Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Preview - The Devil's Backbone 50 Mile

A few years ago I was celebrating a friend's birthday dinner, and the discussion turned, as happens with ultrarunners, to the summer's upcoming races. Stan and Lisa mentioned that they were going up to Montana to run a race outside of Bozeman - minimal aid, no course markings and all at altitude. Since I had finished the Bighorn 100 earlier the year before in Wyoming, I had been looking for another run to explore some of the vast, gorgeous country up in the Big West that I had only recently discovered.

The Devil's Backbone 50 Mile seemed like just my kind of run. Only 30 people are allowed to run. You only get aid at the turn around, mile 25, and it's a self-guided course mostly all at 10,000 feet. When I saw some of the pictures from the race, I was set. So this year I made it my main traveling 50 miler in summer.

The website describes the DB50 as "a graduate level run (yes, like Hardrock)". In fact, it's often referred to as a mini-Hardrock, run the same weekend in Silverton, CO. You must carry all of your own gear, food and hydration with some opportunities to fill your bottles/hydration pack with snow or stream water. They recommend you carry a water filter, and -- yes -- bear spray since there are grizzly bears often seen on the course. You're out in the very wilds of Montana after all. Here's a race report from 2007.

July 2008 Snow on Hyalite Peak

The route takes you up Hyalite Creek and its valley, steeply ascending Hyalite Peak before settling into the long ridge that makes up the Devil's Backbone. Crusing along at 10,000+ feet, the going is noticeably slow, especially for us coastal folks. The air is thin, but the views are rich.

I have a small issue with running at altitude. I tend to get cramps and an upset stomach if I go out too fast. As such, my plan was to go slowly and consciously pace myself to a meager start up through the peaking of Hyalite Peak. Then I could assess my adaptation and set a more settled pace for the rest of the race. I was hoping to finish the 50 miles in 13 hours, which on a normal year would put me in the top third of runners. I should mention that I have never run a 50 mile race that slow, but given all the factors this would be a slow and steady run for any but the fittest, best acclimated runners.

In the last few days the runners have received emails from the RD, Tom McGoff-Hayes, telling us that the route up to Hyalite Peak has too much snow still covering the ascent access. They are still working out alternative routes for the run. I trust they'll come up with something worth while.

On Friday I'll be flying out to Bozeman, Montana to join the other runners. I'll let you know how things go. It should be a wonderful run with panoramic views and great adventures. More pictures to come.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Can't wait to hear how it all went, Sam. Report in when you're safe and sound!