How to Use Cutoffs as a Pacing Strategy: Putting P50 to Rest

Executive Summary for Those Who Hate Long Pointless Race Reports: Your sport should be fun, and if it’s not mostly fun then do something else; if you don’t love running fast, run slow; if you don’t love running slow, hike; if you don’t love being on your feet, cycle; if not that, something else. Find that place where you can live with yourself, where you are stretched but fulfilled. Life is short – keep on growing, keep on LIVING, and keep on LOVING. Oh, and the Pocatello 50 is a monster of a race.

The Long Pointless Part: I have a little history with the Pocatello 50 and know it’s not a race to be taken lightly. My first foray at Pocatello was Memorial Day weekend 2010. Anyone who lives in Idaho knows that surly weather is pretty much ubiquitous to Memorial Day, and we weren’t disappointed that year. I made it to the first major checkpoint at City Creek at mile 17 in 4:54 to find out that that race was cancelled, plug pulled, while search efforts were commencing for many not so fortunate who were wandering in the blizzard, underclothed and off-course. Based on the 4:54 split and knowing what a beast of a mountain was to come in the second third of the course, I do not believe I would have made the subsequent cutoffs that year.

Sam Collier Pocatello 50
Sam Collier at the Pocatello 50 Race Check In

That was my first 50 mile race attempt. Though I have finished three 50 milers, a 100k, and six 100 milers since then, the lure of Pocatello, my original beastly challenge, was still with me three years later, despite going back in 2011 and slogging through the 50k (36 miles) on a snow course – full of postholing, snow fields, and big water crossings – in 10:29. Pocatello wouldn’t rest until I finished the 50 Mile (54 mile) race.

Fortunately for me, following a typically crappy-weathered Memorial Day, the Weekend After Memorial Day 2013 dawned sunny and mild with virtually no snow on the course. I figured the only way I would make the cutoffs was with stellar trail conditions, and here I had the perfect setup.

People always tell me that I ‘look faster’ or that they think I ‘could be a lot faster.’ I’m not sure how to feel about this. Am I just a slacker? (I don’t feel like it) Underachieving my potential? (probably) It’s a concept I struggle with. To be faster, you have to train faster. The thing is, I have fun training like a slow person. And I got a lotta’ other stuff going on – I know, I know, so does everyone else, but everyone has different limits, you know?

So anyway, following my 100 miler at Antelope Island in March and directing the Pickled Feet 24/12/6 Hour & 100 Mile Runs the week after that and an ankle roll the week after THAT, my training for Pocatello consisted of absolutely the best I could muster – a two-week buildup for the ankle, three weeks of ‘peaking’ at 55 miles, and two weeks of semi-taper to the race. For an early season mountain race following a winter of running roads and flat trails down low, that was as good as I could do in the mountain training department.

Still, that was the bare minimum I would need to make those pesky cutoffs. Pocatello is no joke.

The Buff - Pocatello 50
The race gave out Buffs this year. Sam was like, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A BUFF?

Negative feelings swirled pre-race. Between the militant ‘green’ aspect involving cupless aid stations, which I hate, and a ‘plateless’ finish line meal – we were instructed to bring our own non-disposable plate or plan on not eating at the finish – and the strict cutoffs (“if you arrive at the 8:30 cutoff at 8:31…your race is OVER; shoulda’ run faster”), I was just feeling like this race had become too elite for me.

By the end of the race, I had put that all aside, and that’s all I’m going to say about it because I don’t want this report to be about negative stuff. Ultimately, the P50 is a beautiful challenging course with second-to-none aid stations, supported by really good families who come back year after year. I mean, where else can you say that Karl Meltzer personally put your headlamp ON your head for you at mile 48?? That put the wind in my sails for the last miles…so much so that I didn’t even NEED the stinkin’ headlamp.

Pocatello 50 Gibson Jack
Photo Credit: Gate City Sports; Me mustering a run out of Gibson Jack, 8.5 miles in.

Excepting the 10 mile death march from Mink Creek to the top of Scout Mountain; and the fact that I dropped my Ensure bottle right at the start which cracked it and left me with drippy Ensure and subsequently drippy soda through the rest of the race (that bottle served as my ‘cup’ in place of the spineless UltraSpire joke of a re-usable cup), I worked through the race as I have become accustomed to doing: one step at a time, aid station to aid station, carefully working out my time and making those cutoffs like the back-of-pack pro I’ve become.

I had spent a little time in the first third of the race with a new friend named Hugh. I left him on the descent into City Creek and shared a lovely bit of trail with Gary Holloway into the aid station. Gary left me at the aid station when I felt compelled to take a portapotty stop and fix my sock which had slipped down the back of my heel right from the start. I bandaided it up and safety pinned my sock up to the back of my shoe to keep it from slipping again. These two things saved me issues later on, even though my refusal to fix it for 17 miles had already cost me a large chunk of skin off my Achilles.

The top of the climb out of City Creek over to Midnight Creek is wicked, and I would like to point out that a Nutella pancake and two Ensure bottles of Coke at City Creek fueled me right up that thing where I passed no fewer than SIX MEN (including Gary, while keeping Hugh behind me), leaving me feeling really positive heading down to Midnight Creek and then Mink Creek.

Pocatello 50 City Creek
Photo Credit: Gate City Sports; Gary Holloway and I picking our way down a really rocky section into City Creek, Mile 17.

The positivity waned a bit as I tried to muster a respectable min/mile pace on the really runnable section down into Mink Creek. I was finding that I would rather just meander and look around enjoying the scenery. I was truly enjoying being ‘out there’ and was slightly annoyed that I had to ruin the peace by keeping up the pace I knew I needed to keep in order to make that 3:30 pm cutoff at Mink, Mile 32. But I was going to miss that cutoff over my dead body, so I carried on and arrived at Mink Creek a half hour ahead of the cutoff in 9 hours. Good enough.

I didn’t have the most collected aid station stop at Mink Creek, but the one great thing that did happen was a volunteer put ice in my pack for the exposed, hot oven of a section up toward South Scout. You can have cold water for a long time if you blow the water out of your tube back into the bladder instead of drinking the warm water from the tube every time – same way you keep water thawed in really cold weather.

In addition, Hugh showed up at Mink Creek just as I was heading out, and I was relieved that he had made it. I knew some of those guys behind me would not make that cutoff; this was Hugh’s first ultra, and he has Wasatch looming this fall, so I was feeling quite adamant in a none-of-my-business sort of way that he needed a finish at Pocatello to position himself positively for that. I took off up Scout Mountain – well, ‘took off’ is an exaggeration – more like, shuffled off in the start of a death march that would ebb and flow until ultimately I would get my life back on the descent from the Scout Mountain summit to Big Fir.

Hugh caught me a mile or two past Mink Creek and we proceeded up the mountain together. He was a real boost at this point, and I credit him with ‘saving’ my race. The conversation and company got us both moving with more purpose. I was trying to figure out the math with miles and minutes, and I was confident we would make it if we didn’t completely die. I’m not sure Hugh was sure about my calculations, but I tried to assure him that I had been in this spot more than once and if there was anything I did know how to do, it was make cutoffs. My mantra became ‘never give up hope.’

