2016 Crown King Scramble – Recap

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Every race is special, but sometimes a race just has something about it which dictates that the feelings and emotions of the day will never leave you. That was what this past weekend’s Crown King Scramble was like for me.

I fell in love with this race last year during a course recon with Jamil (blog post). The race was also my first solo attempt at race directing and was just about the scariest experience ever. No pressure. just one of the oldest continual footraces in Arizona with a lot of history and meaning to a lot of people.

I started planning 2016 almost immediately after the conclusion of last year’s race. This year was special. It was the 25th running, the men’s record was going to hit 20 years, and my passion for the race had only increased. Evolving out of my excitement came the idea to have the Aravaipa Women’s Training Program focused on this event. While the course profile does not lend itself to looking like a favorable first-time 50K there was nothing about the group of women who joined the program that made me think they were not capable.

The conclusion of the first season of the Women’s Training Program deserves a blog post in and of itself. However, I will say that every single lady who made it to that starting line also made it to the finish. I have made life-long friends and one of the women said it right, “How did you ever find such an amazing group of women?” I had nothing to do with that! It was simply the stars aligning. We had so much fun. I cannot wait for the next adventure! (Details coming soon!)


Women’s Training Program

In preparation of this year the history major came out in me. I wanted to contact Dermot McGonigle, 1992 champion and course record holder. How to find him? I started by contacting the Scottish Hill Running Club chairman (where Dermot’s results had populated through a google search) who happened to have a committee meeting the night I’d sent the email. He asked a member of the club about Dermot who put him in touch with a woman who happened to respond that Dermot had been the best man at their wedding and got me his email! What an amazing chain of events!

Here is Dermot’s 1992 race report:

In March 1996 I had a start in the Boston Centenary Marathon when a former girlfriend invited me to her wedding in Phoenix. I’d never been to Arizona before and liked the idea of a spring holiday somewhere warm, visiting the Grand Canyon and attending Miriam’s marriage party. As a keen runner I quickly checked what races I might be able to incorporate into my trip and took an instant liking to the Crown King Scramble.

The race fell on the final weekend of a great 2 week holiday, which included the wedding, lots of camping, visiting places of interest, beautiful scenery and great trail runs (though the grumpiest park ranger in the U.S. tried to stop me from running to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!!) As an Irishman resident in Scotland I don’t cope well with high temperatures when running so it was a relief that the conditions on race day were about perfect. The very friendly organisers arranged a lift for me from Phoenix to the start and I spent the first 2 hours enjoying the excellent company of the previous record holder Rick Stuart – he passed on plenty of useful advice and when we reached a feed station at half way he told me to push on in pursuit of the half dozen guys ahead of us. Highlights of the race for me were the stunning surroundings (we don’t have many deserts in Scotland!), the forgiving trail surface and perfect weather conditions, the camaraderie amongst the competitors and the Elvis themed feed stations. However, the blast of “Hound Dog” from the final feed station almost cost me victory – I hadn’t long passed Travis Grappo to take the lead when I reached the bunch of super-enthusiastic volunteers offering drinks etc. In my excitement I tried to do an Elvis dance and instantly felt a hamstring go into cramp! Needless to say the crazy dance was curtailed and I limped off towards the nearby crest and short descent to the finish line. I don’t recall if I was wearing a watch but was extra happy to learn that as well as winning I had lowered the course record by about 15 minutes. Although the perfect conditions were a major factor so too were the superb challenge from Travis and the advice from Rick. The party afterwards was fun as so many folk were justifiably pleased with their achievements and my friend Miriam had travelled to Crown King too. The victory set me up for a great season back in Scotland – by September I had won the 6 race Scottish Hill Running title for the second time (previous title had been in 1986 at the age of 24 years) and was representing Scotland at the World Mountain Running Trophy, finishing well adrift of such great champions as US athlete Jay Johnson and getting to party with sadly departed friend Lyndon Ellefson from Colorado.

Suffice to say I had a great time in Arizona, met a bunch of really friendly and helpful people and the CKS race remains one of my all time favourite running memories.

