Squaw Peak 50
I have a friend named Sam. Sam is semi-bionic (more on this later).
A few days after finishing Leadville last year Sam called and we had this conversation:
Sam: “Hey, tell me about that Wasatch Back race.”
Me: “The relay?”
Sam: “No, no the one you did.”
Me: “THE WASATCH FREAKIN’ ONE HUNDRED!”
Sam “Yeah, that one. I am looking for our next big challenge.”
Me: “Sam, we just finished one of the hardest mountain bike races out there. Let me bask in the glory of my accomplishment for at least a week. What do you say?”
Sam: “We need to do something harder. I want to try that run.”
Me: “Sam, that run is a bitch – and I mean that sincerely. Both times I’ve started that race I ended with DNFs and both times I left the race in the fetal position. How about we try something a little less apocalyptic first?”
Sam: “Okay, let me think about it.”
Me: “Yeah, you do that. Think long and hard.”
Thankfully, Keyes was able to talk some sense into him. So we signed up for the Squaw Peak 50 instead; a 50 mile trail run up, down, and around the mountains above Utah County. The race was yesterday. Today I am sore.
Here is the beta:
Distance: 50.74 miles
Elevation Change: 14,000 feet of elevation gain/loss (felt like mostly gain)
Pain Factor: massively massive
Like I said, Sam is semi-bionic. The kid is just plain fast. On a bike – fast. Running – fast. Love making – not sure, don’t really care to know.
Needless to say, anytime I go ride/run with Sam I get dropped. Usually on the first climb. Well, Sam took it to a whole new level yesterday. He dropped me before the race even STARTED. We arrived together, I went to relieve myself, Sam went to check in. Next time I saw him was at the finish line Saturday evening.
It was for the best – the time Sam posted would have burnt me up way too early in the race. But still, it’s kind of like rubbing my nose in it. Don’t you think? I mean the gun hadn’t even gone off for Pete’s sake.
I need to fire my recon guy. Admittedly I didn’t spend enough time looking at the course maps and elevation charts before race day. I thought we were going to start with a nice easy run down the paved Provo Canyon trail and then turn up Squaw Peak road. Wrong. We ran like a mile of the pavement and then to my dismay turned up onto a really steep single track trail. I’d told someone earlier that I thought there was only like 5K of elevation gain. We did that before we’d even hit 25 miles.
Like I said, my recon guy is getting the pink slip.
That first climb went 2500 ft up over the next 4 miles. Then at the top we ran down for like 3.86 seconds then started up again. This would become the recurring theme for the day. Here’s the elevation profile for the race:
While I’ve only participated in a few endurance running events, it’s clear the race directors for these events take great pleasure in turning the suffering dial up to Bleeding From Ears. A common practice is to require runners go up and down trails that aren’t really trails. More like routes weed whacked into the steepest face they can find and then appropriately named either descriptively or in honor of the race director. Here are a few examples from the SP50 and WF100:
Bozung Hill (more on this abomination in a bit)
Irv’s Torture Chamber
The next time you run an ultra event – check the map. If you see any section names like those described above – beware. It’s gonna hurt. Maybe scar you for life.
I’ve also determined that God doesn’t really like how trail runners destroy their bodies by running ridiculously long and hard in the mountains. How else would you explain these strewn along the course throughout the day:
Being forced to agonizingly climb over and under felled trees in the middle of a FIFTY MILE race is God’s punishment for trail runners.
When you are wandering trails in the wild for long periods of time your mind inevitably drifts down strange paths. Meaning at some point along the way you start to go a little bit crazy. Yesterday I started to lose it at about mile 20. I’d gotten into a rhythm on a down hill section and found myself all alone on the trail – not a soul in front nor behind me.
I thought I was either winning or lost.
Those of you who have ridden or run with me are now chuckling to yourself and saying matter-of-factly to the computer screen “you weren’t winning.” Thanks for that, but the point I am trying to make is illustrative of what a lonely wilderness trail and suffering can do to your mind. For a brief moment I actually wondered if I really was winning. Trail running is hallucinogenic that way.
When finally I saw someone on the ridge line ahead of me I realized I wasn’t winning [sigh], but thankfully wasn’t lost.
Then not long after the realization that I wasn’t winning I started noticing a repetitive swishing sound occurring with each stride. It sounded just like the [ahem] larger lady in panty hose who walks swishingly around the office. I was horrified. Here I am running a 50 mile trail run and I think my inner thighs are swishing against each other. Look away! I’m hideous.
After a 5 minute ballet of gyrating, probing, and adjusting to isolate the sound I figured it out. It was the number bib rubbing against my shirt – I’d only started to notice it when I began to lose my mind after 20 miles. Once I’d gotten over my panty hose panic I didn’t notice the rubbing the rest of the day. No, I had bigger things to worry about – like the throbbing of my entire body and the lake of fire and brimstone in my stomach.
The Rumble in the Jungle
Even with all the events I’ve done (marathons, ultra-marathons, bike races) I still haven’t figured out a race diet that doesn’t make my stomach completely sick. Yesterday was the worst day of all. Starting at the Rock Canyon aid station (mile 10) all the way to the Windy Pass aid station (mile 41) I was suffering from a ridiculously foul stomach. No matter what I ate my stomach grew more upset. Unfortunately everyone running around me during those 31 miles was also suffering from my foulness. Suffice it to say my farts were prodigious and would make a bovine blush. In addition to the toots, my burps were EPIC. My fellow runners had to think they were running with Shrek.
Needless to say I am hopeful that Keyes’ pending CarboRocket wonder juice will be the elixir that will once and for all solve my race day stomach issues.
