A while back, I met Dan in the parking lot at a local auto parts store.
He recognized me from hiketricities.com and wanted to talk about his experience at the Badger Mountain Challenge. His story was not pleasant as he felt he had been forgotten, left behind and unsupported (except by a couple of people). I encouraged Dan to write his story so I could share it with others. I share it not to tear anyone down or cast blame but to motivate people to do hard things. Dan had to overcome major obstacles during his Badger Mountain Challenge whether he finished or not is not the point (I don’t want to give away the ending), he continues today with hopes and dreams to go on to even bigger and better adventures. With that introduction, here’s Dan’s story, in his own words:
I want to share my story of my first and only ultra race. My name is Dan. I’m 37 years old, I’m not your stereotypical ultra-runner; 5 foot 9 in and 230 lbs. This is the story of my Badger Mountain Challenge 50k in 2014. After a few tragedies in my life in 2011 in 2012 I made a choice to start pursuing passions I had when I was younger. I love alpine climbing and started training by hiking up every hill I could find with 50lbs on my back. That worked great for a while. Then I felt like I had plateaued.
The Next Step
In 2013 I bought my first pair of trail running shoes LaSportiva C-lite 2.0 and started running. I participated in a 10k road race and thought “I want to do something bigger.” Then, I heard about the Badger Mountain 50k I thought it would be perfect. A local race and I’d already been on most of the course and I would have 6 months to train. At that time I had never run over 10 miles at a time. Three months before the race I wanted to see what it felt like to do 31 miles and check my timing. I picked a route with about the same elevation gain and completed it in 8:10 so I was within the 9 hour cut off time for the Badger Mountain Challenge.
Fast forward to the Monday before the race I put in my last hard run in before tapering, a 5k run with 850 vertical feet in the first mile. I pushed for a sub 12 min mile on that 1st mile and bombed back down. I got a half mile from the car and started to get sharp pains in my shins. I never had these pains before. Looking back, I was putting in a lot in a short time. So I took it easy for the next 4 1/2 days.
Race Day – Doubting Myself
Saturday morning was race day. I showed up about 45 minutes early to check in. It was cold and windy. I waited as more runners showed up. It was obvious to me that I was the odd duck physically. As time went by I waited for the start and saw the 80+ people I would be running with. My mind started messing with me like “what am I doing out here?” I felt the other runners thought the same thing about me. But I pushed on, I knew this was a challenge for me, that I signed up and I was going to finish.
And They’re Off!
At 7 am the gun went off. We ran past the timing stand and we started the climb up Badger. I felt good running in the middle of the pack but I soon saw everyone pass me. By the time I got to the top of Badger Mountain I was in last place and the last person in front of me started to fade away. When I got to the first aid station about mile five I did not see anybody in front of me. I worked my way to Candy Mountain. The next climb I saw the first drop out 50k runner. He had the typical ultra-runner body build. He jogged back past me and said good luck and headed back down the hill. To be honest, I was a little concerned but figured he was probably not running his own race and I continued to push on.
The Pain Returns
As I started down Candy Mountain I started feeling that sharp pain in my shins that I had that Monday before. I got to the aid station at 9 miles in 2 hours I was still optimistic that I would be able to finish this within the time cut off or close to my goal which was eight hours. As I left that aid station at mile nine the wheels started falling off. My legs were trashed and I started having stomach issues and to this day I feel it was the electrolyte mix that I drank at the aid station. Before I got to the next aid station at mile 12 the leader, Jacob Puzey had passed me heading back since it was an out and back course. Two minutes behind him was second-place. I told him he was two minutes behind but he didn’t acknowledge me, granted he was focused on running his race just as I was focused just to finish.
Half Way There, Can I Make It?
I filled my water bottles at the aid station at mile 12 and drank some water. Then, I headed for the next climb up Red Mountain. On that next climb I started to have a sharp pain high on my chest every time I would try to run. I pushed up Red Mountain. Only a half a dozen people acknowledged me by saying “keep pushing, good luck, good job.” Once I got on top of Red Mountain I could not jog because of the sharp pain I kept having in my chest. The top of Red Mountain has a summit that is two miles long. As I started to come down the other side of Red Mountain to the turnaround I noticed it looked like it was all packed up. I got to the aid station and there were three people and everything was packed up. I was almost 4.5 hours at 15.5 miles. The lady didn’t seem like she wanted to get any supplies out for me so I only asked for water and a gentleman got the water out for me to fill my water jugs. I told them about the sharp pains I was having and I felt like I just needed to rip ass (fart). The lady said that I could quit and they could take me back to the start/finish line. I simply told her that I was halfway at 4.5 hours and I had 4.5 hours to get back before the cut off and that I’d rather take a DNF by not finishing on time, than choosing to take a DNF.
