Squaw Peak 50 Runner Reviews


Full Race Reports from Runners


WHAT AN ADVENTURE!! Squaw Peak is rated as the 3rd toughest 50 miler in the country.
It lived up to that reputation. I arrived in Salt Lake City Thursday before the race. Mike Price picked me up from the airport. We made a stop at a local running store for a couple of things for the race. I was staying with Mike and his wife Diane in Park City. They have a beautiful home and location. The first time I visited with them three years ago for the Wasacth 100, I just feel in love with the area. Diane fixed a wonderful steak dinner! Afterward we polished off a couple of cold ones chatted for a while then hit the sheets. Friday Mike and I drove to the pre-race meeting in Provo. RD John Bozung does a spectacular job with this race. The dinner was outstanding!! Afterwards their was a door prize drawing. The give-aways were great. Everything from headlamps, vest and socks. Mike and I didn’t stay for that seeing that it was getting late and we had an hour drive back to Park City. Saturday morning we were out of the rack at 3 a.m. The race started at 5 a.m. so we need to do a final drop bag check, drink some coffee and grab a quick bite to eat. As we drove to Provo we were discussing the challenge that we had taken on. Mike really doesn’t seemed to concerned. After 20+ years of ultrarunning and over 100 ultras I can see why. We arrived at the race start located in a very nice park. It’s still dark as we grab our drop bags and cross a small bridge. We need to be weighed in before the race. Most of you know but for the ones that aren’t aware of this reason. If you reach the aid station at 33 miles and your body weight has dropped 5 to 7% the race officials will require you to stay at the aid station to get some fluids in before you continue the race. This is for the runners safety. Mike and I make our way with the rest of the crowd to the starting line. As John counts down for the start I’m making one more gear check, adjusting my water pack, checking my flashlight and thinking about how the day will unfold. 5 4 3 2 1…… we’re off! As we make our way down the trail I wish Mike a good race and were lost in the night. The race starts on the Provo River Trail 2.1 miles down river past Bridal Veil Falls to the first aid station. (This begins your first climb which is actually a series of climbs that brings you to an overlook of Squaw Peak and Rock Canyon.) Here you turn off the paved trail onto the new Bonneville Shoreline Trail This gave me an opportunity to loosen up and try to find a good rhythm. Every western ultra I’ve completed I’ll usually run the first cautiously to get an idea of the course and how to run it. Going from the flatlands to mountains and altitude poses difficulties that folks that live in these areas don’t have to contend with. Anyway my race was going well. The climbs in this race are very challenging and before I got to the second aid station a piece of plastic in the heel of my shoe was starting to cause a blister. I knew if I didn’t address this problem it would only become worse as the race progressed. At the next aid station I ask if someone had a knife I could borrow. One of the volunteers handed me one. So I took my shoe of and discovered where the padding had worn down and was exposing part of the plastic support. I took the knife and cut as much of it as I could. this did the trick and I was off and running again. The scenery at Squaw is unbelievably!! One section of the course has about a 4 mile downhill and the last 10 miles has a 10 mile downhill. I knew what was waiting for me so I throttled back a bit in the first half hoping my quads wouldn’t be destroyed. At the 33 mile aid station I had a drop bag. As I was rummaging through my bag I was surprised to look up to find Mike entering the station. Now for those that aren’t aware of Mike’s racing style he has a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. He told me before the race that he was going to take it easy because his training had been low miles and no races. Leaving this aid station at 33 miles I was thinking about the big climb at 40 miles just ahead. As I neared the mountain I could see what I was in for. This sucker went straight up. I could see some of the lead runners slowly making their way to the top. The trail turns west and climbs about 1300 ft. (7800′ to 9100′) in the next 1 1/4 miles. As I approached the base I took a deep breath and started my way up. This was a hands on the knees climb. I paused 3 times on the way up to briefly recoup and climb again. This mountain has three false summits. Just when you think your at the top it turns and climbs again. There are very few switch-backs and they are very small. Most of the climbing is straight up. As I crested the top I breathed a sigh of relief and cranked on in to the next aid station. Once at the aid station I refilled both bottles grabbed some homemade cookies and proceeded to the trail that would lead me 10 miles downhill. At this point my quads felt good and I had plenty of energy. I thought hell, I’m going to run this sucker. The worst that could happen is my quads would be shot at the finish. So over the top I go. The trail is very rocky and has several exposed roots. I’m making great time and I pass three runners along the way. As I approach one runner I notice, I ran a few miles with this dude earlier. As I was passing I said hi. He ask how was I doing? I replied fine. Just then my foot caught a rock that sent me crashing to the trail. This guy ask if I was okay. I replied, I think so not noticing the cut that was on the palm of my hand. The only thing that protected me from having a more sever injury was the water bottle. After slapping the dust off I got back to my feet and continued the downhill run to the finish. 3.5 mile from the finish is an aid station under a pavilion. As I turned down the road a cute little girl came out to meet and ask if she could refill my bottles. I said with a smile sure. Before leaving I ask her mom how far to the finish. She replied about 3.5 miles. leaving the aid station I was soon on the blacktop road. I couldn’t believe how good I felt considering i had just ran a 10 mile downhill. The last few mile went quickly. As I approached the finish i could find the turn. this nice lady pointed the way. There was a lot of traffic at the camp ground and I found myself running between a truck pulling a horse trailer. I was really relieved as I crossed the finish line. One of the volunteers hung a nice wooden finishers medal around my neck and congratulated me for a good race. As I mingled around another volunteer offered me a popcycle man this was getting to good. I gladly accepted his offer and returned to the finish line to help cheer on the other folks coming in. It wasn’t long before Mike came running in. Man was he on my butt or what? Mike had an excellent race considering his training prior to the race. we both stayed for the feast of broiled chicken, potato salad and fresh pie. We both enjoyed this race. Difficult? You bet! Would I do it again? OHHHHHH YEAH!! Would I do anything different? By knowing the course now I’m sure if I return and the mountain gods are friendly I can better my time. Thanks to RD John and his entire staff for making my experience a memorable one. And a big thanks to Mike and Diane Price for friendship and allowing me to stay with them during the race. Mark

