Course Records Crumble at the Grand Teton Races

With a weekend of perfect weather on the west side of the Tetons it’s no surprise that records were falling […]

By on September 7, 2009 | Comments

With a weekend of perfect weather on the west side of the Tetons it’s no surprise that records were falling like boulders during the thaw. Over the course of two days, both the men’s and women’s 100 mile records as well as the men’s 50 mile record fell. In fact, multiple folks snuck under the former women’s 100 mile and men’s 50 mile records. With such great performances in the 50 mile (men/women) and 100 mile (men/women) races, we thought we’d share a little more about both. Might as well throw in some marathon results, as well.

Here’s a brief course description, as it’ll help put things in perspective. The marathon, 50 mile, and 100 mile races are based on the same 25 mile lap. The lap begins with the Fred’s Mountain Loop, a 5.6 mile out-and-back that summits the 10,000′ tall Fred’s Mountain that towers about 1,800′ above the start/finish at the Grand Targhee Resort. Fred’s is followed by the 14.4 mile Mill Creek Loop. Mill Creek begins with a short uphill (~300′) before dropping down 2,000′ of single track to a flat mile on a dirt road. After an aid station, runners climb for 3 straight miles up the paved road toward the Grand Targhee resort. There’s one more aid station and then a mile of flattish trail. After another mile of rolling single track the trail climbs before rejoining the outbound Mill Creek Loop and covering it in reverse. (There’s an insignificant difference once one crests the Mill Creek Loop inbound.) The final 5 miles of each lap is the ever pleasant Rick’s Basin Loop. You simply can’t beat the rolling, non-technical single-track of Rick’s!

Grand Teton Races 100 50 milerA view of Grand, Middle, and South Tetons for near the top of Fred’s Mountain

Grand Teton 100 – Women
“No more Fred’s Mountain!” – Ashley Nordell, women’s winner
From the get go, the 100 mile women showed they were the field to watch. At the first full aid station (mile 5.6), four women held the third through sixth positions in the 100 mile race. At that point the top four ladies were within a minute of each other. Two ladies would move UP in the overall standings as the day progressed, one would hold her place, and one would drop at mile 70.

Pearl Izumi-Smith runner Ashley Nordell of California slowly built a very small lead through Lap 1. She had all of three minutes on Seattle’s Ellen Parker at mile 25. Jody Waters was only 2 more minutes back with Jenn “Tink” Vogel another 2 minutes back. That adds up to four ladies within 7 minutes.

Lap 2 saw things shake out a bit more. Ashley stayed closest to her first lap pace (4:50 vs. 5:13) during the heat of the day and used that to open an 18 minute gap on Ellen. Jody didn’t stay as close to Ashley, but being half an hour back at the midpoint of 100 miler is far from being out of contention. On the other hand, Jenn had a rough lap that put her the better part of two hours behind Ashley.

Ashley Nordell Grand Teton 100 mileAshley Nordell refueling after the race.

Lap 3 and, in particular, the Rick’s Basin loop determined the outcome of the women’s race. Ellen stayed within shooting distance through mile 70 (28 minutes back); however, she had a really rough run her third time through Rick’s. Ashley stepped up and nearly doubled her lead during those 5 miles. 49 minutes is a large, but not impossible gap to close in 25 miles.

I had the pleasure of pacing Jenn this third lap. Though she was suffering greatly, she never complained and kept moving… nearly dropping me on the walk up the road. I told her that she could move from fourth to third if she kept at it. Unbeknownst to us, Jody dropped at mile 70, so Jenn did move up a spot while we were out there together. Jenn has jokingly acknowledged the difficulty of the GT100 by repeatedly noting “Western races are bullst!t!” Priceless. :-)

Jennifer Vogel Grand Teton 100 mileJennifer Vogel climbing Fred’s Mountain with Grand Teton as a backdrop

As she had most of the day, Nordell consistently added to her lead throughout the last lap. Parker got her form back and had a solid last lap. In the end, Ashley set a new women’s course record – 23:03:39 – en route to a second place overall finish. In her first 100 miler, Ellen also broke the old course record (25:40) by running 24:11:38, which easily gave her third place overall. Jenn gutted out a 26:59:21 to earn third woman and sixth overall.

