Race the Wolf 25k Race Report – Keith L

Race: Race the Wolf 25k

Runner: Keith Laverty

Race Date: 07/06/2019

Location: Schweitzer Mountain Resort, ID

Results: 3rd, 2:44

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2509719743/overview

race the wolf race report
Photo: Elisa Laverty

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. I loved the high country terrain and the ski resort as the main staging area.
  2. For a skyrace with tons of off-trail power-hiking, I thought it was very well marked compared to other similar races I’ve done in the past.
  3. The versatility needed for the big, technical climbs and the faster, runnable descents.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I kept saying to myself, “This is crazy” or “Whose idea was this” on those gnarly, steep uphills but that was just me complaining a bit and nothing against the race itself : )

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Fortunately, I never took a wrong turn but it sounded like several runners out there in both distances took wrong turns at the main Sky Haus aid station or at a few other junctions nearby. In the 52k, the 1st and 2nd place runners were accidentally directed off course by a volunteer at Mile 20 and they ended up doing the steepest climb on the course for a 3rd and unnecessary time — OUCH. However, the RD talked to all runners after the race and ended up awarding those two guys with a 1st and 2nd (after they finished 5th and 6th with the wrong turn).

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This was far from one of my best race performances but I’d say I did a decent job of pacing it out, not starting too fast and being able to run the downhills strong. I’d say I did well in grinding and staying in the hunt.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • The race is advertised as 25k but after seeing everyone’s GPS data, it’s definitely closer to 27k.
  • It kind of seemed like the power-hiking over off-trail terrain could make or break a race. Practicing uphills after a long, runnable downhill would be helpful too and being ready to change gears. Before the longest climb at Mile 7.5, there was a 4-mile downhill on forest road.
  • Finally, you do get rewarded with a really fun, singletrack downhill from the final aid station to the finish line.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I incorporated a ton of climbing during long runs, hill repeats and some speedwork into my training but for next time, I probably would’ve practice a tad more power-hiking and heat training on easy runs to attempt to acclimate to the race’s altitude better.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Of all of the 4,100′ of climbing throughout the race, only a tiny bit of that is what I’d consider “runnable”. The mass majority of the ups are so steep that it requires a lot of power-hiking – so practice that! There are three power-hiking climbs including the shortest one to start off the race (straight up the ski slope), the longest climb starting at Mile 7.5 (2,000′ over 2 miles on off-trail), and then the final climb at Mile 11.4 from Lake Colburn, which is even steeper than the 2nd climb but shorter. A few parts may even require scrambling on this final climb with somewhere around 30-40% grades and a brief section with big rocks and boulders to navigate up.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Most definitely – You get to run through Idaho high country including tons of bear grass and an epic view from the race’s high point (6,300 elevation) near a ski terminal.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Anything in the Skyrunner USA series is going to be tough! “Extreme Trail Racing” is a part of their tagline and this race in Idaho met that expectation. The altitude can be a factor with the course between 4200′-6300′. Again, tons of “sky-hiking”, in addition to the “sky-running”.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

For the first-year event, they did a great job! There were a few minor snafus but I’m sure they’ll address these for next year.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The 25k and 52k options both earn you points in the Skyrunner USA Series. Both races were quite competitive up front but maybe not particularly deep fields compared to a race like Broken Arrow. In my race, I wasn’t able to match Timmy Parr’s 10,000′ lungs from Leadville and he gapped us the most on the climbs.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

You can register up until the week of the race. However, I’d look into lodging at least 6 weeks out at minimum, especially given it was the weekend after the Fourth of July. If looking to reserve a room at the ski resort (can get expensive) or even a campsite more near town of Sandpoint, they’ll be booked up quickly.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The 25k gets 3 aid stations with all standard fare including Tailwind and Coke.

Weather and typical race conditions

We lucked out on the weather with a mix of cloudy and sun. Temperatures were plenty comfortable and probably should’ve applied a little sunscreen. For a mountain race like this one, conditions can change quickly though.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Fairly friendly – Just take the ski lift up to the Sky Haus aid station and you can assist your runners at that point. In the 25k, I came through that aid station twice (coming from two different directions).

How’s the Swag?

Race entry came with a really nice long sleeve shirt and tickets for a free beer and BBQ afterward. For getting on the podium, I got a bottle of local red wine and coffee beans. The race had advertised Altra gift cards for the top 3 male/female finishers in the 25k but they ended up only awarding the winners – I didn’t really care but it was a little odd.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4.4 out of 5 stars – This was my first race in Idaho and it was a unique place to run and experience!

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Keith, check out his coaching page.

race the wolf race report
Photo: Elisa Laverty