Cocodona 250 Race Report – Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race: Cocodona 250 by Aravaipa Running

Runner: Team RunRun Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race Date: 05/06/2024

Location: Black Canyon City, AZ

Result: Overall:99 DP:20 finishing in 4 days, 9 hours, 28 minutes, and 27 seconds!

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
1. My Crew

Ultras are a team effort at any distance. However, I think the 200+ mile length amplifies this concept. Putting together a reliable crew that I 100% trusted to make decisions for me and would also work well together took a great deal of planning. Crewing is arguably more difficult than racing in many ways and not many individuals are willing to give up days of their time to follow a sweaty, dirty, smelly runner through the desert. My team consisted of outdoor athletes of various personality types who all brought a unique skill and/or outlook to the table. It is this diversity that made the team so remarkable. I loved that Cocodona 250 gave me the opportunity to spend so much time with this truly outstanding and gifted group of athletes. Without the people listed below I am convinced I would not have crossed the finish line:
1. Damien: husband, multisport mountain athlete, “the nice one”
2. Luke: friend, crusher ultra-runner, “the drill sergeant one”
3. Jess: friend, climber, endurance rider, RD for City of Rocks Ultra, “the dependable one”
4. Byron: friend, climber, RD for City of Rocks Ultra, coach-to-17-mile pacer, “the chill one”
5. Zack: friend, multisport desert athlete, brand rep for my sponsor UltrAspire, “the fun one”

2. Strategy

All ultras involve strategy, but I think that a really strong athlete can use fitness to override poor tactics to some extent. However, in a 200+ I would make the argument that fitness cannot override a poorly executed plan. The longer the time and distance the more chances there are for things to go wrong. It becomes a game of efficiency and the ability to solve small problems before they become monumental issues is critical. Additionally, there is no playbook or formula for the 200+ mile distance. We are still learning the best way to pull off this milage as a community which makes creating a personal strategy even more exciting! So much beauty in the unknown!

3. AZ Desert

I really enjoy races that are of out my out of my comfort zone (alpine desert, slickrock and high mountains). These events offer the best learning experiences! I was intrigued by Cocodona 250 not only because it was a new distance for me, but because the unique environment of the race. Outside of running the Black Canyon 100K, I was not as familiar with the terrain and climate of the Arizona desert prior to running Cocodona 250. I loved learning to move through the novel landscape leading to Sedona and reaching the familiar alpine ecosystem in Flagstaff toward the end of the race when I was most tired!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Honestly, I cannot come up with anything about Cocodona 250 that I disliked. Sure, I wasn’t a fan of sleep deprivation, but no one signs up for a 200+ miler thinking that they won’t get tired! It’s part of the excitement!

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Nothing weird per say. However, it’s interesting to observe other racers’ tactics. Strategy is huge during 200s and, since there is no standard, the techniques folks use are wildly varied! Only taking two 20min naps… raw milk… jester costumes… watermelon dipped in pickle juice… the list goes on!

Dandelion hiking up a steep section of Cocodona 250.
Dandelion hiking up a steep section of Cocodona 250.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Day 1 of Cocodona 250 is known as The Crux. The first 38 miles ascends over 10,000ft of rugged, rocky vert in full exposure of the sun. In fact, this section is so difficult that there is a 19-hour cut off! It is what makes or breaks the race for many athletes; the highest DNF rate is the first day. With slightly cooler temperatures than normal, I suspected that the race would begin briskly. I knew I needed to resist the desire to compete during this section. I would have to focus entirely on measured breathing, efficiency and keeping my pace in check. Out of the gate I was with the top women, but let myself drift back slightly and congratulated myself for not getting swept up in the mayhem. No need to be in the front in the first mile of a 200+!

Early miles in tough conditions

Throughout the section, I kept waiting for the “hard” part. Yes, there was a ton of climbing on loose rock, but as an alpinist I’m accustomed to talus and vert. Yes, it was sunny and hot, but my pace seemed to follow a lot of the shade and there was a delightful breeze. I carried five liters of water from Cottonwood Aid and sipped the fluid diligently. In the wind I wasn’t sweating much, but I knew I was still losing moisture. I also kept eating along the way, even if I wasn’t quite hungry. At Milk Creek I followed my coach’s sage advice and sat in the water for a moment to cool down and reset myself even though I wasn’t overly hot. This was preventative. I felt cool and refreshed over the next few miles! At Lane Mountain Aid I stopped again and had ice put in my sleeves and freezing water poured over my head. Again, preventative. I never cared how many people passed me, knowing I was doing what I needed to endure not just the moment, but the days ahead. Sticking to my schedule, and utilizing my strengths, I didn’t worry about the pack, and gradually worked my way up. I was competing by following what I thought would work for me long term. For this reason, I believe that the crux of the race was one of my best executed segments.

