Monday, March 28, 2011

The Call of the Wild

Warning:  If you have small children they should leave the room or if the sight of gore turns your stomach or if silliness isn't your thing then this blog entry might not be for you.

Once upon a time a little Easter bunny was hopping his way from house to house delivering all the good little boys and girls huge baskets of delicious sweets and treats. 

When all of a sudden Mr. Easter Bunny was intercepted by a black and white cur.

Insanity, nay, pandemonium ensued!

Will the carnage ever stop!

Avert your eyes now!  Someone please help!

But wait...what is this?  A lull, no, a truce is made.

The black and white mongrel invites (insists, actually) that Mr. Easter Bunny come inside with all his chocolate knickknacks and view the parlor from within.

Ah, yes, this day the ending is happy.  Mr. Bunny and the Z-monster split the goodies evenly.  Fat on candied indulgences they laugh about and relive the day's frightful and inappropriate transgressions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looping Sedona Again

Last year we discovered this fantastic loop in Sedona, AZ.  At 19 miles in length, the trip circumnavigates Wilson Mountain, crosses over three passes (Brins, Sterling, and Wilson) and through the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness Area.  Spring was in the air and Tinder reminded me that it was time for this annual pilgrimage.  Here's a link to the Garmin data for this run.

The Rag-Tag Fugitive Fleet:  (left to right) Jamil Coury, Brian Tinder, Scott Bajer, Liz Davis, Christina Bauer, Zoroaster, Rob Krar.

The conga line dancing up the first climb to Brins Mesa.

Atop Brins Mesa.

Liz Davis happy to be done with climb number one.

Down the backside of Brins Mesa.

A coveted water stop, in another month these won't exist.

Refueling on Dry Creek Road.

Running towards Vultee Arch and Sterling Pass.

Regrouping atop climb number two:  Sterling Pass.

Looking down from Sterling Pass through the matchsticks created by the 2006 Brins Fire.

The 2006 Brins Fire burns to the summit of Wilson Mountain. (photo by David Sunfellow)

The tilted group tucked into narrow Sterling Pass.

Running across the broad shoulder of Wilson Mountain and the top of climb number three.

Looking down over a hazy Sedona and the Midgley Bridgely (the start and finish point for this run).

Your Moment of Zen-aster

Only two days after the Sedona run described above, winter regained its foot hold on northern Arizona.  As you can see, some of us were happy about that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Something for Everyone

New to this year's Ultrarunning calendar!  

This November the Bootlegger 50K comes to you from the mountains outside of Boulder City, Nevada, high above the shores of Lake Mead and the Las Vegas Strip.  Find out more about this race sponsored by Red Rock Running Company, Pearl Izumi and Tenaya Creek Brewery at the event's website.

Coming to Flagstaff's Orpheum Theater on April 1st is the second annual Run to 2012 Fundraiser.

Please join the athletes, coaches and staff of Team USA Arizona for our second annual "Run to 2012" fundraiser on Friday, April 1, from 6-10 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Flagstaff. The funds raised at this event will go toward training and support services for the team's elite runners as they prepare for the upcoming 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. In addition, Team USA Arizona will donate $1 from the sale of each Run to 2012 admission ticket sold to both Fit Kids of Arizona and the YMCA's Strong Kids and Families Campaign to support the team's community mission of reducing childhood obesity in northern Arizona and promoting good health and physical activity among children, youth and families.

The event includes dinner from Big Foot BBQ, silent and live auctions, a raffle and a special guest appearance by Olympic Medalist and ING New York City Marathon Champion Rod Dixon. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for students age 10 and over; $25 for families; and free for children under 10. For more information or to donate an item to the raffle or silent auction, please call Tracy McMillan at (928) 380-0778 or email Silent auction and raffle items must be received by March 21.

The first annual adidas-McMillanElite High School Training Camp comes to Flagstaff, AZ
July 31st to August 5, 2011.

Come experience six days and five nights in Arizona's running mecca. During training you will experience Flagstaff's diverse trail systems. Group runs will take place on everything from unpaved forest roads to the Flagstaff Urban Trails System and mountainous single-track trails. Each run features scenic vistas and unique mountain vegetation and topography. Located at 7,000 feet above sea level, Flagstaff's ideal summer climate - the average high temperature is 82 degrees F while evening and morning temperatures can cool to the upper 40s F - is one of the reasons that the best runners from around the world choose to live and train here. Join other high school runners from across the country in a week-long training camp led by running experts in one of the most renown training meccas in the U.S.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Mesquite Canyon 50K

Aravaipa Running strikes again.  Just like last year's inaugural running, the Mesquite Canyon Races again lived up to expectation.  Another stellar event by Nick and Jamil Coury.  This year's event was punctuated by the final race and crowning of the Desert Runner Trail Series (with both a Short Trail and Ultra Trail division) campions.  Mesquite Canyon offered distances for all runners; 5 mile, half-marathon, marathon and 50K.  With more than 325 runners showing for the races, the start/finish line was a buzz all day long.  Full race results can be found here.

