Friday, October 4, 2013

Mogollon Monster Race Report

Mogollon Monster 106+
Sept 28, 2013 Pine AZ

I was going to run The Bear 100. Early in the spring while training for the Boston Marathon I was trying to set up my ultra schedule for the rest of 2013. I needed a ‘goal race’. Last year it was Superior Sawtooth100. This year I had a few to choose from and had narrowed it down to likely choosing The Bear. Before I could sign up for Bear I got an email from a friend, Jay Danek, that I’d met at the TRWB Trail Running Camp last fall. Jay is good friends with the race director for Mogollon Monster 100, Jeremy Dougherty, and was encouraging some Texas TRWB runners to check out the 2nd running of this new race in north central Arizona. Some of my Rockerhopper San Antonio peeps were in the loop and I got suckered in to joining the fun. Logistics looked easy and it sounded like we had a small party ready to invade Arizona so I signed up for The Monster. Now I just had to wait…and train.

Boston went well (except for the bombings L) and I settled back into my training routine in Austin until summer arrived. The Captain Karl’s 60k night race series around the greater Austin area provided the perfect training for my fall Monster. I figure the Texas heat adds a certain X factor to one’s training. Let’s say the 60k’s were ‘worth’ more like a 50mile training run. Knocking out all 4 of these in ~9 weeks set me up nicely with a solid base for the 100+ offering on the horizon.

I flew into Phoenix early Friday morning and had plenty of time to get my rental car and head over to a local Sprouts to buy a few supplies for the weekend: Bananas and 2 six packs of SanTan craft brews @ $6.99 ea! By that time the i-Run Phoenix running store was open so I swung by to meet the owner, Mark, and BS a little about the race and local running scene. I headed up north on 87 for the 1.5 hour drive to Pine, AZ and went straight for the trailhead to shake a leg and loosen up after traveling.  I changed clothes and laced ‘em up for a roughly 5mile out-and-back on the course start to check out what was in store. When I returned to the start the UHaul truck was unloading some supplies so I decided to help RD Jeremy and his brother Noah out for a few minutes. We got the ultra cool Mogollon Monster 100 sign erected without too much trouble and still had some time before packet pick up so I went backwards from mile 103 to check out the last of the Highline Trail since I’d likely be coming in this section in the dark.

By the time I got back to the trailhead Jay and the San Antonio duo (Brian Ricketts and Rachel Ballard) had arrived. We took a few pictures and yacked for a few before heading to our crash pad to check in and freshen up before packet pick up. One of the other selling points for this race is the packet pickup is at a brewpub! That Brewery was just down the main street and was ready for a bunch of crazy runners. I got my shirt, bib number and cool coffee mug but not before I grabbed a RoadRash IPA from the bar. A decent black bean burger, another IPA and some banter with the other runners and crew made for a fantastic pre-race atmosphere. Oh yea, the weather was perfect!

We all made it back to the house and organized our supplies and discussed logistics for what we’d do after the race on Sunday since we needed to check out by 11am. I had one main drop bag for Washington Park and two small ones for Geronimo and Pinchot Cabin. I felt a little wind burned and tired from the day’s activities and quickly settled in on the couch for a decent night’s sleep. We all got going without delay Saturday morning and headed over to the race start by 5:30am for the briefing. Jeremy gave us a quick reminder of what we were supposed to be doing (don’t follow Jay!), a nice national anthem, the countdown and…We’re off!

I took off with a few others up front including Jay (dang it!) as we took it easy on the meandering slightly uphill single track to get us started. Around 2.5-3 miles in we hit a pretty decent short uphill climb and I decided to power hike past everyone and get out front so I could run my pace and focus on the task ahead. It was a beautiful morning and I was really enjoying the trails as we climbed up into the mountain and around some small canyons coming down from above. I hadn’t thought much about anyone behind me and didn’t look back until the Girl Scout camp when I saw Marty, an Aussie I met at the bar the night before. We said ‘hey’ and I kept just a minute or two ahead of him as we eventually climbed our way up to the rim to the first aid station, Pine Canyon. That woke up the lungs and quads!

