Grand Teton 100 Mile
September 1-2, 2007
30 hours 44 Minutes
16th out of 31 Finishers
3rd of 4 in my Division (Males 20-29)
Officially and forever the youngest Finisher of the 2007 Grand Teton 100
It’s dark and a touch cold this morning as I stand in the starting line cloud. I know a few names and had just met a few faces yesterday. It’s not what I’m used to. I have no crew, no pacer and though I know a few folks it’s not like the typical Ultra Party I’ve come to love out east. However as with any race, tie will change this I’m sure as each one of us tends to lean on one another for support on this Grande adventure we are about to share in such a small way.
I’m pretty warm, it’s warmer than I thought it would be and my arm warmers are enough to cover my fat-deprived body. I weighed in at 145 pounds yesterday, a number at which I was shocked. With my head light on and the fog from 39 exhales rising to the heavens above, we heard the command start and the game had begun.
Section A: Fred’s Mountain
1,840ft Elevation Gain and Loss
As we started up the access road I didn’t see very many lights in front of me. I looked back and saw too many behind me, I was going too fast but feeling good nonetheless. I hooked up with Clem Izurieta from Fort Collins, Co; we talked and talked as we made our way up the access road. The road traveled parallel to a gorgeous mountain with many unique geographical features created through thousands of years of erosion. We turned sharp left and made the final ascent to the top of Freds (elevation 9,840’).
At the top of Fred’s was an aid station and two EMT’s. Augie and Steve were awesome guys with TONS of energy. They almost made you WANT to go to Fred’s to start every loop. I appreciated their volunteerism and motivation throughout the race. I checked in and right out and made a quick side trip to the observation platform where I saw the glowing orange from the sun rising up from over the Grand Teton mountain range. Turning back around afforded a grand view of Idaho and its various ranges, The Big Hole Mountains and the Snake River Range.
As the access road snaked back around the top, I said hi to as many runners as I could even giving a “Good Morning” to a few as it was indeed an amazing morning. But as I continued on down the road, there it was… rising up before me in probably the most majestic display of godly works, was the Grand Teton’s. I was super excited and began to yell and hoot even pumping my fists in the air. It was the single most magnificent view I had ever seen in my life. I stopped so a fellow runner could take a few photos for me and as we did so, the sun continued to rise. A cloud shrouded the Grand Teton’s summit and as the sun rose and hit the underside of the grey matter, what appeared to be a golden rain was falling on the mountain range. For those who don’t associate themselves with a religion.. I feel for you because this place, this day and this scene was work only a god could create.
I carefully ran down the access road stopping to walk all of the steeper sections in order to save my quads from the pounding they would have otherwise received. With over 90 miles to go… I knew this journey would be tough and I had a long way to go. Just above the base area, the 50-Milers had started their race and they were no passing us. The sun, now raised enough to afford manageable daylight, I turned my lamp off and wished them all luck as they passed by. Including Bob Gentile, from Florida, who had bit off a monster piece by making this his first Ultra (or anything over a 10K in his life) distance race.
After checking back in at the Base Aid station, I ditched my headlamp and carried on with my arm warmers on. I was a complete mess in the station without my crew. Deep down I had planned to run this race as a fun adventure… a sub 28 time goal I knew was out of reach and over the top.. but sub 30 was do-able. I needed to be in and out of these stations but it just wasn’t happening. Typically my races are won there.. but this one I knew was going to have to be won with my legs and my mind.
Section B – Mill Creek (Aka. Hell On Earth)
1,270’+ of Elevation Loss
1,300’+ of Elevation Gain
I left the base area and began to walk quickly up the road which leads towards “Lightning Ridge” and places further down the mountain side. After much power walking up hill through a fabulous drainage area, we emerge near a ridge where the course dumps us off the service road and onto some single track. As we traverse the area we are afforded with great views into Idaho, seeing the valley far below. We could even see the patch of land marking the farm which was home of our “Rock Bottom” aid station.
