Dakota Jones’s Pocatello 50 Mile Race Report

Pocatello 50 mile[Dakota Jones won the 2011 Pocatello 50 Mile (which is actually closer to 55 miles) in 8:17. This is a phenomenal (literally) time considering the 11,000 of climbing and descent, off-trail sections, as well as the snow and mud. Here are his thoughts on his race.]

Things I Learned at the Pocatello 50

  • Nothing is more depressing the night before a race than a torrential downpour at the start line. When combined with the knowledge of the race’s cancellation the previous year due to blizzard conditions and the fact that this year’s course was already changed to the snow course, one can’t help but lose enthusiasm at the thought of the potential for undue suffering the next day.
  • Perfect your gear before the race starts. You’d think that after a few years of running a person would have their gear figured out. Not so with me. I was so afraid of the weather that I wore pants and a jacket, neither of which were necessary beyond the first five minutes. Also, my bottle has a Velcro hand strap that never sticks and I just completely forgot about salt altogether. These are things that could have been remedied prior to the start, but instead I chose to suffer, apparently.
  • Idaho is like the line in A River Runs Through It when the narrator is talking of growing up in Montana: “And there was no better place to grow up than the Montana of my youth. It was a world with dew still on it.” I kept thinking of this during the first leg of the course, as we ran along perfect singletrack with the sun rising through the clouds after the stormy night, casting shafts of light onto the glittering trees and grass. Up high new snow glimmered in the sunrise and gave away my tracks to those behind me, as well as the tracks of the animals passing ahead.
  • ALWAYS bring salt. Who’s going to need salt on a cold, wet day in the mountains, you might ask? Well I thought the same thing until about thirty miles into the race, my thighs started cramping and I realized that few things are more frustrating than being in the midst of a good race and feeling good when all of a sudden something completely avoidable (like cramping from lack of salt) nearly ends everything. This kind of thing cannot be stopped by yelling “NO!” and “Stop it!”,  although I certainly tried. The hardest part of running is the training – don’t let controllable factors like food, water and salt ruin your hard effort.
  • Joe Grant is a wuss for not showing up.
  • The mental effort of a race is as powerful as the physical. From about mile 32 onwards I was in the depths of an epic sufferfest. The long climb up to Scout Mountain aid station (mile 38) took a lot out of me, and even the smiling faces of Roch Horton, Catherine Mataisz and Karl Meltzer couldn’t induce a rally. From that point on, struggling through the snow and thinking negatively, my race became purely mental. Only at the top of a long descent at about mile 40 did I realize that, yeah, maybe I felt like crying, but I could cry at the finish line. First, I would win. That thought, though competitive, provided the impetus to keep charging. The mental aspect of ultras is fascinating.
  • Pacers are totally useful. I didn’t have one at Pocatello, but I did keep catching up to and running with my friend Ben Woodbeck, who was running the 20-mile race. Much to his chagrin I would plant myself behind him and breathe hard until he forced me to pass, then I’d slow down and eat a gel so he passed me again and I could run with him. We talked very little, but being with someone during the tough parts of a race can make a huge difference in morale. I’ll definitely have a pacer at Hardrock.
  • Climbing up a flowing creek that is interspersed with patches of snow is really cool. The “Barkley Section” epitomized why this race is so cool and why I wanted to run it. Pocatello is less a race and more an adventure. We’re climbing up and down mountains through the most aesthetic, and generally difficult, routes possible. And the views were stunning in every direction. That’s why I run.

Things We Knew Already That Were Further Confirmed at the Pocatello 50

  • Jared Campbell is a badass. I signed up for Pocatello knowing that if anybody would put on a race I wanted to run, Jared would. He came through with this far more than I could have hoped. The organization was fantastic, the course was stunning and difficult, and the food was perfect. The Pocatello 50 is a race I’ll return to.
  • Joelle Vaught is really fast. Look out Western States!
  • May is entirely too early in the year to be holding a race in the mountains. However, that seems to be the point with this race.

The Pocatello 50 went off this year without a hitch. Although everyone was extremely nervous about the weather the night before the race, the morning dawned clear and perfect. The conditions turned out to be ideal, with cool temperatures and very little wind. Only the mud and the few patches of snow seemed to present a real challenge outside the natural difficulty of the course. My race was a great learning experience in the mental realm, and I’m excited to apply that knowledge to longer races in the future. Pocatello was so hard that just finishing was a huge feat in itself, even more so than at most ultras. This is best shown with my friend Aaron Marks, who was running his second ever fifty-mile race. When I saw him on the out and back he cruised by me smiling and waving. He finished in thirteen hours and couldn’t have been happier, which really brings the spirit of the race into perspective. He was focused and probably hurting, but he continued to enjoy the run for the experience it offered, which wasn’t always pleasant. And that’s all the sage wisdom I have this time. Go run a race!