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Archive for December, 2011
Training and Bandera 100K preview
Thursday, 29 December 2011 11:06
I have been a little quiet on the blog front for the last week as I have tried to prepare for my next challenge which is the Bandera 100K in Texas next Saturday. This will be my first real experience in a big time race with some of the biggest names in the ultra community going after the coveted Western States bids and the USATF National Championship. My goal going into this race is not to get caught up in the hype of the race or even attempt to run someone else’s race but settle into a good pace right from the beginning and play the race by feel. The 100K is a different distance than I am used to since this will only be my second race of that distance but I feel I am prepared to run a new PR and see where I can land on the finisher’s board.
Training for this race has been a little different than my 100 mile runs because speed is going to play an important role in the standings. When you toe the line in a 100 mile race you settle into a moderate pace and try to stay in the right heart rate zone so you don’t wear out quickly. You may be saying to yourself that there is not a huge difference between 100K and 100M but 38 miles makes a big difference in how the competition runs the race. In a 100 Mile run there may be 1-2 runners that can maintain a sub 8-9 minute mile pace for the entire race while in a 100K you will have 8-10 runners that will be shooting to stay in that time frame and with the shorter distance they will go for it right from the start. This year’s field will feature several elites from the ultra world including last year’s winner Dave Mackey who set the course record with a 8:07, runner up Dave James, 2010 winner Nick Clark, 2x Pine to Palm 100 winner Tim Olson, Darcy Africa, last year’s winner and course record holder Liza Howard, and too many others to name. All of these runners are more than capable of running sub 8 minute miles over the entire 100K so this will be a battle from the very beginning.
My plan going into this race is to go out at a comfortable pace and try to maintain it throughout the two 50K loops. My previous best at the 100K was 10:26 and this time around I am looking to run 9:30 hours. This would be a huge improvement over my Javelina Night Run 100K but with the speed work I have been doing I know that I have it in me. While this won’t put me anywhere close to the leaders it still will be a huge confidence builder going forward as I take on another season of racing. Often time’s races will feature one or two elite runners but to have 8-10 in a race really gives you an idea of where you stand in the running world. Since I am only starting my second full year of running ultra’s and just my third year of running period I am extremely happy with the progress I have made in a short amount of time. For the last year I have had the opportunity to train with some of the best road runners in the country and “The Bandido’s” have transformed not only my running but also my attitude when I go out to race. It would be tough to not be influenced by my teammates like Ariana Hilborn who will be competing in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Houston in two weeks, Tere Zacher who wins virtually every race she runs and has only been running for a few years and will be giving the field a big push at PF Chang’s Marathon in a few weeks, Derek Delancey who just ran a 1:13 at the Tucson Half Marathon two weeks ago, Jeff Turner who ran a 2:37 at Twin Cities Marathon, Ricardo Maldonado who ran a 1:16 at Tucson Half Marathon, and too many others to name. This is a team full of accomplished runners who settle for nothing less than finishing in the top 5 percent of all races they compete in. While I don’t fit into the same category as them when it comes to speed I do find myself learning from them each and every time I run.
I have learned to pace myself, take advantage in a race when the opportunity arises, have confidence in myself and build my mental toughness. Every ultra runner knows that races are not won early in a race but they are won in the last 20-30K of a race. You could lead a race the entire day but if you don’t have the mental and physical power to finish strong it doesn’t matter because it is very easy to get picked off late in a race by a runner who saved enough for the end. For anyone who has seen the movie “Unbreakable” about Western States 100 from the 2010 race you know exactly what I am referring to. Geoff Roes was having some tough times mid way through the race and fell as far as 20 minutes behind the leaders but when the race counted he picked off the two lead runners in route to a new Course Record and a Western States 100 win. Physical strength is important but staying mentally strong really makes all the difference between a DNF and a strong finish.
As I said I have been training out well out of my comfort zone for the last couple months really trying to increase my speed not only in the flats but also on the hills. I feel that running downhill is my biggest strength and I love to run down technical trails but I have always struggled with the flat sections. I don’t struggle for any other reason except that I tend to lose my focus and as soon as the focus goes so does my time. The flats have often cost me twice the amount of time I gain in the downhill sections so I have really put in the effort to make sure I improve in this department. So what exactly have I been doing to try and make myself better and to increase leg turnover? Well I have been attending weekly sessions at the oval torture chamber and every week my coach has made the workout a little bit tougher and these are workouts that are mentally and physically tough. Some of my most recent track sessions have included 5 x 1 mile in 6:30 with 1 minute rest, 10 x 800 in 3:00 with 1 minute rest, 8 x 1 mile in 6:30 with 1 minute rest, 12 x 1200 in 3:45 with 200 meter jog in between. The 12 x 1200’s might possibly be the most difficult workout I have ever done and for those of you who run marathon’s these are most likely easy speeds for you to handle but for an ultra runner it really pushed my limits but I was able to complete it and I hit every single interval. Working with a team makes it much easier to stay strong out there and complete these workouts even if I am running by myself because of the encouragement they provide, and since we do work as a team and not individuals we all want everyone to succeed.
Running with a partner or team has proven to make most people faster and keep their heads in a race so I do highly encourage you find a good group to run with. I run with a couple different groups including the Wednesday Morning Running Club (WMRC) and the Bandido’s and each and every time I run with them I feel better about my progress as a runner. Both groups have exceptional runners and both groups have runners with all kinds of different goals and I magically seem to fit right in the middle. At WMRC I work on my hill training, running fast over technical sections, and with the Bandido’s we train not only on the track but we also have a weekly group run through the town of Fountain Hills that is without a doubt my toughest run each week as I just try to keep my fellow teammates in site. Since my pace times are slower than most of my teammates I am often at the back of the pack but it still gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment pushing myself at a less than comfortable pace while running over 1300 feet of elevation gain. One would think this would be my strong suit since I love to climb hills but to do it at marathon pace is extremely difficult.
