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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Run - June 2nd, 2007

Before I share with you what I can remember about my ultra marathon on Saturday I wanted to say that it was a special day too, because my younger brother, Heath, was in Hawaii competing in the Ford 1/2 Ironman on the island of Kona. So we were both competing at the same time during part of the day. Heath managed to finish really well with a time 4 hrs 28 min....placing 14th overall in a field of 950+ athletes. Way to go bro!!!

You can see all the results here: (official website):
Click on the "results" button on the left side of the page and the set the search criteria how you want to: Heath Thurston (in the Male Pro Category)

Here's the top 20 Overall Finishers

Here's a few pictures of my brother at his home in Orem where he works as a Personal Trainer and coach for other triathletes.

This is his backyard "training facility"

This is a photo of Heath's first Pro Race at Ironman Arizona (April 2006)

Here's a cool video of my brother on YouTube when KUTV Channel 2 News did a story on him racing in the Utah Summer Games triathlon a few years ago: Heath's Video

(link): SQUAW PEAK 50 MILE TRAIL RUN - June 2nd, 2007

Okay, so... how do I begin to explain how hard this Squaw Peak 50 mile race is? When I asked John Bozung, the Event Director, "Have you run the entire course in the eleven years you've been putting it on?". He replied with this question, "You mean all in the same day?". To which I replied, "Yes". He simply put it this way, " you think I'm crazy?" hahaha.

Someone mentioned to me at the finish of the race, during the awards ceremony, that "ultra marathon runners keep submitting themselves to these incredibly difficult and painful activities because they have three things wrong with them that normal people don't have":

(1) We are incredibly stupid and stubborn

(2) We must not have a very good memory

(3) and I can't remember what the third thing was, but anyway....

Why I put myself through it over and over I may never know. I guess it's the adventure and the curiosity of just "seeing" if I can do it, if I can finish, if I can go that far or that long and not completely breakdown.

Actual GPS map of the race through the mountains.

I did this race 3 years ago, in June of 2004, and it was my very first attempt at a distance of more than 26.2 miles, my first ultra marathon. What a mistake...hahaha! I had trained enough to complete two marathons back-to-back, but the Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Run is a lot more than just running 50 miles. You have to throw in 13,000 feet of elevation gain over the 50 miles of trails and dirt roads. Only about 9 miles are on paved roads... the rest is up, and I mean UP in the mountains.

About mile 24 heading up Hobble Creek Left Fork Canyon Road

So, when I attempted this race three years ago I was miserably unprepared for it's unrelenting climbs. I was not hydrated even 50% of what I should have been that morning before the race, let alone after the first 7 miles and over 3,000 ft of climbing mountain trails. I quickly went through all the signs of dehydration: lots of sweat, cotton mouth, salt buildup, collapsed veins, diarreah, and worst of 5 hours into the race I was urinating blood, yep, blood!!!

Of course, being stupid and stubborn I continued on, trying to drink enough and re-hydrate my body, but by mile 33, and after 8 hours of running dehydrated, I abandoned the race...the big DNF (Did Not Finish). I was devastated. I couldn't believe that I didn't finish the challenge.

Heading up Hobble Creek Canyon to mile 26

Well, this year I came back with revenge! I was going to finish this race at any cost. I was a little more experienced, having run several ultras now and tons of training runs of 50, 60 and even 93 continuous miles back in March. This time I began hydro-loading days before the race. I had trained over 1,000 miles since the beginning of the year and most of the recent training I was doing was all up in the mountains. Train The Terrain, I always say to myself. Whatever type of challenge is coming up next you have to train in the same enviroment and terrain.

It was about 4:40am and my dad was with me at the starting area making sure I had what I needed and that my drop bag was set aside in the drop bag area for Aid Station #8 (mile 33). It was dark but the morning sky was just starting to become light blue very quickly. The Race Director said a few last words and at 5:00am sharp about 200+ runners were off on the Provo River Trail for 2 miles jockying for position before starting the grueling trail ascents.

Elevation Map of the course

I felt good climbing the first several miles & thousands of feet in elevation. Once I was on the back side of Rock Canyon and making the slow climb up the Squaw Peak dirt road to the 4th Aid Station I was catching many of the early starters -- runners who take more than 15 hours are allowed to start at 4:00am -- I was amazed how good I felt even being able to hold a steady uphill run for several miles.

After Aid Station #4 (~mile 16), we run back down from 8,500 feet to about 5,400 feet until we reach Aid Station #5 (~mile 22). I checked into AS #5 at 9:08am and only stayed long enough to drink, refill my bottle and grab some handfuls of potatoes and bananas dipped in salt. I soon caught 3 more guys running together. About a mile up Hobble Creek Canyon (Left Fork) road my dad showed up on his bike snapping some pictures. I was so glad to see him and have some moral support after 4.5 hours of running, practically by myself.

Aid Station #6 approximately mile 26

My dad pedalled along beside me and stayed with me up to the end of the paved road at AS #6 (~mile 26). There he got this picture of me chugging some more water before grabbing a bunch of food and red licorice to take with me up the dirt road ahead. Though it was only 10:00am in the morning the scorching sun felt like it was in the middle of a hot summer afternoon.

