Listen to race director, Noah Dougherty, & Jamil Coury discuss everything Mogollon from its origins to updates on the new Point to Point courses for all three distances!
The Mogollon Monster 100 is a special race for myself and Jeremy. Saturday, September 16th would be the sixth annual racing of the Mogollon Monster in Pine, Arizona and my nerves were through the roof. This time with the anticipation of toeing the line in my first 100-mile endeavor. The course has acquired a reputation of unparalleled views and incredible single track, but also unrelenting, technical trails that will beat you down everywhere you turn - and climbing - lot's and lot's of climbing. More than a few times have we heard runners finish with a, "what the F@#k was that?!"
What better 100-mile race with which to start than MOG 100?
In 2012 my older brother, Jeremy and I started this beast of a race. Admittedly, the Monster likely never would have made it beyond a grand idea without Jeremy’s incredible persistence and action. The amount of time, money, and resources (and patience from his wife, Jen) spent to get this 100-mile race from inception to the starting line is nothing short of amazing. I’m sure many a race director knows the feeling. These first four years were filled with plenty of lessons on how to improve our race. It was a true grassroots effort as we implored anyone that would listen to us to come up to the Mogollon Rim and help us pull this thing off. Many of these friends, coworkers, and family still in the stage of, “run 100 miles? I don’t even like to drive that far!” We couldn't have done it without them.
But even with the hiccups, it was growing. We gained some notoriety after our 2013 race when we became one of seven races (at the time) to be a Hardrock 100 qualifier. Flash forward four years to 2017 and this race has shown resiliency that only a Mogollon Monster slipping through the Ponderosa Pines could endure. We made the incredibly difficult call to cancel the 2014 race midway through when a violent storm streaked through our course; we buried the Monster shortly after our 2015 race when it was decided we could no longer dedicate the time & energy necessary to do this race justice; and in stroke of luck, Jamil Coury and his company, Aravaipa Running, approached Jeremy to take the reins and ensure this race lived on in 2016 and beyond.
So, back to 2017. Following our pre-race briefing and our yearly rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner playing over the loud speaker, we all looked out over the rim that each of the 75 runners were about to tackle. The energy was palpable and the nerves were through the roof. Did I put in enough training? Why is my left leg hurting now- am I hurt? It was a beautiful September weekend and one of our favorite things about this race has always been the hometown feel it permeates. As Jeremy and his family had moved to Bar Harbor, Maine in March this was quite literally a homecoming. At each aid station, hugs and laughs were exchanged. We never rushed through any aid station and always tried to spend a couple extra minutes with our wives and kids. My wife, Jeanine, Jeremy's wife, Jen, and our good friends Cesar and Jeanna, spent hours waiting (and driving) with our kids just to catch us for a matter of minutes. Crewing is not an easy job but one that I am very grateful they were willing to take on for our race.
For me, I was most concerned with the miles following the 50 mile mark. Very few, if any, stories I had heard from 100 mile races included happy times beyond that point. Additionally, Jeremy and I had said all along that we were hoping to run the entire race together but both of us knew how difficult something like this could become. However, as we got our hugs from Michael & Kimberly Miller and left the Houston Brothers aid station at mile 50 and switched on our head lamps for the long night ahead, we both felt strong.
We didn’t make it far before another runner caught up to us asking to tag along through this section in the night. We would now be a team of four as we had already picked up our good friend, Jay, who would pace us through the night on this 35 mile stretch exploring the incredible Cabin Loop. Four or five miles into this section, we came across a woman named Andi who asked to join our crew as we traversed the Barbershop Trail on our way to the mile 56 aid station.
We had run with a number of runners throughout the race already but little did we know that Tobias, Andi, Jeremy, Jay and I would actually spend the next 10+ hours through the night and all the way through the Highline Trail on our way to mile 88 and the finish. The banter was fantastic as Andi brought her Tennessee drawl and impressive 100 mile stories to the table. Tobias brought his dry Swedish humor to the pitch black trails and Jeremy, Jay and I talked about anything and everything. When one of us would kick the pace to a jog, everyone else fell in line. When one runner wanted to walk, we all walked. We stuck to the plan: never run up a hill, always jog the downhills and use your judgement on the flats. We never felt like we were going fast but at some point in the middle of the night, Jay made us aware that we were, in fact, on pace to finish before noon. None of us responded with much excitement- there were a lot of hours and miles to go.
