After deciding not to continue south that left us with north, we could have skirted across the top of Baja and into the mainland Mexico, but a quick check of the calendar and we knew exactly which way we were headed, Arizona.
We love Arizona, can’t put our finger on any one thing, it’s just an amazing place filled with pretty awesome people and my most favourite race, the Mogollon Monster 100.
It was a long drive but we rolled into the Pine, AZ trailhead on the Friday before course marking was to be happening, we had a drink at THAT Brewery (to use their wifi only) and dropped the Race Director, Jeremy, a quick message that we would be helping with the marking the next morning. He’s response was “holy shitballs!” Next morning we received a few more surprised hello’s and got to work marking sections of the long rugged race in groups. I’ve missed being apart of our local running community this summer, it was so good to be hanging out with other “crazy” ultra runners.
That night we met up with our friends Margaret and Ted at their place in Payson, 15 minutes from the race start, we were treated to a homemade dinner and a comfy bed. The next morning Margret, myself and a couple of other runners marked another 2 sections of trail, it as a long but fun day.
Margaret and Ted were kind enough to offer up their place for us to stay in for the week while they headed back to Phoenix for work, we gladly accepted and so began our week of bingeing.
Although Dan and I did spend another day trail marking we also spent a copious amount of time in front of the TV and computer. Everyday we set a little goal, but the remainder if the day was usually spent watching some of sort of screen. We did a massive clean of The Hulk, inside and out. Everyday we went to the Safeway and bought ourselves food that we could not make on the truck, so many lovely oven baked meals (including 2 nights of pizza), each accompanied by a fresh salad.
Thursday finally rolled around and we ventured in Phoenix for the day, sadly we just ended up shopping and catching a movie, because we really were there to help Jeremy get race stuff organised, which we did. There is so much that goes into a race I had no idea, it was enlightening being on the other side.
Friday was spent cleaning Margaret and Ted’s, someone got a haircut and I helped with some of the race shopping “Hi, may I have 25 bags of ice please?” Nearly cleaned them out. Then it was start line set up and race kit pick up, at this point Dan and I weren’t really needed so we got to meet and chat with the runners at pick up, it was quite fun. Much more relaxing when you are not running the race. That night we feel asleep at the start line listening to bugling Elks, and were awoken in the night by a wild storm. Lots of lightning, thunder and rain, a lot of runners were in tents near by, I don’t think anyone had a very good nights sleep.
Race morning was cold and wet, but the rain more or less held off until two minutes after the race started. Poor Dan missed the start all together since he was consolidating the starters list with the HAM radio leader. Then we rushed off to set up the aid station for mile 13. It took an 2 and a half hours to see all 72 starters through, most were in good spirits, some already looked like the walking dead and one really negative women was looking for any excuse to drop (I was sad to discover someone existed like this in the ultra community).
Our next aid station to help out with was at mile 33. By the time we got there it was quite cool and just starting to rain, but that rain picked up as did the wind, Leonard our HAM operator, kept giving us bad weather updates* to pass onto runners. Eventually, for every bodies safety, the race was cancelled. Most runners made it to mile 51. We had the pleasure of meeting Ben, who was at our aid station and drive him back to Pine.
Sunday morning we returned to Pine to help with some of the clean up, chatting to some of the runners they were clearly disappointed but fully understood why the cancellation was necessary. I would not have run through that, especially the section where you are completely exposed, people die from lightning strikes every year on the rim.
We had a lot of fun catching up with our Arizona friends and helping out with the race but it was time to head back south. It always feels like we are leaving home when we leave Pine/Payson, but we were also feeling refreshed and ready for the next leg of our journey.
*never knew that there were categories of rain, now we do.