Grand Teton 100-mileTrail Run
September 4-5, 2010
27 hours 5 minutes

Report by Steve Bremner

Grand TetonsDuncan Callahan, two-time winner of the Leadville 100, (one of those two times a mere two weeks prior to this race) gave a slide presentation following Friday evening’s pre-race briefing.  One of his slides posed a series of questions that come to all ultra-runner’s mind in the course of a race, “What am I doing here?” “What is my purpose?” etc., to which I would add any number of questions “Who am I?” “Where am I?” and so on. Duncan would go on to place second in the race to Andy Jones-Wilkins in just over 19 hours—both ran faster than the old course record, but Andy’s 18:35 stands as the new (and final as this year was the last year for the 100 mile race) course record.

Rebekka at campsite
The very gracious race directors and hosts, Lisa and Jay Batchen, set aside an area below the Grand Targhee Resort for car camping. Unfortunately, the resort also had planned an outdoor concert for the night before the race, so we suffered through loud music from “The Meat Puppets” until midnight, then a further two hours of banging and clanging as they took down the set following the concert. I slept through my watch alarm at 4:30. Luckily Rebekka had set her watch alarm for 4:40. The race started at 6 A.M. Ouch. Not too propitious a start for a race that would take me through the night and into the next day.

Race start GT100
As we lined up for the start before sunrise someone had the gall to say “I love the Meat Puppets!!” Boo! Hiss! Then we were off on the first of four 25-mile laps. On each 25-mile lap we would return to the main aide station at the resort three times as the course had three sub-loops. The first one was an out and back on Fred’s Mountain, about six miles round trip with 2200’ elevation gain. I found myself running with Andy Jones-Wilkins, Duncan Callahan, and “TJ” a 21-year-old youngster running his first 100. The four of us joked and carried on a rolling dialogue as we loped up the slopes. There is a chairlift that goes to the top of Fred’s Mountain for the ski season, but now in high summer mountain bikers ride up the chair lift and bomb down a thread of trail systems. The previous day in a bike shop I overheard someone ask the salesperson, “Can you ride up the mountain?” “Yes, but it’s very steep.” “How steep is it?” “10 to 15 percent grade.”  I couldn’t help sniggering.  As the four of us reached the top, I broke out to make my claim to first one up Fred’s in less than 40 minutes! I was first up Fred’s all right, but was shortly amazed when Andy bombed down the mountain passing me like he was running a 10K! We all hit the aide station about an hour into the run where I changed from a long-sleeve to a lighter short-sleeve shirt and since I had been experiencing hamstring pain in the two weeks leading up to the run I pulled a flexible knee brace onto my right knee to hold it all together.

First time off Fred's MountainI quickly hit the trail for the long 15-mile loop down to Mill Creek and back.
Somewhere in my lizard brain I had the feeling that I shouldn’t be running with Andy and Duncan, but the pace was easy and I was enjoying the morning so I loped along with them steadily losing elevation. Duncan said that we would lose about 3500’ in elevation from the top of Fred’s to the valley floor before we would climb back to Grand Targhee Resort. After a couple miles in the early morning mist we came on a moose cow with her calf in an aspen grove. They both eyed us warily but didn’t move until we got closer, then lumbering only a few feet into the aspens. A mile or so after that pleasant experience I hit a root or something and in a flash performed a perfect face plant, bouncing my nose on the trail. The dirt trail landing was more forgiving than Pikes Peak granite, but the fall was so rapid that I didn’t have a chance to put my arms out, landing directly on my left chest and nose. I screwed something up in my chest that would cause pain when breathing for the rest of the run. Even now two weeks later I still have some pain in the chest.  This was a harbinger of things to come over the next 24 hours--different pain points across my body! I love 100-mile runs! I caught back up to Andy and Duncan following my crash and kept with them all the way down to the bottom of the trail, where we turned right on a gravel road that led to another full aide station before turning right for the only three miles of pavement--the main road to the resort. The road was a very easy grade, but it was an uphill grind. I started about 100 yards behind Duncan and Andy, but slowly reeled them in by the time we reached the next aide station that marked the end of the paved segment and the start of a flat to downhill trail that looped us back in lollipop fashion to the trail back to the resort.  I took off the knee brace, grabbed some quick food, and headed out in good spirits for the final 5-mile loop around Rick’s Basin that completed the first 25-mile lap. I fell back from the front-runners pace by about seven minutes when I came around for the end of lap one, completing it in the way-too-fast time of 4 hours 20 minutes.
The second time up Fred’s Mountain called for as much walking as running as I was determined to settle into more of a 100 mile pace. When I returned to the main aide station I stopped, sat down and ate some salty boiled potatoes and watermelon. I throttled back on the Miller Creek loop, getting passed by “TJ”, the 21-year-old who ran with us up Fred’s the first time, and by Kerri Wheeler, the first woman.  At the trail bottom where we turned on to the gravel road I caught back up to Kerri when she stopped to walk. The grade was mild so I trotted by in a jog. On the paved segment I was able to look back for long distances and could see that she was dropping back again. At the main aide station at the resort I again stopped and ate before heading out on the Rick’s Basin 5-mile loop. I finished the first 50 miles in 10:13, running the second lap in just under six hours--a much saner pace than lap one.
As I started up Fred’s for the third time another competitor that I hadn’t noticed before got out of the aide station in front of me: John Carroll, a first-time ultra-runner, but seasoned Iron Man competitor. At the top I stopped, sat down, took in some broth and food before running down the mountain. I caught John about halfway down and stormed past him, thinking that I must have put him away. Again I stopped at the main aide station taking in food, including potato soup and lots of water because I felt I was getting dehydrated on this hot day. Fifteen minutes later it all came up—soup, water, everything.

