Mayer, Arizona
elevation range 4050'-1950'       7000' climb / 9000' descent
    RESULTS                                                                                                    2016 February 13

With gypsy winds blowing in my rear view mirror and an ennui of the winter chill, I cast anchor and set sail
for the west to find warmer climes and dusty trails.  My three week odyssey would be highlighted by three
races, back to back to back on sequential weekends.  It was time to test progress with training strategies
and spread wings once again.  Such is the life of an ultra dreamer.

Reaching the venue for the first event just north of Phoenix, after a wearying 2200-mile drive, I met up
with Tom Kaplan for a tasty Mexican lunch before picking up race packets, then driving to Sedona to find 
a bed and chase some sleep before the next morning's race.  Feeling tired but prepared, I arose at 0200,
wondering why I do these things!!!!, to drive to where I would pick up a bus for a ride to the start.

The early morning temperatures were warmer than expected at a comfortable 42 degrees, enabling most
of us to dispense with layers and be more streamlined for the start.  The plan was to go out comfortably
at a 5 mph tempo and hold it through 40 miles, so I let the ambitious field bolt away from me at the
start and settled in for a controlled long day.

The desert can be both exciting and non-descript.  The continuity of the scenery prevents one from
becoming too involved with looking around, so I was able to stay focused on negotiating an otherwise
mild double-tracked rocky trail, avoiding stumbles and falls (with one exception).  The terrain over the
first half of the event was largely pointed downhill.  While the course is fast from the start, the wisdom of
experience kept my effort measured and patient for real struggles that would come later.

Some days that you race are good, and then there are those that are better.  Between a signficant lack
of recent sleep, road-weary legs, and a case of diarrhea, I was rendered compromised from the get go
and consigned to accept just a good day.  It happens.  With an iffy lower GI I couldn't find any strength
in my legs; there was just no lift to them at all, and they were achy.  But, these long races have a way
of sorting themselves out if you just hang in there.


So I did just that, biding my time, and procrastinating my inevitable exit into the bush to find cover
behind some manzanita for a necessary nature break at about mile 19.  Ahhh!  That made a difference,
and I began to find my legs on the subsequent climbs and bumps beyond mile 20.  The field started to
come back to me by ones and twos for the next stretch into the half-way aid station.  Hitting mile 20
in around 3H 50M and 50K in about 6H 45M I was running cleanly, but behind my anticipated splits.

The day was heating up by early afternoon and was said to be 85 degrees when I found Tom Kaplan
crashed out at the half-way aid station, an unfortunate victim, among many, of the challenges of a tough
dance with the rocks in the heat.  I continued on without much adjustment for conditions.  We were
most fortunate during the day to have to cross the Agua Fria River four times as it wound it's way 
through the carved landscape of this Black Canyon country.  Each time I rinsed my head, neck, and face
with fresh clean, cool water, soaking my cap to effect continue cooling as I ran in the heat.

The Saguaro cacti are stunning sentinals over the stark landscape, with occasional bright green ocotillo, 
agave, prickly pear cacti, mesquite, manzanita, and creosote bushes.  I even saw four varieties of early
desert flowers.  The hint of spring always offers encouragement, and certainly kept me focused on 
continuing a reasonable performance.  People were very social; I generally find that to be perhaps more
true in these desert races than elsewhere; don't know why!!!  A runner named Rainey whom I ran with
briefly refreshed me with a nice brown or stout beer in her award mug at the 60K point.  So refreshing.  
Mucho, mucho gracias.  The volunteers were exceptionally helpful.  Notably, for sure!

I finally felt myself laboring more and slowing after the heat of the day began to dissipate after 3 p.m.
With the sun going down, conditions would only improve the rest of the way.  Hitting 40 miles in about
9H 30M I was way over my goal, and slowing further.  I caught a train with three Arizona runners
that pushed me much harder than I would have run on my own, for much of the next ten miles.  I was 
under some pressure to reach the 50M aid station by dark as that was where I had stashed my lights in
a drop bag.  As it was, despite the galant charge into the twilight, I came up short and limped along the
final couple miles with the shared headlamp light of a couple other generous guys.  

All that remained was about 11 miles of much of the same under the stars and a half moon.  Thinking
I was set and could take my time I lost contact with other runners before discovering that neither of
two lamps worked right - one not at all, and one intermittently.  With an on-off strategy I managed to
shuffle along at a 3 mph hike/run pace the rest of the way to conclude the day after slightly more than
16 hours, probably two or more hours slower than I might have acomplished on a day where I felt better.

Nonetheless, I was satisfied to accomplish another one of Jamil Coury's fine events and was delighted that
Benedict Duggar was at the finish to present me with another fine buckle.  Having enjoyed Ben's contact
through FB, this was the first time meeting him. Leaving one drop-bag behind I caught a shuttle back to
my car after grabbing a custom pizza which I would enjoy later.  All that remained was a drive back to 
Sedona and a shower before hitting the sack at 0200, making it an even 24-hour adventure.

For the following week Sedona would be home as I unwound and revitalized my body for the next
adventure in Page, Arizona for a 50-miler at Antelope Canyon.  With its spiritual energy and red rocks
it was a good place to reflect on another good time in the desert with great people.

                                       conehead with Tom Kaplan pre-race at Black Canyon Ultra