So with just over one week to go till the Bandera 100K I find myself in better shape than I had expected. I am running faster, nailing my workouts, and still putting in a crazy amount of mileage. Earlier this week I crossed the 4000 mile mark for the year and as of this morning I have ran 653 consecutive days with at least 4 miles and I still feel fresh. I started the year off with fewer miles than I am running now so to average 77 miles a week for the year is quite an accomplishment for me since two and a half years ago I had never ran over a mile in my life. I am really not sure where my weight is because I have not checked in two years but I do know that I have dropped 8 pants sizes and went from close to a size 40 to a size 32. My guess is somewhere around 165-170 but my exact weight I find to be irrelevant because I feel good, I am running strong, and I am eating healthier than I ever have been in my life. I still eat my share of junk food but I went from being strictly a carnivore three years ago to eating no red meat, only white meats like chicken and turkey, no soda unless I really need a pick me up during a ultra, I cut out the alcohol while I am training, and most of all I make sure that my body gets enough rest every night so I am usually in bed by 8 pm even on the weekends. My weekends have consisted of several long runs over the last couple months including several runs of 25, 30, 40 and even 50 miles for training runs. Luckily I have several friends out there who are training for similar events as me and are willing to put in the mileage with me. Here are a couple of my favorite runs from the McDowell’s over the last few weeks.
I am really not exactly sure how next year will play out race wise but some of my goals for 2012 include running (2) 100 mile races, possibly running a marathon (sub 3 hour), continuing my running streak and building towards my 923 day goal, running 4000 plus miles, improving my endurance, getting faster, and continuing to run races where I am going against several elites so I can continue to improve. My current race schedule for 2012 includes the following and depending on feel I will probably add in a few more races.
1/7/2012 Bandera 100K (Bandera, Texas) Goal: 9.5 Hours
2/4/2012 San Tan Scramble (Queen Creek, AZ) Goal: 4:20, last year ran a 4:48.
3/11/2012 Mesquite Canyon DRT Trail Championship (Waddell, AZ) Goal: 4:50, last year ran a horrible race and finished in 5:38.
4/21/2012 Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run (Pine, AZ to Christopher Creek, AZ) Goal: 10.5-11 hours, last year ran a 12:06 but had to take a 45 minute recovery nap at mile 44.
6/9/2012 San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run (San Diego, CA) Goal: TBD
7/28/2012 Speedgoat 50K (Snowbird, UT) Goal: 7:00 Hours. Keep in mind this has 11,800 feet of elevation gain over 34 miles, last year ran a 7:56.
9/15/2012 Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run (Ashland, OR): TBD
10/30/2012 – Cave Creek Thriller 50K (Cave Creek, AZ) – Goal: Sub 5 hours, last year ran a 5:15 and previous year a 6:05.
11/2012 – Pass Mountain 50K (Mesa, AZ) – Goal: 4:30, 2010 run was 4:58.
So there you have it for 2012, hopefully I can continue to make progress and maybe even come across a sponsor. If you are asking yourself where the Mogollon Monster 100 is on my schedule I will not be running it until 2013 so I can help Jeremy out in the first year. I highly encourage anyone interested in running one of the best courses out there to sign up early because this race will sell out fast after the New Year. You can sign up at Ultra signup or through the website at
UROY Winners/ Mogollon Monster 100
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 00:00
Written by Jay Danek
Ultra Runner of the Year Poll. We had some pretty tight races in a couple of them and some overwhelming margins in a couple other categories. The winners of the Men’s and Women’s Open and Masters will each receive a McDowell Mountain Man tech shirt and the grand prize goes to the overall top male and female vote getters. They will each receive free admission into the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100 on September 28, 2012. I would like to thank Jeremy Dougherty for putting up the prizes for the poll and without me rambling on any further I will announce the winners.
This years leading vote getter does the majority of his training in Northern Arizona and training in the altitude has really helped Brian turn the corner and become of the one the top Ultra Runners in the country. In October Brian headed to Texas to run in the Palo Duro 50M and left his competition in the dust as the was first overall in 7:00:09 and recorded the 2nd fastest time ever on the course. Brian’s ultra season began in March when he left the snow of Flagstaff and headed to Sonoita and finished the Old Pueblo 50M in 8:02:37 good enough for 2nd overall and just off pace of the winner. Brian’s final race of the year also included a podium finish at the Paatuwaqatsi Run – Water is Life 50K where he finished 3rd overall. Congrats on a great season Brian and we will see you at the Monster!
The overall female vote getter had one of the best years of any Arizona runners and did so in amazing fashion. Deb Hamberlin ran her first hundred mile race last year at the Javelina Jundred in just over 25 hours and with an incredible off season of training she was able to knock 5 hours off her previous 100 mile PR and dominate from mile 25 on at the Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota finishing an hour and a half ahead of the second female and 6th overall. She didn’t just win the LH100 she ran the second fastest time ever by a female running a 20:30. Deb is a very methodical trainer and she races just like she trains utilizing her ability to maintain a constant speed from the beginning of a race to the end of a race and with her knack of staying the course and picking off runners one at a time she won the Cave Creek Thriller 50K setting a new course record, finished 6th female at Old Pueblo 50M, 2nd overall female at the San Tan Scramble 50K, and 4th female at the Pass Mountain 50K. Amazing year Deb and congrats on your free entry into the MMM100.
The Arizona UROY in the female open category should not surprise anyone because Paulette Zillmer dominated from the start of the 2011 with a win at the inaugural Pass Mountain 50K and finished strong at the end of the year with a 9th place finish at the TNF 50M in Northern California with an elite field. Paulette has the ability and mental focus that most runners would kill to have and then you add in her natural talent and drive and there is no question why she won Angeles Crest 100 this year in dramatic fashion. She took the lead late in the race and never looked back beating her next closet competitor by well over an hour. This has been one of those years for Paulette that every ultra runner dreams of and some of her other many accomplishments this year include winning the Bootlegger 50K in Las Vegas, 1st female at Mesquite Canyon DRT Championship where she also was the series champion, finished 2nd at the Leona Divide 50M, 3rd at the Pemberton 50K, and let’s not forget that she was 5th at the rough and rugged Zane Grey 50M. For most ultra runners this is a career, but for Paulette is was just 12 months. Congrats on an amazing year and I can’t wait to see what she will do in 2012.
