Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grand Teton 100 Race Report

I have been meaning to write this report for several weeks but life has gotten in the way. In addition to that, something about the way this race transpired has made it more difficult to put in to words. That, coupled with the fact that I have just been getting through the day-to-day, means that this is a 17-day old race report.

But, for what it’s worth, here goes:

My family and I traveled to the Tetons for Labor Day. Jay and Lisa hosted us in grand style and the race promised to be a good one. Indeed, with 17 entrants it was not exactly the place to be seen and it wasn’t likely to be a barn burner but I knew it would be fun. After the first 25 miles I knew it would be fun, and stressful.

You see, Duncan Callahan was running.

Yes, that Duncan Callahan.

Two-time Leadville Champ Duncan Callahan.

Trains with Tim Parr Duncan Callahan.

Nordic Skiing, cardio monster Duncan Callahan.

27 year-old Duncan Callahan.

It was a “Scalp Fest”

After enjoying a relaxing first 25 miles Duncan and I fell into a stride for stride rhythm on the second ascent up Fred’s Mountain (2500 feet in 2.3 miles) and we began to chat. Life, spouses, races, Tony’s lack of sunscreen, etc…no topic was off limits. It was the best 2 miles of the day. Of course, on the way back down we got down to business and leaving the 30-mile aid station Duncan made his move.

By mile 35 he had a 3-minute lead and by mile 38 it was 6 minutes. He was clearly testing me, poking me with a man-beyond-his-years kind of pluckiness. Hell, he’d won Leadville 2 weeks before, what did he have to prove? I took solace in that thinking he’d come back. But, he poked on. And, I got nervous. Not scared, just nervous. The good kind.

By mile 40 his lead was 8 minutes and I couldn’t let him go. Cruising through Rick’s Basin I kept him in range and my boys told me that by Mile 50 the gap was back to 4 minutes. Comfortable. Patient. Relaxed. I began the third ascent of Fred’s. This was really a race.

Within 10 minutes I saw Duncan a switchback or so ahead. He was leaning slightly to the side and laboring. Not badly, but just enough to keep me motivated. I crested the hill one switchback behind Mr. LT and knew that the game was on…By the time Mile 70 rolled around I smelled blood in the water. I am still not sure what brought him back to me but the puddle of puke by the side of the trail around Mile 72 may have had something to do with it.

By the time we rolled into Mile 75 we were, once again, together. Stride for stride. 3rd place was 2 hours behind and the Course Record was in reach.

I grabbed my bottle, gutted down some soup and got out of there for the final ascent of Fred’s, hoping to finish that whole deal before sunset. Duncan took a seat on a chair and relaxed. I knew then, I had to go. My kids said, “Run the whole climb!”

By the summit I had a 5-minute lead and by Mile 80 it was up to 12 minutes. In the end it was 30 minutes but that does not provide an accurate indication of what Duncan and I did that day.

Yes, it was a small 100 miler.

Yes, by mile 30 it was a 2-man race.

Yes, we were not going to run 15:06, 15:42, 18:35, or 23:23 (epic times run by Geoff, Matt, Geoff, and Kyle) and yes, this race was about fun not glory.

But, we were going to kick the crap out of each other and get Ty’s record.

And, we did both!

I know Duncan has many more battles to fight and wars to win than I do. But I also emerged from this experience knowing that a 42 year-old guy can go to toe-to-toe with a 28 year-old guy and level the playing field a bit.

Also, I learned that, at the end of the day, finding the flow that is so much a part of this 100 mile game can go a long way toward making what we do meaningful, purposeful, and successful. Alone and together, that is what makes our sport transcendent. And, it’ll keep me coming back.


Derrick said...

Great it. Congrats on a great race!

TD said...

nice work guys, I knew that the record was history with you both toeing the line. Wish I could have been there to have a little more say in the matter...

Hank Dart said...

Great post, AJW. "Alone and together" really captures it. Fantastic race.

RunSophia said...

17 days simmered it down to its essence. Congrats on another fine performance.

Justin Angle said...

Huge congrats on the W! Way to go!


Tawnee Prazak, M.S., CSCS said...

Hi, I was turned on to your blog by a reader on my blog. I’m doing a grad-school sport-psych project featuring the “gnarly” side of endurance sport. The reader on my blog sent me a picture that turned out to be yours (your feet after an ultra marathon), and I was wondering if I can use the photo…. I thought the photo was from the reader, so the picture is currently in my project. Let me know if that’s OK.



Michael Alfred said...

One of my all-time favorites. Beautiful stuff. Thanks.

Olga said...

Elocately delivered. That simmering really works for your writing style:) As well as for your racing style. You are Da Man.

JWW said...

Sounds like a great race.

Best quote of the whole report - My kids said, “Run the whole climb!”

Glad to know the future generations of ultrarunners are learning well.