Up and over the ridgeline, we were back on the service road and wound our way down into the Mill Creek Canyon. But before we really got into it again, there was a Water Only Aid station called Cat Ski Platform. I was now alone and the field had spread out quite a bit in just the short while we’ve been on the course. I step onto the platform and pour some water into my bottle. I looked down through the grate below my feet and noticed a creature. I froze in fright and prayed to not spook the bugger… because if I had spooked this monster Porcupine… my race was sure to have ended. I took a break from the running to watch him waddle out from underneath the platform and crawl up an evergreen. Such a cool experience.
I carried on down through the valley running into occasional runners and enjoying some conversation with them. Mostly I ran with Ernie Stolen from Ancourage, AK. He kind of reminded me of an old western prospector searching for gold. This guy could sure pound out some miles, moving a bit fast for me so I backed off a bit. We were too far away from each other to really talk as we wound through the glades of Aspen, but that was ok.. it was a gorgeous morning.
As we reached the bottom of the hill, we come out onto a gravel road. A quick look to the left and we saw one of the better views of the tetons that we had all weekend. The course turned right, running past some campsites before approaching the Ski Hill Road Aid Station. I was warm now and the day was getting hot. I reached into my drop bag which they had sitting out in the sun.. I wished another tarp or tent had been over these to keep things cool. Ever drank a warm boost or slurped down a lava hot gel pack? I did.. and it was early.
As I left the aid station we then began a 4 mile long uphill walk to the Cold Springs aid station which sat 725’ higher elevation. The terrain around us is all sage brush and open range. The sun beat down on us from above and the heat from the pavement beat us from below. It was HOT. My stomach started to do flips from the warm aid I gave myself… but I pushed on running some of the uphill for a time. I caught back up to Clem and we talked each other into Cold Springs.
After checking in and out of cold springs, we headed back into the woods where we went what seemed to be up and over 2 ridges before we met back up with the trail we had run down on earlier. From here we turned left and ran back up out of the canyon area and past the Cat ski platform, to the top of Lightning Ridge. This single climb out of the Mill Creek section was the toughest climb of the day both physically and mentally. It was the race maker for sure.
As I wound my way down towards the Base area, I mentioned to Mike Evans my stomachache. He offered some “TP” but I declined thinking I’d make it back to base. Thing was… I couldn’t. I bounded off into the woods to answer nature’s call and I used a leaf foreign to me for obvious reasons. As I got back on course and started to run, it started to BURN. I’m not sure what it was but it burned and burned bad. I checked into the Base Area station and then ran into the main lodge to wash. Thankfully this helped and I avoided another disaster. The way the day was going, I knew I needed to just take it easy and enjoy the ride.
Section C: Rick’s Basin
5 Miles – Rolling Terrain
Rick’s Basin was the one section of the course I really looked forward too each time around. A collection of service roads and single track the wound it’s way up and over various pointless ups and downs, yet gave runners a chance to stretch out and actually RUN. There was no walking down hill here, a few power hikes but nothing over exerting. I really enjoyed the basin and it helped me speed things up and maybe even make up a little time I had lost on the course at aid stations.
Before long I had finished all three sections of the course loop. All 25 Miles in 5 Hours and 46 Minutes. My target time for the loop was 7 hours at the most. I knew I needed to slow down. I took my arm warmers off and put them in my bag. I got what aid I needed and headed back up Freds… yes.. to do it all over again.
After descending from Fred’s I was welcomed into the base area aid station by Danielle. She is a good friend with my former personal trainer. It was nice to have a friendly face at the aid tent. I sat down to re-fuel myself as a young child started to chew on my camera. This was the child of Barb Lundquist, Olympic Gold Medalist who was also a pleasure to have met.
Had to rinse my hat off with the water from a nearby stream at the bottom of Mill Creek. It was insanely hot in the afternoon and very dry. Dust from the trail was in every place I could think of and getting uncomfortable. I felt like I was in a dust storm. But very cool none the less. Danielle met me at Ski Hill Rd as well and walked me into and out of the aid station. I appreciated her assistance since I had now been running alone.
At Cold Springs one of the aid volunteers asked me if I was “starting high school this week.” She obviously thought I was 16 and not 26!
I made it to the top of Fred’s in time to watch the sun set out in the Idaho side of the scene. It was beautiful I got a little choked up. Now that the sun was down it got REAL tough out there. Over 55 miles into the race and I was all by myself. No crew, no pacer. As the night wore on I grew increasingly frustrated with those who did have a pacer as they seemed to just whiz by me on the trail and out of sight.