Squaw Peak 50 Mile
Provo, Utah
Saturday, June 7, 2003 By Deborah Sexton As I anticipated, this was the hardest race I’ve ever done. I now have a new benchmark to top the Bandera 100K, which previously had been my toughest event. The hills in Bandera are bumps compared to Squaw Peak. And the rocks on the Bandera course were pebbles compared to the specimens I skidded and slid down in Utah. The race started off like any Texas road race with about 3 miles of nice, smooth, flat pavement. Then we started on the trail which was a gradual climb. Then you hit the first “hill.” Imagine 30 to 40 minutes of climbing a ladder and you can get an idea of what it was like. But the footing was dirt trail so not too bad if you were able to breathe normally at 8,000 feet. The middle of the race was up and down with a few steep short places and a few steep down hills. Then I hit aid station 8. This was the last aid station where you had the option to drop. After this point, if you wanted to drop, it meant walking to the finish because there were no roads for a car to access and drive you back. It’s a good thing they put this aid station before what I will call Hell Hill because just looking up at it would be enough to make you decide you were done. It ascends for about a mile straight up and counting all the times I had to stop, bend over, and try to suck a little air into my lungs, it took me about a hour to do it. Every time I thought I was at the top, I would look up and see there was still a ways to go. This was not a trail, but a route marked with little orange ribbons. In some places, you could see the footprints of those who had gone on before. So I just keep looking for the next ribbon. For the grand finale, at almost the very top, my shoe got caught on a big root and I went face down in black, fine, powdery dirt. So I looked like I had just come down the chimney. Not hurt at all, just had a nice big mouthful of Utah mountain. Yum Yum. At the top, the reward was to get to go down a pretty steep downhill covered with loose rocks. Since my knee does not like downhill, I almost wished I was back on the mountain. I made it to aid station 9 and then started a 6 mile length of downhill on mostly loose rock covered trail. My knee was loving this! The big excitement of the race was when I was on this 6-mile stretch with two other guys. They both stopped to take a leak and suddenly a huge deer came down the mountain, leaped between us across the trail and continued on down the decline. Whew, those two guys were pretty surprised. One of them thought a boulder was falling but of course was not able to turn around and look. Anyway, I finished in 16 hours 32 minutes feeling much better than I had in the middle of the race. I had so much fun. I met lots of very cool people on the course and the volunteers at the aid stations were awesome. And you will never see views like this in Texas. It was incredible. We even ran through a couple of patches of leftover snow. The goal was for me and Shawna Brown to run this together but what we quickly discovered was that I was faster going uphill and she was faster downhill. So I went ahead on hills and she caught up and then passed me. She beat me to aid station 8. You had to get there by 2:30 p.m. or they would pull you from the race. I made it by 2:20 p.m. and found her there getting blisters patched up. I left her behind ascending Hell Hill and we finally met up again at the finish. At aid station 9, she told one of the radio guys to call ahead to aid station 10 and let me know that she was going to kill me at the bottom for getting her to do this. Thank goodness she was too tired to do that when she finally finished. Shawna and I Shawna and Deborah at finishwere in the last five to finish and the volunteers held up a yellow ribbon for us to run across. There was much clapping and cheering and picture taking. I ran the last 3.5 miles, which is back on the nice smooth road, with a 60-year-old grandmother of 10 who is doing the Mohican 100 mile in two weeks. How inspiring. We had a great chat, which passed the time quickly. Next up: Vermont 100 miler July 19th! See ya,


John, Thanks so much for your call, it was very unexpected but very appreciated and thoughtful. I am learning that about you Ultra runners, what an awesome group of truly fit people in all the ways that matter, mind, body, and especially spirit. I’ll be back, Christy Jo P.S. I wrote this so I wouldn’t forget my experience, but since you inspired me to write it maybe you might like to read it….. The story of my First Ultra I love the trees, the trails, and the serenity of the woods. I had done a few races and always enjoyed running the trails by my house with friends. I got hooked on the idea of an Ultra by being somewhat forced into running a leg of the Wasatch 100 with a friend, Niels Bigler. What an experience this was for me. I was in awe of the stamina and the mental strength of every single runner in that race. I had thought that I was fit being an Aerobic/Yoga/Snowboard instructor, but something was missing in my fitness that these racers had found and it was absolutely amazing to watch. So, I dedicated the next eight months training and mentally preparing for my first Ultra, the Squaw Peak 50 miler in Provo, Utah. I was as prepared as I was going to get and a week before the race of course something happened, it always does, I thought I had thrown my back out, I was literally in pain from my rib cage to my spine. I then thought I had been bitten by a spider or something but, I had come down with a form of the chicken pox virus that is held in the nervous system, shingles. Although not contagious I was worried about how this would affect my race and started taking some natural supplements that would boost my