In 2018, I set out to accomplish a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was a big bite to chew and I knew I was going into the deep end. But honestly, the feeling I get after an exhausting, painful day of running trails in the mountains is what fuels me up. So I registered for the Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k in Salmon, Idaho anyway.
The year started off really well, averaging over 150 miles per month of running on roads and trails. I tackled a few trail ultramarathons to begin the year. Arches Ultra in Moab, Desert Rats near Grand Junction, and Greenland Trails north of CO Springs all proved to be great and challenging 50ks in training.
The obstacle in the training plans
Then, in early May I placed an offer on a house (for the fifth time that Spring). And this offer was accepted. My first home purchase. Yikes! For the month that followed, running proved to be a great way to avoid the nerves and stress. And I ended up capturing one of my highest mileage months ever. I even set PRs in the 50k, Marathon, and Half Marathon during the month!
When June 1 hit, the real work began as I became a first-time homeowner. It’s a house that needs a refresh and there are so many projects, and that’s where my time and money went. Along with that, work travel got very busy and kept competing for my time. Priorities shifted.
Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k
I already had my hotel and flight booked for the trip, so I kept my promise to myself to still give it my all for my first 100k attempt. Going in, I knew I was undertrained, but my stubbornness said to give it a go and see what I was capable of doing.
The Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k is no joke. 62 miles of running on the Continental Divide Trail along the Montana-Idaho state line. It’s a Western States Qualifier and a finish earns you UTMB points. Probably an indication of what I was getting myself into.
The run takes place on smooth trails, rocky climbs, and steady descents with amazing views. Views include everything from pine forests, to open range pasture, to rocky slopes among a few remaining snow banks high above the trees. It’ll literally take your breath away. But I’m just crazy enough to find that challenge inviting.
Race Weekend in Salmon
The Beaverhead Enrudance Runs is based at Salmon, Idaho. The town is well-known for recreation in its surrounding mountains, its role on the Lewis and Clark expedition and as the birthplace of Sacagawea. Be sure you spend some time along the river. I recommend booking a few extra days in town for R&R to enjoy the area.
Race weekend is busy with a few events taking place in town. Book your hotel room early. Many runners stayed at the Super 8 or Stagecoach Inn. Both nice places. The pre-race briefing takes place on Friday afternoon at a local park, just in time to grab a steak and beer for dinner at the Shady Nook before an early bedtime.
Wallys Cafe looked good, but they were super short staffed the morning after the race, several people were sitting at tables with not so much as water. So I walked out and enjoyed awesome food at The Coffee Shop. Junk Yard Bistro also made for a good food stop, as well. The Saveway Market in town is a good spot for groceries, but if you’re looking for special items, they don’t have everything. (Yes, I ate a lot of food while in town.)
The Super 8 had cold breakfast items out for us before catching the 3:15 a.m. shuttle to the race start. The bus ride up to race start was long enough for half a nap.
Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k Race Day
To say this was the longest day of my running life (so far) would be selling it short. I look back on the day and it seems to have passed too quickly. But in the moment, it was a long adventure!
The Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k begins at Bannock Pass on the Idaho-Montana state line. For the next several hours, you’ll be running along the Continental Divide Trail. Good news is, the trail is very well-marked, so you will have a hard time getting lost. Bad news is, you know you’re in for plenty of climbing and changing terrain.
We rolled along the Divide trail feeling good for the most part, checking off the miles and the aid stations. The views were awesome and the day was going well, even if it was a bit on the warm side. Until I really started to slow down after mile 26.
From that point forward, we had long hills and my legs weren’t having it. I did much more hiking than running and wasn’t sure how to recover at the aid stations. It probably didn’t help that I was around several other struggling runners.
The Beaverhead Hill That Got Me
To make a really long story short, my lack of training caught up with me around mile 42 and I still had this mountain to climb. I probably still had strength in my legs to go ahead. But in my mind, I had already quit. I went in not really knowing what to expect and this hill killed my expectations.
I made it to Gold Stone pass around mile 47.5 and stopped. The 13-hour time cut off gave me an excuse to quit. I was mentally exhausted and done. I sat down in a chair and called it a day. I was disappointed. DNF. Did Not Finish.
DNF is only the beginning
The next morning I was laying in bed sulking over my failure. And I did what any good ultrarunner does, I had found my way to UltraSignup. I needed to redeem myself. I needed an ultra distance that I knew I could finish because I couldn’t leave this hanging over my head. So I signed up for the Lean Horse 100’s 50-miler in Custer, South Dakota. A month later, I ran 50 miles and matched my PR for the distance.
Then, a funny thing happened. I was at a local trail half marathon in Colorado and I ran up on David and Megan Roche. And sheepishly said hi because I’ve always appreciated the advice David shares in his Trail Runner magazine columns.
After a brief discussion about how my summer had gone and disappointment from the Beaverhead DNF, he said something quick, but it struck me.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate what it is we do accomplish. Running 47.5 miles on the Continental Divide for 13 hours is no small feat. Who cares if I DNFd? That’s still a big accomplishment that I should be proud of.
And he’s right. That’s not something to be ashamed of.
Redemption will be sweet
So, for the remainder of the Fall, I set out with intentions to redeem myself on the Beaverhead Endurance Runs 100k course. I started with a few local 50ks. I finished in 7th place a few weeks later at the Snow Mountain Ranch 50k in Granby. Then, the next weekend, I set a big PR at the Bear Chase 50k in Lakewood.
And I’ve been training hard ever since then. This weekend, I’ll set out for my redemption on the Beaverhead course and will run my first 100k. I know more what to expect on the course. I’ve been more dedicated to my training. I’ve put in several long runs of 50 miles on the trails and surpassed the 200-mile mark for training in the month of June. And I’m in a good mindset to tackle the goal.
I’m rested and ready to go this weekend. My mind is simultaneously shouting, HURRY UP AND GET HERE, while at the same time saying, NO, WAIT. NOT YET. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got a mountain to climb.
Like what you see here? Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future stories and weekly headlines. Click here to sign up.