This morning I'm sore... but in a good way. Friday morning the alarm went off at 0400 and I dressed and loaded up the truck, and my wife (and crew chief) drove us from Bear Lake down to Logan. The temperature was chilly, but perfect for the 4000' climb to the 10 mile aid station.
The scene at the start was the usual craziness, but event amidst the 234 starters, I ran into several running buddies just prior to the start. Ultra-running is a small community.
The climb to Logan Peak was consistently steep, but has a couple great, runnable sections and some killer views. I passed through the Logan Peak aid station in 3 minutes, and headed out for the next 9 mile leg to the Leatham Hollow aid station. The last 3 miles of this leg are great single-track running and I was "in the zone" when I was suddenly brought back to reality when I found myself stopped with my eye only an inch away from a sharp broken branch on an overhead deadfall. It had been flagged, but I didn't see it. I became more attentive when running single-track from then on.
I arrived at the Leatham Hollow aid station about 10 minutes ahead of my 27 hour pace, and I was feeling great.
Chriss met me there and helped me through a quick re-fuel and I was off on the next leg which included a 3 mile run up a low-incline dirt road to the next Aid Station, and then a 7.8 mile climb to Cowley Canyon Aid station, and then another climb and subsequent descent to Right-Hand Fork aid station at 36 miles. I usually have a little stomach distress after an aid station as my body tries to adapt to having food in my stomach again. Same situation here, but I pressed through it and still maintained my pace.
I arrived at the third aid station, grabbed a quick snack and headed out for the climb to Cowley. This climb has minimal shade, and is consistently steep the whole way. I was feeling pretty good however, and I managed to arrive at Cowley still ahead of my 27 hour pace. I took a few extra minutes to cool down in the shade they had under a canopy there, and then headed out again for the next climb.
As I ascended the steep dirt road I took notice of the extremely fine dust that sat several inches deep in places on this road. Then the first of several trucks approached from above... and I realized I was going to be sucking in a TON of that dust as they passed. I pulled my shirt up over my mouth as the first one passed, but the filtering effect was limited, and I spent the next 30 minutes coughing and sputtering trying to get that stuff out of my lungs. Fortunately, I topped out and started the long descent into Right Hand Fork aid station about the time the coughing fits ended and was able to crank out the descent at a great pace.
Chriss met me at Right Hand Fork and I again refueled and headed out. The climb was hot in the late afternoon sun, and I struggled to keep my pace going strong. This section of the course climbs up single track to meet a dirt road in a wide mountain pass, and follows this road down to Temple Fork aid station at Highway 89. Fortunately, in the middle of the descent, RD Leland opts to have us run a beautiful section of single track past some beaver dams and an awesome stream. This is one of the most best sections as it's totally runnable and visually amazing.
At temple fork, I took advantage of the facilities there for a nature break, and then picked up my first pacer, Bastian Cowsert. Bastian is a young, enthusiastic "newbie" to the world of Ultra-running. He's extremely fit, and I sense he's going to do amazing things. This was his first experience pacing, so we spent a lot of time talking about the process associated with pacing and crewing, as well as running. My goal was to make it to Tony Grove aid station before dark (because I only had my mini-headlamp with me as a "just in case"). I had a serious bout of stomach distress going, but again, just pressed through it and pushed as hard as I could up the long climb to the short descent into Tony Grove. We hit the downhill as the sun was setting, and ran the last section into Tony Grove aid station in the last of twighlight.
At Tony Grove I again used the facilities, ate some soup, and geared up for the night session with my high-powered headlamp, long-sleeve shirt, beanie cap and running gloves.
We headed out on another long climb which linked to a long, rocky single-track descent to Franklin Basin aid station. Bastian did a great job of reminding me to take my electrolytes on schedule, and we made great time. We got to the descent, and with my "uber headlamp", we able to run at almost a daylight pace. Very shortly into the descent, running at that "daylight" pace, I slammed my foot full-force into a large rock. I immediately knew I'd broken the small toe on my left foot. The pain was incredibly sharp and shocking, and even setting my foot down on the ground fired that same pain shooting through me again.
I had nothing with me to deal with the break, so I changed up my stride by riding the inside of my left foot and trying not to put any weight on the outside of that foot at all. This would come back to haunt me, but at least it let me get to the Franklin Basin aid station at slightly better than a snail's pace. Arriving at the aid station, everyone kicked into gear to get me "repaired" and back out on the trail.