Drinking lots of was getting hot

I made to Aid Station #7 in okay time and only saw one soul along that whole strech, it was a bit lonely. A while later, after running up a semi-dry riverbed, and just a mile or so before getting to AS #8 (~mile 33), I saw a good friend, Marc Sanderson, who came running up from behind and gave me words of encouragement. This was the same place I had to abandon the race three years prior. This time I was doing well and making very good time. It was still a quarter to noon, three years ago I was at this aid station around 1:00pm in the afternoon.

Just last Saturday, one week before the race, I went with John Bozung, the race director, and ran miles 33 - 50, while helping flag that section of the course and clear away debris from the trail. It didn't seem like a difficult 17 miles that day, but this time, after 7 or 8 hours of running and the heat of the afternoon sun, I was about to discover why the Squaw Peak 50 is considered to be one of the three toughest 50 mile ultra marathons in the country.

Most of the course looked like this...beautiful, huh?

For the next 7 miles there's NO aid stations and we climb the mountains until reaching an altitude of 9,300 ft above sea level. There's still snow up there (HELLO)...but it was soooo hot, I just don't get can there be snow in that heat...hehehe. The toughest part of the course is mile 40, a 1,300 foot climb in 0.9 tenths of a mile. Just that one mile took me 42 minutes to climb. 42 freak'n minutes...OUCH!!! I was starting to really get fatigued and dehydrated. I kept myself from vomitting several times. I was really sick to my stomach and didn't think I could keep going all the way to the end.

Once I reached AS #9 (~mile 41), at the summit called Windy Pass, I had some wonderful homemade chocolate chip cookies that Jim Skaggs made (He's the RD of the Antelope Island 50 Miler I did in March). I got some more water and felt a little better. I tried sitting down in a picnic chair they had, but instantly started cramping up in my legs and fell to the ground. So, I just streched it out a bit and began to run down the mountain with only 9 miles to go :)

After about 6 miles of the very rockie downhill trail, I managed to reach the final aid station, #10. And boy was I glad to see my dad there cheering me on once again. He had ridden his bike up Provo Canyon to wait for me at the last aid station.

Coming down out of the trails into Aid Station #10....only 3.5 miles to go!

Aid Station #10 - 2 minutes to lay down and wash the salt off

The last 3.5 miles was all on the paved road to Vivian Park. It was so hot I kept the cold and wet white wash cloth the volunteers gave me at the aid station to put on my head. It felt so good that before I knew it I was coming around the corner into the finish area.

Coming down the final strectch at the finish (Vivian Park)

Final turn just 20 yards from the finish line....

F I N I S H E D......11 hours 29 min !!!

I had hoped to finish in less than twelve hours, so finishing in just under 11.5 hours was a huge accomplishment for me. Of the ~220 runners who began the race in the morning only about 200 finished. Many of the others had to abandon the race for a variety of reason like I had done three years ago. But this time it was my turn to finish and then bask in the sun and watch the other runners make their final stides in one of the hardest 50 mile races in the country.

I finished 39th overall out of the 220 that began. The women's competition was tough too. Birgitta Johnson, who I met at the Buffalo 50 (and was 1st woman overall) took first at Squaw Peak 50 again. Another good friend of mine, Marcee Christian, had a great day. She not only improved her PR on this course by one and a half hours (finishing in 12:08:00), but she also placed in the top 10 overall of the womens field. Marc, Shaun, Crockett, Jed, Brent and others did awesome as well.

I didn't feel to well the rest of the night and even passed out on the floor next to my bed sometime in the middle of the night after waking up and going to the bathroom. It was strange, and kind of scary, waking up on the floor and wondering why and how I got there, and why I was sleeping on the

I weighed myself at 182lbs the morning before the race and then weighed in at 175 the morning after the race. Usually I manage to maintain my weight really well and consistant for these ultra marathons, but this one proved to be tougher than I ever imagined.

Me, my sister Alaina and her daughter Koya, and my dad Gary.

Now it's time to just sit and relax. It was hard to eat and drink right after but it's important....and trying NOT to throw up was hard too. Dehydration was a constant battle today, but I managed my hydration better then last time. No RED urine...always a good

Aid Station Check-In times

Here's some more data from the GPS system I used to track my race stats

My hear rate averaged 150 bpm. I peaked at about 180 bpm and had a low of 73. Part of my strategy was to slow down or stop anytime my heart rate got above 160.

Here's a breakdown of my stats by mile with 10 mile totals:

Stay tuned for more running adventures and experiences....
My next challenge is on Saturday June 9th... the Tour de Cure 100 miles of Ciclism!!! and I can finally start training for the (link): Running With The Devil 50 Miler in the heat of the Nevada Desert on June 30th...and in July I'm off to crew and be a pacer at the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California :)

Best wishes to all,
Jarom Thurston


Gary said...

Awesome, Jarom. Keep up the good work. I sometimes dream of doing what you have done. But I guess I'll just continue dreaming. Hahaha


Justin said...


I am very impressed but not surprised you are a great guy and and a hard worker. You have inspired me to get into better shape.

Vai firme meu amigo!

Justin Burrup
(old mission companion)

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