“An easy marathon.” That was at least what I was telling myself. After racing who knows how many weeks in a row and travelling too many miles to count (rough estimate is 25,000 miles) I was looking forward to a nice race. 1 marathon, 1 day… and did I mention it was in the mountains with 7,400 feet of elevation gained and lost.
The race was the SkyRunning Tushar Mountain Marathon in south west Utah near Beaver in the super-secret Tushar Mountains. The Tushars are an Island in the desert with several peaks over 12,000 feet, including the high point of the range: Delano Peak at 12,169. Oops, did I just tell everyone about them.
I flew back to Salt Lake City where I had left my car after Speedgoat and drove down to Eagle Point Ski Resort which sits at 10,000 feet. What an awesome spot. While the valley floor and Beaver was 90 degrees Eagle Point was a comfortable 65 degrees. Check out the race website with pictures half way down: http://www.grandcircletrails.com/tushars-general-info/
I camped out and slept soundly waking up on my own at 6am an hour prior to race start. The other runners and myself gathered around a smoldering campfire and waited for the start. We were called over to the start and off we went. I planned to settle into a comfortable pace. Running the first half of the race as a training run. The second half I could race hard. Within ½ mile into the race the lead group of runners consisted of Lars Kjerengtroen, Arthur Degraw, and myself. Arthur led our pack as we followed flagging. The majority of the course is on single track trail with only about 2 miles on dirt road. Many places the single track was overgrown and following the flagging, although not hard, was slow going. About 4 miles in I took over route finding duties and led our mini pack. Lars later informed me it was pointless to pass. I was finding the route and running consistently.
We hit the first of three aid stations at 1:12. This was mile 8ish… slow going but lots of angulating terrain. The three of us were at least 5 minutes ahead of any other competitors at this point. I had decided to run consistent and try and take the lead on our 3rd climb of the day going up Delano. At 2 hours in we started up Delano. The ascent was steep on an overgrown trail. It was tough hiking up this. I started a fast upbeat ascent, a crazy power hike, and by the summit I had gained a 40 second lead. The views were tremendous. I wanted to breath them in and sparred a glance around me. Not enough. I sprinted off down the grassy steep knoll, dropping 2,000 feet. From the bottom I hit a smooth dirt road and ran up it to the mile 16 aid station.
It is important to mention that we had been following the same course as the 58 mile racers that had started 2 hours before our race. For the past hour we had been passing a few of the runners. I ran into the 2nd aid station with an 80 second lead on Lars who by this time had a slight lead over Arthur. Upon seeing me the captain of the aid station informed me that I should not be there. Apparently she had only been told that the 58 mile racers would be coming through that aid station. I assured her I was supposed to be racing through the aid station and left. As leaving I read and followed the sign which clearly said “Marathon & 93k”. Unfortunately, the aid station debacle lost me over 60 seconds. Lars was back hot on my tale and caught me a little over a mile later.
We ran together down a beautiful single track, before finally tackling the 4th and final climb of the day. Once again I built up a 25 second lead and came to an open field. Where to proceed I knew not. Lars had the course GPSd into his watch. So I went back 15 yards and waited for him. He stopped looked at his watch for a few second and finally told me which direction to run. After 80 yards I found the course flaggings once again. Apparently either people or animals or weather had removed some of the flaggings. Once again I took off and tried to build a lead. This time it worked. I had 4 miles to the finish and I was ready to finish. I ran through the last aid station and tried to build my lead. It worked.
I finished the race and won in 4:11 about 5 minutes in front of Lars. Arthur finished 3rd about 20 minutes back. Results can be seen here: http://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=29530#id15032
Next: Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. What Fun!