Friday, March 26, 2010

The First Running of the Mesquite Canyon 50 Kilometer Trail Run

The name "Ford" now no longer conquers up images of the first truck I learned to drive with a clutch.  Nor does it any longer remind me of my Ranger parked just outside.  Nope.  Now, even hearing the single-syllable word sends a little chill up my spine.

When asked about his new race course the night before its debut, race director Jamil Coury simply mumbled something about how he regretted not fixing rope on some of the down climbs in the two-mile long Ford Canyon "Narrows."  That little comment brought forth a collective group of "gulps" from the small group gathered around the campfire.  I guess this meant that no one was going to get bored with tomorrow's course.

Camping near the start the night before the race.  The setting of Jamil's bedtime course horror stories.

Taking in the distant lights of Phoenix' suburbs from White Tank Mountain Regional Park at dusk.

In January, only one runner had signed up for the inaugural Mesquite Canyon 50 Kilometer Trail Race.  But by race day more than 70 runners had decided that this 50K was the event for them.  There was a good representation from Flagstaff and northern Arizona:  Brian Tinder, ultra-newbie Eric Bohn, Bret Sarnquist, and James Willis.  The local Phoenix-area connection showed too:  also an ultra newbie and 2:30-marathoner Jason Griffiths and Michael Labrecque.  Heck, even Idaho represented:  AJW.  It was shaping up to be quite the race.  Coury felt that no runner would break five and half hours on his course.  All these guys were determined to prove him wrong.

Typical single-track in the "lowlands" near the start and finish of this course.  As you can see the desert is green this time of year!

The lead pack minutes into the race.

As dawn began to rise over the mountains; so did the runners.  After a few miles of good flat running, the first ascent pushed us all up to the ridge lines that over looked the wide valley that the Phoenix metropolis spread across.  The trail was rolling and fast.  Near mile ten we descended into Goat Canyon and began our way back to the valley floor and the Black Canyon Aid Station.  The trail got technical here and Jason Griffiths got frisky here.  Jason disappeared down the rocky, steep and twisting trail.  He would go on to win quite handedly.

The return trip back up Goat Canyon on this out and back section of trail was tough.  My mantra went something like this:  "Not going to walk, not going to walk, not going to walk...okay I'm going to have to walk."   Once back on top, along the ridge, it felt nice to get back into a simple running groove again.  It was good to know that the longest climb of the course was over with and we were more than half-way done.  

Some of the great trail to be had on this course.

More great single-track up higher.

Then the realization set in that Jamil's infamous Ford Canyon still awaited.  How would it play out?  Was Jamil just being dramatic in his description of the course through said canyon?  Each runner will surely have there own take on how Ford Canyon stacked up to them.  Some would probably wish it renamed to a more aptly, Fjord Canyon.  Jamil was right; it was tough.  The sandy wash bottom, miscellaneous whips from the woody, wash-side vegetation and the down-climbs of the dry waterfalls on glycogen starved legs really made the two-mile descent memorable, if not epic.  Congratulations to both Jason Griffiths and Paulette Zillmer for their wins.

Some of the not-so-smooth "trail" along the course.  This is one of the dry waterfalls found in Ford Canyon.  Ugh!

The author at the mouth of Ford Canyon and at the last aid station on the course.  Glad to be done with that section of trail, but wishing that the finish-line were closer than three miles.

Jamil and Nick Coury put on an excellent event.  The 5-mile, 10-mile and 25K options allowed for the event to acquire a crowd and fit the bill of any runner's tastes.  Post-race goodies were plentiful and the location was superb.  Kudos to those volunteers that hiked in to staff the remote aid stations!  Jamil and Nick, who make up Aravaipa Running, promise to hold the event next year.  So for those of you who missed out, no worries, it'll be waiting for you.

Thanks for the Coury brothers and Austin Leggett for the use of some of their photos.

Some of the Flagstaff boys:  (l to r):  Brian Tinder, Ian Torrence, Eric Bohn, Bret Sarnquist

The two race directors:  Jamil Coury (standing) and Nick Coury (sitting).  Nice show gentlemen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Run to 2012!

Please join us at the 1st annual Run to 2012! Event. Proceeds from the event will go toward health care and support services for the athletes and toward Team USA Arizona's community involvement theme, "Reducing Childhood Obesity in Northern Arizona."

There'll be dinner from Bigfoot Barbeque, running videos, more than 50 silent auction items, more than 25 raffle prizes and a live auction (see below) to conclude the evening; all very exciting items to bid on.

