Monday, September 21, 2020


Date: September 12, 2020.

Objective: Go 100 miles with 22,000 feet of elevation gain in 36 hours with intermittent cutoff's along the way.  

Links: Strava2020 Super CourseIMTUF 100.

The big week had come and I felt confident and ready.  Confident that I was going to be in for a long and TUF journey, and ready to suffer my way though it.  My training had been the best I could do, all things considered.  Between the summer heat and busy shifts at work leaving me with little sleep at least two days a week, I had to constantly readjust my training plans.  If I've learned one thing, its that adjusting a training plan is necessary and "powering though" just to forge ahead to stick to the "plan" can be foolish and lead to overtraining or burnout.  At least I felt like I nailed my taper.  One notable change to the race itself was that it had been moved from the normal location of Burgdorf, to Jug Mountain Ranch.  The normal even-year clockwise course had been changed to the "Super Course".  A mashup of the McCall Trail Running Classic 40 mile course and a good portion of the normal IMTUF course.  The general consensus of this change was that an already extremely difficult course got even harder.  

We were early (which means barely on time) to the start line and check in.  I navigated the typical early morning chaos of restrooms, drop bags and "yes, I'm actually starting" and was back at the car getting final preparations in order when I caught a strong whiff of some chronic smoke that almost made me gag.  Whoa... brah... I appreciate the enthusiasm, but daaaannnng brah...  It was 5:45 in the AM.  

Deez would be crewing with Landen in tow and I had three drop bags out on the course.  My mental game was set and I knew that trying to "crush" the first climb up, over and down Jughandle Mountain was not going to do me any favors.  The forecast was for warm temps and smoky skies, but Saturday morning was about 34F waiting for the starting nod.  I wanted to run in those first few miles to warm up, but stuck to a fast walk for the most part.  The first climb of the course had about 4,000 feet of gain, so I forced myself to chill.  On the climb up Jug, I could feel the air getting warmer as the sun rose.  I told myself "go slow, go smooth."  At the top of Jughandle, I noticed that I was about 30 minutes behind my projected pace.  I told myself that it made no sense to "make up time" now and kept my effort chill, but I did run when the opportunity presented itself.  

After the first aid station at Louie Lake, there was some fairly easy ground and it felt good to be moving at a quicker pace than the crawl up and down Jug.  On the south facing trail up to Boulder Summit (not the summit of Boulder Mountain) I could feel the heat kicking up a notch.  Once over the pass and headed down the north side, it was fairly shaded and there were a few streams to cross.  I knew I was behind my "target pace" but hey, things change.

I pulled into the second aid station which was the first crew access point and Deez and Landen were waiting.  I had planned to be able to take a few minutes here, but I got myself in a panic when the aid station guys reminded us that there was a hard cutoff coming up in a about three and a half hours at the next aid station which was 9.5 miles away.  Eek.  I was 5/10 worried. 

I felt it was a better option to keep moving and make the cutoff than it was to "take a few minutes".  Jogging the road past Slick Rock was pretty nifty since I've never actually seen it before.  But down in that canyon I could really feel the heat coming on.  This next big climb of the course goes up Fall Creek with 2,700 feet of elevation gain and about the same vertical descent in about 9.5 miles.  No easy task, but it felt manageable.  At the start of the climb, I could feel my legs getting a little heavy.  I started taking salt caps to help help cramping, but I always, always cramp up in the heat.  Eventually the heat and steep terrain began to take its toll and pretty soon I was stopping every five minutes or so to shake out a calf cramp here and a hammy cramp there.  I was already running low on fluid despite topping off at the last aid station and I did not want to be in a position of rationing water on a hot climb.  I was looking for any stream nearby that might be drinkable, or at least be good enough for a quick dip, but I never found one.  By the top of the climb I was getting cramps in my sides and had a constant twinge/cramp on the inside of the my left leg.

I figured that even at a walking pace, I could still probably make the cutoff.  I popped one more salt cap, took a gel, drained the last mouth full of fluid and prepared for battle.  There was little shade and in my humble opinion, it was pretty dang hot and miserable.  This part of the course is on a dusty ATV trail which wasn't too bad, but the downhill section I was looking forward to did not do my legs any favors.  

I saw a course marker that indicated 2 miles to go until the aid station.  I think deep down, I knew my day was over at this point.  "Just make the cutoff" was all I could think about.  Denise and I were in cell service so I knew at least the crew was there.  My pace was reduced to a hobble and my legs were starting to seize.  I was having flashbacks to the worst muscle cramps I have ever had at the McCall Trail Running Classic in 2018.  On a very hot and shadeless climb up Boulder Mountain, my legs totally seized up and I was actually laying under a tree for a bit with my legs totally locked.  Somehow I managed to work though that, but today was different.  