Marty pulled in to the aid station right as I was about to leave and caught up with me just down the trail as I was messing with the fence gate to get back on our way on a stretch of park roads. The ‘easy’ running was a nice break and I stretched it out a little to bank some time and run free/relaxed. I pretty much hauled ass all the way to the Dickerson Flat aid station for a quick refill and a banana piece. After just a short climb back into the sticks the trail peaks out with a killer view of the rim and canyon below and proceeds to drop down on the seriously technical Turkey Springs trail for several miles. Around 4 miles out of Geronimo the trail is quite runnable so I picked up the pace a little and grooved it on in to my first drop bag.

I pounded some calories and made sure I had two bottles and some gel to get me to Washington Park around 9.5 miles away. I ran Zane Grey in 2010 and this section of the Highline Trail is common to both races. I recognized portions of the trail and tried to remember the switchbacks down and out of each gully so I might have a better time of it in the dark 15+ hours from now. I didn’t have any trouble following the trail along this section but each time I’d get in a good running rhythm there would be a super rocky stretch that slowed me down. I wasn’t hesitant to walk some through here so as not to get off trail and conserve some energy for the long day ahead. I think it was right around noon when I pulled in to Washington Park for the first of 3 times in the race.

There is about a mile of nice trail leaving WP before you get to the powerline section of super steep and rocky nastiness for another tough mile up to the Rim Road. 4 miles of rolling but mostly gentle uphill park road and I arrived at Houston Brothers aid station. I didn’t dally long and looked forward to some less technical trail running in front of me.  I wasn’t disappointed! The 7.5 miles of Houston Brothers trail was really sweet almost all single track in the woods along with a few meadows. I was feeling fine and looking forward to more choice singletrack as I pulled in to Pinchot Cabin, mile 41.

I think the Fred Haught trail out of PC was my favorite section of this race. Really sweet trail with a small creek running alongside a lot of it. I came across some mountain bike campers  that were having as much fun as I was and saw a family setting up in a nice spot for the afternoon as well. The Arizona trail was great too; only slightly steeper as I began to climb out of the remoteness and back towards Rim Road. A quick ‘howdy’ to the HAM radio crew and it was time for the dicey decent back down into WP for the second time. I must have been having fun because I pulled in to WP right at 3pm; just covered ~24miles of Cabin Loop trails in 3hrs. I grabbed more fluid, fuel, my INKnBURN arm sleeves and a couple of small lights and headed out.

Back on the Highline Trail again. I knew this section of the trail to Hell’s Gate was tough. Not only had I run it during Zane Gray 2010 but there were multiple pre-race reminders of how rough going it was and how long it was going to take to survive the ~5.5miles to HG. Rocks, grass, rock covered grass, grass covered rocks, rock covered rocks and oh yea, manzanita bushes as far as the eye could see. Get the picture? Double it. I had my first frustrating moment as I neared the HG aid station. I just couldn’t believe it was taking me this long to get there and wondered briefly if I had somehow missed the aid station and was headed towards Myrtle trail already. I trusted myself that I couldn’t have missed it that bad but still had a few choice adjectives spewing forth when I finally stumbled upon the HAM radio guys pulling volunteer duty at what was to become the HG aid station. They had some warm water to refill my bottles and were kind enough to listen to my rants for a few minutes before I was off again to find Myrtle and get my ass out of the canyon before dark.

Believe it or not I was really looking forward to the Myrtle trail! With the trail improvements the hard working volunteers had made and the fantastic colors of the fading afternoon, this upward journey marked another milestone in the race and lifted my spirits along with it. Up up up and eventually I saw two figures on the top of the rim watching me climb. Turns out it was Andrew taking pictures and another HAM guy, Mike I think. They were hooting it up and encouraging me to join them up top! I finally made it and wanted to sit down and watch someone else make that climb but decided to keep the ball rolling along. A few miles of mostly downhill road was a welcome relief from the rock garden down in the canyon and the climb out. Around the corner one more time and there is Buck Springs AS.

The usual refueling and a few gear adjustments were needed. Jay’s pacer Kristi was at BS and ready to help me. I sat down and with her help, dumped some rocks out of my shoes and geared up with my sleeves and headlamp as the sun had set and the evening chill on the rim was beginning. The other aid station volunteer told me the next section was mostly very runnable so I should be able to stay warm if I could keep moving. The cool air felt great and I was chasing up elk that were trying to bed down for the evening around every corner. I finally clicked my headlamp on a few miles out of BS and was grateful for the awesome reflection of the 3M tape on some of the markers. I love this stuff! It took a while but I finally got to the doorstep of PC when I saw my mountain biker buddies around a killer campfire having a blast. I’m sure they had some whiskey and beers but I kept choogling up the hill to check in with PC and fetch my big light for the night ahead.

