Monday, August 26, 2013

Katchina Mosa 100K

This was my first Katchina, and from the start, it was in it's own special class... hard... 17,000' of climb, and 17,000' of descent hard... really hard. I left work on the evening of the 9th and drove to the pre-race meeting in Orem, UT where John Bozung, the RD, said the course should be well marked (but it has been known to be pulled by random folks), and then went on to call out several people in the group who, despite being experienced runners had made wrong turns in previous years and scored bonus miles... not entirely confidence-inspiring. After the meeting, I drove to Wally-world to get some supplies, and then drove up to the start of the race at Kelly Campground, and rolled out my sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep prior to my 2AM alarm, and the 3AM start. Sleep didn't come easy, but soon enough I passed out, and got a few hours sleep. I awoke to the alarm, and got up and started the preparation routine. This time I took the time to use masking tape in between my toes to reduce the friction there and hopefully avoid those gnarly between-the-toes blisters at the end of the event (and also added the obligatory "anti-monkey-butt"). Confused at that early hour, I walked over to the pavilion, set out my drop bags, and walked to the start line with everyone else while leaving my sleeping bag and pad laid out on the park lawn... fortunately a good Samaritan did me a big favor and set it on the railing next to my truck where I found it that night. John started us out at 3AM, and we started the first 1.5 mile-ish of pavement to where we turned North onto a dirt road that climbed for a few thousand feet to the first Aid Station. I had told myself I was going to start out slow on this run, and make sure I didn't blow up, so as people passed me I had to focus on not trying to "fall in" to their pace, particularly when it was folks I knew I should be finishing in front of ;) We continued the climb to the second aid station, after which we had the descent into the third aid station, and finally, departure from the dirt road and onto the single-track and my favorite terrain. I passed several runners on the way down, refueled at Aid 3, and followed a couple motorcycles up the single-track to lightning ridge. (yep, motorcycles... kinda funny to be hammering up a trail behind these guys, and then meet them on their way down near the top). As I climbed I caught up with Galen Garrison who I met when he ran Salt Flats 100 earlier in the year, we chatted for a bit, and then I fell back into my pace and headed on up the trail. I was then subsequently passed by Jarom Thurston
and a couple of his friends from Addict-to-Athlete who were running their first 100K, another quick chat, and they carried on ahead. I love the fact that this community is so tightly-knit, and we love to support each other during our respective experiences on the trail. As I turned to the final climb up to Lighting Pass, I was amazed at the distant view of Timpanogos Peak... it's amazing the views we get to experience through Ultras!
I continued up to Lightning Pass (the "high-point" of the race at 9,800') where I realized that this course was kicking my butt! However, again, the views were stunning!
Dropping down the other side, I saw the course flagging indicating to take the downhill fork and followed that trail... I wouldn't see another piece of course-flagging for the next several miles, and the further down the trail I ran I found myself coming up with various plans on how I would react when I came out at some trail-head in Provo Canyon, with no Aid Station and no clue how to get back on track. Fortunately, after a little less than an hour of descending from Lightning Ridge, I encountered some hikers, and asked them if they had seen any other runners... they laughed and told me the Aid Station was only about 1/4 mile away. Sure enough, I soon saw flagging, and then the aid station came into view. I had been experiencing some issues with my toes, and so I took a moment to look and see what damage had been done... as I was pulling off my shoes, Galen arrived and sat down next to me and immediately started photo-documenting my toe-trauma ;) I could tell that all my center toes (2, 3, and 4) would be losing their toenails... crap... so I re-adjusted the lacing on my shoes to release pressure there, and hopefully further hold-back my feet on these steep descents. I slammed a coke, a PB&J, and refilled my fuel bottle, and headed out again. Shortly after starting out, I passed a beautiful stream, and stopped to take a photo, and soak my cooling towel... which was very much appreciated for the rest of this section.
The climb to Windy Pass is exposed and steep, so anything to add some cooling to my neck and face is appreciated. A couple moments of indecision came shortly thereafter, as the trail itself doesn't match the description in the online course description that I'd printed out... turns out I was just expecting the "climb" to start sooner, and in short order I found myself on the familiar terrain of the trail to Windy Pass. I'd run down this section during the Squaw Peak 50 miler, so I knew that it was a serious climb... and it didn't disappoint. I fell in with John Maack for most of the climb. We passed Jarom who was feeling his heavy running schedule and was resting by the side of the trail... sadly, he wouldn't finish, but his AIA runners would! We continued up the trail, and on the last switch-back prior to the aid station, we came upon Moondoggy Dyatt! It was great to see him and we joked around, with him finally pushing me into a full sprint to the top... crazy guy! I took a few minutes to refuel and relax at the aid station, and then took off up to Windy Pass,