I stumbled into South Crestline with about 5 minutes to spare, but the damage was done.  From that point, I would have to cover at least another 25 miles with at least 4,000 feet of elevation gain to the next crew access point.  There were two other aid stations on the next section known as The Crestline, which was presumed to be some of the toughest terrain on the course, but no crew access.  That basically means there is nowhere to drop out when, not if, but body totally shut down.  Even though the crew rallied to get me what I needed, there was no point in going on.  I would only be putting myself and possibly others at risk.

Just because this is a supported mountain run, it does not mean that there are other people to riley on if you get into trouble.  If it had been 25 miles to the finish, "they" couldn't have stopped me from going on, but that was not the case.  Taking my first DNF was a hard, but honest.  Today was just not my day.  It looked like there were several others that either didn't make the cutoff or dropped at South Crestline.  By the time the race was over, the DNF rate was over 50%.  Out of 207, 90 finished.  I was merely a statistic and casualty of war.  I tip my hat to those who made it past the 50k mark and especially to those who finished.  Extremely difficult?  Damn skippy!  Will I try again?  Lets just say, never say never.  After all, I vividly remember when I said I'd never try a 100 miler.  And yet, there I was...

Big thanks to Team Turtle for the love and support.  Thanks to all the race volunteers and the race directors Jeremy and Brandi.  In 2020 aka the COVID year, it was amazing this happened at all.  No whining, no excuses, no regrets!     

My pictures
Team Turtle pre race.

Between Ladybug and Jug.

The summit of Jug through the trees.

Looking north towards Boulder Mountain.

On Jug.

Pictures of me coming of the top of Jug by photographer Cary Johnson

Saturday, August 8, 2020

40 Miles Just For Fun

Date: August 8, 2020.

Objective: 40 mile training run for IMTUF.

Stats: 40 miles with 4,900' gain.  Strava.

Gear notes: Sawyer Squeeze filter.  Enough gear to spend an emergency night out.

This was the longest self supported run I've done.  I needed to get in a key long run while training for IMTUF.  Planning a route and carrying enough gear and food for a 40 mile solo trip in the remote wilderness can be a bit challenging.  I had a loose objective of tagging Glens Peak.  When I mapped this route on Caltopo, it had the summit at a little under 20 miles, but while actually out on the trail I was still far enough away from the summit at mile 20 of an out-and-back route that I had to turn around.  What this route lacked in vertical gain was made up for with the brushy, narrow rocky and downright tough to run trail.  Ardeth Lake was the scenic highpoint.

South Fork Payette River Trail near Grandjean.
South Fork Payette River Trail near Grandjean.

A little past mile 10ish.

Payette River.


Further south in the canyon.

Rock walls on the east side of the canyon.


Elk Lake.

Elk Peak.


Ardeth Lake.  Glens Peak in the background.

Smith Falls.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Mount Idaho

Date: July 19, 2020.

Objective: Mount Idaho - 12,065'.

Partners: Mark and Tory.

Stats: 10 miles and 5,500' gain.  Class 3.  Strava.

Notes:  Strava stats a little inflated due to backtracking.  Forgot to bring some work gloves for scrambling on the sharp rocks.

Having a day off between peaks was nice so the 04:00 wake up call didn't feel too bad.  We did Breitenbach a couple days before and I felt fairly ready for another big day.  We hit the start button at about 05:30; a nice early and cool start.  Seriously, tons of mosquitoes though.  I realized I forgot my sunglasses in my duffle bag so I had to double back to the rig, then met up the Jones's farther up the canyon.  I won't speak for Mark and Tory, but I was getting stoked to tag their final 12er.

The shadow to the Lost River Range on the valley floor.

Hiking the shoulder of point 11,060.

Mark on the shoulder.

The Elkhorn Creek approach is pretty chill, but it is steep until you get up into the trees.  From there we were able to follow cairns and our noses to the end of the creek.  I remembered/thought we were heading further up the canyon, closer to the base of the west face of the peak but we ended up on the shoulder of the prominent point on the west ridge.  This area was pretty steep with some rock outcrops and big trees to move around.  Once on top of the shoulder and heading toward the west ridge, we had a clear view of the peak.  Mount Idaho appears to be a jumbled mess because it is just that.  The west face is a maze of scree chutes and rock ledges.  But for now we still had a bit of easy ground to cover.  The view of Borah from the saddle was as awesome as I remember from my last trip here, almost 8 years ago to the day.

Traversing to the saddle.

West ridge and west face of Mount Idaho.

Mount Borah and Sacagawea.

The "Towers" section was fun and there was more of a braided trail than I remembered and provided a nice warm up scramble before starting up the face.  From the Towers, it's about a half mile to the base of the face.  We stopped there for a good break and put our brain buckets on for the rest of the climb.  The scrambling was straight forward and fun, but I forgot to bring a pair of gloves.  The quartzite rock is pretty sharp.



Base of the west face.

