Well it would be a gross understatement to stay that this year’s Pocatello 50 was a difficult run. As many have already reported the race was called off early because of arctic weather conditions including rain, snow, sleet, gusting winds (some estimated 40-50 mph), and very poor visibility on the high mountain ridges (of which this race has many). The start of the race was some of the most pleasant weather of the run, about 35 degrees with a very light drizzle. After the short section of pavement from the start to the Slate mountain trail the lead pack formed, Brad Mitchell and another relay runner were putting down a blistering pace and before the top of the first climb (about 3 miles into the race) they were out of sight not to be seen again. Joe Grant and Scott Jaime were right on my heels and commented that I would be their tour guide for the day to keep them on track. At this point in the race it started to rain a little harder and the trails quickly got greasier and greasier, by the time we descended dry creek towards the Gibson Jack Aid Station it was downright difficult to stay on your feet, the once pristine ribbon of smooth single track became a virtually frictionless slice of slimy mud.
My legs after 34 Miles of awesomeness at the finish area of the 2010 Pocatello 50. Photo by Tanae Nelson
The three of us went through the Gibson Jack Aid station with Joe in the lead, then me followed by Scott. We were all right together when we started to ascend the Wild Mountain climb and the wind started to blow, the rain also turned into a very solid gropple (think micro-hail). I pulled ahead of Joe as did Scott as we switched from run to power hike up the steep off-trail section. With every step the conditions deteriorated, the wind blew stronger and the visibility lessened, by the time we summited it was difficult for me to get on route and I probably know this section of trail better than the back of my hand. It was so cold rime ice was forming on all of the sage brush and on our bare legs, my hands went numb and it quickly became impossible to open a gel or drink out of my now frozen hand bottle. Joe pulled ahead a little on the descent down Cusick creek, but I pulled in to the City Creek Aid station within a minute or so with Scott right on my heels. It was much warmer at the low elevation aid station but still raining and as I passed race director Jared Campbell on my way out of the aid station he asked how it was and all I could think to say is that is was “for real up high”. I then charged out of the aid area looking to catch Joe before he put too much ground on me. Before the top of the City Creek trail I had caught and passed Joe, as did Scott who stayed glued to me on the ascent up the downhill course. As we topped out we were once again in the epic wintery conditions, but I knew this time would be worse; we stayed above treeline for longer and we were running straight into the wind, it was very hard to keep positive about how it felt. Scott passed me on the descent into Midnight Creek and commented “it is a different world up here”. I ran consistent down Midnight, but started to bonk a little because I was unable to open the gels that I had in my pockets, in desperation I started to squeeze them until they were pressurized and then bite into the package. This would cause them to burst open and I think I probably was able to get a little more than half of the gel in my mouth. At the remote Midnight Creek Aid Station I sipped a little warm Ramen broth and set to work to try to reel in Scott.
Just out of the aid station I had to stop to relieve myself and when I started to run again the bonk came on in full force, since we had been out of the wind for a while now my hands functioned enough to open two gels which shortly after consuming I came around very quickly. In the midst of the bonk though, Joe passed me. Now I had two guys that I needed to catch. Once I topped out of the Monument climb my legs started to feel much better and I began to move really well. I worked very hard to gain back the lost ground, I could tell that I was getting some of it back because both Scott, and Joe’s footprints (easily separated by distinct tread and knowledge of sponsors) were getting clearer in the nearly 2 inches of newly fallen snow. As the descent continued the snow turned into 2 inches of super slush and then more sloppy mud trails. About 300 yards before the Mink Creek aid station I was told by a volunteer that the race had been shut down by the race directors and the 34ish mile mark of the Mink Creek aid station would be the finish, seconds later I was caught and passed by a relay runner. It was just after 11:00 am.
At about 10:30 in the morning the race directors made the decision to stop runners at their next major checkpoint. Ryan Mcdermott one of the RD’s had been on course on Wild Mountain and saw first hand the carnage that the weather was dishing out to runners, people were very quickly getting hypothermic, disoriented and lost in the area above treeline. After helping several people get back on course and leading some back to the Gibson Jack Aid Station he got into a car and drove around to City Creek Aid Station to speak with Jared Campbell the other RD about stopping the race. Jared wasn’t there though, he had gone up on a 4-wheeler the other way to help out runners after hearing reports from people coming into the aid station that runners were in a bad way. Ryan was able to call Jared on a cell phone while Jared was up high and a mutual decision to stop the race was made. I am sure it was a difficult decision to make, but it was absolutely the right decision. Runners were held at the next major aid station after that point.
I ran into the Mink Creek aid station finish line in 5:12:00, just a few minutes back from Scott who finished the Pocatello 50k first, and Joe who finished about a minute behind Scott. All in all I am very pleased with how the race turned out for me. I ran the first 34 miles almost 50 minutes faster than last year and was still feeling very good. My strategy in the race was to run the first two legs fast but save some for the last leg were I had planned to leave it all on the course. I was still within striking distance of both Scott and Joe and feel like there was still a lot of racing to be done. A friend who emailed me a few days before the race said this would be “a great race to compare year-over-year” and I couldn’t agree more. There has been substantial improvement and I am nothing but optimistic about what is to come for the rest of the year. A huge thank you needs to go out to my wife Tanae who did an amazing job crewing for me at City Creek, my daughter Brynlee who was an awesome cheerleader and a full-on trooper as she endured the whole day we spent in the mountains, and all my friends and local runners who volunteered to go out on an unplanned sweep carrying clothes and food to help out any runners that may have been in need- thanks Andy, Dave, Jenna, Joe, Cory, and Kevin. On a final note all runners were quickly and efficiently accounted for by the Amateur HAM radio operator group that Ryan and Jared had brought in to help with the event. There were some really cold people out there and runners really worked together to take care of each other during the event. The camaraderie after the event was at a level much higher than I have seen at any other race before, epic adventures have a way of bringing people together, and this year’s Pocatello 50(k) was nothing short of EPIC.
La Sportiva Green Layer long sleeve race shirt
La Sportiva Fireblades (Crosslites would have done better in conditions, but my neuroma responds better to the fireblade)
La Sportiva headsweats visor
Ultimate Direction Handheld bottle (only drank one all day-no refills)
Nuun- Kona Cola
brooks HVAC synergy short
Finally I didn’t get many pictures of the race, if you are reading this and would like to share some of yours please leave a comment.