The Men’s Master’s winner loves to push the envelope and take on races that most 20 year old’s would never try but this ambassador to the sport of ultra running went out and ran two 100K’s including the extremely difficult Black Hills 100K where he finished 10th overall in brutal weather and trail conditions and earned his 100K buckle at the 2011 Javelina Jundred. Grandpa Jim as many of us refer to him likes to give back to the community more than he likes to run and over the past couple years he has sponsored trips to the Grand Canyon for Sunshine Acres kids by putting on the Grandpa Jim’s 50K challenge over the seven peaks in the Phoenix area and also the 12 hours of Camelback to raise money for the kids. When Jim isn’t helping out and putting in 50-60 miles a week he is out racing and mowing down his competition with tremendous finishes at Zane Grey 50M and the Mesquite Canyon 50K. Look for big things to come for Jim in 2012 and don’t be surprised if you see the old man pushing you in a race as he tries to set a new PR and run his first 100 miler. Great job Jim and we look forward to your event in February.
by Jay Danek
If you would like to access the UROY poll please click on this link:
Are you ready for the Monster?
Arizona is an incredible place. It’s a state of contrasts, of change, of long vistas, high mesas, vast deserts. Yet it’s also a state of high peaks, alpine country and miles and miles of forest. The latter being the lesser known image of the state.
I’ve been hiking in Arizona since I moved here from Vermont ten years ago. I’d buy a topographic map of a National Forest, fill my backpack with water and head off on some obscure trail that more times than not disappeared into the desert or forest leaving you out there to figure it out for yourself. Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes you spent the night on a cliff. What it did teach me was that Arizona was one of the most rugged, foreboding, yet incredibly beautiful places I have ever seen. There is a mystifying quality to the area that I have yet to put my finger on but it’s always there with each trip into the mountains. It draws you in, holds you there and you linger, never wanting to leave. This was never so apparent than the first time I ran the Zane Grey 50 mile race along the Mogollon Rim north of Payson, Arizona. It was my first 50 miler and it destroyed me, utterly and completely. Mentally, physically, I was beat. Yet I finished with a smile and I rode out of the parking lot thinking of nothing else but when I was going to come back. That started a love affair with the Mogollon Rim that goes on today and ultimately brought us Arizona’s second hundred and first mountain hundred mile endurance race. The Mogollon Monster 100.
Starting at 5,500 feet in elevation runners will climb through multiple ecosystems as they scale the first climb to the top of the Mogollon Rim in the first nine miles of the race. The runners will go from red rock high desert at 5,500 feet to 7,400 feet surrounded by the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world. Leaving the first aid station at the top of Pine Canyon runners take off for Milk Ranch Point following the 140 year old General Crook Trail used by General Crook in the 1870’s to get supplies to the forts across central Arizona while he was fighting the Apaches. The soldiers used to mark the Ponderosas high on the trees so they could still see them in high snow in the winter and today you can still see some of the markers. After a few miles on the historic General Crook Trail you’ll reach some of the minimal dirt roads that are included in the course. Roads are all dirt (except one mile at finish which is pavement into town), nearly all have a view and most sections are under 6 miles, totaling 22 in all. From Milk Ranch Point the race begins it’s series of ascents and descents of the Mogollon Rim using the Highline Trail as the southern most portion of the course. Each climb and descent is anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 feet depending on where the climb is and it’s usually done in under 2 miles. It’s steep, it’s rugged and it’s extremely technical. Get ready.
The beautiful Highline Trail
The Highline Trail itself is the home of the revered Zane Grey 50, held in April every year. This is a point to point 50 mile race following this Highline trail the entire way. The Mogollon Monster 100 will share three aid stations with this race in the 17 miles that they share. Geromino (twice), Washington Park (3 times), and Hell’s Gate (twice). These are the locations where runners will be coming down from the Rim or leaving the station and heading back up the Rim with Washington Park being the main aid station for the race being the most centrally located.
Once runners reach the Washington Park aid station the first time they will climb the Rim, to begin the first section of the Historic Cabin Loop. Starting with a 4.5 mile dirt road section that overlooks the area with views that go on for fifty miles or more they reach the Houston Brothers Trail.
Back in the “Old West” pioneering and ranching days the Houston Brothers used to push their cattle up the Rim and into the draws, meadows and far lusher and cooler upper regions of the Rim. This trail starts some single track heaven with minimal climbing, fast, pine needle covered trails that weave in and out of the trees, into open meadows, past streams, ponds, and high grass. It’s an area many people never see in Arizona. Following the Houston Brothers Trail runners reach Aspen Cabin and then the aid station at Pinchot Cabin (Pin-show). This is one of the old cabins the Forest Service built in the early 1900’s for their use before roads were created and all the fire breaks were installed. Many that you will see along the course have historic plaques next to them with their specific story. Pinchot Cabin being named after Gifford Pinchot, the Father of the National Parks service from when he visited here after being assigned to the Arizona Territory by then President Theodore Roosevelt. Leave the aid station and more single track awaits as the gradual downhill through the forest on the Fred Haught trail takes you all the way back to the top of the same spot you climbed out of several hours earlier. You’ll have unknowingly taken several miles of the 817 mile Arizona Trail that spans from Mexico to Utah before descending back down to Washington Park. One of several times the course joins up with the Arizona Trail along your journey.
At this point you are at 56 miles in and after returning to Washington Park it’s back on the Highline Trail until reaching the eastern most portion of the course, Hell’s Gate. This is the access to the Myrtle Trail, a difficult, rugged, 1 mile trail that climbs over 1,300 feet to the Rim. You’ll remember this fondly but not remember me for it quite so fondly. It’s tough and it’s steep. Yet after reaching the Rim there’s another short section of dirt road into the forest to the Buck Springs Cabin which enters you back into the Cabin Loop on the U-Bar Trail. This will lead you (most likely in the dark at this point for most of us mortals) to the Pinchot Cabin once again. Leaving the aid station you will go down the Houston Brothers Trail you previously ran north on and east on the Barbershop Trail back to Buck Springs. Which as you guessed it…requires a descent of the Myrtle Trail and it’s 1 mile and 1,300 feet of change…you’re welcome.
From here it’s the home stretch. Just 17 miles of the Highline Trail with 83 miles already on your legs. Piece of cake right?
Did I say this was a 100M??
