Words by Derrick Lytle
Photo by Peter Lindgren
I either have the worst friends or the best, but late one night fellow White Pine athlete Jennilyn was texting me about a timed trail running event that amounts to summits of Mt Grandeur on a fairly steep and snow covered trail just outside of Salt Lake City. 15 minutes later, I signed up to run repeats for 12 hours on the 6 mile out and back with 2600 ft of gain… in the winter… in the Wasatch.
This would be my first timed event, and with 12 hours to race, would put me well beyond the marathon mark. Honestly, I had zero idea of how to approach it. I knew my training was solid. I put in a lot of vert outside and on the treadmill, plus gym work with White Pine so I felt confident in that regard, but wrapping my head around 12 hours and pacing to meet my goal was a new challenge.
I set a goal for 7 laps, which would be 42 miles and about 18,000 vertical feet of climbing on the snowy and icy trail of Grandeur. Seemed doable in the time frame.
Race day came, and in the valley there was a slight drizzle, which meant snow on the trail. Honestly, I was a little worried. I live in the desert where if it snows people freak out and basically lock themselves inside until the sun comes back. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them, but I took the shuttle to the start and prepped for the race.
I started at 9 am and, to be honest, it was fairly warm and the trail conditions were pretty solid. I finished my first lap with an easy 1 hour and 30 minute time trying to pace myself. Second lap around the same time. I felt good physically, but in the back of my head I was thinking about how I had 9 hours left. I kept telling myself to stay on track and not burn out too quickly. Mentally doing the same thing with the same people would be exhausting I thought to myself, but once I hit laps 3 and 4, seeing the same people on the trail smiling and having fun was awesome. Generally I see very few people while racing until the finish. Being able to see so many great and inspiring people throughout the day kept my spirits up.
When I entered the aid station to start lap 5 I asked what time it was and knew that I wouldn’t reach my goal of 7 laps. I could still get 6 with room to spare, but not being able to complete a complete 7th lap in the 12 hours means the lap wouldn’t count. The 5th lap went by great, and starting my 6th I knew I had a lot of time so I took it casually and talked to a few people on the way up. I definitely felt the miles, cold, and elevation on my legs at this point. I was tired, but my body felt good. Usually at the end of a long race my body hurts, but this time I just felt tired. Perfect.
As I hit my 6th summit, the trail was icy, windy, and cold. I thanked the volunteers and headed down. The trail at this point was just an icy mess, but I was pretty stoked to be coming in with 6 laps and a good solid base for the rest of the season. With the 6 laps, I came in 9th place. Only one person made the 7 laps in the 12 hours.
Although I didn’t meet my main goal, I still did my biggest climbing day and learned a lot about racing. Not to mention I was just flat out inspired by everyone out there racing for different reasons.
Thinking about it now, I definitely have the best friends around. Ones who push me to do more than I could solo.
*Originally posted February 14, 2017.