The maze kind of goes like this:  Climb up the initial rocks at the base of the face and that takes you to a prominent bench.  At this bench, veer climbers right and follow the ramp that traverses out onto the face.  You will find yourself about 600 vertical feet from the top, but don't get antsy, this is the most difficult section.  We climbed across a series of gullies and up a few ledges, still moving out to the right a bit.  We had to cross one very steep gully that still held snow.  Once above the last of the chutes and ledges there is a wide open scree slope.  We stuck to the left side and hugged the stable rocks until we topped out on the summit ridge, just to the right of the true summit.  The traverse along the right to climbers left was pretty cool; a little airy and probably the best part of the climb for me.

West face.

Low on the face.

Gaining the ramp.

Traversing out onto the face.

Scree gully to the summit ridge.

Climbing a rib on the west face.

Final stretch to the summit ridge.

The true summit.

Merrian Lake.

Mt. Idaho, aka Elkhorn Peak.

Mark and Tory approaching the summit.

Mount Borah.

Looking south over the crest of the LRR.

9 of 9 on the 12ers!

It was pretty rad getting to be with Mark and Tory as they reached the top of their final 12er.  They agreed that they saved the best for last.  We were pretty sure we could see climbers on Borah.  The summit of Mount Idaho is a fantastic perch, but there was still work to be done.

We got a little cattywampus while descending the face, but there is no defined route.  It's simply a matter of getting down and not getting swept off the face by the scree.  We kept moving down and to the right and ended up back at the snow gully where the steps we had kicked earlier should have provided a nice boot path, but the snow was super soft and slushy.  Oh well, just get on and off it as quick as you can!

Once past that, we regained the ramp that leads back to the ridge and back to the base of the face.  We picked our way back to the saddle where we discussed going down the wide open slope that leads straight down into the canyon, but we decided to retrace our steps to the shoulder of point 11.060.  From there we dropped off to the right a bit and made some good time zipping down the scree, and eventually ended up right at the top of the creek.

The shade of the trees was quite welcome and we could feel the heat of the day really taking hold.  We dug in a gutted out the descent with a stop or two to cool off in the creek.

12ers are better with friends, no doubt about that.

Ah, I remember when I finished the 12ers!  I expected enlightenment and all I got were sore feet.  The elation lasted about 2 days.

I hope their revelry lasts a little longer.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Mount Breitenbach

Date: July 17, 2020.

Objective: Mount Breitenbach - 12,140.

Partners: Mark and Tory.

Stats: 9 miles with 5,200' gain.  Class 2.  Strava.

Mark and Tory had two 12ers left so the objective was simple; finish the 12ers.  A 7am start was fairly manageable but we knew the day would be long and we were expecting wind.  We weren't expecting the mosquitoes that bombarded us on the way up Pete Creek.  My overall recollection from my previous climb was that going up Pete Creek was "better" than the last time.

Looking up Pete Creek.

Top of the canyon, start of the scree.

Looking up the upper canyon, toward the south face.  Mark Jones for scale.

Once out of the creek and onto the scree, the route is fairly straight forward.  We climbed though the cliff band where the waterfall is, just a shade above 10,000ft.  Climbing this was quick and easy class 3 and shorter, but I have a feeling that if one were to skirt around the longer way to climbers left, it would still be class 2.  We aimed for the saddle at 11,400 which would be the southeast ridge that leads to the false summit.  It was here that the wind started to kick up.  The climb to the false summit is steep, but I call it class 2.

Looking down the scree field.

Cliff band.


Class 3 near the waterfall.

Looking south across the scree, heading toward the saddle at 11,400.

From the false summit, it's a little over a mile round trip - out-and-back- to the true summit on a fun ridge walk that is narrow at times but never very exposed.  There was some easy scrambling here, but the consensus was it's class 2.8, if that's a thing.

Saddle at 11,400.

False summit on the left, true summit on the far right.

East side of the LRR.

Enjoying the view at the saddle.

Heading toward the false summit.

True summit on the right.

Fossils on the summit ridge.

Summit ridge.

Getting to the summit of Breitenbach is quite the grind, and mental endurance is a good thing to have.  Strong legs help too.  The wind was really picking up at this point, but there were no threatening clouds.  One gust in particular caused the summit flag to blow out of Tory's hands.  Lucky for us it didn't land too far away, but it was on top of some snow out in a steep gully.  I managed to fish it off the snow with a trekking pole without too much trouble.

Mark and Tory on the summit.


Heading back to the false summit.

With the summit flag back in hand, we commenced standard summit duties.  8 down, 1 to go for Mark and Tory!  Time to head back to the false summit.  Pretty much from this point on, it was windy AF.  We estimated easily 30mph sustained, probably closer to 40 and gusting 50.  There were a few times that we had to hunker down for a minute.  I know I dang near got knocked off my feet a time or two.

Heading back to the false summit.

Summit ridge.

We kept pushing on with the intent of getting down out of the wind, but even back at the waterfall at approx. 2,000' below the summit the wind was still blowing strong and coming right up the canyon.

Just below the false summit.

The hike up Pete Creek might not have been "that bad" but going down was unanimously sucky and if anything, probably slower than the hike up.

The shimmer of the Jones' rig thought the trees was a welcome sight.  We immediately went into recovery mode to prepare for Mount Idaho.