September 23, 2012

Grand Teton 50k

Getting High: No Smoke

Ever since moving to Montana I have wanted to revisit the Grand Tetons.  Every time I had been to the Tetons in the past it was either cloudy or rainy.  Even though I had been there two times prior I had never seen the peaks of the Tetons with my own eyes.  We left smoky Missoula behind us and headed out to the Grand Tetons for some camping, running and racing at altitude.

We departed after work on Friday and headed through some nasty thunderstorms to our campsite in Wyoming.  It rained throughout the night and Lisa allowed me the honor or putting on the tent cover during a rather large down pour at 2 am.  

It was an early morning start (4:30am) and Lisa was not very excited - she normally sleeps until 11am.  We drove up the steep switchbacks to the Grand Targhee ski resort and I checked in.   The Grand Teton races are pretty low key but the scenery makes up for it ten fold.  We were warned that a black bear sow and her cubs had been spotted several times recently on the course and were advised to carry bear spray - oops left mine back at the tent site.

The race started in the dark and headed straight up a 2000+ ft climb up Fred's Mountain.  I picked this partticular race for the chance to run between 8000 and 10,000 ft.  The course did not disappoint!  I was breathing deep on the first climb, which was up to 10,000ft.  You basically ran along the spine of the mountain with big canyons to the left and the ski resort to the right.  Great stuff!

The course took the shape of a cloverleaf with a central aid station that served as the start, finish and three other aid stations.  Lisa and Chloe waited patiently at the center aid station for me to return.  Chloe was not on her best behavior and attempted to bite s little boy.  Bad girl.

The central aid station.

After finishing the first three loops I was headed back up that monsterous climb to Fred's mountain AGAIN.  While running the other sections I was dreading this final loop back up to 10k ft.  I had to power hike two or three sections this time but I kept telling myself it was good training for the Bear 100 coming up in 30 days.

7000 ft of climbing for a 50k is tough at altitude

Second time up Fred's mountain - not moving quite as fast anymore

RunningTimes wrote a small write up on the race. I'll let them recap the race.

Grand Teton 50m and 50k – Driggs, Id.

Rising ultra star Chris Kollar (Missoula, Mt.) smoked the 50k course in 4:22 to win by over an hour and set a new course record by almost the same margin. Kristina Pattison (Missoula, Mt.) did the same on the women’s side with a 5:35 course record run. In the 50 miler, Sada Crawford (Sierra Madre, Ca.) topped all comers, male and female, with a 10:02 winning time.

There is a lot of talk about prize money and incentives for ultra races but my favorite award for racing an ultra is a unique object from that area.  At the Grand Teton 50k they handed out these beautiful Grand Teton tiles painted by a local artist.  The old wooden frame is good touch too.  

Overall it was a great race.  The course was well marked, the trails were great and the red, yellow and orange foliage mixed with jagged peaks was inspiring even during the difficult times.  This was great preparation for what is turning out to be a very competitive Bear 100 on September 28th.  

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.