immune system and help relieve some of the pain. I was still determined to race and my doctor gave me the okay. The day before the race all my symptoms had pretty much disappeared and the pain was gone. Was it a sign, I don’t know, it was just cool. I prepared my drop bags with the advice of previous runners and they were ready, accept for one detail that I went to four stores the day before the race to find….. Some raingear!!!! The whole beginning of the race I was completely on track, physically and mentally, I stuck to my exact schedule of pace, time, eating, and drinking. I was only lacking one small thing, my drop bags were left in my truck and I got a ride with someone to the start….small opps…. I wasn’t too concerned, I would have to wear the same shoes and socks no big deal, I wouldn’t have an extra shirt, no big deal, oh yeah and my extra food was in that drop bag, the aids stations will be stocked, no big deal….and another plus, I felt awesome for the whole first ¾ of the race. Mile 33.7 aid station #8, my husband and two girls were going to try to be there with my stuff but weren’t. I was obviously bummed….but again trying to be strong mentally was my goal, no big deal I told myself just get this thing done; by the way, thanks to this aid station for reminding me to put sunscreen on and taking care of my food needs. I started up the trail to the most challenging climb of the course, up to above 9000 ft. and right into the depths of the most unreal, unexpected, scariest storm I had ever seen in my life. Probably halfway to Windy Pass it started sprinkling, and thundering and lightening, and blowing. I had thin gloves and a thin long shirt, no raingear….I tried not to think about the lightening which kept flashing all around us. I don’t remember his name but a tall guy who has a daughter named Mackenzie and was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s story actually helped me stay sane at this point by joking about us being lighting rod’s if we stood still so we had to keep moving. He also told me how awesome it was to actually cross the finish line of an Ultra, on your ‘second’ try. Out of pure adrenaline I’m sure I started to run again. We met up with the Orem brothers again, Cole and Jim whom I had been zigzagging with for the past 20 or so miles under a tree. At this point I was getting very paranoid because the storm was not getting better it was getting worse, tall guy kept going and I was starting to slow down a little because I was so cold. Hail, horizontal in nature was now pelting everyone, along with the wind. I was starting to feel sick and tried to eat, but was shaking so bad I didn’t want to move to get my pack off. Cole and Jim were absolutely the best people to be with at this point and they stayed with me, offered me their food, and kept me moving despite the fact that we were all freezing. Trees had been ripped out of the ground and the ground was saturated along with everything we were wearing. We were almost to Windy Pass and I told them to go ahead, I could make it to the aid station which was the most welcome sight after the longest 5 miles of my life, but I was shaking so bad and knew I was hypothermic, I couldn’t see straight, I felt like crap, and had the worst headache of my life, all not great signs. The guys at the aid station had been hit by the storm but were awesome and immediately put a plastic bag around me and put me in a tent with some sleeping bags, but the most welcome sight was my Dad who had hiked to Windy Pass to run the rest of the way with me. Thanks to Jim I had dry socks….and thanks to my Dad, my inspiration, I had someone who was sane and told me we should try to get down to a lower elevation and try to get warm. When I got up I immediately started barfing uncontrollably all over some trees and my favorite running shoes. Oh well, off we went to try and get to the next aid station. I look back now and wonder how I was still standing because the trees by now were not standing still, they were swaying a lot and not because of the wind. I barfed some more and my poor Dad was the best sport about my total lack of sense and motivation at that time. I wanted desperately to get to that finish line, but I also wanted to go lie down, get a café mocha, see my husband, my girls, and my dogs. Anyways, when we started getting passed by runners and I had to stop about every two minutes, I knew I was getting close to the end. I am the type of person that does not like to fail, I finish what I start and I did not want to quit. My Dad knew that I was done and still did everything he could to help me through to the end, but when you can’t see anymore, your kidneys hurt and stars are in your head it’s time to stop and put priorities out there. I did not want to go get an IV that night, I wanted to go home and I had made it 46 miles!!!???? My Dad hugged me and I cried because I new I was done. My Dad told a runner to tell the aid station we may need help, and help we got, a guy named Brian came running up the trail, all 240 lbs, six foot plus and offered to give me a piggy back to the road. I couldn’t even hold on that’s how weak I had got, but he was so nice and carried me all the way to the road. I don’t even have words for how I felt being driven to the finish line, grateful that I had the most amazing experience in my life, but DNF at 46 miles has to be the worst….but there is a reason for everything and I think that’s my reason to go for it again soon. This experience has completely changed my life, made me look at my family and my priorities differently and I am a better person now than I was before June 1st. I think the most amazing thing that happened that day was after all was said and done, I’m sitting there in my truck and people that I had met only that day were making sure I was all right and giving me words of encouragement for next time. And Cole, thanks for the medal, you honestly deserve a hundred for your attitude and for helping me realize that despite not going 50 miles I won anyway. Cristy Jo Mcbride
