McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Mile Race Report – Jonny

mcdowell mountain frenzy race report
Digging the swag

Race: McDowell Mountain Frenzy – 50 Mile

Runner: Jonny

Date: 12/02/2017

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Results: 12:57:50

Strava Activity Link:

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The late start. Lining up for an ultra start at 7am felt downright luxurious, compared to the usual pre-dawn starts
  2. The rugged beauty of the desert
  3. The mostly runnable course

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

  1. The lack of mile markers at aid stations. We all know our watch can have some challenges and being able to confirm distances at aid stations is a very helpful tool.
  2. The aid station volunteers were amazing, as most volunteers are, but they hadn’t been educated at all about where they were on the course or how far to the next aid station. I ran for final 8 miles with another racer who picked up a pacer who had been an aid station volunteer early in the race and she outlined how idiotic she felt when people asked for information and she just simply didn’t know.
  3. THAT hill. There is really only one climb in this race but it will ruin your day and your race. The gradient is 20% (or more) and it is virtually impossible to even walk up or get down. It also utterly wrecks your calves on the way up and quads on the way down. I have climbed plenty of hills/mountains in my time but I have never encountered anything like this, it frankly felt stupid and poorly conceived to have it as part of the course. Rumour had it that including that climb was the only way to get the UTMB accreditation to award points; the race overall would have been better off climbing a different mountain or on a different route.

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

It is a cupless event, as some events are these days, so they give you these bizarre floppy cups that you can use at each aid station and jam back into a pocket after. It was odd.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

The first 20-25 miles were great fun and I ran them quite well (I think). The day started with cloud cover which kept the temps controlled (until midday) and the rolling single track allowed for smooth easy running in the cool desert morning.

Having a pizza maker on site at the finish line with free pizza for all finishers was a nice perk.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Except for that one 7 mile ascent/descent it is an extremely runnable course, not very technical at all and if you’re looking at the 50km option – which doesn’t include THAT climb – then you could set a PB on this course.

Be ready for when the clouds do roll off late in the morning an the Arizona sun starts to work. This occurred during the longest stretch between aid station (10.6 miles) and flummoxed more than a few people who ran out of water. There is no shade on this course!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

In a rugged, barren way. Yes, very beautiful

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Not really, no. The overall elevation gain is minimal and as mentioned above there isn’t anything really technical to negotiate. That one climb will bust your legs up so you might finish feeling like you ran a tough course but upon reflection there isn’t much to it.

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

Overall yes, pretty well oiled. Aravaipa put on plenty of events and have most of it down pretty well.

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 in advance is advised but I did hear of people getting into the race a week before so it seems like there is some movement up until race day still. They partnered with a nearby hotel and resort, which was great, offering pretty steeply discounted rates, these were not all booked (oddly).

Aid Stations

The aid stations were stocked with the usual fair, nothing truly worthy of note. It was a nice touch though that they had sun cream and ample amounts of Vaseline at all aid stations.

The drawbacks, as mentioned above, was the lack of information provided at aid stations and lack of knowledge among volunteers. I also heard that one aid station ran out of water for a brief time, but I think that was quickly resolved.

Weather and typical race conditions

Weather in Phoenix in early December can be hard to predict. The day started cloudy and in the 50s with even a few brief rain drops, I think we all agree that is perfect running weather. However, by 11am it was up to 70 degrees and the sun was roasting everyone. There are no trees and there is no shade on the course so be prepared for multiple hours of running in 70+ degree weather with the sun beating down. Some days the clouds might stick around longer and keep a cap on temps but it is tough to know.

I will use this section to discuss swag, they opted for a beer glass rather than a medal; I liked that. Who needs another medal hanging in their closet when you can have a beer glass.

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

I give this race 7/10 – I was mostly happy with the experience, except for the inclusion of that daft climb that ruined most people’s day.