Monday, July 14, 2008

Devils Backbone

Jackson is a hard place to beat for good living. I can't think of one other place I would rather live than Jackson, except Bozeman. Bozeman offers a bit more city life without taking the small town feel away. Throw in a sweet new library and a college and it runs a close second to Jackson.

I look forward to heading to Bozeman each summer to see old friends and hit their trails. Tom and Liz Hayes-McGoff are the race directors for two great races up there, Old Gabes 50k, an asskicker with 12,000 feet of climbing that I missed due to BH and Devils Backbone, a 50 miler of such shear beauty (and asskicking) you almost...almost (but not quite) ask for more.
I had some company coming to join me in Bozeman this weekend. My friend Roman from Houston was flying in to visit and run the race. Yes, I have flatlander friends. Roman lived out here and we worked together for a short time many years ago. We were the Spartan Cheerleaders for Halloween and I say this without a doubt; Roman has the best herkie and split jump I have seen. The vert he gets almost baffles the mind and coupled with the fact that he's about 6'2", 220 linebacker type, it's amazing. That's why he's my friend. That and we can talk about anything which we did most of the weekend.

So he flies in, we have too many beers at the brew pub on the way home and I drive to Bozeman with a big fat OB-1 headache the next morning. The drive was beautiful, through Yellowstone and the Gallatin Canyon. We get there in time to check into a hotel (high style for ultrarunning) and take some funny pictures of a big bush before heading to Tom and Liz's house for pre-race dinner and meeting.
The course hadn't really been decided on before the dinner. There was a lot of snow up high and getting to the first peak, Hyalite was iffy. Iffy became impossible when it took Tom, multiple Hardrock finisher 10 hours to do 25 miles, which was past the cutoff time. So it was decided we would start from the other way, up Portal Creek to Windy Pass and do 12.5 out and back, 10 mile loop in the opposite direction and then 7.5 on the first out and back. Tom claims this was going to be easier than the original course - yeah, right. Ate tons of food, a little hair of the dog and won a container of Mild Melon Heed. I was hoping this flavor was going to be better than the current flavor I have which can only be described as belly button lint, rolled in fish guts set in the sun then sprinkled with orange cream powder. Let you know how it is.

So we have to get up pretty darn early to get to the start line by 6, like middle of the nite early as the start was about 1 1/2 hour away. Roman, still on Central time, had us up at 2:50 instead of 3:50 so we laid there not sleeping until the real alarm went off. We got there with about 15 minutes to spare. There was some confusion at the road forks and somehow I was making navigational decisions which is a really bad idea. My confidence highly overshadows my complete inability to tell direction but we all got there.

The Devils Backbone touts itself as unmarked, unaided, and unequaled. If you know me, you know these are my races. It leaves the whiners, sissies and people that regularly shower at home. It's not that I like getting lost or running out of food and water but I know it's probably going to happen to me on any course, so I might as well sign up for a race that promotes right there in the brochure. People who stress over the hand drawn maps or no maps at all, ask the millionth question and then look around worried trying to find that person they are going to attach themselves to, those people don't have fun at these kind of races. I avoid eye contact with those people. I like the people that listen, shrug their shoulders and go back to their lasagna.

I did run with an interesting person who rocked old school. This guy was a lawyer by trade but was building a house in Livingston. He showed up to prerace meeting in Wranglers and cowboy boots (beat up, not new). His hydration and nutrition for the race went something like this. A Pure Simple Organic Limeade bottle (gallon) filled with I think limeade (really wanted some) and a small baggie with what looked like a sandwich in it. He was doing the longest distance he'd ever done (25 miles) and finished really well.

I got to see my friend Herbert, who pulled my sorry ass from Crybaby Land at the Big Horn with his sage words and understanding. And my friend Fran, who did GT100 with me and never fails to amaze me with her laid back attitude or sunscreen application. For those of you who don't know, zinc oxide is not dead and I wish I had some on that day. And her dog, Bok Choy had a great time on the trail and ran about 125 miles.

