Lake City 50 – 2009
I’ve been laughed at many times for heading out on longer runs under-dressed and/or under prepared. My response of “it’s good adversity training!” is never taken very seriously. The honest truth is that most of the time I just space it and forget basic things like enough food, enough water, or enough clothing. However, I think that subconsciously I like being presented with less than ideal situations and seeing how I deal with them… Well, some of that “training” paid off this past weekend at the Lake City 50 as we were all presented with a pretty crazy storm that most of us weren’t anticipating.
Last weekend I ran the Steeplechase on Saturday and had a wonderful experience on the awesome course. I pushed harder on the road than I normally like to (roads are yucky) and I mildly tweaked my knee, right where my patellar tendon attaches to the top of the tibia. Being behind on my training for HR100 I have been delicately walking the fine line between of putting in the necessary training and getting injured. So, the day after Steeplechase I took to the hills and logged ~36 miles and ~12kft of vert. Monday it was clear that I had done bad things to my knee. Therefore, I defaulted to my trusty “injury plan” of replacing running with road biking for the next few days. Lake City was on Saturday and based on how I was feeling I really didn’t think that I’d be running. On Thursday I went out for a test run on the Box Spring Hollow Loop, starting/finishing at Affleck Park (it was fabulous BTW!) and the knee felt better than I anticipated. So, Friday we (Mindy, Ryan, and myself) jumped in the car and drove to Lake City.
I told myself that I’d run smart, taking it real easy on the downhills and paying close attention to how it felt. No NSAIDS to mask the pain. If it hurt at mile 15 I would drop. Well, it felt decent at mile 15 so I continued on, knowing that there was really nowhere to bail until mile 40. The climb up to the divide drags on forever, but the beauty is so overwhelming that it doesn’t matter. As I reached the high-point on the course it became clear that a serious storm was about to envelope me. And oh did it ever!
The temperature fell quickly below 30F and the snow started to fly. It was actually quite nice for about 30 minutes until I was soaked and the wind started to blow. Fortunately it never got too bad and it kept me moving. My arms, from the shoulder down to my fingers, started to become so cold that it would have been quite comical watching me try to open and eat a Hammer Gel, a process which took about 5 minutes.
Despite being cold I was still able to putt along okay. I came into the Divide aid station and one person who had been in front of me had stopped for a few minutes to warm up and change clothes. I decided I couldn’t stop, so after filling water bottles I was outta there! From this point the climbs are smaller and the general trend is downhill for the next 9 miles. As I dropped in elevation the snow turned into rain, which made the footing nice and slippery. Seriously, I loved it! The temperature warmed up a bit and I started to really have a good time with the situation.
I came into Slumgullion so happy. Mindy was there which always puts a big smile on my face. I quickly loaded up on supplies, ditched a few items, and then took off for the last 10 miles. I felt the best I had on the whole course and enjoyed the last climb of ~1,500′. The single-track down to Vickers is some of the best on the course and I took some time to appreciate it. I hit Vickers 9hrs 22 minutes into the race and they verified that it was only 4 miles to the finish. I had been running conservatively and consequently my knee had done well. But…. that silly little switch inside of me thought, I can break 10 hrs, all I have to do is just over 6 mph (6.3 mph to be exact). So, I turned it up a notch and gave it all I had. I repeatedly slowed down because the gas tank “empty” light came on and I also kept thinking I was pushing the knee a bit too hard. I hit the road with what I thought MIGHT be enough time. If I had had a 5 minute mile in me at that point I could have done it, but I didn’t. I crossed the finish line in 10:02:08, good for 6th place overall. Dang! I was disappointed for about 1/2 a second, before I realized just how happy I was that I simply finished without completely jacking my knee up.
Mindy and I then drove up to Slumgullion and waited for Ryan. Mindy ran the last 10 miles with Ryan who really came alive and had a great finish. This guy is known for his VERY strong finishes. Mindy said he passed at least 20 people in the last 10 miles! His strategy is to hold back for 90% of a race then go ape-!&#$ the last 10%. 🙂
At the finish line I heard numbers like ~45 people DNF’d at the Divide aid station, and something like ~35 DNF’d from Carson, which I would bet makes this one of the lowest finish rates of any 50 miler. ? All for good reason. It tells me that many people are smart and knew when to call it. Many people has less clothing than me (I at least had a long-sleeve shirt, albeit micro-thin) and it was wise that they stopped when they did. Continuing on could have created a REALLY bad situation for some.
At the finish line the RDs were very eager to hear what I had to say about the conditions. When I responded with optimism it made them feel much better. After RDing the Pocatello 50 I know now how stressful it can be worrying about runners.
It truly was a great experience, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it and I will never forget it.
Below is a cool video from up on the Continental Divide, taken by Joseph Lea: