Race Report - 2017 Never Summer 100K

7/22/2017 12:00:00 PM

Lake Agnes
Having just returned from a business trip to Europe that allowed me to squeeze in 3 mountain races including 2 spectacular ultra distance events, The Never Summer 100K really never was on my radar as a race for me. My training buddies Jerry Abbott and Paul Morris had signed up for it a couple of months ago to use as final training events before UTMB and Fat Dog 120, respectively. However, since I was going to ge running Fat Dog 120 with Paul and since I had some frequent flyer miles accumulated, I decided on a whim to make this my final long training event as well. However, the travel schedule for the weekend in Colorado would be extremely tight.



We landed in Denver around midnight on Thursday evening and after a 3 hour drive, we finally arrived at our final destination, a small Inn in Walden, Colorado, a small town about 20 miles from the start/finish line area in Gould. Since this was a small Inn with no staff on site during the night, arrangements had been made and verified to leave the keys for our room under the door mat. Well, it appeared that we were the only ones that remembered. Thankfully, there was a lobby were we decided to try to catch some sleep on a couple of couches and a chair. After a rather intermittent 3 hours of sleep, the Inn staff began the process of opening their restaurant finally allowing us to sort our situation. As miserable as that first night as, the owner of the Inn made things more than right by giving us the entire weekend stay for free.

Michigan Ditch Trail
After a hearty breakfast, we ventured out to see some local sites (i.e. Rocky Mountain National Park) and grab yet another meal before making our way to race HQ in Gould for packet pickup. We quickly got our packets, purchased some nice race swag and headed back to our hotel 20 minutes away. All of us were pretty tired from the previous night and ready to get some shuteye before our 3:30AM wakeup call.

Lake Agnes
The Never Summer 100K took place in the Never Summer mountain range that is part of the Rocky Mountains. It features about 64 miles and just over 13,000ft of elevation gain. The race start was scheduled for 5:30AM and I had hopes of finishing before dark. Those hopes were slowly squashed as the race unfolded.

View from North Diamond Peak.
Paul, Jerry and I were joined by another Huntsvillian, David Holiday and as the race started, David and I started to run together while Paul and Jerry ran together just behind us. I realized very quickly that breathing would be a serious issue for me as a result of the high altitude. Every slight incline took my breath away.

Mountain goats off Kelly Lake Trail and Hidden Valley Trail at Kelly Lake.
I did, however, manage to get into some sort of rhythm of walking all inclines and running the downs. There really weren't many flat sections early on and by the time there was some flatish running, my altitude sickness was preventing me from making up any time. As we continued our first climb, I started to develop a headache and it stayed with me throughout the entire day.


As we crested the first climb, we were treated by a beautiful sunrise above the neighboring mountains. Both sides of the ridge line were covered in vast forest areas. The entire race took place in and around State Forest State Park, Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park. Once we had reached the first climb, I pulled out my iPhone camera to take pics and I basically didn't put it away until 40 miles later.


The second climb of the day had been described to me as the most difficult. Really? The first one felt pretty hard. Actually, my legs were completely fine, I just couldn't breathe. As we neared the North Diamond Mountain, we caught a glimpse of its peak about a mile ahead. We noticed little dots approaching the steep peak and it took me a sec to realized that those were runners and that we had to climb up that. The real intimidation, however, didn't kick in until we reached the tree line and the only way up was not a trail, but rather just a bunch of markers (flags) randomly placed all the way to the top of the peak. It became a scramble on all fours, every bit as exciting as it was scary. My lightheadedness due to altitude didn't make me feel any safer as I wobbled to the top.


David took a bit more time than me on this climb and I would not see him again until much later during an out and back climb around mile 40. At the top of North Diamond peak, there was a band playing for our entertainment. I'm still not sure how they got up there, but it definitely was up the scrambling route we took:-)

Lake Agnes
As I checked in for the mandatory bib check at the peak, I noticed a nice bottle of whiskey and some shot glasses. That looked like an invite to me that I couldn't turn down. I enjoyed that shot of whiskey and went on my way down from the peak on a steep descent. While I was moving extremely slow on the ups, the downs were a bit faster since my legs really hadn't been taxed much at all.

American Lakes Trail
This was the first race were both the views and the altitude were equally breathtaking. I never could put my camera down as one amazing view followed another. My pace continued to slow as a result of the altitude, but I continued to move along and never really got discouraged. I spotted a massive moose at one mountain lake and a bunch of mountain goats at a glacier lake. Most of the course runs at an average of 11,000ft, so my breathing never really fully recovered during the day. Sunset came and went and I had to put on my headlamp at the mile 50 aid station.

Hidden Valley Trail overlooking Kelly Lake.
We had now descended to about 8500 feet of elevation and while my headache slowly subsided, the race had slipped away from me in terms of any goal finish times. 15 hours had turned to 16, 17, 18 hours all the way to just finishing the thing. However, I never got discouraged. How could I? This course was amazing. Mountain and glacier lakes, moose, mountain goats, cattle, snow, ice, bouldering, scrambling, ridge lines, downhill, uphill, single track, this race course had it all.


Just before the clock reached 19 hours 30 minutes, I finally spotted the finish line. Not anywhere near my original A, B or C goal, but at the end of the day, this was a training race to get me ready for Fat Dog 120 in 3 weeks in BC, Canada. It certainly did that...and then some.

Aspen forrest on Kelly Lake Trail.
Within the hour that followed, the remaining Huntsville crew all finished. I'd like to thank the GNAR runners for putting on an amazing event with fantastic support and a beautiful race course. I hope to be back here again some time. Oh yeah, if you haven't run this race before, pictures say more than a thousand words, so put this one on your race calendar already.













Sunrise during ridgeline approach of Seven Utes Mountain.


Bouldering section on Hidden Valley Trail.


Final approach of North Diamond Peak, a quarter mile scramble on all fours.


Mandatory picture atop North Diamond Peak.



Delicious shot of whiskey at the North Diamond Peak, highest point of the race course at an elevation of 11,851 feet.


American Lakes Trail


View of runners approaching North Diamond Peak.

Hidden Valley Trail above Kelly Lake.


Lake Agnes






Approach of North Diamond Peak.



Clear Lake on the 4.5 mile out & back section on Clear Lake Trail.

Lake Agnes






Detailed results including aid station splits and DNFs are provided here.

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