It started with Seth Wold bolting off the starting line. I knew he was going for a sub-8 hour time and wished him luck. I went out rather quick with Meghan, Erik, Ford, and Kameron. At the Silvia turn-off, 4 miles in, I throttled it back, plugged in the tunes, and turned on cruise-control. I enjoyed the climb watching the first light bounce off the mountains. I knew it would be a good day as I smiled looking over the next few miles of trail at the Rock Canyon overlook 8 miles in. It was the most Zen race I've ever had as I seemed to flow over the trail, taking in the scenery, and just loving the miles. Even a small spill at mile 16 didn't even dampen my spirits.
Good friend Roger Smith had started an hour early and I caught up and chatted with him on the asphalt at mile 24. He was going to catch our friend Darren who after 9 Squaw finishes and many other ultra's had seriously damaged his knees. Darren wanted to get 10 Squaw finishes so he started at 9:30pm the night before planning on taking 24 hours if needed. Squaw Peak 50 would sadly be Darren's last ultra. Roger wanted to spend some time with Darren and the 2 friends ended up running the last 12 miles together. When I passed Darren at mile 34 he had a smile on his face. I got emotional seeing his admirable grit and determination. Love you Darren!
At the big aid station at mile 26 I was in and out. I never asked what time it was and had no idea what my split was or how long I had been running. I felt great and I motored up Hobble Creek as well as Sheep Creek. As I was dropping down into Little Valley I came across a runner sprawled out on trail....it was Seth. His heroic attempt had come crashing down. He smiled, urged me to go on, and I challenged him to rebound and finish strong (which he amazingly did finishing in 9 hrs and 54 minutes!).
The climb from Little Valley to Windy seemed fast. I was feeling great and I started to push the throttle. I began wondering what my finishing time would be and whether I was even close to running a sub 9 hour race. The crew up on Windy Pass was awesome as always. I asked "what time is it?" for the first time that day. They said 12:33pm... My fastest time down the mountain after 6 finishes was 1 hour 25 minutes and I would need to match that to break the elusive 9 hour barrier.
And so I departed with high spirits. Within a mile I was flying! A mile later my right leg suddenly cramped out of no-where. I came to a grinding halt... I quickly took my last 2 salt pills and drank most of my remaining water then began walking. Within a minute I was cautiously jogging and then running. I had to hope that I could make it 4 more miles to the next aid station. I tried to keep it in check as all other faculties felt great. Sure enough I made it with a greeting from my wife and boys!! I drank a full bottle of water had a handful of potato chips and left the last aid station with a big smile and 3 1/2 miles to go. I ended up running to a PR of 8 hrs and 53 min and 3rd place. I was super happy with my performance and had an awesome day!
Special congrats to Erik Storheim on the win, Ford a 17 year kid for placing 4th in 8:59!, and Darren for finishing his 10th. It was great seeing so many friends, so many Altra's on the trail, and another great year at Squaw Peak 50.