We made it off the rim before 5 a.m. and saw the sun rise as we started our final trip on the Highline toward the finish. Tobias and Jeremy leading the way, I could hear them talking and picking runners off the trail as we kept our steady pace over the technical terrain- “I just saw two more runners on the crest of that hill, let’s go.” We parted ways with Andi here but Tobias was cranking along and led the way into Geronimo at mile 88 before 8 a.m. having passed at least 8 or 9 runners. I slugged some fresh hot coffee from Cesar, high fived our kids and made quick work of the aid as we crossed the creek on our way to our final climb in the race, West Webber.
West Webber is a heart breaker. A damn soul crusher. When Jeremy had originally designed this course, you would climb the 1.5 mile, ridiculously steep trail of switchbacks to the top of the rim at mile 100. When you finally crest the rim climb, you would be greeted by an unmanned table with water jugs and maybe (hopefully) a box with some Gu’s in it. Then you would go right back down the rim on the way to the finish. The climb could have easily been skipped when the course was made. We could have celebrated your 100th mile up there. But this was the Monster. You were going to dig down deep here and have to give it everything you had to get this buckle. (Truthfully, we probably couldn't get enough volunteers up there :-)) This year, with the addition of a 105K and 35K distance, West Webber/Donahue would be a full aid station and it was fun to pass some of the 35K runners knowing we had made it.
Jeremy and I actually felt pretty good and we were surprisingly still running the downhills that led to the Webber climb. We powered up this climb and made our way down the Donahue Trail that we had scaled nearly 27 hours prior. The finish was everything I had envisioned it to be each time I watched another runner finish his or her 100 mile journey in years past.
We swept our youngest kids up into our arms while the older ones anxiously awaited just before the finish line cheering us on and eventually crossing under our handmade, metal Mogollon Monster sign in 28:32. Together. Jamil handed me my first ever 100 mile buckle with a handshake. A handshake that, ironically, was extended to Jamil by my brother in 2012 as Jamil became our first ever finisher. It was a simple twist of fate and could not have been sweeter.
I would be remiss to not specifically thank a few people here. Jeanine, for being so patient with my training. More than a few days I was gone until the late afternoon and then probably not worth a whole lot when I got home. She never once doubted my finish. Jamil, Hayley, Jubilee, Erin, Pati, and everyone else with the Araivaipa family who makes these events so great. The invaluable amateur HAM radio guys, our medical team, the countless volunteers who spent entire weekends up on the rim, and Michael Carson who, for the second weekend in a row, spent his entire Saturday night with me. This time running who knows how many miles to try and capture on camera the journey that Jeremy and I were afforded. (All photos here are courtesy of Melissa Ruse and SweetM Images- amazing as always)
Ultra Running FamilyMogollon Monster is a race for the (ultra) family. The ultra community finds its strong foundation from the hearts and soles (feet variety) of each runner, volunteer, radio personal, pacer and even those following the story from twitter posts, that never seem to come fast enough. It is not often anymore that we are able to find a race that embodies so much of what we love about the ‘classic’ races of yesteryear. These races have a few ingredients that create an undeniable attraction and Mogollon Monster is one of them with: ‘ultra-crazy’ people (those long time supporters, runners and volunteers), traditions and a course that is unlike anything in the world.
‘Ultra-Crazy’ People: Making Friends on (and off) the TrailsForming trail friendships during a race is a trend that is continually happening within our tight-knit community. Seen at this year’s Hardrock 100 finish line when the two race leaders finished hand and hand to tie. However, they did not just finish together they spent most of the day and night experiencing the trails as a team. As a Hardrock qualifier, Mogollon Monster embodies a similar persona. We witnessed countless runners finding their runs were enhanced with another. As runners came into aid stations they talked about conversations they had with people on the course. The topics would cover a vast life’s history and sections of the trail would not be referred to by its course name but “that-section-done-with-a-particular-runner.”