After running off the ridge line down into Hobble Creek Canyon we began the long climb to what would be the race high point – geographically, certainly not physically or emotionally. We’d be spending the next 12 miles climbing up 4,000 feet to the course summit at 9,450 feet. Doesn’t sound too bad I guess – except for that almost half of the gain would happen on the last 1.25 miles up Bozung Hill [wretch].
As I was prepping for my ascent (you know, sun salutations, animal sacrifices, etc.), a guy runs up to me and asks “do you know where this Bozung Hill is?”. Pointing across the way to the monstrosity with people strewn like little ants up and down the face I said “it’s that beast, right there.”
“Son of a BITCH!” he yelled. Then bent over, put his hands on his knees and just shook his head.
Putting that hill at mile 39 is ridiculously cruel.
Sam had invited a couple of our friends (Jason, Josh, and Sam’s brother) to come pace us from mile 33.5 to the end – including Bozung Hill (we didn’t tell them what lay ahead). While running Jason’s wife called and asked what it was like.
“Hell on earth” he replied.
Sam’s brother was so cooked after climbing Bozung he opted to belly slide down the snow on the opposite side of the summit rather than run down the steep 200 yards to the aid station. Suffering makes people just a little crazy.
At the foot of the behemoth (hard to see the people slowly working their way up the ridge line towards and up the sliver of snow on the left):
And on the snowfield:
I was going so slowly up this climb, one painful step after another, that my Garmin kept auto pausing because it thought I had stopped. After about the thousandth bee-boop from the device telling me I’d stopped I shouted at it “I. AM. STILL. MOVING. DAMMIT!”
Clearly, I’d totally lost my mind by this point.
At the summit (apparently gasping for all remaining oxygen):
It took me over an hour to ascend the 1.25 mile Bozung Hill, but once at the top I knew it was a 4,000 foot descent to the finish. My goal all day was to finish in twelve hours. I was on pace until I hit Bozung Hill – then there was no hope. Reevaluating I set a new goal to try to get in before 6 PM and still salvage a 12 in front of my finish time. Going down is my strength so I felt I had a shot. Then we hit the snow and mud on the north face of the descent and everyone slowed to safely navigate the steep snow pack and slippery mud.
Once through the snow pack I knew I had to move and started barreling down the trail, desperate to get in before 6. I started hollering 50 yards out asking runners ahead of me if I could get by – all of them were so great, they’d move to the side and holler their encouragement. Trail runners are good people.
I turned on some of the most adrenaline pumping songs on my iPod:
It’s a Long Way to the Top – AC/DC
Wild Side – Crue
Megalomaniac – Incubus
Baba O’Riley – The Who
I was clocking 7.5 to 8 minute miles for about 4 miles and was MOVING!
Until I wasn’t.
In my haste I didn’t see a nefarious root sticking up from the trail. I rolled my left ankle on it and couldn’t arrest the fall. I rolled twice down the trail proper and then bounced off and down into the steep scrub off to the right. I felt like Brer Rabbit in the thicket. Only I didn’t really want to be there. No, not so much.
Bee-boop. Auto pause.
I really hate that Garmin auto pause feature.
The fall took most of the wind out of my sails and the fast descent after 47 miles on the trail had completely imploded my quads and feet. Try as I might I couldn’t get back to 7.5 minute miles and involuntarily slowed to a 9.5 minute pace down to South Fork Road where I knew I would be seeing theWife. The toil of the day mixed with the thought of seeing her, bubbled tears to the surface more than once. When I finally saw her silhouette coming up the canyon road, arms raised shouting her encouragement, I let out a jubilant whoop and likely got back to that 7.5 minute pace covering the distance to her. She rules. It was SO good to see her.
She ran the last couple of miles down the canyon with me and watched as I finished in 13 hours and 24 minutes. I’d missed 6 o’clock by 24 minutes, but was so happy to finally finish an ultra running event that it didn’t really matter.
Sam who had literally run only 150 miles in prep for the race and had just recovered from tearing his calf 2 months ago finished 38th at 11 hours and 17 minutes. He is either semi-bionic, a mutant, or both. The kid amazes me. He beat me by two hours at Leadville, now two hours at Squaw Peak – I am going to start timing him when he mows his lawn or washes his car to see if he beats me by two hours in those events as well.
Me and Sam at the finish:
My feet and legs at the finish – those aren’t leggings folks. That is the grime of pain and suffering:
Me at home – my youngest took one look at me and wouldn’t come any closer. Can’t blame him really, I was looking pretty awful. You can see the carnage from the duster on my leg, elbow, and shoulder:
Squaw Peak 50. Check.
Had the pleasure of running a bit with Grant Holdaway. If you ever feel like you just can’t do something, you should read up on Grant. At 79 years old he was running Squaw Peak yesterday. Grant was one of the reasons I wanted to try the Wasatch 100.
Here’s what I wrote in an earlier post about my first experience with Grant:
You want to know why I twice toed the line of the Wasatch 100?
It’s because of the 70 year old man who came across the finish line 30 minutes past the 36 hour cutoff time. Shuffling along, bent over at the waist from exhaustion, but determined to cross that line. The rest of the finishers and their families were already spread about eating the post race dinner, sharing stories of their two days of suffering on the trail. A collective hush came over the entire crowd as eventually everyone began to notice what was playing out at the finish line behind the post race scene. The hush quickly turned to rousing applause and cheers as the crowd stood to give everything they had to help will that man across the line. It didn’t matter that it was unofficial. He finished. He inspired.
Grant moving along, one step at a time. Werd: