I was feeling a bit nervous before tackling “The 208” this year. This challenge is a two-part series, consisting of a 100 Kilometer trail race (The SMUT) and a 108 Kilometer race (River of No Return). Both boast tons of vertical climb and a good bit of altitude. Added together, that’s about 130 miles with approximately 30,000 feet of climb, with 13 days of recovery between each event.
In Pocatello, I had the pleasure of Fred “Wildman” Willet and Jason Durand for my crew. Going in, I knew the weather forecast for Pocatello on race day was estimated for highs in the nineties. I strategized to start off conservatively with the hopes of a strong push at the finish. Recovery for RONR was also a paramount thought in my mind as well. It should be of note that I have successfully continued my run streak since September until this point.
June 4th at 5 AM came way too early for me. After a night of poor sleep I assumed I would have a hard time staying awake during the race. The field took off from Mink Creek Pavilion and headed up the paved road to a nearby trailhead. We saw RD Luke Nelson at the turnoff to direct us all to the correct route. I continued to climb on the Corral Creek Trail until a high point. From here much of the first 25 miles would be a gentle rolling route. I saw good friends Brian Flansburg and superstar Cody Lind at the first water drop around mile six. The course was chock full of brilliant wildflowers from a substantial snowpack this pervious winter. I felt great, munching on aid station snackerels and the occasional caffeinated gel which helped me stay alert. Here are some fun pictures I took from the first third of the race:
I reached City Creek Aid Station (mile 25) at about 10:30 AM. It was starting to get pretty warm, so I had Jason and Wildman throw tons of ice in my water bladder and a cold bandanna with lots of ice on the back of my neck. Staying cool would be my forte this day. I felt refreshed and pretty strong still, for which I was grateful. After I left City Creek AS, the next few miles would be well shaded, albeit humid. I lackadaisically made my way up the second and certainly steepest climb of the race. I shut off time in my head and mindfully floated through the lush green environment of this particular part of the course.
It was definitely warming up though. I passed runners on the way up and offered some words of encouragement to a gentleman who was having some serious doubts about finishing. I hope you made it. I slowly slogged my way up through the top of the drainage on a stairmaster grade trail until I pulled myself to the crest of a ridge. I gave out a loud roar while taking in a fabulous view:
I continued running along, throwing on some music and cruising through Midnight Creek. I did my best to estimate my running time, although I always find it a good idea to roll with the punches if they come and save any time goals for the last glycogen-fueled push towards the end. I stopped at Midnight Creek Aid Station feeling tired. I got more ice, overloaded on salt, and continued on. It was definitely a hot day out. I cruised along, and arrived at West Fork (mile 41.4) around 3 PM, about 10 hours into my race. Fred and Jason picked up a giant burger for me in town which I gobbled down quickly. It was amazing and soon had me on my 2nd wind quickly. I looked forward to the Scout Mountain Climb. It isn’t terribly steep, and you can run some long portions of it if you are feeling good. Scout Mountain comes into focus and you realize the crux of the race is soon to be over with.
After reach Scout Mtn. AS, I grabbed some more cold food and some cold sugary otter pops. Fred and Jason hiked in to cheer me on. The volunteers there complimented me on how well I looked, as they hadn’t seen any other entrants actually run to their aid station. The mosquitos realized they were in a nice spot and viciously attacked me, which was good incentive to get this tough race done and over with. It would be close to ten miles before I hit the next aid station, Big Fur. Fully loaded, I hit the trail and continued my relentless ascent of the mountain. I maintained a decent run-walk pattern until the altitude said “Nope” and maintained some 17 minute miles for a while after that. This course had plenty of cell reception on the higher slopes, so I called my wife and visited with her and my adorable kids on the phone. Before long, I was at the top of the mountain. It was great weather up there and I could have stayed for much longer.