Well…what I haven’t mentioned yet is this is not really a 100 mile race. It’s more like 106 miles. When designing this course there were so many directions of travel, many options to take runners but ultimately what we are presenting to you is the best running trails with the minimal amount of dirt roads connecting one area to the next which on a course like this will almost feel like a breather on your legs. So when we reached 100 miles in the design stage we were short of our finish line so we said…why not a few more? Indeed, why not? There are the Badwaters, Arrowheads, the 24 hour races. Why not 6 more? So when you reach 100 miles right about the Geromino Aid Station as you stare upwards at the last, final climb up the Rim and the 1,800 feet you need to climb in the next 2 miles…don’t think of the Race Director. Think of how you are going to dig deeper and say, “Bring it on.”
I know you can do it. I know coming down the Rim the last final time, reaching the original parking lot from the starting line and turning onto the pavement for the final mile nothing else will matter. We’re having you run pavement for the finish simply so we can have you finish in town, with the cheers and adoration of the community and to finish where there is someone to cheer you on no matter if you are done in 22 hours or 36 hours. I’ll be there for every last one of you and I’m going to be as loud as humanely possible to see you through that finish line. You’ll have more than earned it at that point.
Tales of ancient times and monsters
So why is it called the Mogollon Monster? Well, oddly enough I thought it should have been called that simply because it was a “Monster” of a course with the terrain, technical nature of it, and only later found out that there has been nearly 100 years of reported sightings of a “Monster” in the area of the Cabin Loops, a big part of our course. In fact, www.mogollonmonster.com was already taken for tracking “sightings” of the creature. Unfortunately, a good portion for many running the second Cabin Loop will be in the dark. While I don’t know how much I believe in such a thing as Bigfoot creatures I do know that I already get a little paranoid in the woods at 3am when I’m alone and start hearing noises just off the trail. I’m merely pointing it out and adding that pacers are more than welcome at this race. They can start at Washington Park, any of the three times you visit that location.
The weather is going to be a bit warm for some people on September 28th next fall. The Highline portion and other trails that are below the Rim can feel very warm and temperatures could easily be in the high 80’s still at that point in the year. The Cabin Loop areas on the Rim are between 7,200 and 7,800 feet and generally are much cooler and at night could be 30-40 degrees. Perfect running weather. Then again, it could also thunderstorm, flash flood, snow or be 104 degrees. We’ll see. Prepare for anything.
Putting on a hundred mile race is no small thing and for that reason the first year will be limited to a field of 100 runners. My goal and the goal of everyone involved in putting this on is to provide a very safe and challenging hundred mile race with just a few extra miles to add to the effort. Our goal is to provide aid station enthusiasm that you leave talking more about than the course, the food, the organization or anything else. Coming down that Rim you will hear us, you will see the lights, it doesn’t matter if 88 runners have already come through and it’s 4am. We’re going to be cheering for you. We want to set the standard high the first year and then set it higher the next. The course is beautiful in itself, challenging enough for the elite or the Manic’s alike, but it’s the organization, course marking, trail clearing and aid station food and volunteers that will make us successful and in turn your race successful.
We opened Registration on Ultrasignup.com at $165 for one week ending on December 23rd this year. Take advantage now as it goes up to $195 after that. Both are a bargain compared to many established 100’s out there. Don’t worry though, we’ll still have plenty of great giveaways for runners and volunteers and of course and awesome buckle and race shirt.
We hope to have a great crowd of Arizona natives to take this on as well as a great crowd of out of stater runners. The interest has been incredible so far, not just for entrants but for people interested in volunteering or being a part of the race itself. If you are interested in being part of the organization or an aid station caption for the race please contact me at
and we’ll get you set up!
So if you are ready…put it on the schedule. The Monster is waiting…
4000 Miles, 400,000 feet of climb
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 15:30
If you would like to access the UROY poll please click on this link:
if you would like to look at the list of nominees and there season stats please click here::
My year in ultra running
When 2011 started I did not set out to achieve any particular goal except that I wanted to finish a 100 mile race and as luck would have it I was able to complete two 100 mile races this year. For the first few months of the year I just kind of winged the schedule and my only goal was to keep the streak of running 4 miles a day going for as long as my body would possibly hold up with the ultimate goal of getting to 923 days. If you read my blogs you know that 9/23 is the day that my Dad passed away and since I started running in his honor this is the mark I am still trying to reach. I am currently 640 days into this venture and barring any significant injury I think I will be able to reach this goal and possibly much, much more. I thought today would be a great day to go over my year in running and talk about what I have in store for 2012.
January started off with the Coldwater Rumble 50K at the Estrella Mountains and I remember this race distinctly as I had a pretty good lead in the overall Aravaipa Running DRT Ultra Series but as I looked down the registered entrants I had that sick feeling in my stomach as I saw that soon to be Arizona resident Dave James (at the time was the Javelina Jundred record holder) was registered to run. This guys resume included some of the craziest 50 and 100 mile race times that I had ever seen and it was hard for me to get it through my head that as long as I performed pretty well I wouldn’t lose any points in the standings and he was just using this race as a tune up for the upcoming season. Wow did I have myself psyched out and when I saw him that morning at the start line the knots in my stomach seemed to get tighter and tighter and I was actually mad that super elite Dave James was racing in the series. I didn’t know him at all but in my mind I kept thinking just give us average runners a chance; these small 50K fields are great for the average runner’s ego.
Well I ran decent that day on one of my least favorite courses. I am not a huge fan of drudging through the deep sand as it always feels like you are not getting anywhere but the course itself was awesome. After the first 30K I hit the aid station and was happy to see that my wife and daughter had made it out to the race and they gave me a little pep talk to get me moving. It really was as simple as her saying you’re not racing him, he is here for one race and if you finish strong no one can over take you in the points. Well I did finish strong running a 5:05:18 good enough for 5th place only an hour or so behind Dave whom by the way I have recently become good friends with. Great guy who wants to see others succeed but his times were enough to trip me up mentally.
