Man, it has been a a long time since I have made a blog post! Between the new job this year and various injuries, I have had little time or cause to write much of anything. In hopes of trying to get back into the swing of things, a race report is the perfect remedy.
Kat'cina Mosa 100K is a local Utah race for put on by John Bozung also the RD of the Squaw Peak 50 Mile in June) every year during the first week of August. It takes place in and around Provo Canyon, just East of Springville, Utah. John's races are known for being some of the hardest of their respective distances in the West, if not the entire U.S.
Kat'cina Mosa is used by many local ultra runners in Utah because it is the perfect long run leading up to the Wasatch 100. While it may not be the steepest in terms of overall elevation gain (~12K feet), its three major climbs offer a bit of everything. The first climb is steady, but never ending, the second climb is steep AF, and the third climb is a little bit of both. Combine that with a largely exposed course in the middle of Utah's hot summer and you have a recipe for a grueling suck fest that is the PERFECT setup for any mountain 100M.
As I am signed up for Wasatch 100 this year, I signed up for my first Kat'cina Mosa to make sure I got a nice long run in ahead of Wasatch. I planned on using the race for that purpose, so I wasn't really intent on racing it. Instead, I wanted to enjoy a nice day in the mountains and work on fine tuning my Wasatch strategy. As I mentioned, a new job and a slew of minor injuries early in the season has consumed a lot of my time. My training this year has been unorthodox, but with a series of really strong weeks for the four weeks leading up to the race, I was actually feeling quite good and a bit more like myself.
The race has a rather unorthodox 3am start (with an early 1am start option for those worried about the cutoffs). This is my one complaint with the race. 3am is difficult to plan for. As someone that struggles to get to sleep before nightfall, this didn't really set me up for starting the race in a well rested state. I decided that, to buy myself an extra hour, I would sleep in my truck at the Start/Finish area. Surprisingly, this worked out well and I woke up feeling much more rested than I expected. As 3am rolled around, I started with about 40 other runners.
The first climb starts out on a road out of the campground for about 2 miles before hitting dirt. The first climb gains about 3500 feet over 10 miles. A pretty runnable grade for the most part. I was able to run most of it, taking only a few walking breaks here and there to keep my heart rate in check. The morning was not all that cold, which felt good at the time, but meant we were in for it once the sun came up. Here is a picture of me that the RD took from his truck as he drove by on his way to the first aid station:
As a side note, this is the first time I wore one of those desert-style hats with the neck protector and I have to say, I liked it. It kept my neck protected the entire run. I probably have to say, the section from the Horse Mountain Aid Station to Rock Canyon may have been my favorite section of the course, not in terms of scenery, but in terms of course progress. I am not a strong technical single track downhill runner, but put me on a fire road and I can keep up with the best of them. I didn't open it up all of the way as to make sure I didn't kill myself early in the race, but I was able to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly. Probably a good approach because the next section was the steepest of the course, the climb up to Lightning Ridge Pass. This climb is about 2500 ft in 2.5-3 miles and can only be described as a grind. The key to this section was to maintain a strong and consistent speed hike. Climbing is my strength luckily, so I managed to pass a number of people on this section, including some of the 1am early start runners. I only stopped a few times to take some pictures, because, how could I not!?
The next downhill section off of Lightning Ridge Pass was slow. This is another deceptive part of this course. This section is technical and extremely overgrown, making running difficult. I took it cautious, worrying about rolled ankles on obstacles that I could not see through the overgrowth, and made it through with no issues.
The next section, starting at mile 24 with the last major climb on the course up to Windy Pass followed by a downhill to Little Valley at mile 39, is what makes or breaks most runners on this course. With only one aid station in a stretch that is 90% fully exposed, the heat can break you in this 15 miles, and break me it did. I was pretty good to go on much of the climb to mile 30, but started to feel a bit worn out from the heat at about a mile through the aid station. I made a point to eat, take in salt, and a lot of water throughout the morning in preparation for this time of the day, but it turns out it wasn't enough. Mile 32 – 39, despite being downhill, ended up being a death march for me. Despite my legs still feeling strong, I was getting dehydration cramps in my sides that hurt to run through. From mile 30-39, I drank 70 oz of water and electrolyte and it still wasn't enough. When I got to the Little Valley Aid Station, I decided to stop for a bit and get my hydration in check before moving on. I stayed in the aid station for nearly an hour digging out of a hole before moving on. As it so happens, it was a good thing I stayed because a runner came in that was having a really bad asthma attack. I happened to be the only one with an inhaler on me, so I am glad I was able to help. I heard he ended up going on and finishing the race (though not sure I would have done the same). Staying as long as I did ended up being the right move because I felt recharged and was able to run, including some of the small, final climb to the next aid station. This was where things turned to suck though…
The aid station at mile 46 is essentially at the top of the last climbing, with only a few hundred feet left in the last 15 miles. The remainder of the race is essentially downhill as Kat'cina Mosa's climbing is primarily front loaded. Upon leaving the aid station, I started running, head down, to the next aid station…head down being the key phrase. I continued down the fire road, unbeknownst that I missed the turn that was almost immediately out of the aid station. After seeing them later, I will say that the flags were set back a bit, but were visible for people that were looking up. I would have liked better signage here as the RD did say afterward that this is the section that most people take a wrong turn, but they were visible and I take responsibility for missing them. I should also note that fire roads are not marked frequently on the course as there really is only one way to go. Add to that the fact that they had issues with people stealing flags on the course and you have a recipe for disaster. I continued down the fire road all the way to where the aid station was supposed to be (6.7 miles) before I realized my mistake when I saw no one around. Unbelievable! I had to trek all the way back uphill to find where I missed a turn. This destroyed me mentally., essentially taking me 3 hours off course. Combined with my long break at the prior aid station and my overall conservative pace approach, I knew that I would not make the cut off at the last aid station (not to mention that I still hadn't figured out where my missed turn was. Luckily, some folks on an ORV came by because I was essentially lost and out of water. After 60 miles, I ended up hitching a ride back with them, calling an official end to my day.
This was the first time I have ever been lost on a course. I have taken wrong turns, but have always caught them fairly quickly. I did try to take a positive outlook though. I still got 60 miles in AND ended up with more elevation than the other racers due to having to backtrack uphill after my mistake. On top of that, heat was a problem, but my body, and my legs in particular, felt strong the entire race. So in terms of Wasatch prep, it lanned out. That being said, I hate not finishing…this may be one that I have to go back to again someday as I now have unfinished business.
In wraps, I always have to thank those that enable me to do this crazy stuff. My wife and kids provide unconditional support. They were at the finish line and were surprised at the manner in which I arrived this time. :-). Thanks to all of the aid station volunteers that help take care of us and keep us moving forward. Lastly, thanks to my wonderful sponsors. Topo Athletic, Injinji, Headsweats, and Orange Mud have been taking care of me for years. I have dialed in my kit to perfection thanks to them. And while they get me through the race, the folks at OOFOS and RAD Roller take care of me afterward, with the best recovery gear on the market. Thanks to all!