Another year, another beautiful trip through the Superstition Wilderness to start the new year.
This was the third year we've had this run, a Fat Ass the first weekend of January. I've had a bit of an obsession with the Superstitions since my brother Noah and I started out here hiking up Siphon Draw trail up the Flatiron. All those times I had always wondered what was out beyond those rocks and ridge lines, going on for seemingly forever.
So one day I bought a map of the Superstitions and I started to find out.
And what I found was incredible. A world of side canyons, springs, trails, cactus, trees, thorns, and solitude. We'd run the first year the same year I ran 50 miles in the Superstitions on a Jeff Jones designed route with Paul Rondeau. That run showed me such a diverse range of mountains that held so little care for your wellbeing. A ruthless system of trails hidden among abandoned dwellings, gold mines and little used trails. One mistake and you're going to be found by the strike of a miracle, nothing else.
So with any self supported run having the right people is always key. We had another hardy group join us this time with many making their first trips to the Superstitions on this run. We had three of our Mogollon Monster's 9 finishers in Jerome Jourdon, Rudolph Palmer and Danny Speros. Deva Lingemann (last woman standing at Mog100 with Heather Lightfoot), Jon Roig (3rd time for the Superstitions 50K), my brother Noah "I don't run from April to January and debut with this run" Dougherty, and Jon Nelson. Jon joined me on the Gonzalez 24 hour run and is running Zane Grey for the first time this April. This would be a great test for him, the Superstitions have arguably more rocks than the Highline trail...
I now only run once a week it seems and after running 16 miles in at South Mountain the previous Sunday I didn't run a step until the following Saturday. I went out for an easy six miles in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and ran into a couple friends. I jumped in behind them for the next several miles and ran back to my car solo. Getting back to my car I realized I was missing my car key.
Backtracking 3 miles to the last place I had it I didn't see it and gave up. But not before I put in 13 miles.
Eight miles into the Superstitions the following day I knew it was going to be a long one. Dead legs, no energy, gassed before we even got going. So it took a good bit to push past that and keep a smile on my face. Even the incredible descent off Miner's Needle couldn't get me going and coming into mile 18 at Peralta Trailhead I was seriously considering bailing at my own Fat Ass.
Yet as usually happens and I've grown to know this about the sport, there are inevitable rebounds. I always think to myself, no matter how shitty I feel during a long run, if I just keep moving long enough its bound to turn around. It's just a matter of time.
So we reached Peralta and I got to see my wife and our son Dean, grabbed some melons and recharged the battery, said goodbye to the Jon's and Noah and we headed up the biggest climb of the day.
Climbing is my battery recharge for sure. I can feel like stringing myself up to the next tree branch with my backpack straps one minute and then we could start up a several mile climb and I just click into gear and things start to turn around. By the time we reach the top I felt much better and I was looking forward to the long ridge line running back down the valley.
The five of us hammered out the remaining 13 miles with a great group downhill, everyone self sufficient, nobody outwardly struggling just pushing on. We hit the Black Mesa Trail and knocked out the climb out, passed a group of horse back riders at the Second Water turnoff and finished off the remaining two miles to make it back in 7:30 on the dot. A "slow" 50K for most but as a group a great time with plenty of time to enjoy the day.
As with every year the park rangers are at the lots and always look on us with such inquisitive eyes, cowboy hats turned down when they ask the inevitable question, "Where did you all start?"
This year however we caught up with the Ranger at the Peralta Trailhead and he said he would meet us back at First Water later on.
Sure enough, there he stood with his partner at the top of the hill by the trail signout. These guys know the trails as well as anyone and they know how rough they are. Even though these kinds of training runs never make it into the ranks of ultra signup the admiration of these old cagey cowboys makes it well worth the effort.
Until next year...