I knew it would be a long day but was surprised by how much the elevation and constant exposure to the sun drained me and quickly. I started out with my normal speed, snails pace, and then slowed a little bit from there. Our first 2 miles climbed about 1300 feet, then there was a bit more climbing before getting out on the ridge. Once out there, you could see for miles to other runners out ahead on the trail so you had a good idea of where to head and really, even I can't get lost on a ridgeline. There was a lot of snow on the course and that took a toll on everyone especially as the day wore on and the snow softened.

I reached the turnaround (12.5 miles) in 3 1/2 hours and was able to hook up with my great friend, Kim Taft for a little while. Her good cheer and constant smile brightened me up and I am lovin the hair. She was doing the relay with her husband and they had a true exchange in the form of their 17 month old son, Theo. Devils Backbone allows the relay people to start whenever so technically this year relay partners could run together. In years past, you and your relay partner started at different ends and met somewhere in the middle.
On the way back from 12.5 out, I was feeling pretty good although a little tired. I ran into Roman who was cold (Texan) and said he was thinking of doing 35, then driving back to town for some more clothes. I told him he would probably warm up as the sun got higher and hoped that I wouldn't be left. I ran back mostly alone but had far away company in sandwich/limeade guy. I had to backclimb a small cliff band where I had lost the trail and gone too high, you get your money's worth at the Devils Backbone.

Hit the 25 mile mark and felt fairly close to shit - tired, snow blind and sunburned but couldn't think of anywhere else I would like to be. I hit the pickles hard, and the pringles harder with some to go. I cleaned the sticks, pine straw and other grass cousins out of my handheld from all the snow I had stuffed in there. Someone filled my bladder and with everything stuffed in it, I looked like I had a papoose back but it worked. However, I headed out without the two things that would indicated I was going to finish this thing, my handheld and my headlamp. Consciously (headlamp) or unconsciously (handheld), I left them both behind. I did manage to clean out the scree field that was my shoes, put on some more sunscreen and get some calories on board. I also asked a few guys around me when they were headed out so I could hook up some company for the 10 mile loop.

One guy took off pretty quickly which wasn't a gear available to me. I ran the flat fairly well all the while trying to digest Tom's verbal directions. I had him give it to me like you would talk to a 3 year old. Don't tell me what I shouldn't do because "don't go left at the tree" sounds like "go left at the tree" when you are out there. So I just had him to tell me what I should do and I took it from there. So the directions went something like this,

Go back a ways, take the trail that heads South (great, I don't know direction but I just nod my head), then look for a weather station and head for it. He said it was only a 700 foot climb but I am thinking that he must have been referring to "the other" weather station out there because this one seemed a lot higher than 700 feet of a climb. You have to touch the weather station (thankfully the weather was clear, no lightning in the area) and then run to the second rocky knoll (rocky knoll?) and at the second rocky knoll there will be some ribbon, turn around and go back to the weather station and touch it again, then run away. There's not much of a trail so head for the station and then when you come back, don't go to the turnaround but head back out on the ridge. You will probably lose the trail but just keep high. Crystal Clear, I love these races.

There was a lot of snow out there, just big mounds of snow to go up and over. My Achilles were hating life but still answering my call. I hooked up with a guy named Scott, pretty much I just started talking to him until he put his ipod away. Cool guy from Helena doing his first 50 miler, he was a biologist who geeked out on maps, so jealous. The good thing about that big hill was there was the most beautiful rocks and I loved that a lot of the girls picked some up. I didn't see any boys saying "look at this pretty rock" but the girls all stopped to show off our rocks. This is why I like running long distances, more breaks for chatting. Alas, another reason I am not gonna win these things, too busy walking and showing off pretty rocks.

There was a definite glissade down from the weather station. Scott had given me some pointers on good techniques when he first spotted the humongous snow field on the mountain and even went first so I could see if he was going to crash. We watched Herbert pull off some great tele-turns in running shoes. I worried the whole way to the rocky knoll and had my sharp stick ready to self arrest when I started down. All my nervousness was for naught because it was like being on a big slide with snow butt wash chaser, none of which I didn't enjoy. So we get off the weather station mountain and head back to the aid station because our day is done.

