever, we finally made it back to “nice” dirt roads and ultimately pavement en route to the finish. I glanced at my watch and realized that we could definitely still get Chris his lottery entry, but we couldn’t be lazy about it. I had way too much energy at this point and was ready to push it hard to get there. Chris? Not so much. Can’t say I blame him, though. It was a hell of a long day for him, but I knew he could do it.

Victory!!!

It turned into bursts of running and walking – whatever he could muster. We came in with just a few minutes left, and I have to say – it was amazingly satisfying to see him do it.

…and that feeling after one of the craziest courses I could imagine. #bct100k

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After the finish, we spent a couple of hours inside the high school gym, making our best efforts to right off hypothermia and return some sense of normal feeling to our bodies. We saw people seeking care from the medic team (those guys are AMAZING, by the way, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the crew Aravaipa gets to come out to their races). After some pizza, hot ramen, and coffee, we finally were able to get our butts up and moving. But not until quite a few war stories, Instagram photos, and hugs from other racers and volunteers.

If I push myself to the point of wanting to run a 100K – this may be a great option for me one day. I can only pray that the course won’t have the look and feel that it did that fateful weekend in February 2017, though.

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images