I had the opportunity to run and finish the Wasatch 100 for the second year in a row over the weekend. In some ways I had a much better race than last year, but overall it was definitely more challenging for me this year. This course is so tough that you can't even believe it until you run it. I still can't believe people are dumb enough to do this, but it is also pretty incredible to complete it and I have to say it is awesome.
Matt Willianms had several of us over for a pre-race barbeque and then Craig Lloyd, Josh Greenwell and I stayed there over night because he lives so close to the start. I was awake about 2:45 am and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up at 3:30 to get ready. I choked down about 900 calories (the Hostess fruit pie was money) and we made it to the start with plenty of time to chat with some other runners before the start of the race. The temps were cool, but it was definitely warmer than last year and I could tell that it was going to be a hot day which would end up making things pretty tough. I wanted to hang with Craig and Josh for as long as possible, but after a few minutes Craig took off and Josh and I settled into a decent pace that put us ahead of the really big pack. Over the next few miles we passed a several runners and found ourselves in a pretty good group power hiking up to Chinscraper. I think we stayed with the same core group all the way to the summit where we topped out in 2:17.
After we hit the Chinscraper summit we ran on the ridge tops for the next several miles. I really love this part of the course. You weave around high summits and hit the east and west sides of the ridge, which provides some pretty sweet views of Davis County to the west and Morgan to the east. I was still feeling pretty good and felt like I was right where I wanted to be. We hit Groben's corner (13.5) where we were able to fill up our bottles for the first time. Josh said he wasn't feeling well and I know he wanted to push a faster pace, but I was happy to have him with me all the way to the Francis Peak aid station (mile 18.7). My legs were still feeling really fresh and we ran everything that we could and I thought held a pretty good pace. We hit the aid in 3:56 which was 21 minutes faster than I did it last year. We stopped to refill our water and quickly grab some food and we were back onto the trail. It started getting hot on the next section and I just tried to hang with Josh and push through. The steep hill up to Bountiful B is a killer and I was so happy to hit that aid station (mile 24). There was a runner down and I heard one of the aid station workers say we need to call 911. I kept thinking hydrate hydrate hydrate. We were only there for a few minutes. I ate some salted potatoes, cookies and had some Coke. We grabbed some gels and took off.
The next section was just a grind. It was getting hot and I was starting to feel some fatigue in my legs, but nothing serious at all. Again Josh and I stayed together and it was nice having him there to help me push when I wanted to hike. We ran everything that wasn't too steep and made decent time into Sessions aid (28.2) where we only took a few minutes to grab some food and refill our bottles. I was carrying a handheld bottle and 30 ounces in my hydration pack. It was working perfectly because I could barely feel the pack on. I had been drinking pretty well up to this point, but after Sessions I made the mistake of not drinking enough. It was now getting really hot and the steep hill climb out of Sessions is brutal. We grinded up that and then settled into a nice pace along the ridge to Swallow Rocks aid (34.9). I had only consumed about 20 ounces of water between the aid stations which was a huge mistake, but I was still feeling good, so I thought I was ok. At the aid I again downed some potatoes, cookies, Mountain Dew and we both carried a rootbeer popsicle out of the aid station. They told us we were in 56th and 57th place. I know Josh wanted to be moving faster, but we were right where I wanted to be.
High five with Josh at Big Mountain
Photos by Lori Burlison
The run to Big Mountain was fun. I put on my ipod to get some energy and we grinded out the miles in pretty good time. Both of us were feeling good and with a little over a mile to go I noticed that I was getting a bit dehydrated. I had only consumed what was in my bottle and hadn't even touched what was in the hydration vest. I quickly took a few big gulps from the vest, but with Big Mt. (mile 39.4) coming up I forgot to keep drinking because I was so excited to see my crew there. I told myself to stay a bit longer at the aid to make sure I hydrated and cooled off because I knew the next section would be a killer. I hit Big Mountain almost two hours faster than last year, but I was down 3 pounds and my crew quickly put me in a chair and started asking what I needed. They brought me a tuna sandwich that I choked down and two cups of Coke. I sipped some Gatorade but it was too sweet and I only got a few gulps. Greg rubbed out my IT bands and my pacer Becky had a cool wet towel that she gave me for my neck. As awesome as my crew was they really rushed me out of the aid quicker than I would have liked and I didn't take the time I should have to get hydrated. My stomach went south and I told Becky I needed to walk to let it settle. Josh was with us, but within about a half mile he went ahead because I started to slow down. I ran into Kendall from the blog and we chatted for a minute before he took off and went on to run an impressive race.
