Black Canyon 100K Recap

Sarah McMahon
5 min readFeb 24

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

2023 marked the 10th annual running of the Black Canyon 100K. The course is point-to-point (love) with a net downhill (fast), with most of the climbing coming in the second half of the race (ouch).

I ran Black Canyon last year too (last years’ recap is here), and it took me twelve hours and fourteen minutes. Last year, I struggled mightily and had to stop at an aid station for nearly thirty minutes to throw up and set my stomach straight. This year, my goal was to run faster than I did last year, and finish before dark. I finished in eleven hours and twenty-five minutes, but it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t painless.

The weeks leading up to Black Canyon were not ideal training. After running Avalon 50 in early January, I needed over a week for my legs to feel strong again. My left hip flexor was angry, having taken a beating on Avalon’s smooth, fast course. My body was not feeling as strong as I’d hoped.

Three weeks before Black Canyon, I went on a bender of a work trip, traveling to St. Louis Missouri for one trade show and heading straight to Austin, Texas for another. It was a hectic six days of traveling in different time zones, not sleeping enough, and being around a lot of different people. When I got home, I had a head cold that started with a sore throat and turned into a cough. I tried to rest while training enough to feel confident about running 100k.

And finally, I was nervous that my period would arrive on race day. I use a period tracker to monitor my cycle, and it’s usually not far off the mark. It showed my period starting on February 18th, when I was supposed to be running through the Arizona desert. Running on day one of my period is not only highly unpleasant but physiologically more difficult than running during any other time of the month (read my blog about training with hormone cycles here). I’ve never raced on day one of my period before, and knew that if it landed on the morning of February 18th, I’d have a hard day in store for me. Luckily, my period came a few days early and was nearly over by the time race morning rolled around.

The Black Canyon course starts with ~20 fast downhill miles. Everyone is fresh and eager, therefore, nearly everyone starts too fast. I intentionally held…

Sarah McMahon

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