A couple of weeks out from the race we were informed about a course change due to a couple of fires in the area. Several features of the race were removed and Jeremy (the race director) redesigned the course to include some new destinations and challenges. From what I could tell just reading the online chatter it was going to be a tough but beautiful new course and I was getting excited.
The training had been going well. I took a somewhat radically different approach to my preparation for the race this year, thinking that one of the reasons I had issues last year was that I might have been a little bit over-cooked going into the race with some pretty substantial training that I had done. Last year I was averaging around 300 to 350 miles and 50000 ft of climbing per month for the four months leading up to IMTUF. This year I backed off significantly with only about 200 to 250 miles and 30000 ft of climbing, but also injecting some fun long outings such as the solstice 24 hr and a couple of really fun high sierra backpacking trips.
This year some friends from church, the Valencias: Joel and Kassandra and their two boys Owen and Noah decided to join us in Burgdorf for the fun. We usually plan a trip with them and this year it just made sense to combine our family trip into the race weekend as this is definitely a great place to take the kids and enjoy some new mountains!
Here are some pics of the Burgdorf setup:
|Burgdorf in the morning. See the steam coming off of the pool? And the frost? Awesome.|
|Our cabin: Mary. Joanne's favorite part is the view out the front!|
|View from the source spring pools. These pools were so hot, you could only last a few minutes!|
|This is where boys like to play. Drainage from pools.|
|This is what its all about.|
|Pre-race meeting on Friday. Photo by Joanne.|
I woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to go to the club house to sign in and get some coffee. Start was at 6. I took my coffee back to the cabin and worked on getting a good fire going for the family to wake up to. While working on the fire, I made final preparations with my running pack and visited the restroom(outhouse in this case - yay). It was getting close to race start and I was still fumbling around with getting the fire nice and hot before I decided to split. As I made my way out the back door I heard the hooping and hollering down at the start line and decided I should probably hustle. As I got closer I heard the countdown and realized I was going to miss the start! The runners took off after the horn was blown but I was weaving through all of the spectators as they turned to go back to their nice, warm cabins. No problem, there is no reason to get anxious about a few seconds in a 100 mile race... I just settled into a nice, easy pace and started catching up with the pack.
|The Willow Basket, right as the sun is coming up. This was a highlight both years for me.|
|I probably got this same pic last year: looking down into the valley we just climbed up from going to Diamond Ridge.|
|Other side of Diamond Ridge.|
|Jogging down to Upper Payette Lake aid station. Crew in tow. Credit: Joanne|
|The whole crew!|
|One of the "upper" Payette Lakes.|
|The real Upper Payette Lake.|
|Views while climbing the fire road up to the crestline trailhead.|
|Incredible meadows up on the crestline!|
|Alpine lake up on the crestline.|
I had met this man named Tom Sawyer up on the crestline and shared several miles with him. He is ex Army who was in Afghanistan and New Orleans. He showed me all of the trees that he had cut out with his chainsaw prior to the race so we could cruise the trails (he is a local who is also an ultra-runner). The crestline was really spectacular and Tom was telling me all about it. About the big fire in 95 that took out most of the trees, about the trout that were dropped into all of the high alpine lakes by helicopter back in the 80s (and were as big as your arm now). And then he told me that some day he would like to make the trails to Box lake stock passable. I didn't realize what he was communicating with me at the time, but we were suppose to be climbing up to Box lake and then up to the pass and then 3.5 miles downhill down the other side - what he was telling me was that you wouldn't want to load up a horse and go on the trails that we were about to tackle. Nice. Man those trails were tough. Usually I can make up a lot of time on the downhills in races, but I was trying to move as efficiently as possible down this mountain and then I would look at my watch and realize I was running 15 minute miles - that's basically like fast-walking pace! There would be these large step-downs where I would plant my hiking poles ahead of me to absorb some of the energy and take the pounding off of my legs. Then you would have to hop some rocks and then do a 160 degree turn at a switchback and repeat. It just went on forever. I finally reached the dirt road that would take me to the infamous snowslide trail where we were routed to go up and over snowslide pass, then down the lake fork drainage but then routed back up to Maki lake and return to snowslide pass only to then go back down to where we started - a lollipop loop. Sounds pretty straight forward - but this loop represented some of the toughest 9 miles of trail I have ever done!
