About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Soulstice Effect

Yesterday we got back on track with 10 runners heading out for the classic Buffalo Park, Oldham, Rocky Ridge loop. The run after Soulstice is a birthday for NATRA; it was the Saturday after the 2001 Soulstice Race that we had our first run up Schultz Creek and started gathering an email list. NATRA.org went online a few months later and here we are at 11 years old and running strong! As the chatter on the run brought out many Soulstice memories of just a week ago, and several blogs have recently appeared, I thought, what made this race so memorable for me?

I awoke Friday morning to heavy rain and started uncontrollably laughing. I had accurately predicted that for the second year in a row, I would be marking the short course in a raging blizzard. Thanks to Joel Axler, I had  a buddy to keep track of my whereabouts during the storm.  That morning Joel, who volunteers for Search and Rescue, agreed to mark a small section of the Long Course where runners turn off the Seven Sister's (pipeline) onto the Old Weatherford Road. (Today's paper has a good discussion with Joel and Scott Kuhr about running safely on the trails). As I topped out at Sunset at 8800 feet, I was standing in 3 inches of snow and realized I had a very strong signal on my cell. So I snapped a photo and sent it to my wife (who was in Florida), my Soulstice right hand man David McKee who was putting the finishing touches on the Soulstice poster, and next door neighbor Jeniffer Williams, who was in Mammoth, CA. I asked whoever was on a computer to post on Facebook. Almost instantly, Jen won the prize and the above photo appeared on the web within seconds!  I only got cold as I descended and melting snow got my cotton gloves all wet (dumb move). It helped once I just took the gloves off. With the short course marked, I arrived home where my mom was entering runners into her I-Pad Racesplitter App, and I checked back with Joel. 4 hours until Pay 'n Take packet pick up!

(thanks to Cory Sheeley for photo)

For whatever reasons, we had a remarkable turnout at packet pick up, mostly I'm guessing runners did not want to come up to the race any earlier than they needed to in sub-freezing temps.  The rains let up 5 minutes before and David, Nick, myself, Randy and many others froze our buns off for 5 hours. The multitude of trips back and forth to the bar packed with carbo-loading Soulstice runners and Ryan Dee's green chile soup, kept us warm. After getting home, David retired to the Soulstice shack, Nick and mom crashed, and I drove up to post the Soulstice directional signs on Elden Lookout Road (since I would be driving Elden Springs road on race morning). The old Honda Civic loaded with race supplies and 200,000 miles can't take too many more poundings on west Schultz Creek road. I then got my solid three hours of race night sleep and got up at 3 AM to start loading the car.

(Aaron Devine's Parks and Recreation Management Class 275)
(The timing team)
David, Nick, and I arrived on race day at 6:15 AM and like clockwork volunteers arrived for their appointed duties. The Weatherford Aid Station (Matt Morales and Steve Pulos), Top O' Sunset Aid Station (Coconino County Supervisor Matt Ryan, Jay Donosky, and NAU Parks and Recreation students), traffic control (Jim Driscoll), Carpool poster handouters (John and Joanne, Ryan Dee and Parks and Rec students) and our Pay and Take Aid Station (Scott Frost, Rob Weber, Micah Grondin and more students!). Our timing team set up (Fanny Stein, Kim Fuller, Josh Steinlage, Jackie Weintraub, Theresa Dowell, Erin Woodard, Micah Grondin and Scott Bajer's dad). Behind the cameras and videos, Scott Perelstein, Aaron Devine, and John Lowe captured the race from nearly every angle, and of course Jerry Mclaughlin, Dave Barnett, and James Willis for the amazing Aspen Sports Raffle! Finally, for as many years as I can remember, the Coconino Amateur Radio Club, keeps track of all the runners. Their voluntary assistance is priceless! 