The lowest low

As you will read in the next sections, my sleep strategy derailed my body’s equilibrium and resulted in a scary episode of heat exhaustion on my way to Sedona. In short, my body stopped regulating temperature and I found myself shivering in 80-degree weather! My pacer put me in in the shade wearing my puffy and pants at a water station to take a dirt nap. In my daze I heard him talking to a volunteer about my state and asking if there was a medic (there wasn’t one). My thought process was: “This sucks. It would be really nice to get medically pulled from the race. I mean, that’s not the same a quitting, right? Medically pulled is for my safety so it’s a legit reason…. NO! You’re not in rough enough shape to be medically pulled. Remember when your coach made up back pain last year hoping to be medically pulled because it sounded better than quitting? Then he didn’t quit… instead he got the course record! You’re not going to use this setback as a reason to drop. You started this and you are going to finish this, so get it together and figure out a way to move forward even if you have to crawl.”

Turning it around

Looking back, I am really proud of myself for recognizing that I was in an unpleasant situation, allowing a brief indulgence of considering a medical pull and then seconds later dismissing those thoughts and focusing on problem resolution. When I began running ultras it was about finishing and not racing. The competitive edge came later in my running journey as a way to add another layer of challenge and encourage me to push my limits further. However, getting to the finish line remains my number one objective in events. If I am not performing as I hoped in a race, I would much rather shuffle along the course at ½ mph and time out than drop. I am stoked that I maintained my “I ain’t no quitter” attitude when I experienced the lowest low of my ultra running career. I was also pleased that I let go of podiuming or top ten women very easily. The transition happened seamlessly in my head and I never once felt disheartened by the goal adjustment. I was still in the race, after all!


I bounced back from the heat exhaustion and enjoyed a fun day in the desert with my pacers and crew! The next night was rough on me again though. This time my body didn’t tolerate cold well which was extra frustrating because I am a snow runner! Plus, everything just plain hurt! My husband was pacing me for this section and knew exactly how to make this frustration morph from exasperation, to anger to warrior mode. At Walnut Canyon, the last crewed aid station, I took a 1.5-hour nap. Despite waking up feeling hungover, I was very aware that I needed to get it together for the final 22 miles. I asked for five minutes alone to dig the warrior mode back up, before merrily trotted out of the aid station with my pacer, Luke, feeling confident. I was an alpinist about to climb Mount Elden! We ran the final 22 miles of Cocodona 250 methodically and playfully. I’m really happy I was able to ascend Elden with good climber style and pull off a strong finish at a full run on the fifth day of the race. It seemed that every time I thought I had nothing left along the course I was always able to find a new level of grit… with the help of my crew of course!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Having a crew and pacers you trust is critical: Every decision takes energy and, at some point, there will not be much energy to spare during the race! If you trust your team, you can let go so they can make decisions for you. This frees up mental energy so you can focus on deciding to place one foot in front of the other…over and over and over again!
Plan in advance: My planning process for Cocodona 250 actually began 2 years prior to my race. I am absolutely of the extreme sort and really enjoy long term projects to obsess over! For most folks I think a year is sufficient to figure out an overall training strategy, plan training camps, test gear, find crew/pacers, plot logistics, organize your fuel/hydration, etc.
Make it easy for the crew: Your crew is going to be working vigilantly and non-stop to support you. Make their lives as easy as possible by organizing and labeling your gear well. Provide them with charts and checklists to help them best help you. I had an entire binder of information with different tabs for easy navigation! Have a zoom meeting to discuss ideas and tactics beforehand to make aid station visits more efficient. Remember that you are not their boss. I believe that the effort is a collaboration and everyone’s ideas should be heard! Afterall, you chose these people because they have something to bring to the table and you trust them. Oh, and THANK them profusely for being willing to follow your cranky self around for a week!
Finances: The race entry fee is around $1500… and it’s probably the least expensive part of Cocodona 250! The cost of nutrition, electrolytes, transportation, lodging, a desert kit, training camps and crew gear adds up in a hurry. I was still ordering more gels a week out from the race!
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

This race taught me a great deal about the side effects of sleep deprivation. I didn’t want to wait and sleep until the second night of the race, but I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to sleep the first night either. I love 100-milers and have never had a problem staying up all night for a race of that distance. My coach and I decided that if I could fall asleep the first night I should. Otherwise, I would sleep in the car sometime on day 2. When I arrived at Whiskey Row late on day 1 I wasn’t tired, so I pressed on into sunrise. I attempted sleep at Iron King, but couldn’t so again continued. I ended up finally falling asleep for an hour at Fain Ranch at around mile 100 of Cocodona 250.

Conditions taking hold

Even though I normally tolerate heat decently and had also done a sauna protocol, the sun exposure slowed me down on the climb up to Mingus. I believe fatigue made my body less resilient to environmental factors. Still, I was able to eat and drink normally…. Or not so normally (I consumed three plates of lasagna at Mingus!). I began sleep walking just after Jerome and slept for an hour at Deadhorse before heading back out around sunrise. It was here that I should have taken a least a two- or three-hour nap. Trekking through the hot, exposed section of the course near Sedona my body finally decided to that was unhappy with a few brief dirt naps and two 2-hour sleeps and rebelled.

