Not two steps outside my garage and my plans were in serious turmoil. RAIN! And lots of it. Quickly my mind started making tweaks to my pre-formulated plan. What do I need to wear now? Drop bags? Pace? Oh well. At the starting line I didn't wait long in the rain but rather kept warm in the car. Minutes before the start I got out and headed over. It looked like everyone else was more bewildered than I was. Like usual John didn't mess around at the start and the race began with a simple verbal command "Go". Man was everyone taking the start slow. But then again, that was my plan as well. Plus I had the added benefit those first few miles of running with good friends. Christian Johnson, Dave Hunt, Peter Lingren, Karl Jarvis, Shane Martin, Joe Martel, and heck, we even had Davy Crockett up there. It was fun and time went fast. The mud, however, had other ideas. It was still raining and with the ground becoming increasingly over saturated it began to take it's toll on the runners and our times. Several times I slipped and had to use tree branches to pull myself up the mountain. We were already passing the early starters and the rain was turning to snow. I was surprised by how quickly the field thinned out. My split to Rock Canyon was very slow and my hands were so cold at AS#3 that I was there much longer than anticipated trying to put on my running vest and zip up my jacket. Thanks to the aid station volunteer who finally zipped up my jacket for me!
Heading over Kolob Basin through 3 inches of beautiful fresh snow was a highlight for me. I had started slow, was running relaxed with good friend and training partner Karl Jarvis, and the feeling of running through the lightly falling snow in the mountains was surreal. Then while passing some early starters, the silence was broken with the sound of "Nice job, your in 5th and 6th place!" I was stunned. I had thought more people were in front of us. I had decided before the race that place would not be an issue for me. I would run my splits and listen to my body. Of course with the rain, snow, and mud I had quickly stopped looking at my watch and was focusing on running smoothly while listening to my body. Karl and I continued to run the next 7-8 miles together down into Hobble Creek. We passed Brian Price and motored up the asphalt. It went so quickly! Soon I had also gaped Karl and entered AS#6, mile 26, hollering and yelling with excitement. I was pumped and feeling good. I filled up my water bottle, grabbed some gels, and off I went.
I felt my race died last year at mile 27 and this year I was determined to run this entire section...which I did. I soon passed Rich McDonald and before I knew it I was taking the turn up Sheep Creek. I didn't even fill up my water bottle, which worried me a bit but the weather was so cool that I wasn't perspiring. Heading through the Sheep Creek meadows and aspen groves was another highlight for me. I was now running in a solid 3rd place and feeling great. I ran as many sections as I could and made great time down into Little Valley. I grabbed my waist belt out of my drop bag (up til now I had used only a single 20 oz handheld), ate some potato's with salt, and was off to Windy Pass.
For some reason I don't remember a lot of this section. I remember running a surprising amount but I was really just comfortably pushing the pace. Up and up I was running, grateful it wasn't raining. Boy it sure went quick. I felt that I was a machine running up the mountain, gelling every 30 minutes, drinking every 10-15 minutes. At the base of Bozung Hill I ran into Phil Lowry, good friend and last of the 4am starters. Soon my machine was chugging slower than I wanted. After being in California all week the lack of oxygen hit me. I consorted to slugging up the hill instead of powering up it. I took a look back and could see 2 dots behind me 15 minutes away. They wouldn't catch me, especially on the downhill. I painfully made my way up Bozung Hill with Phil breathing down my neck. We even paused a time or two to take pictures of each other(check back later for the pics). Once at the rock cairn I left Phil and stumbled down the large rocks (there's no trail) into Windy Pass, again yelling and hollering with excitement. The group up there led by Jim Skaggs are all-stars, that's all I need to sat about that.
As I was quickly leaving the aid station someone cautioned that the trail and snow patches were slick so be careful...I barely heard them I was so excited knowing that the race was almost over. I fell. A lot. That snow up there was slick! and after 3 or 4 rather hard falls I realized that making it down in 45-50 minutes was not going to happen this year. So I had to slow down a bit over the icy snow patches and try to then switch gears and let-er-buck on the open runnable sections. It was surprisingly hard to really open up coming down the mountain. I don't know if it was the switching gears due to mud and snow patches or my stabilizer muscles which had been overworked due to the days conditions (my legs were sore!). I suppose it was a bit of both. But down I came as fast as I could. It felt awesome though. That was one thing about the race this year. I felt so good the whole race. Maybe because I wasn't worried about time or place, just running as well as I could. Maybe I finally dialed into my nutrition and blister problems. But for whatever reason I was having so much fun.
I hit As#10 without stopping. I did drop my belt and jacket off with my wife but I had no intention of slowing down. It was weird because those last 4 miles were awful during previous years but this year they felt great. I was tired and my legs were heavy but I held form and finished strong. My finishing time was 9:36:35 in 3rd place. I couldn't have been happier about the way I raced. After talking with several people I feel that with the weather and trail conditions the way they were my time was equivalent to a 8:45:00. Considering my preparation I was overjoyed with my time and the way I ran. Maybe next year will be even better! Who knows and who cares? 2008 was awesome. I hope everyone else felt good about their race. I know the mud was a problem for some people but one thing about Ultra's is that they are going to be run regardless of weather or conditions. Congratulations to anyone who finished this race or volunteered to make Squaw Peak a success. Thanks and Happy Trails!