Just over a week ago on July 10, 2021 I ran the Beaverhead 100km in Salmon Idaho. Results are here. I did this race once before in 2017 and the 55km version in 2015. This year I beat my 2017 time by 40 minutes although the course is now 2 kilometers shorter. As I posted on my social media, I had to walk/power hike about 40 km of this event because of the high altitude. But let’s remember that I did run a sub 24 hour 100 miler just 5 weeks ago, so I was not as fresh as a spring chicken. Nevertheless, I really do believe the following:
If you don’t live or train at a high altitude, you can’t compete at a high altitude
Well, that’s what I think anyway. In reality, the altitude didn’t actually negatively influence me for the first few hours, so maybe there is a brief window of opportunity for the non-acclimated. However, the second half of the race was higher and during the more intense heat of the day. I found that I could run about 10 steps or so but would then have to catch my breath. Much of the time it seemed easier to simply power hike rather than run and have to recover. On a positive note, this time was my first run in the Beaverheads that didn’t include a thunderstorm, so I count that as a blessing.
Crew! Mark Browning
My friend Mark Browning was my driver, mental supporter, crew member, camping buddy, and more throughout this whole event. I have never had someone outside my immediate family crew me before and it was wonderful. Mark, you are the best! This first image gallery below shows us before the race; we even stopped by some hot springs called Sharkey in the evening after a meal at Savage Burger in Salmon, Idaho.
We camped at the start line of the 100km event on the Bannock pass located on the border of Idaho and Montana.
Thank you Beaverhead 100km! And maybe, goodbye (?)
I love the beautiful alpine terrain in the mountains around that area. I really like the Tarkalson brothers who organize this race so well. The aid stations are phenomenal (smoothies!). I do also find a sinister attraction to the long scree field toward the end of the race (just before the peak at 10,000 feet). But I think I am saying goodbye to this event, at least to the 100km distance. It is simply too high for me to be able to train for – and therefore enjoy. As a side note – I don’t recommend the 55km event as your first longer-than-marathon; it’s far too technical and high (unless you train for that). Find an easier 50km-ish before the Beaverhead 55km. But if you are up for a considerable challenge in a well organized event in breathtaking terrain, try either distance! One of the awesome Tarkalson brothers is in the photo in the next image gallery – just before the 4 AM start!
And don’t forget that the Beaverhead 100km works as a qualifier for Western States 100 (if you finish under 20 hours, which I did). The race also provides UTMB points. Most importantly, however, all finishers of the 100km get a hoodie – and I have to admit that that was part of the reason I wanted to make it to the end of the race!
Some general thoughts
I don’t know what to write about this race because I honestly don’t plan to return at least in the near future, but never say never.
Over the past few days I have been reading about how to acclimate to higher altitudes before races. It seems that many people believe you need at least 10 days at the race altitude to minimally acclimate. Two weeks would be even better. Luckily I was in Idaho for two weeks before the race, but only at an altitude of about 1,400 meters above sea level, but the race took place between 2000-3000+ meters.
At the almost half way aid station (45 km), Mark crewed me and helped me feel better. Upon arrival I asked Mark if he needed to work the next day or if he wanted to return to Idaho Falls before midnight. I was sort of fishing for a reason to quit the race because my legs were already in pain, especially my calf muscles and hamstrings. Quads were ok. I think Mark knew what I was doing and he said the exact works I needed to hear to help me continue on “Palmer, I can get you home anytime, it doesn’t matter. Once I worked for 38 hours straight with on only 3 hours of sleep”. Thank you Mark! That is what I needed to hear.
I developed those horrible outside ankle blisters because I had bad form on the steep downhill sections of the course. My feet were in bad shape as I started the 5,000 foot descent to the finish line.
The aid stations were much closer together than most races in Finland. I only needed to carry two bottles between most, although a few times I had 3 bottles just in case. I also included a reserve 177ml of CapriSun in my race vest for emergencies. I actually drank it just a few kilometers from the finish line.
I ran through several burned out sections of forest – this place is really dry in the summer!
I didn’t see any wild animals though one camper had a dog that barked an jumped at me.
Here is a video from the highest point of the course. The haze in the air is from the numerous wildfires currently blazing in the Inter-Mountain Northwest.
Thank you for reading this short race report! See you on the trails.