Black Canyon Trail 100k, 2015!

This had to be the most epic Ultra-Marathon I have ever been involved in; the elite participant field was stacked, scenery to die for, not to mention the hype and excitement surrounding The Montrail Ultra Cup .  I had no shot finishing in the top two, a guaranteed ticket to Western States.  The BC100k is a point to point race starting in Spring Valley, AZ and finishes near New River.
I kept my race week nerves on ice until Thursday, packet pick up, and the screening of the Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfes fastest know time (fkt) on the John Muir Trail.  From the moment I woke up on Friday, I was bouncing off the walls.  I was trying hard to not be overly annoying to my wife, who was days away from her first ever half marathon.  The weekend was set.
When we arrived to Mayer High school, in Spring Valley Arizona, Tim, Giles, Cristain, Brian and I sat in the car silent for a few minutes.  Finally the silence was broken and we begin our last minute preparations.  Race check-in was held in what I believe was the schools cafeteria.  I was surrounded by many great runners as well as friends.  We snapped a few photos before heading to the starting line. 
Adam B, Tim, Giles, Cristian, Me, Adam L
Nate and I

The race starts with one lap around the high school track.  Dave James, a phenomenal runner known for starting fast, belted from the start.  It was amazing to witness.   As I rounded the track I watched the elite group and looked to find Cristian (The Matador), and sure enough he was with them.  We left the track and headed out along a paved road.  
We were only on the road for a few miles before hitting the Black Canyon Trail (BCT).    In familiar fashion Tim, Giles and I set a steady pace.  We had a lot of catching up do.  Since Tim moved to California, I don’t get to chat with him much besides sharing text and few social media post.  We talked and ran. 
The miles were flying by and every turn offered more spectacular views.   There is a significant windmill near mile six, as I pointed it out, I imitated a drunken superman: I flew to the ground as, Tim, Giles and a female runner watched.  It took me a second to get up.  No pain.  I was just stunned at how quick I hit the ground.  I regrouped and we pushed on stopping quickly at the first aid station.   

Photo Credit.  Bret Sarnquist  Early on

Tim.  Amazing views
I snapped lots of pictures as we cruised up and down the hills on the pristine single track.  It was beginning to get warm, the forecast called for a high of 85 degrees.   We soon arrived at aid station 2, mile 12.9.   Tim left the aid first.  I took my time and tried to get some solid food in my stomach.  I ate a few tortilla and been rolls as well as boiled potatoes and salt.  Thomas Orielly, great runner and family man, and I left the aid station together. 
Thomas and I Mile12.9

I could see Tim up ahead.  I decided to pick up the pace a bit and catch him.  We took turns leading as wound down the single track.  It was thrilling to see, the Sunset Point rest stop, above us on the trail. I have traveled along the I-17 freeway hundreds of times in my life time.  I am an Arizona Native:  I love this state and I am still discovering hidden gems.  BCT is now one of my favorite trails. 
Tim and I hit the Bumble Bee aid station a few minutes apart.  I soaked my bandana with ice water.  I was feeling the heat and wanted to keep my body cool.  I put my soaked bandana on my head and headed back out on the trail.  Tim waited for Giles who was just coming into the aid station.  

There was a steep hike ahead of me as I left the Bumble Bee aid station. Along with a few other runners, I hiked and snapped pictures; I told myself “don’t work, have fun.”  I started off taking a gel every 45 minutes.  By this time I could only stomach half a gel at time.  I was depending heavily on Tailwind, it was working well, but I was still unsure if it could really take place of the both calories and electrolytes.  I was only mixing it half the strength recommended. I was feeling good considering being a little nauseas and very hot.


 I ran every downhill and flat.  I hiked all the hills, even the little rollers.  I begin passing runners and was feeling indestructible.   I turned my cell phone from airplane mode to on, and sent Brian a text let him know I was 4 miles from the aid station.  He was waiting for us all at Glorianna Mine (mile 24.)
 Ultra sports live was covering the Race and had cameras set up at various spots on the course.  I knew one was Glorianna Mine.   I had told my wife, mom, and a few others I planned to get on camera so they could see me.   I sent a mass text when I was 1 mile away from the aid station, and my family was able to see me.  I’m just a regular mid to back of the packer, but I am proud of what I do and wanted my family to see me in action
I was actually feeling a little delirious at Glorianna Mine, and in being clumsy, I drop my bottle and my hat.  Brian had my bladder full of ice cold water ready to put into my Ultimate Direction Anton Pack.   I had only been carrying two 22 ounce bottles up until now; one with water and one with Tailwind.  It would be 8 miles before the next aid station, Black Canyon City.

It was now the hottest part of the day, I was all alone, but so mentally focused.  With 110 ounces of water on hand, I continually soaked my bandanna, arm sleeves, and shirt.  A few years ago I read a race report by Pam Smith.  She said to run like a Porn Star:   Stay wet and lubed.  This saved my race.   Jamil Coury, the race director, posted a picture early in the week of a river crossing at mile 35.  I hit the marathon mark at 5 hours 34 minutes, and all I could think of was the river. 

 I got a surprise/blessing at mile 30, give or take, when I came to a small river crossing.  I took my pack off and sat down in the ice cold water; it felt so good, I splashed water on my face to cool down.   I left the river with a renewed energy, mind, body and soul.   My energy levels rose and I begin hitting some 7/8 minute mile pace on the flats and downhill sections.