When the course sweep caught up to my little group near the summit, I was at my lowest. Nausea ripped through me with every step, mentally I had switched to auto-pilot just to endure the trauma of seemingly never getting to the top, and I knew I needed some sugar. It was time to break out the Sport Beans, which have saved more than one race for me. Two at a time, I got the Beans down, and as we summited and started the gnarly descent, I could feel the life returning. Hugh and the neonatologist Con who we shared some enjoyable miles with had both found their running legs again and had left me in the dust; I could see them far out ahead down the draw.

But I knew that Grim Sweeper was not my friend, and I was happy to leave the other Gary (running his first ultra on his 30th birthday) back there with him.

Camping at Pocatello
The Pocatello 50 has plentiful camping areas at the start/finish.

I roared into Big Fir (can a 13 min/mile be considered roaring?) just a couple minutes behind Hugh. I choked down a pirogue while Karl Meltzer removed my sunglasses and placed my headlamp on my head. I vowed to not need that headlamp and headed out of the aid station chugging my last drippy Coke from the Ensure bottle, thankfully throwing it away at the trash bag placed a bit down the road. Time to get down to business.

For a couple miles past Big Fir, you have the pleasure (not) of running ASPHALT on a slight downhill grade to the Nordic Center; it hurts like hell but it’s a good place to make up time. I ran like a woman on a mission, having seen Hugh on a turn up ahead. The climb over a small hill past the Nordic Center seemed like child’s play following the three beasts we had conquered previously, so I power hiked and caught up with Hugh and his new friend Scott right at the top.

Scott wasn’t able to run downhill as much as Hugh and I, so we left him, promising to be at the finish waiting. Hugh was battling nausea like a mad dog by this point, and I could tell it was taking every single bit of strength within him to hold it together and keep on running. I was super impressed at how deep he was digging to finish strong.

I was doing a fast-walk/shuffle because it felt only fitting to finish with Hugh after we had done so many miles together, and I wanted to keep the pace to something his stomach would allow. Hugh commented that my walking pace was really good “I’m having to run back here to keep up with your walk!” I took the opportunity to extol the benefits of actually practicing walking and credit Ulli Kamm with being the best teacher and example of an ultrawalker EVER.

The finish was a tremendous relief but maybe also a slight letdown that it was over already. The last five miles in from Big Fir were tremendously inspiring – to find out that the last bit of terrain was ‘easier’ than expected, to not be racing any more cutoffs, to know we had conquered this monster of a course.

Pocatello 50 Mile
Sam Collier and I at the finish line with RD Luke Nelson to the right.

I was full of joy crossing the finish line with Hugh and meeting his wife Teresa. Mike James put the medal around my neck and noted that I wasn’t hysterical (since when have I ever been hysterical at the finish of a race!?!); training partner and good friend Sam was there with a hug and news that he finished in a big time PR of 14:33 – pretty good for an old buzzard; Margaret informed me that a shower in the timing guy’s RV was waiting for me (it pays to know people!); Christine and Lori and Chris and I’m sure others were there with so many hugs; and the best of all was that Dwight served me dinner on a plastic plate that I did not have to go rummage in my tent for!

Let me leave you with lyrics from one of the finest ultrarunning songs ever, Carry On by FUN: My head is on fire, but my legs are fine, ‘cause after all they are mine… If you’re lost and alone, or you’re sinking like a stone, carry on; May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on…

Carry on, friends.

1:47 to Gibson Jack
2:30 to City Creek (4:17)
11.21 at City Creek (4:28)
2:46 to Midnight Creek (7:15)
1:44 to Mink Creek (9:00)
3.14 at Mink Creek (9:03)
2:00 to South Scout (11:04)
3:03 to Big Fir (14:08) includes 5 miles of death march from South Scout to the Summit
1:22 to Finish (15:30) (15:29:14 official time)

Moab Red Hot 55k Race Report

Moab Red Hot 55k – February 16, 2013

Click here to see all race pics

Davina at the start.
Davina at the start.

I signed up for the Moab Red Hot 55k back in September after Davina asked me if I wanted to go on a running road trip with her. I gotta admit, I was a bit reluctant to make a 9 hour drive ‘just’ to do a 50k. But I wanted to support Davina in doing a run that interested her, and honestly, the run really did look pretty cool. Or Hot, as it were.

Through a variety of circumstances that led me to believe I might be on my own to make the trip, I had to consider whether I wanted to do the run regardless of Davina or not. Through encouragement of my ever-supportive husband and some soul-searching, I decided I was excited about the run regardless of who I would end up traveling with; and besides all that, it fell in perfect timing as a training race for the upcoming Antelope Island Buffalo Run in five weeks.

Anyway, long story short, Davina did decide to start the race despite not being certain that a finish was distinctly probable. Not only that, she decided not to drop down to the 33k, but instead chose to tackle the 55k and do her best to make the four and a half hour cutoff at mile 17.

We drove from Nampa to Moab on Friday and started getting excited when we began to see the red dirt terrain of southern Utah. Never having been to this type of country before, we were in for a treat. Not only was the terrain looking amazing, the weather forecast was 100% perfecto for running.

We hit the packet pickup late Friday afternoon at a restaurant in Moab. With ~800 runners signed up, we expected a chaotic and crowded scene, but experienced exactly the opposite. We were the only ones picking up our packets at that moment, and the process was organized and efficient, run by an ample crew of outdoorsy and fit looking people. I expected a little more schwag from a race with a hefty entry fee ($83 early/$95 late) and major sponsors, but we got the standard tech tee in a La Sportiva Mountain Cup cinch sak with a Hammer Gel and the usual assortment of race advertisements, and that was fine. I figured our entry fees went toward the massive shuttle system required to accommodate parking for such a large crowd because they definitely did not go toward the finish line food, extra schwag, or finisher awards. We had been told that sponsors had provided a lot of raffle items, but that process required 1. That you could remember/find your raffle ticket after the race, and 2. That you would stick around for hours and hours waiting as they would call small groups of numbers periodically from noon throughout the afternoon, neither of which we could or wanted to do.

Race morning, we parked at the Gemini Bridges Road intersection with the highway and then walked the ¾ mile up to the start area.  When we had scoped out the start location Friday night, I was alarmed at the SIX portapotties that would need to accommodate nearly 800 runners. So, it was the BEST surprise that when we arrived at the start area right at 7:15 am, there was…wait for it…NO LINE. Pre-race with no portapotty line just rocks. I did notice that the lines by 7:45 am were pretty long, though. The race-morning packet pickup seemed to be going efficiently, and we checked in with the lady in the orange vest to let her know we were there to start. I appreciated the ample supply of water and piles of Heed FIZZ tablets available to runners at the start. Davina and I each drank a cup of FIZZ while we were waiting around.