Bastian was trading off pacing duties with Steve Proffit here, and as Paislee started getting ready to work on my toe Steve jumped in to help as well. Paislee started removing my shoe so she could tape my little toe tightly to the adjacent toe. Pulling off my socks, she saw the effect of my adjustmented weighting of my feet. I had developed a huge blood blister on my left big toe, and my right big toenail was totally black. Steve lanced the blood blister and Paislee drained it, applied antibiotic and a bandaid. She then taped my left little to it's neighbor, and taped up my right big toe to hold the nail on for the rest of the run.
I ate some soup, and headed out with Steve for the next 15 miles. Paislee's work on my toes was perfect. I could run normally with only nominal discomfort. I felt confident I could finish, and might be able to still finish in under 30 hours. Steve and I put the hammer down and pushed on to the Logan River aid station. As usual, there is a long climb followed by a downhill into the aid station. This year, the aid station was moved to be near the river crossing. The river was still quite high, but the crossing looked like it could be done without getting wet... almost. I made it to the last 6 feet, stepped on a moss-covered rock (that simply looked black) and in I went. Both feet soaked in ice-cold water, I continued on into the night.
The cold water actually may have done some good, as it may have reduced the swelling from all the damage. Steve pushed me through the tough climb up to the steep descent down the ski slopes of Beaver Mountain where I picked up my last pacer, Sean Housel.
Sean is an experienced pacer and would take me the remaining 24.3 miles into the finish. I had some significant GI distress at this point, so I took two Imodium, and after a couple sessions with the bathroom at the aid station, we headed out. The climb up to Gibson Basin aid station is only 5 miles, but it's all steep. Sean kept on me to keep the pace up, and by the time we hit Gibson basin, we were still on track to be under 30 hours.
From Gibson, we traversed the mile long basin (in some seriously cold temperatures) and climbed up an ATV trail to the summit where we started our descent into Beaver Creek aid station. Leland calls this descent "The Teeth of The Bear", as it's super rocky, steep, and with my toes in the shape they were in, painful. With the water at such a high level, this crossing was even more sketchy than Logan River. The aid station crew had laid a log across a 10' gap, and had found some long branches that served as "balance poles" we used to maintain an upright position as we crossed the frost-covered log. Both Sean and I nearly went in, but we somehow made it across dry... many others were not so lucky, with a few actually getting completely submerged after falling off the log.
I again made use of the facilities at the aid station, ate a little soup, and Sean and I headed out for the last 16 miles of the race. This section has a long climb up to a summit (where you catch a glimpse of Bear Lake), a descent to the Ranger Dip aid station, and then the last climb (also the steepest of the race) up to the 4 mile descent into the finish. I was struggling at this point to keep my pace up, and Sean was constantly checking his GPS and then telling me to increase my pace... I was obviously falling behind my sub-30-hour goal. As we came into the Ranger Dip aid station, I knew I was in risk of missing that goal. I knew the climb out of Ranger Dip would be a big factor.
We left Ranger Dip, and I steeled myself for the 800'-in-0.8 mile climb out of the basin. As we hit the climb, I focused on simply pressing without resting. I had to rest for about 30 seconds four times, so only lost about 4 minutes or so to resting, and crested the top with 70 minutes remaining to finish a 4 mile descent... sounded simple enough. However, this descent has several "special circumstances", including it being too steep for me to run most of it. It was exceptionally painful on the toes as each step is a "decelleration", and by the time I'd reached the point where it leveled off enough to actually run again, I was in serious danger of missing the 30 hour mark.
The descent was hard on Sean as well, and he'd fallen well behind me on the descent. I figured once it leveled out he'd catch me so I checked my watch, put my head down and started running as hard as I could. Sean caught up with me about a mile from the finish on the gravel road leading to the main highway. We were keeping about a 9:45 min/mile pace at this point, and as we crossed the highway over to the side where the turn to the finish area was located, I could hear Steve Proffit yelling.
He was standing at the turn into the finish area, which is about 100 yards from the actual finish line. As I made the turn, I finally understood what Steve was saying. He was yelling "less than a minute left!" Suddenly adrenalin took over, and I broke into a full sprint for the finish.
I came through the finish totally blown out. Leland was standing there and grabbed me and told me "you're under 30 hours!".
Somehow, with the broken toe, and the GI issues, we managed to get me through the finish in 29 hrs, 58 min, 12 sec. A new personal record for 100 miles!
This event totally proved how much of a team event a 100 miler is for me. Without Chriss and Paislee as my crew/medical team,
and without Bastian, Steve, and Sean being outstanding pacers, I wouldn't have made the 30 hour cutoff.
I can't thank them enough for all they did this weekend! As usual, Leland put on a first-class event, and it was a great experience! It won't be long and he'll have to go to a lottery!