Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pocatello 2 - Ryan 0 Chasing the Cutoffs at the Scout Mtn Ultra Trail 100k

Sunrise on the first climb up Corral Creek
Fun times in the mountains outside of Pocatello, Idaho on Saturday.  I had been sick all week and wasn't sure what to expect.  I thought I was doing a good job of pacing and keeping my effort level under control in the first third while I cruised along with my friend Lyndon who was doing his very first ultra.  When I got to the mile 26 aid station I figured I was about middle of the pack.  I sat down to organize my pack and heard one of the volunteers say there were only 8 more runners after me.

Ridge running before dropping into Gibson Jack
My comfortable pace had me nearly at the end and then to make matters worse on the next big climb I just had zero gas. I was fueling and hydrating fine but the effects of getting over a cold left me feeling really blah.  I didn't put it together at the time but I had also kicked a few rocks and roots on the way down to the City Creek aid station that must have pulled a muscle in my stomach when I tried to keep myself from hitting the ground.  Whatever happened, the result was pain in my abdomen that made downhill running almost non-existent.  


The Wall, The Gut, or The Barkley section in City Creek
I essentially walked all of the easy sweet downhill from Kinport Peak to the Midnight Creek aid station and from there to the West Fork aid station. I was really frustrated because this is where you need to be making good time.  People were passing me so I knew I was getting closer and closer to last place with 25+ miles to go that includes a 10 mile uphill stretch.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would surely get cut at the West Fork aid station since I was moving so slow and because I didn't have a headlamp at the right aid station.  The races rules said anyone leaving Scout Mountain aid station (mile 46) after 5pm had to have a headlamp.  Before the race I put my headlamp in my Big Fir aid station (mile 56) drop bag.  Miraculously I got to West Fork aid station (mile 41) at 4:50 just ten minutes before the cutoff.

At West Fork I asked the volunteers if I was in last place and they said I wasn't which was a relief because for the past hour I was sure they were all waiting for me and I had been planning to drop out of the race.  With 10 minutes to spare they were all pumped to get me refueled and back out on the trail which was kind of perplexing since I hadn't planned to continue.  Once I made up my mind to continue the aid station captain told me I had to stay for a few minutes.  I stood up and put my pack on and asked why?  She said I was not making sense and stumbling on my words (totally true).  I explained the reason I wasn't making sense is because I was originally going to quit and then was trying to shift gears and wrap my head around continuing!

Several miles before West Fork aid station
I asked anyone if they had a headlamp I could borrow and no one did so I was just going to go to the next aid station and ask them.  If they did...I would continue.  If not...I would be done.  It was my fault and I didn’t have time to stand there complaining.  I just didn't want to give up on myself if there was still a chance.  Just then Luke Nelson, the RD, came up and asked how I was feeling.  I said I was doing OK and needed a headlamp.  He asked the same group of people for a headlamp and someone gave him one which was funny.  I was already on the trail so he said he would go back and get it and run it up to me.  It was also funny to see him riding a single speed beach cruiser looking bike up the trail to meet me.

The six miles before West Fork I struggled to maintain an average of 24 minute miles that had an average downhill of 220 feet per mile and I knew that wouldn't cut it so I tried running uphill when I left the aid station.  There was less jarring on my stomach and I ended up running about half of the
10 mile uphill.  In the 5 miles to the Scout Mountain aid station and I cut my mile pace from 24 to 17 and went from 220 feet per mile of descent to 360 feet per mile of gain.  It made no sense but I was determined to do what I could to make sure I made it to the end.
Once I popped out of the trees and onto the exposed road up to the top of Scout Mountain I had cell coverage.  Michelle and I exchanged a number of text messages and she cheered me on which was much appreciated.  I ended up doing about 40 miles of the race solo so it was nice to have a little ‘company’ while I hiked.  (Power hiking through rocks and texting is not advised)  I had to put the phone away once I crested the top though because the downhill off of Scout Mountain is insanely steep for a short bit but then turns into the nicest switchback trail leading into Big Fir aid station.  I wasn’t lighting the trail on fire with my downhill speed but was surprised and happy with being able to uphold a respectable pace while dodging the many ankle biter rocks that seemed to always be rolling under my feet. 

Looking south from the backside of Scout Mountain
Surprisingly, I was making good enough time that I didn’t need the borrowed headlamp until right before Big Fir.  It was a PrincetonTec (POS model I believe) and it was almost bright enough to see my hand 3 feet in front of my forehead.  I was grateful that a total stranger loaned it to me and thankful the sunset gave me just enough help that I didn’t need it.  As I was rolling into the final aid station I was pretty sure I was in last place now since I left West Fork with two minutes to spare and no other runners came in while I was there.  The volunteers confirmed that I was.  They still had hot perogies and baby potatoes sautéed in butter which was amazing.  I finished them off with one of Karl Meltzer’s Red Bulls and headed out.  As I was leaving I asked Karl if this kind of performance would get me through Speedgoat 50k in a month and he assured me that I would be fine.  Sometimes it just isn’t your day.

I had two hours and thirty minutes to run just over 6 miles so barring a complete meltdown I thought I should be able to get it done.  The finish line had a midnight cutoff so I couldn't just slog in.  The sweepers were planning on leaving right behind me to clear course markings so my goal was to stay ahead of them as long as I could and once they caught me to enjoy some much appreciated company.   I don’t know how soon they left after I did but I managed to stay ahead for a few miles.  We hiked the trail up the Nordic center together chatting away which helped pass the time and quickly reached the final descent toward the finish line.  After a short single track and dirt road section we reached the highway for the final quarter mile of pavement and cruised into the finish at a fairly decent pace.  I had about 30 minutes to spare on the final cutoff I think.  I am not exactly certain of my finish time.  Luke was there to greet me as I crossed which was nice.  He presented me my finisher award and the caboose (or DFL) prize which was a cool Patagonia Houdini jacket.

Gorgeous bookend to the wonderful day
My first ultra was the Pocatello 50+ miler in 2011 and I had my worst day ever.  I have had lots of great races since then thanks to the many lessons I learned that day.  This day was worse…but I just couldn’t quit on myself.   I love setting and achieving hard race goals but the feeling at the finish is so much sweeter when I have had to overcome some sort of obstacle and push myself to the end. 

Big thanks to Luke Nelson and his crew for putting on an amazing and tough race that will not disappoint.  The trail marking was perfect even for slow guys in the dark!  All of the aid station volunteers were wonderful and helped push me on when I didn’t know if I wanted to continue.  I’ll be back and hopefully won’t have any more lessons to learn next time.

2 comments:

  1. I love that you got a sick caboose prize! Heck yeah! Seriously, proud of you for not giving up. One of the days you'll have a great day at SMUT!

    ReplyDelete

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