Category Archives: Mogollon Monster

Goals for the Monster

My friend Mark and his fiancee, Danielle, are flying in to pace along with Tracy.  The plan is for Mark to take me through the night – from mile 43.4 (5:10pm) to mile 78.4 (4:45am).  Danielle will then pick me up and hand me off to Tracy at mile 88 (7:55am) and she will take me in for a hopeful finish of 1pm Sunday.  My split goals are below.

Getting ready

We got to the apartment we rented in Payson mid-afternoon.  The place is a two bedroom downstairs unit in a residential area.  It is really nice and clean.  We couldn’t resist a visit to the Thai restaurant in Payson and it didn’t disappoint.  We both over-ate and made it an early night after a full day of travel and full stomachs.

The next morning, I headed out to Washington Park which is the central spot on the race course.  The park is little more than a parking lot for several trailheads, but 1 mile away is one of the climbs up the rim.  I did several repeats on the climb to get a feel for the course and acclimatize myself further.

When I got back to the apartment, Tracy had finished her call and we packed up the dogs and headed to the Pine Trailhead, which is the start of the race.  The area is exposed so it was hot and unfortunately, all the creeks were dry so it wasn’t very pleasant.  We decided to head back to the car and drove a14 mile dirt road back to Washington Park.

The trail is tree covered and there is a lot of water.  Since its all uphill, the dogs tired quickly so we let them off the leash.  Izzy didn’t pass up the chance to lay down in every creek we passed.

In the morning, I had explored a turn off to 100 years old failed attempt at a railroad tunnel.  Tracy wanted to see it so we climbed up a steep trail into a side canyon.

I looked up the history of this tunnel from ( and pasted it at the very end of the post.  The dogs liked the tunnel since it was cool and had a little water seep.

On Wednesday, we drove to Flagstaff and headed to the Humphreys Peak Trailhead.  The plan was for all of us to climb the trail, but Izzy had hurt the pad on her back right foot so Tracy stayed below with the dogs and I went to the summit.  I was a tad slower than 2013, but I felt great.   Just as I met Tracy at the car, a thunderstorm started.  It was short lived, but the clear beautiful day was replaced with occasional storms.

We met the alumni adviser, Melissa, at NAU and she gave us passes to the rec center so we could take showers.  The rec center looked brand new and was incredible.  There were indoor courts, a rock climbing section, and exercise studios.  It made me want to be a college kid again.

We check out a poster exhibit and then got a private tour of the campus telescope.  They had just installed a new thermal imaging camera that was cool to see function.  Afterwards, we went to dinner a a pizza place and coincidentally the owner, Caleb, is running the Monster also.  We were chased indoors by another storm and that same storm slowed our drive home considerably.  We made it home around 9pm and crashed after a very long day.

The next two days are rest days and I’ll get all my gear ready for the race.

Tunnel history:

It was Hell on Wheels during the 1880s when railroad tycoons conjured up an idea – create a railroad tunnel through the Mogollon Rim! James W. Eddy developed a value proposition to transport rich silver ore from Globe while connecting with the Atlantic and Pacific rail of Flagstaff. While the concept was lofty, initial seed capital was raised as investors had visions of enormous profit. In 1883, a powder house was erected and 42 men began drilling the 3,100 foot-long tunnel.  Only one problem, this was Rim Country!

The route was surveyed to cross the treacherous and unforgiving Mogollon Rim that is capped with extensive basaltic lava flow. The line would need to include a reasonable grade that would need to be engineered through the uppermost sandstone stratum of the rim, called Coconino Sandstone. The formation of this Sandstone is windblown in origin and is one of the thickest sand-dune-derived sandstones on earth! As a result, the Mogollon Rim proved its worth when the company filed for bankruptcy in 1888, more than 3,000 feet shy of their goal. Today, the 70-foot-long hole is a fascinating impression from an age of the great railroad.

On the way to the Monster

Preston and I left on a road trip last Friday to Jemez.   Ultimately, I’m heading to Pine, AZ for my 4th running of the Mogollon Monster 100 but a few days in the mountains of New Mexico offered me some time to acclimatize.  We took the dogs again since they are really easy in the car and love to explore new trails.