San Tan Scramble 50K
In February I set out to run the San Tan 50K the 4th race in the DRT Series and I was excited because it was on a trail that I had never ran before and the course profile looked fun for me. This was a fast track with some really good runners but it played right into my hands with some downhill running that allowed for me to really open up the legs and make up ground on the leaders. The leaders were better flat trail runners than I was but on the hills and downs I made up quite a bit of time and finished one of my favorite races in 4:48:06 and 3rd place. This race was won by new ultra runner Matt Schmidt who I have gotten to know well and I have ran quite a few miles with him during the year. I look forward to this course again next year and I think with a little better time in the flats I can make a push at the leaders.
Old Pueblo 50M/Mesquite Canyon 50K
March was a month that I really looked forward to because it signified my first 50 mile race and it was also the DRT Series Championships and after 5 races I was still pretty far up in the ultra standings. I never would have guessed that after just one year of running and 9 months of running farther than 5 miles I would ever have a chance to be the Ultra Series champion. I trained my butt off in the month of March and to be honest I was worried to death about completing my first 50 mile run. Who was I to think that in such a short amount of time I could run 50 miles without bonking? My weekly mileage was starting to get around 80 miles per week and just a few weeks prior to Old Pueblo 50 I had picked up a coach to help me with my training.
I met John at the track through Tere Zacher (www.terezacher.com) and I told him what my goals were and I asked him what his experience was with ultra runners. Everyone that John coaches is a speed runner and we have a few runners on our team that have qualified for Olympic trials and there are several more that are so close they can taste it. We sat down and went over my previous times and he discussed his experience with running ultras and how he can help me improve my times. My big goal of using John as a coach was to help me improve in the flat sections of trail where I seem to lose all kinds of time. We talked about doing track workouts, tempo runs, and hill training all of which made me sick to my stomach except hills. I love to run hills but I was told that we need to work on increasing my anaerobic threshold and the best way to do that was through hill repeats, track workouts, and tempo runs. It took me a while to buy into the theory that the track could possibly help an ultra runner but within months I was seeing huge improvements. When I started with John my fastest mile was around 7 minutes and now I can run 5:30/mile. Pretty good for a guy who never ran until two years ago.
Old Pueblo came and I finally felt ready after nailing most of my track workouts and putting up some very high mileage weeks on the trails. I had no ambition of winning the race but I did have a time of sub 10 hours in mind. The day started off poorly for me as I missed a turn at mile two and added 5 additional miles onto the race but I was able to keep my cool and not lose sight of what my goal was. After I back tracked I had some ground to make up and it was not easy as I was in dead last when I came back to the turn I missed. The first section is 5 miles of single track running which makes it very difficult to pass unless you are willing to run in the deep brush.
I managed to pass a few people that let me go by but I tried to stay calm realizing that my best chance to make a move was at the first aid station. I passed several people at this point and ran pretty well from that point forward. At mile 22 I got my wish and had a three mile downhill stretch where I knew I could really push the pace. I hammered that section and was in the top 30 after getting to the bottom, which made me really happy since 15 miles prior I was in 150th place. This race had its battle including 4 straight miles of uphill into 40 mile an hour winds, blowing dust and also adding an extra 5 miles onto the end. When I reached the last aid station I looked at my watch and actually wanted to cry since I was over 50 miles and I really should have been finished below the 9 hour mark. I took some time to gather myself, attempted to regain my focus and concentrate on getting my first belt buckle. The first mile after the aid station was horrible and I just wanted to quit but the encouragement from other runners made me push on and before I knew it I was approaching the finish line. I crossed the finish in 9:56:32 in 21st place just a few minutes ahead of my goal. I was extremely happy, sore, tired but at the same time the realization hit me that I ran 5.5 extra miles and still beat my goal.
Most people don’t schedule two races in two weeks unless you are Mark Hellenthal but I didn’t have much choice because the week after Old Pueblo 50 was the Aravaipa Running DRT Championship at Mesquite canyon and I was the leader in the clubhouse going into the race. I had about a 90 point lead on second place runner Michael Carson who was on a roll. He is a young, fast runner who has more upside than any ultra runner I have seen out there. I wasn’t rested, didn’t do any taper, but I did slightly cut back on the amount of hill training I did that week because my legs still hurt from OP50. I kept my mileage to 40 for the week and figured I would get 31 plus at the 50K and 4 miles on Sunday to shake my legs out as a recovery run. This was by far my worst race of the year and my worst race in the DRT Series. Again I showed up to the start line and was in fear of the competition, so many good runners but really the only thing that mattered was holding off Michael. The championship was worth 1500 points in the series while all the other races were worth 1000 points so there was definitely reason for concern that I could be leap frogged. I ran the first half of this race like every other race and was hanging right in there but at the half way point my hip really started to bother me and I was forced to a walk on all the hills and even the down hills.
I really lost my focus, became dehydrated and spent the last 10 miles limping around the course as though I had just been sacked by a 250 pound linebacker. Runner after runner passed me and I quickly lost my mental focus and that was all she wrote. Michael not only went out and set the course record; he beat me by an hour and a half and took over the point lead to win the DRT Series championship. There is no question that he deserved to win the series as he was the better runner and beat one amazing field in the championship. I finished second in the series and learned a lot about how mental focus really affects your performance in an ultra.
Bring it on Zane Grey 50M
April came and I saw my schedule hit 90 miles each and every week as Zane Grey 50 was at the end of the month. This is regarded as the toughest, most rugged 50 mile race in the entire country. I had so many friends tell me about this race and struggles they have had in past years with getting lost, the terrain, rocks, and the dreaded burn area through the forest. This race runs from Christopher Creek, AZ to Pine, AZ along the Highline Trail and along the way it crosses no less than 15 streams, runs through the forest with roots that reach out and seem to wrap themselves around your feet, has boulders buried in tall grass areas that make footing a mess and let’s not forget about the prickly and sharp Manzanita bushes that are grown so tight together that they spring you backwards when you try and run through them.
For me this was more of a mental race and a great prep for my upcoming hundred mile race in South Dakota in August. In this race there were several of the super elites in the field and they were all out there going after the course record while I just wanted to finish in less than 12 hours without getting lost. I have always had extreme trouble getting to and from places without good directions so how would it be out in the middle of Mogollon Rim?
