Timm and I rolled into Afton an hour before the race meeting, laid on the grass waiting around for everybody, then listened to the speech, got sweatshirts and then drove up to Cottonwood Lake to meet Cody and Bethany. They had scouted out a beautiful campsite next to the start -- as long as you weren't actually tent camping. There was a nice spot for a camper, but we would be sleeping on a rocky slope covered with sagebrush. Cody did donate some pads from his camper to ease the pain, and seeing how Timm and I woke up right as the 50k took off and poked our heads from the tent to see the stragglers leave, I can't complain about losing too much sleep.
So we roused ourselves, and rode to Swift Creek with Bethany and the Draper kids. The advantage was beating the shuttle bus by five minutes, so we got our bathroom stops taken care of before the hoard arrived.
The sun broke through the canyon just as Luke Nelson screamed through the 50k halfway point, then Ty held the 25k start a minute or two to let the second place guy blow through. He sprinted out of the aid station, and when we found him laying on the trail an hour later we figured he regretted that move.
Anyway, crowded start so Timm and I went easy and stuck together in the middle of the pack. After the first little hike uphill we settled into a running pace and started slowly passing some women and men who, let's say, didn't have the body type to make me think they'd be with the leaders. By the time we broke into the first series of meadows I figure we were about 10 from the lead. The pace was good, definitely runnable through those meadows at a relaxed pace. We knew the uphill was long and there was no reason to overdo. We settled in behind a woman and two men after 45 minutes or so, and kind of followed their lead with a hike/run back-and-forth. After the first small aid we had left the two men and picked up a man-woman combo, and hung behind them 25 yards back as the trail got steeper and we did more hiking.
After about 1:45 we were nearing the crest, with those great views of harsh Wyoming mountain ridges and a great view back below. Timm, who spent the past six weeks in Peru hiking at a 10,000-foot elevation, then decided that his older brother hikes too slowly. He gave me a little nudge and started taking bit bites with each step, leaving me and the other couple pretty quickly as we neared the summit before the lakes.
I kept Timm and three or four others within 150 yards down the steep and rough descent to the lakes, then picked up a little speed when the trail evened out and passed one woman. But after going through the 8-mile aid I hit a bit of a wall when the trail turned back up, and I was feeling a little low on energy. I got passed by a woman just before the meadow before Balls opened up, and another guy moved past at the base of that climb. Balls was really tough, I just was pooped and discouraged to see how long the climb was. I could see Timm and a few others steadily moving up the long switchback but couldn't get the will to pick up any pace. At the switchback there's a bit of shade, so I pulled over to enjoy the view, catch my breath and suck a goo down. Cody passed me here, giving me a "What are you standing here for?" look. Ahh, I was on vacation. I should have had a camera.
After that the saddle came quickly, actually, and after that rough intro to the downhill 3.5 (or whatever it is, the beginning in painfully steep), I found a pack and passed two people back. The women's 50k leader did slip by at a pretty good pace maybe 10 minutes from the finish.
I nicked one more guy just before then end and finished comfortably, pretty proud of Timm for a strong race (he doesn't run much, living in the Arctic and all, and only has done one other mountain race). I was a little slow, but nothing in my legs was injured. I just felt completely worn out on that last climb, nothing to blame other than probably some fatigue from the previous day's hike and unfamiliarity with that type of altitude. I'm ok with that, it was fun to see this bear of a race. Geez, those mountains are steep, my hat is off to the 50k'ers.
We swam in the lake there for a few minutes and cooled off our legs with Cody, waited for Mike and Joe to finish, had a soda and a burger, and went on our way to Salt Lake City. Great experience, I think I'd like to come back and try again sometime.