First of all, what an incredible experience! I had been anticipating this race for about 8 months. This was the Squaw Peak 50 mile trail race. A well run, beautiful and fun race. Anyone wanting more info can check it out at http://hometown.aol.com/jbozung/oasis.htm. This was my first ultra, so I was excited, but also a little nervous. It all started Friday night with the pre-race dinner and final race briefing. When we walked in, my wife jokingly said “oh goodie, spaghetti, who would have thought…?” It was a little intimidating to see all these people walking around wearing various ultra 100 shirts and hats. Fortunately I didn’t wear any of my marathon shirts, as that would have been way out of place. I felt like I was in the presence of superstars when the race director introduced guys like Karl Meltzer, Ian Torrence, Leland Barker and Nate McDowell. I arrived at the start at about 4:30 am Saturday morning. Nice morning as it was overcast, and cool, but not too cold. Doughnuts and drinks at the start, but I couldn’t imagine trying to choke one of those down. As promised we were on our way at exactly 5:00. My mindset for this was to start slow and then slow down. I started towards the back of the pack and pretty much stayed there all day. As I had never run more than 30 miles before, I wasn’t sure how my body would react as we got into the 30s and 40s. I wasn’t going to worry about my time, other than the 9½-hour cutoff at mile 33 (2:30 pm). By the way, the race starts and ends at the same park, which is at about 5200 feet. The first couple of miles were slightly downhill on a beautiful running trail next to a river. As it was still a little dark we couldn’t see much, but what I could see was very pretty. I was really holding back just trying to get in the groove, probably 10 minute miles or so. After 2 miles we turned up the trail and started going up, up and up. Everyone in the line I was in (all the elites were already far ahead) would walk the up hills and run the flats. We got to the second aid station (at 5 miles) where a scout troop was handing out candy, pretzels, cliff shots, and filling our water and PowerAde bottles. I was doing great on the drinking and eating and feeling really good. Just for curiosity I glanced at my watch and saw 1:20. I was a little surprised that I had run just 5 miles in about 6 minutes faster that my ½ mary PR but not worried as I was not worried about time. After a couple more miles of up, we came to a beautiful open meadow where we were finally able to let it loose for a couple miles and actually run. It felt good to let the legs go and stretch them out a little bit. The next 4 or 5 miles were a rolling dirt rode that gradually worked its way up to our first pass at about 8500 feet. Still feeling pretty good, but legs were starting to get just a hint of fatigue. The next six miles were a riot, slight downhill on a dirt, rocky, road. These miles were kind of technical, as you really had to concentrate on your footing. Obviously I didn’t concentrate enough, as it was during this portion that I caught a toe on a rock and had my first fall. Fortunately no damage, just a few scrapes. After all, what’s an ultra without a little blood! At the end of this section (about 22.5 miles) we came to a paved road (yuck!) for about 3 miles and this part was really tough for me. I think my quads were a little tired after the long stretch of downhill, so I had to walk on the rolling uphills and shuffle on the flats and downhills. Finally came to the aid station at about mile 26 (that sounds familiar) and we were back onto dirt roads again. But again, more uphill for the next 7 miles or so. So again more walking and shuffling. The next aid station was at mile 30. I was struggling with my stomach at this point and couldn’t eat much of anything. The next three miles approaching the cutoff were beautiful on a single track through a meadow full of wild flowers and young quaking aspen. More uphill and I was really starting to struggle. As there was no one within sight in front or in back, I was able to talk to myself and tell myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finally came to mile 33 (cut-off point) at about 12:45, so plenty of time before the 2:30 cut-off. The last couple of aid stations I hadn’t been able to eat much as I was feeling a little nauseous. I also couldn’t drink any more PowerAde, as the taste would almost make me puke. But the women (Jeanie) running this aid station had a taste of heaven in chips and salsa. She even mixed up some guacamole dip that was out of this world. My stomach started to feel better and I was on my way. I thanked her over and over for feeding me the best meal I think I have ever experienced! This was a boost emotionally to get to this point as I had run from here to the end a couple of weeks ago so I knew the course, but I didn’t have 33 miles on my legs then, so it was with a little different perspective that I moved on. The first couple of miles after this point are uphill so I walked most of it. But after that, there was some flat and some downhill and I was feeling good, running, and even passing a few people. I had a rush of energy and felt like maybe 12 hours as a goal may be doable after all. I came to the hardest stretch of the course, up the face of a mountain. Literally a 1300 foot elevation gain in just over a mile. I was walking and still feeling pretty good, knowing that after I summited, the last 10 miles were downhill. It was at this point that the whole race changed in a matter of seconds. It had been overcast all morning and I was thinking how great that was as the two days previously had been in the mid 90’s. Today had been much cooler. After an overcast morning, the sun had been out for a couple of hours. About halfway up the face of this mountain, I could see a storm rolling in and lightning all around. I thought that a little rain would be nice to cool things down. Boy was I ever wrong. After a couple of minutes of sprinkles, the wind came up so strong that I could hardly stand up. Then the hail hit. Here I was on the face of this mountain, with no shelter anywhere, dressed in running shorts and a coolmax t-shirt being beaten by hail and hurricane force winds. I was trying to keep my face covered as best as possible because this stuff really hurt! It took only a few seconds before I was drenched and very cold. I never thought I could go from hot and sweaty to such an incredible cold in only a few seconds. I tried to hide behind some bushes for a minute or two, but that did no good, so I kept trudging on. There were now about 6 runners in a bunch and we just kept slowly trudging on to try to get over the top of this mountain and get out of this weather. At this point, no one was thinking about being in a race, just getting off this mountain! After finally crawling up (on already frozen hands) the last little patch of snow to the summit (9300 feet), we finally started running down the other side towards the aid station that was about 200 yards down the mountain. The wind was so strong that I literally was blown off my feet at one point, but had to just keep trudging on. When