Here's my attempt at a race report. Let me preface this by saying that after waking up with pinkeye and a subsequent cold on the Sunday before, as well as coming off of only 3 weeks of training after being sidelined for 3 weeks, I wasn't too confident coming in to Squaw Peak 2008. I was hoping for a top 10 finish, and that was shooting for the stars. There were some pretty talented runners signed up, and I was planning on taking it easy and hanging on their coat tails.
Well, race morning came around, my cold had cleared, but the skies hadn't. I always enjoy running in the rain, just not standing in it, so once we started, it felt great. The first few miles down the pavement I kept what I felt was an easy pace and quickly watched Allen Belshaw and Rich disappear from sight. I chatted off and on with Brian Price from Idaho and Dave Larsen, a surgery resident at the U (where does he find the time to train?), then as we began the singletrack and it started to get light, I found myself alone to watch the misty rain in my headlamp. Kind of a neat vision to have thousands of tiny droplets sparkling in front of me. As I made the right hand turn onto the steep singletrack, I saw Rich not too far ahead of me. I thought it would be a piece of cake to catch up so I'd have someone to talk to. That's when the mud started. Holy cow, I'd never experienced anything quite like that mud. By the time I caught up to Rich, it felt like I'd pulled both groins slipping and sliding and keeping one foot on either side of the trail. I kept thinking to myself that I was glad I was where I was at and not 245 runners back after everyone else had made the conditions even worse. So Rich and I continued on for the next 10 miles or so having a great time. We watched Belshaw keep increasing the lead until he was nowhere in sight, and then the snow started. It was awesome! I love running in the snow. Rich had other feelings about the snow, he is not a cold weather person, but I loved it. I had on a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve over it, some thin cotton gloves and my hat and I felt great, except my fingers on the hand holding a water bottle would start to freeze every now and again. Speaking of water bottles, I decided to run with just one bottle to start, then pick up another one at Aid #3, then pick up a waist pack and carry one hand held at Little Valley. I thought that with the cooler weather I wouldn't sweat as much, and I could cut a little weight at the start. So, at Aid #3, I decided not to pick up a second bottle, and continue with one until Little Valley, I'd just stop and drink a little more at the aid stations. As Rich and I finished the bushwack after Aid #3 heading to Horse Mtn, Rich dropped off just a second or two, and I thought he was slowing down to "use the facilities" and he would catch up. Well, I turned around a few minutes later expecting him to be right there, and he was nowhere in sight. That was the last time I would see anyone until mile 49.5. The snow was awesome heading along the roads to aid #4, and Belshaw's tracks kept looking more and more filled in with fresh snow. I wasn't sure if it was the huge snowflakes and near blizzard conditions, or if it was him increasing his lead. Regardless, I was having a great time, and feeling good also. As I dropped down towards Hobble Creek and past the snowline back into the rain, I kept expecting someone to appear from behind, but the rear stayed clear. At Aid #5, I was about 20 minutes slower than last year, and that was perfect, I felt good and planned on running the entire pavement. I managed to keep a good pace along the pavement and at Aid #6 Karl Meltzer was there to tell me that Belshaw was 11 minutes ahead of me, and that I looked fresher than he did. Thanks Karl for getting me out of there quick! I refueled and headed up my least favorite section of the course. To me this dirt road seems to go forever, and I always struggle to run it. This time was no exception, but the cooler weather helped and I only walked two hills. I grabbed a Brownie Bite at aid #7 and kept up my pace. This is where I've had stomache issues in the past, but I was feeling great and my stomache was settled, I think largely due to my slower pace at the beginning and cooler weather. I love this section of the course. Heading up the valley with the lush grass and quakies, I always feel like there should be a herd of elk strung out on the hill, or a moose with his nose in the creek. Anyway, I came into Litle Valley still feeling good, and they said Belshaw was at least 20 minutes ahead of me. I had no thoughts at all of trying o catch him, I just wanted to finish strong and feeling good. I ate a PB&J, grabbed some pringles, picked up my Nathan pack and headed on my way with 3 bottles.
The long climb began. I kept a decent pace, strating to look over my shoulder now and again but the rear was still clear. Making the long traverse before the last long climbs, my legs started to feel pretty tired, and I felt I was slowing a bit. I concentrated on keeping a steady rhythm going, and hoped eeryone else was feeling tired also. As I started to climb the first snowfield, I saw someone just cresting the ridge. I timed him at 13 minutes ahead of me, but I thought no way it was Belshaw. At Little Valley they had said that Matt Hart was out running the second half of the course, and I thought it had to be him. As I started the last climb up Lightning Ridge, I saw the same person again, just heading over the summit. I timed hime to be about 12 minutes ahead of me, but I still thought it was Matt. Hallelujah! I made it. I sat down at the summit and took a minute to stretch my calves and drink a bottle of water, then headed down to Windy Pass. These aid station volunteers are awesome!! Thanks everyone for taking the time to pack everything up and wait on us! Jim Skaggs met me with the news that Belshaw was only 8 minutes ahead of me. I didn't believe him. I was leaning against a tree eating a cookie, when Jim told me the news. I looked at him with a blank look, and he yelled at me to get out of there and catch him! I was excited and a bit surprised that I was that close, but a little bit in despair at the same time. I was looking forward to a nice comfortable pace the last 9 miles, now I was going to have to push as hard as I could.
So I took off and did some creatvie slipping and sliding for the next couple of miles across the snow fields. I managed to stay on my feet through the snow, except for that one time I was twenty feet off the "trail" in about two seconds and the other time I was on my butt sliding backwards, and the other time..... You get the idea. At the last snow field with the fixed ropes, I looked up to see Greg Norrander with his camera. What a great guy! Thanks for hiking up to get some fabulous Photos! He informed me that Belshaw was now only 6 1/2 minutes ahead. I danced through the next section, which was reminiscent of the Pipeline Trail. Exposed, fairly flat, hot and rocky. Trying not to roll an ankle, I pushed as hard as I could to the last aid station. As I came into #10, they informed me that Allen was only 3 minutes ahead. Are you kidding me?! I had planned on stopping and drinking a cold Red Bull, but I instead dropped my fanny pack, grabbed a gel and a bottle and took off. I have never run this entire section before, even the small little rollers seem to slow me to a walk, but I couldn't afford to today. I ran and ran some more and with a mile left hadn't seen Allen yet. Just when I was going to ease my pace a bit, a kid came running up the road and said he wasn't more than 30 seconds ahead. Will it ever end? Finally, I saw his head, then the rest of him. I snuck up to within about 100 yards, and just as he was going over a little rise, with 1/4 mile left, Allen looked back and saw me. After a quick double take to make sure I was there, his arms started pumping a little harder and the chase was over. I almost caught him. I'll be honest, if I had caught him, I wouldn't have had any more gas to kick past. I was spent. I rounded the corner and the best part of the race was there at the finish, listening to Brooke, Sam and Andrew cheer me in.
What a great day and what a memorable race. Thanks to John Bozung for putting the race together and especially to all the aid station volunteers who sat through the crazy conditions and made this race possible. I'm already looking forward to next year.