Beaverhead 100k

The Beaverhead 100k was a remarkable event in several ways. To begin with, it was set to be my first 100k which by default will always give it a special place in my mind and my heart. I’d settled on this race months ago after searching UltraSignup for a challenging and scenic 100k scheduled in July or August. Beaverhead did not disappoint in either of these areas as it boasted 13,000 feet of climbing with an average elevation of nearly 8,500 feet and a peak elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. It also traversed over 50 miles of the Continental Divide Trail between Idaho and Montana.

Flags identifying our location on the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana, also at the race start.

Flags identifying our location on the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana, also at the race start.

Sunrise at the race start, photo credit David Lingle.

Sunrise at the race start, photo credit David Lingle.

Before I get into the nitty gritty race details, I wanted to give a huge thanks to the race directors behind Goldstone Ultra Running. Here in PDX we are all accustomed to our races being put on brilliantly by the folks behind Go Beyond Racing and Rainshadow running. The courses are fun and challenging, well marked, and brimming with excellent swag and post-race festivities. David and Eric, brothers born and raised in Salmon Idaho, did not disappoint in this regard as they co-directed the inaugural Beaverhead 100k. These guys clearly have a passion for the mountains that surround Salmon, and they really showed us a stunningly beautiful section of those mountains with this course. I can’t even guess at how many hours they spent marking this course but they turned a twisted network of game trails and ATV tracks intermixed with a good portion of readily identifiable single track into a golden flagged road which would have been nearly impossible to get lost on. They somehow convinced a bunch of hunting buddies and a few ultra-runners to staff the aid stations, most of which were accessible only by ATV. All in all, these two brothers did a fantastic job on the first year and I expect even more next year after using us all as guinea pigs this year. Well done fellas! And of course a huge thanks to all the volunteers as well, as without them this race would have been impossible.

After waking up at 3:15 am, boarding a 4:00 am shuttle and driving nearly an hour to the start line, we were greeted with cool temperatures, an overcast sky, and a beautiful sunrise. The start line was non-descript, with a honey bucket and a dirt road leading gradually up a hillside. There ended up being 12 people participating in the 100k, and we all started off at 6:00 am. It was amazing to see an Animal Athletics shirt at this time. A great guy, Marshall, knew Yassine and Willie and Jeff of Trail Butter too. We’d end up seeing each other quite a few times along the course. The first section started off with a gradual uphill via dirt road, overland travel with no trail, and nice single track on the CDT. Within about 20 minutes of easy running, the lead group of about 4 runners startled a herd of about 15 elk. They all bounded over a barbed wire fence, except for one young calf who was running directly towards me in full sprint mode. Thankfully it decided not to try and steamroll me, which it would have done easily, and diverted its path about 15 feet from me. It was awesome, and we all recognized immediately that this must be a very lightly used trail. We were indeed out in the middle of nowhere. We continued along a gradually rolling trail through forested lands for this section. I reached Digmore Mine aid station (5 miles) in 56 minutes, at a comfortable pace of 11 minutes and 12 seconds per mile (going forward, pace will be indicated like this - 11:12). I knew I had to keep a 15 minute per mile pace in order to make the cutoffs at miles 47.5 and 51.5, so I was happy to be putting some time in the bank at this stage of the race.

Over the course of the next 9 miles we had a bunch of super runnable terrain and crossed through some of the most beautiful grassland areas I’ve ever seen. The wildflowers were spectacular, as were the expansive views or mountain ranges near and far. This section went by smoothly at a pace of 11:20 as I reached Goat Mountain aid station at mile 14.

Realizing I was well ahead of my cutoff pace, I intentionally slowed down a bit for the 6 miles in the next segment leading to Twenty Mile aid station. It was good smooth running and I reached it with a segment pace of 12:20 so a minute per mile slower than the last segment. My overall pace was still at about 11:30 and as I quickly did the math in my head I was pleased to be running sub-twelves at 20 miles in.