We had arrived right at 7:15 for the pre-race briefing that had been advertised to take place at that time, but that ended up not really being the case, as it was maybe 7:30? when race director Chris Martinez megaphoned a very short briefing consisting of course markings to follow and a near-bewilderment at the stellar and dry condition of the course.

The morning was cold, in the 20s, but we knew it would warm up at least into the mid-40s (I think it hit 47), so we dressed in layers. Still, I couldn’t believe all the skinny little people trotting around in shorts and singlets.

Mountains and red rock in the same view!
Mountains and red rock in the same view!

We knew about 800 runners had signed up, but it sure didn’t seem like it. The start had a very low-key, draw the start line with your toe in the dirt, sort of feeling, even as Dakota Jones drove his little red truck right through the start line throng to his special up-front parking spot about 15 minutes before the start. Supposedly, a bunch of other elites were there, but I didn’t recognize anyone, not that I was really looking. At the last minute, we stripped off our sweats and put them in drop bags for the finish.

Darian spotted us about 30 seconds before the call of GO and quickly gave hugs and snapped a picture of us. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him again after that, but it was a nice boost to see him for that moment. He ran the 33k and we were sure he had finished and departed long before we got to the finish.

We started way in the back of the pack, nice and easy. I turned to Davina and told her to have fun and have a good run. It was the last time I saw her until the finish, and I left her wondering if she would be there when I finished or not. “There” would mean she had not made the cutoff, and “not” would mean she was still out racing. I hoped I would be the one waiting for her.

Soon we started up the first little climb (about a mile) up and around the side of the mesa that would take us into the backcountry and the famed Moab trails. The north facing slope of the first road was slick with snow and some ice, but other than that and one other little stretch on wind-swept Metal Masher, that was the extent of ‘conditions’ for the entire course. A runner could not even ask for a more perfect day for a run – dry trails, not too cold/not too hot temps, sunshine, gorgeous scenery…the Red Hot 55k on this day had it all.

I covered the first 6 miles to Aid Station 1 in 58 minutes, which I was super happy about. It was good running, with just two little hills to get us warmed up for what was to come. Not having run this race before, and not having a Garmin to give me heads up regarding impending aid stations, the surprise of the first aid station was fun because I didn’t think I would get there so fast, and the surprises just kept coming all day long. There wasn’t one aid station I was having a meltdown over wishing it would come sooner.

Grabbing a handful of chips, a mini Almond Joy (which remained uneaten), a quarter of pb&j, and a couple cups of cola, I quickly exited Aid 1 in about 30 seconds, eating and drinking as I walked up the little hill out of the aid station. Soon we made a right turn onto the loop we would complete before returning to that first aid station which doubled as Aid 3.

The section between Aid 1 and Aid 2 was one of the neatest parts of the course. We climbed up the Metal Masher trail and got to experience the slickrock for the first time. I caught whiffs of juniper and was enjoying my surroundings so much. We reached the top of the rim and could look down and see the start area we’d left a couple hours before. The trail was very technical and rocky, requiring a lot of paying attention, but the red dirt was a dream to run on (soft and cushiony when it wasn’t rocky), and the type of terrain was all new to me anyway, so I didn’t mind any of it. In addition to that, I was appreciating the way I was feeling – not super fresh or springy, but still having good energy and the spirit to work hard. At least I didn’t have leaded legs. I pushed up all of the climbing, running everything except the more extended and steep climbs, and ran quick and easy on everything else. I felt really good through this section.


Arriving at Aid 2 (13 miles) in 2:28, I was stoked. Again, coming upon the aid station was a surprise, and I grabbed another couple cups of coke and some chips and walked on through. The trail monitor sitting at the junction a couple hundred yards up the trail said the best part was yet to come on the Gold Bar and Golden Spike trails between Aids 3 and 5. But I had to get through the next 4 innocuous and less-interesting miles to Aid 3 and the cutoff first.

I had to walk a bit after this to get myself situated for the rest of the day by taking my top shirt layer off and putting my hat and gloves in my pack. I also took the opportunity to make a quick call to John and give him a report of my first two aid station splits. I knew Amy back home might be interested, and it was motivating me to know that people might like the updates, even just from a 50k. But then, all organized and ready to go, I kicked it into gear and ran strong on the lightly rolling dirt road miles to the next aid station, checking into Aid 3 (mile 17) at 3:20.

The typical pain in my hips and hammimes had set in by this point, but I went all “AK” (Amy King) on it, and just kept running and tried to make it look good even though it hurt like running around Lake Lowell. My arrival at Aid 3 was particularly uplifting because I had definitively made the cutoff (4:30) and didn’t have to worry about that anymore. However, I was aware of my tendency to not push without the necessity to do so, and I vowed that I would not fall into that trap today.

I thought about my parents, always supportive, and my dad undergoing a stem cell transplant at the VA in Seattle. I thought about Davina back there on the trail, hoping she was having a good day and overcoming. I thought about my training partners Sam and Amy, who I figured were running together without me. I thought about my friend Amber who had to give up coming with us to Moab to rest her injured ankle so she can run Antelope Island. And I thought about my ever-loving hubby who gives me so much love and support, so much more than I deserve. And all of this thinking kept me running – out of respect for those who can’t; out of love for those who support.

And then the “big” climb of the day came. From about mile 19-22, we climbed vast sheets of slickrock, some of it requiring hands to brace, some of it in step form, but all of it technical and beautiful. The thing about slickrock it this: in pictures, you see people running across it, and it looks like it will be all nice and smooth and lalala. This is not the case. Slickrock can be smooth and nice running, but only in very short sections at a time. The rest of the time, you are stepping up onto it, stepping off of it, tripping on the grooves, leaping over crevasses, navigating the 45 degree angles of the surface, and always watching your footing because it’s very much not smooth – more like a dimpled, bumpy roller coaster for your feet, a very challenging terrain for someone with ‘iffy’ ankles like myself.

Anyway, I was rocking the climb, and no one passed me going uphill. I was leapfrogging with a few people who were better technical downhill and flat runners, but I caught and passed them all on this climb. I don’t know how this was even happening with my lack of hill and trail running in the recent winter months, but it was, and I was grateful for the gift. Come to think of it, I will attribute my strength to the CrossFit I’ve been doing 2-3 times per week.

At the race high point.
At the race high point.

I reached the high point of the course at mile 21 (or 22?) at Aid 4 with a time of 4:30 on the race clock. This aid station had been driven in by very kind and brave people in Jeeps and sat perched on the side of the massive hill overlooking the valley of high desert shrubbery and rock formations. The day was perfect but felt quite warm compared to the cold temps we have been used to running in, and I knew it would be a pretty long stretch to the next aid, so I decided to fill up with water one time for the day at this aid station. Between that and taking a couple of pictures at the summit, I was there about 5 minutes, which was time well spent. After facebooking the picture a runner took of me on the rim (I know that’s obnoxious, don’t judge) and texting John my last two splits off my trusty old Timex Ironman, I got down to the business of tackling the non-straightforward, EKG-shaped descent on the Golden Spike trail into the next aid station.