Crisis point

The growing sleep deficient plus general body fatigue completely obliterated my body’s ability to maintain equilibrium. I could only take tiny sips of fluid. All my fuel made me want to hurl. Most concerning, it was over 80F and I started to shiver leading me to put on pants and a puffy for a while. My pacer was extremely attentive and we made a joint decision to wait in the shade for an hour. When the temperature dropped in early evening, I would be able to move faster and get to the next aid station with less stress on my body. I was taken off course to a dispersed campsite and informed that I was going to sleep for 6-7 hours at the Sedona aid station. Mingus to Sedona is where I stopped racing and began surviving.

Learning from the lows

I am convinced that my sleep strategy is what led to heat exhaustion and me sliding from the front to the middle of the pack. It’s easy to focus on the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” after a race. However, the reality is that, without previous 200+ experience, my sleep plan was an educated guess. Hindsight is always 20/20! In the future, I would for sure choose to sleep for 2-3 hours earlier in the race, rather than crash and need to hibernate for 7 hours later on. An hour here and there wasn’t the way to go for me.

Dandelion taking a dirt nap during Cocodona 250.
Dandelion taking a dirt nap during Cocodona 250.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Do not rush on day 1. The first 37-50 miles are by far the crux of the race and features over a quarter of the vert! Also, if things go wrong don’t give up. Take the time to reset. The nice thing about 200s is that you almost always have time to recover and try again!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

One of the unique and amazing things about the Cocodona 250 course is that it travels through so many different ecosystems: from the desert of Phoenix to the high altitude, mountain town of Flagstaff. Running through these different environments and witnessing the subtle changes in gradual progression was an amazing experience. There is diverse beauty in every section of this course!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

YES! The 250-mile distance is within itself difficult. On top of that the race requires athletes to have a variety of different skill sets. The ability to tackle huge ascents, rocky terrain, technical downhills, rolling and runnable trails, heat and sun exposure, as well as cold tolerance are all requirements. Athletes must also carefully monitor their bodies so they get the right amount of fuel, hydration, temperature and sleep during their time on the course. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s very easy for a small problem to become a massive one over this distance.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Cocodona 250 is run by Aravaipa Running, an incredibly well regarded and professional organization. All Aravaipa events are outstanding, and everything was completely dialed in for this race!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The men’s field was outrageously strong this year with all three of the first-place male finishers from the race’s inception competing along with some other highly notable elite level men. The women’s field wasn’t as deep, but it was still extremely competitive. Each year Cocodona 250 seems to attract an increasing number of big names from the ultra world!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Registration was possible until about March in 2024. Registration for Cocodona 250, the 2025 edition, filled 10 days after the 2024 race ended! I’m unsure about hotels as I always camp, but Flagstaff and Phoenix are large cities and I suspect they always have some space available. Regardless, I think it makes sense to get things rolling for this race sooner rather than later because of all the planning that goes into executing a 200+ miler.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

In the first 38 miles two water stations have a 1-liter water limit. This is one of the hottest sections of the course and athletes must have the ability to carry 4 liters for this section. I recommend carrying the 4 liters and restocking with the 1-liter allowance at these stations. You’ll want all that fluid! Otherwise, aid stations have all the normal staples –PB&J sandwiches, pretzels, chips, trail mix, candy, Oreos, pickles, cooked potatoes, granola bars, bananas, watermelon, gels– and most aid stations also had a hot “meal” option, especially later in the race. The hot options were mostly on the bland side which I appreciated. I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate high flavor that far into the race: I just needed fuel!

Weather and typical race conditions

It was a cooler year by normal standards for Cocodona 250. However, it is still the desert! In other words, the temperature soared during the day and plummeted at night!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

During the day, I recommend wearing light colors and reducing sun exposure. This does not mean simply putting on lots of sunscreen! Think about wearing a large brimmed hat along with arm and/or leg sleeves to help limiting exposure. At night, things can really chill down and fatigue amplifies how cold you feel. A warm puffy jacket, gloves, pants, and hand warmers will help you stay cozy. Also, wear your bivy if you’re cold! Headlamps are a must: I prefer a waist light like the UltrAspire Lumen 850 or 600 over a headlamp. In my opinion, these lamps cast more light and give better contrast to the terrain than a headlamp. Don’t make navigating the course more challenging when you’re already exhausted! Finally, I like to use gaiters in the desert to protect from the plants and keep out the sand.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Some aid stations were spectator friendly, but it is highly important that you read the rules regarding aid stations and parking to avoid getting DQ’ed!

How’s the Swag?

10/10! This might be the most swag I ever received at an ultra, and all products were high quality! Items included: backpack, tech shirt, sweat shirt, Flagstaff drink vouchers, Naak bar, Satisfy Hat, Spring Energy gel, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things! Plus, of course, there’s a rad buckle!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Yes, I highly recommend this race to others who are willing to put in the time training and planning! 10/10!

Curious about 200+ mile races? Check out this article: 200 Miles and Beyond: Inside the World of Ultrarunning with Team RunRunner Rebecca Walker and Coach Greg Ottinger.

Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott is a Lander-based coach with Team RunRun. She is a multisport outdoor athlete, ultra-runner, and certified coach who loves collaborating with driven athletes who love to explore, train, and play outside.