Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tiptoeing Through the Tetons

“Are you OK?” a voice behind me asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I mumbled as I bent over and puked again.

It was 57 miles into the Grand Teton 100 and my stomach was acting up. I had just come down off of Fred’s Mountain and was pushing ahead for my third loop out of four. The combination of Nuun, Gu, warm water, and chicken soup was being soundly rejected by my system. It was time to regroup, or else.

The Grand Teton 100 miler was my third 100 miler in 10 weeks. It had started out quite well. In the cool of the Rocky Mountain morning I made my way around the first 25 mile loop in 4:08. I had built up a small lead and was feeling smooth. The second loop was a bit tougher but I was holding my own and the miles kept clipping by. On this third loop things were beginning to unravel.

Ahead of me was a 1600 foot descent down to Mill Creek. I had been able to make great time on it over the first half of the race but now I was a bit worried. I figured I might as well just hammer down to the aid station at the bottom and then try to get caught up with calories after that. Hopefully, fast-charging Matt Hart would cruise this section and not close on me too quickly. I knew he had incredible foot speed and that he was prepared to battle hard all day. His races earlier in the year suggested to me that he would be tough to hold back.

The stomach was OK by the time I hit the 61.3 mile aid station at the bottom of Ski Hill Road. I treated myself to a five minute “chair break,” an ice-cold ginger ale, and a handful of Pringles. Honest to God, they were the best Pringles ever! I got out of the chair and began a brisk walk up the road. I was feeling better and began to sip off an energy gel. Things were slowly coming together. Halfway up the climb I began to run. By the time I got back to my crew at Mile 70 I was ready to resume my attempt at breaking 20 hours.

The Course Record was just over 24 hours and it was held by Bozeman’s Mike Wolfe. Having been smoked by him at the White River 50 in 2006 I knew the record would be tough. However, after covering 50 miles in 8:45 I adjusted my goals. A course record could happen. If the long-term fatigue was not too extreme I had a shot at sub-20.

I picked up my pacer (Bryon Powell) at Mile 70 and we smoked the “Rick’s Basin” section of the course in just over an hour. Then, after a quick pause at the base we climbed and descended Fred’s Mountain in 1:11. It was only 11 minutes slower than I had run on the first loop and a full 10 minutes faster than my third loop. I was back! Now, all I needed to do to prevent my stomach from going south again was to not stop running. I told Bryon I would not be stopping at any aid stations and that ice water and CLIF blocks would get us through. We hammered the Mill Creek loop in three hours and by the time we returned to Mile 95 my lead was 1:30.

Sweet! However, not sweet enough for Bryon. As we left for the final 5 mile stretch he said simply, “We can break 19:30.” Damn, the dude is tough.

We were close but a massive dry heave session about two miles from the finish cost me five minutes and I came in at 19:35. Good enough for the win and the course record. My wife Shelly and my three boys were all there as well as the entire crew of incredible people who had staffed the aid station all day and night.

Lisa Smith-Batchen, Jay Batchen and Zach Barnett are absolutely first-class race directors. The course was marked impeccably and the attention to detail for the entire event was superb. Shelly and the boys were able to swim in the pool, play on the zip line, and frolic in the grass while I worked my way through a beautiful 100 mile course.

With 20,000 feet of climb I thought the course was a bit tougher than Western States. However, without as much heat and a bit more mellow scene it is different. Wasatch is tougher as it has more steep technical stuff late. Of the 100’s I’ve done I’d say Teton is comparable to AC although it has no net elevation loss which means it’s not quite as favorable for downhillers like me. In short, get this event on your calendar. At least for now there is no lottery, it’s tough, and it’s fun. Furthermore, Labor Day weekend in the Tetons is about as good as it gets!


Sherpa John said...

Andy... it was absolutely amazing to watch you run that race this past weekend and it was an honor to have shared the same dirt with you once again.

Many well wishes to you and your family in the coming years and I hope your running success continues.

I can only hope to be as well balanced a father as you when it becomes my turn. I look up to you.

Sherpa John
East Coaster

olga said...

Hey, man, it was too short for such a great performance!!! C'mon, write some more...go over to my blog and use the words from there:)
You are a true champion, Andy, it was a pleasure to see you plow through this course and bad patches with determination. You didn't settle for a win and a CR but had to fight to the end, even when both were obvious. I hope you have many runs like that in a future and meeting Shelly and the boys was wonderful. Your wife totally rocks!

Rajeev said...

Wow! You knocked off so many hours off the previous course record?? Congratulations on a fantastic run.
Your report makes it sound so easy!


Lisa Smith-Batchen said...


wow is all we can say here in the Tetons about you and your amazing family. what a gift to have you all here and see a wonderful family in action. thank you for helping make our races the best..and..the best is yet to come.
Lisa and Jay

kelly said...

Congrats on a race well run. Good job, Andy. How does it feel to finally be the Bride? Awesome, I am sure! I loved your race report. I was hoping you were gonna win this one, and you did!! WOOHOO. I loved your race report.

anil said...

Wow congrats Andy. Amazing course record.

Bob Gentile said...

Hey AJW, It was great meeting you at GTR and was a blast watching you go by me about 4 times throughout the day--Glad I stayed up to watch you come in that night, very amazing effort !!

This was not only my first 50 but my first ultra I have ever been to. It was a good time in that crazy ultra way, and I liked it:-)

Recover well my friend & look forward to seeing you on future trails.

Bob from FLAT Ass FL !

Anonymous said...

Andy, you must be on cloud nine after wins in Vermont and the Tetons. I remember reading that TrailRunner magazine article back in 2005, and I congratulate you for continuing to push your limits even further. Awesome...

Scott Dunlap said...

Wow! What a season you are having! Way to retrench and get back on track. I posted a blurb on you so that folks will come read your entry.

Happy recovery!


willgotthardt said...

Thanks Scott D. for pointing the way to this awesome blog...very cool the combination of great runner/great writer...engaging stuff.

Congrats on ALL your success Andy, well deserved.

Will G.

Rob said...

Great job Andy!
I'm going to Costco for Pringles today.

ultrailnakaman said...

Not only have you overcome your bridesmaid's curse, you are on a certified roll! What a great race, especially with all the reversed GI motility. Keep up your streak!

As an aside, I went to summer camp in southwest Ohio with a kid who's father sounds like he was the head product / brand developer for Pringles "newfangled potato chips," since he'd say his father "invented" them. I find them one of the more palatable and digestible ultra snacks.

AnthonyP said...

Andy - Great to meet you at GTR. Congrats on an amazing performance. I particularly enjoyed listening to Bryon's recount of pacing you for 30 miles, as he was pacing me for 20.


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