Black Canyon 100K

(Probably I have forgotten some details but better late than never)

A little over a month ago I ran the Black Canyons 100K. Sometime last September, probably after I finished Noble Canyon 50K - my first 50K in 7 years - I decided that it was mostly reasonable to sign up for 100K having not run anything more than 50K and just a single trail race in 7 years.

Some key accomplishments:

  1. Successfully executed the Fart While Running during a race
  2. Avoided another DNF! (I wonder how long this streak will continue)
  3. No falls! And narrowly avoided a major face plant... how I still don't know because I tripped HARD on a rock. Probably in a non-race setting I would have been on my face but my adrenaline and reflexes were in high gear.
  4. Not a single blister and I never changed my socks!

Some things not avoided:

  1. Chafing. But thankfully it was minimal
  2. Choking on inhaled pieces of Pringles chips. Learned that later in the race I should avoid eating these guys. My ability to walk (nevermind run) and not screw up the eating process of these chips that are easily fractured into spiked shards is supremely degraded.
  3. Extreme overpacking of drop bags. I used maybe 4 or 5 things from all 3 on-the-course drop bags.


After an evening of obsessing with Laura about what we should pack in our drop bags, I got maybe 3 hours of sleep. Three beers and a melatonin did not knock me out like I hoped it would. The morning basically started with me hitting the toilet early (which, OK, that was probably a good thing) and then watching my Garmin 935 get stuck in a "Software Update" failure loop. I frantically managed to get into the menu after multiple attempts and turn off automatic updates. As it turned out my other running buddy Jamie had the exact same problem, so this is a definite, WTF Garmin, pushing a software update on a Friday night/Saturday morning?

We eat, get our eleventy zillion bags, and drive to bus loading. Now, over the course of the previous week, the southwest got inundated with what was termed an "atmospheric river" which was really just loads of precipitation. This year in southern California has been crazy - snow at only 1000 feet elevation. Hail! Very few days of sunshine. Anyway, so the atmospheric river complicated things. Aravaipa was hoping not to change the course and didn't... until 4:45am on race morning. We got an email while sitting on the bus, informing us that the High Water Route was in effect (they had outlined this possible course a few days prior). Less point to point, and more run back and forth between Black Canyon City and Gloriana Mine. We would pass through the finish area twice before actually finishing. The consequence of this change was that the course was faster in the back half, but it was a mind-fuck of sorts, including having to negotiate the single track with runners coming in the opposite direction. Often faster runners so the time to execute the Shoulder and Half Body Throwback was fractions of a second.

The Start to Bumble Bee (miles 1 - 20)

So, this was the only part of the race where I was like "WTF guys, this is a mess." They initially told us we had to check-in even if we already picked up our bib at the expo. The line to do that got impossibly long. All the runners in the cold, light sleet, and sticky mud cakes growing on our shoes. At some point they must have realized they weren't going to get everyone checked in and told us we didn't have to do this if we had our bib. I had to pee again so I went behind a water tower. My feet were frozen. While waiting for the starting "gun" the inflatable arch nearly fell over onto us from wind. We were Having Weather. Once we started, it took 3 miles for my feet to thaw out and not feel like I was running with rocks under the balls of my feet.

I seriously wondered if I would make it past mile 15 the way I was feeling. I'm not being dramatic - this was the toughest part of the race for me, strangely. It wasn't until we got to the one and only creek crossing that things got better. At first I was concerned the water would be frigid and refreeze my feet. While the current did almost knock me over (and convince me Aravaipa was absolutely justified changing the course to the High Water Route), it completely thawed out my feet. It was like some kind of bizarre baptism and I came out of that creek feeling like a 100,000 bucks. Not quite a million because: wet socks. But certainly at least 6 figures.

The other thing that happened over the course of the first 5 miles was it went from low 30s to mid 50s. So, within an hour it was dry and mostly sunny. I was suddenly wearing far too much clothing (arm sleeves and another long sleeve over them). I got to the first aid station at mile 8, stripped down to my tank and stuffed it into my pack, and then waited 3 minutes to pee (that part annoyed me, but I had to go and this course has nearly no shrubbery to hide behind to do your business). At that point I was probably closer to 50th place for females but I knew most of these folks went out way too fast and I was going to move up if I ran my own race.

I spent very little time at the next aid stations - so little I hardly remember it. I think I may have had them top off my hydration bladder, grabbed some coke and potatoes. I continued cruising and at one point going up hills, nudged my way ahead of a couple conga lines (because if I'm going to make up time, it's goign to be on hills). I came into Bumble Bee Ranch (19.2) in 41st place. Dumped my clothing into my mostly empty drop bag (so, I planned well here), grabbed my homemade ice bandana because the sun was getting a teensy bit warm and I like to be cool, and loaded it up. I iced until mile 51! And I'm glad I did. I spent about 3 or 4 minutes at this aid station.

All told, I'd estimate that I spent about 15 minutes total at all aid stations. That part I executed well.

On the way out, I stopped for another pee break so I was confident I was also hydrating well.

