Friday night, under a full moon, Peter, Brian, Sam and myself joined about 30 others for the 6th annual Millcreek 50k. After everyone was shuttled up to Big Water we started at about 9:20pm. It was slightly cool at the start but once we got moving that changed and I quickly warmed up. I led much of the way up the great western trail and pulled off for a nature break once I was on the crest and I could see down into Park City. Phil Lowry and Matt Bero caught up to me and took the lead as we made our way down to Desolation Lake. I knew Shane Martin would be stalking us on the descent and sure enough he caught us shortly after passing deso in about 1:50 (elapsed time). I took the opportunity to jump in behind Shane as he upped it a notch on the downhill. I let him get slightly ahead of me on the steeper part because the dust was so thick, something I don't notice as much during the day, but at night the headlamp beam shows you just how much dust you're inhaling. I made the turn at blunder fork and there were some hikers or early starters that kind of startled me. Just then I noticed Shane had taken the Mill D turn but quickly got back on track just as we began the climb up to Dog Lake together.
Shane refilled a bottle and I walked out of Dog Lake heading toward Big Cottonwood. As soon as Shane caught up I started running again and we were soon on my least favorite part of the course. From Dog Lake over to Baker Pass the trail rarely gets used so the vegetation is overgrown, which is a problem during the day, let alone trying to navigate it at midnight. After about 10 mins or so I was by myself in the lead with my little 20' window of light in front of me. I was now experiencing another first, running by myself at night. I didn't have my headphones and I'm not sure I would have put them on anyway. I didn't feel like as if I was moving that fast but pretty soon I had trouble seeing any lights behind me. That's when doubt would begin to set in, did I miss a trail junction in all this overgrown mess? Then a glowstick would appear just ahead on the trail restoring my confidence once again. I would occasionally look up to the northwest and see Mt. Raymond, Gobblers Knob and the low spot between them, Baker Pass, my next target. As I made my way up the last little section I turned off my headlamp and used the moonlight to get over the top. I paused for a moment on the pass and saw a few headlamps further back down the trail and flickering lights seven miles below in Millcreek.
This was my first time on the Bowman fork trail this year and the only time I did it last year I went up not down. What this means is that I forgot just how long this descent is. I felt like I was being fairly conservative and I didn't have any mishaps on the technical sections. My plan was to pick it up a notch when I hit the bottom of the canyon and it's a little less technical. I really like this section of trail that jumps back and forth over the creek and downed trees and pretty soon I fell in a groove, then fell flat on my face. It wasn't that big of a deal, my wet shoe slipped off a downed tree and I fell on the other side. I picked myself up, did a quick assessment making nothing was wrong and started running again. Not even five minutes later I rolled my ankle. I decided it was time to back off a bit, no sense in beating myself up if I don't have to, plus I had a nasty little climb coming up after passing through the Terraces picnic area.
The trail that connects the Terraces with Elbow fork is another section that receives little attention and usually resembles a game trail rather than a hiking trail. As I started the steep climb I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail was actually in pretty good shape. The trail was still very much on a side hill but the vegetation wasn't as bad as I've seen it in the past. When I began the climb I was sure that I could do the two miles of up and down quick enough that I would easily get to Elbow fork before the 4 hour mark. What I forgot was that the two mile section is about 1.5 miles up and .5 down. I eventually pulled into the last aid station at Elbow Fork in 4:03 with 21 miles behind me and only 10 more to go. RD Rich B. filled up my nathan hydration pack while I dealt with a pesky heel blister on my right foot. Next up was the dirt sidewalk, also known as the pipeline trail.
Funny enough this was definitely the least technical section out of any of the trails yet, but I tripped and stumbled more than anywhere else. I think it was because the headlamp could pick up rocks, roots and anything sticking up out of the trail, but it couldn't pick up the slight undulations. I still made pretty good time to Church Fork, getting to the trail junction in 4:50. Now just a quick jaunt up to Grandeur Peak, back down and I would be done. Once I started the climb I realized there would be nothing quick about it. I pretty much hiked the whole thing reaching the top in 5:45 or about 2:00am. Even though I was in a hurray I just stood there for a minute. I always feel as if I don't take in the view afforded by a summit that I am somehow disrespecting it and there will be dues to pay in the future (is that being superstitious?).
Now I just had to stumble off the mountain and I would be done. I still had no idea what kind of lead I had so I was anxious to see how close the next runner was to me. I was also slightly nervous that if Shane was relatively close he would close the gap on the long descent. Last year, Peter and I watched as Shane flew down the mountain and disappeared in front of us on the first descent of the race. Soon I saw a light in front of me and it was Matt Bero, just behind Matt was Shane. I estimated my lead to be about 20 minutes so I just kept up my cautious descent. I ran into Peter and Brian shortly thereafter and wished them well on their final climb of the night. Soon enough the trail ended and I hit the pavement at the top of church fork. Then something I wasn't prepared for, route finding. I'm not very familiar with road up there and it was a little hard to tell whether the road led to a parking area or if it was the main road. Not really a big deal, I just thought it was kind of funny on the easiest part of the course. At the finish I found Rich B., Shane's sister and some chairs. I stopped my watch at 6:23 and fell into a comfortable chair.
Thanks to RD Rich B., Ken J, Storheim, and all the other volunteers that made for an outstanding night.
In order after me was: Results posted soon here.