IMTUF is likely to forever hold its position as my craziest spur-of-the-moment, last-minute race signup.
With the difficulty in securing entry to popular and enduring races these days it is important to plan ahead, and I already have most of my key races for 2016 pencilled in. The problem is that you can’t know whether you will be able to secure entry into the race until much later. I will have my name in the November lottery for next year’s Hardrock 100, but if I miss out again (this will be my 3rd attempt) then it will be necessary to complete another qualifying race prior to next November in order to enter the lottery in 2016 for the race in 2017 (I hope you could follow that).
Only 23 races count as qualifiers for Hardrock, of which 10 are outside the US and one of them is Hardrock itself. Wanting to stick to US options gave me a list of 12 races to consider. Further looking into those races uncovered a number of already sold out options and some that didn’t fit in with other races already planned. I was struggling to find a 2016 race that was still available for entry and fit into my schedule. But why did the race have to be in 2016?
After looking at route options from Colorado through to Oregon I determined that I would be visiting Idaho for my first time. I therefore looked at my running options in the potato state. I considered paying a visit to Sawtooth National Forest, but further investigation showed that much of the forest was closed due to severe bush fires raging in the area. The next option I looked at started right in the state capital, Boise. Ridge to Rivers is a trail system covering over 130 miles, with a number of trailheads right in town. The next step was to pick a route.
As usual I looked for a challenging option. The website for the trail system separates its trail into easy, moderate and difficult so I picked out a couple of the difficult trails, looked for any commonly used routes on Strava and MapMyRun, and put together a lollipop route. All that was left was to arrive in town and slot the run into my day. Unfortunately due to the timing of my travel it would be an afternoon run, and after some time enjoying the cool temperatures of Colorado I was back into summer running.
After a quick glimpse at the trail map posted at the trailhead I headed off on my route. Then a couple of hundred yards later I turned around and returned to the map to take a photo on my phone. I had made the mistake of passing up the opportunity to do that while running in Flagstaff and ended up having to ask some mountain bikers for directions, so at least I had learned my lesson. Then I set off once again.
After running parallel to the road for a short while I turned away and started to climb one of the ridges leading away from town. Being well into summer the ridges were covered in dry grass, making for a very brown panorama. The route I had chosen would climb up a ridge, occasionally reaching the spine of a particular ridge before peeling off and heading towards another ridge. In this way I made my way from ridge to ridge, occasionally descending but spending most of my time climbing. As I looked at the trail ahead of me and spied a high peak ahead of me that still required plenty of climbing I considered the name of the trail I was on (Watchman Trail) and realised that it should have been obvious that I had selected one of the highest viewpoints.