[103.8M, ~22-28,000?? ft gain, 26:33:31]
I just got back from running the inaugural Standhope 100M in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s a very rugged single-loop course around the Pioneer Mountains in Idaho. Race Director Ben Blessing has been planning this event for many years, while putting on the “standard” 60K distance – now in its 10th year. I ran the 60K last year, placing 2nd overall, at which time he announced that the 100M distance would be added the following year. It was one of my favorite, most difficult, and scenic races, so I knew I wanted to come back for the 100M.
The 2022 100M event did not disappoint, in any way – beautiful scenery, mixed runnable and technically challenging terrain, and oh.. those brutally steep climbs (7 in total).
With a 6PM start, it was also unique to get to run the 60K portion of the course mostly in the dark. I love the late day start – it’s so much easier on the body overall. You get a full night’s sleep before the race, and you get to tackle the night running when you’re still relatively fresh. On the flip side – the back end of the race falls squarely in the late afternoon heat, and you could possibly end up going into a 2nd night.
I came into the race pretty fit and feeling race ready. I spent all of June traveling around Colorado with the family, and I was able to get in some solid vert/miles at altitude.
My previous races this year have all gone well (Behind the Rocks 50M, Canyons 100K, Scout Mountain 50M, Dirty Dog Trail Marathon), with the main improvements being my fueling and hydration. I’ve been focused on tackling that issue – essentially I’ve been hydrating and taking on way more calories this year than I have in the past. I didn’t have any late race bonks in any of those races, and overall I just have a better feel now for what my body needs during races so I can manage it on the fly.
[View from the course]
The race started off at a reasonable pace – quicker than the rest of the miles would be, yet very comfortable. Everyone was smart and holding back, as out here 6PM is pretty close to the peak heat of the day. As night started to settle in, I was able to hike my way up over the first couple climbs and be in the top 5 or so. There was some jockeying around, but mostly everyone was just trying to keep their own pace on the climbs. I got into and out of the 2nd aid station pretty quickly (another focus of mine), and took over the lead at that point.
[High up at 11,000 ft – Standhope Pass]
That would be the last time I would see another runner. I ran the next 85 miles or so (about 23 hours) essentially by myself. The 100M course passed through the 30K/60K course before those distances started the next morning, so I did not even see any runners doing other distances. It was definitely stressful running out front for so long, the feeling of being chased and getting passed never goes away until the end. I was getting vague reports of having a 20-30 minute lead during the race. But I knew there was pretty bad service out there, so those reports wouldn’t be too reliable. Besides, 20-30 mins is nothing in the mountains.
I was able to maintain the lead throughout and eventually won by over 2 hours. It was somewhat eerie climbing up Surprise Valley towards Standhope Pass in the dark – checking behind me for headlamps but only seeing dark night. Shortly later I enjoyed a very nice cup of hot coffee at daybreak next to Baptie Lake – the sun reflecting off the face of the ridge onto the high alpine lake. Thank you to the Baptie Lake Aid Station volunteers for that moment! I also loved the Huckleberry Lemonade at the Little Wood River Outfitter Camp aid station.
All of the climbs were very steep, the “highlight” of which was the sixth climb up to PK Pass. It was essentially a miles-long 20%+ grade on an exposed ridge in the middle of the day. The only solace I took at that point was that it would be very hard for anyone behind me to pick up time, as long as I kept moving. Which I did, inch by inch, it seemed.
I did have one moment of panic around mile 92. My watch had died earlier (Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar- I’m convinced there are some intermittent battery drainage bugs), and I started down a switchback ridge and wasn’t seeing any course markers for quite some time. I continued on for a while, then made the decision to hike back up to try to find a previous marker. I had no idea if I would end up going down the wrong ridge into the wrong valley – disaster! I never did see one, but luckily I ran into a course volunteer who was on a hike and told me it was the right track. Eventually after going down further I found some markers, but there was at least a 1 mile section with none. I probably added an extra 1.5 miles or so on that back and forth. At that point as far as I knew I could have been ahead by as little as 20 minutes, so I definitely burned plenty of energy hiking back up fueled by panic and adrenaline.
