Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pocatello race report

First I will have to say that this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have yet to stop smiling over how wonderful an experience it was. I feel that I lack the ability to truly pen the ambiance of my experience with what has been said to be the third toughest 50 mile race in North America the Pocatello 50. This account address more of the technical aspects of my race and doesn't fully account for the emotional aspects of it, that section will be a latter publication once I figure out how to attempt such a writing.  

     We (Katie the kids, my mother and I) set off from Sandpoint at 4:30 am in hopes of making it to Pocatello by 4pm so we could check in to the hotel and make it over to the pre-race meeting at 5pm (we were loosing an hour due to time change). The kids for the most part were very good and that was with Kaiya and Matthias both throwing up once and Tytus pooping his pants because we could not get him to the rest room quite in time. We were able to make really good time despite those small set backs so we decided to stop in Rexburg to pick up my sister Emily who is going to school at BYU Idaho. We made it to the hotel about 3:30 mountain time. The kids went swimming with grandma and Emily as Katie and I drove over to the start area of the race for the pre- race meeting. The meeting lasted about a half an hour as the race directors filled us in on how everything was going to work and some safety issues. Right after the meeting the race directors went over the entire course blow by blow and answered any question racers and crews might have. After the pre-race meeting we went back to the hotel, ate dinner and hung out. The kids were so excited that it was hard for them not only to go to sleep but stay asleep as I had to get up with them multiple time during the night. That combined with some nervous energy and not sleeping in my own bed I probable got about 2 hours of sleep before I had to wake up at 4:30am (3:30 our time) to get ready. My dad had driven down with my brother Bryson and had made it to the hotel around 1:30am on race day and after just a few hours of sleep himself my dad and I drove over to the start line to check in.

     Check in was between 5:15 - 5:45am with the race starting promptly at 6am. We arrived at the start/finish area about 5:30am and checked in with the race officials. It was a cold morning and to the south east by Scout Mountain we could hear the rumblings of thundered as a storm went over it summit. To the east the sun was coming up which was just amazing. It came up between two mountains and turned the scattered cloud cover a glowing goldish orange color. I was shivering because of the cold and lacked the foresight to bring a jacket because it was suppose to get very hot as the day progressed. finally My dad went and got his flannel jacket out of the car and I wrapped my self in it until just before the start of the race.

     There were 137 racers running the 52 mile race (there was also a 50k and 20 mile race starting later in the day). At the start line I positioned myself behind the first pack but toward the front of the second pack. There wasn't a ton of hoopla around the start as the race director announced "GO" as the clock turned 6am. there was a few hoots from some of the racers and spectators but what really defined the beginning of the race was a beautiful double rainbow that appeared just in front of the start line. The sight of the such a deeply colored rainbows seemed like a good luck sign from Heavenly Father. The first mile of the race was on a paved road and within that short mile the leaders had already separated themselves from the pack. After a mile we hit the Gibbson Jack trail head which started our first climb of the day. I jogged most of the way up the 1200' climb only having to hike about a 100 yards that got a little steep. As I reach the top and looked back down the trail my plan of starting at the front of the main pack looked to be paying off as most of the runners were still not quite half way up the climb and since it was a single tract trail it made passing people difficult. at the top of the climb I found myself running a rolling hill section for about 1.5 miles before the trail started it decedent. The descent was one of my favorite parts because it offered spectacular views to the Bannock mountain range and because on the side of the trail there were wild mint plants and the smell of mint and sage in to cool crisp air was one of the most pleasant aromas I had ever smelt. The views and smells paired with a trail that let me run quite fast with very little effort made this section probably my favorite trail running experience to date. During this section I passed about 20 runners some of which had fallen off from the lead pack. At first I wondered if I was going out too fast but the effort was easy the trail just really suited my running. I came into the first Aid station at mile 8.3 in 1:18. I quickly topped off my water bottles and set off up the trail heading into the seconded climb. The first two miles of the second climb were fairly easy and I was able to jog the whole time but then the trail ended as you started the cross country/off trail section of the race. As the trail ended you stood at the base of the rest of the climb which was more than a little intimidating. The off trail section went straight up one of the steepest mountain sides I have ever seen (ok that might be a little bit of an exaggeration but it was steep). there were about 20-30 runners ahead of me who had already started the climb and were spread out all over the slope.  Since there was no trail the course was marked with ribbons every 50 yards or so but the route you took was all up to you. It was nearly two miles to the top of the climb which I took one steep at a time as I navigated over rocks, around sage brush and you constantly had to be on alert for cactus as they were small and hid well with the terrain but contained inch long spikes. After about a mile of climbing you came to this little bench that lasted about two hundred yards before it got extremely steep again for the last half mile or so to the top. Up to this point I was doing pretty well, I had managed to not stop and didn't feel winded but my pace was very slow (but so was everyone else's). Just as I got to the bench my right calf started to cramp up, then my right quad and left hamstring. I walked the bench which I could have normally jogged in hopes that the cramps would work themselves out but they didn't and I finished the last half mile of the climb with cramping legs. Once you crested the top you descend through weaving networks of trails that over looked the city of Pocatello, down to the City Creek aid satiation (mile 16.9). I was still having cramping issues which slowed me down some but I just put a smile on my face and pushed through the pain. I got to City Creek where my wonderful crew consisting of my family was waiting for me. They helped me resupply and were just wonderful. At the aid station I ate some bananas and potato chip and drank some electrolytes in hopes of warding off the cramps.