I got into the aid station, I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t really talk. I have never before felt so cold that I couldn’t control the shaking of my entire body. The extremely helpful crew at the aid station stuck me in a tent with a couple other people to try to warm us up. I sat there shaking uncontrollably for about 2 minutes and decided that the only way I was going to get warm was to try to keep moving down the mountain. While in the tent, I tried to eat a cookie, but my hand and head were shaking so bad, I couldn’t get the cookie in my mouth. I can honestly say that never in my life have I been that cold. I think that not only was I drenched and extremely cold, but I was physically exhausted and couldn’t generate any heat. When I crawled out of the tent, the crew helped me up, refilled my water bottles (I had quit drinking PowerAde many miles ago) and went on my way shaking uncontrollably and stumbling down the mountain. It had stopped raining, but I just couldn’t get warm. Finally after about ½ hour of stumbling, I started getting some feeling back in my arms and legs and amazingly, after about 3 miles I was starting to feel much better. I am so glad I didn’t stay in that tent any longer. The next four miles were downhill on a rocky single track. Funny, when I ran this a couple of weeks ago, I was able to fly down, but now I had to keep cussing at myself to pick my feet up as I kept tripping over rocks and roots. Plus, I now had the added element of fun in that the trail was muddy and very slippery. At about mile 46, my brother had come up the trail to meet me and run in with me. I was sure glad to see him. The last three miles were on a paved rolling downhill course. I again looked at my watch and saw that It was about 12:25 (elapsed time). I decided then that I could still break 13 hours so off we went. I ran (if you can call it that) the flats and downhills and still had to walk the uphills. With about a mile and a half to go I saw my 2 sons (ages 14 and 10) who had run up the road to find Dad. That was great as they were able to pull me into the finish. Fortunately they were not able to see the tears in Dad’s eyes as I was 1) emotionally, physically and mentally spent, 2) glad to be almost done and 3) really happy to be able to finish something like this with my sons on either side. We came around the last turn and across the finish line in 12:58. A slow time, but I was just glad to be done. I saw my wife and daughter waiting at the finish and I was so happy. In about 2 hours time, I had gone from extreme cold and misery, to being warm and so happy to be done and see everyone at the finish. By the time I finished, I was actually able to joke about the storm with some of the people I had been up there with. Wow, that storm is an experience I will never forget. I spoke with Karl Meltzer (who ran an amazing time and course record of 7:40). I told him that he missed all the fun by missing the storm. He had already been home, showered, eaten, had a beer, and come back to enjoy that post race festivities. That guy is truly amazing. Now that I have had a couple of days to think about it, I can’t wait to do it again next year. That is one thing about having such a poor time; I should be able to beat it next year! Again, a great experience and one that I would recommend to anyone. Basically, the mountains and nature kicked my butt, but next year I will be back to get revenge. Reyn Gallacher


I hope this is the first of many reports from this fine race this year. 🙂
I am still getting together the pictures that were taken during the race, so I will post that link once they’re organized.
First, my thanks to John Bozung and his cast of amazing volunteers. The race was well-planned, VERY well marked, and it was generally a great time for everyone. One of the most distinctive parts of this race is the no-cutoff finish. If you make the 33 mile cutoff, you can take as long as you want to get to the finish, which eases the mind when you are already stressed out. If you were to walk from the 33 mile aid station all the way in, at a pretty leisurely pace, you would get to the 46 mile aid station before dark, so the last 4 miles on the road are perfectly navigable in the dark. Next year I’ll have to go a bit faster so that most of the food will still be left at the finish. 🙂
This was my second attempt at 50 miles, and, as I have been telling people for weeks before the race (in a committment-making burst of optimism), my first 50 mile finish. It was exciting, painful, calming, stressful, debilitating, exhilarating, nauseating, and AMAZING, and I enjoyed (at least at some level) every single moment of it.
I spent all day Friday driving up from Albuquerque to Orem with the SO, an 11 hour jaunt. I always forget just how long of a drive it is, until I do it again.
John spent a bunch of time talking at the pre-race briefing about the importance of hydrating because the weather was expected to be hot, sunny, and generally miserable for running. Thank my lucky stars that didn’t happen… I think that type of weather would have been devastating to my race.
Race day started, like pretty much all ultra race days, in the dark and waiting in line for the porta-toilet. I exchanged greetings with the people I knew – Ernst Baer and Emily Loman, Julie Nelson, Jennifer and Gerry Roach. I was also to see a few more familiar faces along the way, and meet some Hardrockers, as well.
The first few miles I talked with Julie, and then she dropped back to avoid the crash-and-burn that got her last year. We headed up the trail to the 5 mile aid station, and I got to talking with Anita Bower, who had run the race last year. Very nice woman. The two of us hooked up with Jennifer Roach, and I though I was set. I was running with two people who had finished under 15 hours last year, so everything was golden. We stayed together for the first 16 miles, up and up and up to an aid station on a windy jeep road pass. Fabulous views were all around, of the Wasatch range, and of the Provo-Orem metro area, and the mountains to the South. It was in the 70s and cloudy, perfect running weather. Anita and Jennifer and I kept each other on a good pace and the miles passed quickly.
After leaving mile 16, it was a long, long downhill on a jeep road to the next aid at mile 22. Jennifer took off, and Anita and I hobbled down a little more slowly on our fragile knees, in awe of Jennifer’s resilience. Soon, Julie caught up (she had held back until that 16 mile saddle) and blew past us as well. I wasn’t going to get to talk to her again for a while.
