The Monster has officially consumed me.
Consumed everything around me.
Now just a little over three weeks away its down to the wire on planning this monstrosity. What started as a pipe dream over some maps almost two years ago has nearly become the dream.
A one hundred mile wilderness run through some of Arizona's most beautiful terrain was the goal from the start. I had a ton of help from local ultrarunner Jeff Jones on designing the course and creating one that is both challenging and logistically possible with the unique challenges that comes with a 2,000 ft. escarpment between aid stations. I sparked the idea on the tail end of our Superstitions Wilderness 50 Mile adventure and Jeff took off with it like a kid in a candy store. My original idea to create a hundred in Arizona where people would come, run and leave with a whole new idea of the state, showing that it was more than "just a desert." It started Jeff off in a tirade of ideas that resulted in nearly 500 emails over the next year.
What we came up with amazes me with each long run spent on the course. Weekend after weekend, I've driven the 100 miles from my house at 4am to arrive at the trailhead to run the course. Mile after mile I fall more in love with the area, the terrain and every God forsaken rock that hits the bottom of my sole. I've run some sections of the course a half dozen times this summer alone, others just a few times, but in all, I've traversed that Rim as much as anyone probably has at this point and now just a few weeks away...I can't wait to see what everyone has to say about it.
The challenging thing about directing a race is not fully grasping what it is that is "hard" for other people. Every race bills itself as a certain adjective leaning one way or another. "Hardest", "Toughest", "Fastest" something or other. Even the Zane Grey 50M race this race shares part of the course with has for years been called, "Toughest 50 Miler" which for many has been a debatable, none wishing to debate fresh off a ZG finish. This race, the Monster, will likely be one of the toughest endurance feats many of the entrants will have taken on at this point. I know this because of what I have experienced on other courses, what others have when running this course and how revered the Zane Grey course is in general. It's going to be hard. Really hard.
But what is "hard?" Hard to me is the Lean Horse 100. Running a flat surface 50 miles, then turning around and running it back?! That is a hell of a lot of running. Keys 100? Indiana 100? Javalina 100? I've paced the last couple years at Javalina Jundred for 30+ miles and while it's probably the most FUN race atmosphere and an event I look forward to each year...I'm extremely hesitant to ever run it myself. Because I feel it's extremely hard not having a major climb plopped somewhere in there or having to repeat the same thing over and over again. Across the Years this past year I hit 50 miles and quit out of sheer boredom. Terrible I know and something I'm probably going to go back and rectify but that day, running loops...I just couldn't get myself into a groove and really enjoy it. It was one of the hardest 50 miles I've done and I didn't climb 12 feet...
So how will everyone feel about the Mogollon Monster 100? I have compared a lot of hundreds trying to determine how it will be met once the first race is completed. I've spent countless hours on the internet reading all 88+ other hundreds websites, maps, elevation profiles, crew access, past times, cutoffs, etc. There's only about a dozen races with more elevation gain or outright by the numbers is "harder." Of course there are the Hardrocks, Wasatch races with the climbing but also taking into account the average elevation of each mile, terrain, technical nature, weather and all the other factors that makes a race difficult and challenging some are tougher than others for different reasons. I feel this race has them all to put it in a class that will challenge even the most seasoned ultrarunner. That wasn't the goal in designing the race any more was the extra 6 miles some kind of masochistic attempt at one upping anyone. It's just the way it panned out that way.
So after hundreds of hours of planning, hundreds and hundreds of miles on the course, and over eighteen months of constant planning we're almost there. The buckles are in the mail, supplies filling my garage, volunteers committing and contingencies being finalized. Planning a hundred mile race was a dream, an incredibly ambitious one I'm finding out, but one that I'm determined to see through successfully. Runners are coming from all over the country, pacers and crews with them. We'll all be in Pine, Arizona come Friday morning and I'll be there standing up among them for the briefing. A moment I can't believe is almost here, a weekend of determination, stubborness and drive coupled with beautiful, surreal & majestic. I can't wait to be on the other side of the finish line to see each of the runners come through successfully. To be able to shake their hands, congratulate them and hand them the infamous belt buckle that all non-runners feel is so insignificant.
20,000 feet of climbing.
One hell of a challenge completed.
You won't find a more rewarding experience anywhere.