This was by far the most difficult portion of the race. The entire seven miles was composed of angled slickrock face, slickrock ‘steps’, striated and broken rock, and large rock drop-offs and caverns to traverse. I just did the best I could. It was hard to get a rhythm going with the technicality and constantly changing demeanor of the rock. Some of it was friendly; some of it clearly hated human beings, runners in particular. I was leapfrogging with a girl who was clearly struggling mentally, and I found myself drawing strength from that, knowing that I was doing good with running in the moment and not being frustrated with a long aid to aid section.

The piece from 21 to 28 miles took 1:44, and I arrived at Aid 5 at 6:14, downing two cups of cola (open note to all race directors: serve name-brand soda!!) and a cup of Heed, which would be all I’d need to get me to the finish. Considering the advisement of a veteran Red Hot runner I’d talked with a few times throughout the day, I judged that I would have a chance at doing the last 5-6 miles (no one seems to be able to say if the course is 33 or 34 miles), in an hour and ten minutes or less, so I set my sights on a sub-7:30 and focused on not letting up on the intensity. I ran 95% of the last portion of the race, only taking one walk break on a very monotonous flat road section and then sort of walk-fast stepping through another incredibly beautiful but treacherous big-rock drainage. We slid on our butts down a 5-foot slickrock dropoff to the amusement of some course “monitors” and said goodbye to the big expanses of rock for the day. After this, we had just two miles left of the mondo-rocky Poison Spider trail to take us down into the river gorge and the finish.

Climbing to Mile 21 aid station.
Climbing to Mile 21 aid station.

I had been running strong since Aid 5, but I really resolved to run my heart out the last two miles unlike the many people I passed those last miles who were just walking it in. I had a race to finish, and I wanted to make myself and my friends proud!

I hurtled dangerously over the rolley rocks down the grandiose mile and a half into the river gorge, hoping and praying I would not crash at this late hour. Again, no one passed me on this section, and I re-passed a guy who had caught me on the last downhill slickrock, leaving me to finish in focused silence. The switchback road leading down into the gorge was rocky but very runnable for someone who is nimble and paying attention. I don’t know if I fell into the ‘nimbe’ category, but I was paying attention, and I could “smell” the finish, so I ran as hard as I could down, down, down, and finally came to a couple sitting on a high rock who advised me the finish was right around the next corner! I couldn’t believe I couldn’t see it from way back at the top of the bluff.

I rounded the corner to the finish and there was just a mashup of people and tents and it was all a blur except for the very sharp focus I was giving to the rocks underfoot. I did not want to crash so close to the finish line with all these people watching. And then I heard it. Davina’s voice. Go EM! My spirit sagged  a little bit, knowing her race ended early. But she met me at the finish, and I hugged her and said I’m sorry, and she said she had a great day and was happy and had no regrets.

For me, my ankles held up, my mind held up, and I finished the Moab Red Hot 55k in 7:20, in what was one of my best executed races and definitely my best 50k.

I wanted to hear all about Davina’s race; but first I ran into Ninja Turtle Eric Lee who I first met at the IMTUF 100 in October, and then I had to greet a couple of ‘trail friends’ who were finishing behind me, and then we headed over for the butternut apple bisque soup that was being served to runners (it actually tasted really good), and we had a nice chat with some friends Davina had met at the Salt Flats 100 last April.

Friends at the finish.
Friends at the finish.

The finish area is staged on a ledge just above the highway at the bottom of the Colorado River gorge. It’s really a neat setting with good atmosphere, complete with raffle prizes, music playing, food vendors for spectators, a beer garden, a massage guy, and lots of sponsor booths. It might have been nice to hang out in the sun for a while and watch people finish and listen for our raffle numbers, but we were ready to drive up to Ogden for the night so we wouldn’t have to do the whole drive on Sunday. We caught the shuttle that took us back to our car at the parking area 3 ¾ miles away from the finish and then hit the road.

Our trip to Moab was a quick trip with a long drive; a fun weekend full of good friend time and superb trail running. The Red Hot 55k is a low-key race where the course is the star. If you’re looking for an early-season race with a healthy challenge and good organization, you should sign yourself up next year.

Here are the things I did right that made this race so good for me:

  • Stayed in the game; didn’t get impatient; didn’t wish for the aid stations to come sooner.
  • Focused on running every part I could and power hiking everything else (and I mean power hiking – no one passed me on a climb the whole day, but I sure caught a whole bunch of people that way).
  • Fueled to the needs of the day – my stomach was feeling ‘borderline,’ so I kept the intake to mostly pop and some shot blocks after the halfway point, but still, I didn’t let myself get too depleted.
  • Never allowed myself to have a ‘slog’ section. If I could run, I was running, even if it was slow. This goes very closely hand in hand with the fueling piece – you have to fuel adequately to avoid the bonk.
  • Looked around and appreciated my surroundings at all times, adding maybe 10 minutes to my overall time taking some pictures and having people take a few pics of me. It was worth it for this sort of infrequent opportunity to visit someplace so heavenly.


  • Aid 1, 6 miles, 58 mins
  • Aid 2, 13 miles, 1:29 (2:28 race clock)
  • Aid 3, 17 miles, 51 mins (3:20)
  • Aid 4, 21 miles, 1:11 (4:30)
  • Aid 5, 28 miles, 1:44 (6:15)
  • Finish, 33-34 miles, 1:06 (7:20:54 – my watch time, not official race time)

Team Pearl iZUMi – The Beginning

When local Pearl iZUMi rep Heather Culig first facebooked me – I guess that’s how this stuff happens – about being a part of Team iZUMi Mountain States for 2012, my first question was,

Um, Heather, have you ever actually looked at my race record? Slow, average, ultra-shufflers don’t get sponsorships.

Then she set me straight.

Although PI does indeed maintain an elite ultrarunning team (Team Pearl iZUMi-Smith – they have their own website and everything), which boasts athletes such as Ashley Nordell and Darcy Africa, this is a different kind of team. I like to call it a ‘community’ team, made up of athletes of a variety of  speeds and abilities.

Alright. I represent the “slow” demographic; the negligible ability. That makes sense.

Heather went on to say, The main thing I am looking for is people persons who just love running!

Well, I do love running. As for being a people person…I try.

According to the Team PI facebook page (Team Pearl Izumi – Mountain States), Team Pearl Izumi is a selective group of competitive runners and triathletes of all ages and abilities who are passionate about training and racing. Team PI strives to build a community of active lifestyle enthusiasts and inspire them to reach their goals.

A stipulation for being on the team is to train and race in the Pearl iZUMi shoes and apparel. No, we don’t get our race entries paid. But we get sweet shoes to try out…and I’ve been liking them a lot.

The first two pairs I’m trying out are both lightweight trainers – the Peak II and the Streak II.

So far, I’ve worn the Peaks on a  50k trail run last Saturday, and today I wore the Streaks on my road run around Lake Lowell.

