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Ridding myself of the Millcreek Monkey!

July 23, 2012


For the last two years, I have struggled to complete ultra distance runs/races, especially the Millcreek 50k. The mental/physical block for a couple of years was at or around 31 miles. And yet, while this is certainly a long distance and should not be marginalized, I have yet to consistently capitalize on these runs.

The Millcreek 50k is a ‘Bandit’ run put together by a few runners in SLC on the majestic trails in and around Millcreek, duhhh! The run alternates directions, but always begins at 9pm in mid-July. A collection of 50, or so, sadistic minded runners spent the remainder of the evening hiking/running/tripping along the course for 31 miles.

In 2010 (a down canyon year), I attempted to run this ‘race’ for the first time. As many who already know, I have a tendency to start to fast. As was the case in 2010. Having little experience in this sort of running and timing/nutrition, I terminated the run at mile 20 due to vomiting and diarrhea. Little known fact is that my gentle and kind wife, whilst shaking a finger in dissatisfaction, tended to me as I continued to vomit/defecate for the remainder of the next day.

In 2011 (an up canyon year), having hopefully learned more about nutrition and hydration, I anticipated a finish and possibly a stronger time. As has been my M.O., I found myself in front of many stronger and wiser ultra runners. Chanting to slow down and enjoy myself, I felt the lingering pains of fatigue and saw the pace slow dramatically. As I climbed Alexander’s Basin, I permitted the mental battle to overcome me and had given up long before I arrived to mile 20 at Dog Lake.

With these two DNFs and the one at Wasatch100, I recalibrated my goals, expectations and methods to ‘just finish’ these damn runs. My first success this year was at the Bonneville Shoreline Marathon, where I again ‘bonked’ at mile 20 and forced/willed myself to walk/jog the remaining 6 miles. While I was certainly not satisfied with the time of this run, I began the slow and necessary mental recalibration needed to be a successful ultra runner. By successful I mean won who finishes the races set forth for them, whether it be at the elite level or at the mere human capacities.

Having learned and hopefully acquired a small resiliency of mind, I endeavored the Pocatello 50 miler. Successfully, I finished in 12 hours with much better patience and frame of mind. Having conquered these, it was only a matter of time before I faced the ghost of Millcreek.

So last night, with an uneasy stomach and will, I ventured out again with 50 others. As the ‘race’ began I again mistakenly rushed to the front and joined Peter Lindgren, Jared Campbell (fresh off a murderous HR100), and Chuck Konopa. The conversation and pace were lively and to be expected with this band of men. Leading the pack, I knew that I would not and could not maintain this pace with such strong runners and expected to taper this pace as things spread out. At the Great Western both Peter and Jared made haste of this, leaving Chuck and I to enjoy a more relaxed pace and conversation. As we continued along to Desolation Lake, Dog Lake and Alexander Basin, we were joined and passed by Tyler Waterhouse and Jason Berry. Despite a failing headlamp, we maintained a relatively fast pace even along the Desolation trail, which was surprisingly not overgrown. We arrived at Elbow Fork in 4 hours and 6 minutes, well faster then I expected. Not feeling tired yet, I ran with Chuck until the beginning of Grandeur Peak. We watched as Jason Berry got a second wind and disappeared in the darkness, he later caught up with Peter and finished in 6:08.

Feeling ragged and just plain slow at this point, I remembered the mental weakness in the previous years and the newly learned ability to just keep moving (unless health impedes). Fortunately, I gained the summit and returned to the finish in a remarkable time of 6:32.

While I was impressed and very satisfied with the resulting finish time, I was more exuberant about the overall accomplishment of the new consistent trajectory of successful finishes. And in an effort not to be so overtly ‘theological’ about this, I feel compelled to echo Hebrews 12:1 (A poor exegetical interpretation, but nonetheless)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Putting aside the temporal struggles, pains and even fast paces has given me a better self awareness of the longer term goals, the necessary obstacles which inherently exist and have plagued/prevented me from completing runs.  And thanks to so many (Chad Rhinehart, Scott Cottingham, Brian Kamm, John Bartley, and etc.) It has been an honor learning and running with some of the best people, who have generously shared their experiences and walked/ran along side me to attain these goals. Their patience and willingness to laugh at my flaws has been greatly appreciated. Certainly, could not have finished this most recent run at Millcreek without the help of Chuck Konopa and Jason Berry who motivated me the entire way. And to my wife who has been exceedingly kind and patient in this, her, long suffering.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2012 4:59 PM

    Great work Pete! Running with you and the other guys made the night for me. Congrats on the finish.

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