Wild Idaho SUC (Standhope Ultra Challenge) Stage Race – 12-15 Aug 2015

My friend Mindy ran the Standhope 60k last year and said it was a fantastic race and really recommended it. I looked it up this spring and found that Ben, the race director, was now doing a stage race that included the 60k as the final stage. I spent time in Idaho in 1999 for work and Chad and I did a week backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains during that time. We also did a backcountry ski hut trip there several years ago. I knew this is a beautiful location and we have not spent much time there so I was excited to check it out.

The stage race format has always intrigued me but the races are usually super expensive and I have not been able to justify the high cost. I also do not have a desire to be running overnight this year but still want to train for long distances and explore new territory. This seemed to be a great alternative to a 100 mile race this year. The Standhope stage race stated that it included over 88 miles and 26,000 vertical in 4 days. The stage race ends with the last race logging 60k and 11,000 vertical.

I trained for this race similar to a 100 mile race since my normal training for a 100 mile race includes many back to back long runs. Our weekend in the Winds were great trainign. I knew this race format would be very enjoyable to me since I really like running those distances and the challenge of back to back runs.

I drove to Ketchum on Tuesday and “set up camp” which just means park the truck. My camp views were spectacular.


Views from my bed in the back of the truck.


Home sweet Truck. There was a stream just behind those trees to soak and bath.


Location of some of the other stage racer’s tents and camper a short walk away.

There were only 18 people racing the entire stage race. There were 10 men and 8 women. Sue Lee was the only other UT person and others were from ID, WA, WI, MI, GA, and Alberta, Canada.

Day 1 – 18.87 miles, 5600 vert, 4h 27m:

We started out Day 1 of the stage race by getting delayed by the local wildlife on the drive up to the start. The sheep heard delayed our start by 15 minutes.


Sheep heard that delayed getting to the start of the first race.

It was a challenging but beautiful loop that topped out at an elevation 9500’. This was one of my best days of racing. I felt great! The only downfall is that the second climb was extremely hot and exposed and the majority of us ran out of water before we finished.

Day 1 Pioneer Cabin Loop

Day 1 map and elevation profile.


There was great scenery on Day 1. Photo taken by Sue Lee.

I spent the afternoon getting rehydrated, soaking my legs in the creek, resting, and preparing for the next day.

Day 2 – 17.92 miles, 4100 vert, 3 h 55m:

Day 2 was a point to point run. We all met near the finish location then we were shuttled to the start of the race. This day we stayed a little lower only topping out at an elevation of 8500’. This trail had a lot of hikers and must be a popular trail in the area. Starting around mile 6 I had issues with my ears clogging and felt like there was fluid in them. I have had this problem sporadically and more often lately. It is quite concerning since it makes me quite dizzy and sometimes nauseous. Due to this I wasn’t able to move as fast as I wanted to and really had to slow down near the end of the race.

Day 2 East Fork Baker Creek to Oregon Gulch Trailhead

Day 2 map and elevation profile.


Running down the trail with Thomas.   Photo taken by Sue Lee.

As soon as I was finished and had my recovery drink I headed straight into town and went to the pharmacy. The pharmacist recommended pseudoephedrine and drops for my ears. I immediately took the meds and put the drops in my ears and it was instantly better so I felt good about the next day’s race. I spoke with Chad, caught up on email, and had a great Mexican meal. I then headed back to camp and prepared for the next day’s race.

Day 3 – 13.72 miles, 4400 vert, 3h 13m:

The 3rd day of racing was one of the best days. This was the shortest day and we were all going easy since we had our really big day the following day. We drove to the starting point of the race and our race started by running on a dirt road for approximately 1 mile to warm up. Then we started the big climb. The majority of the climb was not steep but was very technical so not very runnable. Sue and I stuck together the whole time and had a great time chatting and getting to know each other better. At the top of the ~3500’ climb we had amazing views and a preview of what the next day would bring. My ears started plugging around mile 9, I put the ear drops in a number of times and thankfully had immediate relief after using them.

Day 3 Ketchum via High Ridge to Park Creek CG

Day 3 map and elevation profile.



I’m taking in the views before running across and down the mountain. Photo taken by Sue Lee.

This was a great day of racing. After getting back to the truck I again went into Ketchum to talk with Chad, catch up on work email, and refuel. I then drove up to the start of Saturday’s race. I got there, checked in, and we had the pre-race meeting. It was great to see friends that had come to race those races. Ben had a great turn out with over 160 racers. I ate another small dinner, had a beer, finished packing my drop bag and finish line bag and went to bed early.

Day 4 – Standhope 60k – 40.94 miles, 12,000 vert, 11h 01m:

I woke up at before 5a to ensure I had enough time to get ready and eat which was more than enough time. We had a 6a start time and it was still dark and really cold as we headed out of Park Creek.

Standhope 60K 2015

Elevation profile of the Standhope 60k.

The first climb and decent was great. The temperatures were very cool and I was just a little chilled with arm warmers and gloves on. I cruised into the first aid station, filled up, and headed across the bridge and into the cow pasture. That is where things started to go wrong. There was a junction that did not have any flagging but we saw one flag going through a stream in the far distance. We ran there to check it out, kept running on that trail then realized that this couldn’t be the way. We backtracked and headed up the other trail. We kept thinking that we had to be right but there were absolutely no flagging all the way up the climb. A few 7AM (the non-stage race 60K runners started at 7AM) starters were passing us then and those who had done the race said it was the right way. We got to the top of the 2nd climb and really had no idea where to go since there were still no course markings. We knew we had to go down but not sure how since those that I were around at that point had not done the race before. We traversed on a side hill and I kept another racer (and friend from Salt Lake City) in my view and missed the turn (unmarked) to go down. I backtracked and finally got on the right trail and ran all the way down to the next aid station still not knowing for sure if it was the right trail since it was not marked at all. In the end about 9 miles of the course were not marked at all and at the 20.4 mile aid station my watch read over 23 miles. Not great for the mental. I felt physically good and started the next huge climb. It was steep and unrelenting, technical, and amazingly beautiful.   It topped out at over 11,000’, had a short downhill, and went up to close to 11,000 feet once more before the next long downhill. I tried to get my leg turnover to keep speed up but knew I was slowing down due to all of the miles on my legs from the week. I hit the next 1000’ climb and felt like the brakes came on. I had not been able to eat much for a while at that point and my ears were plugging. I put drops in a few times during that climb and just put my head down and motored up that steep hill as fast as I could. At that point my watch read close to 40 miles and knowing the race was supposed to be less than 38 was a little demoralizing. I cruised down the other side and it wasn’t long before I could hear the finish line and ran as fast as I could to finish.

I was bummed that it took so long to do this race but going almost 4 miles extra and all the time trying to figure out where to go really increased my time on the course (off the unmarked course in this case).

My fellow stage racers were all such wonderful and fun people and I look forward to seeing them at other races and running with them in the future. I had just recently met Sue and we were happy that we are very similar paces and I look forward to running with her more in the future as well.

I ended up finishing 3rd place for the women and 6th place over all for the stage races. Results can be found at https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=29442.

Total miles: 91.43

Total vert: 26,100


Beautiful handmade belt buckle with flowers from the local trails.

Thanks to Ben for putting on a great race.

The stage race was really a great event with lots of fun people and beautiful and technical new trails. I can’t wait for my next one.