|Views of Box lake from the south.|
|Box from the north.|
|Box from the sky. I mean the pass. Snow = Awesome.|
|The valley and the 3.5 mile downhill that I never saw coming!|
|Looking down at Snowslide Lake as I am climbing to the pass.|
|Other side of Snowslide pass.|
|Example of the Maki Lake "trail". Notice the pink flag in the tree. Yes, this is the trail.|
It got dark during the climb up to Maki so I flipped on my headlamp. Pretty soon I was solely navigating by the reflective tape on the course flags tied to the trees. It was all good though - some really steep climbing, but eventually I got myself back to snowslide pass and buckled up for what was sure to be a downhill slip-n-slide to remember...
Going down snowslide in the dark was an exhilarating(?) experience. Much of the time I was just trying not to fall forward and impale myself on the copious rocks. I was also trying to be careful not to kick rocks down the hill for fear of taking out other runners. It was a slow process, but I eventually got myself back to the snowslide aid station where I made sure to thank Jeremy for his wonderful work on the creation of a truly entertaining race course.
The next miles were pretty boring in comparison, just a hike up a dirt road. But it was a welcome reprieve from the fear of destruction that I had been dealing with for the previous 3.5 hours. After the Duck lake aid station there is a nice cruiser of a trail all the way to Upper Payette Aid #2 at mile 67. Well, it would be cruiser if not for all of the roots and rocks and brush. But at least it wasn't steep. I remember kicking a lot of stuff through this section, but generally making pretty good forward progress.
When I got to the aid station I was shocked to see my buddy Joel waiting for me. At 2 a.m.! He had hatched a plan to surprise me with some goodies. It was a nice boost to have him help me out at the aid station: he changed the batteries in my headlamp, got me set up with a bottle of coke to get me through the night, catered to my needs, helped me figure out where to go when I was ready to leave the aid stations - it was great -thanks Joel!
The next climb back up to Diamond Ridge was probably the toughest part of the race for me. Yes, I know I talked about some difficult trails already, but this climb just hit me at my weakest time and it was such a bruiser of a climb. Not really technical or super steep, but it was just a relentless, exposed hill climb in the middle of the night and my energy reserves were gone. I eventually plodded my way up and over the pass and then kicked more stuff all the way down to the special goat aid station. This super friendly couple pack in a bunch of supplies on goats to this remote spot in the middle of the mountains just to offer some key support to the IMTUF racers. I sat down in a chair next to their fire and got some hot soup and resupplied for the journey ahead. The nice lady wouldn't let me leave without getting a picture of me with one of her goats though. I reluctantly agreed - not being a huge fan of intimate poses in the middle of the night with large animals with horns - but I couldn't let her down! The picture is floating around facebook somewhere - you can tell I am not entirely comfortable with the situation...
I stumbled down the mountain some more, running through a couple of streams and started to get thoroughly cold. The sun was supposed to start coming up at any moment now, but man I was really hoping to get a mental boost from some extra light! The problem was that while daylight did come, I never did get to see the sun for quite a while because of being holed up in the valley. So while I knew the sun was there I was still practically freezing. I got to the next aid station and spent way more time that I should have trying to de-thaw by the fire. At this point I was picking comfort over performance - but I figured it was all part of the journey. Just get through the tough 100 miles and pick your style - and at this point I was completely fine with getting fully recharged at the aid stations.
|The next morning.|
Fortunately those miles finally did pass and I rolled down the dirt road to Burgdorf when about a quarter mile from the finish line my family popped out of the forest to pace me in! Then as Ada and I rounded the corner for the final straight-away - the Valencias were there to cheer me on and catch some video of me:
Finish Video by Joel:
|Done. And I have the belt to prove it.|