Ticket Price: $10 adults; $5 students; under 6 free

Location: Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen Flagstaff, AZ 86001 (928) 556-1580

Come on out with family and friends to meet the athletes of Team USA Arizona and to celebrate their dedication to athletic excellence.

Here's a preview of what you can expect:

From the Houston Marathon:
Travel with Team USA Arizona to Houston, TX in 2011 to race at the site of the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials!
Travel to Houston, TX with athletes from Team USA Arizona to compete in either the half-marathon or the full marathon in 2011. Houston is the site of the USA Men's and Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012 and the site of amazing marathon races in 2010 by Team USA Arizona athletes Brett Gotcher and Paige Higgins! With full access to the elite athlete and VIP area throughout race weekend, you'll have the chance to see the inner workings of a professional marathon and can compete in either the half or full marathon on race day!
This package includes airfare on Southwest Airlines for two, two nights hotel at the Hilton Americas (race hotel), one race entry into either the full or half, and elite athlete and VIP passes for 2 for the race weekend (race date: January 30, 2011) (Suggested retail value: $1,400)
“New Year’s Eve in NYC” Package
* 25,000 Continental Airlines OnePass miles (good for one domestic roundtrip ticket)
* Free entry into Emerald Nuts Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve
* $100 Gift Certificate to Becco restaurant in Manhattan
(Suggested retail value: $700)

“Live” Auction begins at 8:30pm:
As a way for you to get to know the athletes and staff of Team USA Arizona, we thought it would be fun to auction them off! With ideas of their own creation, each of them is worth more to us than we can even express. We hope you’ll agree.

Paige Higgins: Domestique, at your service! “The KEY workout to Coach Greg McMillan’s training of Team USA Arizona marathoners is the long tempo run on Lake Mary Road. This run really lets you know you are ready to go and toughens you up for the race. Paige knows how important it is to have support while you’re on the road. That's why she is offering to be your domestique on 2 of your tempo runs! Paige will start with you, drive behind you on the shoulder, record your mile splits, hand you fluids, and offer encouragement the whole way. She will also take photos to document your workout. Afterwards, she'll treat you to the “magical recovery breakfast sandwich” at Macy’s, where you can talk about your workout (or not talk about your workout!), relax and enjoy a job well done!!”

Ian Burrell: Drum like Bonham...or Burrell! "Learn the basics of drumming from Ian Burrell, former drummer for the international punk rock sensation, "No One's Heroes." Ian is a self-taught drummer and is offering to teach you a minimum of 3 fundamental beats and the art of the drum roll on the drum kit. Enjoy 5 one-hour sessions that are sure to bring out your inner John Bonham. Whether your embarking on a life-long quest in music or just trying to impress that attractive coed at the office, Ian's unconventional methods will have you dropping beats like a pro."

Andrew Middleton: Web creations for you "Do you need a website? Or does your old one need a facelift? Andrew Middleton, the webmaster of and, is offering the design and implementation of a basic, personalized website. Andrew has experience in web design, ad creation, web video and much more."

Lindsay Allen and Jaime Canterbury: Strengthen your core, become a running machine “We all know that a strong core is essential to running performance and fitness. Team USA Arizona members Jaime Canterbury and Lindsay Allen can help you strengthen your core. They're offering a weekly core class for one month for you and up to 4 of your friends. Learn the core exercises of the Team USA Arizona members and become the running machine you've always dreamed of.”

Lindsay Allen and Courtney Burrell: Two Blondes and a Skillet “There's nothing like a home cooked meal made-to-order. Team USA Arizona members Courtney Burrell and Lindsay Allen will come to your house and cook you a homemade meal of your choice from scratch and with only the freshest ingredients. Enjoy a nice evening in your very own home without a single worry, kick back and let us prepare your meal. You request it, we'll attempt to make it!”

Trina Painter and Andrew Carlson: Timed workout on Trina's Loop. “Coach Trina Painter will time your workout and Andrew Carlson will pace you through it on the famous loop used by Team USA Arizona runners and many other elite runners training in Flagstaff. The 1.1 mile loop located in Coconino Estates is home to many favorite workouts including steady state runs, mile repeats, 1000m repeats and fartlek runs. It's a relatively flat loop that is marked every 400 meters with the start line at her house. The post workout recovery begins with Trina’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls and includes coffee with Andrew and his pup Rocket Man!”
Brett Gotcher and Jordan Horn: Two Dudes and Brews “Enjoy a night out with some good food and sample some of Flagstaff's finest beers with 2:10 marathoner Brett Gotcher and sub-four minute miler Jordan Horn. We can talk about training, racing, beer or anything that comes to mind!”