The first 33 miles seemed to fly by and I did spend all kinds of time introducing my face to the trail but I was having a blast. I met so many new friends and several of us just tried to stay together and keep from getting lost. When I hit the 33 mile aid station I told Traci that I felt great, much better than Old Pueblo but the toughest stretch of the race was between miles 33 and 44. If you take a look at the course profile it is much like the rest of the course except it goes straight up. The joke during this race is when you come to an intersection and you don’t know if you should go up or down, always choose up. The course has about 11,000 feet of elevation gain over the 50 miles so there is very little time that you’re running on flat ground. I crossed the 41 mile mark and all of a sudden I hit a wall. I started to look up at the hill in front of me and I started to get very shaky. My water supply was low, legs felt weak and I was dizzy. I decided it was a good time to eat some food and see if getting extra calories would revive me and get me heading in the right direction. As the sun beat down more, I got worse and before I knew it I has decided to remove my backpack, lay down on some boulders and I tried to fight off the spins. I was sick, dehydrated and not sure what to do so I kept taking salt tablets hoping to get a surge but nothing happened. I closed my eyes and for 45 minutes or so I had runner after runner pass me and ask if I was okay. I told them I was fine, just taking a quick breather. After getting a little strength back I had a runner with a pacer come by and he gave me some a Hammer recovery drink that he said would help. Man did it taste terrible and I was starting to curse him when out of the blue I felt good again.
I had been laying down for 45 minutes and my Garmin was showing that I was on pace to do a 58 minute mile. That never seems to help your results any but on the positive side I was up and around. I threw on my bag back on and headed out and after a mile I actually passed the pacer and his runner that had given me the recovery drink earlier. With just a mile to go to the aid station I saw my wife come running up the hill from reverse to see if I was okay because she heard I was in bad shape. I told her I felt good and ran hard into the aid station where I picked up my pacer Tere Zacher
for the finish. We didn’t run overly fast but I was able to keep moving and I finished Zane Grey in 12:06:44 (28th place). I will take that time considering I wasted 45 minutes sleeping on a rock back at mile 41. I will be back in 2012 and I hope to be in the 10.5-11 hour range.
One mile loop course, oh my
May came and I started to get anxious for another race and I was tired of the long training weeks so I signed up to run the 12 hour Nanny Goat race in Riverside, California over the Memorial Day weekend. There were three options with this race and they included the 24 hour option, 12 hour starting at 7am and going to 7pm or the night run going from 7pm to 7am. This is a one mile looped course ran on a horse property so with the thought in my mind that I would go nuts on such a short course I opted to run the whole race in the dark. This race brought out several great runners to raise money for the Wounded Warriors foundation and that evening I got to watch my friend Michael Miller put on a clinic as he ran 119 miles in 24 hours and easily set the course record. My goal for the race was to stay consistent, get some night training and to see if I could pull off 60 miles in 12 hours. I had a great time running this race and as the sun came up in the morning I actually ran better than I had the previous 10 hours and I finished in 4th place with 67 miles. That was by far a new PR for me in a 12 hour race as my previous best was 46.2 miles in 9:24 at last year’s Javelina Night Run.
11,400 feet of climbing in 30 miles, no problem
Since the summers in Arizona can be absolutely brutal at times and running 80 plus miles week in and week out can get tough I looked for a fun run that I could use as a training run and at the same time get out of the heat for a couple days. I consulted with iRun owner Mark Cosmas and he convinced me to sign up for the Speedgoat 50K in Snowbird, Utah. It didn’t take much to convince me and as soon as I saw the course profile I was intrigued. This course featured 11,400 feet of vertical gain over 31 miles (actually 34 miles but who’s counting), up the Snowbird ski slopes to 11,800 feet of elevation, down to the ski slope base, back up and then down again. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it but it was beautiful. This is one of those races that I am not sure I ever want to miss as it had a little of everything including snow in July. I had very little altitude training for the year besides a couple trips to Flagstaff but I was about to run up a mountain that started at 7600 feet of elevation and ended at 11,800 feet. I had heard the stories of altitude sickness and how you should arrive a couple weeks prior to the race to acclimate but without being able to take that much time away from work my plan was to arrive as close to the start of the race as possible with the hopes that the altitude sickness if any wouldn’t hit me for a few days.
Most things I read talked about how if you don’t have time to acclimate arrive to the start as late as possible. They say it usually takes 24-48 hours to kick in before your body loses control and almost gives you that sense of vertigo in the high altitude. I didn’t set any goals for this race except to have fun and fun is exactly what I had. We ran through snow, used ropes to run down some slopes, glissaded on our butts down the snow packed Little Cloud basin, ran though flowing streams of snow melt, and climbed and climbed. I have never seen such a beautiful course in all of my running and I had the time of my life. There are parts of this course that just make you laugh because they are so ridiculous but I found that by just relaxing I would do great. I finished in 7:56:28 on the toughest course I have ever run. The course is Zane Grey’s big brother and even though it is 20 miles shorter it is twice as hard and twice as fun.
Time to run 100
After this race I would be just weeks away from my first 100 mile race in South Dakota called the Lean Horse 100 and for once I had zero nerves. In my mind I had done the training including several 100 mile plus weeks, ran Zane Grey, Speedgoat, and various other training runs of 40 miles plus and it was my time to prove to myself that I could do this. When we arrived in South Dakota the Black Hills were completely different than I had expected but they were beautiful none the less. I was staying with several friends that were also running the race and I had flown out my brother in law Kevin Conte and good friend Tere Zacher and her family to pace me. Traci and Tere’s family would crew for me and provide me with the support along the way to keep me motivated and moving forward. When I first introduced myself to my coach John I told him my main goal was to run a sub 24 hour Lean Horse 100. By the end of the summer and working with him at the track and completing all of his workouts my goal was to complete the race in less than 20 hours. That was a pretty lofty goal for a first time hundred but my body was feeling good and I was confident that I could do it. This race is on the gorgeous Mickelson Trail that runs from Hot Springs, SD to Mt. Rushmore and back. The trail is fairly smooth with just slight inclines and a total elevation gain of less than 6000 feet over the whole course so looking at the profile it did make me think that 20 hours was doable.
