Sunday, June 8, 2008

Squaw Peak 50 - 2008

In case you were thinking I had abandoned this blog, I haven't. I've been posting on a new blog called the MRC with a few friends of mine. Anyway back to the race.
Squaw Peak was my first 50 miler back in 2006 after my good friend Leo convinced me I had to do this one while pacing him at Wasatch in 2005. This would also be my 10th "official" ultra and the 4th one this season. My body was feeling the effects of the busy spring with some bursitis in my knee and a tender tibia on my other leg. Not that these are good excuses, many runners toe the line with some kind of issue, I just knew it had the potential to make for a long day.
The forecast called for cool conditions with a chance for rain in the morning, HA! It was raining well before we started and made for some slippery climbing up to Hope Canyon. A group of us formed behind the leaders including Peter, Dave Hunt, Brian Beckstead and Shane Martin among others. I was making a conscious effort to start slower, as were the guys I was with. Since the conditions were slower this part was easy. The climbs were much like ice but with slippery mud instead, occasionally I would have to grab a branch to pull myself up.
Eventually our little group started to spread out as the rain gave way to snow and the temperature started dropping. I ran with Shane Martin for a few miles and after he eased off I caught up to "Uncle Dave" Hunt (uncle because he's wise in the ways of pacing). I ran with Dave all the way from the the Kolob Basin Overlook aid station at mile 15, where it was practically a blizzard, down to the next aid station at about mile 21. I left the aid a little before Dave and headed out on to one of my least favorite sections which includes 3 miles of pavement to aid station #6 at mile 26. The rain had subsided but it was still overcast. I glanced up at Windy Peak which we would eventually have to pass over, and it was hidden in cloud cover. Dave caught up to me shortly before reaching this next aid station and we ran in together. Karl Meltzer, was there waiting to pace Cheryl (his wife) in her first 50 miler, along with Dave's pacer Bryon Powell. Dave, Bryon and myself left together but I could only hold their pace for a couple of miles before I had to let them go. I was content to finally get to run by myself and enjoy this section that is usually very hot. I knew at this point that I was running in 9th or 10th overall but I just kept it nice and easy thinking about the brutal climb up to Windy Pass.
I went through Little Valley aid station at mile 33, fueled up and started the long climb. Last year I took off out this aid station to fast and paid for it in spades when I reached the serious climbing. This time around I kept it to a hike until I reached the long traverse which is very runnable. I felt great and my knee was feeling fine so at this point I was cautiously optimistic that I would be able to hold my position to the finish. Just as I reached the base of the steep climb the clouds began to clear and the sun came out. It didn't seem so bad at first but when I stepped on to the snow covered climb the reflective heat started to make me hot. Not only that but I left my sunglasses back at the car so my eyes were getting blinded by the light. I decided that no matter what I would keep moving, even if it was slow. The fresh snow that had been dumped earlier probably helped with the traction but the ascent up to Windy Peak was still tough. Finally I saw the pile of rocks that indicates the summit proper and knew I was just a short distance from the aid station. Even though it is downhill to the Windy Pass aid station it is still very technical and difficult. For the first quarter mile or so there isn't even a trail, so you just kind of pick your way down through the softball sized jagged rocks. I made it down to where there is an actual trail and could here the aid station crew just ahead. The volunteers at this aid station deserve special mention because everything that comes up is packed in by them, thanks guys! They filled my bottles for me and I took off on the descent. One of the volunteers, Jim Skaggs informed me that the snow lasted for about 3 to 4 miles of the 7 mile descent. No worries I thought, we've been running on snow all spring. I was able to glissade a few sections at the top and pretty much just ran over the same spots that the front runners had made in other snowy areas. I was a little cautious about tweaking my weak knee, but it was holding together fine. About halfway down I found fellow MRC member Greg Norrander hiking up taking pictures. I paused for a few seconds and he informed me that Storheim was closing on Belshaw and that Rich was about 5 to 10 minutes in front of me. I tried sending some positive vibes to Erik, hoping he could close down the gap and get the win. My knee was starting to act up, but as long as I kept it tracking straight I had very little pain associated with it. Then I hit some of the nastiest mud I encountered all day. It was the kind of mud that just keeps on sticking to itself and before you know it your shoes weigh a 2lbs. each. My knee really got sore through here but I knew I was almost done. Sure enough I came out of the trees and saw the big grassy meadow and Rich just about a minute in front of me. I was feeling pretty good and really wanted to try for a sub 10:30 but I knew it would be tight since it would only leave me about 30 minutes to run the last 3.7 miles. Rich and I ran through the last aid station together and I was all fired up to get this, my least favorite section, over with. Rich decided he needed to back off the pace and wished me luck. In my two previous races here I have never been able to run this last road section, but I had decided today was the day. Then I saw Storheim driving up in his car. He yelled some words of encouragement and I asked him if he won. He replied that he missed winning by 30 seconds! After about a mile and a half I caught up to Karl Jarvis whom I had run with very early in the day. I made sure he was alright then continued on to the finish. I knew I was getting close and I kept nervously looking at my watch to see if I would make my time. Then at 10 hours 27 minutes I could hear the crowd gathered at the finish area and that gave me an additional boost. My kids came running up to me and we ran in to the finish together. I ended up coming in 6th place in 10:29. Rich came in a few minutes back for 8th and Peter in 15th or 16th. No doubt about it, the conditions ruled the day on an already tough course. As an indication as to how tough it was, times were generally ~1 hour slower. Last year I took 19th in a time of 10:07, whereas this year I was 23 minutes slower and moved up to 6th.
Congratulations to everyone who finished a truly epic edition of Squaw Peak. Thanks to all the volunteers who also had to endure the cold, wet conditions, without your support this race wouldn't even happen. And thanks to RD John Bozung for pulling it all together.


FastED said...

Great job Christian! I had heard through Aric that conditions were tough. You're running strong, keep it up!

peter said...

As always Christian, great write up and great run. Hope you are recovering quickly. Paige and Mason made Mats and Astrid's day.

Manners said...

GREAT RACE! Hope the knee feels good. Good Luck the rest of the year!

Christian said...

Thanks guys. Anyone that finished that race should hold their head high. Excluding the Bear 100, that's the toughest race I've done yet.
Good luck in the Desert Scott, you'll do great.

Speedgoat Karl said...

All I can say is I hope it doesn't snow like that when I'm on the Appalachian Trail! It was certainly a race for the toughest runners. Squaw Peak was due for a big storm, they finally got one.

Karl Jarvis said...

Nice finish at Squaw Peak, and nice race report. I had a great 50K, it's just that last 19 miles that got me, ha. I'll see you around