Grand Teton 100 – Men
“Do you see the popped blood vessels in my eyes?” – Ty Draney, men’s 100 mile winner
While the men’s race lacked in competition, it didn’t lack in excitement. To his credit, local runner and GT100 veteran Trevor Garner tried to stay on Patagonia’s Ty Draney’s heels. Trevor was only 5 minutes back at mile 20, but by mile 36 Ty’s lead had grown to 30 minutes. Ty extended his lead to a tidy 50 minutes at 50 miles and, in only 11 more miles, doubled that lead to 100 minutes at mile 61! Race over, barring injury.

“Do you see the popped vessels in my eyes?” noted Ty as we spoke the day after the race. He was referring to the residual damage from the massi
ve puke-fest he experienced on Saturday. He later informed us that “Projectile vomiting is my specialty.” From the get go, Ty was shooting for Andy Jones-Wilkins’s course record of 19:35. Ty, who’s also part of Team nuun, had planned on going out in 4:30 for the first lap, but couldn’t rein himself in enough and ran 4:20. Then again, that helped keep him close to AJW’s course record pace… but he was still 12 minutes behind at mile 25. Ty matched AJW on Lap 2, coming through the halfway mark 13 minutes behind course record pace.

Ty Draney Matt Hart Grant Teton 100 mileTy Draney getting Matt Hart’s counsel heading into Rick’s Basin

In discussing the difference between running the GT50 (Ty won and set the course record last year) and the GT100, Draney said “Obviously, mentally that third lap is tough. We all have the same problem. We all run that first lap too fast.” That said, all the magic happened on Lap 3 when Ty erased all of his 13 minute deficit and opened a 20 minute margin on course record pace. The imaginary AJW closed the gap on the last lap (must have had a good pacer ;-) ), but Ty still broke the Andy’s record by 16 minutes. Draney’s final time was 19:19:51 where Andy had run 19:35:20. The day after the race, Draney noted he had “an almost perfect day. There were a few bumps in the road by the end, but it went as well as could be expected.” Ty has already posted his GT100 race report.

Full Grand Teton 100 mile results are available.

Fun Fact – Both the Ty Draney and Ashley Nordell, the men’s and women’s 100 mile winners, camped before and after the race!

Grand Teton 50 – Men
“I felt more like a 2 week old paper cup of Coca-Cola from Taco Bell that had been sitting in a hot car for that amount of time.” – Duncan Callahan, winner and new course record holder
Another race and another Grant Teton races course record. Just two weeks off his third place at the Leadville 100, Vasque’s Duncan Callahan won the Grand Teton 50 in course record time in what turned out to the be closest of the Grand Teton Races ultramarathons.

Duncan and Evan Honeyfield, a 2:20 and change marathoner from Idaho Falls, were locked in a heated battle for most of the race. We’ll save you the blow-by-blow as there were enough lead changes to make your head spin. Duncan and Evan came through each of the first three aid stations more or less together. From mile 15 through 36 the two yo-yoed back and forth with neither able to open up more than a few minute lead.

Evan entered the road climb at mile 36 with a 3 minute lead on Duncan. That surely didn’t last long, as in just 3.3 miles Duncan blew Evan away. Evan’s three minute reversed into a 7 minute lead for Duncan during the final climb of the paved road. Over the next five mostly climbing miles back to the start/finish Duncan put another 13 minutes on Evan. Callahan gained another two minutes during his victory lap of Rick’s Basin. When he crossed the finish in 7:33:27, Duncan obliterated the old course record of 8:17:53 set by Ty Draney last year. Evan finished 20 minutes back in 7:55:57, also breaking Ty’s old course record.

Duncan Callahan Grand Teton 50 mileDuncan Callahan after winning the Grand Teton 50 in course record time

Duncan was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the race with us:

I knew going in to this race that my energy levels may be a little depleted being so close to after Leadville (2 weeks ago), but I knew my legs were fine. I actually felt that my legs felt better after Leadville than prior. Insane I know, but I definitely felt that way. In addition, my massage therapist remarked how much better/easier it was to work on my legs after Leadville than prior. So, maybe all I need to do is shorten my taper for 100 milers a little.

I knew I could get close to Ty’s previous course record, but did not know for certain if a 7:30 was possible. I was stoked to stay well ahead of his record pace all day and knew that I would break the record – it was just a question of by how much.

