When Jared first announced his intentions of putting together the Pocatello 50 back in 2009, I knew it was a race that had to be done. Unfortunately, the first three years were on Memorial Day weekend, which is family vacation time, so I was excited to see that this year I would be able to get it in the schedule!
Driving up to the race with Jason Berry and Pete Stoughton, I felt unusually relaxed. I knew that the race would be hard, of that there was no doubt, but never having run it before, and with some talented runners signed up, I felt that the best strategy was to not stress about anything and see what happens. My main apprehension was my left rectus femoris (hip flexor). Two weeks ago, I was forced to drop out of the Zions 50 at mile 28 due to a sudden and acute flare-up of this muscle. Thanks to ice, rest, and some anti-inflammatories, my leg felt great, but would it hold up over 53 brutal miles?
My preparations were to look over the course description, prepare a small mileage chart/map (Thanks Christian), and get a good night sleep (after eating a bag of peanut M&M’s). No drop bags, no complicated calculation of anticipated splits. I woke up feeling very well rested, ate a PB&H sandwich, applied appropriate band-aids and lubricants, and chatted with friends who were waiting to start running. As we gathered at the start, thunder started to rumble from up canyon and then a beautiful double rainbow appeared just above the start line. I hoped it was a good omen of the day to come!
To summarize, it was a GREAT day, on a HARD course, and it was HOT. I ran with Peter and Greg for the first few miles, then ran by myself and took a Cat IV fall that is still bugging my hip as I write this. I slowly caught up to Joelle Vaught and Cody Draper on the descent to Gibson Jack, watched Joelle effortlessly pull away on the gentle climb as we left the aid station, and then I closed the gap once the first big climb started. This would be a familiar story throughout the day. On the descent to Mink Creek I caught up to Matt Hart and we ran together for a while. I clearly remember thinking -and commenting to Matt- that 26 miles was a good run and I’d be content to be done for the day, having seen some amazing new country. Luckily that thought didn’t last too long, and I pulled away from Matt who had hit a low spot, and ended up passing Andy and Christian on the descent as well. Christian said something about a stitch in his side and having to pull cactus spines out of his foot, but I was a little foggy at this point and don’t remember much more than that. I was surprised to find myself in 5th place at Mink Creek, thinking that I should have been more like 10th or 12th. I left with two bottles full of ice and HEED and a popsicle and started the long trek up to Scout. I wanted to run, but the heat was pretty oppressive and so I thought I’d power hike and see where that got me. Cody had been running well uphill all day, and sure enough, he came trotting by me just before the Scout Mtn aid station. That motivated me a little bit, and I did what I could to keep him in sight. A couple minutes after Scout Mtn, Greg came trotting by me like I was standing still. He looked fresh and strong and I was psyched that he was doing so well. I don’t like getting caught in a race, but in this case, I was truly happy to see Greg do it. I continued a power hike all the way to the top of Scout Mtn, putting some distance on Cody, but losing sight of Greg as he kept his steady trot going, then Matt Hart came bouncing by like he had just started the race. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s not the first time he’s come out of a low spot to pass me and have a spectacular finish. Coming down Scout, to Big Fir, my quads and the top of my left foot (anterior tibialis) really started to scream and my mental energy started to flag. Just when I needed it most, I saw Joelle through the trees and I found a new gear. It was hot and exposed through this section, I was out of water, and I could feel my heart hammering more than normal, but I figured if I was going to catch her, it had to be now. I caught and passed Joelle a couple miles before Big Fir AS and managed to increase the gap by a couple minutes. At Big Fir, Roch and Chad misted me and had cold wash cloths. Awesome!! Thanks guys. I downed a Red Bull (the only time it ever tastes good), filled my bottles with ice and took off with instructions from Roch that it was 4 miles of downhill, followed by a climb for the final mile. 1 ½ miles down the road, the course went through the Nordic Center and started to climb, and climb some more, and then some more. What the…? I cursed Roch many times over the next 2 miles. As I was cresting the last climb I looked behind me and saw Cody 100 yards behind. That’s what I get for walking and now I had to RUN! That last 1 ½ miles hurt. Bad. And then it was over.
The rainbow at the start of the race was indeed a good omen. I ran in some of the prettiest mountains I’ve been in, met and ran with friends new and old, never had a stomach issue (unheard of for me), never for a moment wondered if I was off course ( again, unheard of) and learned new things about myself and what I’m able to push myself to.
Thanks Jared, Ryan, Luke and all the other volunteers for putting on one of the best organized races I’ve ever been to. I’ll be back again, for sure!