     I left the aid station at about 9:20am but instead of running I decided to start by speed walking hoping the cramps would go away. Well they didn't and in fact they got much worse as I was reduced to a normal walk on anything that was even slightly uphill. I was able to slowly jog some small downhills. It was too bad I was having such cramping problems as the first three miles of trail ran along City Creek which was surrounded by trees and the trail was in excellent shape. The temps started to climb into the upper 70's to low 80's as I started the next steep ascent. The first half mile of this ascent was the most difficult part of the race for me It was hot and humid as you climbed up this dry bouldery creek bed. This was the point where my cramps reached sever proportions every step was excruciatingly painful and having to climb over the boulders just exasperated my condition. It was at this point that all my time goals went out the window and my sole goal was to finish the race even if I had to walk every step of it. Once through the creek bed section of the climb a small dirt trail lead you strait up another extremely steep mountain side that was every bit as steep as the off trail section climb but not as long. Having a trail this time made the climb easier to navigate then the off trail section because you didn't have to pick you own lines while dodging cacti. Although my legs were still cramping badly I was able to just look down at the trail and take six inch steps which put more load on my calves which were not cramping at the time. Amazingly I actually passed a few people on my way to the top. Once on top you were above tree line and had fantastic views of Pocatello area plus a slight breeze had picked up which helped with the heat. From the top it was about four miles to the next aid station at Midnight creek. The cramps had subsided some so I decided to try to jog the down hill but after about 50 yards my quads all the sudden cramped so bad that they locked up both my legs to the point where I couldn't bend my knees. This lasted for about a minute or so and then they started to relax some. I walked the next mile or so then braved the motion to start jogging again. This time I didn't experience any sever crams just small ones. I felt it such a blessing to be able to jog the last three miles into Midnight creek. When I reach the Midnight Creek aid station I discovered my new best friends watermelon dipped in lots of salt and s-caps. I must have eaten five or six slices of watermelon covered in salt, it was amazing and really rejuvenated my cramping legs. I also downed an s-cap (an electrolyte pill) and about 20oz of water. The mile climb out of the aid station was steep but not really steep (well not compared to what I had already been up). My legs actually felt good going up and I thought I might have finally gotten over the cramps After dealing with them for over 18 miles. At the top of the climb you come into Elk Meadows which it a beautiful series of grassy high mountain meadows that are surround by aspen trees. from here it was a 5.5 mile descent to mink creek. Since my legs were feeling better I though I should run. Well they locked up again so I hiked the next mile then slowly added in a little jogging. During this section there where several creek crossings and each time I came to one I dipped my hat into the cold water then used it as a rag to wash my face and neck to cool me off since the temps had risen into the upper 80's and it was hot. With about a mile and a half to Mink creek I knelt down in a creek in hopes of helping my legs recover. It seemed to work as I was able to run the rest of the way to the Mink creek aid station.

