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Squaw Peak 50...errr...52...Official Report

yellow2011-09-28 16:14:06 +0000 #1
As most of you know, I ran/survived the Squaw Peak 50 mile trail run here in Utah on Saturday June 4. I was kind of waiting for my sources to come through with more pictures but they haven't, so I decided to just write it up with what I have.

I started training for this event in January. I had no idea if my post-surgery body could do this but I figured it was worth a shot. Why did I want to do this? I'm not sure. I had some frustration last year with cycling (something about my back's new arrangement doesn't like cycling) and was feeling the early-winter-not-enough-snow doldrums so I signed up as soon as it opened in December 2010. Just like that.

This event is what I would call one of northern Utah's signature events. It fills quickly. This is the 15th year it has been held. It's also the first year that the race director had to modify the course because of snowpack. This is what it looked like mid-May.

The normal course goes up into the Wasatch Mountains above Provo, Utah. It is a beautiful spot. This year we had 5 to 10 feet of snow on the course at its highest point, so the RD wisely decided to change the route. I was disappointed at first because I spent months processing the anxiety about 14,000 feet of elevation gain and a very steep climb. However, I am glad he didn't just flat out cancel the event. So instead I ended up on a lower elevation course with only 12,100 feet of elevation gain.

There were 340 entrants and about 320 showed up on race day. We were off at 5 am with headlamps. The first couple of miles followed the Provo River before the route jetted off on some singletrack that introduced us to the concept of uphill.

I was in a pretty big pack of folks trudging up the mountain. The trail dumped onto some doubletrack at about mile 4. Shortly after this, the mob I was in missed a poorly marked turn. We ran about a mile down the wrong trail before the front part of the mob realized that we had missed the turn. So back we went until we found the obscure glow stick in the tree. It was light by this time, so no wonder no one saw the glow stick.

We trudged up a steep climb and eventually the mob started to dissipate. I felt great, was eating every 30 minutes, taking an Endurolyte and Anti-Fatigue every hour, and enjoying the ride. The course followed a not-so-pretty section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail through Orem and Provo, but thankfully the sun was still behind the mountains so it wasn’t too hot. Yet.

I beat my hubby to the first aid station (AS) that he was supposed to meet me at but he caught up to me at the next AS. Here I am multi-tasking at that AS by eating and preparing to drink at the same time.

It was starting to get hot but I was still feeling pretty good. This is about 20-21 miles into the race. The trail climbed for several miles from this AS and I walked most of this because it was too steep and too rocky to run (the trail was also very damaged in some places from the spring runoff). Eventually the trail traveled through a saddle and started downhill. This is where my race began to unravel.

At first my right leg just felt weak each time I planted the foot, like the leg was going to collapse. It didn’t hurt, just felt very unstable. Thinking it might be an electrolyte thing, I started increasing the Endurolytes to 2/hour. The weakness got worse and my leg finally started to hurt after about 3 miles of the downhill, which coincided with the turn around AS and the arrival of my first pacer, Jason.

At this AS I changed my shoes and socks, refreshed capsules and food, gave Jason’s wife and their very cute puppy dogs a snuggle, and we took off. Walking uphill was not bad; no weakness and not a lot of pain. But when we got to the top of the climb several miles later and started to run downhill…BAM! For the next 14 miles I ran as much as I could, walked most of the steeper downhills, groused and complained and whined about my leg, and got pissed off about my leg but overcame the desire to just quit. Jason ran me through the hottest part of the course, on the Shoreline in the sun. This was, of course, the hottest day of the year so far, and none of us was prepared for it. I saw a lot of miserable folks. I tried to maintain composure in between temper tantrums. I was terribly, terribly slow. And disappointed. And pissed off.

Jason ran me to the AS where I picked up my second pacer, Martha, who would run me to the end. By this time I knew there would be no more running downhill. We had a bit over 12 miles to go to the finish. I did not think about dropping here.

The next 4 miles were all uphill, so we walked as fast as possible knowing that I would lose a lot of time on the downhill on the other side. I struggled at the top of the climb, mostly I think from just being flat out tired. I picked back up as we continued up a Sound-of-Music meadow but when we reached the summit and started downhill I again lost composure.

Martha found me a walking stick and I walked backwards, sideways, crooked down the mountain. I got passed by many, many people. Eventually I came to better terms with my situation and wasn’t as pissed off. However, when we arrived at the last AS, I was ready to quit. A friend of mine was working this AS and said something like “It’s only 6 more miles. You can walk it. You’ll kick yourself at about 6 pm if you drop now.” So we took off. More people passed me. I got depressed again and then snapped out of it. We enjoyed the beautiful evening.

When we hit the trail along the river again, I ditched the stick and we started to power walk as fast as my leg would let me. It was very painful by now and a bit numb. We talked about nonsensical things. We planned a backpacking trip. And then, there it was, the finish line. I gathered up enough ooompff to run the last couple hundred yards and crossed the line at 52 miles in 13 hours and 5 minutes. I figured I lost 1.5 hours because of my leg and wrong turn. But these things happen, and 13 hours is what is was, like it or not.

I had so much gas in the tank at the finish it was pathetic, a testimony to my training and nutrition. I visited with some friends, waited for drop bags that never showed, and eventually made my way home.

Imagine my surprise when two days later I was delivered a trophy for second place female master. WTF??? After having to walk the last 12 miles? This is one of those times when being old(er) has its advantages.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I liked this distance better than a 50k because there is really not much pressure to go fast…the pressure is to finish. I could not have done it without the support of my good friends and loved ones over the last couple of years as I went through back surgery and recovery and training and my pacers who pushed my sorry a$$ through the course to the end.

When my leg feels better, I’ll decide what is next.

spokewench2011-09-28 16:19:35 +0000 #2
Looks like a grueling event- congrats
indysteel2011-09-28 16:37:21 +0000 #3
Wow; yellow. That is quite an achievement. Kudos to you for pushing through pain, fatigue, bad trails and heat. You should be very proud of yourself.
snapdragen2011-09-28 16:41:01 +0000 #4
Time to start looking at adventure races....
katluvr2011-09-28 17:53:58 +0000 #5
I am in awe! 50 miles, trail,! You just gave me inspiration as I am struggling & worried about my PPA training!

maillotpois2011-09-28 16:30:36 +0000 #6
What a great report!! I am so impressed - you really captured the extent to which it can really be a mental thing, especially when your body's doing bad things to you.

Wow too bad the scenery was so awful. How on earth did you bear it?
kacie tri-ing2011-09-28 17:10:34 +0000 #7
I love love love this race report! You did an amazing job! Beautiful pictures! Incredible what your body was able to do post surgery. We are all really proud of you and inspired by you!!!!!!
limewave2011-09-28 18:32:07 +0000 #8
Congratulations again! Nice race report. Way to tough it out.



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