It’s been 3 days since The Rut 50km SkyRunning Ultra Series Championships and my quads are tender to the touch. The only moving I’ve been doing lately consists of a weak hobble between the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. This is the kind of rebellion that the body dishes out after a seriously gnarly and extreme ultra-marathon mountain race!
I knew I was screwed by mile 14.
It turns out the first off-trail section up loose rockfall and scree hit a 46% uphill grade. Powerhiking very inefficiently I turned around to see Kilian closing fast on me several hundred yards back. The 4-min or so lead that I put on him in the first 10 miles was evaporating exponentially. The next 6 miles up and down such off-trail slopes on technical rocks were not going to play to my advantage! I was already pretty deep in the hurt locker with my aggressive (perhaps overly aggressive?) start ( although the second mile when I pulled away still had 800+ feet of climbing so it’s not like these were flat trails!). Every leg muscle was already on edge and the blurry/dizzy feeling of hypoglycemia was starting to paralyze my neuromuscular coordination on the rocks. In terms of mileage the race was almost halfway complete, but in terms of time it was only a third of the way done. After a dreadful (and near disastrous) fall complete with a resulting butt-slide on the first steep descent (which I will also add included a slick layer of snow..I HATE snow!) I heard Kilian’s footsteps…he came down at me like a true GOAT!
I won’t go into the details of how the race played out, as you can find that out on iRunFar HERE , but lets just say I was glad to finish the race in 2nd place (a good 11 min behind Kilian) without having to get stitches or an x-ray for a broken bone. In such a high state of fatigue the impending fear of a career-ending injury seems to really weigh on the mind when descending fields of sharp rocks at -46% grade. I gave it everything I had, but there was no matching Kilian on this day in this type of true SkyRunning event. Hats off to his impressive performance as he was totally in a different league.
Lessons learned from the race? Well, the runnable mountain bike and ski access road sections didn’t seem to make up for the extremely technical-off trail sections (at least for me, being rather clumsy and not coordinated at class 2 and 3 mountain scrambling.) Why? Because (like most things in running) things tend to present themselves exponentially (think lactate curves and bonking). Kilian, being an extremely fit athlete, can still run within 20-30 seconds per mile on the “flatter” trails and gravel road sections when we were going 6-8min per mile pace. Whereas in the high country, powerhiking on rocks, I’m sucking wind on all fours with a 26-min mile (ie the 21st mile of the race up Lone Peak which also had 1800’ of vertical gain) and he is moving at an astonishing 23-min per mile pace. So, essentially my hard earned 4min lead after 10 or so miles of fairly intense work on runnable (yet still very hilly and steep) trails evaporated after about 1.5 miles on the steep off-trail sections. And that was just going UP. On the way down I didn’t stand a chance! Kilian pulled away from me at an exponential rate. It was actually an amazing sight to see before I lost sight of him!
Overall it was a well organized race thanks to RDs Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote. The local trail running crowd from Montana was very impressive and it was a lot of fun to be a part of the atmosphere there at Big Sky. Finally, a special thanks to all the volunteers that made The Rut possible!
I think now it’s back to the drawing board for me, as next year I’m really drawn to trying my hand at 100-miles… but at the same time I also love “short” distance mountain racing, so choices and sacrifices will have to be made. After completing the International SkyRunning Ultra Series I’m really looking forward to doing some more runnable Trail races that are not in the mountains (Les Templiers in October and The North Face 50-miler in Dec.) before trying to get some more “speed” back for a US Olympic Trials Qualifying attempt (sub 2:18:00 marathon) on the roads in January at Houston.
Hope your training and racing are going well. Thanks for following along and best of luck with everything!
Shameless Sponsor Plugs and Gear Used before/during/after the Race:
Shoes: Hoka One One Huaka
Nutrition: 14 Vfuel gels during race
Ugo Bars after race for recovery (first thing I ate!)
Trail Butter on bagel pre-race for breakfast with coffee
Flora Health “7 Sources” daily in Training
Avery Brewing Co IPA (post-race celebration and during training)
Socks: Drymax max protection (orange)
Compression: Compressport USA calf sleeves during race, compression socks for recovery
GPS/data/training recording: Strava.com
Hydration gear: Ultimate Direction handheld, AK Racing Vest, Jurek Essential Belt
Shades: Smith Optics Pivlock V2