Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dugway Isolation 50k - Race Report

by Craig

So I'm a liar. I said in my last post that I was done with race season. That wasn't all together true. This past weekend I ran the first annual Dugway Isolation 50k. My plan was to run the entire race with my brother Brent, but that isn't quite how it worked out.

Hanging from the start/finish guns during a training run

The course is three loops, approximately 10 miles long (the first two loops have a bonus lap around Little Davis Mountain) and 1800 vertical feet of climbing. It's called the Isolation 50k for a reason because it is on a military base in the middle of the west desert of Utah, literally about as remote as you can get. There are three different race lengths - 20k, 30k, and 50k. Because it was the first year racers could bump down to a lower distance before or even during the race. There were about 25 people total who ran between the three races.

Everyone started off pretty conservative. There is a 700 ft climb in the first 1.25 miles of the race and Brent was smart enough to walk most of it as he would have to do it another 2 times before the day was out. I ran the whole thing just to prove to myself I could do it and waited and shot photos at the top as people came by. Brent was moving well and many of us stayed together as the course descended down single track toward Little Davis Mountain. Once we hit the back half of the course the racers spread out and other than a couple of other people around us, Brent and I found ourselves alone. After doing the first of our bonus loops we thought it might be a good idea to get the 2nd one out of the way so that we didn't have to worry about it on the next full lap. While it was a good idea from a strategy perspective, all of the vert was starting to take it's toll on Brent. By the time we were coming around to finish the first full loop (about 13 miles at this point) Brent was hurting really bad and was not super confident about finishing out the whole race.

Everyone at the start

As we ended the first loop and starting the climb into the 2nd one Brent confirmed his inability to go the full 50k and told me he would be short-cutting back around to the start to complete the 30k distance. He then told me to run ahead and find one of our other friends to run with the rest of the race. While I was bummed for him having a bad it was kind of nice to be able to take off and run fast for a while. So off I went up the hill at a nice job. About half way down the back I came across Josh who was emptying out his shoe. We ran together for a while until he needed to hit the POP, so I went on ahead. As I came around to finish circumnavigating Little Davis Mountain I could see a few other 50k-ers running across the open flats to the last couple of miles of single track. They were all walking, weird. It wasn't long and I was coming up behind friends Colin and Canice (who was there to hang out and run a free lap). They told me 3rd place was right in front of them and that Jen, who was in second, was only another 10 minutes up. I was feeling good so I took off.

When I dropped off the last bit of single track towards the road I could see Jen up ahead approaching the start/finish aid station. She was still there when I arrived and after a quick bit to eat we left together. It was fun to run with her. She is a very strong racer and a good friend. It was nice to chat about our race and have fun for a bit. Part way up the climb, however, she told me to push on ahead and catch up with Aaron (who was leading). I wasn't really interested in winning the race, but I thought it would be fun to run with Aaron and help him push to the finish.

Aaron cresting the top of the first big climb

He was moving well though and I didn't feel like I was catching up until I came around a corner and saw that he was only a couple of hundred meters away. Without pushing any harder I just maintained a running pace, especially when I saw him slow to a walk and before long we were running together. He was hurting. He had been pushing pretty hard the whole race and it was now catching up to him. When we got onto the flat tank road together he really started to slow and then stop because he was now cramping and needed to stretch his calves. I continued on at a slow pace hoping he'd catch up. And then the most wonderful thing happened; as I approached the Little Davis Mountain climb there was a pitch black wild Mustang only 50 yards ahead. I've seen them before, but never that close. It was beautiful as it trotted off south into the desert. Absolutely amazing.

When I finished the climb up Little Davis I looked back and Aaron had dropped back considerably. Now my competitive juices kicked in and I figured if no one wanted to run with me I'd push hard to the finish and see what kind of gap I could put on them. I only had about 4 miles left, which meant I didn't have that big of a cushion. If I started cramping (which I did) and Aaron started feeling better he could definitely catch up and pass me for the win.

Running down awesome single track

As I crossed the flats to the final single track section I took a look back and couldn't see anyone. It was at that point I knew I had the win in the bag. My legs were cramping (I needed some Calcium but forgot to bring antacids) but with periodic short stops to stretch I was able to maintain a pretty good pace to the finish. It was fun to be the first ever winner of a race. Jen had passed Aaron somewhere in the last few miles and she finished about 10 minutes or so behind me with Aaron coming in another 5 minutes after that. Brent was pretty disappointed and had left a while earlier, but it was fun to run with him for a while and see all of my friends out there.

Aaron, Jen, and me. Top three

The first 13 miles took me 3hrs. The last 18 miles took me 3hrs and 7min. It was fun to really open things up and run fast the 2nd half of the race. It's a tougher course than it looks on paper, but doing three laps wasn't as tough as I thought. The race is desolately beautiful, fun, and well organized. And I can promise you it will only get better next year. Thanks to all of the people who made the drive out, to my friends who I got to see on the course, and congratulations to everyone who finished any of the three distances.


Warlord Blade said...

It was an awesome race and I'm glad I got to experience its first year! I hope it continues to grow. I also hope to figure out what I need mentally and nutritionally to do better that last five miles - I was really happy with my first 25ish! You were an animal - especially after that horse! Way to come back from behind and take it all!

Jen said...

Great writeup, Craig. It was such a pleasure to get to spend the day out there with all of you friends and getting to know new people. Even the times I was by myself (isolation, indeed) it was still starkly beautiful and a day I will never forget. I hope many, many more people come out in the future and see what this is race all about...they will not be disappointed!