Streak II

At 7.5 ounces each (for the women’s size 9.5 – the sizing of the Streaks and Peaks is a half size larger than you would normally wear), the Streaks are a very lightweight road trainer, with marginal to no cushioning. I had worn them for 9 miles previously, and based on that experience, I was apprehensive to wear them for a 26 mile run. They are a little sparse in the cushioning department for someone like me who is going to shuffle 12-15 min/miles for nearly six hours. So, I slipped thin gel insoles under the stock insoles, and that felt really good. The fit was still fine. I still don’t get why shoe companies – MOST shoe companies – can’t get the offset lacing thing down. No one wants shoes that lace right over the high part of the foot!

Anyway, after 5:45 and 26 miles, I felt like I had run 26 miles. I’ll be honest – my feet hurt. And so did my hips and back and shoulders and eyeballs. On the plus side, my right arch/ankle, which in recent history has given me problems, did not hurt more than any other time; and it actually felt less strained that in some of my other shoes. So, I would say that the Streaks for a long-long road run were a success, although a shoe with a little more cushion would be slightly more ideal. The next shoes I’m ordering will be the syncroFuel Trail II, a less minimal ‘trail performance light stability’ shoe. I really can’t wait to try it out and am hoping that will be my ‘go all the way’ shoe for the Salt Flats 100 coming up at the end of April.

See you on the trails!

Antelope Island 100 Mile Buffalo Run

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100M

March 25 & 26, 2011

Davina: On Tuesday March 22nd, Emily mentioned that she would like to go watch our friend Sam run and pace him to get that coveted 100 mile buckle. Not sure how it happened, but I mentioned I would love to catch a ride down and before we knew it, we were leaving Nampa around 2:00 pm Friday the 25th. From the phone conversations we’d had with Sam on the trail since the race had started at noon, we figured would find him somewhere between miles 40 and 44…oh wait, did I mention he had no clue we were coming?

Sam: First of all, I had no business even registering for this race. I couldn’t even run for 8 weeks after the Javelina Jundred five months ago. I didn’t make the cutoff to continue on and run the last 9 miles of the race due to knee pain. I didn’t tell anyone that I registered for Antelope knowing that I wouldn’t have enough time to train properly. It took everyone about 2 weeks to figure out that I was in by checking the entrants list. My thoughts were this would force me to rehab properly and be as ready as possible come race time. No time for any type of setbacks. Also in my head was the pressure to erase the JJ DNF. DNF doesn’t sit well with me. I am not a quitter and I finish what I start. So with my training miles somewhere near half, I added bootcamp 2 to 3 times a week having to modify exercises that stressed the knees. Antelope Island, ready or not here I come!

Sam: The weather forecast was snow and rain for the weekend. Looking out the hotel window on race morning, I had to smile. It was raining pretty good, and that turned to a fairly heavy snow for a while and then back and forth between rain and snow. The reason I was smiling is because it doesn’t rain on me when I am running, and this would be a good test. While driving to the start (early because I am always early) the snow lightened up to a drizzle mixed with a few flakes. I placed my drop bags in the canopy in the proper piles. I had plenty of dry clothes including shoes in each of the 4 drop bags just in case. I also had a Starbucks Doubleshot, an Ensure, and plenty of S! Caps in each a bag. The Doubleshots were to be a pick me up for the 2nd loop. I stole this idea from Emily. She actually quits caffeine before her races so that the Doubleshots have more effect. I am not giving up my coffee! {and neither is Emily any more!}

Sam: It was getting close to race time, and the volunteers were still setting up. I helped put together a canopy. We were told beforehand that they would still be setting up until the start and they were. With a couple minutes to start, Jim Skaggs the RD drew a line in the dirt with his foot and announced this is the starting line. The equipment wasn’t there yet. I thought this was a pretty cool, low tech way to start a race. And we were off, overprepared for the rain and snow that wasn’t to be. Why? Because it never rains on me when I am running.

Sam: About a half mile in, I looked up at the snow covered mountain and could see some dark specks that must be buffalo. I remember thinking I hope we are going up there and we did and they were. The snow was beginning to melt and the trail was getting muddy in places. Somewhere around mile 8 on the second set of switchbacks, the melting snow was creating a stream of water on the trails and very muddy in places. About this time, I started developing knee issues. Oh no, not again, was my thought. At Elephant’s Head aid station (mile 13.5), I changed into my road shoes for two reasons: 1. My shoes and socks were soaked and 2. I hoped this would help the knees. Jen Stover helped with my drop bag and was there to assist. She and a friend were manning this aid station. Seeing Jen was one of my race highlights. I wish I had a picture. She had a Viking helmet on and war paint – oh wait, that was her mascara running.

Sam: Leaving Elephant’s Head aid station, I dropped quickly to lower elevation and warmer dry trails, trying to forget about aching knees and trying to stay slow and save energy while taking pics. Between mile 18 and 19 I broke out the iPod looking for some distraction from the knee pain. I have a mix of Christian and 50s music on my iPod. At this point, I was just logging miles and listening to music wishing that Emily and Davina would show up to pace me. I had a gut feeling that they were going to show even though my head said they weren’t.

Emily: It doesn’t really matter how it all came about, but Davina and found ourselves traveling to Antelope Island, Utah on Friday afternoon, the 25th of March, 2011 on a mission to assist our friend Sam in finishing his first 100 mile race. Davina and I had talked to him in the early evening when he was about mile 32, just getting ready to leave the Ranch AS. I remember talking to Sam on the phone earlier in the day while we were on I-84 in northern Utah:

Promise me you won’t even THINK about stopping until you get to mile 50, okay Sam?

Oh, I’m not quitting. I feel pretty good right now.

Emily: I was hopeful. The big concern was Sam’s knees, which had caused a DNF at JJ back in October 2010. But things sounded like they were rolling along much more smoothly for a much longer time than they had at JJ, when things had started unraveling very early in the race, about 10 miles in.

Sam: Logging miles, I met and ran with Jan who used to live in Boise but now lives in Salt Lake. We would run together and take turns passing each other and run together more. Somewhere during this time I talked to Emily on the phone. Yes, I carried my cell phone. Emily is a very good friend and running partner. I told her that I felt that she would show up to pace me and she got quiet. After I hung up, I remember thinking that I hope I didn’t make her feel bad for not being able to come. This is where I first thought they weren’t able to make it.

Sam: The snow capped mountains were amazing glowing bright pink around mile 30 or so as the sun was starting to set.

Sam: Just after dark I got a call from Emily after I stopped to use the bushes and Jan went on. {Emily: actually, it was Sam who called me, and I really didn’t want to answer because I just had this feeling that one of the next few runners would be him, and I was right. I held the phone away from my ear and could still hear a voice from the headlamp ahead in the dark talking, confirming it was him.} Emily asked if there was someone running in front of me with a red light. My thought was how did she know that Jan was in front of me? That’s when she said it was her.

Sam: I don’t have the words to describe how I felt after running about 30 miles with achy knees and having two amazing friends make a surprise five hour drive to pace me. Everything was going to be okay. This was a big boost for me. I was going to get my first hundred mile finish. The rest was Emily and Davina. These next miles were a blur. The lightening in the distance lit up the clouds in such a cool way as Emily and I ran from Lower Frary back to the Mountain View aid station where Davina was waiting.

