Then the fun part of the beautiful downhill off the Mogollon Rim dropping from 7,200 feet to 5,200 feet in 1.5 miles. At first it's manageable. Then the trail becomes a collection of rocks, trees, and exposure bringing most everyone to a hike. It's short lived though and soon enough the trail opens up to long switchbacks allowing you to open the legs up a bit and fly down the mountain, past the West Webber turnoff you'll see in 80 miles all the way to the Highline Trail and the 3rd aid station of the race, Geronimo.
We refilled at Geronimo with the help of Jon Nelson's wife and a couple friends. We'd already had a few drops for the day, and we headed back out and up the Highline Trail back to the West Webber Trail. This would be the final miles of the race but for training purposes it creates a handy little marathon loop with 5,000+ in climbing (Garmin's say 6k).
West Webber Trail is one of my favorites on the course. Its under tree cover almost the entire way, under a canopy of 150 year old Ponderosa pines, beautiful maple and oak trees and waist high ferns covering the trail on either side. Streams in quarter mile increments and just a general sense of exactly what most people don't think exists in Arizona because it's "just a desert." West Webber Trail will change your perspective if you came into this state thinking it was all cowboys and sand dunes. Although we have those too!
Going into West Webber during the race, and even during this training run, you know there is a hefty climb to hit the top of the Rim and what will be mile 100.0 during the race. It's 1000 feet of climbing in exactly 1.0 miles. Starting at 99.0 miles and finishing at 100.0 miles. I didn't even plan that, just how it played out. So its safe to say, while there are other races with tough climbs or steeper sections, most don't hit at mile 99. You can take solace in the fact that it's a very manageable climb with tight switchbacks leading all the way to the top. It's not exposed and even in the heat of the day should be manageable. Key in on the word "should." One finisher last year came into the finish chute mumbling something about, "That was just totally unnecessary. Brutal."
It'll be fun. I promise...
The good news is at the top is the end of the uphill. It's a short half mile down Milk Ranch Point road to the start of Donahue Trail, nice little trip through the forest before dropping down the spine of Milk Ranch Point. You'll drop off here and the boulder field begins. Fair warning...
I'm not moving a single one of the rocks.
So you'll just have to deal with it and roll with it. It's almost laughable towards the end where it meets back up with the Highline Trail. Like trying to run down a dry riverbed. But a necessary evil in getting to the finish and after hitting the Highline it's a beautiful 1.5 miles downhill to Pine Trailhead. We finished there and waited for the rest of the group. Some got off course, some stopped short, some even ran into a black bear on West Webber. But a great run and the first of many. Jay Danek wrote up a piece on his website on this training run as well.
Next one is in a few weeks after the holiday and it'll be up on the Rim on the Cabin Loop trail sections. Scroll down to a previous entry with dates for upcoming training runs.
We're over 50 entrants at this point! Over 4 countries (Canada, US, Australia, UK), 17 states represented and now 13 women going for the first female finisher in race history (a whopping 2 year history...).
If you want to volunteer or can pass this link along to anyone that wants to help out please do. http://mog100.ivolunteer.com/mog100 They can go to this link and it provides time slots and needed areas to help out, anywhere from sweep duties to various aid station locations. Thank you in advance and help spread the word!