On the way back to finish the 10 mile loop (that took 3 1/2 hours) I had pretty much made up my mind that the thought of a good nite's sleep won over finishing in the dark. I was shocked at how easy it was to make that decision and how psyched I was to not have to hit the ridge again. My first DNF was Devils Backbone, never thought it would be but it was okay. I equate it with seeing your long lost love and then leaving immediately to run off for a flight to Tahiti that serves all you can eat bacon, both are pretty good options.

So we ran back to the turnaround just to make sure Tom wasn't there but he had already started to sweep the course and actually shepherded a great guy from Texas, Ali on his first 50 finish, way to go dude. That was a big smile out there all day and he was the big winner of the day. Ali definitely deserves the hoodie. So then we walked down the steep 1.3 to the finish. We debated whether we should run it in but decided seeing we were dropping that we shouldn't. I asked Scott if he would kick me real hard so I had an excuse for dropping but he wouldn't so we strolled in as the winners of the loser 35 mile category. We got tee-shirts instead of hoodies and sat around, compared blisters (I won) and talked to some relayers about their day. Then went and soaked in the creek for a while and Roman and I headed back to the hotel.

We had big plans of going out on the town but ended up eating chicken in our respective beds while watching reality tv, also a good option. Brunch is at Looie downstairs the next day and it was great food and good race stories. We checked the Hardrock results and saw how well everyone had done. Kyle's new record and an amazing job done by my new friend Bushwacker, beautifully paced by Olga.

We drove home after brunch and went through Yellowstone which still takes my breath away with it's beauty in spite of the large crowds of people. Enjoy the photos.

So I am kinda glad that I got my first dnf under my belt. I was wondering when it would happen. I think my mental strength tank was on empty from Bighorn but both were still worth it. I think next year I will do BH100 and then DB relay. Next up is Speedgoat for a little punishment, lots of climbing in not very many miles. Then El Vacquero Loco, that my friend Ty Draney puts on down in Afton, Wyoming. This week should be a good week of running with Cole coming for some elevation training. Lots of trails, lots of friends to run with and finally the Teton summer is here and all 12 days of it will be appreciated.

Recovery has been good, took three days off mostly just being busy but I believe in rest (really just lazy). Wednesday, I ran my favorite run to Phillips divide and reflected on the last time I had been there. I hadn't yet done a 100 and now I have done 2. There was only one other person on the trail I saw that nite, an old friend. He said that he turned around at the snow and told me where it was, seemingly impassable to him. Funny, when I got there, I just went right through it thinking how nice it is to do distances and not let things like snow stop you. I probably would have stopped before but now you just keep going. Things are very good in life and I am grateful for it. Summer is fleeting so get out there and don't take it for granted. Here's a picture of Phillips, enjoy.


Velvet Ginger said...

Absolutley beautiful...those wildflowers are fantastic, the mountains breathtaking.
I grew up in Pinedale...I now live in AZ, was just blog hopping...great blog you have!

robtherunner said...

I love the pictures, except, the small ones are too small. We want close ups of the pretty rocks. After reading your thoughts on pretty rocks I am thinking twice about harassing my wife everytime we are at the beach and she is busy looking for pretty rocks.

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

looks so nice:) you are awesome
hope to see you at the track this week!

Anonymous said...

Ultra Feet, NICE shot!! A course like Devils Backbone makes you feel alive as long as you don't slip, SPLAT,POW!!
I love hanging with Liz and Tom. Got time for a repeat next year??


Kim Taft said...

Hi Lori,

That was such a beautiful course, we had a great time. Thank you for recommending it. Have a great run this weekend in SLC!!


olga said...

What awesome scenery! Now it was on my wish list for a while, and thanks to your description, is moving to the top:) Good deal, Whitty Girl, and see you soon for some story swaping!

Maxine said...

Thanks for writing this.