As 150 solo and relay runners toed-up to the starting line at 6:00 am for the Pocatello 50, nobody could have imagined what the day would bring. Temperatures were cool in the high 40’s with intermittent drizzles. Arguably, ideal conditions for a 50-mile trail race. But within minutes of the start the rain became steady. And, as runners started climbing Kinport peak after about mile 9 the rain turned to snow with gale force winds. Despite warnings from race directors Jared Campbell and Ryan McDermott to plan for all weather conditions, few runners were prepared for extreme weather.
As Ryan advanced up Kinport in the middle of the pack, he realized the “arctic like” conditions would put runners and volunteers at risk and conferred with Jared about calling the race. A tough, but appropriate and prudent decision was made to call the race and begin to turn runners back.
Runners ahead of Ryan would continue on to either the City Creek (17 mile). The lead runners who had passed City Creek before the decision was made proceeded to the Mink Creek (32 mile) checkpoint. A number of runners became lost despite the course being extremely well marked including team MRC lead runner, Dan Sears who made an 8 mile detour and ended up at some dude’s bull ranch. Once Christian Johnson and Peter Lindgren, Dan’s teammates learned that the race was called and their lead runner lost, they assisted the race directors in sweeping the course and helping several runners who were experiencing hypothermia return to aid stations. Of the seven people Peter collected, none were disappointed that the race had been called.
Since Christian did not know the area very well, he decided to work his way back from City Creek up to Kinport, secretly hoping he wouldn't find anyone in need of help since he had left ill prepared to help anyone he might find. Once he reached the ridge the wind was howling and visibility had been reduced to 40 or 50 feet at best. There he found Leah from Austin, Texas stumbling through the snow and incoherent. He quickly wrapped her in his waterproof jacket and ushered her into the shelter of the trees. Leah was on the verge of hypothermia and Christian was nervous to find himself in this kind of situation. Christian then got Leah on her feet and did his best to keep her moving down the trail. Leah gradually warmed up as they descended to a lower elevation; becoming more lucid as she got closer to the City Creek aid station. Several other runners had to be found and escorted back to aid stations.
Both Jay Aldous and Greg Norrander who were running 50 solo ran to the Mink Creek aid station. Jay was pleased to hear the race was called, as he was concerned that his recent pedicure would not stand up to another 20 miles of slogging through water, snow and mud. A special thanks goes to Vanessa for attending to the needs of the cold and wet runners (including Jay and Greg) who made it to the Mink Creek aid station
MRC would like to applaud Jared and Ryan for making the right call early in the race and taking decisive actions to clear the course and account for all runners. A big thanks to all the volunteers who despite the cold and wet took phenomenal care of the runners, many of who were in bad shape. And, for those runners who left the race without reporting to race officials that you had dropped or were heading home, shame on you. Much time, energy and stress was expended in accounting for you!
The discomfort and disappointment of the day will fade. The memories of what we collectively shared and endured will live on, and likely be greatly exaggerated over time as we retell this adventure over and over, on WARM SUNNY trail runs…
Thanks Jared, Ryan and Mindy for a great adventure!
- Peter, Christian, Greg, Jay