I tried some new things and different gear this race, so I’ll just give a run down of some key items below-
Shoes – I wore the HOKA Tecton X (RTR Review) w/ Inov-8 Boomerang insoles for the entirety of the race. These were a personal purchase a few weeks before the race. I didn’t actually intend to run them in this race, but the upper felt so good and the underfoot feel was so good that I decided to give them a try. I added Inov-8’s TPU Boomerang insole to provide a bit more cushion as well as a more consistent feel throughout the race.
[Post-race, not too shabby aside from some dirt]
The Tecton X’s worked out really great. I had a pair of Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review) in a drop bag at 40M, and Mafate Speed 3’s (RTR Review) in a bag at 80M, but decided not to change. I was very surprised by the level of protection of the shoe – I expected to feel a bit more impact, but honestly can’t remember feeling any zingers at all. The plates really do a great job of impact protection. I was also very surprised by how stable they felt – I never had an ankle roll despite the terrain being very rocky and mountainous throughout.
Of course the shoe is light and the ride is very fast on the trail – especially the more runnable sections. It’s quite interesting as the ride does feel smooth and fast, but you don’t feel the plate(s) at all. For me it’s the best carbon plate implementation in a long-distance trail shoe. Saucony’s Endorphin Edge is faster, but Tecton X is definitely smoother and more stable. I find the stability makes the Tecton X much more capable in technical terrain.
[The toebox actually resembles a foot! As opposed to the Speedgoat’s torpedo shape]
One of the best features of the Tecton X is the upper – it’s definitely Hoka’s best trail shoe upper. It features a secure, race-type fit, but without relying on squeezing or overly strapping down your foot. Somehow they manage to do this with super lightweight mesh material. The shoe also dries extremely well – there were many creek crossings in the race and they drained out and dried very quickly over and over.
[The middle foam section is quite durable, I expected it to get more chewed up]
The only limiting factor to the shoe I’d say is the outsole. It’s a bit of a tradeoff though, for faster speeds on runnable terrain, so it’s up to you to decide. The lugs are not as deep, and I did slip at times in steep, loose terrain. Honestly, I’d say it’s not an issue though – I was able to manage it, especially in a very long race, and the advantages in runnable, less technical sections outweigh the drawbacks. Overall I find them much more capable in technical terrain than you would expect – you should not think of these as a shoe for only easy/moderate terrain.
[Very good durability after 103M+]
One final note on sizing – I went with a size 10, and as mentioned earlier, the fit is a very secure, race-type fit. I did feel very cramped towards the latter stages of the race (but they were running so well, I didn’t change them). I would likely go ½ more size up from your normal “ultra” size – if you are using them for a very long ultra where foot swelling is expected.
Vest – UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 w/ Salomon Custom Quiver. This was another personal purchase – during my Colorado family trip. I wanted a high capacity vest for hiking/biking adventures with my wife and daughter. Often they are mountain biking, while I follow them running with the dog. I always end up carrying a regular backpack which is annoying for running. So I figured it’s better to pick up a large running vest for those excursions.
I didn’t necessarily plan to use it for racing, as it’s a bit more heavy duty than some other options, ex- Salomon Advanced Skin, Sense Pro, etc. But as I have been using it, I found it to be really stable, and easy to stuff a lot of gear in without feeling like the fabric is bursting at the seams. I came to this race solo, with no pacers or crew, so I had to rely on carrying more stuff in general and my drop bags.
I made one adjustment – I pinned on Salomon’s custom quiver inside the back mesh panel. I find the custom quiver is the best way to carry poles. The Zygos does have attachments at the rear/bottom of the pack which I tried – but my elbows hit the poles when I swing my arms. My quiver attachment worked perfectly in the race. You can also stuff the poles in the mesh panel (I saw one other runner did exactly that), but then they’re rattling around back there right next to your ears.
[Salomon custom quiver attached w/ 2 safety pins & 1 S-biner clip]
The vest performed very well for me – lots of storage options. I kept my extra gear in the large rear compartment, and extra smalls in the large zip pocket within the main compartment. The front pockets are very large, as well as the side body pockets (love side body pockets in a running vest). I didn’t really notice the vest feeling hot either, which was my main concern. (Side note- why don’t more running vests come in white???) The vest is made up of varying mesh materials, so it didn’t seem to hold sweat or at least it evaporated very well.
I highly recommend the Zygos 5.0 for long excursions or races. Sometimes weight isn’t everything – the pack is rock solid with lots of gear loaded in.