Everything was going pretty well, I was drinking what seemed like a reasonable amount but actually probably wasn’t much at all. During the entire race I’d be suprised if I drank 100oz total. It was staying down well, but I had no interest in food and tried to keep the calories coming in through beverage alone. Obviously that wasn’t enough, either. Anita left me around mile 19 and I leapfrogged her until the 22 mile aid station, where I briefly saw Julie on her way out. My knees were not hurting yet, but they were what I call “twingy”, and my stomach had just started to get queasy on that long downhill. I sat down at that aid station and contemplated taking off my shoes to investigate my hot spots. I decided not to, on account that they had not changed in sensation since mile 5. I wanted to avoid taking my shoes off as long as possible, hopefully until after the finish line.
Anita left shortly before I did, and said “I’ll go slow so you can catch up”. Famous last words, as I now know. I saw her about 200yds down the road as I left the aid station, and by the next one I think she was 10 minutes ahead of me. I had a bad stretch there. 3. Something miles of pavement and I walked damn near the whole thing. I was hurting and starting to feel sorry for myself. A bad train of thought to board…
[Interjection, for background purposes…. My main goal in this whole shebang was “Aid 8 by 2:30pm”. That is the only cutoff in the race, at mile 33. So you get 9:30 to do just over a 50k, then you can take your sweet time to the finish. My whole focus was on that time, and everything seemed to be going well until around mile 19…. ] ….. so there I was, trundling down the road, thinking that I needed to get to the next aid (26 mi) around noon to make the 2:30pm cutoff feasible. Since I had left mile 22 at 11:05am, and I thought at the time that it was a full 4 miles to the next aid, I got to thinking that I would get there at around 12:30pm, and there would be no chance of making it to Aid Station 8 by 2:30pm. This got me on a pretty negative psychological downward spiral, thinking everything from how nice it would be to be done at noon, to how if I can’t even finish this damn race I have no business being entered in Hardrock and I might as well drop out of that, too. I was pretty depressed, and on top of that, I wasn’t doing anything to make my situation better. Instead of speeding up to have a chance at the cutoff, I was slowing down.
I was mighty suprised to come into view of the aid station at noon, and then once I got in, to hear them say, “so, the cutoff at aid 8 is now 3pm.” It was stressful to hear it, yet exhilarating as well, because I had literally been saved from myself and my negativity. I got a little food, a smoothie, and more powerade, then took off again. I had been going 7 hours, and I knew time wise that I wasn’t even half way done. But I was happy, even if my feet were killing me. To get my energy back up, I got as much food down as I could, and I made my way up the road. I had thought I was the last person through the aid station, but a few people passed me on the road. I got to aid station 7, mile 29.6, at just after 1pm. I knew I was good to go for making the cutoff at aid station 8, and I might possibly even make it there by the original cutoff.
Now I was feeling very happy, and my stomach had recovered most of the way. I was all alone, practically skipping up the trail. What a beautiful section of the course! A narrow singletrack trail, winding through a flowery meadow, and then a large grove of aspens, up to a ridgeline. Down again on a trail, meeting up with a jeep road, and following that road for about a mile. I felt good enough to run the last mile, and let out a triumphant “woo HOO!” as I came into aid station 8 at 2:45pm.
I ate, I drank, I nearly forgot all about my drop bag but I remembered it at last and had my long-awaited Frappucino. Didn’t need anything else out of it, which I think is a good thing. I had 2 drop bags total and ended up taking 1 thing out of each one. Of course I also had my very SO Dave along and he gave me moral support at miles 22, 26, and 46, which was very helpful, especially when he told me at 26 (when I felt like crying) that I looked “fresh as a daisy”. 🙂
I finally pushed off at 3pm, with the knowledge that the sweep was leaving right behind me and, hiking, they planned on 3.5 hours to Windy Pass, then another 2.5 hours down to the finish. I thought I could better that by a half hour on each leg. I made good time and passed 5 people on the way to Windy Pass aid station, at mile 40.5. I felt good, if tired. My main problem was my feet, which ached pretty badly, and a newly popped blister was stinging a bit in there. The long “death-climb” of 1300 feet in a mile really wasn’t so bad (there’s much worse on the Hardrock course, so at least I’m seasoned in that experience), and in the middle of it I caught up again to Anita and Julie. Anita had been having a hard stretch, so Julie had waited for her before the start of the climb, and they were now together. We finally made it to the aid station at about 6:15, later than I had hoped. I still thought we could do between 15:30 and 15:45 finishing time, which meant a little over 2 hours getting down the last 9.5 miles.
My God, that trail! Holy canole, it was a mess. Sure, if you’re Karl Meltzer and completely fearless the trail is mostly runnable, but Julie, Anita and I were going on trashed feet, trashed knees, and man were we slow. Anita got a bit freaked out going down because she said her hands and arms were going numb, so she took off, hoping to get down as soon as possible. Julie and I stayed together, running a little, but mostly stumbling and cursing the way down. We gave ourselves permission to bitch as much as we wanted during this stretch, so bitch, moan, and whine we did. Most of the way down you can see where the aid station is, and it is much farther on trail than line of sight. We knew how far down we had to go to get there, but we seemed to be losing elevation much too slowly to be getting anywhere. It was frustrating. The two nice parts about that section was the conversation I had with Julie, and the wildflowers lining our path as we got lower. But man, that was the longest 6 miles I think I’ve ever gone. (Until, I bet, the 6 miles from Divies-Little Giant pass to the finish at Hardrock this year… 🙂 ).
