Monday, June 7, 2010

Squaw Peak 50 race from a Pacer Perspective-The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Several months ago, my friend Supercords asked me to pace him the last 17 miles of his 50 mile Ultramarathon, I jumped at the chance. I've read race reports of people that do ultra's and seen photos, but I have never participated in some way. It was an eye opening experience.

The Good
The Squaw Peak 50 mile course is a monster. It's a 50.74 mile course with 14,000 ft elevation gain/drop. In our strategic planning sessions which mainly consisted of running through some trails and then a flurry of text messages and emails the last two weeks it was decided that I would wait at Aid Station #8 (33 mile mark) for him to appear. On a normal marathon route, it would simply be getting the cross streets an approximate time and then finding a parking spot. Aid Station #8 is accessible only by 4 x 4 and a firm grasp on how your vehicle will handle. Alas, my vehicle is a far cry from 4 x 4. Supercords went to the race dinner the previous evening and called me telling me that my only way up was with the radio and Aid Station crew.
The race began at 5:00 am. I remember waking up once during the night and realizing that the race was about to begin. I was grateful that I didn't have to be to the race start until 7:30 am to meet the crew going up to the aid station. When we all met up and arrived to AS #8, there were 12 Adults, 3 kids, 3 dogs all there ready to meet the runners.
We were set up by 9:30 am which was perfect because the first runner arrived a little after 10:00 am. It was amazing to see the condition of the first few runners as they stopped briefly at the aid station. We had set up the drop bags in columns of 50 digit intervals to aid us in finding a runner bag quick. A couple people spotted the runner, looked for a number or asked the runner their number and if they had a drop bag. This information was relayed to the crew that was marking off every runner and also to the drop bag runner. The top runners were pretty lucid and knew what was going on, but a few were in a somewhat crazed daze after 33 miles.

The Bad
Supercords came into AS #8 about 1:00 pm which is pretty close to what he had predicted. I was surprised and excited that he did thinking that we would be on track for a 5:30 pm finish. I've seen him look better, but after 33 miles what can you expect? I kept reminding myself that while my legs were fresh, his were jello. We took off for the biggest challenge of the course...Windy Pass and Bozung Hill. This is the steepest ascent of the whole course. 7120' to 8280' with a small drop to 7850' and a final climb to 9300' then a -368' drop to AS#9. This monstrosity is over the course of 1.25 miles. Oh, did I mention that there was a snowfield? Oh,'s hard to hike up snowfields. Kiss our 5:30 pm finish time goodbye right here. Add in the fact, that by this time Supercords was suffering from some mild dehydration/electrolyte depletion made it a difficult situation even more tough. We made it to AS#9 and the end of the ascents. The remaining 8+ miles were all downhill. At AS #9 we got the hydration and electrolytes we needed and headed down for AS #10 and then the finish.
This part was a mudfest. We were on the shadow end of the mountain so the temperatures were better, but the trail (i'm using that term very loosely) was a combination of mud/snow or snow/mud for the first 3 miles. We definitely picked up the past and down into a park for AS #10.

The Ugly
From AS #10 to the finish was 3 miles. It doesn't sound like much. After 47 miles, what is another 3. Those last 3 miles were all on pavement. Even though I had only been on the course for 14 miles, I felt a HUGE difference. Each footfall felt like a pounding was going on. I slowed down and let Supercords pass me as we turned to finish and I watched him finish the race. I slowed down and walked into the crowd with a few people pointing to me that I should be going the other way. 
In the end, the 17 miles was a good training run and gave me a good taste for what an ultra would be like. Am I up to the task of running this sometime in the future? It's something I'll consider in the future.


  1. Thanks again for helping me finish this. When you have a couple free hours, head over to my blog to relive all the terrible memories :)


  2. Sounds like torture to me... but so does a full marathon. :)
    People that do these things are amazing!

  3. 逛到您的部落格讓我忍不住停下來!期待您的新文章!!........................................

  4. NICE. Pacing a friend to an ultra finish would be really cool

  5. 傻氣的人喜歡給心 雖然每次都被笑了卻得到了別人的心..................................................

  6. Wow this is amazing! quite a distance