I went into this season for redemption. I had a rough race season in 2010 with a tough day at Big Horn 100 (due to stomach issues and getting lost) and a DNF at Bear 100 (due to kidney issues). The year started out great when I had an amazing day at the 2011 Big Horn 100. After Big Horn time just kept rolling by crewing/pacing Emily at Tahoe Rim 100, numerous uneventful and uninspiring runs, a great run on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota, and a fantastic Big Cottonwood Canyon ridge traverse. After the BCC traverse labor day weekend, I was lacking energy and feeling overall drained. I didn’t feel I had been over training, but that run did seem to put me over that fine line of hard training vs. over training. With the Bear 100 3 weeks away, it was time to work with friend and coach Matt to come up with a strategy for the next 3 weeks that will put me in peak condition for the start of Bear. A week before the race I was feeling better, but still feeling like I needed more and more sleep and my resting heart rate was 8-10 higher than I would have liked. It was on this day that I figured I would take a quick 1 hour after work mt bike ride. Descending too quickly down a wide, but rocky trail, I hooked an outstretched tree branch with my arm which in turn jack-knifed my front wheel and sent me super-manning down the trail. I landed 10-15’ from my bike and skidded to a stop in the rocks. Extremely startled and shaken, I laid there a minute to take stock of my body parts (I hadn’t hit my head, my right arm hurt, but not that badly, my left leg was scraped up, and both adductor muscles and my left hip and glute hurt pretty badly). I stood up and retrieved my bike, which thankfully was not damaged and realized how hard I had hit by the fact that I was close to throwing up from the impact and in all the falls I had taken, had never felt like that before. By the time I got up Christian who I was riding with had come back to make sure I was OK, I said, ‘I think so’, because that was all I knew. By the time we rode the 5 miles home, I had a baseball size lump on my left glute and walking hurt. Well, this was going to put 100 miles in a whole new place. I spent the next week taking daily ice baths, stretching the muscles, and eating lots of omega-6’s, papain and bromelain (all natural anti-inflammatories that work very well for me), but on Thursday when I left for the race I still ached and just lifting my legs to cross them hurt.
All pain aside, I never questioned if I should race or not, I was not going to get beat by the Bear again this year and I figured 100 miles hurts regardless so it may just hurt a little more. The weather forecast for the race was perfect – a warm 78-84F in the afternoon (with a threat of being hot when out of the shade or breeze) and a comfortable 38-44F at night. I had the standard pre-race nerves on Thursday, but the company of Matt, Ellen Parker, and Krissy Moehl on the drive to Logan and during dinner was a good distraction. Emily drove up after work and by 8:30 we had everything ready for the next day (truck packed, aid station bags ready, breakfast set out, race number pinned on, etc.). We relaxed for a half hour and it was time for lights out. I usually don’t sleep well the night before races, but I slept quite well getting a solid 7 hours and waking up just before the alarm to eat and get ready.
Last year was the largest Bear race at 140 runners, this year there were 260 registered runners. The starting line (at a park in the city of Logan) was crowded and chaotic with anxious racers and sleepy crews. With 3 minutes before the starting gun, several of us lined up in the first couple of rows in order to get a fast start and good position when we hit the single track a mile in. The first 10 miles is a continual climb and traverse to the aid station at Logan Peak. I was feeling great on the climb and my legs had loosened up. The next 10 miles had a small amount of climbing and a massive descent into Leatham Hollow. I knew that this section could blow a person’s quad muscles so I took a hard, but smart pace. I reached Leatham Hollow right on a 23.5 hour pace and somewhere around 15th place. My crew and some crew of friends (Emily, Emily Judd, Matt, and Krissy) kept me moving right out of the aid station so as not to waste any time.
Leatham Hollow Aid Station
As I left Leatham, we had a 3 mile gradual climb up a gravel road to Richard Hollow. This section has always left me hurting as you need to run it even though it is a good climb (over 1,600’). Roch Horton caught up to me on the road and we both suffered together up the road. We reached Richard Hollow, donated our headlamps to the aid station (we had both stupidly forgotten to get rid of them at Leatham) and start up the grinding 6 mile climb. Both Roch and I felt quite poor on this climb and by the time we reached Cowley Aid Station 7.5 miles later, we had been passed by 12 runners. Emily and I had decided not to crew at this point, but I was happy to see our friend Emily Judd (who I ran a lot of Big Horn with) there. She took care of me, gave me a quick pep talk and sent me on my way. I was not planning to pick up a pacer until Temple Fork (mile 45.2), but asked her to tell my Emily to get ready to run with me from Right Hand Fork as I needed company. I wasn’t feeling great as I left Cowley, but I pushed hard up a hot climb then pushed it as much as possible during the awesome single track descent into Right Hand Fork. At Right Hand, I once again had a great crew of 4 attending to me as I did a quick foot repair and left with Emily. Emily only had 5 minutes from the time Emily Judd arrived until I arrived so my change of plans had caused a bit of chaos for her. We left Right Hand together and while not feeling good, I was happy to have some company.
