Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grand Teton 50k 2012 Race Report

I sat at my computer staring at the screen.  There was a choice to be made.  Marathon or 50K.  I chose the 50K.  Then I redid it and chose the marathon.  I changed it again.  I sat and fretted.  Finally, I just decided that I was scared to do the 50K and that's what ultimately made me sign up for it.  I'm still trying to remember to do things that are scary, hard and things that suck.  And not only do them, but to embrace them.  So I did it.  Afterwards I told my brother what I had done.  I didn't think we'd be running together since he's a little speed demon and I AM NOT.  But he was thinking that we would be staying together.  As the date was getting closer, I talked him into seeing if we could switch him to the 50K.  He's never even done a marathon before and he was still game.  I love that guy.  He's a good strong runner and I knew he could do it.  Especially if we just took it slow and enjoyed ourselves.

Speaking of great guys: Jay Batchen, race director, was kind enough to switch him over to the 50K just 3 days before the event with "no additional charge for the extra torture."  I can not say enough good things about this race.  It was well marked.  The volunteers were so friendly and helpful.  And the aid stations were the best.  The course was set up so that drop bags were easily accessible and if we had known how the course was set up, we would have both just carried water bottles instead of the hydration packs.  But I'm starting to get ahead of myself. 

We drove up to Driggs, Idaho for the packet pick up and meeting.  I can not lie and say I was comfortable because I was not.  I felt out of place and downright nervous.  But I picked up our packets and headed for my brother's house where we would be staying.  I ate a carb filled dinner of white rice and ramen noodles.  I ate that before the Ogden Marathon and it seemed to work well.  It's bland, salty, and carb rich.  I didn't sleep well at all.  I was really nervous and I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.  We could see the mountains I'd be climbing from my brother's back window and I was a little sick.  My brother, Tom, who was running with me got in late that night and we made our plans for the morning.  

The morning came quickly and we were off to the ski resort. We checked in and sat in the cafe for a few minutes until the pre race meeting.  Before we knew it, the time had come and we were lined up for the long day ahead. 

There were 19 runners in the 50K and 13 in the 50 mile race that started at the same time.  There were 21 in the marathon and 30 in the 10K.  It kind of baffles me as to why this race is not more popular.  It's relatively inexpensive as far as races go and the scenery can't be beat.  And if you're looking for a challenge, this is it. You should put it on your calendar for next year and we can all have fun together!

We took off at a slow run and with in a few steps everyone was hiking.  The course is set up in 3 loops each ending and beginning at the base aid station.  The first loop was Fred's Mountain.  It's about 5 miles.  It is the steepest part of the course and also the highest point on the course reaching 9,940 ft.   We climbed and climbed.  There were a few runnable parts that we ran through, but it seemed we had to really catch our breaths after so we just maintained a nice fast hike.  There was an especially nice part that seemed like it was straight up.  It never seemed to end.  And all I could think of was that we had this section to do again at the end of the day.

We watched the sun come up.  It had rained hard the night before and things were a little slippery but it was a super beautiful sight.  The temperatures were perfect. Chilly but not too cold.  Towards the top it was windy and we were glad to have long sleeves.  

this is not the steepest hill.  

It took us one hour and 5 minutes to reach the top.  Some of it was an 18% grade.  Steep.  After we reached the top and the aid station we refueled and headed down the mountain.  It was the first time we really got to run and it felt good to stretch the legs out and take off.

I could slightly feel my hip on the downhill and right then and there I settled into the peace that I already knew it was going to hurt and I just accepted it.  To my surprise, it loosen up and went away, not return for the rest of the day.  A strange and beautiful blessing. However, I could feel my quads after the steep descent and knew that I was going to be feeling this run long after the day was over.  And I was excited to see what the day would bring.  It's an thrilling thing to see what your body is going to do when you are about to push it beyond what you have before.

Oh, how I loved the aid stations.  Everything you could ever want was there.  My favorites were the mini snickers and later in the day the coke and dr. pepper.  The boiled salted potatoes were really good too.  If there was one thing I would do differently it would be to take some of the stuff in the baggies and try to eat it along the way.  I felt like we spent a lot of time at the aid stations just trying to choke it down.  I ate a fig newton toward the end that took probably 10 minutes.  Although I really enjoyed talking to the volunteers.  Lesson learned for next time.

We headed out to the next loop, Mill Creek, which was about 15 miles and was the place where we were most likely to spot wildlife.  Bear spray was encouraged for all participants as a couple of bears had been spotted in the area  just the day previous.  

I kept looking around and marveling at how gorgeous everything was.  One of the ways I convinced my brother to do the 50K was to tell him that we'd be running in the one of the most beautiful places in the world.  As long as we were there, why not do 5 more miles!  Physical torture is best done in a scenic environment.

 And this was by far the most scenic part of the course and quiet.  Nice freshly cut dirt and pine needled trails.  The smell was magnificent.  The rain really brought out the pine smell.  We had great conversation with a guy from North Carolina for a while and just had fun talking to each other.  We had a 3 mile uphill stretch up the winding canyon road before it went back on trails and even that went by fast.  We played the game of run to a point and then walk to a point.  Repeat. 

 Towards the middle of this section I had gotten behind in drinking and salt pills and had a nice calf cramp.  I could feel the warning signs come out of nowhere and slowed down.  But when I tried to run at normal speed again, it cramped.  After about a half an hour of hiking and another salt pill, I was able to do a slow jog again and then we were back to normal.  I had to really baby that calf though the rest of time and keep on top of hydration.  It felt really good coming in to the main aid station again.

 The final loop of the 25 miles was Rick's Basin.  It had rolling hills for about 5 miles and was also gorgeous.  It was in more wide open fields so you could see a few competitors.  We were mostly by ourselves for the entire run though.  We could also see some pretty dark ominous clouds in the distance that kept building.

