Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 River of No Return 100K

2014 River of No Return 100K
Challis, ID
June 21, 2014
63 mi, 16K' vertical gain (advertised)
1st, 9 hrs 15 mins

Buildup? What buildup?
I waited as long as I could to sign up.  For some reason, as I've beaten to death in this blog, I can't get my shizzle together by June.  I figured I might be able to eek out a decent 100K based on climbing power from skiing over the winter, some long mountain bike rides and a few weeks of building my running miles up to 50 MPW.  I had not seen a 60 mile running week since last October.  Not much volume to speak of, but I did average over 15,000 feet per week of climbing.  Months of hard work cross training to top a big base of fitness built over the last few years.  My goal this year was to be really healthy and physically sound when the summer training opens up.  A goal I failed to achieve last year in an overzealous pursuit to tame the Cougar. For 2014, everything points towards France in August.  I knew an early 100M was out of the question.  100K might be fine.  The week before the race I did almost nothing to let my aching shin splints rest and to build my energy reserves for a hot and tough race with huge climbs and descents.

Brandi, Molly and I drove to Challis on Thursday.  Along the way we visited Stanley and its stunning Sawtooths. 

We camped in Paul Lind's (the Race Director) horse pasture. "Run Strong" Paul is a real Maverick.  He's like a drill instructor, track coach, carnivore, cowboy, philosopher, ultrarunner.  Reminds me of the Old Man.  Paul is an Idaho original.  Tough as nails, rough hewn, yet refined enough to pull together a sold-out event first year, sweet-talking sponsors, land managers and pretty much every runner in Idaho to buy into his vision.  Well done, friend.  He definitely had help.  His son Cody ran himself ragged, his co-RD Neal and his PR machine Emily, among many others, absolutely hit it out of the park.  The tracks were laid for a great event and strong runners filled his entrants lists.

We settled into a beautiful spot among the cottonwood trees on the Salmon River in the horse pasture.  I'm not a big allergy guy, but as soon as I got there, I approached anaphylaxis from the cottonwood fluff blowing in sheets on the wind.  My face swelled, my eyes ached, breathing labored and my head pounded with a throbbing fever.  Add to that a tension growing in my left calf (from inactivity) that had me limping.  I laid awake most of the night before the race, pretty much resigned to not start.  I was past 90% sure it was not going to happen.  I felt tons of pressure to perform in Idaho, my home turf.  I could reason it away, I reckoned.  More piles of excuses thrown into the trash heap that this blog has become.  We would crew for Molly's 50K and it would still be a nice experience.  Right.

The Race

After catching a few hours of sleep, I awoke feeling ashamed of my lack of courage.  The 4 AM wake-up would give me a few hours to sort through my issues and make a decision at the line.  I fought off the doubting voices in my mind and beat back the cowardice.  I could stomach yet another DNF, but I could not handle succumbing to fear.

The starting gun was actually a mortar.  I was familiar with this contraption because Paul's buddies had been drinking hard on Thursday night and decided to practice shelling the horse pasture at 3 AM.  The sun came up, the mortar went boom and runners took off.  I was among them.

Rolling through the first few miles south of Challis.  Ready to test the climbing gears.

We sauntered off for a few easy miles through Challis before beginning a big climb on the Lombard Trail toward the Bayhorse Ghost Town.  The low 6 pace felt relaxed through town and the 9-10 min pace up the first mountain was fine. Legs were heavy and vision was blurry, but I reasoned that is because I was running up a big mountain.  Sure.

Bayhorse. Mile 16.

We climbed and descended again and again.  Some of the climbs were quite steep on nice ATV width trails.  I lacked my climbing power, but tried to keep a gap on the trailing Patrick Murphy from Missoula, with frantic downhill running.  He lingered and stalked a few minutes back pretty much all day.  One little slip and I would have been toast.  I ran scared and for good reason. This guy was really strong and having an awesome day.  I would have no surplus- no buffer of genetics, talent or fitness that allowed me to pull away and relax.  I would have to execute and suffer.  By 50K, I was weakening in the heat.  My climbing was pedestrian, but thankfully the downs kept rolling well for me in the mid 6 range.

Squaw Creek.  Mile 30.  Brandi races back to the aid to get my nummy-nums ready for the road.