It took us a full day to get there but we got out early the next morning and climbed 10 miles of the Jemez 50 course up the backside of the ski resort and then down the slopes back to the car.  It was really hot and there was only one creek for the dogs.  We were all tired when we got back to town.

The next day Preston had to fly out, but not until 4pm and Tracy wasn’t flying in until 5pm so we took the dogs on an easier trail that followed a creek the entire way.  The creek was bordered by steep cliffs on each side which a 16 year boy couldn’t resist climbing.

All went well for the exchange of passengers at the airport and Tracy and I returned to the place we rented in Jemez for the night.  We took off the next morning and headed to Payson, AZ.


I lacked the will

Well the race is over and as the subject suggests, I didn’t make it.  Lots of justifications went through my head for dropping, but the most honest one was that I wasn’t having fun.

The morning was beautiful, the pic below shows some of the Texas runners who came to the event.  Several had been here during the rain-out last year.


The course had changed and while the new trail was nice, it added about a mile to the first aid station as it switch backed up the open hills.  I was behind where I wanted to be about 20 minutes after climbing out of pine canyon (view below)



Once I left the aid station, the temperature started to rise and the running was becoming less fun.  It was another 6 miles before I hit the first downhill back to the bottom of the rim.  Compared to last year, the sky was beautiful, but I knew the 10 miles I had to go at the bottom of the hill was going to be hot.


Most of the stretch between the bottom aid station and Washington Park was done at a fast walk.  Even though the trail was a miserable muddy mess last year, the weather was cool so I did this stretch 40 minutes faster than this year.  My watch read 89 degrees as the sun beat off the rocks along side the rim.  I think the actual temperature was low 80’s but it felt like an oven.


Finally when I got to Washington Park, I sat in a chair and ate some fruit and tried to cool down.  I was about 100 minutes behind where I wanted to be.  When I left 20 minutes later, I started up the hill.  I kept thinking how miserable this was and that I’d have to make that same return trip along the bottom of the rim 24 hours from now and the weather was supposed to be warmer on Sunday.  Once I hit the base to the steepest part of the hill – I dunked my head in the creek, turned around and headed back down the hill.  I threw in the towel at 31 miles.

I got a ride back to the start, had a beer with an English guy who also dropped, and met Tracy for dinner that night.  The following morning, we went to Denny’s only to see Olga and Larry.  Olga had dropped in the middle of the night.  We then went to the last aid station, before the finish and hiked the trail up and over the rim to the other side (pic of Tracy below).


At the finish, we talked to the race director and it looks like only two of the nine from Texas were still on the course.  The others  had dropped through-out the night.  I hate not finishing what I started, but there is always next year.  I decided that I’ll run 50 miles at Cactus Rose in 2 weeks to make up for my shortage in miles.

Less than a day

Going to pick up my packet in an hour or so.  While on calls today, I put together my drop bag for the race.  Since this race goes through the same spot 3 different times, I only need one drop bag or in this case, drop box.

The logistics of a 100 mile race are complex.  Since I don’t have a crew and only one pacer (Tracy is meeting me at mile 87), I need to be very self sufficient.  I carefully plan out what I will need when so I can limit the amount in my pack.   I have 4 stages that I pack for:

1. What I start the race with, mainly a small headlamp, some food, and rain gear (just in case)

2. What I pick up the first time through Washington Park, mile 27 – one pole, more food, and spare water bottle

3. 2nd time through, mile 50 –  warm jacket/pants, big flashlight, hat/gloves, more food

4. 3rd time through, mile 87 – drop all the warm stuff, flashlight, and pole – load up on food and cold water

Also in my box are medical supplies, spare shoes, fresh shirts, spare IPODs, my spot, and extra food.

The secret to finishing a 100 miler is not how strong you are, it’s how well nourished you are.  No matter how  you feel, you have to keep the calories coming in.


It’s that time of year again – Monster time

For those new to the Monster – it’s a 100 miler on the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona.  This hundred is normally 106 miles but this year it’s 107, as one of the trails was re-routed.  This is my 3rd year running it.  I finished in 35.5 hours in 2013.  In 2014, I only made 44 miles since the race was called due to severe weather.  No chance of that this year since the weather will be sunny and warm (a little too warm).