It’s interesting when you think about the concept of running 100 miles. The act alone is quite significant and one that a lot of people will never even attempt, let alone succeed at. Possibly the more significant act is actually the training that is necessary to even get to the race. The time that it takes to sufficiently train for these kinds of events is extensive to say the least and verging on a full on burden. You have to put the effort in to get in all the running or you will surely suffer come race day. So to put it in perspective here is a listing of what my training has been the last eight weeks or so.
69 miles - May 30th-June 5th (long run 48- R2R2R)
29 miles - June 6th-June 12th (long run 9.5)
26 miles - June 13th-June 19th (long run 7.5)
52 miles - June 20th - June 26th (long run 22.5 Kachina/Weatherford Loop)
32 miles - June 27th - July 3rd (13.1 Over & Back Camelback Mtn)
45 miles - July 4th- July 11th (20.1 McDowell>Pemberton Loop)
49 miles - July 12th - July 17th (23 Kachina/Weatherford Loop)
67 miles - July 18th- July 24th (50 Mt. Lemmon 50)
39 miles - July 25th - July 31st (20 Cabin Loop)
- August 1st - August 7th (Cabin Loop 40 M)
At first glance, I’m a little disappointed in the total numbers. My weekly mileage is less than what a lot of ultrarunners put in normally and for 50 mile race training programs. Everyone has different priorites and while I am very dedicated to running, and this race, I’m also very dedicated to having a healthy relationship with my wife. Taking off for 2-3 hours several times a week, all day on weekends every weekend, takes a very supportive spouse. Something I’v been very fortunate to have to this point. With every take there has to be some give and there certainly have been times that I’ve returned from work planning on running an hour or two in the mountains only to scratch it knowing she had a rough day at work and it’s time better spent at home. I consider those few times my additional “rest days” that maybe even allowed my body to recuperate a little more for the next run.
Knowing that I’ve yet to put in 80 miles in a single week I do know that my long runs have all been quality runs with a lot of climbing and sustained downhills. My standard 6-8 mile runs in my mountain backyard have all been tough 800-2000 ft climbathons with steep ascents and sharp, dramatic, rough downhills, all runs finishing strong, fast and all out. My really long runs have been a Rim to Rim to Rim trip in late May that was very successful and I felt strong climbing all day. I’ve done two trips to high altitude and done 20 plus mile ascents of Mt. Humphries (12,633ft) in Flagstaff, all with elevations ranging no lower than 8,000ft and upwards over 12,000. I also put in some serious time in the Catalina Mountains in late July with a 50 mile, 11,500 ft of climbing, night run up and down Mt. Lemmon. This was a 16 hour jaunt through the forests and having started at night (as with the R2R2R) it simulates the fatigue you endure as we all had been awake since early that morning. By the finish of both those runs we had been awake for over 24 hours, exactly what will happen in a 100 mile race. As well, it’s excellent headlamp/night training that often people seem to lack.
Many of these runs have been solo runs forcing myself out the door and into some trail system to knock out the time, build the body up and push myself when I don’t want to be pushed. Many times I have really struggled to pop out of bed at 430am to beat the heat, the timeclock or the schedule of everyday life. Would I like more hours on the trail? More long runs, some majestic quest through the mountains that I can draw from later on come race day? Sure, but I think I already have enough to be able to really pull through when I need it. I’ve done 4 crossings of the Grand Canyon, two of them over 20 hours which for the sheer experience of time on your feet is extremely valuable. I have several 50 mile races this year that I can draw from, two of which were over 15 hours and in rugged, unsupported (at least the Supes) and self driven nature. It’s one thing to race 50 miles, it’s another to head out on your own schedule and knock out the miles when nobody is pushing you from behind. I think those two experiences will help mentally even without the overall mileage that others may have.
I hope to put in 70 plus miles this week after a 40 mile run on the Mogollon Rim this weekend followed by another long day in the mountains with a fellow WMRC runner for 3-4 hours. Those two runs, the second on presumably tired legs, should provide for a great week of training only three weeks away from the big race.
Next week? Maybe two 4 hour runs back to back in town and the following week only one long run under 20 miles. I’m a big fan of tapering, and going into a race very fresh. I hope that’s the case and after a few more big runs I’ll be as ready as i hope to be and proof that you don’t in fact need to log 80-100 miles a week to be successful at completing 100 mile races. Either that or I’ll be proof otherwise...