Alvina Begay, RD: Nutrition Counseling With all the snow shoveling this winter, are you starting to realize that it just wasn’t quite enough to
burn off all those calories you consumed sitting next to a warm fire? Are you looking to get rid of that extra weight that all the winters storms helped you put on? Or are you just looking for advice and ideas to improve athletic performance through nutrition? Miss Alvina Begay, a Registered Dietitian is available to provide her expertise to get you on track towards looking and feeling good in your summer swim and athletic wear through healthy eating. Alvina will provide three nutrition- counseling sessions. In the initial visit, she will assess your current diet and eating habits. The two sessions that follow will assist you in monitoring your progress towards healthy eating. "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art."- La Rochefoucauld

Emily Harrison: Pampered pet package “5 hours of pampering your pet! Emily is available during the day and some evenings to walk, pet sit, or take your pet to the groomer or vet appointment. Basic grooming such as bathing can also be applied. Emily and her parents raised and trained show dogs so she's got the skills and experience to treat your dog (or other furry loved companion) well!”

Team USA Arizona: Team Dinner of BBQ and beverages by the fire “Come join us for a team dinner this spring/summer and enjoy some of Coach Greg McMillan’s famous pulled pork BBQ! Relax at the McMillan’s home in Ft. Valley with the athletes and staff while the sun sets on the San Francisco Peaks. A delicious dinner, drinks, dessert and good conversation by the fire pit will make the evening complete.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Where the Earth Threw Up!

Where I ventured this morning was a bit reminiscent of that movie 2012.  Just the name of my destination alone has always intrigued me:  Fondly called Shit Pot Crater by the locals, but renamed SP Crater by bashful cartographers.  And here's why:

"When viewed from certain angles on the ground, the combination of the smooth round shape of the cone, the dark lava spatter on the rim, and the long dark lava flow extruding from the base do indeed resemble a toilet catastrophe." -- Wikipedia

It was time I traveled north of Flagstaff and checked out Mother Nature's masterpiece.  When you think volcano, SP Crater is the epitome of excellence...they couldn't do any better in the movies.  Here's the journey via photo:

Obviously not my photo, but it gives you the setting.  A great aerial view of SP Crater and its lava flow; the destination of this Sunday run.

The long, flat road run into SP Crater.  SP Crater is in the center here and six miles distant.

The San Francisco Peaks (Mt. Humphrey's is the tallest and most snow covered) as viewed en route to SP Crater.  Not too many trees over here!

Typical wildlife found as you cross Babbitt Ranch lands on the way to SP.

Looking up towards SP Crater's summit cone while on the approach.

Looking from SP's summit over to its neighbor, Colton Crater.  Definitely a much more violent eruption.  The San Francisco Peaks set the backdrop.

The Four-Mile Long SP Lava Flow (as seen from its summit).  Classically cool!

Looking down (sort of) into SP's Caldera.

And Now Your Two Moments of Zen...

Biggest Beer Can in the World (cattle watering tower).

Zoroaster shows off her new, glorious cow pie necklace.  Oh, she's so smug!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Missing It.

This weekend marks the third annual Tar N Trail 6 Mile Race in Ashland, Oregon (sponsored by Rogue Valley Runners):  Classiest, low-key race in the country!  It was my first ever official race as a co-race director (along with Hal Koerner).  I won't be there this year.  Here's what I'll be missing:

I'll miss seeing friendly, familiar faces at the check-in tent (Chuck, Krista, Carly and Darcy).

I'll miss (or maybe I won't) setting out course markings and road signs very early Saturday morning.

I'll miss seeing the many runners and friends come...

...and go.

I'll miss hearing everyone's oh's and ah's as they head up that sweet trail through Lithia Park.

I'll miss hearing the rumblings of discontent as runners head up the hill to the top of Strawberry-Hald Park (just past Renn's infamous one and only course aid station).

I'll miss trying to catch switch-back cutters on the Bird Song Trail descent (ahem...still got my eye on you Leuthold).

Most of all...I guess I'll miss standing up there with Hal and wishing everyone good luck and safe travels!

So, you might say after having read this, "Then why don't you get your arse back there, if you miss it so much?"  Well, for me, it's the memories and longing to be there that makes it so much more of an important experience.  One that I'll never forget.  Have fun everyone!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A View From Behind the Windshield: The Movie

What one does when you have good music, lots of cool photos, a new computer, some time and inspiration!