Maggie, Felix, Patrick Murphy and I drove the 5hrs to Pocatello Friday afternoon. The start and finish area of the race was tucked in a fairly steep valley at 5,600ft with blossoming choke cherry trees, balsam root, a small creek and patches of ponderosa pine scattered across the mountain ridges. We ended up spending both nights camped in the open grassy field next to the pavilion, big fire pit and parking lot. Having a great place to hang out at the start and finish of an ultra trail race is quite convenient and Luke Nelson picked a great location for that.
I signed up for the Pocatello 50 relatively late, as I didn’t plan on doing a race just 3 weeks out from the San Juan Solstice 50 mile, but the proximity to Pocatello, all the runners from Missoula doing the race and lastly, the quality of the course drew me in. I would have loved to run with Mike Wolf, Chris Kollar, Justin Angle and other Missoulians in the 50 mile, but the 50k, or rather 58k/36 mile that I’ll just call 60k, made much more sense.
The 50 mile started at 6am while the 60k runners were shuttled 17 miles down the course to start at 8:30. The big debate was rather the top runners would make it to the start of the 60k before 8:30. Ends up the 50 mile guys didn’t make the 60k start in the end but Mike Wolf would probably have just squeaked in before had he not taken an approximately 10 minute wrong turn on the top of his first climb.
Up the first 2,500ft climb we began our run. The day’s mantra for me was to keep the pace, my psyche and effort “comfortable” as I was running this week and this day’s run as training. A few miles in, I was running up a very lush drainage with a small creek gradually up. Two things were unique about this first climb, first was the thick maple tree vegetation that I have never seen in the rock mountains and second was how the climb didn’t seem as steep as it was due to the constant weaving and turning back and forth around this unique foliage. As we got close to the end of the forested part of the climb things got a bit steeper and I moved from 3rd to second behind a speedy looking 30 year old who was mostly out of sight and Patrick Murphy caught up to me.
Out on the ridge of the first climb, the view was spectacular and hollering with joy was irresistible. From the ridge of the first climb Patrick and I began our up-paced double track decent through the wildflowers and aspens. Not too long after we began descending Mike Wolf joined the party and we all three had a great time conversing about all sorts of interesting topics. One of the big surprises for the day’s run for me was how very runnable and buffed the descents were and I appreciated the good leg turnover between the major climbs. Maybe 80 minutes into the race we caught Matt, the 60k leader, who commented on how fast we were descending on what he felt was a technical descent. Mike had the body and stride of a super fast road runner, but Mike, Patrick and I were safe in assuming Matt was a bit new to mountain ultras.
After an aid station before a small climb, I gapped Mike and Patrick, but shortly after the climb Mike caught up with me and we cruised and conversed all the way to the base of the day’s big 3,500ft climb to 8,600ft Scout Peak. Mike and I leap frogged a bit and I ran behind Mike for a ways and being that Mike had run 17 miles before our meet up and wasn’t running the race as training, the conversation time ended. The situation of running with someone doing a different race was new and started to become a bit awkward for me as I didn’t feel we were racing each other, but I kept getting the subconscious cues to do so. I quieted the racing thoughts and did my best to not get in Mike’s way, again using my mantra of “relax pace” and “keep things comfortable”.
As the climb reached the base of the ridge for Scout Peak we made an aid station and I left before Mike. I made my way solo to the start of the steeper climbing for Scout Peak and enjoyed being alone in the very beautiful scenery before me. 90% of my racing is by myself, as I feel most comfortable mentally alone, vice worrying about what other runners are doing, going to do, etc… After running this race though, I think I will aim to run more of the first half of my races with others to help stay relaxed and distracted, I quite enjoyed running with Patrick and Mike in this race and it kept me positive and in good spirits. Up I went on the surprisingly runnable ascent to 8,600ft balancing working hard, but keeping the run at a good effort vice race effort.
Today’s run was a blend between race pace and training pace and likewise was my nutrition plan. I’ve been training my body to become better at using fat/protein as it’s fuel and only taking as little as 80 carb calories on a 25 mile run with 6,000ft of climbing to a more average 300 carb calories on a similar run. Being this was a harder and longer effort with more climbing I decided to adopt a 100 calorie per hour rate with my Vitargo S2 in my hand held water bottle. For pure racing efforts, I’ll probably up the calorie intake to around 150/hour.