We got back to the main aid station to try and eat something and head back up Fred's Mountain for the second time and the end of our 50K.  It was here that I met someone I was secretly hoping to meet.  I knew from their website that she helped put this race together with her husband Jay.  I got to meet Lisa Smith-Batchen.  I really don't get star struck by almost anyone.  I've seen a few stars in Jackson over the years and at Park City and never had a desire to get my picture taken with them, but Lisa is different.  I watched her in a documentary a long time ago, back in 1999, before I even thought about running, in a movie called Running Under the Sun about the Badwater Ultra Marathon.  I marveled back then and marvel more now knowing more of her story.  I was honored to be standing next to her and hear her encouraging words as we got ready to head back out for our final loop.  And as the thunder and lightning and rain started, she and her volunteers found us a couple of rain jackets to protect us from the cold at the top of the mountain.  Click here to read more about Lisa and Jay.  True humanitarians and all around great people.  And they really know how to put on a great race.

Lisa Smith-Batchen and me

Back up the mountain a second time.  Final 5 miles.  This went by faster than the first time for some weird reason.  In fact my body starting feeling good again.  Any aching or tight muscles seemed to get back in gear.  The only problem I had was on the steep downhills with my left IT band.  My brother found that skipping was helping his knee feel better and so I tried it and it worked.  We were skipping down the mountain singing zipidy do da.  We got down to the not so steep down hill and my IT band stopped hurting and we were able to run the last couple of miles to the finish.  It was strange how everything felt good again.  I felt like if I didn't have to do anymore steep downhill I could have gone farther.  But I was glad to not have to suck down another gel or try to nibble something for an hour!

view of the Tetons on the way down


Our families were at the bottom and it was so great to see them.  I was really so happy for my brother and so grateful for the experience with him.  He really is a tough runner.  I felt like we kept each other going during the whole race.  I never felt like my spirits were down and had a smile on my face the whole time. 9 hours and 31 minutes. 7400 ft elevation gain.  

Such a great memory, one I'll treasure forever!

Back at the house, my brother filled up his kiddie pool for us with the coldest water ever.  I don't think ice would have even melted.

 I also had a warm Epsom salt bath after and didn't feel too bad.  I'm really not as sore as I thought I would be.  And I can't wait to do another one!


Doran & Jody said...


My brother has a condo up in Driggs. One of these days I will have to have him take us on a hike/run up there too!

Looks beautiful!!

You did Great!

Michelle Dragoo said...

Thanks for taking us on such an amazing journey. Loved every minute of it, you should be sooo proud! Great job!

Katie said...

Congrats!! That looks like a tough, but beautiful race!

susette said...

AAHHHHHH!!!!! This makes me sooo happy you did a 50K. Remember how you said you would run one with me?? I'm totally serious I would love to with you!! This was so fun to read and hear some of the resemblances to what I experienced. Aid stations were a big hit for me as well. I like the idea of taking baggies so you can nibble on the way. I just may have to do that for my next one.
The cooler weather was probably a huge blessing. I think I would prefer the wet ground and cooler weather over hot and dusty. You are a champ my friend and I'm so so so happy you got to experience this!!

Tasha @Healthy Diva said...

That course was beautiful, but looked super tough!!!! Great job! I am very impressed. Finishing is something to be very proud of. :-)

Yo Momma Runs said...

Well that just makes me want to jump out and do a 50K (not kidding). We have one here that is straight up a hill, but not as bad as the ones you guys had to climb. That is some serious hillage! This is exactly the kind of thing I would want my big brother to run with me too. Good idea with putting the food in baggies to take with you. And this is the first time I've heard of bear spray. We must not have enough bears around northern Alabama.

Audrey said...

You are truly amazing! Each day I am more and more in awe of you and your accomplishments!

Average Woman Runner said...

Congratulations on your 50k and thanks for sharing all those fantastic mountain views! It actually makes me want to do a 50k (and I haven't done a marathon either, like your awesome brother). Hmmm...

Johann said...

Fantastic! Congratulations! You ran a perfect race on a really difficult course. I'm running a 50km mountain challenge this Saturday so reading this now was just perfect!

misszippy said...

What an amazing experience! Both the course, meeting Lisa, and doing it with your brother. Congrats on an amazing effort out there. Looked beautiful!

I want to move out west to run in that scenery and learn to handle the altitude!

abbi said...

What a gorgeous course! I loved reading your recap of a wonderful day, a huge congrats to you! :)

Rachelle Wardle said...

Simply amazing! I cannot even begin to put into words how incredible this is and how proud of you I am. You are strong Jen. So incredibly strong and wow what an awesome accomplishment that you will cherish forever. Made even more memorable by the fact that you got to share the entire journey with your brother.

"Physical torture is best done in scenic environment." best quote ever!!

Cory Reese said...

This is incredible Jen! I really loved your write-up and pictures. The scenery looks awesome, and when you add Snickers and Coke.....well, I think that describes heaven.

Congrats on an awesome race. You are amazing!

ash & diz said...

Jen! COngratulations! You are such a bad ass mother runner!! Your pictures are beautiful. So glad you got to experience this with your brother! What a great recap!!

I seriously need to come up some weekend a do a trail run/hike with you.

Nelly said...

Congrats on the 50K! As usual, your run pics look amazing. Wow you went up some tough climbs though. And that water at the end in the kiddie pool looked super cold!

Mommy Run Fast said...

Wow!! Congrats- what an accomplishment. That is a lot of elevation gain! And 9 hours is a loooong time to be on your feet. I love that you could run it with your brother. Hope you're recovering well!