Sunday, September 2, 2007

2007 Grand Teton 100 Mile Ultramarathon Race Report

this was hands down one of the most amazing athletic experiences, and one i will cherish. i'll say it again, lisa, jay batchen and zach barnett put on a very special event in the teton mountains.

short version: in my first 100 miler with 20,000 feet of gain i ran a 20:53, for 2nd place. andy jones-wilkens won the race in 19:35 and we both crushed the previous course record of 24:17. matthew noell and ty draney were my amazing crew.

long version: if you read my previous post about this race then you know i was struggling a little bit with the mental side of things. sometimes a persons biggest suppressor to success can be their own ego looking for an excuse for possible failure.

the night before the race i slept a total of about 3 hours. in adventure racing we are usually up all night working on the maps and rarely sleep much before the race. so i try to not worry about it, i'd slept pretty well in the week prior. i actually woke up before the three alarm clocks set for 4:15am. i felt bad waking the boys, but it was 'go time'. i went over my gear with a groggy matthew noell while i ate my my pre-race meal of oatmeal and banana. the coffee, no matter how bad (i'm somewhat of a seattle coffee snob) always tastes so good after my self imposed week off prior to big races.

the course is 100 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain. it's four laps of a 25 mile clover leaf loop with three sections; a "fred's mountain" - big 2,000ft dirt road climb up to 10,000 feet and the top of the ski resort; b "mill creek trail" - the southern section of the course including some awesome single track, massive down and subsequent uphill, 3.3 miles of steep pavement, and c "rick's basin" - the final 5.3 miles, smooth fast singletrack with a couple of moderate climbs. more course descriptoin here. 6am start: it was still dark. i went back and forth with ty about whether or not to take a headlamp. in the end i did not. i can't even recall the countdown, if there was a gun or not. i was lined up front when i heard "1 minute to start". olga gave me some good advise and next thing i knew we started running uphill. it was dirt road all the way up section a. i had run/hiked this section on thursday. it was steep. andy pulled out in front and was leading. i was content just keeping him in sight. we were all running too fast for a 100 miler anyway. something ty said to me the night before was replaying in my head "go slow. if you think you are going too slow, slow down". i had so many friends, who are also top ultrarunners give me the same advice... "don't go out too hard". i heard it so often in fact that if i blew up in the early stages from going too hard i would have to hide in a hole for a month after this race.. embarrassed (it almost happened too).

andy, and mass guy darren worts and i traded positions just 10-40 feet back. tom got to the top of fred's first, then andy and me just 3 feet behind him. the downhill is where we really spread out. andy just disappeared. i can run downhill pretty well i think. when he disappeared i didn't care, i wasn't going to blow up my quads on the first lap. at the bottom we were a minute behind each other, andy, then me (tom somehow got lost for a bit). we were now 5.6 miles into 100 miler.

i felt really good. in the excitement i was running harder than i should have. i stayed a few minutes behind andy. the course was awesome, with great views and super smooth singletrack. i watch my heartrate and convinced myself if i kept it under 160 i'd be fine. the first 25 miles and 5,000 feet i ran in 4:15 and andy ran a 4:08. just three more laps right..? nothing.

the second lap was my worst. honestly this was very unexpected. i mean, i can run 50 miles pretty easily at this point. so i assumed laps one and two would be super easy, then lap three would suck and lap four i'd have ty to take me home no matter how much it hurt. as i started up big climb to 10,000 feet for a second time i was feeling awful. my mind started to wonder why. "was that first lap too hard?". "it's the elevation, damn seattle for being at sea level!". "maybe i can't run at the front of a 100 miler after all."

i suffered the most on my second climb to 10,000ft

the doubts that flooded my mind were quickly washed away by the fun of running downhill. once through the aid station again i was feeling much better. after another loop of b i sat dwn to apply some sunblock. lisa gave my legs a massage which was great.. i mean how many races can you attend and get a massage from the race director (i bet some you would rather not =).

i was so spoiled!

at some point i started getting that oh too familiar heal blister on my right foot. rod bien and sean meissner had stressed to me to slow down and take care of my issues. that was sound advice as i would have just run with this blister for a while. now i was obsessed with fixing it. the picture below shows the mad scramble to fix it. no one knew how the blister pads went on bc i've never used them. so i rubbed some hydropel on the heal and left again.

my awesome crew working on me.

i knew this was a temporary fix and it wasn't working that well. the blister was still growing. olga raced down from the top of fred's to meet me. she did some kind of magic trick. that blister never came back the rest of the race... thanks olga!

before my section c on the second lap i was offered a quick massage. i looked at ty and said, "is this stupid?". "no" was his response. i didn't need a massage per se, but it never hurts. so as i laid there we discussed the plan while i drank a balanced. i had been in and out so fast it was a good chance to catch up with my crew, who were by all accounts the greatest crew in the history of the world. matthew had mentioned to me in seattle that he might want to pace me some of the course, maybe the hike up to fred's. because i was assuming this third trip up to fred's would hurt the worst i asked him if he'd join me, but let him think about it as i ran section c to finish the second lap.

