Monday, September 26, 2011

Wasatch 100 mile endurance run

Sep 9th and 10th, 2011:

The Wasatch 100 has been a goal of mine for a long time. Even before I started running I had a few friends that had run it and I always thought one day I would like to be in good enough shape to do it. After having a very good running year in 2010 and making a lot of progress I felt like I was getting closer to my goal, although I knew I wasn't ready yet. I decided to put in for Wasatch and if I got in I would train as hard as I could to get ready by race day in September. When they announced the results of the lottery in February I was both excited and extremely worried. Having previously done several long adventure days in the mountains I knew that Wasatch would be a killer and I wasn't ready, but I would do everything possible to get there by race day.
I put a training plan in place and over the next 7 months I did just about everything I wanted to do. I increased my weekly mileage by 15-20 miles and more importantly increased the difficulty of the miles I was running. I tried to do a minimum of 5k feet of weekly elevation gain and do as much mountain running as I could fit into my schedule. Tough mountain miles, more miles and a monthly 30+ mile run. I did have an achilles injury that slowed me down a lot in June, but I was able to keep running and for the most part get over it. I also wanted to run as much of the course as possible before race day and I was able to run over 60 miles of the course. This was great training for me, but it also scared the hell out of me because I started to see just how tough this course is.

The night before the race I was a nervous wreck. Even though I had trained hard I knew this race would be a killer and I just didn't know how my body would perform. I had never run over 50 miles before and the elevation gain/loss in this race is more than double anything I had ever done in a day. I was worried and my friends could tell. Matt Williams invited several guys that were either running or pacing over for a pre-race BBQ and then Davy Crockett and I would be staying there because he lives only a few miles from the start. It was really fun hanging out and chatting with everyone and hearing war stories and talking about the course, but I was really nervous. I only got about 2 hours of sleep and at 3:30 am I woke up and started getting ready.

Matt drove us to the start where we met Aaron Kennard, Matt Van Horn, Steve Young and his pacer. The weather was perfect. We chatted and took a few pictures and after nervously waiting for about 25 minutes the countdown started and we were off. I was wearing my hydration vest and carried 5 gels and 55 ounces of water. The first mile was really crowded although you could pass it was tough. I did move ahead of quite a few slower runners and I was feeling pretty good except for a small stitch in my side. The trail becomes a single track and this made it more difficult to pass. I was getting stuck behind big groups that were content to run at a slow pace. Eventually I was able to get ahead of a lot of the slower runners and settled in with a good group about my speed around mile 3. We seemed to stay together for the next several miles as we climbed up the steep trail to the Chinscraper summit. I spent the next hour or so mentally preparing myself for what was to come as I steadily grinded my way up the mountain. The group I was with didn't talk much and at about mile 7 I finally turned on my ipod. The higher we got the more the wind was blowing and I was worried that it would be bad up on the ridge tops.
When we passed Cool Springs a few from our group stopped to fill their bottles, but I still had plenty of water so I kept going. I was feeling really good and the climb up to the top of the Chinscraper was a lot of fun. I reached the top with about 4-5 other runners. The views are impressive, but I didn't take much time to enjoy them and got into a nice steady running pace across the mountain slope. I was now running with a guy from Pasadena California and we chatted for the next few miles until the trail crested the ridge again where we got blasted with the wind. For the next few miles you run along and around the ridge top and the wind pounded us pretty good. I was really hoping that it wouldn't be like this all day or it would have been miserable. I also noticed some dark clouds moving in from the west and thought it could be a sign of thunderstorms later in the afternoon and it made me nervous.

At around mile 12 I was surprised to pass Crockett. He was just off the trail and making some kind of gear adjustment. I said Hi and kept going. He passed me around Grobbens Corner where I stopped to fill up my water and then we ran near each other for the next mile as we passed Francis Peak and then ran the road down to the Francis Peak aid station at mile 18.7. I really opened it up running down the road and my pace was in the 7's for about 3 miles and it felt good to push things a little. I arrived at the aid station feeling good, but I wanted to make sure I was hydrated and had plenty of energy. I also had several things I needed to take care of. I drank a Cytomax that I had in my drop bag, put on sunscreen and my sunglasses, wiped off my face and ate some salted potatoes, a few fig newtons, some fritos and then took a bunch of grapes that I could eat as I walked. It wasn't a quick stop, but I wanted to stay energized. One of the volunteers filled up my hydration pack for me and I was a little worried about it getting sealed up, but I forgot to check it and it ended up leaking and took me a few minutes to stop and fix it about a mile down the trail.