We finally bottomed out, then had to run across a long meadow, and down some road before we got to the aid station, the last one. Julie was very happy to see her friend Mike Tilden there, and I got introduced. We took off again, and Julie said that we should run to get it over with. I was reluctant to go along, but more reluctant to lag behind. Besides, it hurt no matter what I did, so running wasn’t so much worse than walking. So we ran it in. 3.5 rolling downhill miles on pavement. Ouch. We made it to the park just as dark was taking over, and crossed the finish line together in 16:20 (9:20pm).
The big buffet I was eagerly awaiting was mostly gone, so that was disappointing. But hey, when I’m as slow as I am, I’m just glad they kept the finish line open. I got a bunch of chicken and a popsicle, and that suited me fine. Anita had come in just under 16 hours, so that was cool, and Jennifer (whom I hadn’t seen since mile 16) had finished under 15 hours.
Emily Loman finished exactly when I predicted she would — just as I was getting into the 33 mile aid station, at 9:45 into the race. 🙂 Way to go, Emily!
I obviously didn’t eat/drink enough during the race. That’s going to have to change for Hardrock. Had the weather been what was predicted (hot, sunny, and 90) rather than what it ended up being (mild, cloudy, and 70s), I would have bit the dust and most likely DNFed.
Other than that, I had a good race. I knew my feet and knees might bother me, so I didn’t let that get to me mentally. Nothing serious was hurting — just all normal fatigue and soreness. That was very refreshing psychologically. I feel very good going into Hardrock, and am excited that I’ll be there to acclimate in just 4 weeks!
Take care everyone,
Andrea, in ABQ
You have to love an RD who goes all out to put on a tremendous race, getting great volunteers together, fabulous sponsors with some fantastic giveaways, perfect weather, a wide variety of food and drink, and a well-marked course. Congrats to John Bozung who once again put on one of my favorite races, the Squaw Peak 50 Mile, and pulled it off in style. Many thanks to all the volunteers who seemed to know exactly what I needed. Still amazed at the legend, no, it must be a myth, of Karl Meltzer getting off Windy Pass to the finish in 66 minutes, in route to a CR 7:49. This story will be whispered around campfires for years to come. And nice job to Ruth Zollinger who dusted me on the first climb. That woman can fly. Watch out Hardrockers (males included)!
As for my race…
Drove out to Provo with my wife Carly on Thursday/Friday, with a layover in Grand Junction. Got a campsite, then went to prerace dinner where I met Marc Witkes and Ruth, fellow Hardrockers, and met up with a few other friends. RD Bozung announces to the amassed throng that many consider this to be the 3rd hardest 50 miler in the country, behind Zane Grey and Lake City. And there are some 30 first time ultrarunners signed up. Have to wonder if this scared any of them off…
This is my second time running this event, so I feel pretty confident that I can do better than last year even though my training has not gone as smoothly. I am ready to go at the start, as I want to get towards the front once the singletrack starts after the 2 mile paved trail. Last year got stuck in the back, and this year I found myself right behind Ruth Zollinger. A little fast for me, but I stuck within sight of her until mile 8 or so, when the first major climb leveled off for a bit and she took off. Felt OK, but realize now that I needed electrolytes as I was hydrating well but not releasing any fluids (Read: No pee.)
Struggled my way up to the Camel Pass AS, the end of the climbing for a while, and started the descent down to mile 22. Proceeded to fall badly twice during this section, after falling once during the climb up. I finished Leadville last year without falling once, and here I am falling three times in 10 miles. Stagger into 22, bruised and bloodied (and probably swollen from retaining water), but Carly doesn’t bat an eyelash. She grabs me some salt, gives me some jerky, and kicks me on my way. Man, is she a find or what.
Almost instantly my hydration problems are gone, I feel better, but sluggish on the hot road section, looking forward to the more comforting trail sections ahead. Make it to 26 in 4:40, where I mistake a smoothie for Powerade. Almost puke, but hold it in, smile, and dilute it with water. It ain’t so bad when you expect it.
I feel like I am making good time on the climb to 33, when near the top Emily Loman and Jesse(?) catch me. They are flying. I latch on and they pull me to the top, where the long legs of Emily lead her fastly down, with Jesse and I struggling long behind her. We have a nice conversation (as it is downhill) and right quick are at the AS. Carly again fuels me up and pushes me on. No lingering for me. It’s nice knowing this part of the course as there are many hills and valleys which were discouraging the first time around, but now I know they are not so bad, at least when compared to the climb to come. I was referring to it as Bastard Hill. Actually not that bad in and of itself, but you leave the trail to climb straight up a mountain, and when you get to the top, there’s the trail. Wouldn’t it be easier to … of course it would. Part of the fun.
Finally the AS at 40, beautiful people all around, hiking in to do their part. Gotta love ’em. Fed me, watered me, and off I went, downhill to the finish. Is 10 hours still in the cards? Not quite. Can’t run the downhills as I would’ve hoped. Think my shoes may be shot. Finally off the trail and onto the pavement (I think that is the first time I’ve ever uttered that phrase) for the final slog to the finish. 10:09, one minute faster than last year. OK, but the conditions were much better this year than last. Great food at the finish (I guess only for the early finishers–sorry Andrea).
Then Carly and I bolted for Silverton (long drive after an ultra) to check out the course for Hardrock. Did some hiking and exploring Sunday and today, then the long drive back to Golden this afternoon in time to see my beloved Avalanche lose to the Devils. Ahh, such is life. A great race, a great weekend. Then we move on.
