Just now getting the time to sit down and write this report after thinking about the race. Sorry for the length.
The Pocatello 50 (or P50) I heard much about from my friend Trevor, who ran the inaugural race last year. What drew me to the course was its difficulty (i.e. hills) and how well organized it was. The steeper the course, the better I seem to do (albeit Wasatch Front 100...that is a different story altogether and my first 100miler). The moment registration opened I signed up for the race. Good thing I did. I believe it filled within 3 days.
My older brother and his family were coming back to the States for a number of weeks during the time of the race. I felt it would be a great experience for him to crew me at an ultra, in addition to spending some quality time with him. So we planned the road trip to Pocatello with his son - Lukas - and my son - Mason - in tow.
We left Thursday morning to break up the drive. First day was spent driving to Boise. It was my son's first long road trip where he would remember anything. He did experience a few 9 hour nausea-induced bus rides in remote Central Mexico a few years back but wasn't of the age to remember. However, it was memorable for a father who gets sick if there are more than a few successive bends in the road. Good thing for Dramamine. At any rate, we made quick time to Boise - 7 hours - after making stops to empty the bladder, eat, etc. It was my first time staying in Boise for any length of time. We ate at Mai Thai Restaurant in downtown Boise just blocks away from the Capitol. I was impressed by the quality of the food, the various options, atmosphere, and service. They even had ample vegetarian and vegan options....of which I opted for a vegan dish that was delicious.
We got up Friday morning and drove the 3+ hour drive to Pocatello. It took a little longer than expected due to some major road construction that funnelled the Interstate down to one lane going in each direction. Stimulus funds?? Geez, couldn't believe the length of the construction. It also was raining......A LOT!! The rain had me peering through the windshield, death-gripped to the steering wheel.
We were able to check into the hotel a little early and I started to get my things ready for the race. We then headed to the start/finish for packet pickup which was a short drive - 20minutes. We stayed for the race briefing and then immediately left afterwards to get a bite to eat as to get to bed at an early hour.
We left the hotel right at 5am to get to the start. Skies were cloudy. Temps were probably in the high 30s/low 40s. Luckily there was no rain. At the very last minute I decided to bring my beanie and wear my lightweight Mountain Hardware vest. As I was stepping to the starting line I saw Trev and said a quick "hi" and we were off.
The first part of the race followed the road we drove up to the starting line for a brief 1/2mile or so. We veered off to the left and got onto some single track. It immediately climbed and I settled into a nice walk/run pace up the hill. After the first climb, it was rolling single track with short, steep ups/downs that were all runnable. It then started to rain somewhere along this nice single track section. I settled into a nice pace behind Sean, Joelle with Trevor and AJW behind. Trevor and I caught up on running, family, etc. This small train of runners lasted for a number of miles before AJW and Sean took off. I rolled into the first aid station (mile 8ish) and grabbed a few gels, filled up my water bottle with Nuun. Trevor, Sean and AJW were about 2 minutes in front.
The trails was beginning to turn really muddy. Trevor had forewarned me that if it was wet out, the trails were going to be slick...and they were. Some sections was like running on ice. I don't know how many times I nearly fell.
I caught up to Trevor just before we headed up the off-trail portion of the race. As we climbed, both Trevor and I caught up to a number of people. The weather started to turn for the worse. The winds picked up and sleet/snow began to fall. It was foggy and having never run the course, I had know idea what the surrounding terrain was like and I didn't recall how many vertical feet we were going to have to climb. My hands were freezing at this point so I tucked my hands underneath my armpits trying to get them warmed up. I put on my beanie and placed my Nuun visor inside of my vest. I knew my body needed food but it would've been futile trying to open a gel/bar/etc so I sucked on my water bottle thinking the little electrolytes I gained from the Nuun would do something for my calorie/electrolyte depleted body.
The conditions reminded me of my many forays into the mountains. However, I had the necessary gear to keep the core of the body warm during those adventures. Today I was just wearing some simple running clothes.