A simple invitation to run in and, “finish this thing together,” was enough to light a fire under one runner, Nick Coury, as he left the final aid station sprinting towards the other runner, Lorenzo Sanchez. Trent Wester and William Jackson crossed the finished together with comments about how, “That thing was diabolical. I think all my toes have blisters.” And exclamations of, “Oh it’s downhill it will be easy now…no.” Their journey had been tough but the looks on their faces showed it was all worth it. Still more runners like Jess Adams and Andi Ramer smiled through their final steps to achieve their 100 miles. Andi made sure to tell co-race director, Jamil Coury, “That was fun, no really, I did enjoy myself.” Andi’s smile beamed with bliss as she held her buckle. The celebration continued as Van Patterson and James Tevault finished together and seemed to have shared the whole journey of the race as a pair. In a true supportive spirit they placed some chairs in front of the finish line to continue cheering on the other runners completing the race. Most runners continued to linger supporting their fellow runners. Even this year’s winner, Andy Pearson, took out his yoga mat and sleeping bag and laid down near the finish line keeping warm and watching the next few runners achieve their 100-mile buckles.
Tradition: Welcoming New and Celebrating OldResurrected from possible extinction, Mogollon Monster found its way into our hearts. A young race but full of people making it an annual tradition. Hoisting up the official “Mogollon Monster” sign at the start brought chills to those present as it carried the stories of the past. The runners – hopefully – cross under this sign twice in the race, once at the start and the other when they finish. Runners of the Monster also see the same aid stations and radio checkpoints a few times during the run. Returning this year were many of the same Aid Station Captains, volunteers, and radio personnel as they celebrate another year of this special race. One tradition, special to runners who make it far enough in the race to enjoy the switch backs on Myrtle’s Trail, is listening to the song, “Stairway to Heaven.” The radio operator stationed at the top of the climb finds it fitting and has found it within himself to listen to it on repeat for the duration of the race and for the benefit of the runners.
One lively tradition at the ‘Headquarters’ aid station, Washington Park, involves a large bell attached to a board with the words, “Keep Going” painted in green. Runners or spectators ring the bell every time a runner leaves this aid station on their final, “Bell Lap.” And if you happen to be sitting in the chair precariously placed nearby your ears may continue to hear the ring for a minute or two. Another set of loyal Mogollon Monster volunteers were the two gentlemen feeding the finishers all day. Will Butler and Mike Blake cooked up hot dogs, pulled pork, and chili for the finishers, pacers and crew spending time at the finish line.
What are some new traditions developing? There were a few Monster costumes that made appearances at packet pickup, aid stations and even on the course. Most were brown or black but one was bright pink. What kind of Monster will be seen next year?
Course: The Monster…Its Out ThereThe Monster is out there and whether or not you believe in the beast one thing is for certain: this course is not for the faint of heart. Lori Brakeman commented after finishing that the course is ‘brutiful’ a cross between brutal and beautiful. Four climbs up to the top of the rim and traveling through terrains of rocky trail that have loose rocks, shale, and mini dirt gullies from rain runoff. As if that is not enough, add in tall grass sections where it feels more cross country traveling. Many runners after finishing commented how, “it is just unlike anything else.”
This year had the highest finish rate and the winner, Andy Pearson, is the third runner to join an elite crew of sub-24 hours finishers including Steven Moore and Jamil Coury. Fred Roberts finished his third Mogollon Monster and now holds the most finishes at the five year old race. Congratulations to all of the runners this year and a special shoutout to all 33 finishers!
After this announcement there was a quite a response from the ultra running community regarding my decision to step back from race directing. Much of it was exactly as I expected. People would certainly understand the decision and people would certainly be disappointed it wasn't going to continue on. It was clear though that letting the race outright "die" was not something a lot of people wanted to see happen.
I had several people reach out right away asking how they could help in keeping it going. Past entrants, volunteers, race directors of other ultras around the region and country. In the end though there was only one right fit for me to keep the race going.
He just happens to also be our inaugural winner, Jamil Coury, founder of Aravaipa Running.
Jamil has long been a supporter of the Monster and a natural fit to take over our race. Jamil not only won our inaugural race in 2012 but has volunteered in the race numerous years and knows the area as well as any Arizonan through years of Zane Grey racing and volunteering. His passions align with my own and I'm confident Jamil will produce the same high quality race experience he has for years with other Aravaipa race.
The Dougherty families will still be involved this year, just in a more reduced role, likely in the form of aid station captains somewhere on the course. We're fortunate to have found a great partner in Aravaipa Running that can keep our family tradition alive, while also getting back some of that time it takes every year to keep it alive. Losing the race altogether has left a pit in my stomach for months and this is a perfect alternative for all of us.
We are transitioning a number of internal items over to the Aravaipa side of life as we speak and hope to have registration open for the 2016 race by April 1st, 2016. Registration will be on www.ultrasignup.com
The tentative date for the race will be one week earlier than usual, September 17th/18th.
We hope all our past supporters will consider continuing their annual camping traditions and helping out this year. The small, old school, family run ultra feel we've developed over the years is a big appeal to many runners and I don't see any of that changing. Aravaipa brings the capability to improve many areas of the race and we're excited to help keep this racing moving forward and welcoming more incredible friends back to the Mogollon Rim this September.
Looking forward to seeing you all this fall!
I've procrastinated on writing this post for two plus months, hoping I'd be convinced to write a different version of what this will entail. Yet I keep coming back to the same decision.
There will not be a Mogollon Monster 100 in 2016. Or the indefinite future.
Every day this site gets requests for registration, people from all over the world just excited for the opportunity to come to Arizona and run this course. It's incredible the interest this race has for some people, people that have the same interests I do, looking for the same things in a race and ultra experience. It's exactly what I envisioned five plus years ago when I started this journey. Yet something has to give.
In five years though I've gone through a lot of personal changes and it's become more than I can handle, or maybe more appropriately, more than I'm willing to handle. That's a difficult thing to admit because I've always been one to simply put my head down when more work needs to be done. However, this no longer is something that I can continue just "outworking." I struggle every year knowing that I didn't put 100% into the race because of time constraints created by a heavy work load professionally and the demands (and my desires) of family life. Many people likely look at this race as a busy weekend but anyone that has directed 100 mile races knows it's much much more than that as an overall commitment. It's simply not a commitment I can continue keeping. So I've decided to suspend the Monster for the 2016 year and indefinitely, until I'm able to tackle this with a full effort. I don't know what future will hold for the race. I just know I won't be in front of a 100 mile race come September.
A lot more goes into this decision of course, but at this point in my life, the Monster doesn't match up with my life and my key supporters every year in the race are in similar situations. I've been very fortunate to have so much help surrounding this race from so many different people through the years that it has become the key reason I've waffled on this decision for two months. I know people will be disappointed. I know runners wanting to run this course, or return to this course, will be disappointed. I know volunteers that come out and camp every year with their family and have started a new tradition with our race, will be disappointed. I'm disappointed, writing this feels like the drive to the vet to put your dog down. Some things are just necessary, regardless of your wants.
For now though, this is how it will have to be and with that, I want to truly thank everyone that has supported the race. Our volunteers have been an incredible part of our team. Above and beyond doesn't even begin to describe them. The HAM radio teams and Jim Pierce's leadership literally make this all possible. Their involvement in 2013 changed the course of the race and without them we absolutely would not have gone on to year 2. We needed every one of them. Aid station captains and annual volunteers like John & Sam Vaupel, Kate Hansen, LindaVan and entire Pinchot Cabin Aid station crew every year, Grandpa Jim & Cheryl Fowler, Danny & Helga Speros, Honey Albrecht, Margaret de Hesse and her husband Ted, Heather & Dan Lightfoot (who one year literally drove 2 hours to Phoenix one night to help load the U-Haul, then drove right back at 9pm...), Laura Reyburn, Paul Rondeau and all the WMRC runners, Mark Cosmas, Chris & Sierra Cantrell, Cesar & Jeanna Tapia, all of the Daneks generations, Liza Howard, Nick Coury, Jamil Coury, Team Red White & Blue members Tommy Lunetta, James Akers and Bill & Nancy Egan (and many more), Deron Ruse, Scott Lumpp and his family, Joe & Megan Galope, Deva Lingaman, there are many I can't possibly list them all but appreciate every one of them and every minute they spent helping us. They all deserve so much more than a casual mention in a blog post, they've all helped so very much, for so very little. It's what makes ultrarunning so amazing sometimes.
