Running My First Ultra: Black Canyon 60k Race Recap

HOLY CRAP! I did it! I'm still so excited to finally have finished my first Ultra! It's been a long time coming, and I'm excited to share that I crushed it.

I definitely have a new appreciation for ultra runners and learned so much from my first ultra experience!

For the last few years I've really wanted to break into the ultra world. But a few running injuries and life obstacles kept me from achieving that goal. Until now.

I was able to get the training in I needed (relatively injury free), and make it to the start line of the Black Canyon Ultras 60k. Just making it there was an amazing feeling.

At packet pickup, I ran into a friend from Portland who I'd met when I went to England. She had won the the Team Get a Grip adventure with inov-8 as well. The Running World is a small one! She was running the 100k with her sister. Lots of people coming in from out of state to run this one!

Thankfully, I was able to share both the training and the race experience with a great group of friends. We all carpooled together to the race start at Mayer High School in Mayer, AZ. The 100k started at 7am and the 60k at 8am. It was pretty cold (low 40s) with a chilly breeze, so we hung out in the school before it was time to start. The sun was out and we knew it would heat up pretty quickly once we got out there.

The race started at the school and the first mile or so was on pavement, leading up to the trail. And then another mile or so on a dirt road. Easy to want to go out hard on these first few but I tried to consciously pull back the need to pick up speed and just ease into an easy pace. 

Eventually we hit the single-track trails. The course was much more technical in places than I expected, so slowing down was a good thing so I could focus on my footing. But the scenery was definitely what I expected! Lots of desert vegetation and mountain ranges in the distance. 

The first half of the race went really great! There was a lot of downhill in the first 19 miles. While that was great to bank some faster miles, it still took some toll on my body. I probably took them a little too eager and too fast. Regardless, I came into the Bumblee Bee aid station and crew area (Mile 19.2) right around the 3:30 mark feeling good and not too beaten up. 

I'd had lots of friends who are ultra runners tell me not to spend too much time at the aid stations. And I realized quickly how much time you can eat up there! Since this was the halfway mark, I allowed myself a few minutes to re-fuel and hydrate properly. Thankfully, Jason was there so was really good to see him at the half-way mark. And he snapped some pics of course. 

It was easy to get caught up in the energy of the aid stations and want to stick around longer. They're not like your typical road race aid station. We're talking a full buffet of everything from boiled potatoes and salt to candy, soda, and even PB&J. 

All the goodies! 
Yes, there was even pickle juice, coffee, and a runner dressed up as Fred Flintstone!

I made sure to eat a little at every aid station. The boiled potatoes and salt were fantastic to get some quick sodium in of course, I had to have a handful of M&Ms. :-) I started craving the M&Ms and it was a little treat each time I made it to an aid station (which were about 7 miles apart). 

The second half was when the REAL race began. Leaving the aid station after mile 19, there was a lot more uphill. I realized I'd expanded a lot of energy on the first half, and my pace was definitely starting to suffer. Began cursing myself for not doing enough hill work! 

A net loss, yes... but looks can be deceiving. It was much more brutal on tired legs than you think! 

I was also regretting racing back to back Spartans the weekend before. But I wanted the challenge and I wasn't backing down! For me, the struggle came between the full marathon mark to the 50k mark. 

ugh hills!

I ran out of water sometime after Mile 26 and the desert was heating up. My pace was really slowing and I ended up walking the hills and running the downhills. And I really wanted more M&Ms!

They say that as you push yourself further and further on these ultras, you tend to get emotional. That was definitely true. I had some down moments and tried to just keep moving and focus on music. 

The aid station at Mile 31 (the 50K mark) was a godsend. I spent precious minutes sipping soda, electrolytes, and probably a whole bowl of M&Ms. LOL. Somehow, that rejuvenated me.

Around Mile 33 I suddenly found more energy and endorphins kicked it. I started running even the uphill sections and picked up my pace. Maybe it was the thought that I only had a 5k or so more to go. Or maybe I had just ran through the mental and physical wall. Either way, I was excited about making it to the finish! 

I rounded the corner at the 60k finish and was smiling, despite being exhausted beyond belief. Everything hurt and was tight, but I had finished! Quite an amazing feeling. That I was immediately addicted to. 

I finished just a little over 8 hours. I had wanted to come in a little faster, but since it was my first one I had to treat it as a learning experience.

At the finish, Aravaipa Running had glasses (or mugs) for us 60k-ers. And best of all? An entire FREE Pizza from Freak Brothers Pizza (a staple at most Aravaipa races). It was ah-may-zing! 

But of course, I wasn't done eating yet! While we waited on the rest of my friends to recover after their respective finishes, we walked over to Rock Springs Cafe for more food and some of the infamous pie. Soooo good and worth every painful mile to make it there. 

Looking back at the experience and my results, I didn't do too bad. 56th place overall, and 19th in my division. But I know I could do even better. My hips were tight from the start (although I HAD ran two races the weekend before...) and I hadn't done as much hill work as I would have liked. 

So moving forward, I know I want to work more on my hip mobility and hip strengthening. And ~sigh~ more hill and speed work in the mix. I'm officially addicted to ultra running and ready to start training for my next one!

I'm going to take a little bit of time off though, give my body plenty of time to recover. But I'm eager and ready to put more ultras on my schedule! It was an experience unlike any other and one I won't soon forget. 

And I'll definitely be running more races put on by Aravaipa. After all, I need more M&Ms! ;-) 


  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing your experience! Taking heed of hip strengthening & mobility & the importance of hill work comments & will definitely incorporate this into my training for my first ultra in September!!! X

    1. Definitely on the hips. I mean, mine have always been weak but they were feeling it tremendously on those trails at the end. Forced me to run forward a bit and really started to hurt my lower back. Stretch and strengthen is in the books for me too!


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