I ran the first 50 miles of this race chit chatting with other runners and within 8.5 hours I was ready to pick up my first pacer. I was about an hour ahead of my projected schedule and I was still feeling really good. My legs were obviously tired but my spirits were high and I was about to pick up Kevin to run the next 7 miles with me. Someone to talk to at this point is huge and it can really improve your attitude. We ran very well just walking a few times to take down some solid food but he told me jokes, we talked about my Dad, football and whatever was on his mind to keep me focused. This was Kevin’s first pacing job and he had never run over a marathon before so he really had no idea what to expect. I told him not to be surprised if I am angry, complaining or just plain down. I told him that his job was to keep me on 20 hour pace, eating, drinking, laughing, and just talk to me. I said I don’t care what you talk about, just talk. Those 7 miles passed in no time and I picked up my second pacer Tere Zacher who has paced for me a couple other times and there is no need to tell her anything. As soon as she started pacing me she said don’t talk, just listen to her and run. She would talk to a wall if it would listen but the funny thing is I get so wrapped up in her stories that it is easy for me to forget I am running 100 miles. They switched pacing duties on and off throughout the race and that really kept things fresh for me. I would arrive into the aid stations and Traci would have my bottles, food, and supplies ready and she would hand them to me and tell me to keep going. Slowly but surely we passed a couple runners and before I knew it Kevin and I had reached the last obstacle of the course. This is a 7 mile stretch of gravel road that is mostly uphill despite what all the volunteers say. I will be honest with you and say this section sucked for me mentally, physically but with Kevin’s rule that I was only allowed to complain when I was running he kept me plugging along. We finished the road and had 4.1 miles to go from the last aid station and it was buckle time. My mind started to wander and I kept looking at my watch to see how I was doing time wise unfortunately the battery had died in my watch so I really didn’t know. Tere and Kevin said I could still finish in less than 19 hours as long as I hurry.
We ran through the single track trails which dumped us out to the city of Hot Springs and I ran as fast as I could though the town without getting out of breath. With about ¼ mile to go I looked up to the bank clock and it read 12:59 indicating to me that I wasn’t going to make it in less than 19 hours. I told them I needed a minute to gather my thoughts and honestly I was pissed off with myself. How could I take two bathroom breaks in the last four miles that cost me some time? After getting myself together I started to run again and I could hear the cowbells at the finish line along with Traci yelling “come on Danek.” I ran that last section and jumped up and hit the clock reading 1:03 something. I was actually thrilled until the RD said you’re official time may be under 19 hours because the race started a few minutes late. I was kicking myself at this point for letting up with a ¼ mile to go especially when they told me my official time was 19:01:12. On the bright side no one could take that 100 mile buckle away from me and I finished in 4th place overall. 4th place in my first hundred mile race, I was ecstatic. My pacer Kevin ran 42 miles that evening between myself and Deb and Tere 38. For Kevin it was 16 miles farther than he had ever run before so you know I was extremely greatful to him for the help.
Second Ultra Win and in a 100K
I took a little bit of down time after the race running just 4 miles a day for a week and a half to let my body recover but I did have another hundred mile race on the schedule so I couldn’t take too much time. I quickly went back to the 70-90 mile training weeks and got right back into the track. My next hundred mile race would be November 12th and before that I had the Javelina 12 Hour Night Run on the same course as the Javelina Jundred and the Cave Creek Thriller 50K just two weeks prior. I won’t lie and say I didn’t go into the night run with high hopes of winning the race and I knew that last year the winner was around 11.25 hours for 100K which is the maximum you can run during the 12 hours and I knew I could easily make a run at that time. This is a 15.4 mile loop course and right from the beginning it seemed to be my day. I ran the first two loops with friends and we talked about random things and the last two I had two of my Bandido teammates pace me.
Johnny Omohundro and Dan Klausner both really wanted to get a taste of the ultra atmosphere and I was glad to have them pace me. The loops with them really went quickly and by the start of the fourth loop I realized I was up 20 minutes on my nearest competition. The fourth loop may just be one of the best late race loops I have ever ran as I extended my 20 minutes lead to over an hour and I finished first in the 100K in 10:26:37. This was a huge accomplishment for me and my second ultra victory in just two years of running. I felt great, no pain and actually could have ran another 40 miles without any issues. Only three total runners finished the 100K that night and I ran 15.4 miles farther than I had in last year’s night run in just an hour more clearly proving that the track workouts and speed work was helping.
Big Boy Bib #1
My last warm up before the Javelina Jundred was the Cave Creek Thriller 50K that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to run because it was so close to Javelina but it was a supported long run and I was going to have my first shot at wearing the coveted #1 bib because I had won this race the year prior. The course this year was quite different and it included some faster sections that I think came back to haunt me later in the race. I stayed the course early with the leaders but by mile 20 I was mentally shot. My body felt good but there was nothing in me mentally that could get me to run. I actually walked 4 miles straight until a couple other runners started to catch up to me. This was my wakeup call along with the RD Nick Coury reminding me that I was wearing the big boy bib and I needed to get moving. I hammered the last section and finished the race in 5th place and 55 minutes faster than I had ran it the year prior when I won.
That alone is pretty crazy but the new, faster course definitely helped my time. I really need to figure out the mental focus in the shorter races and stay on course.
100 Mile Buckle #2
My final race of the year was the Javelina Jundred held at McDowell Mountain Regional Park on the Pemberton Trail. This is not just a race; it seems to be the biggest running party of the year for ultra runners. With 390 runners signed up and an elite field to boot it was sure to be something that I would remember for a long time. This is a 101.4 mile race which consists of six 15.4 mile loops followed by a 9.4 mile loop to end the day. I had a lot of friends signed up to run or volunteer at this race plus it is a very easy race to crew so I thought it would be fun to get out there and see what I can do at my home course. My goal going into JJ100 was to try and first break my Lean Horse 100 time and second if I was having a good day attempt to break 18 hours. The 18 hours was not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination but I was working hard, hitting my workouts, and I really felt prepared. With the weather being cooler in November it made me think that I could accomplish my goal. This race set up to be a who’s who of the ultra community and it was pretty well common knowledge that these elites were not just going after a win, they wanted to break the course record and that they did with the winning time coming from hal Koerner in 13:47 and the winning female by liza Howard in 15 hours. The first two laps of the race went by without any hitches and my 50K time was good enough for 10th place but lap three is when my world took a turn for the worse. I felt some of the worst stomach cramps I have ever had and it was not something I could run through. This was a loop that saw seven desert breaks to use the bathroom, serious dehydration, and I felt horrible. My clothes were a salty mess and so was I. I didn’t feel bad enough that I was going to quit but I was not sure how long I was going to have to battle these issues. My secret ingredient during times like this is pedialyte and ultragen recovery drink and after downing a couple boxes before loop 4 I felt back on top of my game. Loop four seemed to go by relatively quickly especially compared to loop three and I finished in 15th place and right at the same time I finished my 100K night run in.