(Big Foot unhappy with "Keep all animals leashed" remark)

The Guardian mountain bike medics and the "Waaahhhmublance" arrived and all that was left to do was get runners off at 8 AM sharp!  To finally ensure a clean start, at 6:45 AM, I fired off a practice blank and nearly lost the hearing in my one good ear (left). Rest assured now, that gun was going to start the race with no confusion as with my gaffs in every previous Soulstice that I have started. After getting groped by Bigfoot, who was upset with my comment about keeping all animals leashed, I counted down...5, 4, 3, 2, 1, click...oh crap..."Go, go, go, go!!!!" and the runners were off. It was so expected that I'd blow the start, that runners knew to take off rather than wait for the gun shot! 

(The winner's warm up march!; Aaron Devine photo)
(Caleb Schiff always, always darts to the lead - photo by Josh Steinlage)

(Thanks to Scott Perelstein for taking video:Watch more videos on Flotrail)
The only real questions in the race were if Jason Wolfe would overthrow reigning champ Chris Gomez and whether Sara Wagner could keep her Soulstice crown for the 5th straight year having nearly broken a 3 hour marathon at Chicago 6 days earlier. Too boot, Sara was now in the master's division. It would take a heculean effort on her part. The short course went as expected with Ryan Stevens and Janet Bain again defending their titles. There was some controversy as Bigfoot came out of nowhere to cross the short course line first, but earlier footage showed Bigfoot in the long course start, thus leading to the first ever Soulstice disqualification. Two hungry zombies chased a runner or two and even Elvis ran for the long course! Jason Wolfe won the long race easily in under 70 minutes and Sara easily maintained her control of all things Soulstice. And the biggest record of all was 215 finishers and a record 4 runners in the 18 and under division, 2 who were 13 and Giovanna Thull, our youngest female short course finisher ever! Trail running fever is catching on with our youth!

(John Lowe video from 8800 ft. absl

(Photo by Cory Sheeley)
(Aspen Sports Super Raffle!)
The Aspen Sports raffles brought in an addional $1281 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff mentoring programs!  Eight runners raised $2300 to avoid the lottery and secure their Soulstice spots. Additional donations from runners and sponsors led to Soulstice generating $5800 for BBBSF. In addition, 4 of Sousltice spots went to runners who donated $250 a piece to help with final edittings for Racing the Rez which won best Action/Sports Documentary at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival to close out Sousltice weekend! 

Of course our first ever trail racing wedding highlighted the entire event; Soulstice provided Sabrina and Terrance the perfect setting for their nuptuals with well over 300 runners and friends at their side. It was reMARKable (can't believe I missed that pun until now!) that Judge Moran even made it to the wedding. For those that didn't know, Mark had previously performed the nuptuals for NATRA co-founders, Shelli Welch (to Jeff of Jelly and Sheff fame) and of course for me and Diana. Mark was so ill his wife had to drive him up the Mountain (Mark was fine and back at work Monday).

(Aaron Devine photo)

I was most touched and nearly driven to tears when Steve Rhode presented me with the "Godfather of Flagstaff Running" plaque. The Boyer Metal NATRA runner cutout even donned purple running tights!  As many, many came before me, Godson is a bit more appropriate. But hey, I'll take it since I haven't been able to compete for a Soulstice award since I finished 14th out of 16 in my age division in 2001!

(Photo by Josh Biggs)
My favorite part of the race is always when "Knights of the Soulstice Round Table" convene. Most runners have left and the Soulstice Board shares ideas for next year's race while finishing off the kegs. I have a short breather to mull over the proposed additions and changes, as registration for the Soulstice lottery will open January 1st!  Special thanks to all my friends who volunteered, sponosored, and/or ran the race. You are what makes this special!    
Thanks to the following blogs for giving me a different perspective of Soulstice - champ JasonWolfe; Bryan Adams; Dana Ernst; and Sarah Borst Jarvis. If you have a Soulstice blog, please share!  For more photos, race results, and much more, visit the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Web Site.
Sousltice is permitted every year by the Coconino National Forest, and without their incredible maintenance of the Dry Lake Hills System, there would be no Soulstice!