Black Canyon 100K Race Preview

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By Dustin Phillips

The Black Canyon 100K, 50K & 18K trail races take place on the world class Black Canyon Trail near Phoenix, Arizona. Featuring incredible single track trails on an old stagecoach route, this course traverses across high desert grasslands and crosses through several arroyos and deep canyons on a classic journey in the desert Southwest.

Directed by Aravaipa Running as a new addition to the Montrail Ultra Cup race series this year! As a MUC race, the top two placed runners in the men and womens fields who are not already qualified will automatically qualify for Western States. In addition, any participant of the Black Canyon 100k who qualified for the Western States Lottery but was not chosen will have one last chance in another lottery for a Western States entry. We will draw one final name from our event to receive an entry to Western States. Making ultra dreams happen!

Enjoy the same single-track used for centuries by Native Americans, livestock and stagecoaches.

Enjoy the same single-track used for centuries by Native Americans, livestock and stagecoaches.

The Black Canyon 100k is unique amongst most races in that it is a point-to-point race which is also a net-downhill course–just like Western States. The landscape along the trail changes almost with every mile traversed, beginning in high-desert grasslands with juniper pines and expansive vistas. Along the way participants will descend off Antelope Mesa, dropping into the proper Sonoran desert with giant saguaro-cactus forests and traverse several desert arroyos and deep canyons before finishing on relatively flat terrain on the outskirts of Phoenix. This trail is not an easy one, with much of the 7,000 feet of accumulated gain of the race in the second half and increasingly technical terrain.

The other important aspect of this race is the history. Although some trail sections have been recently built, this trail corridor began as a prehistoric Native American pathway linking local settlements together and providing a way to travel long distances. The trail follows a route that has been used since the 1600’s for the movement of livestock and people.  It has been used for centuries by Indian settlements and more recently as a stagecoach route and sheep drive. You can almost feel like you are back in the 1800s riding down the stagecoach route prospecting for gold as you run past windmills, herds of cattle, and mining remnants through Arizona’s remaining Wild West country.

Asking the race director Jamil to describe what skills or adaptations runners will need to have success at Black Canyon, what will likely be necessary for one of those elusive WS100 entries. He says:

“Runners looking to race for those two top spots should begin their heat training a little early. Although average temperature and weather in February is typically perfect in the desert southwest (there is even a possibility of snow on the top part of the course which begins above 4,000 feet), last year we saw temperatures soar into the upper 80’s [Fahrenheit]! The course has a wide mix of terrain including many miles of smooth singletrack, canyon crossings, sand, and rock. While the first 20 miles of the course features the bulk of the net downhill of the race, the middle and back third of the race features the bulk of the climbing. To do well here, you will have to manage the early speed and be prepared for the toughest sections of trail to come, climbing in and out of several canyons.”

Still going strong!

Still going strong!

Runners will be treated to a proper post race celebration at the finish line located at the Emery Henderson Trailhead located near New River, AZ. With wood fired pizza for all finishers, beer, and a recovery zone there will be plenty of time to share stories of the day. Stick around that night for a wild party at the Roadrunner Steakhouse, Bar & Saloon just a couple miles from the finish. There will be a live band, bull riding and a mechanical bull to give you that true “old west” experience.

Once the racing is done plan on sticking around for few days to enjoy the weather, immense desert running, maybe even a round of golf; We won’t judge!

This year’s Montrail Ultra Cup is already heating up the competition with the following runners confirmed as of this article:

Men:

  • Chris Vargo
  • Ryan Ghelfi
  • Chris Price
  • Hal Koerner
  • Catlow Shipek
  • Michael Carson
  • Jacob Puzey
  • Brian Tinder
  • Michael Daigeaun
  • Andy Jones-Wilkings
  • Ford Smith
  • Michael Versteeg
  • Kalib Wilkinson
  • Zac Marion
  • Matt Cecil

Women:

  • Michelle Yates
  • Kaci Lickteig
  • Angela Shartel
  • Gina Lucrezi
  • Katie Desplinter
  • Molly Kassouf
  • Sonja Wieck
  • Katrin Silva

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