Eating soupNow I was really on the road to dehydration. Before I left on this third time down to Miller Creek, I did some quick calculations and realized that I better bring along a headlamp because with darkness coming at about 8 PM unless I ran a quick 15-miles (which was highly unlikely at this point) I’d be in the dark for about an hour. I walked all the ups and ran the downs slowly down to the gravel road for the third time. At the aide station I sat down with no thoughts in my head. I just wanted to rest a moment. The aide station people mean well, I know, but their constant questions “What do you need?” “Can I get you anything?” “The course is beautiful, isn’t it?” got me motivated to get up and get out of there.  As I left I thought I heard them cheering someone coming towards the aide station--it was John Carroll stalking me again. I ran up the paved road hoping to put some distance on him. Harsha Nagaraj, who had run the 50 mile race, came driving down the road with his family. He stopped to tell me that “TJ” had just left the next aide station walking like the tin man with cramps and that I’d probably catch him.  When I got to the aide station they asked “How are you feeling?” My reply “Like I just ran 65 miles” was good enough to stop further interrogation. As I left I heard the cheering again as John Carroll pulled in right behind me. Soon I caught “TJ” at the top of a hill, walking like a tin man all right, but also without a headlamp. The lights had just gone out and there was no moon. I asked him if he would be okay without a light. “One step at a time” was his reply. Very slow steps I might add. I rolled into the aide station feeling just all right, considering I’d been running for 70 miles. I had pain in each shoulder, an incipient tendon pain on my left foot where the running motion originates, the pain in my left chest with every breath, and a new pain in my lower back. The lower back pain Rebekka later recognized as kidney problems, since she had experienced it herself—I was so dehydrated my kidneys were starting to shut down. As I set out on the third trip around Rick’s Basin I told Rebekka that I’d probably be about an hour and a half. She went down to our car to prepare to pace me for lap number 4. I managed the loop faster than my prediction in about an hour and ten minutes and Rebekka hadn’t returned yet. I gladly sat down with some orange slices and fluid to wait for her. When she returned we started up Fred’s for my fourth time. I was no longer running. Indeed I struggled up the slopes, taking four or five steps before stopping to catch my breath. This was a long slog. After finally reaching the summit we walked all the way down too. The tendonitis in my left foot precluded any more running. I would walk it in for the entire final 25 miles with Rebekka patiently pacing me along.
The kidney pain caused me to lose my equilibrium and I started lurching sideways as we walked down to Miller’s Creek at a slow pace. Running was out of the question. Walking was not even going well. I was glad to have Rebekka alongside me. I’m not sure how well she was enjoying what must have been an excruciatingly languid pace. This was my fourth time over the same 25-mile terrain, but at this pace it seemed to go on interminably. John Carroll had gone by me on Fred’s Mountain and I had no hope of catching him. Where were “TJ” and Kerri? Surely they would be catching me at this crawl. “TJ” it turns out had stopped to take a 2-hour nap and recovery. He would not quit, eventually coming in just over 30 hours. Kerri was in her own struggle with the demons and would come in about fifteen minutes behind me at the end. John Carroll finished more than two hours in front of me. When I rolled into the main aide station at the resort for the final lap around Rick’s Basin he was already finished and sipping on soup. I had five miles to go, but first I needed to get hydrated and take care of those kidneys. The doc fed me broth and salt caps and 27 minutes later I was ready to tackle the remaining five miles. Rebekka set a brisk pace -- I followed gamely. We managed the final circuit in an hour and a half. Wow. That sure felt good to finally stop forward motion. 27 hours and five minutes later and I had finished my second 100-mile run. The final lap had taken nine and a half hours.

Finish Line GT100