Jason and I drove to Sun Valley and the Park Creek campground in the afternoon Friday August 14. The goal was set on a crazy adventure called Standhope 60K (even though we aimed for the slightly less crazy 25K). [http://runwildidaho.com/standhope/] We arrived just in time for the pre-race meeting. While describing the course Mr Race Director made it abundantly clear that the race will be hard and somewhat miserable. It has a lot of long and steep ascents, and the downhill switchbacks are on rocky trails with plenty of opportunities to get off course. Luckily we met our friend Caitlin and her running/adventure friend Amanda at the meeting, which was a nice balance to the uneasy feeling that kept growing in my belly.
As we drove back to Ketchum for the night I kept asking myself why on earth I thought running a trail race was a good idea, and why did I have to pick one of the harder 25Ks in the state as my first race?! I was contemplating all this as we ordered pizza and beer. I think my beer glass said it all. I was celebrating the small victory of not giving up and driving home that evening.
We had decided to have a “grown-up” weekend without the Adventure Dog. Freja got to play with her friends back in Idaho Falls all weekend instead of hanging with us. Since we didn’t have her with us we had made plans to stay at a AirBnB in Ketchum. I can’t describe how luxurious it felt to sleep in a comfy bed, take a shower in the morning, and have coffee and breakfast in town before heading to the trailhead and the race start. I felt extra pampered when I thought about all runners that were camping at the start/finish lines, especially when the thunderstorm came through in the evening.
The fairly slow morning and the 90 minute drive to the start made me feel less nervous and more determined to have a great adventure. We got to the start early and got to hang out with fellow runners as we were trying to stay warm before the start. For some reason it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be could before the sun rises. Luckily, Jason found my hat and gloves in the car!
Before the start Mr Race Director (aka Ben) played the National Anthem on his trombone. It was a very nice touch!
The first couple of miles felt great, then we hit the first steep ascent. After what felt like forever (probably about a mile) we reached Surprise Valley. We had been told about the beauty of the valley, but it was much more beautiful than I had imagined. The final little bit before we reached the first aid station felt awesome! The ground was almost flat and we were running in a meadow.
I’m not really sure what happened at the aid station, but when I started to run again I felt like crap. I was noxious, my legs hurt, and I couldn’t breathe. It was bad enough for me to use my inhaler in hope of some help to breathe easier. It didn’t help. I struggled throughout the whole valley. I ended up walking most of it, which was very annoying since it looked like a great place to run. It wasn’t until halfway up the valley it dawned on me that the fact the air is quite thin at 10-11,000 feet probably was the main reason I couldn’t breathe.
We reached the saddle next to Standpoint peak and the highest point of our course at the two-hour mark. From up there we had a gorgeous view of both where we came from and where we were going. From the pass we could see Betty lake – our next big target to run to.
From the saddle we ran down to Betty lake. It was so incredibly fun to get to let gravity take over and pull me down the trail after the 7 or so miles climbing. At Betty lake we climbed up to Goat lake, which is the highest lake in Idaho. We took the opportunity to get our photo taken at Goat lake. Who knows when we will be back there again.
From Goat lake we ran down to Baptie lake and the second aid station. Except for almost drinking the trail mix I was handed in a paper cup and for totally forgetting to empty my shoes of all the tiny but sharp rocks I had collected, the transition through the second aid station went way better than the first. Most probably due to being back to elevation that had breathable air and for continuing downhill after the station. No aches and pains came as a result from stopping, chatting, and eating (not drinking) trail mix!
The landscape changed as we charged downwards. We left gravel, scree, and mud and replaced it with dirt and roots. And trees! I felt great flying down the mountain. I’m thankful I decided to run in my Altras instead of my Chaco’s. The course would have been miserable in sandals! I also have to confess that I like the fact that I can run downhill without having to worry too much about where I place my feet. I did however get a bit lazy and sloppy when we reached the less steep and more smooth trail. I forgot to lift my feet and had a not so graceful tumble with five miles left to run. I managed to hit both knees and my hip. I’m just that talented.
The last big hurdle on the course was an awful never-ending steep monster mountain (or at least a long steep hill). I had to force myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other reminding myself that there was no quitting allowed. If I had quit right there I would still have to get my little bum back to the shuttle at the finish line, hence I better just keep going.
My target time for the race was between 5-6 hours based on the results from last year’s race. Even though I had problems breathing, had to walk most uphills, and my graceful fall we managed to finish in about 4 hours and 40 minutes! Jason and I finished 20 and 21st out of the 63 who finished the race. I ended up 9th out of the 33 ladies in the race! Not too shabby for our first trail race. 🙂
After the race we lounged on the grass watching others cross the finish line. We did see the first three 60K runners come in. The looked so ridiculous strong and refreshed. How is it even possible after 60K and especially after Standhope 60K?!
Having that said, I probably should mention that both Jason and I felt way better physically crossing the finish line than we had expected. I was not sore and my feet didn’t hurt at all. I was tired and a bit stiff from getting banged up when I fell. It was almost anticlimactic crossing the finish line. I thought I would feel much more like a badass for surviving the race. Instead, I felt fine. Better than after any of my runs leading up to the race.
The result of this madness? Jason and I are now looking for a 50K trail race to run this fall. Regardless if that will actually happen or not, I’m sure that whatever long run/race there is in my future my Altras and my Sweden swag will have to tag along!
Here is some more race info for anyone who might be interested: