Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wahsatch Steeplechase:

The Wahsatch Steeplechase has to be one of the most unique race courses in the state of Utah. It is steep, rugged and challenging and I was really excited to run it. The race starts in Memory Grove and climbs 7.5 miles with over 4,000 ft. of elevation to the summit of Little Black Mountain. From there it is a wicked downhill on some steep technical trails to City Creek Canyon below and then back to Memory Grove. I arrived at the start, got checked in and then hung out for about 30 minutes trying to get loose. It was already warm and I was glad I had on my hydration vest. I chatted with Dan Gardiner for a few minutes while we waited for the gun and I knew he was going to have a great race. My goal was to go under 3 hours, but I knew I would have to run a perfect race to do it and with the warm temps I was getting worried.

My goal was to keep a strong pace all the way to the summit and then really push it on the back half if I was feeling good. I went out pretty fast at the start, but there was a large group that went out really fast and I hung back a bit knowing that there were plenty of steep tough miles ahead. Within a mile I was already passing guys that were walking that had gone out too fast. After about a mile the crowds thinned out some and for the next 2-3 miles I was running with the same group. I was feeling really good so far and really enjoying the run. I didn't hike at all until the first aid station at the bottom of the Pipeline hill where I took a gel and S-cap as I hiked up the steep slope. At the top I picked up a solid run and held it most of the way to the base of Little Black Mountain. During this section I passed 7-8 runners, but I was also passed by a few dudes that were running pretty fast. I wondered if they could keep up the pace.

At the base of Little Black the trail becomes extremely steep and it is almost a necessity to settle into a hike. I was in a group with about 5 other guys and we just pushed it up about as fast as we could hike, but about 3/4 of the way up I passed 3 of them on a very steep slope. As we crested the ridge I got back into a run and was surprised to see so many people still hiking. The ridge is not an easy run. It is craggy with a lot of rocks and I passed a few more guys on my way to the 'climbing' section. Jun told me that in order to go under 3 hours I would have to be on the summit in 1:45 and as I reached the downclimbing sections just off the summit I was right there at 1:45.

There are two pretty steep down climbs that require the use of both hands and feet and the race website rates them at 5.4, but I would say they are solid 4th class, but not too bad. When I got to the first of these two down climbs there was a small queue of people backed up because a girl was frozen on the climb and wouldn't move. One of the guys behind her started to coach her down and a race volunteer was there trying to help her with her foot placements down below, but she just wouldn't go. It was so frustrating as the minutes clicked by and I couldn't do anything but stand there. Finally she made it down, but then proceeded to not move out of the way and ran to the next down climb where she got stuck again. When it was my turn I quickly found a foot and hand hold and jumped down within a few seconds, but I realized I was going to be stuck again and had to wait for a few more minutes again as the she tried to get down the second climb. Luckily it wasn't as long as the first, but she still didn't step aside and allow anyone to pass, so I made a slightly sketchy move to get around her as she was still blocking the path on the ridge and moving slow. I can understand that she wasn't comfortable on the terrain and don't have a problem with that, but she should have stepped aside after the first downclimb to allow the 10ish runners to go by that had been waiting for her.

The rest of the ridge is fairly technical, so I took it easy, but still passed 4-5 runners on my way down to Smugglers Gap. I pushed it faster than I normally would on a training run, but still didn't get out of control or move too fast because there were a lot of rocks and roots and the trail was steep going down to Smugglers. At SG aid I pulled off my hydration vest as I ran up to the table and quickly opened up my bladder to get some water. The volunteers said I couldn't take too much, so I had them put in about 15 ounces and I hurried to get my vest back on and started the run down on the Smugglers Gap trail. I was now alone for the first time during the race and I ran for at least a mile by myself. Again I ran faster than I normally would have, but still stayed in control because the trail is a bit sketchy in places.

After about a mile I saw 3-4 runners ahead and within a few minutes I had passed them. I don't usually pass anyone going downhill, but I was feeling really good. At the bottom there was another aid station and I drank a cup of water and one of Nuun and grabbed a gel as I started to run down the canyon. As I took the gel a pretty fast runner passed me, but I was running a 7:20 pace and didn't want to push it under 7, so I just tried to keep that pace and knew I could do it for the 5+ miles to the finish. My hamstring has been bothering me for the last 4 months and it felt pretty good until this last section. It was pretty sore and my legs were feeling it from the climb up to Little Black, but it never got too bad.

At about mile 12 a girl and guy caught up to me and the 3 of us paced together all the way to the finish. We took turns leading, but we stayed together most of the way back. It was really good to have someone to help push the pace because my legs were really feeling wrecked the last few miles and it was getting hot. I ran out of water with about 3 miles to go and the only thing I drank was a small cup of water at the last aid station. My two new friends didn't stop, so I had to pick it up a bit to catch back up. When we were on the canyon road we were running a solid 7:20 pace, but when we got back onto the trail it was tougher to keep that up and we went over an 8:00 pace for the first time since getting off of the Smugglers trail.

With about a mile to go I was feeling really good, so I picked up the pace and dropped my two pacing friends. I had been passed by a couple of guys and I was trying to finish strong. I ran a high 6, low 7 pace to the finish passing one more guy about 100 meters from the end. I finished in 3:05 which was 5 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I was happy with my race because I pushed it as hard as I could have and felt like I ran the best race that I had in me. I maybe could have pushed it harder on the way up, but I might have blown up on the way down. I guess I need more experience with knowing just how much I can push in these races, but I do know that I gave a solid effort and I am happy with the result. I have no idea what place I came in because I haven't seen the results yet. This is an incredible race and I hope to do it again next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment