Quick report- more to follow after a nap. Race was cancelled after 3.5 hours due to blizzard like conditions, including 40 mph winds and sleet/snow/hail over much of the course. I DNF-ed myself at the second aid station (mile 17) three hours into the race due to being very concerned for my well-being- I was only wearing shorts, singlet, and arm warmers. My legs, GI, et al. felt great, but I had gotten semi-hypothermic, dizzy, etc for a while and wasn't sure I was going to survive. Only a borrowed jacket at the 2 hr 30 min mark saved me. I have never been so cold in my life. Race Directors cancelled the race 30 min after I DNF-ed due to so many hypothermic runners, plus a large number getting lost on top of the mountains due to white-out conditions. They were still looking for lost runners when I left.
More info to follow after a nap. All in all, not what I was expecting, but will definitely be a memorable race.
Full (and very long yet hopefully entertaining) report- I had been looking forward to Pocatello 50 for a long time. It is a very challenging 52 mile loop course with almost 14,000 ft of climbing. Pre-race reports said 6-9 miles of the last section would be completely on snow, including some steep glissading. There were 100 solo runners and 50 relay teams. Cody and I had even run the first 17 miles a few weeks ago with Luke Nelson. I'm not in my "A+" racing shape (probably "B" to "B-"), but felt like a sub-10 time and top 10 place were doable, despite a stacked field.
We stayed at Kory's house last night- many, many thanks, Kory. Friday night weather reports said there was a 50% chance of rain from 5-9 am, clearing and sunny the rest of the day and 55 deg- perfect!
It was a bit drizzly but warm during warmup, so I stripped down to just my shorts, singlet, arm warmers, and stretchy gloves. This weather during the warmup was deceptive and would prove critical later. Cody and I had planned to stay together for the first 20-30 miles and to go out at a very reasonable pace. The first 8 miles were very nice- the weather was a bit windy with mixed rain/snow/sleet, but nothing too bad. Cody and I had joined up in a nice little pack of 4 with Nik Gurney and Dusty Pena, and Nik offered me his unused jacket, which I declined. The trail was very muddy in places, and it was definitely a slippery mud. There were long stretches that I felt like we were ice skating more than running. We went through the first aid station a few minutes ahead of schedule, but definitely felt good and like the running had been very easy. My legs and GI were feeling great and I was thinking this would be a fantastic race, as long as the mud didn't get too bad.
After the first aid station, however, things turned south. The first 2 miles were on a very slippery uphill singletrack, followed by an off-trail climb which gains 1400 ft in 1.3 miles up Slate Mountain. The weather drastically and rapidly worsened during the ascent, with sustained winds of 30-40 mph and stronger gusts that at time almost flung us off the ridge. The snow turned to ball-bearing size hail that flew sideways and stung every exposed piece of skin. My singlet and arm warmers were far from adequate- I was still optimistic but a bit miserable. I was doing rather well ignoring the pain and cold for a while, but doubt started creeping in. I passed some runners dressed in many layers of clothes, including the lead woman, Joelle Vaught, a Montrail runner. She looked at me in absolute shock and exclaimed, "How in the world are you still alive?!?" All I could get out was a mumbled, "Keep moving to stay warm." However, the seriousness of my situation fully struck me as I began stumbling around, my vision and thinking became blurred, and my sense of balance disappeared. I knew I was becoming hypothermic, and for the first time in my running career was seriously worried about my safety.
I shouted to Nik ahead and finally managed to gain his attention just before the top of the mountain. He gave me his soaking wet jacket as we huddled behind a lone tree, and it only took us 2 minutes to get it on with our frozen hands. However, the zipper wouldn't work, despite a number of people trying to zip it up (including Cody biting it with his teeth, since his hands were too cold- sorry about the mental picture on that one). I finally just held the hood on with one hand, held it around my chest with my other hand, and waddled on. The jacket saved my life- while it didn't protect me from the wetness, it provided a large measure of protection from the wind and a little heat. Grasping it with numb hands was challenging, though. The weather at the top was stunning in its severity, with the hail and wind. Whiteout conditions made finding the course difficult, despite our familiarity with the route. After the longest, most miserable mile of my life on top of the mountain, we blessedly reached the descent on the far side, with Cody watching over me.
The weather gradually improved as we descended, feeling gradually returned to my extremeties and my thinking cleared. However, I knew the race had changed for me- I only had one long sleeve shirt at the next aid station, which would not be adequate for the coming re-ascent of Slate Mountain. If I had lots of warm clothes to put on, I may have continued, even though I knew that the struggle with the cold had severely weakened me and the rest of the race would have been much slower than previously planned. I believe I could have finished, though- I felt I had run very conservatively up to that point and had a lot left in me. But, alas, no such saving clothes awaited, so I knew I was done. Cody and I sped our descent as I improved, and we reached the second aid station in 2:59, exactly 1 minute ahead of the planned split for a 10 hour finish despite the mud and weather adventures. My legs and GI still felt great, but I told the race officials that I was dropping out. Cody took my long sleeve shirt from the drop bag and continued his run.
Once Cody left, Nik and Brian Williams put me in their car, where I shivered for the next hour. We drove back to the start and I hoped in Cody's car, which I started to warm up. I hoped out to go to the bathroom, and returned to discovered the doors locked. Nuts. Brian and Nik very kindly drove me to their apartment, let me shower, dressed me in their clothes, and let me call a locksmith.
As we returned to the start, I felt well enough that I planned to put on my warm running clothes (many, many clothes) and join Cody for his last 20 miles. However, just as we returned we learned that they had cancelled the race 3.5 hours into the run, stopping all runners at the aid stations. Many people were wandering, lost on the mountain, and many were hypothermic. Conditions on Scout Mountain, 2000 ft higher than Slate Mountain, would have been extremely dangerous- running on snow with whiteout conditions would make it difficult to see the horizon and the course markers, and the consequences of wandering off-course (a real probability) could have been tragic. I completely support the RD's in their decision to cancel the race, though many were understandably disappointed.
The locksmith showed up, and, $109 later, Cody's car was unlocked. Cody showed up a few minutes later after finishing up to the aid station at mile 33. We ate some food, talked to some people, and drove home.
All in all, today was not what I was expecting but was very memorable. So many people helped me (Kory, Cody, Nik, and Brian) before, during, and after the race, and quite possibly saved me from a real danger on top of Slate Mtn. Thank you, everyone. It is unfortunate that the weather didn't cooperate- I guess the weather turned sunny and relatively nice by dinner-time. I'm a bit disappointed, of course, because I felt great and really think both Cody and I were going to have a great race. But, it is what it is, and we just hope no one was seriously injured and everyone made it off the mountain ok. Would I run this again next year? Yes- I really want to experience the rest of the course. Hopefully the weather will be a bit friendlier next year!