MINK CREEK to FINISH: 19.8 miles
     At the Mink creek aid station (mile 32.5) my wonderful crew was waiting with new shoes (the ones I was wearing had blown out on the instep). I downed more salty watermelon and iced my legs. After spending 15 minutes at the aid station I headed out on the last leg of the course. For the first 8 miles you climb 4600' up an off road vehicle trail to the top of Scout mountain. I ended up hiking this entire section without any cramping issues but the effect of almost 20 miles and 6 hrs of mild to severe legs cramps had left my legs wasted. The climb was gorgeous though as you worked your way through some big timber then high mountain meadows and ponds, then high alpine ridges that allow 360 degree views of the sounding mountains and valleys. when you hit the end of the trail you went off road again up and over the submit which has an altitude of a little over 8600'. From the top you descend 6.8 miles to the Big Fur aid station. The first part of the descent was very very steep and it was a quad buster. After about a half mile the trails grade flattened out a little to the point where I could jog/shuffle down. the trail then entered a heavily forested area which provided much need shade from the hot sun. It felt like it took forever to get to the aid station but I didn't mind, it just allowed me to really take in my surroundings. At Big Fur I filled my water bottles, downed some Mt Dew, grabbed a quesadilla and headed out on the last five miles of the race. the first mile you ran down a paved road then veered off the road onto some cross-country ski trails. There was one more mile long steep climb but I was blessed enough to be running next to a wonderful man from Pocatello who knew the course and had been training on it. We talked and helped motivate each other up the last climb and then down the last three mile to the finish. Coming into the finish my family was waiting Kayia, Matthias and Tytus ran the last 25 yards with me as we all crossed the finish-line together in 14:23. What a great way to finish a race with the ones who love and support you the most.

     Chalk this one up as a learning experience. All my cramping problems were caused by a serious dehydration problem. I needed to be taking electrolytes before the start and in the early stages (and often). I didn't do this and it resulted in some serious leg cramping issues. Second I am happy with my race despite all the pain I endured. I truly enjoyed every minute of the race, the physical challenge and breath taking views had a smile on my face the whole time. The one question I would like to know is how much faster/better I could have ran with out the cramping issues, especially since I never really got exhausted or pushed my endurance level during the 14+ hour I was out there. I guess that is a question I hope to answer next year. I ended up finishing 83rd out of 137 runners with first place finishing in 8:35.    

morning of the race at the starting area

re-hydrating at mink creek aid station
running into the finish-line with my kids

Scout Mountain  
Top of Scout Mountain 
coming through the finish-line
Hugging my kids at the finish-line

At the finish-line with the family
me wearing my 52 mile medal 

sitting down after 52.3 miles and 14 hours 


  1. Your dad and I are so proud of you. You are our hero.

  2. gramma Maxine & I read this for home evening - We are impresssed as I did not know man could run 52 miles in one event and do it in less than 14 hours - is there any of your soles that are not blistered completely? I appreciate the sceenery dialog. Better to die running than setting. A guy at work runs marathons - short 26 mile stints - he ran the Boston this year. What is the best time ever for a 52 mile race? I doubt one can even compare any race with another unless it to describe the total elevaltion climbs in terms of foot pounds of energy and the average weight of each runner or the top ten runners. Every runners weight makes for its own challenge. I can remember being 35 years old and running a 5 kilometer race with two badly sprained ankles - I could hardly walk the next week with ankle braces on. Again, I did not know a man could run 52 miles in a single day. Besides not getting enough electrolytes, you were building up lactic acid and could not seem to get rid of it. What were the next 3 days like for you. Do you have any muscle tears or fractures? Congratulations for acheiving something that less than 0.0000001% of the population on earth has ever done. I am probably short another 10 zeros on my estimate of percentage. Next weekend I think you should run down to fish in the pond - it has cleared of weeds now and you can see the fish. We love you and hope you are OK!