Once I hit the top of Scout, I negotiated a tough 1,300 foot drop in one mile. After that, it was a very long descent over gentler terrain to Big Fur. I reeled in other runners while I bombed down the Scout Mountain Crestline Trail. A photographer got many shots of me while I persisted in my head “where is the aid station!” Soon enough though, I heard aid station music and people cheering. Everyone was there, and it officially was party time at Big Fur. I sat down and grabbed my food. Roch Horton always does a fine job here. He wondered why he hasn’t seen me at so many races recently, and I was quick to mention the joys of being a husband and a father. I jetted out of the aid station way too quickly at the mention of being required to take a headlamp. I had two more small hills to crush before the finish. I pushed hard on both. I caught Christine Kollar and really pushed hard afterward. My stomach grumbled and I craved a big meal and some ice cream, which had been on my mind for the last many hours. I pushed hard, and hit some of my fastest mile splits on the last descent. Mink Creek was soon in sight. I crossed the finish line in 15:34:37. I managed to pass eight people in the last twenty miles, which I was quite pleased with. You can view my performance data at this link.
I managed to hobble out some streak miles between both races, but I quickly noticed I bounced back from Pocatello pretty quickly. I allowed myself to develop a false sense of confidence that “surely, at my young age, running another tough ultra two weeks later is a great idea!” At the time, I wasn’t sure if that was the truth or not. Several years ago, I did Pocatello two weeks before the San Diego 100 and ended up running my first sub 24 on a hilly course.
My dad and I drove up to Challis the day before the race. I was particularly excited to be doing the race up there with him, considering the Father’s Day holiday was the same weekend. The afternoon before the race was spent visiting old friends, stopping in at the old office, and some easy running around my old community. It was nice to be back. I went to bed early, and woke up nicely around 3:45 AM. I was full of confidence and excited to run this small tour of Land Of the Yankee Fork.
I checked in the next morning and picked up my chip. I had the distinct honor of being able to play the anthem again. Never underestimate how seriously I take my ability on my trombone. It is a privilege to serve in a military band and I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from it. After the anthem we were off! I was already telling myself to slow down. Fred Willet was back to crew my dad and I again at this one. I told him I would see him at the first crewable aid station at 8:30 AM. I wound my way down the barely lit ATV trail on the side of Hwy 93. I chatted with friends and enjoyed the rare opportunity to use a modern bathroom at Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. From here you climb about 3,500 ft before you drop to the old mining town of Bayhorse. I spent many of these miles getting to know David Emerson from Twin Falls. David essentially matched my time at this race from 2015 (17:13), at 62 years young!!! I digress. There is a lot of vert on the Lombard trail. Once you reach a ridge after many miles the scenery of the area blows you away. You can even glimpse the far-off Beaverheads if you know where to look. Here’s the view into Bayhorse:
I was quite literally on the money when I told Wildman to meet me in Bayhorse at 8:30. I rolled in just a few seconds after. Now began the DNFer: Ramshorn Mountain. You do climb almost 5 grand before you hit the top of this monster. Last year I heeded considerable caution on this climb and did no differently this day. We had much cooler weather for 2016 though, which did everyone a favor. As I slowly made my way up, I remembered “20 minute miles are worth their weight in gold right now.” I assured my competitive ego that it wasn’t time for a real rodeo yet. The views come into play, which this little ol’ hill is good for:
You know something? I think I’m just a little off my rocker. But it’s always good to be a little goofy during these difficult races. Remembering I’m the one who signed up. It’s a tough lifestyle-but I can take it.
After I topped out on Ramshorn I carefully negotiated my next descent to Juliette Creek Aid Station (mile 30.5). Lots of easy jogging and walking, saving my legs for the big drop from Buster Lake. I was still feeling pretty good, thanks to stealing some food from Emily Berriochoa when I realized I didn’t have quite enough for the 14 mile stretch from Bayhorse to Juliette Creek. The big climb took a little over three hours and I was anxious to get some nourishment. Before too long, I found myself running down Bayhorse Road and arrived at Juliette Creek Aid Station around 12:30 PM. I was greeted by Challis local and good friend Lyn VanSchoiack and speedster Sada Crawford. Lyn was full of energy and seemed to be doing quite well after being kicked in the face by a horse not too long ago. Some of these runners are definitely wayyyy tougher than I am.
