Ouch. I’d never met Karl before, but still felt it was appropriate to call him an asshole as soon as I crossed the finish line at Snowbird last weekend. That is one mean course and definitely lives up to its reputation as a “Meltzer designed nightmare.” The mountainous nature of the course was incredibly engaging throughout and a welcome departure from the relatively flat, exceptionally runnable courses I’ve raced on this year. I definitely want to improve certain areas of my training in order to compete better in these types of environments. Luckily I live in a place that provides such an opportunity.
I went into the race with very low expectations due to lingering malaise and fatigue from my Western States fiasco some five weeks earlier. My body just hasn’t felt right since which led me to withdraw from Angeles Crest, and instead opt for the “easier” 50k distance a little closer to home. The hope was simply to gain useful experience running against legendary figures of our sport and spend a weekend away with my girl, amid the therapeutic energies of the mountain running community.
I ran nearly the entire first climb with Thomas Lorblanchet, a french Salomon runner who is primarily in the States for an assault at the fast approaching Leadville 100. We really didn’t speak at all on the way up the hill but stayed close together somewhere in the top ten. The $1,000 incentive served to string the field out very early, and added an interesting dynamic to the race from the gun. By the time we got to the top I had long known that it was going to be a long day for me, but the throngs of cheering spectators, and beautiful weather was more than enough to keep my spirits high.
The ensuing downhill is a heinously technical jumble of loose rock scattered about a horribly rutted service road. Not the type of track where one can open up the descent legs. Still, I somehow managed to make up a little time on James Bonnett, Jason Loutitt and an obviously struggling TK. We entered and exited the aid station turnaround together and began the second monster climb of the morning as the mercury quickly rose to an uncomfortable degree.
I’m simply just not good enough at going uphill. This is something I plan to address in my training. Almost immediately I began losing substantial time on Tony and Jason, while I could easily see Schlarb and Clarkie gaining from the rear. I came across Tony a short time later sitting on the trail drinking water that was miraculously flowing ice cold from a rusted pipe, jutting from the mountain’s face. He appeared to be toasted but gamely sauntered off as I enjoyed couple sips and a dousing from the pipe. Awesome to see how well he rallied on the back nine. Good to have him back in the game.
As had been the case since Western, I really only had one gear at my disposal and it wasn’t a very fast one. I kept plugging away but was soon caught and passed by Schlarb whose recently developed San Juan legs looked to be moving well. Strong runner and a good guy to boot. Staying with him wasn’t an option so I hung back and continued grunting up the hill solo.
The last two climbs and descents were a blur of pain and beauty. Even though we were running around on a ski hill – which is something I’m very familiar with – I felt well out of my comfort zone. The Euro dudes remained visible for a long time and I was envious of their use of poles. I’d definitely employ a pair if I had to do it over again. The “hunch and hike” technique is rough on a tall man’s back.
The last downhill really felt like the only legitimate section of the course where I could actually find a respectable running rhythm. My feet were shredded at this point though, as I cursed my silly shoe decision with each painful step towards the finish line. I ended up 8th overall in 5:47ish. I’ll take it. Not a good day physically or performance wise, but an awesome day for the soul. My confidence is more than a little shaken at this point regarding my ability to compete at the level I want to in this sport after two subpar races. However, it was great experience to see some of the best in action last weekend and run in their company for at least a short time. Hopefully I can piece something together at Run Rabbit.
Thanks to Karl for letting me in and comping my entry. Thanks to the volunteers for all your help and hard work. Thanks to Pearl Izumi for continued support and love. Thanks to Bryon Powell for being awesome. Thanks to Snowbird for allowing me to drink several Bud Heavy tall boys in public. I’ve got to make another trip out there with my skis.
This one should definitely go on your bucket list. Fire it up.