Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pacing at the Wasatch 100

I had the opportunity to pace a friend of mine in the Wasatch 100 today. It was a long and tough day, but he finished and did a great job. But let me back things up a few steps. . .

I was following my friend's race online (along with Crockett and others). He was doing great on pace until he reached Lamb's Canyon, mile 53. Then something happened between there and Big Water (the top of Millcreek Canyon). He was due to arrive at about 8:30pm, but by 10pm he had yet to show up. I was planning on leaving home around that time, drive up to Brighton, and run the course backwards for a few miles and then cruise back to the car for a warm-up, prior to Darrell getting there. However, I didn't want to leave home in case something happened to him, so I hung around home till 11pm with no change to his status and decided to drive up anyway. Upon arriving at Brighton I immediately went into the aid station (pleasantly referred to as "The Morgue" to see if he had finally showed up at Big Water. It was now 11:30pm and he had still not shown up. To keep on pace to go under 30 hours total he would have to be in Brighton by 2pm, but the trip from Big Water to Brighton is 13 miles and takes most people 4 hours, at minimum. I would have a long time to wait. So I went out for a run in the freezing cold.

I ran down from the aid station to the Guardsman Pass road and then started up. After only a mile from my start I saw a blaring green light in front of me, no other than the illusive Davy Crockett. He was on PR pace. I ran back down the road with him for a bit, chatting and enjoying the night. He asked about Darrell and I explained the situation, at which time he said, "wow, a lot of people are DNFing at Big Water because of the cold". I figured it was best to head back to the aid station to see if, in fact, he had DNFed. When I got there just the opposite had happened, he had actually gotten to Big Water and checked out and was due at Desolation Lake at 1:40am, putting him at Brighton around 4:30am (based on the average pace of most runners at that pace). I thought it best to bail on my warm-up run and instead get a bit of rest, so I headed back to my car and hunkered down under a blanket for a couple of hours. I set an alarm for 3:45am, thinking that was plenty of time. I don't know how much rest I got, no more than an hour, and at 3:18am got a call, unbelievably from Darrell. He was at Brighton. Somehow he had found a 5th gear and crushed the Desolation to Brighton section. Seriously crushed it! So I quickly gathered up my things and headed indoors. Within 10 minutes we had bade his brother farewell and were off up the trail to Catherine Pass.

It was cold outside, but the nightsky was incredible and we were flying up the trail at a monster power hike. Within the first 30 minutes we passed two groups of runners. By Catherine Pass we passed another, and by the time we made it down the very technical trail to Ant Knolls aid station we has passed another couple of groups. Unfortunately, the climbs were steep and when it was runnable trail Darrell was a bit too tired to push the pace, so we jogged at times, but generally maintained a steady power hike.
We cruised into Pole Line Pass aid station feeling good and other than standing by the massive fire for a few minutes to warm up we were ready to go. That fire may have been the most depressing thing ever. The few runners who were sitting around it did not look good. Runner 201 actually left the aid station and then came back less than a minute later, he was just too cold. Poor sap. He probably shouldn't have worn shorts in sub-freezing weather.

We hoped that after Pole Line it would be a steady cruise the last 16 miles down hill to the finish. Little did we know we were in for a battle. Up, then more up, then around a mountain, then up, down, up, down, down, up, technical trail through trees that just never ended. It was the longest 6 miles to Pot Bottom aid station of our lives. Darrell was frustrated and ready to just be done. Even still, he kept up a good power hike out of the aid station and onto the ridge heading towards the finish. There were moments of cursing the continuous twists and turns, ups and downs, but finally we made it to pavement and the last mile to the finish. Darrell finished his first 100 miler in 31 hours and change. Amazing. I was so happy for him and proud of his ability to stick to it.

And here's how dedicated I am as a pacer: I missed my sons football game for this and he got an interception!!! So awesome.

Congrats to Darrell, Davy, and all of the others who put everything out there to do something great. Whether it was their first 100 or their 50th, I can vouch for the fact that it is always something special. I can't wait to try my first.

And I was happy to get in a good 28 miles on tough trails on only one hour of sleep.

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