I’ve followed the same  routine every year.  Last night I flew into Phoenix, spent the night in Flagstaff, climbed Mt Humphreys this morning, and are now in Payson, AZ – 11 miles from the start.   There was beautiful weather for the climb this morning.  I added a few pictures below.   It was my first outing in 2 weeks after twisting my ankle during a training run.  I’ve been very cautious to not exert it since it was very swollen and discolored.   I was cautious thins morning making sure that I didn’t strain it.  I tried out my new poles.  The result was an uneventful climb and decent, but I was 20 minutes slower than the past years.  I’ve determined that poles slow me down so I’m only taking one of them on the race for the later legs when I’ll need the extra stability.



After showering, my ankle showed a lot of pretty colors.  It doesn’t hurt and it’s not swollen so I think it may be the old blood draining.   As a precaution, I iced it for 30 minutes.  I added a picture of that for the viewing pleasure of Mike V since he squealed like a 16 year old girl just sticking a toe in ice after he completed the Leadville 100.



Mogollon Monster 2014 Video


Even though the race was cancelled, it was a great time.  Met some neat people on the course.  Big thanks to Jeremy for organizing a fantastic event and he definitely made the right choice in cancelling.  Here is a short video of the day, I thought the music fit the situation:



44 soaking miles of muck

The race did start as planned at 6am Saturday morning, however it was called off at 5:40pm due to the weather.  I wish my pictures were better because it’s really hard to understand the conditions unless you were in them.

I arrived to the start just after 5am and it was raining gently.  The rain stopped for the actual start of the race, but you could hear the thunder in the distance.  As we climbed into Pine Canyon, we were surrounded by low clouds and the humidity was close to 100%.


Once we hit the switchbacks, the sun peaked out and we were optimistic that the weather was going to break.


It didn’t – for the next 4 hours small rain showers came and went and it turned the trail into an ice skating rink.  We would take one step and slide.  Plenty of people were covered in mud from hitting the deck on the sloppy trails.  Fortunately, I never went down.


I got to Washington Park (mile 27) about 1 hour later than I wanted, but still faster than last year.  I only took 10 minutes to change shirts, swap backpacks, and get something to eat.  I then proceeded to climb the 2 miles to the top of the rim.  At the higher elevation, it was at least 15 degrees cooler and the wind was intense for the 4.5 miles on the rim road.  I stopped several times to add layers to ward off the cold.  At the next aid station, I ate some soup and a burrito that warmed me up.  My warmth didn’t last as a major front passed over the rim.  At least 2″ of rain dropped and the trails turned from muddy slop into rivers.  Unless you wanted to walk in 3″ of rain that was trapped in the trail rout, you had to walk on the outside of the trail.  The picture below isn’t the greatest, but you can see how hard the rain was falling and how dark it got at 3pm.


My $12 purchase the day before was a lifesaver.  Everyone was drenched from head to toe, but I was nice and dry under my umbrella.  We made it to the next aid station around 5:30pm and just as I was leaving, the announcement came over the radio that they were calling the race due to flash flooding below the rim.  Hard to determine if I was happy or sad about it.   The next trail I was heading to below the rim was the most technical and remote.  I was not looking forward to having to navigate it in these conditions.  Given the lack of gear preparations by some people I saw on the course, I definitely think that calling the race was the right decision.


All of us at that aid station got a lift back to the top of the rim and we hiked the final 2 miles back to Washington Park.  In the end, I did 44 miles of the 106 on the course.  One piece of good news was that I found out that my finish last year qualifies me for the Hardrock 100 It’s a slim chance that I would get an entry from the lottery, but I’m going to enter anyway.


From the Race website 09/28/2014, Race Cancellation Update :

 Yesterday afternoon the race was cut short for nearly all runners at mile 51, Washington Park.  This decision was made because of the high risk of flash floods along the Hell’s Gate section of the Highline Trail and exposure along the trail and the climb up Myrtle to lightning strikes.  The access to miles 51-59 is extremely limited and navigation and terrain along that section is the toughest of the course.  Allowing runners to cross (in the dark for most) the numerous ravines, directly in a flash flood zone, exposed to lightning strikes (which are very frequent and common along the Rim) was a major safety risk, I as the Race Director, was not willing to take.
This decision is understandably frustrating to some who naturally wanted to finish the race and continue on in what they felt was just inclement weather.  Under normal circumstances rain would not be sufficient reason for a cancellation however in this region and on this terrain extreme amounts of rain can be very dangerous.  The storm that knocked out power to 75,000 people in Phoenix, tore roofs off buildings with 60+mph winds, closed roadways, traveled north and hit the course dumping the course with rain, strong winds and dropped the temperature almost 15 degrees almost instantaneously.