My crew working me over
After about a mile I completely went into the tank of misery. I had zero energy, I couldn't push the pace and I felt like I was going to puke. I couldn't run and I could barely hike. Finally I sat down on a log and took a gel and an S-Cap. 3 groups passed and all asked if I was ok. I probably looked like death. What was going on? Just an hour ago I was running hard and strong. I got back up and slogged for about 20 more minutes and I finally went pee and when I saw that my pee was brown it hit me that I was severely dehydrated. Damn! Why wasn't I drinking more? Why didn't I spend more time hydrating at Big Mt? Stupid!!! We were now at the hottest part of the day on the hottest section of the course and I was in trouble and I knew it. Catching up was going to be tough. I started chugging my water and quickly drank the entire handheld. Becky was so good to me through this section even though I was a total mess. She kept giving me her cold water to drink and kept the towel around my neck wet and cool. My stomach was still a mess and I thought maybe a trip to into the bush would help, but as I stepped off the trail I got attacked by a yellow jacket that started stinging my left calf. Low point. The more I drank the better I felt, but my steam did not come back quickly at all. In fact through this entire 14 mile section I never had it. I was passed by dozens of runners. Demoralizing.
At the Alexander Ridge aid (47.4) Becky got me some ice water, a peanut butter sandwich and some cookies. I drank a lot and then I noticed Josh sitting in a chair and not looking very good. He looked totally wrecked and was having some major issues, but after a few minutes he got up and hiked out. It helped inspire me to get out of the chair and get moving. There is a long climb in a grassy meadow out of the aid station and last year I ran about half of it, but this year I walked every step. The heat was brutal. I was wrecked. I just grinded every step and at the top where at the connector trail I had to stop to sit on a rock for a minute to keep from puking. From that point on I slowly came back and started feeling better. We were now out of the sun which made a huge difference and I had been drinking constantly. Becky was amazing through this entire section. She talked the whole time to keep my mind off of the grind and she helped me out so much. Without her I would have been toast out there. The last few miles we picked up a decent running pace and ran it into Lambs Canyon aid 8 pounds down. Wow!
Me and Becky trying to stay cool
My crew quickly went to work getting me food and fluids. I drank a lot and took a lot of time getting refreshed. My second pacer Seth Wold was anxious to get me moving, but I needed to make sure I took enough time to cool off and get my body back into the game and it worked. As soon as we hit the Lambs Canyon road I felt better. We actually ran some of the hills and when we got to the trail up to Bear Pass I felt great and we really pushed it up to the pass, passing at least 10 runners. At the top I still felt great so we ran strong all the way down to Elbow Fork. Just before we hit the road we had to put on our headlamps because it was now dark. Seth was incredible. He kept track of what I was eating and drinking and would tell me when I needed to drink, take salt or a gel. He also pushed me to run up several hills that I probably would have hiked if I had been by myself. On the way up Millcreek Canyon we were pushing it up the road when I saw some eyes peering at us just off the road. I said hey check out those eyes and we both put our headlamps on a large cougar that was checking us out. Seth went for his camera, but before we could get the picture the cat took off back into the brush. Awesome!
