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2018 Races…TBD!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Hokey Pokey: A Pocatello 50 Race Report

Oh good lord, we had a fabulous weekend.  The Pocatello 50 Mile has two new lovers: The Git 'er Dunmores (I can't take credit for that one, Vishal S. gave us that awhile back :)).

How can we sum up the Pokey 50?  Beautiful, tough, steep, gorgeous, tough, amazing, beautiful, hip-flexor-killing, calf-screaming, gorgeous, and top-notch.  Did I happen to mention it is beautiful?

An artistic rendering of the course via the race website

Geof and I opted to stay in town at a hotel the night before since we're big fans of sleep the night before a race, and we were pooped from a busy week.  We made it to the pre-race meeting 10 minutes late but in plenty of time to get the scoop on the course as RD Luke Nelson described it section-by-section after the meeting.  Very helpful stuff.  I was sufficiently anxious afterward.  Bushwhacking?  Running up a stream bed?  Glissading down from the highest point on the course?  Hot?  Stairmaster steep climbs?  I was having flashbacks to Zane Grey 2012 :)  

Bring it.

We managed to arrive at about 5:45 race morning (which is when we needed to be checked in by) but the parking lot was full, so we were directed to park further down the road.  We parked at the first lot we came upon, and then began walking back towards the start area 1/4 mile back when a shuttle bus pulled up, whew :)  Pulling into the start area we had maybe 3 minutes left so we checked in, pinned on our bibs, wished good luck to the LEWIS!es, and took our place in the clump of 105 shivering 50 milers; it was somewhere in the upper 30s at the start, brrrrr.  With little fanfare we were off!  

My hands were numb, it was so cold!  The running felt good and very easy as we made our way up the road to the trailhead.  The climb up Gibson Jack was welcome and needed in order to warm up.  We picked our way up through the train once on the single track and settled into a good rhythm.  No need for headlamps as the sun was out by 5:30 a.m.  As it reached its warming rays into the canyon we were climbing out of I began to get the feeling back in my hands, and my heart was swelling as I took in all the beauty surrounding me.  Idaho is beautiful!  And rugged!

Top o' the morning!  Heading up the first climb after leaving Mink Creek Rd./Start
Photo Credit: Mary McAleese

Eventually the climb ended and we ran through a narrow path cut into a mountain side bursting with the happy yellow petals of arrow leaf balsam root.  It was rolling and perfect: wild flowers all up in our grill on the left, and the wide expanse of the Bannock and Pocatello mountain ranges stretching out forever to the right.  The sky was so insanely blue it looked Photoshopped, even at six in the morning.  

What goes up must come down.  Including a Dunmore.

Before we reached the first mile, I bit it.  I don't know what I tripped on, but I went down fairly soft, thankfully, but then began to tip backward down the steep slope when Geof ran up and grabbed my arm to lift me up.  That got my heart racing!  I promised myself that would be the only time I did that, and I held to that promise :)

We hadn't yet encountered any mud, and Geof mentioned I had a new spot on the back of my left calf upon leaving the 8.3 mile AS. I stopped to inspect, and as I tried to flick it off and couldn't get it to budge, I thought, "tick."  I got it off finally, including some skin and inspected the area to make sure I got all I could see and it appeared fine.  I told Geof to remind me of this in case I started acting goofy in the next couple of weeks :)  Still not sure what it was, but I'm fairly certain it was a tick.  That's a first for me.

How about a few things about this race that really rocked?  First, organization.  One of the most organized races I've done to date (Javelina Jundred being the best I've ever experienced)...no rock was left unturned, no need was left unmet, no hope was left wanting.  So, huge thank you to Luke Nelson and Jared Campbell for their amazing efforts, and to the fricking awesome volunteers who were always on top of their game and knew what I wanted before I even knew.  Thank you, thank you!  Also, P50 went cupless and gu-packet-less this year and gave each runner one of those snazzy UltrAspire cups to use at aid stations, as well as our own gel flask to refill at aid stations with the race-provided First Endurance EFS gel.  I hadn't ever used EFS before but I was willing to give it a try.  Just in case, I packed 8 Gu gels in my pack, though.  I'm glad I did.  I used the Kona Mocha flavor EFS for the first 5 hours and decided to bag it after my diaphragm felt like it was on the verge of cramping pretty much that entire time, and my head got really fuzzy.  I love, love, love the flask idea, though.  Next time, I'll just pack my own flasks with Gu in them...I'm a Gu girl; it's what works for me right now.  The race also opted to hand out P50 Buffs this year, rather than t-shirts.  You could purchase a shirt if you wanted one (and they looked really good, so I sort of wish we got those instead :)).  The Buffs are great, though; what distance runner couldn't use a nice Buff?  