The folks at PC were a little surprised to see me but sprang into action immediately. I had a personal attendant to help with my gear while Linda tried to push her food offerings on me! I got a jacket for my pack just in case but continued with just the sleeves and my sleeveless INKnBURN shirt. The big light was fantastic and I hooked it back down the trail to make my way to Houston Brothers ASAP.  I was still running pretty good and enjoying myself, especially with each marker I’d see. It wasn’t long before I found the Houston Brothers aid station once again. This time they had the glow sticks and disco ball in full effect, as well as another nice camp fire to tease me. The guys were super cool; very attentive but also quiet and chill. Just what I needed. I think I had a potato and topped off my bottles before heading out. The next section was the same ~4miles of Rim Road but this time mostly downhill and in the dark. I clicked my big light down to low and enjoyed the stillness of the rim and the stars flooding the sky.

The dicey scree field I went down hours before now waited for me again…in the dark. I took my time and made sure I didn’t crash out on this descent and got myself back to WP for the 3rd and last time in one piece. My friend Kelly from Flagstaff had driven down to WP and helped me gear up for my 9+ miles along the Highline Trail (again?!) to get back to Geronimo. I was feeling pretty decent physically but beginning to wear a little mentally. It’s tough to consider how many more miles you still have when you’ve already traveled this far. It took me over two hours to get back to Geronimo but I didn’t get off trail any and maintained a decent attempt at ‘running’ when I could.

Leaving Geronimo I knew what to expect for the first ~3 miles to get to the West Webber cut off and head towards the top again. What I didn’t expect was just how far the aka D!@knocker trail continued to switchback up up up and yes…more up. Da Um. When I finally got to the top I expected a marching band or something excessive to celebrate; I got nothing. The 100mile AS was another HAM radio dude in his truck another .5 miles down the road. I refilled and headed down for what I figured was a mile or so of descent to the Highline Trail for the last time. Turns out, it was longer. I fully realize one’s distance and speed perception skew as the miles and hours go on but, man, this Donohue descent was just NEVER ENDING! Steep and rocky, manzanita biting on the sides, mile 100whatever…ughh.

Eventually I reappeared at the Pine Trailhead, where we started 20+ hours before. RD Jeremy and Kelly were there to assist as needed but I only needed to drop off my empty handheld and tell them to crank up the marching band. It was a little weird running in the culvert under the road, up the opposite shoulder and along a residential street after all those rocky trail miles but I could smell the barn.

A few turns later and the community center was in site. Wow. I finally passed under the Mogollon Monster 100 sign to close this thing out. 21:34 for the win. Most of y’all know the feeling of relief to finish. Pretty dang cool. Got changed and warmed up, out of the shoes and into the flip flops! Got my sub 24 buckle and some encouraging words from RD Jeremy, shutterbug Andrew and crew Kelly. Eventually we all got tired of sitting there looking at each other so I headed back to the crash house for a hot shower and a new attitude to greet the other runners and the sun rising on a new day.

Final Thoughts:
This race is awesome; well executed and worth your time…if you are ready. JD is a kick ass RD!
Thanks INKnBURN for being part of my Ultra Family!
I used some yoga moves to stretch and some Buddhist concepts to stay happy during the race. I thanked my wife Sandi for those teachings but she said I had to thank the Universe. FTW!
The HAM radio guys (gals?) were awesome; nice to know they were out there watching.
All the volunteers before, during and after the race really hit it out of the park. Thank You!
Thanks to Andrew Pielage for some great photos out on the course! (several on this page)
The weather was perfect; maybe 40F at the start and finish and 70F in the shade during the day!
I knocked back a bunch of calories all day and never had an issue with my stomach at all.
I still want to run The Bear 100 but I'm glad I chose MOG100 on this day. 


  1. Awesome report man. I dig the honesty and the details.

  2. Thanks Logan. Reading others' reports on a race I'm signed up for really helps me prepare. Fun to look back on in the years to come as well.