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Dermot McGonigle in 2015 with his kids

Also feeding off the history of the race 1st year runner, Kate Hansen, helped kick off the race week excitement by doing an interview with Jamil. Having Kate running this year and many other multi-year finishers is so special. However, of note, the first thing Kate said to me once she crossed the line is how much she wanted to recognize all the first-time ultra-finishers. While she was completing her 100th marathon or longer distance at this race, the “coolest” aspect was how many people were completing their first.

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Some of the first-time ultra-marathon finishers

The 25th running just did not disappoint all day long. Chris Vargo (Nike) in his comeback race reset Dermot’s record by 13:12 in a time of 3:47:15 and is the 1st person to go sub-4 hours on this course (post-race interview). However, almost as soon as he was done he noted that it’s a “3:40 course” – so we shall see if he comes back next year to back up that claim! Not far behind him was Gabe McGowan (Aravaipa Racing Team) who is simply having a phenomenal few seasons. Gabe also went sub-4 hours (3:53:36) to claim the distinction of becoming the 2nd person to ever do so, minutes after Chris. In an amazing show of consistency, Art DeGraw (last year’s champion) ran the exact same time as last year (4:05:37) – to the second – to round out the men’s podium.


Men’s Podium

Alicia Shay (Nike), also just returning to the racing scene, landed a win (5th overall) in 3:34:27 and was more than capable of Ann Trason’s course record of (3:34:13) but was playing the dual role of competitor and coach throughout the day (post-race interview). Second place went to Kelly Wolf (5:12:40) who only ran her first ultra-distance back in January with a course record at Coldwater Rumble 52K before going on to take 3rd at the highly competitive Black Canyon 100K. Adela Salt (Aravaipa Racing Team) who previously raced on the Great Britain National Team and is a world trail running champion is adjusting to life in the Phoenix desert incredibly well as showcased by her 3rd place finish in 5:40:23.


Women’s Podium

One of the best things about this race is since it’s point-to-point and getting down from Crown King is an adventure itself, many people stay to have a drink, cheer on other runners and, if they’re taking the shuttle, are there until the last runner finishes. With a live band under the gazebo, an outdoor bar, free lunch, and a party atmosphere who would want to leave early anyway? Plus… you probably want to give your stomach a chance to settle after the race before taking the road back. Having that many people enthusiastically cheering each finish is so special and is honestly one of the reasons why this race is for first-timers and veterans alike. The last finisher, Criss Furman, probably got the loudest cheers all day as he crossed the finish line with people lining the streets to watch his entrance.

With the official race over, the beer mile started immediately followed by lots of merriment at the saloon late into the night. Make sure to add April 1, 2017 to your race calendar now for the 26th running of the Crown King Scramble! Registration is already open on ultra signup!

2016 Results

Lookout for a race recap video coming soon!

Enjoy these photos from the Fort Misery Aid Station showcasing that the party atmosphere of the aid stations has not changed! The Hashers sure know how to show runners a good time!


Jamil at Fort Misery


Fort Misery – AKA the full service bar


That’s one way to cool off!

2016 Race Reports:

Del Salt-Smith

Transrockies RUN 3 Giveaway

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RUN3-NEW-210x189Aravaipa Running is excited to partner with Transrockies to raffle off an entry to their RUN 3 event, a three day, 58 mile epic stage race through the high altitude mountains of Colorado.  Entry for this race is normally $849!

How do I enter?
We are giving away the entry at the Crown King Scramble, the perfect training run for the 8,600 feet of elevation gain in Transrockies. Kick off your new years resolution by signing up for a great 50k, joining the training program and the weekend-long training camp! Raffle tickets will be given to Crown King participants as follows:

1 Ticket – Training Camp (Feb 28)
1 Ticket – Coaching Program (Starting January 2015)
1 Ticket – Finish Crown King
Up to 3 Chances to Win!
The official coaching program and training camp will be led by experienced ultrarunner and multiple time (since he was 11!) finisher of Crown King, James Bonnett.  We are excited to have him back working with us to make this year’s race better than ever!

