Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Squaw Peak 2011-Race Report

Anyone who has run with me, or even associated with me on a regular basis, knows that I am always about 2 minutes late. So when I hitched a ride Down to the start of the Squaw Peak 50 with David Hayes, Jeff Bertot and Drew Cooper, I didn't know what to do with all the free time I had. We got there at 4:20 for a 5 am start, I've never had so much time to waste before a start. And waste it I did. I got rid of my drop bags, picked up my race packet, chatted with other runners and as I was waiting in line for the porta-potty, realized that it was 5 minutes to the start and my water bottles were still in the car. I ran to the car, and it was locked. Ran to the start line and found David and his keys as RD John Bozung was starting the countdown. Ran back to the car, got my stuff, and hit the starting line in full stride 2 minutes after the race started. Classic! Even with 40 minutes of prep, I was still 2 minutes late.

I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to positionmyself where I wanted once the singletrack started two miles into the run, so I took off a bit faster than normal trying to catch up hoping that the fast pace wouldn't come back to bite me later in the race. Once I got to the single trackI quickly caught up to David Hayes, handed his keys back to him, and caught up to the guys in front. Cameron Kasteler, Ben Corrales, Ron Gutierrez, and Mick Jurynec. I enjoyed getting to know Ron a little and catching up with the other guys. We almost missed the sharp turn off the fire road up the steep climp to Hope Campground, which unfortunately the next 50-60 missed and added an extra couple miles to their run.

On the climb to the campground Mick, Cameron, Ben and I stayed relatively together and talked about our summer plans. Cameron just finished Ironman St George and has a 1/2 Ironman this weekend, Mick has San Juan Solstice in two weeks and Angeles Crest in a month and Ben has Hardrock in a month. I started to feel a little left out when all I could say was my summer was wide open until Wasatch. Writing this I'm laughing to myself at what an over ambitious/OCD group we ultrarunners are when I'm feeling left out for only planning a 50 and 100 miler over the summer.

Somewhere after the Hope Campground Aid station I started to pull away from the group and found myself running alone, except for passing the occasional runner that had opted for an early start. After a mile or so of descending into Rock Canyon, I pulled over for a pit stop, and by the time I got going again, Cameron had passed me and Mick was 5 seconds behind. The rest of the descent was really enjoyable. I ran into Greg taking pictures, and the morning was crisp, and it felt great to be out on a new trail with beautiful scenery. The folks at the Rock Canyon Aid Station were great and I got in and out quickly with Cameron ahead of me, nowhere in sight.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the the next 9 miles of rolling bonneville shoreline trail, but felt I could make decent time while not over doing it. After the first series of rollers, I caught sight of Cameron about a minute ahead of me, and over the next mile I was able to catch up to him. We ran together for another mile or so, then I found myself slowly pulling away and by the time I got to the Buckley Draw Aid Station I couldn't see him behind me anymore. I grabbed a couple of delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies and headed towards Spring Creek canyon. Somewhere in this section I missed a turn and realized that I hadn't seen a flag for about 20 minutes. For a second a little panic set in and I spent a few minutes bushwhacking up the hill to find the right trail. Eventually, logic took over and I figured that if I just stayed on one of the many trails traversing the foothills, I'd eventually end up at Spring Creek. Sure enough, a couple miles later, the trail started heading up and I beheld the beautiful sight of blue and orange flagging, followed soon after by the Spring Creek Aid Station. I refilled my bottles, and started the long hike up the canyon. I took advantage of this time to eat and drink quite a bit, and catch up on my electrolytes as the sun was starting to come out and warm things up. The top of Spring Creek was beautiful with green meadows, early morning sun and a 3 mile downhill to open up the legs. I arrived at Pole Heaven in 4 hours 10 minutes, about 10-15 minutes behind where I thought I might be, but I felt great and was happy to start back. My pre race thoughts of maybe running an 8:20 were fading, but I thought an 8:30 was still possible. I started running back up Pole Heaven road with a goal of running the entire thing, knowing that I would have to in order to stay in fron ot Mick, Ben and Cameron. Sure enough, two minutes up the road Mick came flying down looking very fresh, followed closely by Ben and Ron. I ran almost every step up the road and then started the rocky, steep descent down Spring Creek. It was great to see so many familiar faces and hear words of encouragement and support.
After leaving the Spring Creek station and heading back on the long 9 miles of Shoreline trail, I hit a bit of a rough patch and had a big dip in my energy. I slowed my pace a bit, walked most of the uphills and tried to catch up on some food and fluids. The aid stations seemed to take forever to get to, and I knew I was losing time on my 8:30 finish. When there was enough open space to see, I would catch glimpses of Mick 4-5 minutes back, and I knew that if I didn't turn things around, he'd blow past me on the climb up Rock Canyon. I ran into Greg taking pictures just past the Y trailhead and I was tempted to sit down with him and take a breather, but he wasn't having any of that and sent me on my way.