Jay & Traci Danek especially have been incredibly essential supporters, they put in preposterous hours of work for the race very year, all year and have always been there when we really needed them. My brother Noah and his wife Jeanine started from the beginning and helped grow this race to something that actually stuck and without their support, enthusiasm, and old fashioned farm life hard work, my hours would have tripled. Without Noah's never ending pride and enthusiasm, I doubt we would have made it this far. Sometimes I come up with ideas and Noah just gets roped into these things because he's my younger brother and well...he doesn't have much of a choice, but Noah was always pushing this race forward, always making improvements, always thinking of ways to make the race more enjoyable, more efficient, more runner friendly.
Jeff Jones designed the course and was a huge motivator in getting this race off the ground. His knowledge of the Mogollon Rim area sparked the idea from just that, an idea, into a full blown race. He put it on a map and we ran with it. I made very few changes to that original course we had simply talked about over a few beers, and its served us really well. A big thank you to Jeff for all his input and vision for this race.
My wife Jennifer deserves the biggest thank you of all. She stuck with the idea when it was just an idea I came up with while wandering the Superstitions. She was supportive of the time and needs of this race from the beginning and without that support I never would have made it through the major work projects, newborn children, and the Monster at the same time every year. She put up with no garage for three years, our house riddled with random yeti items (lets be serious, those aren't going anywhere...), and was patient when I would leave on my only day off in a month to run a group run on the course. She has been incredible throughout the process, even with 2 newborns in those years. When I wanted to take this plunge into a the world of race directing, with zero experience mind you, she didn't blink an eye and dove head on with me into it all. That's just amazing to me.
Thank you to every single one of you that supported us for the last four plus years, from the great people we met on group runs, course marking, clearing, to volunteers we met at the race and continued with us year after year. To just people saying kind words about the race to fellow runners, thank you. We built a solid reputation for an old school 100 miler that was incredibly difficult, rugged, and wild. We nailed down Hardrock qualification after one year on little more than word of mouth. It's everything a hundred should be, and more, and it will always be a special place in all our hearts, and I hope yours as well.
Thank you to everyone once again. Maybe we'll see you out on the trail soon!
Bib numbers are posted on the entrants list on ultrasignup.com. Also, the entrants list is below for your reference. Please mark all your drop bags clearly with your name, the aid station location and your bib number. Please remove past races markings so it's easy for volunteers to find your drop bag. Drop bags are to be dropped off starting at 5am Saturday morning at the race start. We will have each location labeled so you can just drop it in the respective row. We'll take it from there.
The weather is expected to be solid this weekend. The lower elevations on the Highline can get quite toasty even at 6000 ft. 86 degrees as it was this past Saturday catches up on you real quick. It's intense. We'll have ice at all aid stations but make sure you are bringing enough water with you. Especially Geronimo to Washington Park 18-28. That's a 2 bottle section/pack for 98% of ultrarunners. It's hot.
There have been several reports of mountain lions in the area recently. And by "recently" I mean 3 days ago. Black bear are literally everywhere on the course, scat and tracks are frequent and easy to find just about anywhere you go on the course. Please don't get in a pissing contest with either of them. It'll negatively affect your potential for finishing. Black bear will generally just run away, mountain lions not so much. Don't crouch down, appear big, make a lot of noise and wave your arms. Throw the runner behind you in front of the lion and make a run for it. Kidding. Most of you run in areas with mountain lions and bears, just be aware they ARE out there and with a very wet season the area is alive with wildlife. I saw a coyote the other day that looked like he just got back from a Vegas buffet. Coyotes in Phoenix look like homeless bums. Anyway...