McKay Creek.  Mile 38.  This section was really nice.  Very thin ribbon of singletrack through some elky meadows.  I didn't see any ungulates, but I caught a whiff of the herd here and there.  Stein Shaw Photo.
I ran well into Fanny's Hole, mile 45.  I went to the standard race-closer concoction of ice + half coke + half water in the bottle.  The boost didn't last.  The climb up from Fanny's Hole was rough.  I walked and waited to get passed.  I was trying hard, but the power was just not coming.  After a few miles, I hit the top and began the nicest section of the entire course.  A rolling ATV track goes over a 9,000'+ ridge climbing steep false summits with sparse trees to offer a great view in every direction.  Finally, the rolling stopped and it was time to get down to the business of committing to the win.  Approximately 14 miles of running remained and it was 99% downhill over dirt and paved roads.  9000' to 5000' as fast as my legs could carry me.  OUCH!  I hit the 50 mile aid at Buster Lake and took some more Coke.  The road smoothed and the pace dropped.  I stayed solid for a while, but I could feel my form slipping.  My core was aching, trying to stabilize the trunk as the road pounding tried to loosen the nuts and bolts holding my frame together.  Eventually, the angle of descent lessened and the road turned to pavement hard as diamonds.  No more giveaways- I would have to earn the win- one wincing, whimpering stride at a time.

Six miles later and I was running through downtown Challis.  Just a quick climb up to the track, a short lap and it was done.  I focused on the pain.  I reminded myself this is what I came for, and to not wish it away. Instead, embrace this feeling.  The pain, sweat, blood and endocrine damage I had accumulated along the way was the price of admission.  Who knows how many of these things I can pull of, but I know it could end at any time.  I will never take that feeling for granted.  I thanked my body for its fortitude, for allowing me to chase this crazy dream and for pushing to its edge again.  I thanked the Old Man for showing me the way to the bottom of the well so many years ago.  No tears, no joy, just gratitude for the finish.  I took my shoes off and planted my bare feet into Challis before I could even hug my Brandi.  Ahhh.

The classic dirt track of Challis High School.  This was the kind of surface I raced as a child in Ohio.  I am a hurting unit here, but Paul's kind words over the announcer's mic made me buck up and hate life a little less.
Paul interviews Patrick and I post race.

Wasted.  Take me done I'm home.
        Hiroaki Matsunaga (Aki) was third.  This Japanese The North Face pro races big mountain events around the world.  I will see my new friend again at UTMB in August.  Hope his first visit to the US was enjoyable.  I wonder how he found his way to Idaho?
Aki's gorgeous family.  (photo lifted from Aki's report here:

Molly finishes her 50K with pistol hands and bullets flying- PEW, PEW.  PEW, PEW.  That's the sound a gun makes.
Brandi and Molly at the Lombard Trailhead.  The third leg of their tripod, Katie Lombard, could not attend the race, but it was nice to know a trail named in her honor was around.

Shoes: SCOTT MK4. Discontinued road shoe and a good one.  First run over 50K in a road shoe for me.

Hydration: 20 oz Jurek Grip handheld from Ultimate Direction.  I drank mostly water and some SWORD carbo juice provided by the race and it was pretty good stuff. No complaints. I took a second bottle from miles 30-45 with more water to douse myself.

Nutrition:  Fresh 4 oz UD flask of VFUEL at the start, mile 16, 30 and 45.  Few pieces of fruit off the tables.  Half a protein bar early and a pack of Louck's sesame snaps later.  I carried these in the UD Jurek Essential waist belt most of the race. I probably should have eaten one more real food item at some point because I finished really drained.  Sugar was not cutting it at that point.

VESPA: 2 hours pre-race I took a CV-25 pack.  Then immediately after the start I had an Ultra Concentrate.  Each time I saw Brandi at crew spots (mile 16, 30, 45), she gave me a 7 oz soft flask for the road with water and an Ultra Concentrate diluted into it.  I ran along for a few minutes sipping it down, then slipped the collapsed flask into my shorts pocket.  Slick.

Clothes: SCOTT hybrid shorts with the best pockets.  The outer short is flowy and soft and it is bonded to the inner tight compression short.  The pockets are held in place and carry lots of extra food with zero bounce.  SCOTT singlet and UD visor.  Smith Pivlock glasses with phtotchromatic lenses adapting to changing light levels.

1 comment:

  1. It's been a good while since I allowed myself the pleasure of reading your blog Jer. Always inspiring and forever powering forward...whether mentally or physically. Thanks for writing. Seriously. Thank you!