Note– I received the new UltrAspire Bronco Race Vest for review right before the race – full review will be coming soon. It’s quite a different vest than the Zygos – way more streamlined. The design is optimized for front soft flask storage as opposed to hydration bladder. Also, there are no pole attachments.
Lighting – UltrAspire Lumen 800 Ultra 2.0 Light – If you’re not running with a waist light for overnight ultras – you’re not doing yourself any favors. I used the Lumen 800 in combination with a very light Petzl IKO Core headlamp. The difference between this setup and just using a headlamp is stark. A headlamp casts a bright cone with very little depth perception. With the Lumen 800 waist light, a huge swath of ground in front of you is brightly lit, and shadows are cast from obstacles, which greatly helps with depth perception and reduces eye fatigue. Then you can pair a lighter weight headlamp to see a bit ahead, and you can get near-daylight vision in your runnable area. This allows you to move much faster during the night, and it overall feels more comfortable as you don’t feel like you’re encapsulated in the “headlamp bubble” with pure darkness surrounding you.
I used the standard 2 battery setup – I saw no need to change anything as the waist belt is very secure with no bounce at all. I carried spare batteries but the 2 batteries lasted through the night (9 hours) at medium setting. I switched off the waist lamp during the steep climbs, as the headlight was sufficient when you’re going very slow and your head is pointed down towards the ground directly in front of you when you’re hiking. This was the first time I used the light in an overnight race – total game changer.
Poles – LEKI Ultratrail FX.One Superlite
I received these for test and review from Leki during my Colorado Trip. I did some pretty solid run/climbs with them including Longs Peak. They are without a doubt the best poles I’ve ever used. I will be doing a full review very soon, so I’ll just briefly touch on the details here –
Very lightweight, and also thinner than my previous poles. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you fold them into 3 sections, x 2 poles, that’s 6 thinner sections of poles – it is clearly noticeable then. They are much easier to slide into my custom quiver, and should be much easier to attach to whatever your preferred system is, with less bounce.
[Longs Peak Trailhead]
The new Trail Shark grip-strap system is vastly superior to just having straps.
I can’t understate this enough. Aside from being easier to clip on/off, you don’t have to grasp your poles the entire time. The clip holds them in position in your hand so you can control them without having to squeeze the grip.
[Left – Clipped and gripped, Right – Clipped and “not gripped”]
You can let them more or less dangle for a lot of the hiking motion – over the course of multiple miles long climbs in a long race – this adds up! You can also easily unclip the grip from the pole by pressing the top red button. To clip back in easily slide the cord into the yellow “blade” and push down hard.
[In the Keyhole]
I also found them much more usable during steep descents and even flatter technical terrain. I’ve used poles before during descents when my legs are beat up at the end of races. But I always had to weigh the benefit vs. the cost of having to strap in/out and hold them the entire time. With the Leki’s, I could just leave them hanging and then just direct them to a spot when I wanted some extra control or wanted to catapult-hop over something.
More to come in the full review – stay tuned!
Apparel – I tried something new with my shorts for this race. I’ve been exclusively racing in GORE Ultimate 2-in-1 shorts for some time now, but wanted to try something a bit lighter, expecting pretty hot temperatures during the race. The Ultimate shorts’ inner tight is a thicker material – and it’s a bit long. They can tend to feel warm in hot and sunny conditions. I went with a SAXX Kinetic brief, and Patagonia Strider Pro (with the liner cut out) outer short.
The Strider Pro would be the perfect shorts, if only they used a boxer liner. I just can’t get down with brief liners, too much chafing for me, especially over long distances. The SAXX Kinetic liner uses their “ballpark pouch” to keep things in order, and it does work. It was a bit of a risk to try this combo, but I was surprised that I had zero issues at all. This is opening the door for me to explore some different overshort options. I’d love to find something nice in white.
Precision Fuel & Hydration –
I’ve been exclusively using Precision this year, and it’s been working very well for me. Their drink mixes are less sugary and more salty, which seems to agree with me and allows me to take in more fluids. Their gels have a neutral flavor, and more of a jelly-type consistency rather than syrup. I.e. more like Maurten as opposed to GU. They have a resealable 90g/360c gel packet, which is great for ultras. Even better – they started selling re-usable bite valves for those larger packets – which is even more awesome!