Race Day commences in 33 days! Are you ready?!
Putting on a 106+ mile race over 36+++ hours takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteer support. Without the volunteers we wouldn't be able to put on this race, not by a long shot. We have a link to sign up for various volunteer openings starting with course marking, race registration at the That Brewery to aid station volunteers throughout the race. We have openings and needs for Friday night, Saturday all day, all night, and Sunday all day and into the 6pm closing of the course.
We ALWAYS need more medical support staff to assist at aid stations. Certainly don't need to be a M.D., EMT trained, RN, PA or any other fun medical acronym you have earned and can assist in hypothermic/hyperthermic situations, bee stings, rolled ankles, crushed souls or just a tough case of exhaustion and dehydration, would be greatly appreciated.
Camping is typically the best part of volunteering on the Mogollon Rim and volunteering for this race. Most locations are remote, but accessible by car, and either in a forest setting or perched on the edge of a stunning view of central Arizona. Depending on the location of the aid station, camping is highly encouraged to the point of it being a necessity in some cases. Most areas are also very kid friendly and few things are a better example for young kids to see, then people attempting something like this.
We also need people course mark prior to the race. We mark the weekend prior to the race so not always a great option for racers, but any pacers or crews that want to assist, every mile is a mile I don't have to do myself!
Please see the above link, review the times and dates and any questions please feel free to reach out and ask. We'd love your help and appreciate any time you can provide, even if only an hour or two, it's all appreciated!
We also updated the race website throughout the site with 2015 updates and a few other items for those that like reviewing every page of a race website. Official 2015 race manual will be updated and posted by Labor Day. The current one on there is 2014. A couple quick changes of note is that no access for crews will be allowed at Pinchot Cabin AS, either time through. So no pacers, no crews, no access except for volunteers and running through that aid station.
Also, I updated all the course descriptions for the various segments from start to finish. Each individual section is broken out and displayed with the respective Strava segment. You can click into each of them and view additional statistics and after a few years and dozens of training runs, you can get a feel for how long some sections have taken, as well as some shorter sections (such as the Myrtle climb 1 mile section) within larger sections. You can view each of them here: http://www.mogollonmonster100.com/course-maps--descriptions.html
Some of the course has been improved within the last year and as it turns out, slightly longer by about a mile. However, the entire course is difficult to truly get a reading on with all the up's, down's, in's and out's and up against a huge wall of rock. Readings are all ways different within our groups, and all different from various mapping software's. Pace charts are being updated with the new course changes/improvements and will be reposted with the 2015 Race Manual on race day. It's a slightly longer, but slightly less rocky course now. At least for 1 mile...
Hope everyone's training is going well and we'll see you in a few weeks!
This Saturday we are heading up for another training run on the Mogollon Monster 100 Mile Endurance Race course. We'll be covering miles 53-65 and 76-83 plus 5 miles on the Barbershop Trail. So somewhere around a marathon in total distance. This route has several streams but no water refill locations so all runners will need to carry all water for the loop.
We'll head east on the Highline Trail to the Myrtle Trail. We'll climb up the Myrtle to the top of the Mogollon Rim and take a 3 mile stretch of mostly downhill forest road to where Barbershop Trail intersections FS 321. We'll head west on Barbershop across the high fern mountain meadows to Houston Brothers Trail and go south 2 miles to the Rim Road. We'll take the final 4.5 miles along the Rim Road overlooking the valley below before descending off the Rim back to Washington Park. It's a tough section, but incredibly beautiful. Temperatures are typically in the 60-80 degree range and elevations from 6k-8k throughout the route. This is a group run, no markers beyond permanent forest service ones. Runners must be self sufficient and carry all their water and calories for the entire route. Again, water is available in streams, but no formal or informal aid station resupplies will be available.
We'll meet at the Wendy's on Shea and the 87 Saturday morning at 4:30am. We'll carpool what we can from there and meet those that are going and driving from other areas at the Washington Park trailhead at 6:30am. We'll start promptly at 6:45am. Should take about 6 hours, probably 7 for the last runner I'll be with.