As we crested the ridge that we were on, the snow/sleet made it difficult to see and was covering up the course markers. Winds were probably blowing between 40-45mph. I started to follow AJW and some other guy towards the right on this large open plateau of sorts, when off to my left I noticed some markers. I yelled out to both of them and they followed. The course now followed a ATV/jeep road. I tried to maintain the pace with AJW to help me get off this god-forsaken hill but just couldn't. Within a few minutes I was running by myself in terrain that I wasn't familiar with and in conditions that were deteriorating. I wondered how long we were going to be on this road before dropping elevation. I just started thinking "Keep it together. Keep it together. Look for the course markers. Head up. Look for the course markers." Squinting through the sleet/snow and high winds that were now coming straight at me, I saw 2 course flags off to my right. I stopped for a moment just to be sure. Yes! The flags! I followed them. This ATV/jeep road was now starting to drop some elevation....and fast. In a few minutes, I caught up to AJW, who was stopped and looked like he was trying to warm up his hands to open a few gel packets. I grunted something and continued down. Within 15 minutes it actually felt warm. AJW passed me.....as did Matt. WTF?! Matt?! He had taken a wrong turn just before the off-trail section.
At times the road was a nightmare....muddy, slick and little traction. I fell once, pretty hard onto my left side, while trying to open a ShotBloks (the first fuel since the first AS). The road continued, crossed a few streams and then hit single track. The city came into view and it actually wasn't raining. It was beautiful single track that any ultra runner would love. Then a steep, short downhill section put me at City Creek AS. Just as I was coming in, I saw Trevor leaving. Derek was waiting for me.....boy, it sure was nice to see a familiar face!
I was at the AS a little longer than I usually take but I wanted to be sure I had all the essential items with me. I grabbed my lightweight Marmot jacket, ditched my I-pod and handheld water bottle. I figured I'd need to keep my fingers warm as we were going up again into the weather. It was just too hard to maintain some warm fingers with having the handheld. I had Derek slightly open my Sharkies bag --- again, anticipating my fingers would not be functional once I got into colder weather. I ate a Luna Bar, took two Endurolytes and off I went.
The next couple miles meandered on some single track before hitting a small aid station that had water. I filled what I had drank of my one water bottle since seeing Derek and continued the climb. I thanked them for being there. One of the volunteers said, "Two miles to the top. Then 4miles down to the next aid station." My response joking was, "Piece of cake!"
Just beyond I saw Trevor tying his shoe. We continued on together and again chatted about life. We climbed higher and higher and soon we were again in the wind, snow/sleet. I put on my jacket....and WOW!! what a difference. Sure was nice to have this. At this point, there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground. We caught up to Matt and crested another ridge and gained a ATV/jeep road. Matt and Trevor pushed the pace on the downhill that I couldn't match.
I eventually caught up to Trevor and ran together all the way till around mile 26 - at a remote aid station. Word at the aid station was that the race had been called and racers were stopping people at Mink Creek (mile 32). I grabbed one gel, filled up my water bottle with Nuun and took off. About 1/2 mile beyond I caught Matt. Then Trevor, Matt and I ran together for about a mile before Trevor and I pulled ahead of Matt and then Trevor eventually pulled ahead of me. At this time, there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground and as we descended to Mink Creek, rain began to fall and the snow started to melt. The trail was is in pretty bad shape - basically running in a small stream with the water temperature hovering just above freezing. You could say my feet were cold.
About 2 miles from Mink Creek some one came running up the trail and indeed confirmed that racers were being stopped at Mink Creek. I felt a sense of relief, but in all honestly, a little disappointed. I was looking forward to the next part of the race up and over Scout Mountain, but I knew, due to the conditions, that it was the right decision by the RD's.
Matt and another runner passed me about a mile from the "finish". As I rolled into the finish Derek was waiting for me. A tent was set up and people were mingling inside. I didn't stay for long...just wanted to get to the hotel, take a shower and rest now that the race had been stopped. I finished in 9th place with a time of 5hrs 50ish minutes.
A big thanks to the volunteers for being out in the elements and providing support for all participants. Thanks to the RDs for putting on a great race....and stopping it as well. Thanks to Derek for supporting me at the race. And a bigger thanks to my family for putting up with me and another adventure.
I'll be back next year....just hope the weather is bit nicer!