Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Never Summer 100k Race Recap

Here's my attempt at resurrecting this blog thang. I never ended up writing a post for the Vermont 50 (in September) or Boston Marathon (in April), but I had such a blast at Never Summer that I had to write something.

For the first time in a long time, I actually came into a race prepared and ready to roll. Having graduated college in May, I no longer had to balance full time studying with full time partying AND full time training. My attempt of doing that for Boston left me perpetually tired, battling injury, and hungover more often than not. Since graduation in late May, I've focused much more on training and longer days in the mountains now that I'm living out in Lander, WY. In short, I'd put in some big days and higher mileage and drank less. But dancing still counts as cross training. Wahoo!

Living in Lander has meant a few great sojourns into the high country of the Wind River Range. This is Wind River Peak (13,192'). About a 30 mile round-trip jaunt, but I missed a turn and made it 36 or so. Ooops.
The Never Summer 100k is a stunning 64.2 mile loop course with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in the Never Summer and Medicine Bow Mountains of Colorado. It's known for having some tricky navigating, soaking wet sections, off-trail travel, and a few brutal climbs. I got down to Colorado over the 4th of July weekend and was able to preview about 50 miles of the race with some other folks. Boy am I glad I did, it was so nice to know what was coming!

I camped out the night before with Evan, another intern at NOLS, Mark, a runner I met when previewing the course, and Amanda, who recently moved to Lander from Mark's stomping grounds of Steamboat Springs. Mark and I carpooled to the start around 4:00am, and Evan slept in, planning to meet me at the mile 18 aid station and crew for me throughout the day. I had never had a crew before, so I was super stoked to see what it would be like racing with someone ready to lend a hand at aid stations.

The race started at 5:30am, and about 275 of us set off for a fabulous day in the mountains! I tried to show as much restraint in my pacing as I could for the first 18 miles, knowing that the steepest and most brutal climb of the day started right after the mile 18 aid station. I ran for awhile with Elijah, another person I met at the course preview weekend. Eventually I caught up to Gabe, a Lander local, and found out that we were the two frontrunners. Whoops! I hadn't meant to go out that fast, and rolled into the mile 18 aid station in the front pack and met Evan to swap out trash for more gels and take off my singlet.

Delicious singletrack in the American Lakes basin (~mile 12), just north of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Leaving the aid station, I took it very easy and did not push at all up the precipitous climb to the summit of North Diamond Peak (11,852'), the high point of the course. I think I dropped back to 8th place or so, and slowly worked to catch folks over the next 20 miles. I was only carrying one 20-ounce handheld, and found my hydration slipping. I love the way yellow pee has begun to terrify me. Miles 23-39 I focused on guzzling as much water and salts as I could to get back on track. I also found that anytime I approached 10,500 feet or so, I got a throbbing headache. Unfortunately, I was at that elevation for awhile.
The climb up North Diamond (mile ~20) is worth it. The views and ridge running are both spectacular.
This was looking down to Kelly Lake on July 3rd. Come race day, this pass (~mile 33) was totally clear of snow.
I bee-bopped through the race until mile 50, the Canadian Aid Station, where the realization that I could still get to the finish in under 13 hours lit a fire under my butt. With almost all of the 14,000 feet of climbing already in my legs and behind me, I cruised (or at least it felt like this, but I probably wasn't moving very fast) to the Bockman Aid Station (mile 55.8), deliriously took some gels and hydration things from Evan, guzzled a cup of coke, and then took off for the finish. I'd stumbled my way into 4th place at this point, as some other folks were having rough stomach issues they had to deal with. I pushed as hard as I possibly could, running almost all of the terrain in this last stretch. I hit the final aid station at mile 62 and threw down another cup of Coke and took off at what felt like a sprint. I could smell the finish line and wanted to be done. Fast.

On the two miles of winding, wide, buffed trail back to the Gould Community Center and finish line, I cruised as fast as I could. I passed the 3rd place runner with about a mile to go, at this point moving very quickly. Crossing the line after 12 hours and 51 minutes was incredible, and I couldn't have been happier with my race performance. Gabe ended up holding on to the lead for the win, followed closely by Chris, who I had shared a few miles with. As always, I'm amazed at how incredible the ultrarunning community is - there was a beer and fried potatoes in my hands before I could even realize how tired I was. What an excellent day in the mountains! Full results here.

On Sunday, the top three were presented with awesome engraved axes and I also got an award for being the youngest runner. Huge congrats to everyone who made it through a wonderful day in the mountains! Shout out to Evan for being a kick-ass crew person, and thanks to all the volunteers that made this race so amazing. Super amped to race again and spend a lot of the next year focused on training. Maybe I'll even post on this bloggy thang some more.
Myself with second place finisher Chris Schurk (12:30:33) and winner Gabe Joyes (12:29:21, new course record!) wielding our axes.


  1. Well done Jeff! Keep on Keepin' on

  2. Great race and great job recounting it - almost felt like I was there minus the agony of course!

  3. No wonder these mountains are so incredible... with people like you "cruising" through! Fantastic job - both on the course and in this "bloggy thang". Happy Trails to you! Aunt Marti and Uncle Frank

  4. Who bee-bops thru the first 50 MILES of a race. How is that even a thing!