A Hard Weekend in the Wild
- Finish Time: 34:38:32
- Distance: 102 miles
- When: 20-21 September 2014
This super technical course never disappoints and an asthma attack around mile 70 make the Crestline warp hole even more exciting.
Before I get any further into this race reprot I just want to thank my Crew and pacer for making it an incredible weekend. Once again Nayibe and the kids totally rocked crewed aid stations. I honestly don't think I could have made it without the calf massage at mile 30 and the motivation to just make it to the Upper Payette aid station for the second time after a long night.
I spent the night before the race camping next to the start/finish line at Burgdorf Hot Springs. At first I was a little worried about the bumping looking ground at my tent site. The last thing I needed was to have a poor nights sleep and then wake up tired and with a sore back. Luckily I packed two thermarest air mattresses and slept well and didn't notice the bumps at all.
Having run this course the year before it was fun sitting through the pre-race breifing and getting all the inside jokes and seeing some of the uninitiated's response to some of the warnings. Even though I had already eaten after the breifing I headed back to McCall for some extra dinner, because I was hangry, a feeling that would continue for the next 48 hours.
I always like to sleep in as much as I can and time the start as close as possible. In this regard my day started off perfect. I woke up around 5:30, got dressed, downed a quick protein shake and walked to the starting line. I skipped the start line toilets knowing that we had an outhouse 2 miles into the day at the Ruby Meadows trail head.
The weather was warm for Septempber in Idaho. I was able to start the day in shorts, a t-shirt, arms sleeves, gloves and a buff to keep my ears warm. It was a perfect.
Start to Chinook Campground
This first section of the course is probably the section I am the most familiar with having hike, biked and trained on the Loon Lake section of this course for years. The big danger here is letting this buffed out trails get you a little excited before the real meat of the course sets in. I think it was real plus to be familiar with all the climbs and rollers so that I knew where to lay back.
After taking my pre-planned stop at the Ruby Meadows trailhead I eased my way up the ATV trails to the first water drop. Not needing to top off I ran on by just as the sun came up.
The coolest thing about this section of trail was all the deep yellow, green and red fall colors on display. It was just amazing and I couldn't help but smile as I motored on.
On the first pass through the willow creek aid station I started to feel a little tightness in my left calf. At this point I was pretty sure it would works it's way out, unfortunatly I was wrong and this would continue to nag me for the rest of the course.
At about 8:20 I rolled into the aid station and into the hands of my crew who quickly topped off my water, fed me some breakfast and downed some coconut water. Then I was off.
Chinook to Upper Payette #1
By the time I got to the Secesh River section in 2013 I was in pure power hiking survival mode. It was great to be able to easily jog this section without much effort. It's crazy how much smaller all the hills felt this time around.
I cruised into the awesome Willow Creek aid station, grabbed half a hammer bar and some coke and headed out without topping off my water, which was a mistake as I ran out of fluid before reaching the diamond ridge water drop.
From training I knew that the traverse up the valley before the big climb could be longer than I thought so I made sure to head out easy. Unfortunately my left calf just kept getting tighter the more I climbed. I slowed down to a power hike on any incline and stopped several times to stretch, still hoping beyond hope it would work it's way out.
The big climb started and my calf just got tighter and tighter. I stopped a few times, filled my water in the creek near the top, took a picture looking back toward Loone lake and started my way down.
The run down felt pretty good but my calf keep getting tighter. When I hit the bottom at mile 30 both my calves felt like they were one mis-step from cramping up Lebron James style and ending my day. Despite all the other runners passing me with those he went out too fast looks I walked and slow jogged myself the next 2-3 miles into Upper Payette Lake and once again into the hands of my crew... begging with everything I had in me for a calf massage.
Upper Payette to Duck Lake
My crew was awesome at this aid station. They sat me down, quickly took the stick to my calves and had me down some more cocunut water and half a peanut butter sandwich.
At this point Anna began to ask me if I was done running yet, and giving me the saddest eyes. Apparently 30 miles is enough waiting for a 4 year old who would rather be playing with her daddy in the lake
In the pre race meeting I recall how Jeremy had repeated that this next section of trail was pretty runnable. I was disappointed knowing that with my calf cramped up I was going to be forced to walk one of the few runnable sections on the course. After about 15 minutes I grabbed my trekking poles, a hand bottle filled with more coconut water and headed out to what was going to be a long 11 mile walk to the next aid station.
Once on the 20 mile trail I fell into a really good pace, running any down hills and power hiking everything else. I was suprised to find myself staying in touch with several others who were trying to run until we started the descent into Duck lake.
From Duck Lake I was able to run most of the way into the next aid station and my calf was starting to feel much better. I started to think this might be good day after all.
I grabbed some electrolytes and food at the trail head aid station and started down the road to link up with my pacer Chris on the way to Snowslide lake.
Since no good ultra race report is complete without references to bodily function I guess this is a good time to share that at some point in this section I had started to pee like a wino on a two week bender and my stomach was still taking all the water and food I could shovel at it. The coconut water had done it's trick. Awesome!
Snowslide to Lake Fork
My good friend Chris had volunteered to pace me over this 11 mile section and I was happy that we were able to make up the incredible Snowslide lake climb before the sun set. It's such a pretty lake it makes a lot of the pain just melt away.
It was amazing to see all the work that had been done to clear the avalanche on the back side of the pass. When I trained on this trail back in August it was a serious jungle of downfall through this section. Just another example of how much incredible works goes into making this a top notch trail run.
