Section A (Fred's Mountain) - 5.6 miles
Section B (Mill Creek Trail) - 14.4 miles
Section C (Rick's Basin) - 5 miles
Thursday, September 4, 2008
This year's trip to the Grand Tetons for the Grand Teton Races was extra special, as both of my daughters would make the trip out west to see their Dad run an ultra (a first for both of them). The 100-mile race itself is one of heightened importance to me, for with it comes an opportunity to perform under the watchful eye of my coach and GTR race director Lisa Smith-Batchen, and to spend time with her wonderful family. It also comes with added bonuses - the field of runners consists of so many friends - Mike Evans, Meredith and Eddie Murphy, Bob Gentile, Ed Mafoud, Leigh Corbin, George Velasco, Terry Madl, Kira M. and many more. We did so much between the time we arrived in the Tetons on Tuesday and race-day Saturday - horseback riding, rock climbing, day trips, dinner with Lisa and Jay and a ton of friends, etc.....Heck, Ginette has a picture album with nearly 600 shots. With way too much to talk about, I am going to keep this post strictly to the 100-mile race and preparations for it. So, on to it.....
Just by way of background, the course is a 25 mile clover-leaf loop course, with roughly 4,975 feet of elevation gain per loop. The terrain is comprised of single-track, service roads, bike trails and a short 3.2 mile stretch of pavement (per loop), which includes rolling hills, steep climbs and loose rocks. Each 25 mile loop consists of three sections:
Pre-Race Prep / Race Check-in - I actually put a lot of effort in to pre-race preparations this year. I had never really utilized drop bags in any race I've run before. For GTR100, I not only put together two drop bags (one for the Base Aid Station, where I'd pass about 13 times, and one for Ski Hill Road). Not only did I have the drop bags, but I also bought two coolers. Last year I totally despised drinking Heed all day long. This year I packed the two coolers with Powerade, Red Bull and Starbucks Coffee drinks. Bob Gentile and I shared coolers (and he actually made use of my one crew member - my wife - but for CREWING ONLY), and he threw some Boost in there as well. The day before the race Bob, Ed and I headed back up the ski lift to the top of Fred's Mountain to hang in the high altitude for a bit, hit packet pick-up, met up with Eddie and Meredith for our own private pre-race dinner, then relaxed before hitting the sack.
Typically I have trouble sleeping the night before a big race, and Friday night was no different. I finally decided to give up and roll out of bed at 3:30 AM. A breakfast bar and coffee were on the pre-race menu, and I even got in a quick on-line poker game to help relax. Bob knocked on the door at about 5:15 AM or so. We loaded the Ski Hill Road cooler into my rented mini-van (Ginette would make the trip to drop it off later) and carried our other cooler to the Base Aid Station. Pre-race check-in was more like social hour. I spent some time with Mike Evans (he placed 5th in 2007, in his first 100 mile race) and Kira M. (a Badwater veteran).
Bob, reaching the top in well under an hour. It isn't so much the climb up that gets you. The descent is quad absolutely quad jarring. When I reached the aid station at the bottom in 1:17:15 (a good 9 minutes faster than last year), all felt well. Section B was no different. I continued to cruise, hiking hard on the uphills and running well on the flats (if there were any) and the downs. Bob was still hanging with me. At some point along the way I started swapping places with Joe Prusaitis, the race director for the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run. I would learn that although Joe is legally blind and could not read a single road sign during our 3.2 mile climb up Ski Hill Road, he takes the down hills with remarkable ease and speed. He says it is because he figures he can't see anyway, so he just goes and feels it out. Sick ! On the way up Ski Hill Road I met two great guys from Utah, Matt Ward and Garrett White. I would shuffle places with Matt for most of the race, until he withdrew at around the 75 mile mark. Garrett would eventually struggle greatly, but still finish under the 36-hour cut-off. After ascending Ski Hill Road the course takes a quick drop before starting its climb to the top of a ridge. The last climb to the top of the ridge is brutal, a switch-back from hell. Still feeling in great shape, I polished off the Mill Creek Trail in 3:13:45 (12 minutes faster than last year). Section C (Rick's Basin) was no different - 10 minutes faster than last year. As I completed the first loop I was torn in two directions - one part of me felt great, knowing that I was at 5:37:55 and in great shape, but another part felt as if I had perhaps pushed a little too hard.
Meredith, Eddie and Bob as I passed the main aid station. And, as I finished up the first half of the race in 13:35, I learned that Kira and George (to injury) had withdrawn. At some point in the next several hours I would also learn that Meredith (to health issues) Eddie, and Bob would withdraw. This had somewhat of a depressing effect. Some portions of the course see two-way traffic, and it was always great to see friends, especially late at night. With nearly half of the total runners dropping at some point, the course became extremely lonely.
I had mentioned that portions of the course see two-way traffic. Throughout the race I would run into Mike Evans. He was far ahead of me and finished in just under 28 hours. As we would pass we would offer each other words of encouragement. We were both experiencing difficulties, him more so then me. Yet, Mike pushed himself to the finish. Mike would come into play a little later in my race, offering me the final boost that drove me to the finish line.
Larry and Olga and had moved from the Base Aid Station to Ski Hill Road - Olga is just awesome and an amazing motivator !!! During my traverse of Section B the leaders would catch me, and again provide more words of encouragement.
When I reached the Base Aid Station the first person to greet me was Mike Evans. Mike had finished and had a cold beer waiting for me. He gave me just one swig, saying that a full cold one was waiting for me 5 miles away. Lisa, who had been so supportive for the entire race gave me one last push and I was off to finish the last 5 miles. Looking at my watch I noticed that if I picked it up a bit I had a shot of coming in under 32 hours. Setting that as my goal, I pushed on, hitting the hills as best as I could, and running when my legs would allow it. I completed the last 5 mile section in 1:29:50, faster then the last two times on that part of the course, and finished in 31:46:20 (about an hour and a half better then last year).
Below is a comparison of my times in the 2007 race compared to 2008. Except for the final loop, I completed each loop (and each section of each loop) faster than I did last year. Loop #4 (and each section in it) was at a slower pace. Yet, I still hit a solid time for the course, and put in a course PR.