I made the summit and began the descent down the very direct, very steep trail. There were a few snow crossings that were luckily not punchy, just soft and slick. I did one butt glissade and few running/sliding descents over the snow and finished the painfully steep 1,000ft+ descent. The next section of trail running to the aid station was 100% wonderful. The trail was smooth, in the forest, had perfect tacky dirt underfoot and lastly, I was feeling better than I do on many of my long runs. At the last aid station at about 30 miles I got some more water from Karl Meltzer and joked around a bit before he gave me some details on the last 10k.
I ran down the dirt road, on the pavement for a mile and then onto the uniquely wide and mostly grown over, abandoned roads to a less than welcome last climb. I had not studied the course map at all and only recalled the basic gist of the major climbs, thus overlooking a 6-700+ft climb with 3 or so miles to go. While I had kept fairly true to my mantra of staying relaxed and comfortable, I was tired and ready to finish this 36 miles with 8,000ft of climbing…. without a surprise hill near the finish.
Instead of gutting it out I power hiked a fair bit of this last very runnable climb and shooed away thoughts of breaking 5hrs on the 5:54 course record. To accompany this last climb there were two barbed wire gated fences to negotiate. Fences are something I have not encountered in a race before. My arm strength being what it is, I was unable to open the Idaho farmer tight wire contraptions keeping the gate closed, so I climbed over both gates spaced a mile or two apart and cursed at Luke for both the hill and fence jumping. I ran the last mile in to find Maggie and Felix at the finish and indulged in my favorite way to finish a run…. with my little boy.
I ran 5:10 over 36.2 miles with 8,000ft climbing for a 45 minute improvement on the course record. Mike finished a couple minutes behind me setting the 50 (53?)mile, 12,000ft of climbing course record of 7:43 bettering the old record by over 45 minutes as well. Patrick came in second for the 60k at 5:58 after dealing with some serious gut issues (and only able to take in 200 some calories). Between the 3 races I think all but one course record was broken! Full results here. Gramin Data Profile
From the camping at the start line, to the magnificent post race food, to the very cool hand thrown pottery for podium finishes, to the amazing course, Luke and his team did an amazing job putting together an awesome race. I look forward to returning and eventually running the 50 mile as well.
Monday- 9.2 miles easy, 1,800 feet of climbing with Patrick. Ran up Maurice, to Pattee Canyon, down Smoke Jumper and home.
Tuesday- 10 miles, 1,800ft climbing Sentinel Time Trial. Ran this week’s time trail with Patrick. I was excited to run the actual route this week and see what sort of time I could work as a baseline. From about 9 minutes in and around the “M”, I was pretty certain things were not going to turn out very impressive… Once I made the ridge after the M, I was hunched over on my knees power hiking most all the rest of the hike. I wasn’t feeling all that great and was expecting both Patrick to pass me and a slower time. This line up the ridge is a great anaerobic kick in the butt hill workout that had me nearly puking at the top. I am not familiar enough with this route and out of touch with the time trial workout and thus unable to gauge very well how I am doing. I ended up running a 22:49, which isn’t that bad, despite my expectations on the way up. Patrick did well on his first time trial and posted a 24:15. Look forward to one more go up Sentinel before heading to Italy and San Juan Solstice 50 mile!
Wednesday- 18 miles run, 1,300ft climbing out and back run up Rattlesnake Creek. Nice run today with Patrick averaging 8 flat miles.
Thursday- 10.1 miles, 1,100ft climbing easy run from Felix’s day care around North Hill Trails.
Friday- 6.4 mile run with Felix in the Chariot around town. Decided to take today easy and flat before tomorrow’s race in Pocatello.
Saturday- 36.2 miles, 7,800ft climbing, 5:10:07 Pocatello 60K. First place and 45 minute course record. Not a “race” effort, but not a training run effort either.
Sunday- 8 miles, 300ft climbing along the Clark Fork river.
14,100 Feet Climbing
Very happy with this week. Had a great run on Saturday in Pocatello, did a good time trial on Sentinel and managed some decent “race week” stats. Another week in the books. Next week will be funky with some recovery early, a long run snuck in before traveling to Denver and then a flight to Germany on Saturday.