Davina: Emily ran out four miles from the Mountain View aid station to meet Sam, and then they returned back to Mtn. View (mile 44) where I was ready to take over pacing for the next six miles into the race headquarters (mile 50), where Emily would take over for the next 19 or so miles. Sam looked great when I first saw him. He had high spirits and joked around about the buffalo. I know seeing Emily out on the course gave him the lift he needed to get through the night.

Davina: Emily and I decided to divide up the pacing into sections and alternately torture Sam with our presences. Haha – he really took it like a good sport. In all actuality we weren’t that mean – we kept the yelling to a minimum. {Snicker, snicker}

Davina: About mile 45 there is a section where we thought we were going to have to cut cross country due to unclear markings or lack of markings. We wandered around for a while trying to get back on course and to the next aide station. The RD had non-reflective orange and black course markings flagged really low to the ground, along with trampled and rained-on lime arrows. I can see the buffalo now – Let’s trample every last piece of tape! and they did. We slowly came to recognize a glow close to the ground as not some wild animal ready to eat us, but a lantern to guide our way. The guys at the Lakeside AS were very helpful and nice as they sent us on our way.

Sam: I remember deer eyes at night running with Davina.

Davina: About mile 48, we came around a rocky section to several beady eyes staring at us. My first instinct was to hide behind a rock because I had heard that the buffalo might charge if threatened, and who wouldn’t be threatened by a bunch of crazy runners out in the middle of the night? Instead, it was a whole herd of deer, the closest one being about 20 feet from us. They were beautiful. Sam kept a steady pace, hiking an average of nice 15 minute miles. Sam told me of all the buffalo he had seen during the day and how beautiful the land was. I was so anxious for morning to come so I could get to see some of the country he kept describing. In the meantime, we wandered by the light of a half moon and our headlamps, one step at a time.

Emily: When Sam and Davina came into the start/finish tent at mile 50, I was ready to go. I’d gotten Sam some Ramen to drink and we helped him recharge his Nike Sportband. After 10-15 minutes of recharging and reorganizing, we were set to go on the 19-mile loop that would take us to dawn. It was 12:35 am when we headed back out into the night.

Sam: Later in the race, I remember all the pressure melting away when the girls took away my tech gadgets and all I had to do was obey and run.

Emily: As we headed out into the night, RD Jim Skaggs commented to us “it’s just through the gate again.” This would be the second time Sam had done the course, and I was sure he would know what Jim meant by that. We rolled through the gate, confident that Sam knew where he was going “just through the gate.” But we all know darkness brings a different world.

Davina: Meanwhile, I decided I should try to get at least a couple hours of sleep so that I could be the best help as I could to Sam come those early morning hours. But, it didn’t work. From 12:30 to 4:30 am, I might have squeezed in a total of 1.5 hours of sleep, but I really can’t be certain that I got that much. My mind was on Sam and Emily. I kept praying for them, praying for Sam’s strength to hold up and for his knees to not bother him. I thought of all the runners out there and what strength and profound determination they showed. I had the pleasure of hanging out in the tent with Jon Kinzer, who pulled from the race due to a rolled ankle and Achilles issues, along with 100 mile winner Dan Vega  (15:31) and second place 100 miler Karl Meltzer (16:06).

Emily: I could see lights of runners ahead up on switchbacks on the hill to our left, and I knew that’s where we needed to be heading. The road we were on had headed straight through the gate outside the aid station. We toodled on, but the further we traveled, I started to question.

Sam, is this the way you went the first time?

I think so. I’m not sure.

We need to be up there. Maybe the road will turn in a few minutes?

Emily: The road we were heading on was leading out to the right parallel to the base of the hills. Something didn’t seem right. Finally, 1.2 miles out, I said We need to turn around. We are not cutting left up the hill like we should. I was fresh so I turned around and took off running with Sam following behind at a walk. When I frantically raced into the aid tent, I snagged the first person I saw who looked like he might be a reliable source of information.

You take a hard left along the fence directly after passing through the gate.

OH. Crap. I walked back over to the gate and looked for markings that I missed the first time through. There were maybe some faint flour marks on the ground, and on closer inspection, I saw a solid white line crossing the road we had just taken. I guess that meant we shouldn’t go that way. Oh brother. I waited a few minutes for Sam to arrive and then we were on to mile 50 for the second time.

The time was 1:25 am. 50 precious minutes vanished into the night.

Emily: Sam and I pushed up the large switchback to the top of the ridge. I could tell Sam was in a little funk. He asked if he could lead so he could try to get some of his fire back, and I let him go. I needed to take a pit stop and change the batteries in my badly fading headlamp anyway. {Note for night runners: always carry a small backup flashlight so you can see in the dark to change the batteries in your headlamp if you are alone.} So, by the time I was going again, Sam had gotten quite a ways ahead on a downhill section. The top of the ridge afforded a breathtaking view of SLC across the great expanse of the lake, and I drank in the view, appreciating that I could exist in this moment in this place on this night. Dry lightning flashed in the distant sky, but stars lit the sky directly overhead.

Emily: By the time I caught back up to Sam, we were climbing our way to the Elephant Rock AS. This whole section was comprised of a loop and an out and back, so we were seeing people coming back our way, one of whom was a strong looking Dennis and then Jon Kinzer who was calling it a day, limping back to the main hub with a tendonitis issue and twisted ankle. I felt bad for him, but on a positive note, Sam had recovered his better spirits by this time, had acknowledged that he was in a funk over the bonus miles, and had moved on, literally and figuratively.

Emily: Reaching Elephant Head, we opted to do the 3 mile out and back section before the loop. The out and back was a sweet little singletrack at a slight descent out to a point that I am told was spectacular during the day; however, in the dark, I could not even tell we were on an island. It’s just you, the rocks and dirt in front of you, the stars above, and the circle of light guiding your way. Reaching the turnaround, I picked a cute sticker out of the bucket for Sam to stick to his race # proving he had been there, and we headed back to Elephant Head. I had a quick telephone conversation with John through here – we had cell service at selected points around the island. I tried to keep him and Tina updated throughout the race so everyone could pray and be informed about Sam’s progress.

Emily: Now on the 6-7 mile loop from Elephant Head, we had a beautiful experience under a stunning half moon. I tried to get some pictures but they didn’t come out so well. Eventually, we caught up to some headlamps on a section of switchbacks. We had not seen many people for a while and it was a welcome sight to not only see headlights, but more so to see that we were catching up to them. Nothing is more moralizing in the wee hours of a 100 miler than to catch up to and overtake someone. All racers experience highs and lows out there, especially through the night, and realizing you are faster and stronger than someone else brings a strong dose of good spirits. We overtook the lady and her pacer, wished them well, and went on our way. Sam’s victory arms indicated that he was happy about this small achievement. I could tell the lady was in one of those slumps and felt bad for her. But those things come and go…and Sam’s turn for the slump was coming a little later down the road.