Back to the race...Geof was moving really well the first half of the race, and it was all I could do to hold on.  He would push up ahead thinking I was right on his tail when in fact I was holding on for dear life way out of sight :)  Once I figured out the EFS was most likely my issue, and switched to Gu and began chugging Coke at each aid station, I came back to life.  I was powering the climbs, but sucking it up on the flats and downs for the first bit, but knew it was only a matter of time before life would return to my head and lungs and I'd be back in fine form.  

But first, we bushwhacked.  

The climb up Slate Mountain is a b***h of a climb to 6,980 ft.  Almost 2,400 ft of gain in a couple of miles, and without a trail to follow.  I'm glad it was still cold because that heavily exposed slope would be snake heaven in the heat of the day!  We picked our way through cacti, small boulders, wildflowers, scrub, and all sorts of scratchy stuff at an epically slow pace.  It looked and felt as though we were all moving in slow motion.  My heartbeat was in my ears and my hip flexors began to burn for the first time ever.  It was steep, but certainly not the steepest climb of the day by any means.  That was still to come.  We reached the saddle of Slate and picked our way across a precarious ridge of boulders and pointy things with a steep drop on either side of us.  At 11.4 miles in, we reached the top of the first major climb of the day and now it was time to run all of that and then some back down into City Creek AS.  Now my quads were screaming as we descended the steep and rocky jeep trail.    

I was feeling off still as I had yet to figure out I needed to stop using EFS, but as I popped my first salt tab of the day, Mark Heaphy and another guy ran past me and I jumped at the chance to hang onto a legend.  Suddenly I had life again and we were movin'!  Geof was a little ways ahead and when he turned to look and see what all the commotion was (we were making a racket, dust flying everywhere), he moved aside and then jumped in behind me.  Mark led our little train the remaining couple of miles down into City Creek, where I proceeded to pound my first UltrAspire cup of Coke, and then another.  I also filled my hydration pack again, just in case.  I never did run short on water, but we were warned heavily to leave every aid station with more water than we thought we'd need.  So I did :)

 Following Mark Heaphy's lead...navigating the steep and rocky descent into City Creek AS at mile 16.9
Photo Credit: Mary McAleese

The next section was going to involve a few miles and 2,500 feet of gain, with the final 1,400 feet in less than a mile, to the top of Kingport Peak (7,222 ft).  The first little bit is an awesome singletrack trail that runs through beautiful shaded and green forest with the creek running alongside the trail.  Rolling and very friendly, and then suddenly it's not so friendly.  Hiking up a gnarly stream bed (not flowing, by the way, just wet in some sections but easily avoided or hopped over) strewn with huge rocks and small boulders.  Tricky footing, but not horrible, just fun :)  The whole time you're climbing, but it's nothing to write home about.  

Until it is.  

The last .8 or so miles is ridiculous, and I can't imagine climbing up this section in a snowy/wet year!  How can I describe this part?  I was using my hands much of the way up the final pitch, and leaning so far over that I could see between my knees at one point.  Momentum was the only way up, and stopping to catch your breath was not an option.  Except for one chick who did just that right in front of Geof, and suddenly.  Picking our way around her proved sketchy at best.  Falling backwards would mean not stopping until you hit a large object at the bottom, a very long way down.  Nearing the top, my heartbeat once again in my ears, wheezing, and feeling like the life had been sucked out of me, we heard the most comforting race sound of all: the cowbell.  "Get moving!  This isn't the Air Force, this is an ultra!"

Oh sweet, humanus spectatorus!  

A little downhill, a little more climb, and then some fantastic downhill back into Mink Creek at mile 32.5.  This aid station was awesome!  Tie dye, bumpin' music, great volunteers, and our truck!  The spot we parked in turned out to be the parking lot of this particular aid station.  If we had known that we would have planned to use it somehow, but, alas, it was merely a nice surprise and we didn't need anything from it so we just refilled packs, reapplied sunscreen and kept moving.  The final section of the course would put us atop the highest point in the race, Scout Mountain, at 8,710 ft. and would involve 3,500 ft of gain in ~4.5 miles.  Not bad, just relentless.  

We began walking the initial incline through the box canyon that was supposed to be really hot, windless and exposed, by all accounts overheard, but on this day it was quite delightful.  Turns out, this is the best weather the race has ever had.  Booya.  A nice cool breeze was blowing and trees were providing excellent shade at spots along the initial ascent.  It was quite tolerable and lovely, but enough of a pitch to keep us somewhat conservative types from pushing too much at that point.  Eventually, the climb began to feel interminable.  Since I was feeling really good by now, I decided to push a little.  I eased into a trot and Geof followed suit.  "Run to the next big shady spot," "Run to the next set of ribbons," "Run to that rotten log," "Run to blue leg sleeve guy," and so on.  It worked pretty good, and soon enough we were running longer and longer portions.