Right Hand Fork to Temple Fork
At this point my stomach was not in a good place due to my aches and pains from the bike crash and several hours of heat and exertion. I kept eating and drinking as much as possible, but kept feeling more and more bloated. I kept pushing on and Emily was able to get my motivation up. We got passed by a few more people on this section and I was in about 35th place now and on a 24.5 hour pace. This early in the race, I don’t get too concerned about being an hour off my pace as I know if I have run a smart race up to this point, I can easily make up an hour in the last 50 (or even 25) miles. We quickly crewed at Temple Fork (Sallie Shatz had now joined my crew and it was good to have another always smiling face), I unsuccessfully attempted to fix my stomach in the toilet, and off I went with Kristen Swenson. Kristin is Emily’s favorite pacer and she always gets Emily extremely motivated and moving quickly. I had never had Kristin pace me and I was looking forward to this as I needed it. Kristin kept me motivated with her good conversation and we made good time climbing out of Temple and running down the amazing single track into Tony Grove. At this point, I was coming to terms that I may not feel good on any of the remaining climbs, but I was able to push the downhill’s quite hard. I quickly moved through the Tony Grove aid station and took off with Emily pacing me. The climb out of Tony went ok, I was not feeling great, but we were pushing as much as possible. My quads were starting to feel trashed and I was only at mile 52, but since I couldn’t push the climbs, I had to keep pushing the descents. I made the decision that at Beaver Lodge I would change to compression tights to try to save the legs for the last 25 miles. I was able to push hard on the flats and downhill’s all the way to Franklin Basin and I ran this section 10 minutes faster than my 23 hour pace chart. I now had my strategy for the rest of the race – suffer the uphill, crank the downhill.
Running into Franklin Basin
At Franklin I grabbed some food and picked up Mark Christopherson as my pacer to get me the next 38 miles to the finish line. Mark has been one of my ultra mentors and training partners for the last 5 years and I knew that his experience and strong running abilities would be just what I needed to get me in under 24 hours. At this point, I didn’t think it was possible to achieve my 23 hour goal, but under 24 hours was still within reach as I was at about a 24:15 pace and I knew I could make up 15 minutes over 38 miles. Mark and I continued my strategy of going as hard as possible uphill (which was not that hard), the letting me go on the flats and downhill’s. Sometimes this meant I was doing a 20 minute/mile pace and sometimes it was an 8 minute/mile pace. It was now dark and we had a few issues with route finding prior to the Logan River aid station where we spent close to 10 minutes trying to find the trail. We were in and out of the aid station and on to Beaver Lodge (at Beaver Mountain Ski Resort). With Mark pacing me, we were able to start running these sections at (or even faster) than my 23 hour splits. We were making up good time and passing people along the way which was helping with my motivation. I took a few minutes at Beaver Lodge and switched into CW-X compression tights. For the past 5 years I have sworn by CW-X compression tights so I was confident that the time it would take me to change into them would be more than worth it over the final 24 miles. I wasn’t disappointed as when we left I could immediately feel a difference having the quad support was making. The next section to Gibson Jack Basin was a 5.5 mile climb that seemed to go on forever. We did what we could and kept pushing. Everyone we met on the trail at this point seemed to be in the same place. Hovering a little bit inside the pain cave and suffering trying to decide to go deeper or exit and take it easy. We chose the former. The comedy of the run was getting into Beaver Creek aid station. The creek was knee to thigh deep or there was a sketchy 8” log 15’ long and 2’ above the water. It was quite cold at this time and my body was not regulating its temperature very well so we chose the log. Knowing we could not walk across it, 4 of us (2 runners and 2 pacers) butt slide across the thing. Not the most graceful crossing, but it prevented other issues around trying to warm up. I was running in 16th at Beaver Creek and although suffering, was really happy with how Mark had been able to keep pushing me. We spent a little too much time at Beaver Creek aid station eating (I came in hungry and knew I had to take advantage of it) and then we were off. On the way to Ranger Dip, we once again found ourselves questioning the route and lost a little bit of time stopping to look for route markers. Eventually we made it to Ranger where Emily and Sallie were waiting.
There is an ~1 mile crazy steep climb out of Ranger Dip. This climb destroyed me, but I knew once I reached the top, it was (almost) all downhill to the finish. I wasn’t fast on the climb and at the top I told Mark I needed to put music on for some motivation to the finish line. The second song was “Glory Days” from Springsteen. This song always gets me moving and this time it was no different. As soon as this song came on, Mark and I were quickly cruising down the technical and rocky descent. Shortly after the most technical portion of the descent, I decided there were only 5 (or so) miles left and I was going to give it everything I had. I was able to keep a very strong pace all the way to the finish line (with 1 short stop when there was a left hand turn and once again I couldn’t find any markers so I wasn’t sure where to go) and finished in 23:24:46 for 14th place. I was happy as I had made up 50 minutes in 38 miles, I had suffered for 80 miles, and while not making my 23 hour goal, I had made my sub-24 hour goal.
A huge thanks to my pacers (Emily, Kristin, and Mark) and all those were helped crew me along the way (Emily, Matt, Krissy, Emily Judd, Sallie, Kristin, and Mark).