A big part of running for me is having goals. As I the days got closer to the Katcina Mosa 100K I asked myself, “What do I want to accomplish in this race?” After listening to the endless chatter and babble at the Wasatch Speedgoat 50K the week before about how HOKA’s make you run faster, I knew exactly what my goal would be – to not have any HOKA soled runners beat me. And for some extra giggles, I wanted to try and finish in close to 11 hours.
As RD John Bozung lined the runners up for a 3:00 start, I was feeling good about the day. Laced upon my feet was a classic pair of Montrail Continental Divides, hand-me-downs from Christian Johnson who is now running in Inov-8’s. Christian likes to refer to the shoes as my birthday present since he bequeathed them and another old pair to me on my birthday. In my pocket, printed in a large font for my failing eyes, was the pacing chart that Erik Storheim had prepared for me.
My plan was to go out fast (on pace) and simply hang on. Immediately, I was by myself in the front. As I tried to get into a mental and physical “groove,” I reminisced about last year’s Katcina Mosa where I ran the entire distance with Erik. I had just met Erik and it was great fun getting to know him, and even greater fun working with him to break Kevin Schilling’s course record. I knew it would be a long day this year without both his companionship – and him forcing the pace.
I felt fabulous on the initial climb and reached Camel Pass aid station at 13 miles, three minutes ahead of schedule. After Camel Pass there is a short down hill section before the course climbs to its highest point of 9500’ at Lightening Ridge. It was on this downhill where my day began to fall apart – quite literally.
Probably not more than a minute into the downhill I caught my foot on a rock and took a hard fall. I went down hard and fast. Stunned, I laid on the road watching a cloud of dust reflecting in my headlamp while I tried to catch my breath and compose myself. My first instinct was to check my Armani running shirt for possible damage. But, I had a pace to keep and didn’t have time to worry about my favorite running threads.
I got up, walked about 20 or so steps to loosen up, and then began running again. After a minute or so I felt better and started to quicken my pace. Boom! Down I went again, this time with my right ribs impacting a large round rock protruding from the road. I just laid there. I couldn’t catch my breath after having the wind knocked out me. I wasn’t sure I could get up. I just wanted to cry. After a few moments, I let myself cry.
After what seemed forever I got up and started to walk. Each step hurt. I could feel my chest tightening up and found it difficult to take a deep breath. And worst of all, every step felt like somebody was punching me in the ribs. As I walked, I could see the headlamps of the lead runners catching up with me. Somewhere amongst those lamps was a pair of HOKA’s. I started to run slowly…
Still on pace, I made it to Rock Canyon aid station at 16.5 miles where the cheerful disposition of aid station captain Jeff Parker made me feel a little better (the photos in this post are courtesy of Jeff). Plus, I knew the next three miles was a steep climb that would be mostly walked – maybe I could get my act together on the climb.
The climb to Lightening Ridge felt good. It gave me a chance to loosen-up and compose. There was also the mental boost that came from catching the runners that had started at 1:00 am. It was fun to say good morning to the likes of Olaf, Colleen, Jim.
As I began the descent into Big Springs I realized that this was going to be a long race, and a long day. Running downhill really hurt. Holding my breath and tightening my chest muscles reduced the pain I felt each time a foot hit the ground. But, there was that small problem - I did need to breath. Holding my breath was not a viable solution. While investing way too much mental energy on feeling sorry for myself, I caught my foot on a root. Wham, down I went again.
By the time I reached Big Springs at 23.5 miles hopes for an 11-hour finish were fading. I hurt. I was discouraged. I wasn’t having any fun. I needed to get it together.
In the too much information department, I’m a great daydreamer. I can run for hours thinking about absolutely nothing important! I knew just what I needed was an excellent daydream to release my mind from focusing on the pain. And, I had just the topic! From Big Springs to Little Valley (39 miles) I created the first system to categorize falls while running. The short version is this… There are three categories ranging from Cat I to Cat III falls. To qualify for a Cat III digger you must experience one or more of the following; wind knocked out of you, a broken bone, loss of more than 5 cc’s of blood, see stars or completely black out. Cat I falls are simply stumbles where you may get a cut or scrape on your hand or knee. My tally so far for Katcina Mosa; Two Cat III’s, one Cat II, and two Cat I falls.
At Little Valley I was in a funk. The day was not going as planned. And, my crew was not there to meet me. Oddly, I had been anticipating for a number of miles picking up my iPod and clicking on my “For Emergency Use Only” playlist. As I began the climb up to the Bathtub Aid station (46 miles) I knew I needed to recalibrate expectations for the day. Eleven hours wasn’t going to happen. Maybe I could hang on to first place. And, I hoped to hell I could fend off any Hokas. I figured if I could hold it together and not take any more spills, an 11:30 finish was possible.
Then a water bottle and sunglasses splaying, hard Cat III fall after Bath Tub left my laying on the ground yet again. As I laid on the ground I wondered how these diggers would look in slow motion - would my body bounce back and forth off the ground like when a car is test-crashed into a wall? I ran the final 6 mile road section well. The final miles of pavement had been difficult the previous year for Erik and me. Oddly, finishing that section strong was perhaps the highpoint of my day.
Finishing time - 11:27. Good enough for 1st place and new course record. I guess not too bad of a day considering my affinity for the ground.
A number of runners had an exceptional day. Mick Jurynec ran an amazing 11:45 in his KM debut to take second place. Brian Beckstead placed third with a 12:09, bettering his previous best at KM by an hour. “Mr. Consistent” Dave Hunt ran a brisk 12:27, his 2nd fastest time in the 8 years he has run KM. And a remarkable performance by Roger Smith who took 5th with a 12:31. Roger knocked more than 5 hours off his previous best on the course! Catherine Litherland from the UK was the first woman finishing in 14:50. Catherine posted the second fastest women's time ever on the course
Photos courtesy of Jeff Parker & John Bozung