Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Report: 2009 Elephant's Perch Backcountry Run and a Look Back at a Big Year

Shortly after passing through a sea of chest-high purple wildflowers near the fire-scorched crest of the Fox Creek climb of the 2009 Elephant's Perch Backcountry Run, I allowed myself a bit of reflection. Yes, I still had five miles to go on the sixteen mile race and was doing all I could to stay in contact with Montrail runner, Joelle Vaught, while also trying to stay ahead of the two runners who'd been nipping at my heals at the base of the final climb, but as I started down the short, buffed-out descent, I couldn't help but think back to last year's race.

Fox Creek flowers (photo: Laurie Wertich)

Twelve months ago, I'd used the the Backcountry Run as a final tune-up ahead the White River 50, my first ever ultra, which would then set me out on a journey through other undiscovered countries over the next year: my first DNF, an inglorious drop at mile 45 of the Grand Teton 50, which folks still enjoy reminding of; my first winter of big mileage running in the high mountains (with only a single indoor workout); my first 100k and first run through the night, both at the staggered-start Coyote Two Moon in March; and finally, starting (and actually finishing) my first 100 miler at Bighorn in June.

It's really been an amazing year and for the briefest of moments all the feelings that marked all that training and racing came rushing forward--excitement, joy, fatigue, a bit of melancholy, a bit of boredom, and lots and lots of hunger (for food, miles, and experiences). And for about a 100 meter section of that descent, it was as if each foot strike was stamping into my psyche a reminder of the physical, emotional, and nutritional barriers I'd broken through to get to this point--a gift from the trail to take with me as I tackle other adventures in the coming months and years.

...Which brings me back to the 2009 Backcountry Run.

Coming off the descent, it was clear the runners behind me had faded on the final climb, so I could relax a bit and really just focus on a good hard rhythm on the slightly downhill four mile run-in to the finish and see if I could keep Joelle in sight and possibly even gain some ground. On the first mile, running at what seemed like 6:30 pace, she built an even greater lead, but after that, I started slowly (and I mean slowly) gaining. With about one and half miles to go, she and I came together right as we passed another runner, and as one would expect from a podium finisher at Way Too Cool, she sounded quite chipper when we exchanged a few words--a worrying sign for someone whose legs were beginning to feel pretty heavy. I tried to spout a few light hearted words myself to mask how tired I was starting to feel, then took the lead and just tried to keep up some momentum on the mile-long paved section to the finish. We came in about 30 seconds apart, and she grabbed the well-deserved women's crown in 2:12:15.

For me, I came in seventh overall and nabbed a PR by close to three minutes (2:11:45)--my fourth in a row since my first Backcountry Run in 2005. Just as important, I got a sense that I'm just about recovered from Bighorn and ready to start working on another big year with a go at the Wasatch Front 100, now just seven weeks nigh.

Backcountry Run full results

Related Run Junkie race reports


Brad Mitchell said...

You're having a great season - keep it up!

runnerinsight said...

Wonderful images! Thank you for this post. It remind me of what really my country is. Keep posting! ; )

Gretchen said...

I love the reflection posts. That's probably my favorite thing about blogging--the fact that we are reflecting on an experience, trying to process it, and then communicating it with others as well as we can. Somehow it actually enriches the experience.

This is a beautiful post, and it sounds like you have had quite a year. Good luck with the rest of your training for Wasatch!

Hank Dart said...

Thanks, All. Very much appreciate the feedback