Well.... not exactly what we all signed up for but sometimes mother nature has a mind of her own. Nasty conditions starting 30 minutes into the race forced the race directors to shut it down after 5 hours. Here's how it unfolded:
Weather reports weren't looking good the two days previous to the race, the long standing high pressure was moving East allowing a big system to come rolling in about 3 AM on Saturday morning. I woke up to howling winds but partly cloudy skies so I was hopeful. As the race started the skies were gray but no moisture yet, perfect running conditions in my opinion. I knew we were going to make some climbs up to exposed ridges so I put a long sleeve shirt underneath and wore the calf sleeves for extra warmth. As I looked around at other runners, I looked overdressed but then again some of these guys were only doing the first of three segments for a relay event.
Up the first hill we went, tucked in behind Sean Meissner and we chatted a bit. I felt the pace was a little bit too casual so I passed a couple people and by the top of the first climb I had reached Joe Grant and Luke Nelsen. My legs were strong and my breathing was easy but I elected to tuck in behind those two to gage their pace up and down. It wasn't until the first descent that it started to rain, it was almost misting but it was getting us wet. All 3 of us went through the first aid station within seconds, without stopping, and powered up the first of many climbs. Off trail we went straight up a ridge where Luke was climbing the strongest and made a 15 second gap. At the top the rain had now turned to pelting snow and REALLY strong winds. My hands were ice blocks but I knew the faster I got down, the warmer I would get. Joe and I had a great advantage because Luke lives in Pocatello so he knew the course inside and out. For the most part we followed but on the descent, Joe took off and created his own little 30 second gap.
We all 3 made the City Creek aid station around 2.31 (8 minutes ahead of CR) and left in the same order. Now we had to climb back up to the same snowy ridge we had just descended. The climb was a steady one but we all were running everything; Luke was still climbing the strongest with me in tow and we had both gapped Joe a bit. Back on top the wind and snow were blinding - it was worse than just an hour before. Snow was now accumulating but that was OK because it was covering the once slippery mud. I knew this next descent into the next aid station was a good one to use some leg speed so I pushed the pace. Suddenly Luke stopped for a pit stop which made me push a little harder. And seeing how fast Joe descended last time I knew I had to be fast. I was feeling great and finally that "next gear" that I had been searching for came to life. I came around the corner into the midnight aid station and I heard someone say "holy shit there's a runner already!" Man I was feeling really good.
At this point the trail was completely snow covered with a couple inches of snow but like I said before it covered up the slippery mud so I didn't mind. The lower we descended toward Mink Creek road though, the slushier the snow got. The slush finally turned into water and mud again and that was the worse part. I came around the final corner into an open meadow where Roch Horton's wife was standing and she said "go inside the tent, get some soup, and get dry" "huh.... WHY?" was my reply.... Got to the aid station and they told me they had just canceled the race 5 minutes ago. First I was in disbelief, then they told me how bad it was getting on Scout Mountain and that people were lost. It all made sense and I almost felt some sort of relief. I made it to Mink Creek aid station in 5.02:19, running segment two in 2.29 - 20 minutes ahead of CR. And as for Joe, sure enough he came into Mink Creek aid station less than 5 minutes after I arrived, telling me how fast he was coming down. I knew it. Luke had come in around 10 minutes after me. It was going to be an epic battle but we'll have to wait till next year.
I want to commend Jared, Ryan, and all the volunteers for their swift action. They absolutely made the right decision. I really feel bad for all of them because of all the work they had put in for this event. And this was a great event! I will be back for sure, not only because I have unfinished business but all the friends I reconnected with. Greg Shadow - very nice job on segment two! Shaving almost two hours off of last years time. And Matt Keddington - sorry you weren't able to run. Don't let all that training go to waste - go do Robie Creek.
Photo by Peter Lindgren - City Creek Aid Station