Bumble Bee to Black Canyon City #1 (miles 20 - 36)

Bumble Bee to Gloriana Mine was a nice stretch of single track and pretty trails. It had some climbs, and some gentle downhills. I don't remember too much here other than I was feeling pretty good. I chatted some with a girl from DC who I leapfrogged with until the final 10 miles when she laid down the hammer and left me in the dust finishing 11 minutes ahead. Miles 26 to 31 featured lots of downhill jeep and paved road, and I have to say it didn't feel fantastic. It felt kind of crappy.

I had been told that anything after 50K is just going to hurt and it's all about how to deal with The Suffering. I would say somewhere around 33 miles or so, I realized this was 100% true. I got to 32 and thought: "Well I don't feel horrible... yet." Miles 33 to 36 it became a game of celebrating each mile as a new distance records so as to distract myself from the discomfort! At this point I was in 36th place.

Coming into Black Canyon City the first time, I ran into Jonathan who gave me some tips and helped me find my drop bag. Also reminded me I'd be back there in like 4 miles! So I decided that was all the time I needed to spend there and I would refill the pack and potty break when I got back which would be mile 40. Still in 36th place.

Black Canyon City #2 to Gloriana Mine #2

The first little out and back of the High Water Route went down to the river we should have crossed and back. The turn around was a can of Hazy Little Thing! I commented to the volunteers that the had great beer taste :) I was oblivious to my surroundings but per my race compadres, the river was really full and definitely impassable.

On the way back up I made friends with a runner named Daniel and we trudged back up the hill to Black Canyon City commenting on how well we were moving looking at all the folks up ahead mostly walking. Here I noted that I was maybe 1/4 mile behind Jamie. I also saw Robert here going down.

Bladder refill, potty break, potatoes, gels, started up my music for the first time all day and I was out. Now 29th place. In this stretch alone I moved up 21 overall spots and I think it was largely the amount of time I spent at the aid station. I believe it was 3 minutes at the most. On my way out, my new friend had rejoined me and we ran the next 11 miles together which were road and climbing and the most challenging stretch. I hit mile 40 and I was definitely feeling the distance. Trying not to dwell on the fact that I still had 20 more miles, I mentally framed it: "20 miles is only half what you have already done!"

Around mile 42 the ache in my legs from the second pass on the road was audible and I decided two acetaminophen was necessary. Either it was placebo or they did their thing because by mile 46 I was feeling quite good. At Soap Creek visit #2 (mile 44), I was 28th place. The jeep road from here was quite an ass kicker - the only way we got up it at 15:00 pace was to negotiate walk and run points with ourselves. I was so relieved to get to the single track trail to Gloriana Mine. We had a nice conga line here of about 6 people including Dan C (who unfortunately got lost for 2 miles) just working up the slight incline. The weather had started turning cold and misty and I knew my time with the ice bandana was done. We pulled into Gloriana Mine and the aid stations volunteers were the best yet! She took my pack and asked me exactly how much I wanted and what, and left me with the time to put on a long sleeve and my headlamp (which I would end up needing for maybe 10 minutes). About 5 minutes spent here. Now 20th place. On the way out I ran into Laura, Jamie, Jonathan coming in.

Gloriana Mine #2 to Finish at Black Canyon City

I saw lots of my San Diego buddies on the way to the finish, Tom, Robert, Maros, Brandon, Greg, etc. We must have had the biggest non-local contingency at this race and it really helped everything feel less foreign.

In this stretch, I lost almost all of my conga line buddies. Sometimes I really wish I had the downhill turbo that other folks have. I can climb all day, but downhills are not my forte.

The pain was nearly gone now probably because my mind knew I was almost done. I didn't stop at Soap Creek #3 (mile 58). I was now 19th place.

I let myself walk some on the road portions because I was just mentally drained. I still managed sub 10:00 on it but it was a hard to tell myself to keep pushing. So I phoned it in just a smidge in the last 3 miles.

I got to the top of the hill before the final single track into Black Canyon City and realized soon I would have use the headlamp. It was ALMOST a 100K finish with no headlamp. Almost. The last song to come on from my playlist was Tupac's All Eyez On Me which was so good to finish with. I was "singing" along with it (well, just the All Eyez On Me part because anything else would have taken too much energy). Boy, was I happy to see that finish line.

Finish time 11:36:51, 17th female, 3rd in 40-44, 119th overall.

I spent the rest of the night lamenting on how tired I was, messaging with my injured BRBF (best running boyfriend), keeping some pals company in the warm med tent, trying to eat pizza, sometimes shivering, talking to some randos who made a fire farther back in the parking lot (it was half for the conversation, half because they had fire... thank God I'm an extrovert).

I'm quite pleased with this outcome considering my longest distance ever was a 50K, I ran it solo, and it was a Golden Ticket race where all kinds of fast people are hoping to contend for top two. My running buddy conjectures that at least 10 folks of each gender show up with the intention to go for it. So coming in 17th at a race like this in my mind is great. Next up is my 4th Boston! Only 6 more to go for Streaker status :)


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