I proceeded to go back up Red Mountain. Once I got back on top, I was able to pass gas and started feeling better. I was able to jog a little bit but my legs were still trashed. I got back to the next aid station it would’ve been mile 18 it was packed up and gone. The gentleman that was at the turnaround aid station drove and waited for me thank God he had water and offered me a protein bar and a cup of tangerine oranges, it’s all he had. I took the oranges and thanked him waiting, that meant a lot to me. He told me that the next aid station would be there waiting for me, they knew I was coming.
I continued on the route following the flags that marked the course. I ended up going through a sagebrush like tunnel and started hearing gunshots and did not know where they were coming from. I came up on a spot looking down into a draw and there were three pickups backed up with people shooting rifles and pistols right across the route. I yelled down to them and waved my arms telling them I need to run across and they stopped shooting for a minute. I barely got to the other side when they started shooting again. I continued worked my way to the last aid station and didn’t think anybody was going to be there. To my surprise there was. But they were all packed up other than a jug of water. They said they knew I was coming. So I filled my bottles up. They offered to give me a ride back also and I told them the same thing, I will not choose to DNF. I had two hours to the nine hour cut off and knew I would be cutting it close. As I left that aid station I told the people that were there that I wanted them to go back and tell Scott (a friend of mine that runs the local running store here in town) that I expect him to be waiting for me when I get to the finish line. They said they would get that message back to him. So as I continued I had to go back up over Candy Mountain and back up over Badger Mountain. As I started up Candy Mountain my legs were so trashed that I had to walk up backwards just to get to the top. I made it to the base of Badger Mountain with 45 minutes to the cut off. On a normal day I can make it up and over badger in 45 minutes. So at that point I knew it would be a DNF for running out of time. But still, I pushed as hard as I could and had to remind myself what I tell my kids; if you start something, finish it. I knew that if I chose to quit that would go against who I am. At 3:50, my phone rang, it was my wife. I didn’t answer because the wind was blowing so hard that I probably wouldn’t be able to hear her as I approached the top of Badger Mountain. At 4:05, she called again and I answered. I told her I’m on the down hill and about a mile out. My wife was smart not to let on what I’m about to run into and simply said ok we are waiting to see you finish.
The Quiet Finish Line
I saved up all I had left to run the last 1/4 mile to the finish. I got to the top of the steps that overlook Trailhead Park. Looking down at the park, I see nobody but my wife an daughter. No finish line, no Scott, nobody to verify that I made it in safe and was even a part of the race. I walked down the steps to the park where the finish was supposed to be and sat down on a park bench and started to get very emotional. I was so mentally exhausted at that point. I felt what I just did was pointless. I signed up and paid for experience and accountability that I didn’t get. With in a day the guy in charge of keeping the time for the Badger Mountain Challenge e-mailed everybody. He stated there was a problem with the timing equipment and he asked participants to send him their finish time so he could enter the information into the final results. I wasn’t going to e-mail him back but my wife convinced me to. He put me in as the last place finisher of the 50K Badger Mountain Challenge. To this day the race director has never reached out to me to hear what happened or even to give an apology for leaving a runner out on the course unaccounted for.
Back on My Horse
It knocked me out of the saddle for a short time. Every time I would lace up my running shoes, I felt stupid and wouldn’t go for a run. I felt that way for awhile. Then, I started making my own adventures and I gained so much more by doing so. I have the will power to accomplish what ever I put my mind to and don’t have to sign up and pay for a race to exercise my will. I have passion for what I do and love sharing my adventures and I feel that I get a medal when ever someone tells me that I’ve inspired them to get active for themselves. I would like to add that this is the first time I told this story in public. I would also like to add that Scott, has been the only one to apologize and offer to make things right.
Now, I have a big epic endeavor that I’m working on. I’ll let you know about it the coming months.
Thanks for taking time to read my story.