I walked for a few minutes while I finished the grapes and then I slowly got back into a running pace. My stomach was now a bit upset because I had eaten a lot and I wasn't in a good groove at all. I grinded away for the next few miles running alone. I never did feel great, so I didn't try to push things. I came to the place where Matt Rick, Matt V. and I had been lost about a month ago and I knew right where to go this time, although there were nice flags to follow unlike the day we were there. I crossed the river and from here the trail climbs about a thousand feet up to the Bountiful B aid station. I started getting hot and the trail was atrocious. It was very overgrown and it seemed muggy and I started to feel sick. I was hot and sweating a lot and lost my mojo. I just tried to keep going and was hopeful that I would get my energy back. I immediately took an S-Cap and a gel and tried to drink as much water as I could. I think about 7-8 runners passed me here and it was really demoralizing. It was the first time the thought that I might not finish entered my head. I quickly sent it away and just tried to grind.

I have never been so happy to see an aid station as I was to see the Bountiful B. I got a slight boost of energy and as I got closer and I could see my good friend Matt Van Horn waiting for me and giving me some encouragement. It was great to see him and it instantly lifted my spirits. He grabbed me some salty potatoes and a Gu brew and after a few minutes of chatting he wished me luck and I was back on the trail. That really helped me a lot and my mood was looking up. About 10 seconds out of the aid station I just about threw up and it took me a minute or two to keep it down while I walked up the trail. I met a guy from Alaska who was also doing his first 100 and we chatted and ran together for about the next 30 minutes. There was a construction project on the dirt road that we were running and there were 4-5 construction trucks that passed us kicking up a lot of dust. There were a few other runners that we passed and talked with and I started feeling much better and got into a pretty good running pace again.

I ran into the Sessions Lift off aid station (mile 28.2) and a volunteer asked if she could fill my water up and I was apprehensive about this the rest of the race, but I just made sure to check it every time. I gave her my pack and then grabbed a PB&J and some more potatoes. A friend of mine Jeremy S. came into the aid station and we chatted for a few minutes and then decided to get going together. Going out of the aid is a pretty tough climb and we tried to keep a decent pace up the hill while we talked. After about 15 minutes he found another gear and pushed it ahead and I was again by myself for a while. He went on to finish in just over 27 hours. Amazing! It is about 6 miles to the next aid station. The trails were steep and tough, but some of the most incredible I have ever been on. Running on the back side of Grandview Peak was incredible. I ran with another group of 3-4 guys for a few miles and it was definitely better than running alone. It started to get really hot and I just tried to focus on drinking and taking salt and making sure I was on top of taking gels. The next 3-4 miles were really hot and draining.

The Swallow Rocks aid station was definitely a sight for sore eyes. I was a bit dehydrated and I ended up taking quite a lot of time there eating and drinking and making sure I was energized. I ate a lot and drank 3-4 cups of Gu brew. I was feeling much better and I took a root beer popsicle as I walked out of the aid station. It tasted amazing. I quickly found my running groove again and the next several miles I kicked it into gear. I found a really good pace and I was even running the hills. I passed several people and my mood really imporoved and I noticed a smile back on my face. I was also getting excited because the next aid stop I would get to see my crew and get to have a pacer the rest of the way.

As I descended into the Big Mountain aid (mile 39) I noticed that my toe nails were starting to get slightly sore. I was a little worried about it and decided to change my shoes at Big Mountin. About a half mile away I could hear the cowbell and I really got excited. When I finally came around the bend and could see the aid station below I was extremely happy. I ran into the aid and the crowd was cheering and I saw Matt Ricks and gave him a five. I was rushed to a scale and my pack was taken off and my crew (my wife, friend Kerri Wintle, my friend Greg and his wife Amy Nicholsen) started to hover around me and ask me questions. I hadn't lost a pound which was great news. My crew got me over to a chair and started to go to work. It was a bit confusing, but eventually they got me some food and more Cytomax and then my crew chief Greg gave me an incredible leg massage. It was great to see my wife there and she gave me some encouragement. After fixing me up I gave my wife a kiss and thanked te crew and then it was back to the trail. My pacer, Kerri was shivering and cold and I thought it was a great sign. When I was up here to run this section a month ago it was hot and I knew that we were getting lucky with the weather. Kerri is a good friend of my wife. She is a very fast marathon runner and I was excited to have someone with me. We started off hiking up the semi-steep grade and I was feeling really good. My spirits were high and I wasn't hurting anywhere.

Kerri and I had a great time. We laughed and joked and chatted and the miles just started clicking by. When we reached the summit of Bald Mountain we stopped to snap a few pics. From here the trail gets really rocky as you run down the ridge. We passed a few runners and had a very good pace going, although we took it easy on the steep descents. We met a guy from Boston that we chatted with for a few minutes and in what seemed like no time we were coming into the Alexander Ridge aid station. They were having a beach party there and it was a fun atmosphere. I ate a PBJ sandwich, more potatoes, some chips and a brownie. I was feeling really good. We laughed and joked with the volunteers and then headed out on the grassy Rogers trail. The trail slowly climbs for a few miles and we would run wherever it wasn't too steep and then hike the steeper sections. Again the miles flew by while Kerri and I chatted and joked and laughed. I was feeling very strong and fresh.

