It’s been a couple years since I left IMTUF. My life was getting a bit too hectic and I needed to focus on family and making Standhope a great race. This year, I set my sights on running SMUT & RONR as good early summer trainers in preparation for this grueling 100 mile race. I felt very confident going in that I would have a good performance. Here is the story.
I left Dietrich midday on September 16th, stopping in Nampa to grab my gear and a quick visit with the family. I drove up to Burgdorf Hot Springs, getting in around 8 PM. I ran a quick streak mile (I had a week left at this time), spotted a couple moose, and got my stuff ready for the race in the morning. The forecast was for very nice weather, and I enjoyed the prospect of running the scenic crestline trail under a full moon. Little did I know what the mountains had in store for me.
I woke up around 3 AM to use the restroom, and realized my bladder in my running pack had leaked gatorade all over my warm clothes that were with it. I was not at all happy. After getting everything wrapped up in a towel to dry, I never really fell back asleep. the nighttime miles of the race would prove tough, I could already tell.
Burgdorf was a frenzy of activity before the race. I had a big breakfast, grabbed some coffee, and soon found myself surrounded by many more runners than we had those first couple of years (32+90=2016 race field size). Jeremy bugled on his elk call, and we were off.
I did a good job of running my own race, letting a substantial number of people pass me early on. I ran many of the early miles of the race with Caleb Zurstadt, an accomplished ultrarunner from McCall who spends many of his miles deep in the Frank Church. I was cruising along carefully, knowing very well the mountains we would tackle later on in the race. I made good time to Chinook, averaging about 5 mph.
After leaving Chinook (mi 17), i meandered south to Willow Basket Junction again. Doug and Vicki were there with big smiles and encouragement for the climb coming up. I packed up some nutrition for the long haul to Upper Payette Lake, and headed uphill. This climb isn’t too awful, but it does take a long time. I hit the first marathon of four during this stretch. Some nice photo ops during this stretch.
I made it over Diamond Ridge feeling great, but noticed the clouds were starting to roll in. I heard a runner say we might have rain on Sunday, which I wasn’t too worried about. I found some cell service on the way down from the ridge, and had a nice chat with the family. It was hard not having them there with me, but I knew my wife wouldn’t want me coming home without making it to the finish. So I continued on. I reached the water drop at Warren Wagon Road after a long descent, and continued for a couple flat miles to Upper Payette Lake. It took me about 7:30 or so to get to this point.
It was apparent by the time I got to UPL there was some weather rolling in. The volunteers there got me squared away for the long 11 mile stretch to Duck Lake Trailhead, and I grabbed my Standhope jacket to deal with rain if need be. I was feeling pretty good still, and left the aid station running. It was not more than 20 minutes from leaving the aid station I started to feel the sky sprinkling on me. I was happy I had my jacket. The rain fell pretty steady for a couple hours. Not my favorite, but it kept me cool and allowed me to run much more than I think I would under blue skies. The rain allowed for some pretty dramatic colors as well. I saw Howie Stern out taking photos at Duck Lake and reasoned that I must not be far from the aid station. I pulled in around 4 PM, and the rain did not stop long after. I was happy for a reprieve from the weather and focused on some faster miles on Lick Creek Road.
I ran into my dad and he got me a hot breakfast burrito. Snowslide Trailhead was awesome. Manned by Jesse Demoss and company, I felt appreciated with the patriotic theme. They had PULLED PORK that would make a vegan join the dark side. Happy and fueled up, I looked forward to the massive climb up and over Snowslide lake and down to Lake Fork. Greeted with plenty of sunlight, the view up there was to die for.
I had a good opportunity to make a phone call at the top of this steep climb. Said goodnight to the wife and kids, and I was on my way. This is another long section, with 9 miles to go from Snowslide Lake to the next aid station. I pushed the pace a little to bank on the rapidly receding daylight. I turned my headlamp on around 8:30, and the weather started sprinkling again during this stretch too. This was a tough stretch for me. I was lonely, not feeling the greatest after running 50+ miles, and literally didn’t see another person for 3 1/2 hours. I looked forward to picking up my pacer Randy Thorn at Lake Fork aid station.