I was a little disappointed in myself because the first two loops had gone so well but in a 100 mile race there is always issues unless your last name is Howard or Koerner. Loop 5 I picked up my pacers and the whole night changed for the better. I had people to talk to for the first time in hours and they were keeping me moving along. We made up some valuable time in the fifth loop but the sixth loop is when I finally made a little move. Jeff Turner and I ran/walked the first 6 mile uphill section and when we reached the top I was able to open up my legs and make a move on some other runners. During the last three miles of this loop I went from 15th place up to 9th and it was a place that I wouldn’t give up. I picked up my final pacer Tere Zacher and we went out for the final 9.4 miles. She kept me motivated and moving as fast as I could go. I found myself pushing as hard as I could because I could see headlights in the distance that appeared to be gaining ground on me. I would tell Tere I hurt and she would say “it is suppose to hurt, now run.” I finished the Javelina Jundred in 18:28:12 and 9th place overall out of 330 runners who started. What a day I had and even though I wasn’t able to break 18 hours I knew I fought through some really bad moments and finished strong.
What to expect in 2012
Javelina Jundred was my final race of the 2011 Ultra season but I am still working towards my goal of running a strong race at the Bandera 100K USATF Trail Championships on January 7, 2012. My mileage remains right around 80-100 miles per week and I will definitely continue to work on speed. I would like to finish the 100K in 9.5 hours which would most likely put me in the top twenty of a highly competitive field. This year I had no mileage goal for the year except whatever it took to have a balanced life which includes my home life, work, and running. I am currently just 180 miles from 4000 for the year and to put that into perspective it is the equivalent of running from LA to Detroit and back again. I am not sure where I would like to be for 2012 but again it will be whatever is required to meet my goals. On Saturday I found out that I did not get into the Western States 100 so I am doing a little schedule rearranging to see what works. I do know that the start of my year will be Bandera 100K, San Tan Scramble 50K, Mesquite canyon 50K, Zane Grey 50 mile and I am leaning towards the San Diego 100 in June. The rest of the year is pretty uncertain but Speedgoat 50K in July is a must and I will decide between Pine to Palm 100 and the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100 in September. As of right now I am leaning towards Pine to Palm 100 and volunteering at Mogollon Monster to help RD Jeremy Dougherty out. This is going to be a great event and I really look forward to it but we will see how the year goes. Thank you to my wife Traci and daughter Petra for putting up with my addiction, my friends for always being there to pace me,(Tere Zacher who paced for me at Zane Grey, Lean Horse 100, and Javelina Jundred, Deb Hamberlin, Johnny Omohundro, Dan Klausner, Jeff Turner, and my brother-in-law Kevin Conte who flew from Michigan to South Dakota to help me complete my first 100M.)my Bandido teammates for accepting a slow ultra runner, and my coach John Reich who has really made a huge difference in my training. This would be an ordinary blog without the help of all of my guest bloggers (Tere Crenshaw, Ariana Hilborn, Holly Miller, Liza Howard, Jeremy Dougherty, Dallas Stevens, and Nick Coury)who keep the readers up to date with important information and have been instrumental in getting so many into running. Last but not least a big thank you to John Vaupel for putting this website together for me and constantly keeping it up to date. I am not this technologically savvy but I have a great friend working behind the scenes to provide my readers with great content a couple times per week. If you would like to check out more race pictures click here for my photo galleries:
I will leave you with my 2011 stats, and thank you as always for reading.
Miles Year to Date: 4058.52 Miles
Ultra Marathon’s Ran in 2011: 11 Ultra’s
Elevation gain in feet: 401,324 feet
Running Time: 631:56:20 Hours
Calories Burned: 487,615 Calories
Breaking News: UROY Voting
Friday, 09 December 2011 11:26
With the popularity of the McDowell Mountain Man UROY poll Jeremy Dougherty Race Director of the new Mogollon Monster 100 has decided to graciously donate two free entries into the Mogollon Monster 100 for September 28, 2012 for the overall vote getter for both males and females. Since there is an Open and a Master’s category the top vote getter between the two categories will receive the free entry. Should we have a tie in the number of votes we will use the highest percentage of votes. If additional measures are needed we will put a red and blue ball in front of Bluedog from iRun and let him decide. Since you only can vote once make sure you send the link and site to your friends to vote. Thank you to everyone who has commented on the site and taken time to vote.
For those of you who have not checked out the MM100 website it can be found at
and registration will begin on December 15, 2011 on
. Stayed tuned to this site on Monday as Jeremy will be publishing a complete write up on the race and will answer any questions people have.
Thank you Jeremy and MM100 for the donation!
Vote For AZ Ultra Runners of the Year
Thursday, 08 December 2011 18:26
Now that we are nearing the end of the 2011 Ultra Running season I thought it would be fun to put together a poll to see who everyone thinks is Arizona’s Men’s and Women’s Masters and Open Ultra Runner of the Year. Please keep in mind that I polled Northern Arizona, Southern Arizona and Phoenix runners for their input and these are the nominees. Several other runners had outstanding season’s but to limit the list I only took nominated runners. I have not decided yet just what the prizes will be for the winners (**
**) but at minimum it will be a bright yellow McDowell Mountain Man shirt, write up, interview on the blog or maybe we can get Mark Cosmas to donate one of his buckles. If you have an idea for a good prize or if you think I made a terrible mistake and left someone out please let me know asap.
You can only vote once but please vote for all four categories.
The poll will run until December 21, 2011 and the the winners will be announced shortly after. If you would like to review the list of accomplishments and races by a nominee please click this link:
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