We had passed a few runners on our way up to the junction and so far nobody had passed us at all while we had moved by quite a few runners. We were now alone and we would be all the way into Lambs Canyon. For a few minutes we thought we were off the trail, but eventually we saw some flagging and knew we were where we needed to be. After a small bushwhack we were out on the trail up to the Lambs aid (mile 53) and we ran strong up the hill and got some good cheers from the crowd. My next pacer, Craig Lloyd was there to meet me and he took off my pack and hustled me over to the weigh in where I came in exactly the same as Big Mt.

My crew went to work grabbing me food and drinks and helping me change my shoes into the Hokas. It would be dark soon, so I got a headlamp and a long sleeve shirt and after a few minutes Craig and I were checking me out of the station and heading up Lambs Canyon. I was feeling really good and we had a good fast hiking pace up the hill with an occasional run when it wasn't too steep. We passed a few runners and set our sights on another group just ahead. I was feeling very good to have Craig pacing me all the way to the finish. Not only had he run every step of the last 47, but I trust his judgment more than anyone, so I new I was in good hands. We passed the next group at the Lambs trail and then climbing up the 1500 feet to Bear Bottom Pass we passed several more runners. I was feeling strong and we were having a great time. At the pass we settled into a run all the way down to Millcreek Canyon where we passed a few more groups of runners.

The climb up the Millcreek Canyon road was actually a lot of fun. Many runners talk about how they hate this section, but Craig and I were laughing and joking most of the way up. It was definitely getting colder and Craig would remind me to take a gel and an S-Cap and he seemed to always be on top of when I had my last one and when I needed to take them. Our crew passed us about 10 minutes before Upper Big Water (they had been eating Italian food down in the valley) and I was excited to see them again.

At Upper Big Water my crew sat me in a chair, put a blanket on me and started feeding me sandwiches and chicken soup. I was still feeling really good and strong and nothing was hurting at all, so I only had to focus on eating and staying hydrated. I got to talk to Dusty Haycock who is a friend and as finished Wasatch a few times. He gave me some advice and after a few minutes Craig was ready to get moving. I put on an extra long sleeve shirt and some gloves and we headed up the Upper Big Water trail to Dog Lake. Craig and I were still having a great time telling stories and laughing. It was definitely getting colder, but once we got moving it didn't feel bad at all.

We made it to Dog Lake and it was just amazing to see in the middle of the night. The descent to the trail junction was painful on my toes and I knew that at some point I was going to have to take care of them, but the next few miles would be up hill or flat so it wouldn't be a worry. The climb up to Desolation Lake was memorable. It was tough and I was getting tired, but I had Craig tell me as many inappropriate stories as he could and he obliged me with some pretty good ones. It really helped to make the time go by and soon we were making our way into the Desolation aid station (66.9) where there were several runners that were looking terrible, including the runner from Boston that Kerri and I had met earlier below Bald Mt. Craig and I were joking and laughing with the aid station volunteers and I ate some soup and Craig fed me a PBJ because my hands were full to the delight of the station workers. Everyone laughed about that. The guy from Boston left and the aid station volunteers asked us to keep our eye on him because he wasn't doing well. We didn't want to stay there long, so we were right behind him. Craig had given me strict instructions that I couldn't sit by the fire and that I shouldn't get near it. The rest of the way he would give me instructions before every aid station, telling me what I could or couldn't do and how long we could stay etc. I really appreciated this.

On the climb up to the crest we passed a few more runners including the guy from Boston and when we topped out on the Crest trail there were a few runners there with us that we quickly passed as well. I'm not sure what happened but all of the sudden I was feeling really good and strong and I just started running at a pretty decent pace. For the next few miles we passed more runners and most of them were hiking the rolling hills, while Craig and I were running them. I was feeling so good and had one of those runners high moments. With the moon and stars out and just being there in that moment was awesome. We ran into the Scott Hill aid station (70.7) and I was feeling pretty good. I sat down on a chair and they brought me some chicken soup while Craig took care of getting me some gels and filling up my water. I think I sat there too long because I got very cold and I kind of lost my mojo.

