Race: McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50-Mile

Runner: Keith Laverty

Race Date: 12/01/2018

Location: Fountain Hills, AZ

Results: 1st, 6:57:31 (CR)

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2003384489

mcdowell mountain frenzy
Photo: Jamil Coury

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

  1. Running through the desert and mostly very runnable trails
  2. The monster climb smack-dab in the middle of the race was very challenging but kept things interesting
  3. Extremely well-marked even with numerous “Critical Turns Ahead” signs to make you become more alert

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

Patience, pacing and preparation. I think I finally nailed my pacing strategy for a 50-mile race (while also putting in more preparation). I stayed very relaxed over the first two hours and tucked in behind the leaders. It seemed to pay off and never felt stronger heading into the 2nd half of a 50-miler. My legs were still feeling peppy and ready to run harder going into the last 15 miles. I was also on top of taking enough gels/aid station snacks every 30 minutes.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

With the steep long climb at about Mile 28, it seems like a great strategy to not only stay patient in the first half of the race, but to also save your legs for this climb. After that, it’s mostly all downhill and flat running from there. There will be several more little rollers but there are no big climbs after Thompson Peak.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Most of the course is very runnable but there are also some longer stretches of more technical/rocky terrain and tons of twists/turns to look out for. There were also several times that I had to avoid stepping on cactus chollas – stepping on one may result in a yelp.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes! Running through a serene, cactus-filled desert, views of the mountains all around and an epic sunrise was memorable. Seeing a long-eared jackrabbit and a gigantic spider on the trails were exciting creatures to discover.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

In context to the other courses I’ve raced, it felt much easier but certainly still very challenging too. The toughest part was likely the long and steep ascent to the top of Thompson Peak. It felt like a much longer version of Powerline (see Orcas Island course) but more paved. In total, my Strava calculated about 5,000′ of gain for the course.

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

Aravaipa Running did a fantastic job… clearly not their first rodeo. With the exception of one course marking sign that was inaccurate, that issue was caught and fixed very quickly by the race director. Otherwise, extremely well-oiled and well marked with a course that offered five distance options.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Typically not a strong field but more competitive this year due to the TNF 50 cancellation. A few folks toward the front were also planning to race TNF 50.

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.

This race has been steadily growing over the past several years with their biggest participant turnout this year. With that said, there were still plenty of spots open the week of the event.

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

Each aid station had ice cubes which felt amazing to use toward the latter half of the race.

Weather and typical race conditions

Idyllic weather – started in the high 40s and stayed within the mid to high 50s. Clear skies and sunny. It never felt uncomfortably warm.

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

Gear pro-tip for the 50-mile runners: There’s only one crew-access aid station at Mile 42 – late into the race! So plan to bring enough gear to be self-sufficient with either utilizing the drop bags at the earlier aid stations or wearing a waist-pack (like I did) or hydration pack.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not particularly as they can only stay at the start/finish area, which is also the mile 42 check-in. Your friends can track their runner’s progress on ultracast.tv though.

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

A full hand – 5 stars.

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Keith, check out his coaching page.

mcdowell mountain frenzy