The 2014 River of No Return 50k was my first adventure into trail ultras in the mountains. And it was an AMAZING weekend!
I flew into Boise on Friday morning and then had a nice little drive the rest of the afternoon along the scenic Salmon River. I stopped a few places to stretch my legs and break up the 5 hour drive. I stopped for lunch at a nice little place about an hour into the drive and then continued on my way.
After I finally arrived in Challis and checked into the Village Inn, I checked the race web site again, since this was my first time with Wifi (I didn’t have cell service outside of Boise at any point). I jogged down to the high school for the pre-race instructions and packet pickup.
The pre-race meeting was long and very informative. Some things only applied to 100k’ers, but overall it was good to have a better understanding of what I was getting myself into, since my preparation in the past few months had consisted of looking at the daunting elevation profile and not even attempting to replicate that in my training. I was a little excited about the fact that there were several water crossings on the course and that we were going to get “knee to mid-thigh deep” at some of the crossings, since it was June and was in the mid-80’s Friday afternoon. I was a little less excited that we were going to be high enough that we “shouldn’t have to run through any snow”. I mean I realized I was running up a mountain. That had fully hit me prior to registering on Ultrasignup, but I hadn’t thought about snow in months, and it kind of brought back memories of a traumatic winter dealing with massive amounts of snow. But it was good to know there wasn’t too much snow on the course.
After a quick night of sleep and waking up way early due to a combination of nerves and a couple time zone changes, I grabbed some breakfast while watching the start of the 100k race go past the Village Inn. I gathered my things, checked out and drove down to the high school track to get ready for the start.
I ran a lot of the first half of the race. I walked up a lot of the steep stuff, but if I walked every uphill, I would have starved before making it to the first aid station. I knew pushing too hard early was not a good idea, so I kept it relaxed and enjoyed the views. I could run hard later if I was feeling good and had the energy, but I definitely kept moving. There is an aid station at the top of the mountain and then the course does a 4 mile out and back to the Bayhorse aid station AT THE BOTTOM OF THE MOUNTAIN. This was great going down, I free-wheeled and pretty well ran as fast as I could while still maintaining some control over my direction. I passed a lot of people, knowing that I was going to have to walk back up a lot of the terrain when I got to the bottom. I decided that I didn’t want to waste a lot of energy putting the brakes on the whole way down, just to have to walk back up the mountain anyway. The trek back up was not as much fun. I got passed by a lot of people. Granted, most of them I had talked to when I had passed them just 30-40 minutes earlier going down the hill. They knew I was from Ohio and encouraged me as I struggled to run more than 100 meters at a time. It was a long uphill climb, which seemed to go on forever. I knew I was losing ground, but I also knew that the course was pretty much downhill to the finish, and I was OK with getting back to the aid station with relatively fresh legs after my extended uphill walk. I was super-hungry at the top of the mountain and mentally ready to start clicking off some faster miles on the decent. I may have eaten a little too much, as I felt pretty full of food after a 3-4 minute stop at the aid station. I was well-hydrated again and set off downhill with a group of guys. I ran the downhill hard and only started walking some the last 10k as I battled back and forth with another guy on the flat pavement. It was hot, I was tired, but the end was near. From the top of the mountain, only one person near me beat me to the finish. Unfortunately, he was the last person under 6 hours and I finished jsut a minute and a half over 6 hours. I didn’t really have a time goal heading in, but as I got closer to the finish, I knew I was going to be close to 6 hours, so I tried to pick it up and finish hard. I came in strong and had a very good time pushing my limits in the mountains of Idaho.
I didn’t get any pictures on the course myself, so I can’t show you the pickup truck aid station atop a mountain (I still don’t know how they got up there?), the snowmelt, scenic mountain passes, the ravine I was sure I was going to fall into while sprinting down the rocky side of a mountain early in the race. I can’t illustrate how awesome the pine forrest was at the mountain top with cool snow-melt water running across the trail. There are very few pictures from along the racecourse, which I am perfectly fine with. It was an experience. It was amazing, and you really had to be there. Below are some pictures from the few places the photographers could access.
I relaxed on the track infield and re-re-hydrated thoroughly and enjoyed the post-race food. I gathered my belongings, picked up my award and finisher’s rock before heading out of town to make the lovely trip back to Boise. I couldn’t help but stop to take a few pictures at some of the excellent scenic overlooks on the drive back.
I stopped in the large metropolis of Clayton to get some pictures, stayed in Boise on Sunday and started the long trip back on Monday afternoon.
If you are wondering how the race got its name, when I have failed to mention a river, you may be interested in reading about the larger wilderness area that encompasses a large portion of Idaho, the River of No Return Wilderness.