The descent down to Brighton was just tough. It is downhill the whole way and with each step my toe nails would hurt more and more. I tried to run but the pain was pretty sharp, so I stuck with a fast hike, well, I'm not sure how fast we were really going, but for being 70+ miles in it seemed fast. The 5 mile descent was tough and I was really happy to limp into the Brighton lodge so my crew could give me some TLC. I have to admit I was pretty out of it. I was just getting exhausted. I weighed in 4 lbs heavier than Lambs which seemed odd. My crew got me a hot sandwich, a hashbrown, half a grilled cheese and some Gu brew. I decided to change my socks and also get into my tights because it was really getting cold out there. I also had them get my trekking poles to help me on the descents because of my toes. Amy was so sweet and took care of my feet, putting some mole-skin on my toes. I also got to chat with Matt Ricks and Bryce for a few minutes. It was good seeing them. We took a long stop and it definitely helped a lot, but it was very hard to get out that door into the cold knowing I had to go 25 more miles.

We were moving slow up to the pass and several runners passed me. It was a little demoralizing, but Craig stayed very positive the whole time and that helped a lot. I was starting to drag and I really slowed down. The downhills were even worse because of my toes and the descent into the Ant Knolls aid station (80.2) was hell on my feet. I was slow. We got to the aid and Craig told me not to sit by the fire. I had a breakfast of sausage, hashbrowns and Coke. Yeah! I was pretty tired, but Craig got me moving again and the steep hill climb out of the aid station might be the steepest climb on the course. It is tough and it was definitely a grind. We could hear the bugle from the aid every few minutes and it made us laugh. At the top of the climb the sun started to come up. Wow! The views in every direction were pretty darn good. Even though I was feeling pretty hammered I still tried to enjoy the occasional view.

The 3 miles to Pole Line Pass were a grind and I was happy to get there. Craig got me more breakfast (pancake, eggs and Coke) and I actually fell asleep while eating, so he got me up and moving again. I fell asleep with the plate of breakfast in one hand and the Coke in the other without spilling anything. The next aid was Rock Springs (mile 87) which was 4 miles away. The scenery on this section is unreal and Craig would point out a peak or a lake and I would take a few seconds to look and think wow this is incredible up here. I would love to be up there when I was feeling fresh without hurting toes. I wasn't enjoying it as much as I normally would be. I was still able to run some, but not anything downhill. The flats and uphill were ok, but anything that went down would really hurt my toes and I tried not to complain too much about it, but it was definitely bothering me.

There were a few really tough hills to cover and eventually Rock Springs came into view and I was relieved. We stopped to eat and get more water as it was really heating up now that the sun was up. I had been dreading the next section for the last few hours because I knew that it was going to be a killer. A lot of runners complain about the "Dive" and the "Plunge" which are really steep loose sections and I knew that it would be pretty bad with my toes and I was right. The descents were painful, but the worst part is I was really slow and that was irritating as we started getting passed by more runners. I started to think that I was going to come into last place at the rate I was going and I tried to pick it up where I could, but it was tough.

The next few miles were hard. I was feeling wrecked and I just wanted the race to be over. I didn't say much and just grinded away step after step and tried to stay positive. I just wanted to get to the Pot Bottom aid station because I figured I had it in the bag if I could get there and it was such a relief to see it. I just wanted to be done, so I grabbed a drink and a banana and finished them off as quickly as possible and was on my way. Craig was still eating and told me he would catch up and it didn't take him long to do that. The next two miles are a steady climb on a dirt road and my feet actually welcomed the uphill. Jun prepared me well for what was coming up on every section and he told me exactly what was coming our way and I was dreading it. 3 miles of descent on a loose rocky road. It wasn't great, but at that point all I could think about was that I was actually going to make it. I was going to finish the Wasatch 100 and even the painful toes couldn't keep my mood from looking up. A few more runners passed me because I couldn't go fast and that was frustrating because I still had some juice left in my legs and I could have really gone a lot faster if my toes weren't on fire.

After the loose road we were on a nice single track trail that drops you out right by the golf course. I was really getting excited to see my family and friends and as soon as we hit the paved road I could see my girls ahead waiting to run in the last .7 with me. Craig ran ahead to get some pictures and video of the finish and running in with my kids was awesome. They all kept telling me good job and way to go and you're awesome. It was fun. As I turned into the Homestead I could hear the crowd and the cowbells and I started to feel the emotion of everything. All of the training and all of the work and I was actually going to do it. It was an incredible feeling. I crossed the finish line with my girls and there were several friends and family there as well and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I finished, but I couldn't have done it without my incredible crew and awesome pacers. They were amazing and could not have been better. It was fun to hang out with family and good friends after the race. Bryce, Matt Williams and Matt Van Horn were there to offer me congratulations and hang out with us. It was pretty cool. My feet are wrecked. I have a few nasty blisters, but other than that I feel very good and am already thinking about putting in for the race next year. This is a phenomenal race and I don't have anything negative to say about it... well, maybe about some of the crappy, loose, steep trail on the last 25...

Here is a link to some pictures from the race:

Here is a link to a video that craig put together:

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