Kodiak Race Recap

Sarah McMahon
5 min readOct 15, 2023

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

I didn’t really want to write this blog, because this isn’t a success story. Last year, I attempted to run Kodiak 100 and dropped at mile 56. I’d had a long spring/summer of injuries, and to make a short story even shorter, one of those injuries flared up. It wasn’t a sexy reason to drop, but I couldn’t stomach more long months off the trails.

Because I had so many setbacks last year, I was undertrained going into Kodiak. This year, I planned to write a different story. I felt strong, well rested, and well trained. I was smarter about my workouts and smarter about my rest, and when I stood on the start line this time, there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish.

This year, Kodiak was a new UTMB race as well as a Western States Qualifier, so the start line was packed and the energy was electric. I know enough to not get in over my head, so I started steady. For the first 6 miles or so, people were jostling to get around others, running hard downhill and up. I let them go, figuring I’d see most of them later. The front of the pack was well ahead of me, and I settled into a comfortable rhythm.

Normally, I’m a very strong uphill runner, but for some reason, the climbs were leaving me thoroughly winded. Around 20 miles in, there is a large climb and more than one group passed me going up. What’s going on? I wondered, and assumed that the elevation was simply getting to me. I live at sea level, but train in the mountains all the time. About a month ago, I did mount Whitney and didn’t feel nearly as winded as I did in Big Bear on Friday. So, I let myself climb steadily and decided I’d make up ground on the downhill sections.

After mile 29, there is a 10 mile stretch mostly on fire roads. As I climbed again, I found myself short of breath, and slowed once again. Once again, I made up ground on the downhill sections, making sure to consistently eat and drink water the entire time. By the time I got to mile 39, I’d drank two liters of water, eaten 400 calories, and was starting to perk up. At the mile 39 aid station, I left without my poles and had to turn around and go back, adding half a mile to my day. Rookie mistake, and I cursed to myself as I saw another woman run by me. Now I’d have to catch her, but I always liked running from behind.