This race started out fast and around mile 14 or so, I came up with a metaphor in my mind to just how I felt, “Instead of feeling like a fresh, iced, refreshing, crisp Coca-Cola on a hot day; I felt more like a 2 week old paper cup of Coca-Cola from Taco Bell that had been sitting in a hot car for that amount of time. In other words, flat and like crap.” However, as the race progressed, my body came around and my emotions and mind followed. Around mile 20 everything changed for me and I knew I would be having a good day.

The race went well. I was very comfortable on that course. I liked the climbing and relished the single track sections. Evan and I went out pretty fast and I knew that. I just assumed I would be able to come back on the second lap faster than he could. It was a risk that paid off.

Congrats to Evan Honeyfield for his great 2nd place race in what was his first 50 miler. Way too go man! He certainly made it a good race and I imagine once he gets a few more ultras under his belt he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Duncan!

Scott Griffith was never in the battle with Evan and Duncan, but did battle Montrail runner Sean Meissner throughout the first lap. Sean admits to pushing the road section too fast on the first lap and fell off shortly thereafter when his usual stomach problems returned. Scott went on to take third in 8:43:28 with Meissner coming fourth over an hour back in 9:44:38.

Sean Meissner Grand Teton 50 mileSean Meissner heading into Rick’s Basin for the final time.

Grand Teton 50 – Women
From first through fifth, the women had a tighter race than the men did. The race started out without a clear front runner – five women came through the mile 11 aid station within 5 minutes of one another. Twenty miles later the race field had shaped up. Becky Kirschenmann had a significant lead over Mindy Knoles who, in t
urn, had 13 minutes on third place woman Corena Ricks. This order would remain to the finish. Becky won in 10:34:06, Mindy took second in 11:00:30, and Corena earned third with a 11:28:33.

The most inspiring runner on the day was the 60 year young Sister Mary Beth Lloyd. For her, the race wasn’t about athletic competition or accomplishment; instead, it was about helping others, specifically AIDS orphans in Africa. You see, Sr. Mary Beth is the driving force behind AIDS Orphans Rising, a group that assists child-headed households in Africa. Every time we saw Sr. Mary Beth during her 50 mile effort, she was smiling and giving encouragement to those around her. In the end, she covered the 50 miles in 21:21:41, but, again, it was about the children, not her. If you are as inspired by Sister Mary Beth’s athletic and philanthropic endeavors as we are, please consider donating to AIDS Orphans Rising.

Sister Mary Beth Lloyd Grand Teton 50 mileSister Mary Beth of AIDS Orphan Rising heading down Fred’s Mountain

Full Grand Teton 50 mile results are available.

Grand Teton Marathon
A woman was the overall winner of the Grant Teton Marathon. Yup, Liz Onufer took top honors in 4:26:15. She went into Ricks Basin 3 minutes behind the top man, Chris Onufer. We’re not sure how Liz and Chris’s relate, but rumor is that Chris (4:31:03) was not all too pleased when he lost to Liz by 5 minutes. Chris, there ain’t nothing wrong with getting chicked.

Here’s how the Grand Teton Marathon fields ended up:


  1. Chris Onufer – 4:31:03
  2. Mike Ehredt – 4:37:03
  3. Ryan Gillentine – 4:41:39


  1. Liz Onufer – 4:26:15
  2. Heather Johnson – 4:53:10
  3. Patricia Moeller – 5:01:27

Full Grand Teton Marathon results are available.

Grand Teton Races
I love the Grand Teton Races. The races are as family-like as they are family friendly. More than any race I’ve been at, I feel like I’m among family. Everyone is so friendly and the course set up results in constant encouragement from volunteers, fellow racers of all distances, and crews. The clover leaf-course also makes it very easy for crews. They needn’t move while still seeing runners three times per lap. That’s great for those with kids, especially with the pool just feet away from the start/finish. However, what really makes the Grand Teton Races great are Jay Batchen, Lisa Smith-Batchen, and the rest of the Dreamchasers.

Grand Teton RacesSome of the Grand Teton races family enjoying a night around the campfire
(l-r: Sean Meissner, Ellen Parker, Ashley Nordell, Jamie and Dave Donaldson, and Lane Vogel)

We couldn’t sum up our thoughts on the Grand Teton races any better than Grand Teton 50 mile winner, Duncan Callahan did:

The race was awesome. Jay and Lisa really know how to put on a quality event. I would love to see this race grow more and more.

Call for Comments
If you ran any of the Grand Teton Races this year, tell us how you did and what you thought of the races. Same goes for former participants, as well!

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.