and the fun descent down into Big Springs Aid Station. I was feeling great and hammering it in a full run down the trail, just enjoying the speed and intensity when I suddenly hooked my toe on a root, and was airborne... Carl Tippets (who I caught up with shortly after this near-death-experience) calls this being "struck by lightning", because every muscle in your entire body seizes up to try to keep you from falling. In an instant, I reached out and grabbed hold of the branches hanging by the side of the trail, which stopped me from face-planting, and my feet whipped out in front of me, and then the branches slipped out of my hands, and I came to rest sitting on the trail... in near shock. I stood up, brushed off, and then walked slowly for a minute or two to work out all the kinks. I stopped and stretched out several times, and after 5 - 10 minutes, I managed to get back to running, but at a significantly slower pace as I suddenly felt very mortal. I caught up to Carl Tippets and Shay Johansen and stuck with them to the Water Trough. We all got some water, but I was completely dry, so I stayed there and drank an entire bottle, and then filled my bottle again. I caught and passed them about a mile from Big Springs, ran into Big Spring, dropped my pack and filled my hand bottle with ice water for the "out and back" which assured us our "full 62 miles"... :) After the out and back, I changed socks, re-adjusted my shoes, and headed out again with Carl and Shay to what Carl called the "crux" of the race... it's a slow, grinding climb, fully exposed to the sun on a rocky dirt road. I hung with Carl up through the first "summit" of the climb, after which I used the downhills to make some time... at this point, I was done with the event... I simply wanted to be finished... and I knew the only way to get it over with was get back to my truck at the finish. My right Anterior Tibialis tendon was screaming again (a legacy from last year's injury), and so I alternated between running and walking to minimize the pain. I limped into the second-to-last aid station, and sat down for a few minutes... the last 10 miles were going to be interesting. I was not feeling great at this point, but the AS folks were super nice so I put on my best face, chatted with them as I ate melon and PB&J, refilled my fuel bottle, and headed out again. Now I was on the "mission to finish" portion of the run... four miles of gnarly, rocky, up and down through a stream-bed single-track, followed by 6 miles of pavement to the finish. More alternating running and walking to ease the pain, and cursing myself for my desire to run these silly things, and finally I saw the aid station appear. I slid in and asked if someone could just shoot me (got all of them laughing), and then pounded a red bull, had someone help me extract my headlamp (as it was closing in on dusk) and headed down the road... I was not in the mood to re-fuel, I just wanted to get to the finish. I checked my watch, and figured the 6 miles would take me just over an hour... I put the blinders on and just maintained as much of a run as I could... and amazingly, the pain in my right tendon lessened, and then disappeared altogether! I was so grateful it had abated, and I settled into my finish pace and watched the light fade, and started to see the camp-fires in the campgrounds off to the side of the stream on the south side of the road. Occasional cheers from cars driving up or down the canyon, and even from one or two of the camp-fires let me know I was getting close. Sure enough, I saw the lights of the pavilion, then the traffic cones with lights inside illuminating them in the night, and cheers and cowbells from the folks at the finish... finally! It was over, and as always, the smile came back to my face. Every finish is a release of all the pain and emotion of the run, and I ran through the finish line, got a hug from John Bozung, and sat down to have my chocolate milk recovery drink. Jade Mangus was there (having finished nearly two hours ahead of me), as were the Addict to Athlete folks from the Windy Pass Aid Station who had done such a great job of manning that station. It was an amazing experience, as are all tough races. I was definitely challenged throughout the run, many times questioning myself for even doing this stuff. And as always, the "salvation" of finishing relinquished those demons, and I once again loved ultra-running... funny thing these ultras!


  1. Congrats on finishing that beast! There is nothing worse than that slow motion "struck by lightning" experience. Well done.

  2. Loved your race report.

    Nearly toppled down the side of a decline myself except for the shrubs that I grabbed en route to slow my momentum. Reminded me of mortality too!

    It was great seeing you out there and chatting it up a bit. Well done on another successful finish.

    Took me two days for my grousing to settle down, but I'll be back next year.

    See you on the trails.