Leaving Twenty Mile, I knew that I had a drop bag waiting for me at the next aid station, Lehmi Pass. I was looking forward to a change in socks, a dry shirt, and some more Trail Butter. There was some decent climbing in this section and for the first time I noticed it seemed to be taking a while to get to the aid station. It was gradually getting warmer out so I figured that was taking a toll on me physically. I’d put a couple Nunn tabs into my hydration pack at the last aid station so I figured my electrolyte intake was ok at this point. I reached mile 28 at a pace of 13:45 and I was more or less unconcerned of the slowdown based on the terrain in that segment. My overall pace at this time was still 12:12 and I was way ahead of the cutoff. I also gave Marshall a pack of Trail Butter here as he said he loved it and it was only going to remain in my drop bag if he didn’t take it. I’m not sure if he ever used it or not. I also left an empty pack with the aid station as they were very interested in the product.

Immediately upon leaving Lehmi Pass, two important things happened. First, the clouds broke for the first time in the day and the over really turned on. Second, the course climbed 1,000 feet in about 1.5 miles. It was here, nearly half way through the course that my physical condition began to noticeably deteriorate. I started to feel dehydrated but drinking anything led me to feeling quite nauseous. In addition to that, I could not choke any food down. Be it gels, Cliff Blocks, Trail Butter, or any other aid station food, I just wanted to vomit the moment I swallowed. This was very new to me, as my stomach is typically iron clad. I figured it must be a combination of the heat and the elevation, plus the exertion. I’ve done plenty of other high altitude work (Pikes Peak Marathon, summiting Mt. Rainier, etc.) and never felt like this. I told myself to keep hydrated and maybe it would pass…wishful thinking. I continued on at a moderate pace (14:36) the rest of this short segment along mostly flat ATV roads to the Warm Springs aid station at mile 32.5. I was either 2nd or 3rd place male at this point, and the lead female broke away here and left the rest of the field in the dust. Note that before this race I was hoping to be able to run the entire thing in under 15 minute miles, so although I didn’t immediately recognize how close I was to this threshold, I was clearly slowing down and I was just over half way through. At the moment I was thrilled to be just over half way through in 6 hours and 48 minutes. While at Warm Springs, I sat down and decided to drink a lot of water. I poured out all remaining electrolyte fluids and decided to go with lava salts as the sweetness of the Nunn tabs in water was totally revolting to me at this point. Thankfully every aid station had plentiful ice, and I sat down and slowly drank two bottles of ice water. There is also a Warm Springs aid station at the Mount Hood 50 mile race, also happening on July 12th. I have volunteered there the last two years and found myself thinking about all the runners and volunteers there. It was a nice escape for me.

I honestly don’t remember much about getting from Warm Springs to Cutout and Gold Stone aid stations except for there was a lot of climbing and due to my inability to eat my body was abandoning me. My pace on those two segments was 14:43 and 21:08, by far my worst to this point. Someplace around mile 50 I decided my ‘race’ was basically over as I’d already been walking almost exclusively since mile 47.5 or thereabouts. So, I decided I may as well take some photos as the scenery just kept getting better and better. I also had cell reception and decided I’d better text my parents and my girlfriend and let them know I’d be on the course a little later than expected. I gave them an estimated 11pm finishing time which was only an hour later than I’d previously estimated. I knew I had a three mile section of scree awaiting me after the next aid station, so I was trying to adequately guess my pace based on that. At this point I’d fallen pretty far back in the field, 5th male and 8th overall I think. I was totally undernourished and struggling mightily. Desiree’s mantra of “Relentless Forward Motion” was continually running through my mind and I was taking heart in the fact that several friends had just suffered much more at Western States. I could finish this thing despite walking almost everything from here on out if I had to. Even on the flats and the down hills I was only managing to jog-shuffle along for three or four minutes at a time before I walked again. I was spent. My pace on the 4 mile segment from Gold Stone to Janke Lake was a miserable 26 minutes per mile.