The four lead runners passed through Washington Park mile 51 nearly an hour before the storm hit and ultimately were stopped at Hell’s Gate Aid Station and brought back down. 5th place and on back were held at Washington Park until the unanimous decision was made to cancel the race and avoid a potentially disastrous situation with dozens of more runners entering a fast deteriorating trail and high risk of flash flooding. Storms were forecast’d throughout the evening with more lightning.  This proved to be accurate as it continued to downpour on and off, drenching an already saturated terrain further increasing flash flood risks long after the race was called off.

I know this region and these trails better than most anyone.  I’ve spent an extensive amount of time on every section, in every kind of climate, weather, and scenario.  While some runners are better suited for these challenging scenarios, with more experience in that kind of weather, the consideration for the safety of ALL runners had to be taken into account.

I don’t expect all the runners to agree with this decision.  Nor do they need to.  I have a responsibility for the safety of all the runners, volunteers, crews, and these take priority over qualifying for Hardrock, reaching a personal running goal or obtaining a buckle.  It is very unfortunate and disappointing for all of us.  I spend a great deal of my time, my weekends, my evenings and my free time in general, on top of a very busy work schedule, to put on this race with the help of a lot of friends and volunteers.  I’ve heard people complaining that we canceled the race “because it was raining.”  That is not accurate.  Because of the excessive rain, and the terrain of the area, we are heavily prone to flash flooding in the area.  Both the runners and along the control road where all the runners family and crew were driving to meet them.  I’ve heard the Bear 100 rained for 12 hours and they didn’t cancel their race.  Bear is in Utah.  We are in Arizona.  You can’t compare the two just because they both had raindrops.  Different terrain, different landscapes, significantly different flash flood potentials.

For those that are downright angry with me for making this decision I ask for you to take a deep breath.  It’s just running.  It’s just a race.  I cannot control the weather and I stand by my decision as the right one.  There is an overwhelming number of veteran ultrarunners, RD’s that were present and those in the race itself that stated their agreement with the decision based on the facts at hand.  This wasn’t a decision that was made lightly or one that any of us wanted to see happen.  We spent the next four hours after the cancellation working to orchestrate an evacuation of all the runners from the course that chose not to run the safer sections coming down the Rim to Washington Park.  Crews, volunteers, HAM radio support were incredibly generous with their time and vehicle space to get people back to Pine. We had all the runners accounted for by 9pm and everyone off the course.

I am truly greatful for all the support from the runners coming off the Rim for 51 miles and their understanding of the decision.  Your overwhelming support is appreciated. Hopefully in 2015 we can have weather more in line with the first two years, 75 and sunny.

Until then…

The day before

Reminder – once the race starts, you can see my progress via my SPOT:

The race starts at 6am tomorrow.  In between work calls today, I’m prepping all my gear and added a few items I wouldn’t normally have:  an umbrella and rubber gloves.  Can you guess why?  It’s going to rain.  Reality is it’s going to pour.  Forecast is for rain all during the 32+ hours I will be out there.  At certain times the forecast says 100% chance of rain.  I make fun of hikers with umbrellas, but when it’s in the 40’s in the middle of the night, I’d rather be dry than soaked.  I pasted a picture of the forecast below:


In an effort to acclimatize, I spent the night before last in Flagstaff and after my morning calls, I submitted Mt. Humphreys.  I wasn’t planning on breaking any records, but I made it from the parking lot to the summit only two minutes off my PR.  I added a couple pictures below.  The cloud cover was spectacular – the sky was completely blue except for right above the peaks.  Most of it burned off by the time I made the summit, but it was like climbing into a fog bank on the way up.  Next update will most likely be Monday or later in the week.  I will take my camera with me on the race so everyone can get a feel for the environment.  Wish me luck.