Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Squaw Peak 50 mile Ultra Marathon/Log 6/2-6/8

Last Saturday I went out to Orem Utah with Clyde to attempt the Squaw Peak 50 mile trail run which is rated the 3rd hardest 50 miler in the U.S. with almost 15,000 feet of climbing and descending. After this race I can not imagine what number 1 and 2 are like. Below is an account of my experience.

Race website

Course: Here is the description from the race website.
It is a very challenging, difficult and scenic loop course through the Wasatch Mountains above Provo, Utah. The trail will be marked. It consists of - dirt trails (43%), dirt roads (38%) and some paved (19%). In my opinion about 15% of the dirt trails was bush wacking in order to connect the different trails.
START - to Mile 5.3 (Vivian Park to Aid Station #2, Hope Campground)
5196' - 5110' - 6660' (-86' drop, +1550' climb)

Mile 5.4 to 7.6 (A.S. #2 to Squaw Peak road in Rock Canyon)
6660' - 7820' - 7300' (+1160' climb, -520' drop)

Mile 7.6 to 14.8 (Squaw Peak road to A.S. #3 to Kolob Basin Overlook)
7300' - 7040' - 8480' (-260' drop, +1440' climb)

Mile 14.8 to 22 (Kolob Basin Overlook to A.S. #5, Left Fork Hobble Creek)
8480' - 5360' (-3120' drop)

Mile 22 to 29.6 (Left Fork Hobble Creek to Sheep Canyon, A.S. #7)
5360' - 6540' (+1180' climb)

Mile 29.6 to 33 (just a 5K run, A.S. #7, Sheep Canyon to A.S. #8, Little Valley)
6540' - 7620' - 7120' (+1080' climb, -500" drop)

Mile 33 to 40.4 (Little Valley, A.S. #8 to Windy Pass, A.S. #9)
7120' - 8280' - 7850'- 9300' - 8932' (ouch)
(+1160' climb, -430' drop, +1450' climb, -368' drop)

Mile 40.4 to 50 (Windy Pass to Vivian Park and your finished!)
8932' - 5196' (-3736' drop)


The weather was forecasted on NOAA all week as 70-72 degrees with cloudy skies. Come race morning it was raining at the start with snow above 7000 feet. It must have dropped 3 inches or so in the 2-3 hours I was above 7000 feet in the first half of the race. The second half of the race it was sunny and right on what the forecast said it would be. We had it all as far as weather was concerned that day.


This was one of the most challenging things that I have done so far. Not only is it my 1st 50 miler but Squaw Peak 50 is rated the 3rd hardest in the US, great choice Shad and thanks Cylde for talking me into this. Anyway we arrived in Utah on Friday to attend the pre-race briefing on Friday night. At the briefing they had a good diner of pasta which we will be needing in the morning so I loaded up. After collecting our tee shirts and filling our bellies we headed back to catch some sleep.

The race started Saturday morning at 5 am just outside of Orem Utah. At the start there was a slight drizzle coming down that was not to bad. As I was dropping off the drop bags I over heard 2 ladies talking about how the rain was going to get worse before it got better even though the forecast did not call out for rain. Over hearing this I went back to Aid Station #8 drop back and grabbed my GoLite jacket that I placed in there for the climb over Windy Pass. Thank God I did, shortly after the start of the race the rain started coming down even stronger and the temps started dropping as we climbed.

My goal for this race was to try and finish in one piece. With that in mind I started in the back of the pack and just hung out there for a while as we made our way up the mountain in the first big climb. The trail was nothing but thick slimmy mud all the way up. This is the type of mud where it feels like you are walking on ice. I must have slipped and face planted 3-4 times up that 1st climb, I lost track how many times I fell coming down, it was endless. By the time we got down from that climb I was covered in mud front and back. Of course during dealing with all of this the rain decided that it wanted to turn into snow and dropped 3-4 inches on us over the course of a few hours on top. You can see the muddy/snowy trails in the pictures at the end of the report.

At the halfway point of the race the weather decided to clear up. I hit the 25-26 mile mark around 5 hours and 30 mins. The slowest marathon I have ever ran, but that is ok. The weather forced me to slow my pace and save something for the end. I was feeling pretty good. After stuffing my face at the aid station I had about 3.5hours to make it to the 33 mile cutoff, the only cutoff of the race at 9.5 hours. From here I just went into auto pilot and cruised to the aid station at mile 33 which I hit in 7.5 hours, 2 hours under the cutoff time and feeling good. I passed a lot of people durning this section due to starting slow and conserving energy. We also had about 4 stream crossings in this section, the trail even went straight up the middle of a creek for about 100-150 yards. There is no point in even trying to keep your feet dry on this run, especially with the weather we had that morning.

Now comes the hard part, Windy Pass....

As you can see in the course description above this next section from mile 33 to mile 41 has a +1160' climb, -430' drop, +1450' climb, -368' drop, all after running over 30 miles. The second climb of this section the +1450 happens all in 3/4 to 1 a mile trying to gain the top of the pass going up a slick snow/ice covered trail. Good times! This section, especially the second half of it, reminded me more of climbing a 14er here in Colorado and not a run. By the time that I hit the aid station at mile 41 on the other side of the pass my hands were so swelled up that they were painful, I was retaining lots of water and it was causing my joints to hurt like hell. I guess no more drinking for me for a while. I needed to sweat out all the water my body was holding on to. I have not had this happen to me before but have read about it in books.

From mile 41 to the finish was all downhill. About a elevation loss of 4,000 feet. The first 3 miles going down were covered with snow in sections that we had to traverse. Some sections were so steep that the race director had placed rope going across them so that we had something to hang onto. If you were to fall on this section you would slide a couple hundred feet down the hill, that would not be fun to up climb from. After clearing the snow the trail was very runable all the way to the end. The last 3.5 miles to the finish is on a road. Before hitting the road section and the last aid station at mile 46.5 I took a bad spill on the single track. I tripped over a rock and face planted right into the trail. Gave myself a charlie horse in my right leg, felt like I ripped my big toe nail off (see pictures), and split my lip. That fall had to had to been a site to see, were is a video camera when you need one?

It felt so good to cross that finish line and finally kill this 50 mile demon that I have been carrying around for the last 2 months. My final time was 12 hours and 6 minutes. That was good enough for 39th place out of 260 starters and 16th in my age group. Out of the 260 or so starters it looked like only about 200 finished, the weather really effected a lot of people. Even though this is rated the 3rd hardest 50 miler in the country they have had a finishing rate in the past of over 90% because there is no where to quit once you pass the 33 mile point. That was not the case today, it looks like a lot of people quit at or before mile 33.

I learned that I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for that day, both mentally and physically. It was the confidence booster that I really needed to get myself really motivated for Leadville 100 mile trail run on Aug. 16th. Now it is time to recover from this over the next week and move on to more training for Leadville. Thanks for reading and below is my training log for last week also.


Monday: OFF

Tuesday: Run 6.25 miles on the treadmill

Wednesday: OFF

Thursday: Run 4.5 miles on the treadmill

Friday: OFF

Saturday: Run 51 mile for Squaw Peak in 12:06

Sunday: OFF RECOVER!!!

Total miles for the week: 61.75

Total hours for the week: 14 hours