my third lap i started to catch fire a bit. matthew was ready to run when i returned and we headed up the dirt road to the top of fred's for a third time. we chatted and breathed heavy. matthew was awesome and kept my spirits high with complements about how i was running and how impressed he was. we made it up this time i think in 53 minutes. 3 minutes faster than my sufferfest on the second loop.

at the bottom i dropped off matthew and picked up the ipod. wow, i was feeling great and the tunes were really making me happy. i was high on this lap, flat out, laughing and smiling and singing out loud! section b lead to my crew at the opening of teton canyon and then the dreaded road. but i was feeling so good i didn't care. at the top of the road where the course turns back onto the trail my crew told me i'd just picked up 15 minutes on andy, and was now just 34 minutes back. whoa, sweet. i didn't react really. i didn't want to ruin the feeling i had. matthew said, "did you hear us?!". i replied "yes but i am feeling good and i can't worry about andy" as i ran off into the woods. i tried not to let that new information make me run too fast.

after section b i came through still rocking. ty had decided to run an extra 5 miles with me and joined me for this section as well as the last loop - this was great! (the video shows this).

ty is an amazing pacer. from start to finish he had me running well. he monitored my walk breaks and made me run tons of sections i might not have have. i was able to talk a little bit at first and we discussed many things including our mutual admiration for ultrarunner roch horton. we climbed fred's for my last time in 56 or something, i was happy with that. we hit section b knowing that an under 22 hour time was possible. i kept reminding the guys to keep and eye on third. i've been surprised before late in a 24hr mtn bike race and i wanted to make sure that wasn't going to happen.. paranoia was setting in.

we strapped the petzl headlamps on, tikka plus on my head and the myo xp around my waist, and headed out for the last 20 miles! this is when ty really put me to work. he was talking and the best i could do was groan in response if i wanted to keep up with him. i still feel bad that i couldn't chat with him more. my general feeling is that as we started out i was having trouble keeping up to what he wanted. then as we decended section b i felt like i was running before he would look back and expect me to. my confidence started to increase and i was feeling good.

as we got back on trail ty and i discussed breaking 22 hours. it seemed doable. as we got closer i was really "on the rivet". pushing myself to make it in under 22 hours. at some point i started to do the math. as we approached the climb i thought if i can get up here in 19:45 i can make the run down in 15 minutes... leaving me an hour to break 21 hours! i pushed up that hill, ty stopped for water and i knew i was moving well because it took him a while to catch up. we got to the top of the climb in 15 minutes. i was going to do this, but i had to work for it. we ran down ty let me know he was stopping for a bathroom break. he was going to run ahead tell matthew what i need and he'd catch me later.

as i approached the downhill i knew i was at 20 hours even. in the light i could see matthew standing without a bottle. so i decided to just keep running. i ran into the aid station doing nothing but dropping my water bottle.. i was on a mission now. i caused a stir, i could here someone say "there he goes!". matthew and ty were like.. "huh?". i had to get under 21 hours and i didn't care if that meant i ran alone or without water. someone said "hope you can catch him ty, he's moving". ty caught me and said by the time he looked up my headlamp was already gone. ty was excited at my desire to run hard and he pulled me along that last section. i got tingles when he was yelling at me near the last few miles. he gave me a few time updates that seemed a bit off, later found out was on purpose to make run faster... it worked. we must have been pushing 6-7 min/miles at the end.

after the smoke cleared i ran a 20:53, estatic to be finished with my first 100 miler... now i am an ultrarunner.

nuun and leader board

my plaque and 100 mile belt buckle!

the podium

my gear:
shoes: montrail continental divides
socks: teko ecopoly
packs/bottles: nathan hpl #020 and one nathan quickdraw plus
fuel: clif shot (3 per hour) & clif bloks
electrolytes: nuun
recovery: recover-ease


Bob Gentile said...

Great Re-cap heck of a first time out for 100 friggin miles & from what everyone been saying...on a tough asss course!!

Way to Go, it was great to see you rip it up, u put in a lot of sweat to get to this point, enjoy it bro...U done Good!!!

Geoff said...

great race and great report. sounds like the confidence and experience you'll gain from this race will make you a much stronger runner as soon as you line up for another 100. and we all know that's a good feeling to have.

olga said...

You forgot about my massage after the race:) when you grow up, i'll tell you the magic trick too. awesome run, matt!!! it was a joy to watch you!

Trail Goat said...

I'll echo Olga - it was great to watch you rock your first 100!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...


what a great blog post..brings tears to my eyes. Memories of an amazing time.


Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

Wow! Great report and congratulations on a kick ass performance. You are TOUGH and are indeed an Ultrarunner!
I liked the way you put it when you said, ". sometimes a persons biggest suppressor to success can be their own ego looking for an excuse for possible failure." Well articulated. I know that I often struggle with this in races I do solo.
Were you wearing the Continental Divides again for this race? They also give me a blister on my right heel.

Sue J. said...

Congratulations Matt -- great race! Here's to a speedy recovery. :)

WynnMan said...

Matt- you dog you! again, a fantastic performance and well earned. What a great run. Enjoyed the read. Recover well

Sherpa John said...


Was an absolute pleasure to have met you in the Tetons. I have enjoyed and always WILL enjoy reading about your exploits.

Keep running hard!

Welcome to the 100 Club!