2014 Crown King Scramble

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The 2014 Crown King Scramble 50K is now in the books. Runners tackled the 31 mile course that starts on the shores of Lake Pleasant and finishes in the cool pines in the town of Crown King. The Petty Thieves band greeted runners at the finish line at the new outdoor Crown King Event Center. This year it was 10-15 degrees cooler than last year’s race which made for a much more enjoyable race for many (although there is not way to avoid the climbing!).

Gabe McGowan who ran his first ultra on Saturday finished first overall in a speedy time of 4:13:29 followed by the more experienced Dennis Pollow Jr. in 4:19:17. Dave James after sprinting the fist few miles of the race rounded out the men’s podium with a time of 4:33:49 for his first Crown King Scramble finish.

In the women’s race, it was all Kristina Pham who now has won two years in a row. She corrected some mistakes made last year and improved by over 40 minutes to win in 4:58:39 and 5th overall. Second female went to Laura Seeney in 5:42:50 and third was Elizabeth Rich in 5:56:17.

Runners enjoyed a “Mexican Fiesta” lunch at the finish line as well as beer and live music. The party continued into the evening with The Petty Thieves moving over to the Crown King Saloon for an evening set. There were a total of 133 finishers this year. Thanks to everyone who ran with us this year and we hope you’ll join us next year!

We have to thank the Maricopa County Emergency Communications Group for providing communications on course, Phoenix Rescue for providing medical, the Crown King Event Center, The Petty Thieves band, Crown King Saloon, The Mill restaurant for the lunch, our aid station captains and volunteers (Kirk McCarville – Mile 8, Gotta Run Running Club – Miles 15, 19 & 23, Linda Van Tilborg – Mile 27) and everyone else who made this year’s event possible. See you next year!

Course Preview Video

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We took a drive up the Crown King Scramble course this past week to place signs on the course warning Jeep and ATV users that we’ll be staging a 50 kilometer foot race on April 5 with close to 200 runners. Course conditions look good at this time and  some of the roughest wash sections above Fort Misery have recently been graded smooth. Aid stations are coming together and there is a buzz in Crown King about the run returning this year! Check out the video:

2014 Crown King Scramble Updates

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The Crown King Scramble is back in 2014, taking place on April 5 this year! We’ll kick things off on the shore of Lake Pleasant at 6am (5am for you early starters) and head up the mountain through the Sonoran Desert and into the pines! Race planning is coming along as we are only 1 month out from race day.

We have hands down the best volunteers in Ultra Running and know this event would not be possible without their enthusiasm and dedication to making this race great. We want to thank Kirk Mccarville and team for again sponsoring the first aid station at Mile 8. A huge shout out to Gotta Run AZ for picking up and sponsoring the Mile 15 and Mile 19 aid stations this year. Also to Linda Van Tilborg (past race director of Crown King Scramble and Zane Grey) for again captaining the Mile 28 Oro Belle aid station which won the 2013 Best Aid Station award.  We are still seeking a captain and group to sponsor our Mile 23 aid station at Fort Misery (four-wheel drive and high clearance required). If you are interested reach out to us!

This year’s race finish will be moving from the Crown King Saloon just up the road to the cool pines of the new outdoor Crown King Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Event Center near Bradshaw Mountain Guest Ranch. There will be grass and an outdoor stage with The Petty Thieves playing all afternoon as you finish!


The outdoor stage at the Crown King Event Center


The Petty Thieves at the Spirit Room in Jerome


There will be a post-race barbecue served up at the finish line at the Crown King Event Center and beer for sale. Lay out on the grass, enjoy some live music and take in your accomplishment!

The party isn’t over yet. Once the race ends, head to your cabin, room or bunkhouse for a shower and nap before heading back out at night to the Crown King Saloon for more entertainment and drinks. We’ll be sharing stories throughout the night.

Sign up before March 7 to save $10 off registration: http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=24361

Hope to see you April 5!