Black Canyon 100K Today!

Photo circa 2019 on the Timberline Trail, my first time trying multiple 40+ runs in a week!

Yesterday I hurtled through the sky in a metal cylindric capsule, after which I was whisked away in a glossy painted box on wheels and will soon be deposited into the high desert, where I’ll amble on my own two feet 62 miles on dirt trail through streams, among cacti, fields, mountains, and valleys under the sun back toward another shiny box and manmade tube to carry me home. It’s all kind of silly when you think about. Why. Why?

My entry point to long distance trail running was basically “go run in the mountains all day and see what happens”. It was fun. It felt good. It didn’t feel hard. It made me happy. I wasn’t worried about anything. That’s the mindset I want to carry today in the Black Canyon 100K.

The race kicks off at 7:00am MT. Coveted golden tickets into the historic Western States Endurance Run are at stake for the top two men and women. If anyone forgoes their ticket, it can get passed down until the fifth place finishers. Those that complete the course under 17 hours earn a ticket into next year’s WSER lottery (they do a televised name drawing every year which is a whole event in itself).

Aravaipa will be sharing live video coverage of the leaders, and you can track my progress here. There’s a cool map where you can see my progress and everything. I like to have goals, and I think it’s more compelling when tracking someone to know what the stakes are so here are mine:

A goal: Ultrasignup’s race predictor algorithm and Tara Dower (who is also running and I’m so excited for her, go Tara!) both seem to think I’m capable of a sub-10 hour finish (9:40/mile). I’m not so confident given the limited training and balancing school and running, but I don’t want to count myself out, so I’m going to play it safe and say under 11 hours (10:37/mile) would be an A+ day. Likewise I’m predicted to be in the top 24 women, who knows how accurate that is, but it would be cool to aim for top 24 in this talented women’s field.

B goal: run a 100K PR (13:28/mile), this will be my third 100K race and the first two were 14:18 / 13:57 on a technically longer-than-100K course (thanks Hellgate / David Horton!)

C goal: finish under 17 hours (16:25/mile), get that WSER lotto ticket!

I’m going into this feeling like I’ve got nothing to lose, really I’m just excited to get out there and have a great day outdoors.


In other news, I’m excited to share “Rhythm of Routine”, a story written by Sheridan Wilbur with photos taken by Adam Parshall for the Tracksmith journal. It’s about my pivot to graduate school and my relationship to running and music. I was touched that Sheridan asked so many questions about my childhood and Mennonite upbringing, and it was fun to have her and Adam join me for part of my daily routine.

Thanks for reading. If my writing resonates with you, please consider buying me a coffee or becoming a monthly member (members get perks like stickers, handwritten notes, and other small goodies). My sincerest thanks to everyone who has done so!

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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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