It felt so good to sit and cool off
The Agua Fria

Jeep road along the course

The only out and back section on the course is going down into the Black Canyon City aid station at mile 37.9.   It was refreshing to see runners, and get an idea of where I was in the race; I was back of the pack status for sure.   As I ran into the aid station, I saw Lillian, Tim’s wife.   She told me that he had dropped and Brian had left to get him. 

I asked about Giles.  He had also dropped.  I felt a lump in my throat.  I love those guys; they are like brothers to me.  I sat down; I was very hot and could not talk since my throat was so dry.  Lillian and Mikaela got me gum and a breath mint, it helped immensely.  I tried to calm my mind and work out details. Should I leave without Brian?  

Photo: Lillian Widener.  At Black Canyon City Aid. 

I sat while the aid station crew filled my bottles with water. Lillian and Mikaela talked with me which raised my spirits; thank you both so much.   I was ready to get back on the trail.  Brian, who was a few miles away, text me “RUN, I will catch up.”  I left the aid station like I had just started the race fresh, in hindsight it was probably a mistake.  

 I passed runners heading up the hill, many of whom commented how fresh I looked.   I was feeling strong; I had run the first 20 miles very conservative.   When Brian finally caught me, to start his pacing duties, I told him how I was feeling and we pushed ahead.   We talked; I was curious about all my friends how they were doing, including Cristian, Adam, Mark, and Nate.   Everyone seemed to be doing so well.

It took me nearly as long to run the last 20 miles as it did the first 40.  BIG LESSON LEARNED

After a good stretch of climbing we hit a long downhill section; I opened it up, and tore down the hill like a crazy man passing runners.  Brian soon urged me to slow down.   He was right but I think I had already done some damage using up a lot of energy.   We reached a remote aid station with only water, I w as need of solid food.   
As we made a turn on the trail we saw Cristian, I was surprised to see him, and he was hurting and moving slowly.  He said his feet were hurting.   Cristian and I, with Brian pacing, begin working together putting one foot in front of the other.  The next aid station, Cotton Wood Gulch, mile 46 was a few miles away.  I figured once we got there we could regroup and start making up time.   
At Cotton Wood Gulch, my stomach begun to turn, I was dry heaving, begging for chunks to spew from my mouth.   I sat down, and was disappointed to find out the aid had no more ginger ale.  (This was a remote aid station only accessible 4x4 so no harsh feeling towards the the race or volunteers)   One of the aid station workers offered me some mint gum, and it seemed to do the trick.  As I sat trying to gain my composer, many of the runners I had passed, running down the downhill like a madman, had now caught up and left the aid station.  I felt like such a fool, I am still learning what works and does not.  We left the aid station as the sun had begun to set.
With headlamps on we pushed on up the trail.  I was moving slower and I could fill fatigue in my muscles and pain in my right foot.  The pain was excruciating.  It felt, bruised I thought, or maybe a hair line fracture; I begin to lose my mind a bit.   Brian did his best to keep me focused

I know Cristian was hurting also, but he never said a word.  He is a way better runner then I will ever be and I respect the hell out of him.  Moving slowly, still jogging mostly the smoother section of trail, we came to the last river crossing of the run.   I dowsed myself with water, it was so refreshing, I wanted to lie down and fall asleep.   
I was in Death March Mode. W/ Cristian  Photo: Brian Soto

My goal of a 14 hour finish was gone, I was now chasing the 18 hour cut off.  I told Christian, “we're going to finish this thing together; we’re going to get our F’ing buckles.  I swore I had fractured my right foot; I could barely put pressure on it.  Brian, was feeling good, and often said “Hey guys, I feel good, look I can do jumping jacks.”   I wanted to punch him at the time, but now I am grateful.  He kept us moving. 

 Other then my right foot screaming at me, I felt fine and it drove me mad, as runners passed.   I started to cry, I was having the race of my life until mile 43, now I was sobbing uncontrollably.  I am a competitor. Not that I had a chance to win the race, but was literally having the best race of my life and my tank was not on empty.  I was just unfortunate to have pain in my right foot. 
I soon had no choice but to pick up a walking stick.  I didn't think it was cheating sense in many races runners use trekking poles; so I really hope that doing this was not unethical, I love this sport too much to cheat or not play by the rules. It’s what got me through many tough miles and finally to the last aid station, Doe Springs, (mile 58.7)
Only four miles left and I was literally ready to fall asleep; I sat in a chair negotiating a ride back, but Jamil’s dad would not hear of it. I finally willed myself out of the chair and Brian, Cristian, and I continued on. I run four miles nearly every day at lunch but four miles after 16 hours or so was daunting.  Brian convinced me to take it half a mile at a time.  Finally the lights and finish line were in sight. 

I was filled with so much emotion, happy to have finished, but I was also thinking about my wife: she was trying to sleep in preparation of her very first half marathon, while wondering how I was doing.  This sure can be a selfish sport.  

I absolutely loved this trail and race; Challenging and Spectacular views.  

Thanks again to Brian Soto.  Mad respect!  Also to Cristian “the Matador” You helped get me through some dark times out there.  Tim and Giles, friends for life, The Three Amigos!

Side Note:  I got 3 hours of sleep before dropping my wife off for her first ever half marathon.  The IMS.  Then I took my baby girls, 7 and 4, to run their first 5k.  I actually had some discomfort keeping up with them.
Team Flores IMS 2015

My Baby Girls
Celebrating my Wife's First Half Marathon
more Trail Porn


  1. Great write up, and congrats again on your finishing. What a weekend of running! Can't wait till ZG!


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