Random course photo, credit David Lingle

Random course photo, credit David Lingle

Random course photo, credit David Lingle

Random course photo, credit David Lingle

Janke Lake was swarming with mosquitos. This was actually good, because as Martin pulled the bug dope out of the first aid kit there, I noticed some Tums. I asked the two good-ol-boys manning the aid station (one of them was the RD’s father, and they were both spinning some hilarious yarns) what they do and they suggested I eat three or four for my stomach. I’d never taken them before so I was hesitant and Marshall was shaking his head back and forth as a warning. I decided to take one, and took three more along with me. While they didn’t bring back my ability to eat, they did ease my nausea a bit and allowed for a bit more shuffling and less walking so I was pleased.

The section from Janke Lake to Bohannon Creek was 5 miles long, three of which was reportedly a continuous scree field. After about a mile of moderate terrain, I entered what I thought must have been the scree field. I passed an older gentleman (I estimated 70), walking the 50k course, and utilizing trekking poles in each hand. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but got concerned as the night went on. It was approximately 7:30 and I figured I would be able to get across the scree field in the light. Not only were rocks shifting and sliding beneath the weight of every step, but the course was on the very top of a major ridgeline. A fall to the east, into Montana, would have been fatal. A fall in any other direction could have easily resulted in nasty wounds, twisted ankles, or broken bones. I needed every bit of muscle strength and balance in this scree, but after over 13 hours on my feet both were rather limited. I still managed to conjure up some old childhood memories of rock hopping and handled this section pretty well. Along with passing a few 50k folks, I also passed a man and a woman from the 100k, putting me back into 7th place overall and 4th male. I would maintain this position for the rest of the race. Just about when I finished the scree field, the sun was setting and we dropped steeply off the ridgeline into the Bohannon Creek drainage. For about a mile, we followed what can only be described as a game trail. It was steep, rocky, and not runnable. I kept thinking about the older man, thinking there was no way he would be able to cross all that scree, especially in the dark. I hoped he brought a headlamp at least. I made it to the last aid station and talked with Marshall who showed up a few minutes earlier. He was hurting too, and we both voiced our concerns about the remainder of the field crossing the scree at night. I really figured some folks may end up hunkering down and waiting till morning. Turns out that didn’t happen, but the older fella did have to be taken down on an ATV due to injury. Regardless, this was the slowest segment of the race and my pace was a sluggish 28:12.

Random photo from the scree field.

Random photo from the scree field.

Random photo from the scree field.

Random photo from the scree field.

Random photo from the scree field and yes, that is a person on the ridge line.

Random photo from the scree field and yes, that is a person on the ridge line.

Sunset before I dropped off into the Bohannon Creek drainage.

Sunset before I dropped off into the Bohannon Creek drainage.

Five miles left. I can do five miles. I can do five miles. I can do five miles. The last five miles followed a very rocky ATV road and crossed Bohannon Creek several times, with no way to avoid completely submerging my shoes. I was able to splash some water on my face which felt wonderful, and the temperatures were still high enough to be totally comfortable in shorts and a tee shirt despite the time being past 10pm now. I turned on my headlamp and gutted out the last mile and a half through sagebrush shrubs and cattle pasture. At one point I passed a rather large herd of cattle and all their eyes were lit up and reflecting back at me. It was a little unnerving. I kept catching glimpses of light that I assumed were the finish line, but the dirt road kept winding me farther and farther away from them. Finally, as I was near the end of my patience and cursing aloud with regularity, I came across two folks who were walking out to meet their spouses finishing the 50k. They indicated the finish was no more than ten minutes away, and they were right. I couldn’t even muster a run for the finish, and walked across in 17 hours and 4 minutes, where I collapsed into a chair and began the process of trying to eat solid foods again. My pace for the final 5 miles was 17:32 which left me with an overall average pace for the race of 16:29.

All in all this was an incredible experience and was more rewarding and demanding than I could have ever imagined.  I learned some valuable lessons that I can take into my next, and as of yet undetermined, run of 100k or longer.  I would definitely do this run again and I would like to achieve a faster time with some more altitude training beforehand.  As for now, I think I’ll fill out the rest of my summer with fun events like the Lake of Death relay, running around Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, running the extent of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness perhaps, and who knows what else.  Thanks once again to the race directors, volunteers, friends, family members, and of course my girlfriend for all the love and support as I trained for and competed in this event!!!