A familiar start line.

A dawn start.  (photo Aravaipa Running)

Back at it again!  His first race in over two years.  James Bonnett shows he still has it by winning the half-marathon. (photo Aravaipa Running)

Lost among the rocks of Ford Canyon. (photo Justin Lutick)

Done and done, with blood and salt stains to prove it. (photo Bret Sarnquist)

The gentlemen of Flagstaff:  (left to right) Scott Bajer (9th in the 50K), Ian Torrence (2nd in the 50K), Bret Sarnquist (3rd in the half-marathon) and James Willis (3rd in the 50K).

The winner, for the second year in a row, of the women's race and seventh overall:  Paulette Zillmer

Shad Mickelberry came over from Vegas to get in his heat training.

Keira Henninger, Leona Divide's race director, made it a close women's race finishing only two minutes behind Paulette.

Flagstaff's Bret Sarnquist accepts his trophy from race director Jamil Coury.  Bret wins the Aravaipa Desert Runner Trail Series. (photo Aravaipa Running)

Your Moment of Zen

A doggie Report Card.  You gotta love the big, orange sticker in the upper left corner...

Monday, March 7, 2011


During the summer of 1990, after I graduated high school and before I headed off to college, my Dad put into motion a trip of grand proportion.  The goal was to experience one of last truly wild places in North America, a place that up to that point in time, was only read about in books or seen on a television documentary.  A place that didn't seem real or tangible.  The mission was simple:  Experience the magnificence of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  The plan:  Two weeks of climbing in the Brooks Range and two weeks of rafting out to the Arctic Ocean.  Our group of six would do all of the logistical planning without the assistance of a guide service.  We did it all, right down to the food menus, travel, routes and equipment lists.  Looking back now, it is hard to believe that I spent a month in such a place.  

A few days ago my father, Paul Torrence, sent me a USB flash drive with the slides (not even sure if digital cameras existed) he took on this trip digitized for prosperity.  The photos revitalized all my slowly fading memories and brought to light the fact that this was a trip for the ages.  Below are a few of those shots.

Where this trip took us.  North of the Arctic Circle.

A land of struggle...caribou and wolf prints.  Hopefully it stays this way and we don't screw it up as the pressure for oil and gas extraction in the Refuge is higher than ever.  While on this trip I saw the caribou, but never got to see the wolf.

Paul Torrence, the man behind the mission.  The Brooks Range provides the back drop with its countless unclimbed peaks.

Once in Alaska the trip went like this:  Anchorage to Fairbanks to Fort Yukon to the Hulahula River Valley.  Roger Dowding, in red, of Yukon Air, was our bush pilot.  He flew us from Fort Yukon to some random gravel bar in the middle of the ribboned Hulahula River.  We would learn a few years later that Roger was killed in a crash while flying through the Brooks Range.  

So what do you do when the plane, your only contact to the outside world, flies away?  That's easy. Make camp and enjoy a place that only a handful of others have seen.

Backpacking in the Alaskan tundra.  No trails here.  Better know how to use a map.  The group (left to right):  Andy Kopek, Peggy Rosen, Al Rosen, Carl Solomon, Paul Torrence)

Yes, the backpacks were big.  We had to be ready for every situation.

The first climb:  Mount Michelson (8,855')  Looks like Everest don't it?

During the ascent:  A break on the shoulder of Michelson.

The summit ridge of Michelson.  That's me in the orange helmet.  Can you say "On belay!"

Camping in a glacial cirque.

Climb number two:  Mt Chamberlin (9,020')  The highest peak in the Brooks Range.

Not even legal enough to have a beer, but standing under Chamberlin's weighty summit.  We never made the summit.  The ice fall that shrouds it's summit was, for us, insurmountable.  We stood fast to our trip motto:  Live to play another day.

Now it was time to head for the coast.  Rafting the Hulahula River.  Andy Kopek in the rear and me up front.

Auf Eis (an ice formation typical of north flowing arctic rivers) on the Hulahula.  Makes one look very small.

Made it!  Al Rosen and I on the shores of the Beaufort Sea.  The small village of Kaktovik would be our first "taste"of civilization in a month.  I remember looking at myself in a mirror for the first time in four weeks...proof that you can forget what you look like!

Your Moment of "Alaskan Zen" 
If I ever go into wine making this is what I'd call my first batch.

What was the worst part of the adventure?  The freakin' mosquitos drove me mad!