We got into the Upper Big Water aid (61.6) feeling good. Seth got me some soup and Coke and I put on some warm clothes. It was cold! He got me back up and moving and we pushed and slogged to Desolation Lake. Seth kept pushing me to run and it really helped. I was now feeling great again and things were definitely looking up. At Desolation Lake aid (66.9) we stopped to grab more soup and I downed a hot chocolate as well. There were several runners stopped there including some that were laying down by the fire. I remember it being brutally cold going out of this aid station and I didn't warm back up unitl I hit the Wasatch Crest. From there we got into a running pace again and ran a good portion to Scott Hill aid (70.7) where I went into the tent for more soup and tried to get warm. Seth got me moving out of there which was smart. It was so cold leaving the tent and again I shivered for several minutes until I warmed back up.
Me and Seth coming into Brighton
This year I was actually able to run a good section of the road down to Brighton where last year I had to hike it because of my feet. Brighton was also really cold and I decided I was going to put on all of my warm clothes. We got into the lodge and I was actually up 4 pounds. Seth had done an amazing job making sure I ate, drank, took salt and pushed myself. It was the perfect balance and I am so grateful he was there. In the lodge I was greeted by Kelli and my crew who were so good to me. They took care of me and made sure I ate and drank and Greg gave my IT bands another rub. I had to put on more glide (sorry eveyone in the bathroom) and I took off my shoes for the first time to shake out the rocks and sand. My good friend Rob would be pacing me to the finish and I was happy to have him with me.
At Brighton aid stop
Going out into the cold was hard and I seemed to have lost some steam hiking up to Catherine Pass. My climbing legs were gone. On the descent down into Ant Knolls it became apparent that my toes were not happy with all of the descent and they were on fire just like last year. I was wishing I had my poles and I knew it was going to be a grind to the finish. I also noticed some pain in my right calf and with each descent the pain got worse to the point where running became very painful. We were so slow and finally hit Any Knolls where I wanted some breakfast, but they weren't serving it for 50 more minutes. I would have to wait until Poll Line to get my pancakes, sausage and Coke. The steep climb out of Ant Knolls was hard, but it felt much better than descending. After the climb we tried to get into a running pace again on the flatter sections, but I could only shuffle along because my calf was now cramping pretty bad. Every time I ran Rob would encourage me and keep reminding me of the under 30 hour finish that I wanted. At that point though I didn't care. The pain in my toes and calf was much greater than the desire to go under 30 hours.
At Poll Line I did get my breakfast and just like last year I fell asleep in the chair. Rob had to get me up and moving again and the next 4-5 miles were very hard and painful. What a grind. Rock Springs aid seemed much further than last year and when we finally made it I just wanted to keep moving, so I filled my bottle, grabbed two gels and we left. The next section is one of the most difficult of the entire course. With 'The Dive', 'The plunge' and 'Irv's Torture chamber' I was definitely worried about my feet and legs and for good reason. It was just plain hard and painful. After several minutes Rob made me laugh with "I'm tired of diving and plunging". Rob made me laugh a lot even though I was hurting and it was really good having him there. Irv's Torture Chamber was indeed torture and it was a major slog to Pot Bottom (93.1) where we stopped and I ate a banana, cookies and some Red Vines.
The last 7 miles were really hard and I was glad to have Rob there to push me along and make me laugh. The rocky road was once again a miserable run and with my hurting toes it was downright brutal. I lost count of how many times my big toes banged into a rock ,which would send a shooting pain up my leg. When we finally hit the single track I knew that the finish was close and I really picked up my pace. I was now running faster than I had in the last 12 hours and I kept it up all the way to the finish, running every step of the last two miles. I think the adrenaline kicked in because I couldn't feel the pain in my calf and toes until after the finish. Finishing was just as sweet the second time around. My wife, kids, mom and dad were there along with several of my running friends. Awesome! What an experience. I'm still trying to process all of it. I know I will do Wasatch again, but I think it is time to try a 100 miler with a little less elevation change and one where I won't lose both of my big toe nails (yep they are gone again).Thanks to eveyone that helped me in some way. I appreciate all of your support. To my pacers and crew I could not have done it without you and especially thanks to Kristina for putting up with all of my craziness.