I am going with 2 versions of the Swan Crest 100 race report. One will be short and sweet and the second will be longer with some details.
Report #1- Short and Sweet
I DNF’d at mile 68.7. No injuries, no bears- just feel like shit now mentally, not too bad physically.
Report #2- Long with some details.
First and foremost I can’t say enough about what Brad and the Swan Crest gang pulled off for their first year. This was a truly amazing event and experience. Great time had by all and came away with a few more trail friends. In my opinion this is a must do race.
To the race- the pre race meeting took place at Hammer Nutrition headquarters in Whitefish, MT. From the check in you could see the Swan Crest mountain range. The basic overview- “look down there as far as you can see then follow the ridgeline to here- that’s pretty much it- 100 miles.” Ya right! Don’t forget to go up then down then up then down then over some trees then under some trees the around some trees and don’t forget that the huckleberries are starting to come on so bears are an issue. Hmmm, easy enough? After watching the “what to do if Bears attack” video, we mingled a bit then left to get some shut eye.
Woke up at 4 am Friday morning (thank Brad the RD for letting me crash on his floor) in order to get ready to meet the shuttle bus to the start an hour away in Swan Crest. Loaded the Hammer Nutrition van with about 10 other suckers and we were off. As we took the drive it was fun to hear so many ultra stories from around the country. Out of the 10 runners in the van I believe there were 6 states represented. Sure made me even more intimidated hearing all the experience knowing this was my 2nd 100 ever- Wasatch 2008 as the first. The bus unloaded and we had about 30 minutes until the start. There were 44 runners in the inaugural race and I felt very lucky to be one of them. As the race started we headed out for a few miles on a road before we took a turn up an old dirt road. Unbeknownst to me this was about the only true runable section with any distance to think of. After about 10 miles we can to the first aid station and I was feeling pretty good. It was early but I just felt great. After we left there we had about 9 miles to Napa Point Aid Station through some crazy and fun trail/bushwhacking. The single-track started and it was gorgeous! Take away the stinging nettle and the fact the growth was head high and you couldn’t see your feet- this was great. We were warned that this section was overgrown and to be on the lookout for bears. After about 100 yards we came across our first bear crap on the day- right in the middle of the trail. Wow, starting to hit home now. After we “saw a clearing” I thought we might be able to push a bit but no dice. There was at least one mile of avalanche debris and it was tough. There was no trail to speak of and you literally had to hop over, on and around some crazy intense deadfall. When we finally left the debris field I notice my bib number was ripped clean off my shorts. We got back to a trail and headed up which would turn into a common theme for the day. More miles and more bear scats latter we found our way to Napa Point. There would be a small out and back section here to get us on our way for the next 25 miles before another aid station. Going into Napa Point I was about 10 or 11 back from the front and still feeling pretty good but like the saying goes- “if you are feeling good in an ultra- don’t worry it will change soon enough” and it did!
The next 25 miles pretty much set the tone for the rest of my race. We were essentially on the ridgeline of the mountains and it was hot. When we passed through a burn section the temps seem to rise by 10 degrees. We came upon the first clear run off and I filled up my pack and bottle and trekked forward. I thought if I keep hitting these until Six Mile AS (#3) then I would be in great shape but after a while I started to realize that I was going to be in trouble with my hydration unless we found another creek soon. I didn’t find one soon enough and I was dry! Nothing for almost 2 hours. No water, gel, calories, food, electrolytes…AN YTHING! I could feel the energy slowly dwindle and my mouth and throat got really dry. As people passed they too were dry and we shared some glares but we knew there was nothing we could do but hope for a creek. I started to cramp everywhere. By the time we hit the next creek for water I was in a bad place. I just kept one foot in front of the other and finally made it to Six Mile. Once there I got some coke and tried to find something to eat but my stomach didn’t want anything. I sat for about 20 minutes trying to get my wits and I must say without a few individuals from the volunteer crew this stop may have lasted a lot longer. From here we had to go straight up to a peak 1.5 mile away and grab a playing card and jet back down. The way up was not bad and once we hit the top, I got an instance shot of adrenaline. The views were incredible! I grabbed my 8 of hearts and hauled ass back to the aid station. I made some good time and before I knew it I was at the aid station and ready to leave before dark. I caught up with another guy and we slowly plodded to Quintokken AS. It was starting to get dark and the footing was getting sketchy. We made a turn down a long trail with some overgrowth and we say a shadow coming towards us. We both stopped and went for the bear spray. As the figure got closer we started making noise and yelling but we got no response- then I heard a familiar sound of trekking poles. It was a runner who had been lost for a couples hours with no water and no light source. He was an older gentleman and he was in bad shape. He had no idea where he was and was heading the wrong way. He wanted to go back to the last aid station since he said he missed it but with his condition he wasn’t going to make it in the dark. I told him to come with us to AS #5 and not to worry about the race. He reluctantly agreed so I handed him my headlamp and pulled out a small handheld flashlight for me. This took a long time. It was hard to keep him moving and making sure he got across a couple river crossing. When we hit the aid station, Brad the RD was there so I told him about the situation. Due to all the circumstances they made sure he didn’t go any farther and his race was done. I sat with him at the fire to make sure he was okay and we exchanged some very kind words. It was great to see him the next day and he even introduced me to his daughter and granddaughter who were there. At AS #5 I met back up with Jim and he waited for me to get some food and we headed out for the next 16 miles in the dark. This was pretty slow and go section, we stopped a few times to enjoy the night and even caught about 10 minutes of shut eye. It was great to be back on the trail with a familiar and coherent person. A few miles out of Broken Leg aid station we heard a large crashing in the bush and we both froze. Not sure what it was I made more noise and we slowly and cautiously kept going in the dark. We finally hit Broken Leg and we were done. We probably wouldn’t have made the next cut off and we both agreed that going 5 more miles to Strawberry was not the right choice. I couldn’t believe I just DNF’d. As disappointed as I was I had no idea it would only get worse. We sat in the aid station for about an hour before we got a ride to the finish. After a shower and seeing the sun, things started to set in. As I watched the few finishers come across- 20 out of 44 finished, I was starting to get more and more disappointed. I was hesitant to call my wife and kids since I felt I failed and let them down. Even as I write this and relive those moments, I am disappointed. 68.7 miles out of 100 wasn’t my goal. No words can explain the race and I am left with some great moments but an empty feeling as well. I know people DNF and many are the ones I look up to in this gig but to finally have it happen to me- that’s different right? Not sure how I am gonna rebound or how long it will take but I know I will be go back next year to see if I can finish that beast. There were many experienced 100 mile runners there and the consensus was pretty much the same- this is one tough son of a bitch. There were some Wasatch finishers there (myself included) and we all seem to think that this was harder. It was remote, you had to take maps, bear spray and be willing to not run most of the course. It didn’t have the elevation as some of those tougher races- about 22,000’ but all you did was go up then go down and repeat…A LOT.
The race and local are beautiful. This race is a true gem and the first 100 miler in Montana. Hats off to everyone there and the local folks were very gracious. This is not a race for everyone and maybe not even me but if you want a true test- this will give it to you.
So bottom line- DNF. No excuses and no blames. I just didn’t get it done. Next up??? Maybe the Grand Teton 50 then shut it down for the year. Thought about doing the Bear but I am thinking I may just pace or crew.