Tuesday, September 23, 2014

IMTUF 100 Race Report 2014 - DNF

I have some catching up to do.  I need to blog about a great backpacking trip with my brother up Cone Peak in Big Sur (he fell off the mountain at one point - pretty nuts).  I need to blog about pacing my buddy John from mile 120 to 150 of the Tahoe 200!  I have felt so single minded leading up to IMTUF 100 that I just couldn't bring myself to spend the time to document some awesome adventures I have been having.  But this happens sometimes when you commit yourself so totally to a goal that all other things in your life seem to just take a back seat.  For good or for bad.  I really wanted this!  I really wanted to finish a tough mountain 100 mile race.  And this race just seemed to tic all the right boxes for me.  It was rugged - up and down mountain passes on marginally maintained steep trails.  It was beautiful - alpine vistas galore.  It had a great non-repeating loop course that covered new and exciting ground.  It had a start and finish place that was perfect for a fantastic family adventure to the mountains.  It was a low key event without hoopla.  And it was well run with great volunteers.

One might argue that an ultra-runner should attempt an "easy" hundred mile run before they go for the tough mountain hundreds (these tough ones are the courses to aspire to - for obvious reasons).  You could learn all about strategy - the art of fueling, and pacing yourself, and night running, etc.  Probably good advice - but there is a select subset of the crazies (ultra-runners) who prefer to learn through hard-ship/mistakes.  Maybe they can only learn effectively this way.  I suppose I might be one of those...

And I had no interest in putting myself through 100 miles of stupidness just to "learn" how to run 100s.  Whatever.  Let's see how this goes:

I pitched the idea to Joanne: Hey, do you think a cool family vacation would be to drive 13 hours up to Idaho to a "rustic" cabin featuring hot springs and taking care of the kids while I hike in the mountains for 30ish hours?  She said YES!  And I knew I was the luckiest guy in the world.  Or I had just racked up the biggest spousal debt imaginable, including endless foot/back massages, watching the kids for a/lot "mom's night" out, and/or limitless "bed, bath and beyond" splurge.  Who cares.  Live in the moment, right?

To be fair:  The cabin was legit.  I mean it had a bed.  Even a loft with a couple of more beds where you throw the kids.  A table.  The works.  Even an outhouse to pee in across the dirt road...The views couldn't be beat.  The Burgdorf hot springs are really nice.  There were a couple of covered 113 degree pools that spilled over into the main pool that cooled off to something a little more comfortable and then dumped out into a stream.  Crystal clear warm water.  It was really nice.  And the kids loved it.  Lots of floats for kids to play with, other kids, etc.  The one issue that we came across, and I must admit total guilt on this one, was that we couldn't get the silly stove to work.  I mean I understand the equations regarding combustion and fuel/air ratios... I know the fuel entering the chamber an the exhaust gasses leaving out of the pipe.  I took that class.  But for the life of me, I could not figure out how to make that dang thing burn the wood and make heat for us...I am sure it was a defect of the machinery and not the operator.

Anyways, I am pretty sure the family just slept in to enjoy the cozy morning while I got up at six a.m. to start running.  Every year IMTUF changes the direction that they run the loop.  This year we happened to run the loop in the "clockwise" direction, which meant that we covered the "easy" terrain first.  It was really nice running, very cushy trails with gentle gradients, reminded me a lot of northern California!  Until we reached the climb up to Diamond ridge.  It wasn't a steep climb or anything.  Not at the beginning at least.  But it would have been difficult to "run" this trail.  There was a lot of water, and a lot of bushes in the way.  But I was having a blast just hiking this section.  Then we started leaving the trees and it got steep and more fun.  The views were great.

Beautiful section along a river.

Starting the climb up to diamond ridge.  Views were nice.

I just came up that valley.   It got steep and fun at this section.

Looking down the other side of diamond ridge.  Bid downhill coming.
I crested the pass and then bombed down the other side.  This is where I started nearing in the upper payette aid station at mile 33 where I was pretty sure Joanne and the kids were going to see me.  Sure enough, as I descended the trail to the aid station I spotted a little red-headed two year old, just hanging out on the side of the trail.  I said Blake!  What's up dude?  And he screeched and joined in beside me.  Pretty soon other miniature people popped out of the trees and joined in along side as well and escorted me to the aid station...

My escort going into Upper Payette Aid Station. Mile 33.

The crew.
 The upper Payette lake aid station was a great stop where I got to get kisses from the family and refueled for my long trek up towards Duck lake.  We traveled up another valley in the middle of the day, and I was taking my time in the heat.  I could feel my legs getting a little twitchy with some cramping, but nothing unusual for this many miles in the heat of the day.

Duck Lake.

Views from Duck Lake trail.  Awesome.

Jeremy, Jeremy, and another guy.  The middle Jeremy is the race director.  Puts a TON of energy into making this race work.
 After the Duck lake aid station there was a gradual dirt road climb and then a long decent into the snowslide aid station.  This was a faster section and I ran the downhills at a pretty good clip, and I could feel the quads start to complain.  I refueled and packed up for the snow slide section.  It was going to be a really steep climb, 2000 ft in two miles, over some really rocky terrain that was made easier by using all four limbs.  It was in the hottest part of the day and I took my time up the climb.  Twenty steps up the hill, fifteen seconds bent over catching my breath, twenty more steps.  I was just barely keeping my legs from cramping up into a mess the way they did for me during TRT last year, but I was committed to taking the climb easy and looking forward to the nice long eight mile downhill on the other side.  This climb reminded me the most of the Sierra, with an incredible high alpine lake and really rocky, steep terrain.  Once I crested the pass I tried to run down the other side.  Unfortunately, the quads were no longer operating for me.  The initial decent was just as steep as the climb, and every time I tried to take a step down a one foot rock or something, pain would shoot up through my legs and I would almost buckle.  "Well, this is a new sensation" I thought to myself.  I was really wondering whether I could actually make it the eight miles to the aid station.  I felt like the body was rebelling and I would no longer be capable of getting down this mountain.  Somehow I struggled to hobble down the steep stuff until I hit a nice gentle gradient.  I tried to pick up the legs to jog it down, but they would not respond.  The quads were definitely finished.  I walked the excruciating seven remaining miles down to the aid station, getting passed by innumerable runners that showed concern for my state.  I told them I would make it.  I was ok.  Half way through the sun set and I turned on my head lamp and finally wobbled into the aid station.  They did their duty and tried to talk me into continuing, but I knew better than they did how fried I was.  And I knew what was coming up next.  If this was Western States, yes, I could have "walked" it in.  The steepest, most technical sections were coming up, along with a cold Idaho mountain night.  I didn't like my prospects and decided to call it a day.

Snowslide Lake.  Crazy climb to get here.  Crazy climb to get to the other side of the pass.

Views from Snowslide pass.

What I did instead of running the rest of the race.

So what now?  I am still trying to figure it out.  I trained as hard and as specific as I could this summer.  I was as physically prepared as I thought I could be.  But it was not to be.  I'm not unhappy, just disappointed with the results.  This isn't over.  There are plenty of miles to be run and mountains to be climbed.  To be continued...