Todd Salzer
Golden, CO
Thanks for a great race and a great surprise in letting my brother run in my father´s place. Wonderfully organized race.
I´ll definitely be back.
Here´s my report.
thanks again
When I asked the family newsletter police for a weeks extension to file my report after the Squaw Peak 50 mile “fun run” my sister Dani (the editor) told me that I had better at least write a small installment before the run.
“There’s cougars, you know, you might die!”
I don’t know about the cougars but I definitely felt like dying several times during the race.
My partner in this first Ultra attempt was to be my father, Grant Holdaway, oldest finisher at Wasatch. But an accident (hit and run while training) left me solo. I was feeling nervous about running solo, yet excited to be finally putting my year of training to the test. Suddenly, on Thursday, I heard my brother Jeff’s voice (one of the big dogs of ultra running) from the kitchen. Wow, I thought, that speaker phone is really turned up. Upon closer inspection I found a body to go with the voice. I was so touched! He had flown in to race with me on Saturday. Everyone, including the race director knew about it and all had kept the secret. I was blown away.
After the requisite three hours of sleep on Friday night we were at the start on Saturday and the mob of people just starting running in the dark. We had flashlights but they weren’t really necessary as the beginning is on an asphalt path and it was starting to get light. Then a sharp left and were climbing and climbing and climbing. While the scenery is breathtaking I’m so concentrated on my foot placement that I cant take the time to notice. At each aid station Jeff runs ahead to fill my bottles and its onward and upward. I’m fine as long as were moving up but the long down on very bad gravel roads starts and I hit my first bad patch. There’s an ultra runners quote that says “dont worry about what hurts now, something else will hurt much worse later.”
I’m absolutely unable to run the downs. Now this is a problem as the downhill are where the runners make up for lost time. According to Jeff I have lousy foot-eye coordination and quite frankly I’m scared to just let er rip. We slogged on through the growing heat and I couldn’t believe that we weren’t even at the halfway mark.
Finally we get to Hobble Creek and my Dad is waiting to cheer us on. By his face I know were late and I dont look so hot. So I grab a bag of food and as Jeff stays behind to fill the bottles I take off, were battling the cutoff now. Were now on a road and though all runners hate the asphalt suddenly I have a smooth surface and I can run. Slowly we start to pass runners and the old competitive Holdaway spirit kicks in. I’m feeling good. We hit an aid station almost back on schedule and I’m feeling great. They give me a wet paper towel to wash 7 hours of grime off my face and hands. They have watermelon, I’m in heaven. I stuff my mouth with fritos and with my best chipmunk imitation wave thanks and good-bye. Its a nice dirt road and thank the lord its slightly uphill. We continue to pick off runners and I’m getting into this ultra experience. Weave been told that the cutoff at 2:30 has been moved back to three but even so push a little to make it by 2:30. We arrive at 2:32 but there’s no problem.
Finally I have the time to stop and fix my blisters. I have two huge ones but am prepared with tape, pins, blister block and alcohol. We continue with good ultra nutrition, salt and sugar and were off. All day we have been playing leapfrog with a very nice lady, Julie, who is a strong runner but now diagnosed with a serious heart problem. She is trying to run with a heart monitor and keep her heart rate below 140. We catch up to her on the ups and she blows past us on the downs. Once again we are running together, its obvious that she’s experiencing some distress. Also, after a weather report for heat and sun, it starts to become cloudy and at about 3 PM it starts to rain. Thanks to Dad I have small poncho in my fanny pack but Julie and Jeff have nothing. Its very cold. Then we hit the “Ridge.” Its 1400 feet straight up! No switchbacks, no nothing, just a scrabble up a mountain. There were various names suggested for this section, including S. O. B. Hill and Kill John Hill. (John being the race director who devised the course) Thanks to my personal trainer and my bike work on my quads, though I’m not that fast it really doesn’t give me much of a problem. Jeff being the mountain goat that he is goes up running (almost). Julie’s dying and when I get to the top I find Jeff sitting with a girl who is experiencing strange lights in her vision and numbness in her hands. (Lovely sport)
We move on to Aid Station #9 and I’m going to report to them that there are people with problems but see them coming up behind us. And were off for the final 10 miles. Piece of cake, I think, but then see that it is all downhill. And not just any downhill, a tiny track just filled with stones. A distance that should have taken 2 hours turns into a 3 1/2 slog. We have to continue. We are met at the final aid station by Dad and Mom and all of Danis family with a great reception. I feel good that this race is almost over then I realize that we have 3 1/2 miles down a paved road to the finish. Thanks to my niece Holly’s cheer leading we meander down and run the last section to the finish. 16 hours 15 minutes, a really pathetic time but a personal best for me seeing as it is the only ultra I had ever run. (And I wasn’t even the last one in) And as Jeff pointed out, the good thing about a lousy time is that it is very easy to do better the next time. It was a great experience and I’m very glad that I did it though I wish I had chosen a slightly easier Ultra to for my first one. (Squaw Peak is ranked 2nd or 3rd for difficulty among the 50 milers in the states) Another Ultra quote: “This race is so hard I wont even have to lie about it when I go home.”
I couldn’t have done it without my family, especially Jeff who flew out to pace, Dad who continued to encourage throughout his own trials and Danis family who cheered us on to victory.
Kudos to John as race director and to the great volunteers.
Thanks to you all.
Wendy Holdaway
Mexico City, Mexico