I signed up for this race in the middle of last year. It is a lottery so you have to register early and hope you are chosen to compete. Fortunately for me the 55K distance is not too hard to get into. When I looked at my race season I didn’t really put all my focus on this race. I mainly trained hard through the spring with the Silver State 50k (Review Here) in mind. After racing Silver State and feeling like it was about as successful as it could be I naturally eased off training and started doing other summer things like camping as well as spending weekends working on a camper van project. I looked back at the 4 weeks leading up to race day and noticed my average weekly milage was just over 30 miles a week… *gulp*.
The main reason I chose this race was because in 2014 I raced it and despite getting 2nd place overall I had a “horrible” race. I know that sounds lame, but the truth is I did not race smart. I raced like a novice. I felt it was time to give this race and challenging course another effort and to run it the way I knew I should have. In 2014 I started out guns blazing, didn’t eat enough and hadn’t focused on the long climb in the second half of the course.
I woke up at 3am on race day, ate my standard oatmeal, nuts and a banana along with a strong cup of coffee. I caught a ride with Jeff and Randy who were also racing. At the start of the race I chatted and shivered with the other racers until the gun went off. I usually try to stick with the leaders, but one guy, Calum Neff quickly darted into the forest. I knew better then to try to push myself into an uncomfortable pace by trying to keep up. So I stuck to a more controlled but steady effort. We quickly started catching 100 mile distance runners who started one hour before us. I passed a few stragglers but the traffic got thick on the single track descent into the red house loop. I yelled “On your Left!!” about 100 times before I hit the aid station. This part of the course could be so much fun if it wasn’t for the herds of runners. Luckily they were all super cool and quickly got out of the way as I bombed by them. People started giving me updates to the runner in front of me. I remember one guying saying he was “quite a bit ahead of me” which made me realize how fast he must have covered that first climb and descent. I stuck to my plan though and didn’t let it discourage me.
Running through the red house loop portion of the course was fairly uneventful. One thing I made sure to stay up on during the race and especially early on was drinking and nutrition. I forced myself to drink an entire bottle of water in between each aid station. Early in the race when it is cool and you are already hydrated it is hard to do this but it pays dividends later in the race. So even if I had a sloshy stomach or got a side ache from too much water, which didn’t happen. I was far more willing to deal with that than to suffer with all that comes from dehydration or bonking. In hindsight this is what made my race. I timed the frequency of eating gels to be every 1/2 hour or 45 min. Drinking and fueling properly enabled me to keep the engine running hot the entire race.
As the climb from Red house to the top of Snow Valley peak started I felt good. This is the section that broke me in 2014 and I basically hiked/shuffled all the way to the top. This year was different. I was completely surprised as runners started telling me I was only 20/30 seconds back! I knew the guy in front of me is a far superior runner with some amazing results in a variety of distances. I honestly didn’t think I would see him again. My guess is that he was possibly out of his element at elevation and in the mountains as he was from Texas. Anyways, I felt bad as I snuck up behind him and he realized I was on his tail. I tried to chat a bit but thought maybe I was just annoying him so I asked to slide by. Once in front I put my head down and pushed hard. I had been running really steep hills more this year than in the past and this climb felt fairly “flat” in comparison. Training on steep hills paid off. I told myself that I wasn’t going to power hike once and made it my goal to run the whole climb this year.
After barreling over some old snow banks and pushing hard to the top of Snow Valley peak I knew it was now my race to lose. I felt really good about running so hard late in a race as traditionally I’ve always struggled with that. At the aid station at the top of Snow Valley peak and not knowing how far behind second place was I was really chomping at the bit to bomb the long descent to the finish. I have to apologize for being a bit grumpy at the workers at this aid station. I came in fast and asked for water. They weren’t entirely ready for me as I was their first runner and it took them a bit of time to get the water into the pitcher to fill my bottle. I said something like “Can you just fill my bottle so I can go?” I had been so determined up the entire climb to this point I wasn’t really in the mindset to be understanding. I just wanted to keep moving. I need to remember they are volunteering their time and to be as grateful and thankful as possible next time.
The descent went well and my body held it together for the fast descent. I could feel it really heating up as I dropped elevation and I was glad to be finishing soon. I was fairly confident of my place in the race but when you have no idea where the person behind you is you have to push all the way to the finish. It turns out I was about 25 minutes ahead of 2nd place. It would have been a bit more enjoyable to ease off a bit and cruise into the finish, but in hindsight I’m now glad I pushed hard.
I finished in 4:45:47. This beat my previous time by 27 minutes. At the finish I was greeted by Race Director George Ruiz who con
gratulated me and awarded me with a beautiful 1st place award. I also received an age group award and he told me they would be mailing me a Patagonia jacket as well. My friend Jeff finished his first race longer than a half marathon with a 5th place finish and won his age group. I think we were both pretty happy with our efforts.
I finished the day with a dip in the lake and few beers.