Going into Pocatello 50 I was unsure on how fit I was to run a fast mountain ultra. My training had been a mixed bag of good and poor results, one week feeling great setting P.R. on training runs the next week feeling slow and out classed by the growing pool of local talented ultra runners. Doing training runs with the rest of the MRC crew plus other local talent like Karl Meltzer, Ben Lewis, Matt Hart, Meghan Woolley and Mick Jurnyec to name just a few makes you a better runner but it can also make you feel slow. It seems like all the local runners regardless of age and ability seem to get faster and smarter every year. I have been trying to hang on for the ride and hopefully get a little smarter and faster myself.
Peter, Erik and I ran the first mile together with Peter setting a perfect pace to start the first climb after a short road section The weather was warm and muggy for a 6:00 am start but it felt really good to me though it made me worried on how hot it would be later in the day. Eventually Erik started to pull ahead and I tried to match his speed but soon realized he was moving to fast for me. I settled into a nice pace running between two groups of people which was perfect because I could run my own race but could also get a sense of my pace by catching glimpses of the runners behind and ahead me. The wild flowers were out and the trail was in stellar condition. A perfect morning with the sun rising over the town of Pocatello in the distance.
The first major climb coming out of the Gibson Jack aid station at mile 9 I took what felt to be slow pace and managed to get down 300 calories while climbing, this is something I tried to do all day, climb quickly but at a level were I could drink and take in calories. I used a flask for the first time and I think it really helped me take in more calories than usual, I would guess I was consuming 400 calories per hour for most of the race. I came into City Creek Aid station mile 18 at 2:50 in about 12th place, I could see Peter just 2 minutes behind looking strong.
Out of City Creek I felt really strong and probably pushed a little too hard. The trail climbing beside, over and around City Creek is for lack of a better word “fun”. The trail shaded and cool with the refreshing creek next to it is awesome and with good tunes on the shuffle it was easy to forget I was racing, it felt more like a weekend training run. After the short but very steep climb up to the ridge I passed 3-4 runners and pushed the pace on the rolling down hill as I headed into Mink Creek. 3 miles before M.C. A.S. the heat started to get to me. I started to stop at the creeks soaking my hat and splashing water on my face and chest. I really believe this help save my race, I was able to dramatically drop my body temperature though I must have looked like a complete goof coming into Mink Creek Aid Station soaked from head to toe, though the way I sweat I look like a goof most of the time anyway.
Marge as usual got me in and out of the aid station quickly, as I left I thought I had a good chance of running a strong final 20 miles. I started playing mind games with myself on the long climb leaving the aid station, I would talk myself into running to the next flag promising myself I could then walk for 10 minutes, I would walk for just 1-2 minutes than play the game again. I passed Matt Hart who was moving slow but other wise looked good, next was Christian who was having stomach issues but otherwise also looked okay. I came into Scout Mtn. Aid feeling tired from the gentle but never ending climb. Luke Nelson took care of me, gave me a update on who was ahead of me and how far the lead runners were. I was 20-25 minutes behind the leaders and 30 seconds behind Erik. This gave me motivation to keep pushing hard to try to catch Erik, and I did, though it took me 5-10 minutes to make up those 30 seconds. Erik was moving well but I was running the hills just slightly better. We didn't say much to each other, we both had our heads down trying to get ourselves up the rolling climbs and there wasn't much to say anyway. We passed the 3 crazy fans out in the middle of no where who gave us all high fives and lifted our spirits as we ground our way up to the top of Scout Mtn. I looked back about 1 mile from the top and Erik was just 2-3 minutes behind me.
On the the steep descent off Scout Mountain I realized my quads were shot and at risk of locking up. I was moving well and had lots of energy but my legs had a mind of their own and were only going to move so fast. Just before Big Fir Aid at mile 47 Matt Hart passed by me moving very well, though I was bummed to loose 4th place I was happy to see Matt rally back and run so strong, boy can that guy pound the down the hills! (I also heard later he ran the whole uphill from Scout Mtn Aid to the top of Scout Mountain). Big Fir Aid station was awesome with cold towels and water misters, I sprinted out feeling good knowing I only had 6 miles to go to the finish.
I ran the last section fairly strong, no drama just a steady and consistent pace to try to hold my position. I finished in 5th place with a time of 9:18. This is way better than I thought I would do and it was great to have a race come together that turned out so well. Thanks to everybody associated with the race, the trail markings, aid stations and volunteers were absolutely perfect. If you haven't done this race you should, put it on your list.