After loading up at Juliette Creek, I kissed my dry feet goodbye. There were many stream crossings on this stretch of the course. Juliette Creek trail is in bad shape. Lots of blowdowns in spite of some very recent work. The afternoon wind was really starting to whip up and would stick around for the next few hours. I did my best to stay strong on this section and push the ascent a little. I started passing more runners, which was a big moral boost.
I was starting to feel a little worn out, but it was afternoon and a little warm, so I figured I would just roll with the punches. After a steeper climb out of a grassy hillside I found myself on a ridge overlooking part of Thompson Creek Mine, a major income provider for the area. I discovered I had cell reception, so I called the family and said hi. I also had the RD’s number in my phone, so I had a little fun harassing him in my state of ultra well-being. I ran, and ran, and ran some more. David Emerson kept catching me. I was starting to be genuinely impressed, he is a very strong runner.
I arrived at Bayhorse Lake (mile 38) in very good spirits. The Wildman was there with supplies and had my dad’s breakfast burritos with him. I grabbed 3 packages of them and strategized to eat one package every 10 miles. One of my old neighbors was volunteering at this particular aid station, and it was nice to catch up. At this point in 2015 I was on my deathbed not wanting to continue on. But that day was not this day. I grabbed my food and freshly topped off water bladder and headed around the lake for Buffalo Ridge.
Once I started descending the Buffalo I caught another 208 entrant named Sylvia that I had run with a little bit in Pocatello. We chatted for a while while knocking out some pretty quick miles down into Squaw Creek. She peeled off and I continued on. I actually hit a rather low spot on this descent and rationalized it was the all the food from my burrito digesting in my stomach. One thing is for sure, one I started feeling better my energy surged.
I reached Squaw Creek (mile 48) right about at 5 PM. Brenda Dizes’ family was leaving, so I knew she wasn’t too far off (I ran a good bit of this race in 2015 with her). I was really starting to feel competitive. I chatted with Laurel at the aid station, with whom I’d worked with a little during my time in the Challis FS office. I didn’t was much time though, and was smelling the barn even considering I had 20 miles to go. I ran quite a bit of the last ascent. I was feeling very good, and smiled a big trail thrashing smile. I realized these 100K races are starting to become pretty easy, and now find myself craving more legitimate challenges that will test my true mettle.
I arrived in Willow Basket to find some nice volunteers to direct my way. I started tackling the steepest part of the last climb at this point. the singletrack wound its way through old forest and lush green meadows. I had remembered bug spray and could tell I had a cloud of mosquitos surrounding me looking for a safe spot to land (well, there wasn’t!). I continued passing people, this was definitely a trend. My metabolic fire was burning hot!
As I sensed a wind, I realized I must be nearing the crest of the last climb. A lone ATV rider greeted me at the top and signaled Buster Lake was two miles down. From here I really started to push. The countryside was gorgeous! I arrived at Buster Lake to find good friend Stein Shaw from Challis. Jeff Black was there and seemed a little bummed I had caught him. It was 7:20 PM when I left Buster Lake, and hoped I could cover the next 14 miles in two hours.
I ran into another good friend of mine, Devon Cogley, on the way down from the lake. This race was a wonderful homecoming getting to see so many familiar faces along the route. I pushed hard, and soon caught Brenda Dizes. We chatted for a few minutes, and I continued pushing hard. Most of these miles were a pathetic 9 or 10 minute pace, but I reasoned that was a pretty good pace for having already run 55+ miles!
I reached the last aid station and dropped all my gear. I pushed and pushed and smiled as I got closer to Challis. I said hi to Andy, the big percheron at Tim Kemery’s place and searched for elk on the hillsides. The sun was setting and it was a very lovely evening out. Before long, I was in downtown Challis and headed for the finish line. I sprinted across, finishing in 16:22:48, good enough for 10th in the Men’s Division. A solid race in the books and a performance I am astonished by.
Both Luke, Paul, and Neal all do great work with these events. Aid Stations, Course, Markings, etc. were solid and these races are admirable challenges. I definitely recommend both. Now, some new music for ya.