As the darkness fell in we slowed to a fast walk. Chris had left his headlamp in the cabin and had grabbed an extra lamp from Nayibe at the aid station, not realizing it was only a 10 lumen lamp with about half the batteries used. Ironically it would be about another 10 miles before I discovered I was already carrying an extra lamp with me at the bottom of my pack under the water bladder.
This was also the first time/distance shift of my night having arrived at the aid station marked as 58 miles with my GPS listing 59+.
Lake Fork Aid Station
The Lake Fork aid station was a party. My friend Derek Call from last year's run was running the aid station and handing out his awesome chicken pot pie, and Nayibe had prepared some of my favorite potato soup. My appetite was voracious and just kept throwing down food before I changed my socks, threw on a dry shirt, grabbed some night clothes and headed off for what I knew would be a long night. But I had no idea how long of a night it would really be.
(otherwise know as the time warp)
I had trained on the Cresline earlier in the summer so I knew what I was in for. I left my GPS with Javier to re-charge over night knowing that it wasn't going to do me any good to watch splits or guess distances, I would just have to keep going.
My calf had loosened up considerably by now and I was feeling optimistic about the fall creek climb. Unfortunately my optimism was short lived. About half way up the climb my breathing began to get really labored and about 25 yards from the Crystal Lake summit I had the worst asthma attack I've had since being diagnosed with excersise-induced asthma the week after last years IMTUF 100.
It was so bad I just sat on a rock, took a puff of abuteroal, turned off my light and gazed dumbly at the amazing night sky bursting with more stars than I had seen in years.
After about 10-15 minutes I resumed walking up Fall Creek. With my chest wheezing and my breathing short all I could think about was that my race was over. I was already committed to walking it out to Crestline but I was sure that was all the further I'd get. To make it worse my legs were feeling great, my energy was high and I was still eating anything I could get my hands on.
I stopped on top of Fall Creek and texted Nayibe letting her know about the asthma attack and preparing her for my inevitable drop at Crestline in the morning.
It was now about 1:30 am.
I took my time at the Fall Creek aid station and even tried to run a little on the way down to Blackwell Lake but it just made the wheezing worse.
I think I stopped 6 or 7 more times before the Box Creek aid station ( Goat Aid) to just look at the stars and give my breathing a rest. But the wheezing was so bad I felt like I was having a conversation with my self as I sat down next to a goat and drank some broth.
Between coughs I announced to anyone who asked that I was dropping at Crestline. I filled up my water, tighened up my shoes and began walking out to my drop point. Coughing and star watching along the way.
At some point just before sunrise my coughing stopped. I could starting running down hill again. And although I couldn't put in any significantly hard effort without losing my breath I could move.
Okay I thought maybe I'll drop at Upper Payette and save my crew the drive up to Crestline
After throwing down some bacon and peach pancakes at the awesome Cresline aid station, and changing my shoes I was ready to go.
Crestline to Upper Payette
I usually don't listen to music when running. I have enough voices in my head to keep myself company on long runs. But this summer I started listenting to audio books during the last few, monotounous hours of longs runs to let my mind drift. Today as I drifted down the rocky Pearl Creek road, estactic to be in my clean, cushy Altra Olympus shoes I turned on Unbroken about the famous Olympian and WWII POW Louis Zamperini. The struggles of a WWII POW made my pain feel kind of weak and temporary.
My mind distracted and my breathing shallow I worked my way slowly down to the Upper Payette aid station for the second time with just under 7 hours left to complete the course.
I was going to make it
Upper Payette to Finish
My feet were starting to swell from all the walking I was doing but I was still eating like a horse and my legs felt good. With ~15 miles to go and the big Bear Pete climb waiting I knew I wasn't going to set any speed records but I was capable of finishing. All that whining I had been doing about dropping back at Box creak seemed like a life time ago.
It was starting to get hot now so I downed some more cocunut water, applied some sun screen and doned a hat before heading up to warren wagon road and some more food at Cloochman Saddle.
I still couldn't put in a significant effort without starting to wheeze again so I was really happy that the next 3-4 miles was a pretty easy grade of road that I was able to power hike at a pretty good pace.
The climb up to Cloochman Saddle was again a lot of starting and stopping but it was an amazing aid station and well worth the climb. I felt bad telling another runner just before the aid station that it was not the top of the climb but that there was another several miles of climbing before we started descending back to Burgdorf. He was starting to limp pretty good but better than figuring out the hard way I guess.
The rest of the climb was still a lot of starting and stopping, wheezing and breathing. I was so excited that I was going to finish that I had to constantly remind myself to keep eating. This far into the race 10 miles was still a long way to go and still too early to stop fueling.
The run down Nethker Creek can be a lot longer than you think it should be if you're not prepared for it. Lucky I'd trained on this descent over Labor Day and was ready for what could seem like a never ending trail. Even though I was still breathing hard I was able to run most of it and passed several runners on the way down.
There was a huge smile on my face as I reached the Nethker Creek trailhead and saw my family there waiting to run to the finish with me. Not only was it great to see them but it was simmply amazing to realize that after such a rough night and being so sure I was going to drop I was actually going to finish.
I gave Nayibe a kiss and quickly headed down the road with Josiah and Javier on my heals.
In a funny change of roles I had to keep encouraging Josiah, who was supposed to be pacing me, to keep running as he kept wanting to stop and mine all the quartz on the side of the road. To much Alaska Gold Rush.
A quarter mile from the finish Anna chased us down and after 34 and a half hours it was finally over. I'd finsihed.
Once again I had proven to myself that although I wasn't that fast I had taken all that an extremely hard course could throw at me and I had finished.
Finally it was time for a finish line photo with my buckle and a kiss from my favorite podium girl. She was very happy that I was finally done running and could go play in the pool with her.