Monday, July 24, 2017

McCall Trailrunning Classic 40 Miler

I punched a ticket on the pain-train and ran my first ultramarathon. I'm a casual runner. To put it in more simple terms; there are the elite, the sub-elite, and then there is me, perfectly happy in the back of the pack.

Date: July 15, 2017.

Objective: Go 40 miles in under 14:30. Peak 1 - Jughandle Mountain 8,310. Peak 2 - Boulder Mountain 8,377.

Stats: 40 miles, approx 9,000ft gain in 13:13. Rough and tough technical trails. Note; a software glitch/update erased my GPS track and stats, hence no Strava link. (Cue sad violin music and sobbing.)


Route map. Photo: Deez.

Before I go any further I want to give mad props to Deez who went far beyond anything that was asked of her. She ended up playing an impromptu role of crew and aid station volunteer. She even managed to snap some really good photos! I also want to give a shout out to all the aid station volunteer's. Thanks for being out there! Last but not least, thanks to the RD's Jeremy and Brandi for a well organized event. Before any of this sounds impressive I'll tell you the top finishers came in under 8 hours. My focus was finishing, not placing. Everyone I told that this was my first ultra said the same thing... Well you picked a tough one. 

I'd been sucked into the idea of running an ultramarathon this year. Specifically, I was training for about 50k/31.2 miles. I had a few races in mind but my selection criteria was not very firm. Ideally I wanted to run in a new area, obviously to some absurd distance and hopefully tag a peak or two, or three... you get the idea. I settled on the MTC 40 after confirming the peaks on the course were legit on Lists of John and the timing seemed to fit.

I've put in a few miles recently, as well as over the last couple of years, including another excellent race by the same awesome RD's; The Legend of Bear Pete 30k. I knew I was picking a very tough course for my first ultra, so I allowed my decision to be guided by faith and not by fear. I love running, I love mountains and I love long hard days; this had it all. I decided to try this based on love, not based on ego.

The elites finished in half the time that I did, but the fact that I finished was all that mattered to me. I wasn't planning on filming/shooting the whole thing, but since I do have some pictures and videos, I'll do my best to recount the day and not bore you (the three readers) to death.

In the pre-race meeting on Friday evening, we went over a course walk though, questions, comments and safety concerns. We found out one guy just finished at Western States 100. We also find out that another guy set the speed record on Mt. Rainier last year. I was honored and humbled to be standing next to some seriously legit mountain runners (of which I am not).

Saturday morning, time to gear up. Once the Body Glide goes on, there's no turning back.
We hit the pre-race check in, I pinned on bib #7 and stood in the back of the pack waiting for the gun to go off. Denise did her best to break my apparent anxious demeanor, albeit unsuccessfully.

Race strategy: Run if you can, walk if you need to, crawl if you have to.

At 6am sharp the horn blew and we were off.  The field spread out quickly and the elites were long gone. I was off to a slow start as planned. I felt good and had to remind myself to slow it down a few times. Eventually the pack spread out enough that I could no longer hear voices in front of me, and I couldn't see the other runners behind me. I spent a lot of time alone on this beautiful and very hard course. I really can't give a mile-by-mile account, so I'll let the pictures tell the story and fill in what little bit of detail I can.

Just before the horn blew at 6:00am. About 30 people started and all but 2 finished. I planned to be in the back of the pack, so that's where I started and that's where I stayed.
Photo: Deez.

Past the first aid station and heading to Jughandle Mountain.

Along the ridge of Jughandle Mountain, after Stupid Hill.

Summit of Jughandle.

Looking down the descent route of Jughandle. Note the pink ribbons.

View from Jughandle. Boulder Mountain is on the right and was the next peak of the day, after about 10 more miles of running.

View over Jug Mountain Ranch.

Louie Lake from the top of Jughandle.

Boulder Mountain from Jug.

Louie Lake Aid Station, mile 12. Denise had hiked about a mile and a half to see me here.
Photo: Deez.

Photo: Deez.

From Louie Lake to Boulder Aid we had to go up and around twin peaks, to Boulder Lake. It was uneventful but the trail had a lot of rocks, large boulders and roots just waiting to throw me off my feet and laugh at me. My mantra here was If you look up, you're going down. Deez hiked back down to Boulder Lake Aid Station and hung out there. 40 milers went through Boulder Aid twice at mile 16+ and mile 31+.

Running into Boulder Lake Aid station.
Photo: Deez.

From Boulder Aid at mile 16 was a hot, short but steep climb to Shaw Twin Aid at mile 20. After Shaw the course went up and over Boulder Mountain. Thankfully a little thunderstorm rolled through with some wind and light rain. That kept the blazing sun off my back and kept the temps down but I still hiked most of this section.

Going up Boulder Mountain.

Looking back at Jughandle from Boulder.

Summit of Boulder Mountain.

After topping out on Boulder, it was a very steep and fast descent to the Buckhorn Aid Station where the pack goats were hanging out.

Goat selfie at Buckhorn Outbound Aid station. Mile 24ish.

From Buckhorn Aid we did a 2.2 mile out and back section with 1,300 feet of gain for a 4.4 mile round trip to Buckhorn Summit at mile 26 and back Buckhorn AS. That section wasn't too steep but it was a very rocky and hard to run up or down. From that point on it was officially an ultramarathon, and in theory it was all downhill from there.

From Buckhorn AS, the course descended the same rocky trail back to Boulder Lake Aid and the 50k mark. The second time down this was mentally taxing, but this time I knew were to slow down and where I could cut it loose a bit.

Pulling into Boulder AS again was a bit of blur, but Deez caught a moment of it.

I was there long enough to slurp down a few goodies and change socks, which required an almost embarrassing amount of assistance from Deez. I was starting to cramp pretty good. 

Photo: Deez.

After that I plugged into the iPod and rocked out to the sonic bliss of TOOL to grind out the last 8 miles to the finish; most if which I do not remember. Other than the last checkpoint at what was our first aid station that was now just a water drop, I was totally alone. I kept looking over my shoulder thinking there was someone behind me about to pass, but there never was. I was going to bust out the GoPro to film crossing the finish line, but by the time I saw it I was pretty spaced out. Priority; finishing the race. Non-priority; filming the finish. When I saw the finish, instinct kicked in and my only sprint of the day resulted.

Photo: Deez.

Photo: Deez.

After a return greeting from Deez, the RD's and what remained of the people in the party tent, my main focus became not vomiting. The baked potato bar looked good, but I couldn't eat. The beer was cold but I couldn't stomach it. An ice cold Sprite ended up being the ticket to getting my stomach under control. I was glad to be there to see that last few 40 mile warriors make it in. This course is definitely tough and I was definitely under trained. Doesn't matter, finished ultra.

It might have been a long, slow day on the course but I was soon on the fast track to recovery with pizza and beer.

Happy trails!