Then the altitude, of all things, began to settle in a touch.  I was feeling a bit light headed, but it was nothing a little caffeine couldn't fix.  As we climbed higher and higher it got prettier and prettier, rockier, more shaded, then less shaded, from warm to cool.  At the South Scout AS, mile 38, we were greeted by the most knowledgable volunteers I have ever encountered, and for a backcountry aid station that had to be hiked in 2 miles, they had everything you could have wanted at that point.  Impressive.  I drank two cups of Coke, refilled my water again, and then we inched our way up the remaining portion of Scout.  The trail became a wide jeep track fully exposed and climbing at a decent pitch.  The footing was pretty rocky, but since we were walking at this point it didn't matter.  We were treated to an excellent view of the Bannock range once again, and began to see patches of snow as we climbed.  There had been mention of glissading from the top and I was working to minimize my anxiety around such a thing.  Reaching the saddle of the climb, there was an enormous snow bank to hike through, and as I weighed my options (stay on my feet and risk slipping off the side of the mountain, or slide on my ass to the other side of the bank) I sat down and scooted my way down the other side.  That was fun!!  Nothing major, but certainly nothing I'd ever done before.  A good test glissade :)  Of course, in my mind, we were going to have to slide a mile down the face of a steep mountain on our butts and self-arrest with nothing more than our bare hands and maybe an elbow.  Needless to say, this was a silly assumption :)  The final climb to the top of the peak was a nice rolling run along the ridge.  Then began the glorious 4.5 mile descent.  

The north side descent of Scout was awesome single track with some snow on either side of us, which gave you the option of glissading, but we opted to run the trail instead.  It was steep at first, but nothing we couldn't handle.  As the trail dipped back down below tree line we had one last snowbank to negotiate, and I didn't hesitate to drop to my butt and slide down it.  Stopping meant dunking our feet into a muddy, mucky mess, but boy was that fun!!  Gives you an appreciation for what Jared does, on his feet, at 5:53 into THIS.  Yeaaaaa.

After descending along some of the most beautiful forested single track I have ever had the pleasure of running (are you sensing a theme of beauty here?), we made it into Karl Meltzer's Big Fur AS at mile 47.1.  With less than 5 miles to go (oh yea, this is a 53 mile race :)), I was sensing the blinders coming on and smelling the barn.  One last water refill and another cup of Coke and we were good to go.  The next mile was run on road, but it was actually quite welcome at that point as the final few miles would be run along rutted and overgrown nordic trails.  A final 700 foot climb and then subsequent descent back down to Mink Creek, and a 1/4 mile jaunt on the road.  Once we finished the descent I asked what our time was...my Garmin had died at mile 47.  Geof announced 12:27.  "We're finishing under 13 hours!" I exclaimed.  And the pedal was put to the metal.  UltraSignUp had projected a 12:55 finish for me and there was no way I was going to let them be right :)  We cranked it up a notch, hit the final road section, rounded the corner to the campground, and crossed the line in 12h:36m:13s, alongside blue leg sleeve guy.

Holy crap, that was rewarding!!!  Tenth woman, and right smack in the middle of finishers.  I'll take it.  There were 105 starters, but just 86 finishers.  The conditions were the epitome of perfection, the organization was top notch, and the day was just what I was hoping for.  And I got to prove UltraSignUp wrong yet again ;)

Geof and I absolutely loved this race and we were talking about running it again before we even finished.  Next year's race is on June 7 and I'm guessing we'll be there :)

Full results HERE.  They also host a simultaneous 50k and 20 mile run, so if you're not up for the full 50 just yet, there are other options :)  Post race they had a huge buffet of delicious eats including chili, soups, baked potatoes, a quesadilla bar, desserts and drinks.  We chowed some chili before heading out to seek out a warm hotel room and a hot shower.  Camping is available all weekend, but we were ready for creature comforts after a long day in the woods :)

Make sure to stop by Snake River Coffee at some point while you're in Pocatello...awesome, awesome coffee! 

Thanks to our RecoFit Full-Leg Compression Sleeves, our legs are feeling pretty darn good today, and thanks to my RecoFit ArmCoolers I avoided sunburn and kept comfortable all day long.  Those arm sleeves are a godsend in long races...kept me warm during the chilly start, and cool during the heat of the day.

Upon reflection, this race has me curious.  I feel like I finished with much still in the tank...like I could have left a lot more out on that course.  I can do better :)  I enjoy these mountain races as they really put you to the test.  I don't get caught up in placement or times (until close to the end ;)) and am simply out there to test my endurance and my grit.  PRs aren't in question yet as I'm still new to mountain running and am building up my resume. I'm testing the waters and seeing what I'm capable of.  As I get more and more comfortable with all of this I'll also get more comfortable pushing it more and more...and I'm terribly excited to see what I can do.  Man, I love running.  And the mountains.  And running with my man.

Next up, Speedgoat 50k.  And I look to prove UltraSignUp extremely wrong :-)

Paige, out.


Dirty Running said...

Great job on the race. I always love all the details of your race reports.

Unknown said...

Fun write up! Nice job out there. See you at Speedgoat

Johann said...

Wow, awesome run and report! Well done! Looks like an event I would love to do. Thanks for sharing all the details!

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