At Rock Canyon, I tried something new. I pulled out a set of Black Diamond Ultra Z-poles to help on the long climb. I have been using them while climbing the past month or so and thought they might help out a bit. Off I went with poles in one hand and a cold Coke in the other. I walked a few minutes to have time to drink my Coke and it was just what I needed. The climb up Rock Canyon was long and I kept expecting Mick to pass me. I'd run as much as possible and the poles helped a ton! Near the top I ran into Sandy White coming down to help pace his wife Ashley on her way to a first place finish.

Finally the top and 7 miles to the finish. The 5 miles of descent were pretty brutal. Steep, rocky, and rutted. It was hard to get a good rythym and actually run. Still worried that Mick was right on my tail, I pushed it as fast as I could. I missed the turnoff to the Hope Campground Aid station and ended up crashing someone else's family picnic. I'm not sure what they thought of a dirty, smelly, runner waving long sticks at them asking frantically where the aid station was. They pointed in 7 different directions and luckily I went the right way and found the aid station around the corner. After another couple glasses of Coke, I made it down to the fire road and then missed the turnoff to the last section of singletrack that would take me to the Provo River Trail. Apparently the flagging was removed by some friendly, helpful Forest Service officials. When I realized my mistake, I took a gamble and bushwhacked off the side of the mountain to the only trail I could see, which thankfully turned out to be the right one. Hitting the pavement with 2 miles of gentle uphill to go, I knew that a sub-9 hour finish was a long shot. Still, I pushed as hard as I could weaving in and out of bikers, joggers and couples out for a nice Sat afternoon stroll. Finally, there was Vivian Park, there was the finish and I was done.
1st place, 9:00:31.

What a great day and an awesome race. Definitely different than the normal Squaw Peak course, and in my mind a little harder. There was about 11,000 feet of climbing, with most of it being long uninterrupted climbs. As a consequence the descents were long, uninterrupted, a little more technical, and not quite as runnable. I think John and his crew did a great job of coming up with an alternate course and making it run so smoothly. Thanks again for putting on another 1st class event!!
Congrats to everyone who finished a tough 50 mile race, and I'll make special mention of Betsy Johnson in her first 50 finishing in 12 hours, and my good friend Drew Cooper, with his first 50 in 12 hours. Way to go!! Thanks to all the support crew, aid station volunteers and everyone who made this race happen. Special thanks goes to Brooke and my kids for putting up with these events and being my biggest fans, and thanks also to Wasatch Running Center for their continued support.


Jay said...

Great report Erik! I admire how you kept it together with so many detours. It's not easy to run hard and fast when you're not quite sure of your whereabouts...

Scott said...

Awesome report and congrats on your race.

Randall Davis said...


You were looking strong the times I saw you in the race, captured in video in my race report. Good luck on the trails.


Erik said...


Great video you put together. Thanks for sharing it!