Sunday, June 7, 2009
Squaw Peak 50 Mile Ultra 6/6/09
I signed up for this race as my first real technical course. I have run 4 other 50 milers, but compared to this race, those ones now seem like a cakewalk. Since I did the Buffalo run in just under 11 hours this year, I though for sure I should be able to do Squaw in less than 14 hours..... not. Now that I know the terrain, I had better start training on for Kat'cina Mosa and Bear, or I am going to get my rear deflated. The course took me just over 16 hours, but I had fun anyway, and I will be lots faster next year, cause I am going to start training on more technical trails starting Monday AM!
The race started with a pre-race briefing on Saturday night. I walked into the Hampton in, and they asked me if I wanted to sign up for the early start at 4am. Those who were expecting to take more then 15 hours could start an hour earlier. I was going to finish in fewer than 14, so I didn't. We got our cool race bags, and garb and shared a spaghetti diner while John briefed us on the course.
The next day I woke up at 3:45 and Jeff and I headed to Vivian Park at 4:15. While I was dropping off my drop bags, Jeff was helping get stuff ready to take up to aid station 8 where he would be spending the day helping until I ran in, and then he would come with me and pace me the last 17 miles of the course.
At 4:55 all the runners lined up at the Provo Parkway Trail head and waiting for the final call to start, which we did, at 5am sharp. The first two miles of the course are paved, and knowing I had a 5-mile climb after that, I decided to gain some time on those fist two miles. The next 2 or so miles were mostly power walking with some jogs across the flats to hope campground. Then there was a small downhill sprint across some trails, which I slide on, and became the one and only time I fell on my face the whole race. That was pretty good for me. But the short sprint soon became some steep uphill again, and stayed mostly uphill until the top of Squaw Peak road. I decided to do this race with no Garmin, no watch, no IPod, etc. I just wanted to see what it was like to run a race and have no idea what mile you were at, no distraction, and for the most part not know what time it was until you got to an aid station. That actually was a lot of fun, but I was worried when I got to aid station 4 and the first 14.6 miles had taken me 4 hours! That is how steep the first climb was. At that point I decided this course was such a new and different type of racing then I was used to that I was not going to try and murder myself to get under 14 hours. Instead I was going to make it to aid station 8 by 2:30, the final cutoff and then try to not worry about time as much as figuring out the nuances of mountain trail racing, and what I need to work on to get better. There was no final cutoff for the race, just that you had to get to mile 33 by 2:30 that afternoon.
The next 10 miles I made up some time on the downhill run on Squaw Peak road into Hobble creek canyon, and then on the few miles of paved road. At that point, I was really just enjoying the scenery, and the run, and not even really thinking about it. When I got to aid station 6 I was surprised that I was at mile 26 already, and had 3 hours to get to aid station 8. Then I was a bit more relieved. 7 miles? On a normal race I could do that in an hour! Not on this race. The mostly uphill climb after that took me 2 hours and 30 minutes. But I got there by 2:00 and Jeff and I were out of there by 2:10. The next 5.5 miles I took pretty easy because I know the hill that lie ahead. The 1.5mile climb to Windy Pass. One and a half miles may seem like nothing in comparison to 50, but to runners who have completed the course before, it is the most dreaded part of the course, and could take you 1-2 hours to climb it because of the 1500 ft climb. Taking the 5.5 miles easy was a good idea, and I caught up to a bunch of people by the time I started the climb, however, I power-walked the first half of the hill too fast. I have a hard time walking the hills slowly, because it feels easier to walk them fast. This hill took it out of me, and I started getting dizzy and nauseated ½ way up. The problem is, once you are on that hill you have to finish the climb because it is the only way off the mountain. It is longer to go back to aid 8, and if you get to aid station 9 at the top of the hill, the rest of the course is downhill.
I managed to get up to the pass by about 5:45…. 3:30 hours to get to the top of windy pass from aid station 8!! Ouch! At the top was Jim Skaggs, and his chocolate chip cookies, and there was much rejoicing. After that climb there was about 6.5 miles down the mountain to aid station 10. That downhill stretch is a little slow because there are so many loose rocks. That additionally slowed me down. I decided I am going to do a lot of training runs on that type of terrain because that is what slows me down too much. We finally got down to aid 10 and left for the final 3.5 miles on pavement to Vivian Park. The last stretch took me about 40 minutes because I was having problems breathing. The last uphill climb had left me with fluid in my lungs, and I was breathing like an asthmatic! I finally strolled into the park sometime around 9pm. I was to tired, I didn’t actually see what time I came in, and forgot about it until after I left the park. But judging from the fact that we left around 9:30, I think I came in between 9 pm and 9:10pm, which means the whole course took me 16 or so hours to complete.
All in all it was a really fun race, my legs actually don’t hurt that much, so I guess I can handle that terrain. When I got done the body parts that were bugging me the most were my neck, and my lungs. Not my legs! The usual night after of fitful sleep did not happen this time because I was up for so long, and working for so long, that I had no problem falling asleep. I am not even sure if I needed the precautionary Motrin that I took.
Already I can’t wait for the next race, and now I have the challenge of getting faster on trails before August, and especially before Bear in September. Looking at the elevation profile, I am expecting Bear to be twice as hard as Squaw, course-wise, and really more because it is twice the distance. Last night I was wondering why I like to put myself through these. I always saw that at the end of an ultra, but it only last an hour or two, and even then I am thinking about how to improve the next race.
Posted by Killtherun at 11:04 AM