Emily: I kept checking my trusty old Timex to monitor our progress and try to keep it steady. Secretly, I was nervous about the time, not sure how our lost 50 minutes would affect our overall mission. Originally, I had aimed to get us off the 19 mile loop about 5:30 am (5 hours), but I had revised that plan to 6:00 am after the bonus miles. After prodding Sam through some rather difficult miles, around and down to the aid station, taking walk breaks when needed, but trying to keep up a good pace, we rolled into the start/finish about 6:30 am, and Davina was waiting and ready to take up a good portion of the daytime running on the lovely flat lakeside singletrack, vast the Salt Lake and snow capped mountains ever-present for miles 50-94.

Davina: When Sam and Emily returned, we made sure to get Sam in and out of the AS quickly. Emily would crew along as much as she could and hopefully get some shut eye, which she never did – too much activity. Sam was in good spirits, his left ankle a bit sore but his knees overall good. We made sure to keep a close eye on them, though.

Emily: Morning was freshly dawning when Sam and Davina headed over the hill toward their long lakeside run. From a crew’s perspective, I think the night portion went well, and Davina and I did a pretty good job getting Sam in and out of the major checkpoint pretty efficiently, with the exception of having to charge his various electronic pacing devices.

Davina: Sam and I made our way back over to the Mtn. View AS (mile 70) and completed a short 2 mile out and back before heading on the long out and back to the Ranch. I noticed that Sam started thinking weird things were funny, like the two girls headed straight for the lake instead of turning on the trail to do the out and back. Sam good naturedly told them they were on the wrong trail and that they might get a bit wet if they kept going. Haha.


Emily: I hung out with the race winner and Jon Kinzer for a while before heading over in the car to check on Sam and Davina. Ben Blessing called about 7:00 am while I was in the process of overlooking the misty lake in the early morning light, flocks of birds landing and ascending, buffalo grazing on grassy knolls above the water, lake awash in blue and pink and white. I gave Ben a good report, saying that Sam was feeling pretty good so far, was maybe getting tired, but was still moving well and was not experiencing debilitating knee pain. I can’t remember exactly when Sam first mentioned to me that his left ankle hurt, but I think I dismissed it as one of those pains he would just have to deal with.

Davina: We made our way into Lower Frary (mile 77) where Emily met us, helped Sam refill his water, and got him something to eat. It was at this AS where Sam said he needed to use the restroom and came out shortly handing me an extra pair of running shorts that he had been wearing. Let me tell ya, I’m not sure what I thought when he handed them to me, but I got a great laugh out of it! I do remember him saying, That should help me run better. He’d been wearing two pairs of shorts the whole time? What??

Davina: After Lower Frary AS, I got to encounter my first up-close buffalo about 30 yards off trail. Sam wanted me to get closer and get a picture, but I made sure to keep moving as I snapped the shutter button.

Sam: This was too funny – Davina was shaking so much out of fear of a buffalo attack that she couldn’t push the shutter button on my camera. She kept saying come on keep moving. She was sure we would be attacked. The buffalo were probably laughing harder than me.

Davina: I noticed that Sam kept doing a little more walking and a lot less running. He was also starting to really favor his left ankle and even stepping slightly off the trail would cause him extreme discomfort.  About mile 80, after Lower Frary outbound, Emily met up with us and wrapped Sam’s ankle with a good ol’ Ace bandage, which helped immensely. On the trail again, I decided it was time to not keep my prayers quiet and spent the next two minutes praying right alongside Sam that God would work a healing in his body and that he would move on to conquer this 100 mile race. So many people sent texts to Sam – he had me check his phone as it kept buzzing – such amazing support from such awesome friends. Into the morning, I decided to institute a walk/run pattern hoping that it would give him a little more of a push and take focus off the ankle. Overall, I think it worked. One minute of walk and then one minute of run, allowing for two minutes of walk while he ate something – I know, I know – but I had to keep him moving.

Sam: My ankle started hurting badly and the knee pain went away. I remember as the fastest 50 milers were approaching, I was trying to let them pass and the pain was too much for me to step off the trail. I started apologizing to them. I welcomed the ankle pain as a distraction from the knees.

Emily: Davina called me shortly after Lower Frary, saying that Sam’s ankle was getting really bad and wondering if I had anything in the car that might help. I whizzed over to the next point on the trail where they would access the road, plopped Sam down in a chair, and wrapped Sam’s ankle up in an Ace bandage.

Sam: Emily taped my ankle, and I wanted to convince Davina that it was better now, even though it wasn’t. It would eventually go numb and feel a lot better. Sometime during the ankle thing, the knee pain disappeared.

Davina: Every once in a while Sam would look off in the distance and make a remark about the beauty of the snow capped mountains across the Salt Lake. It wasn’t until he asked about the sprinklers on the hillside that I began to wonder if this was what I had heard talk about – hallucinations and how the mind could play funny tricks on you. I laughingly told Sam they were not sprinklers but that if we would like to check them out I would wait on the trail for him. He decided not to. Heh heh. At one point while pointing up the hill to some bonsai-looking trees, Sam told me those were some of the biggest buffalo he had ever seen.

Davina: I decided to play along and said, Oh no Sam, those are giraffes. Yeah, that’s what I said. See those two giraffes?

Davina: I didn’t encounter my first real struggle with these imaginary images Sam was having until he thought he saw the Ranch AS, which was really the side of the mountain with rocks lunging out on the edge. If I had just run 80-something miles I could see how it would look like an aid station. Sam was so intent on getting there he kept asking me why I just wouldn’t let him go to the aid station. I tried several times to tell him that was NO AID STATION, but he told me that he was going anyway. He was just about to head cross country when we met up with Paul and Steve, and Sam asked them about the aid station hoping for a more favorable answer. Thankfully they told him the AS was up the road about two miles and that was just a hill. Thank you guys!!!  I will admit that had me in stitches. He was just so adamant, and I just got to yell at him that it wasn’t; and then he looked so sad that I had to say, Oops, time to RUN.

Sam: I got upset with Davina because I thought she was looking at the wrong spot and this was why she couldn’t see the invisible aid station.

Davina: Emily met up with us at the Ranch AS (mile 83), helped us get Sam refueled and hydrated, and then out we went, back to Lower Frary. I would switch things up on him and do 1 min walk/1 min run, 2 min walk/1min run, 2 min walk/2 min run, and then start over. Emily had brought along some turkey wraps and that proved to be great fuel for him. They were solid without being heavy on the stomach. I also had one of those Gatorade Primes that I had thought to buy to bring along because I knew Sam liked them. Between the turkey wraps and the Prime, Sam’s energy seemed rejuvenated, and he got back on track.

Emily: It was quite late in the morning before I even started feeling drowsy from being up all night, but there was enough action at the aid stations and driving along to the various points to meet Davina and Sam that I never felt like I needed to stop and sleep. Anyway, I didn’t want to be asleep when they came through, especially because they were moving faster than I expected them to be.