When I reached the bottom of Mill Creek I had finally caught up with the 2 sisters who were running together. The Pyle’s from Denver. They left Ski Hill Rd before me and it took me quite a while to catch them on the road. It was neat because even though we were mid-packers we were obviously racing. Just before cold springs I caught Holly who was starting to tail off from her sister and their pacer rather quickly. When Laura saw me behind her I noticed she kicked it up a bit and her sister fell even further back.
I reached Cold Springs at 2AM where I asked if I could take a nap. I lay down but it was too noisey. Becky Clements from Salt Lake was lying down and they got her up and pushed her out. I followed as quickly as I could. Holly Pyle tried to drop at the aid station and they encouraged her on. I caught up to them not far down the trail, Holly had her shoe and sock off as she examined a blister in the night. It was 2am… and I heard her pacer say, “If you continue to run on that you won’t be walking for a week.” This annoyed me because he just cost her the race. She dropped right there and ended it walking back to Cold Springs.
As I was coming OUT of Mill Creek and back onto Lightnin Ridge I ran into Al Kader who was pacing the ridgeline. He wanted nothing to do with heading back down in there and it was comical as we both tried to laugh at how much this section of the course sucked. But he carried on. I laid down and tried to sleep back at the base Station. I slumped down in a chair and Lisa the RD covered me up. I sat there for 13 Minutes before they got me up with some soup down my throat.
I headed out into Rick’s basin where I fell asleep while running. I crashed to the ground, got up, ran to base to finish loop 3 and laid back down on the ground. Lisa yelled at me to get up and follow Becky up Fred’s. I rushed and followed but Becky was a machine (with her pacer of course) while I trailed behind. On my way up the mountain, I remember looking up to see the moon illuminating the clouds. I remembered being a child again, staring up at the clouds trying to determine what they resembled and what I saw was the PERFECT cloud Giraffe and Hippo… obviously a hallucination but it sure was fun to see these puffy creatures floating across the night sky. On Fred’s I watched the sun-rise again before heading down the mountain.
The sun was out again and I was trying my best to run in the morning heat. I caught up to a runner down at the bottom of mill creek who was suffering from an asthma attack. He asked that I not tell anyone so he wouldn’t get pulled. I knew better and I told the EMT’s at the next aid station. They gave him oxygen and he ended up pulling through good enough to finish the race.
After checking in at Base, I ran the final 5 Miles in 1 Hour 21 Minutes… which I thought was fantastic. I even passed a few folks running in the trail marathon. “Is this your first trail marathon buddy??” “Nope.. I’m actually 98 miles into my third 100.” And then to see them get frustrated and pick up the pace was fun. I finished in 30 Hours 44 Minutes… just over my time goal. I’ll take it.. only next time I won’t spend so much time in the aid stations telling jokes and trying to sleep. As I ran down the final hill to the finish line, I began to cry and sream. I raised my arms in the air, ran across and jumped into the air pumping my fist. I lept into the arms of Lisa Batchen and she cried with me. Such an amazing experience.
The course was marked to perfection. How anyone got lost is beyond me… I think a few of us could have run it with our eyes closed. Jay Batchen, Zach and Lisa Smith-Batchen are top-notch race directors. Everything was perfect. Fully stocked aid stations, mental support everything. If there was ever a 100 miler to run again and again, this is it.
I want to especially thank Lisa Smith-Batchen. Her guidance, enthusiasm and motivation throughout the race is what helped me make it through. Her publicist Colleen as well, who in a moment at night where I was home-sick, tired and on the verge of tears, lifted me up and gave me the strength to get back out there. Olga Varlamova from the Montrail Ultra-Running team was amazing support as well. She got every run in and out of the base area with what they needed.
My hats off to the other east coasters, Tony who ran his 1st 100 and Merigayle from Pennsylvania who was solid from start to finish. Al who didn’t finish in under 36 hours but still had the passion to finish none the less. And Ira, who went to bed after running a night loop with lanced feet, only to wake up and return to the course Sunday and finish the race himself. All of these folks put on magnificent performances as did my new friends Lee and George and the 2 Lori’s (Lauries?).