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A Day in the Desert - Black Canyon 100k Race Report

About 5 weeks before the race, I started having some posterior shin splint/tendinitis around my right ankle. This took my weekly volume down from the mid 70s into the 20s and 30s… I figured I had a 3 week taper anyways, so maybe a two-week loss of peak fitness. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I needed to focus on getting things right, so I had a couple visits to a sports massage therapist, and she worked some magic to get me about 95% ready to roll.

Dave, my one-man crew/pacer, and I flew into Phoenix early on Thursday morning. I had rented a camper van from BOHO Campers (highly recommend), so we picked it up around 10:30am. We immediately drove up to Sedona to grab some lunch and got a shakeout run in at Devils Bridge. An incredible 4 mile out and back section with some incredible views.

We knocked that out and headed back south to grab some dinner. We decided on Benni’s Pizza right in Black Canyon City… super good pizza by the slice! After dinner we shot down to Bumble Bee Ranch where we were going to be camping that night. Bumble Bee is also the first major crew station at mile 20ish, so it was good to get a visual. Dry Camping was $10 for the night and included access to HOT showers and heated bathrooms. SOLD!

Friday morning, we got up and drove back into Black Canyon City in search of some breakfast… We stumbled into Nora Jean’s Koffee Kitchen. Holy Shit!! The food and the lattes were on point! I went with the Black Canyon Breakfast Sandwich and Dave got the Chorizo Burrito. At first, we seemed out of place in Patagonia puffies, beanies, and Chacos, among all the locals with killer handlebar mustaches and cowboy boots, but soon enough the place was packed with cowboys and runners a like.

After breakfast we had some time to kill before the Expo and Packet Pickup kicked off at 1, so we set up at an overlook right near the Gloriana Mine Aid Station (mile 24ish). Dave wanted to scout a bit of the course, so he took off for a couple of hours and I chilled out and drank a few beers overlooking the landscape I was about to embark upon.

The expo was held on the back-patio area of Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City. It was an incredible set up with all the key sponsors (Altra, Squirrels Nut Butter, GU Energy, etc.). After dropping of my drop bags and grabbing my bib, we ended up eating dinner at Rock Springs Café and just chilled the rest of the day. The race offered camping passes in the overflow area of Rock Springs Café, which also happened to be the Black Canyon City Aid Station (mile 37ish) as well as the 60K finish which was about 25 minutes from the start at Mayer High School.

I had the typical night before a race kind of sleep, but all in all it was decent and when my 4:45 alarm clock went off I felt confident on Saturday morning. I got dressed and we made the drive up to Mayer HS arriving about 45 minutes before the race. It was about 34 degrees, but luckily, they had the gym opened up to all runners to stay warm while waiting to go. About 10 minutes before the start everyone made their way to the track where the race would begin. It was rad standing on the start line with some of the best ultra-runners in the world; Hayden Hawks, Charlie Ware, Magda Boulet, Camille Herron, etc.

We counted down from 10 and boom we were off and ripping around the track, it was finally here, the moment I had been waiting for since DNFing Leadville in August. My personal redemption race. The first 3 miles are on some county road and then onto a dirt jeep road that finally turns into the BCT single track. Within minutes of hitting the single track I realized just how technical this race was going to be, baseball sized rocks that would roll out from under your step kept you on edge the entire time. I saw several people eat it within the first 5 miles… wait, this isn’t supposed to be technical… is it? It was!

Unlike Leadville, I made sure I got out in a decent position and made sure I was in a solid moving pack not to get cramped in the “conga line”. I was clicking off high 7, low to mid 8 min miles and feeling confident in the flow I had going on. We quickly came into the first aid station Antelope Mesa (Mile 7.7). I had been practicing my nutrition utilizing a Tailwind concentrate, this gave me 650 calories that I would sip over a 3-hour period, along with another 24oz Nathan handheld that I used strictly for water. So, I just moved right through the aid without stopping. The trail through here, as is most of the trail, a beautifully winding, switchback single track with sweeping views of the mountain ranges off in the distance with massive Saguaro cactus surrounding you.