I pulled into Lake Fork around 9:30ish. My dad and Randy tried super hard to get me to keep moving, but I knew I was too sleep deprived for that to be in my best interest. I sat in a recliner chair for 15 minutes, and felt much better after that. My heart sank though, when I heard the weather report for the evening over the radio: “70% chance of rain on Saturday night.” Having waterproof clothing was an absolute necessity now. I was about to grab a big garbage bag for the next 25 miles, but RD Jeremy Humphrey was gracious enough to lend me his waterproof jacket (Thank You so much by the way). This is basically the only way I was able to handle the next section of the race.
THE CRESTLINE TRAIL
I was happy to have some company for the rest of the night. This would be Randy’s first time running all night. Even though he is my dad’s age, he is a solid runner and stayed strong all night long. The climb from Lake Fork over Fall Creek Saddle is brutal. It is steep already, and navigation was hairy with all the rain. There were glowing LEDs all over this portion of the course, and proved invaluable with the weather we had. Randy and I made it to South Crestline Aid Station, and I grabbed some food and ginger for my angry stomach. I don’t know why, but my stomach was not the happiest the entire race. I think it was because I was eating so much solid food and not enough fiber. At any rate, I made a point to leave the aid station quickly, worrying about locking up and having to stretch the muscles out again.
This was arguably the worst night of my life. We had constant rain: too warm for snow, too warm for sleet. I was dripping wet. The brush would completely cover the trail, soaking you as you pushed through. The puddles were hard to see, soaking your feet in ice cold water. Over the high ridge passes, it was windy and foggy. All night long was like this. I do have to say though, Box Creek Aid Station was incredible. Tons of warm food and a fire, I’m sure that more would have DNFed here if it wasn’t a remote hike-in aid station. The volunteers had nice goats to help pack. I show my respect with a picture (Randy too):
From here, it was a long 6 miles to the North Crestline Trailhead. I experienced a substantial low as I became too sleepy to keep walking straight. Vivid hallucinations, poor Randy saw me at some of my toughest moments. I took a few minutes to sit on the trail and rest. When the lights of the aid station finally came over the hill, emotions overpowered me. I spent a good few minutes there in an emotional wreck. It was 5:50 AM, daybreak would not be far. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to recover. I finally got out of there, and began the long descent to Upper Payette Lake. My dad would pace me to the end of the race.
I was very happy to get cell reception on the way down to UPL. It was empowering to hear my wife’s voice after that brutal night. I was running well, but definitely feeling the effects of 80 miles of tough terrain. I passed Emily Berriochoa and other runners. After crossing Warren Wagon Road, I spotted my close friend Wildman Willet’s car parked in a parking turnout. I banged on his car really loudly and ran off, amused with myself. He appreciated my mischievous attitude. He helped get me squared away at Upper Payette Lake before the last big climb: Bear Pete.
Going into UPL I was back in serious race mode. My dad and I worked on picking other runners off. I know I’m a strong finisher, and hoped to pass at least 10 people before the finish. I came pretty close I think. Bear Pete tried to destroy me though. It is a tough climb, but everything feels tough after 90 miles, so you just kinda deal with it. It’s ultrarunning, it’s supposed to suck and feel awful-and that’s why it makes you better. I check in at Cloochman Saddle and saw old friends Mariah Crump and Hannah McClure. I pressed on. Bear Pete Mountain was stunning, and I even got some good pictures:
I worked hard to push to the finish. I was very, very tired at this point. I caught Brent Crumley at one point, but he passed me and I never saw him again. After what seemed an eternity, I reached the very, very last aid station on Bear Pete mountain. I grabbled some breakfast goulash and plummeted down the mountain. Out of nowhere, the sun started shining, and it was a beautiful day. I ran faster and faster, and soon Burgdorf was within sight. Wildman joined my dad and I as we crossed the finish line. I am completely overjoyed at this point, stumped at the fact I made it through that unexpected terrible weather. 31:33:16 is my final time. Jeremy presented me with not just a belt, but a testament to the life I’ve endured the last couple years. I’m happy I’m coming out of a storm, and into a life that is happy and joyful.
Here’s my compilation of GoPro footage I gathered during the race. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/Nu2AlEeOFRw