Emily: While waiting back at Lower Frary AS, I had the good fortune to encounter Robbie Woog heading outbound, and I helped him to get moving out of the aid station on his way to his first 50 mile finish! It was there that I also encountered a spry Dennis heading inbound, simply killing the course in his tutu with his pacer, speedster Glen Merrill.

Davina: During that day, we came across some of our 100 mile friends: Lynette McDougal, running strong and positive as always, finished in 25:51. Dennis Ahern killed the run in 22:24 with a second place in his age division and 13th overall. Steven Boyenger and Paul Lindauer finished together in 25:54.

Davina: We met back up with Emily at Lower Frary and she took back over running with Sam. They had about 11 miles to make it to the finish line and about 6 hours to do it. Sam was strong and determined. After four years of knowing Sam, I learned something new about him – he CAN run without his Nike+ and his Garmin.

Emily: The 4-5 miles (~89-94) from Lower Frary to Mountain View AS were fairly uneventful, just passing the time, consistently walk/running 1 minute/1 minute with some variations for the terrain. Sam tried to stay fueled, eating the last turkey wrap and a cheese stick I had in my pack, along with some peanut M&Ms at the aid station. At Mile 94, there was a short climb (less than a quarter mile), and the rest of the race was flat to rolling terrain on the section Davina had run with Sam the night before.

Sam: I remember seeing double several times with Emily in the last 6 mile section of the race. Two people were running toward us, but to me there were four of them. As I ran behind Emily, I thought no wonder she runs so smooth – she has four legs.

Emily: The piece of trail with 2-3 miles to go was one of my favorites. Massive rock formations hugged the trail, sometimes becoming parts of the trail; and Sam – a rock lover at heart – still had the presence of mind to point out to me what the formations looked like to him. Look, there’s Elvis! I just looked around us, letting Sam get ahead of me for a minute and tried not to get emotional about this huge achievement that was about to be won. I think I grinned from ear to ear for a good three miles into the finish.

Sam: I laid on a rock with about 4 miles to go, and it was funny for me. I thought for sure Emily would be yelling at me.

Emily: I was too kind-hearted to yell at Sam, when he clearly had a smidge of humor left. It was pretty funny to come around that corner to find Sam hamming it up on a huge flat rock, like he was sleeping. As if I would let that fly for long!

Sam: Just before Emily took over pacing the last time, I told Davina several times that the three of us should cross the finish at the same time together. I was upset when she was across the finish line with the camera.

Emily: Sam was moving along well all the way to the finish, alternately walking and running, and we only got passed by a couple of 50 milers as we passed a couple other 100 milers ourselves.  The white tent of the finish line finally appeared in the distance like an oasis. There it is, Sam!! As is often the case, objects in ultras are often further away than they appear, but I tried with moderate success to get Sam to run the last mile in. When we reached the finish area, I practically had to drag Sam down the “aisle” toward the finish line. He just wanted to stop there and wait for Davina to get over to us.

Sam, you have to finish the race!

But I want Davina to cross with us.

Well, she is over there taking pictures.

But I want Davina to cross with us.

Come on, Sam!

Emily: Almost reluctantly, Sam crossed the finish line, grabbing my hand and holding it up as we crossed. The clock read 27:34, two and a half hours ahead of the finish cutoff. What an awesome victory! Davina and I were relentless, but we only pushed Sam to the point that he was capable. This was his finish, his victory, 100 miles he covered with his own two feet. I was incredibly proud of him.

Sam: It was great of Dennis and Jon being at the finish with high fives. Seeing Emily’s excitement for me at the finish was very touching. All I could think was wow!

Davina: I learned many lessons in the pacer role of this 100 mile race:

  • 1. You can do anything for one minute – just ask Sam.
  • 2. Ramen noodles are good, but not for the whole race.
  • 3. Emily should always be there with her turkey wraps.
  • 4. Praying is great.
  • 5. Praying out loud at mile 82 is okay and other racers thank you for it.
  • 6. Just laugh when you see giraffes in Utah.
  • 7. Friends are the best.
  • 8. Watching your friend hold that buckle in their hand does make you cry.

Davina: Hey, Sam, remember when we started running at the Rec and wrote down our goals? Half marathon – that’s just small stuff, my friend. You are now in the 100 mile club! Congrats!

Sam Collier:  27:34:13.4   16:33/M   5th in 50-59 Age Group

Davina: Emily and I left for home about 5:30 pm Saturday evening.  I count myself blessed to have such awesome friends, ones who will speak the truth, ones who will hold you accountable, ones who will dream with you, ones who will believe in you, and ones who will go that extra mile with you.

January 29, 2011 – Wilson Creek Frozen 50k Trail Runs

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Funnest Time Award - 10 Mile Finishers

The first (possibly annual) running of the informal trail gathering dubbed the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k (and 20M and 10M) can be considered a great success. No one got permanently lost, for most of the morning the really bad mud stayed at bay, only one person reported blood (with pride and a great description of the fall, of course), and many milestones were achieved.

R-L, Top Three 50k Finishers

You never know what you are going to get in the Owyhees this time of year. It could have been epic mud or blizzard conditions. It could have been 0 degrees with a -20 windchill. Turns out, we were blessed with a best possible case scenario for course conditions overall. For the first half of the day, a blanket of chilly fog kept the ground mostly firm, so the infamous Wilson Creek clay mud only attacked the small group of 50k runners who were braving the 10 mile loop in the afternoon. Chill wind was nowhere to be found. And above the fog, 50k and 20M runners got to enjoy the most spectacular views in the brilliant sun from Wilson Peak (elev. 5363’).

Runners Descending from Wilson Peak with Soldier Cap in the Background

Even at a small, informal gathering like this, inspirational stories abound. One girl finished her first-ever 50k and was so excited about it. One guy ran his 4th 50k in as many weeks to celebrate his birthday two days later. The 50k winner took his first-ever win, amazing everyone with his speed, even after accumulating several bonus miles on an unflagged section; and then he hung around until late in the afternoon waiting for everyone else to finish. Truly cool guy. Two ladies ran the longest distance they had ever run, tacking 5 miles onto 10 mile run on their own. One lady ran her first trail run ever, on a challenging course no less. She can’t wait to go back. Many others accomplished something great for themselves that day. I am so honored that I was able to share this beautiful country with an awesome group of trail runners.

Donna, Laney, and the Course Sweeps!

This run would not have happened without three people: Davina Jackson, Sam Collier, and my husband John. The three of them spent the day before the race marking trails, and Davina and Sam swept the course, clearing course markings and making sure no one was left out there at the end of the day. Special thanks goes to Davina’s parents for manning the aid station for the morning and taking pictures until John got done running. Thanks to everyone who brought goodies to share at the trailhead, also. Thanks last but not least to Mike and Leone at Shu’s Idaho Running Company for sponsoring this run with great schwag bags and race numbers.

Maybe we’ll see you all next year???

Race Directors Em and Davina

For complete run details and results, visit

Sam after a slight mud incident.