Wednesday, September 11, 2013

100 miles of Heaven and Hell. By Scott Wesemann.

The Wasatch 100 mile endurance run is one of the most challenging 100 mile races in the world. With over 26,000 feet of climbing in the rugged Wasatch Mountains, the course can be very unforgiving and if you dare toe the line you will almost certainly experience plenty of heaven and hell along the way. This would be my 5th 100 mile race and 3rd straight Wasatch. With some experience and training under my belt my goal was for a sub 30 hour finish and I was very confident going in that I would be able to do that, but Wasatch has a way of neutralizing just about everyone and their expectations.

Just like 2012 I found myself in the early morning at the start line with good friends Craig lloyd and Josh Greenwell. It was noticeably hotter than the two previous years and I knew it was going to make the day extra challenging. I felt decent at the start, but after a few miles my stomach went south and I felt a touch of nausea for several miles. Throw in early morning temps in the mid-seventies and I was finding it very difficult to find any sort of good rhythm. I ran with Josh to Cool Springs where I stopped to top off my bottle and he kept going because he was feeling pretty good. The next several miles to the Francis Peak aid (18.76) were tough. I didn't have much energy and my stomach was protesting and I came in 22 minutes slower than the previous year. I grabbed some food, applied sunscreen, filled my bottles and walked out eating a handful of grapes. I ran with Amie Blackham for about a mile and we had a good chat, but she was pushing it faster than I wanted to go and my stomach started protesting even more. I really started feeling the heat and the climb up to Bountiful B was hell, but Andrea Martinez passed me and could tell I wasn't doing well. She slowed down to talk and made sure I was eating, drinking and taking salt and paced with me for several minutes and it really helped to keep my mind off of my stomach. Even though she was feeling great and running well, she stopped to look after a friend and it really gave me some extra juice. She went on to crush the course and take second place.
At Bountiful B feeling miserable

Coming into the Bountiful B aid (23.95) I was hot and nauseated. Another angel Kelli S. was there and immediately came over to see what she could do to help. The only thing I wanted was some cold ice water and I downed 20 ounces quickly. I also choked down some potatoes and ginger ale and nearly puked a few times. I walked out of the aid to settle my stomach and within about a half mile things turned. I got my energy back, my stomach settled and for the first time all day I got my running mojo. I felt great and ran most of the section to Sessions aid (28.2) where I was in and out pretty quickly after drinking more ice water, filling my bottles and eating. The next 5 miles were some of the best for me all day. I ran well, passed several people and really had a great rhythm. I made sure to stay hydrated, take salt and gels and my mood was excellent. Then in a single moment my mojo crashed and burned when I caught a toe on a small rock with the Swallow aid station (34.9) in view. As I was flying toward the trail for a face plant my right calf cramped bad. I was laying right in the middle of the trail screaming with the knot in my calf and Jim Skaggs came by and asked if I was ok and stepped over me when I told him it was just a cramp. I limped into the aid and several people passed me.
Coming into Big Mountain aid

My goal now was to try and work out the cramp and get into Big Mountain aid (39.4) where I would pick up my first pacer, Becky. I could feel the pain from the cramp, but I was able to run and after a mile or two I got into a good running groove and ran it into Big Mountain where my spirits were lifted by MattW and my crew that came to my aid. I was an hour behind my time from last year, but it had been a miserable 39 miles and I was feeling reasonably good and knew I could make up the time. Matt rubbed out my leg and the crew got me ice water and food and really took care of me. Going out of Big Mountain I had only one goal: Get to Lambs Canyon aid feeling good. With the temps now soaring over 90 degrees the next stretch was going to be hell. It is the hottest section of the course, the hottest part of the day and dry, exposed and just about 8 miles to the next aid station. Becky and I had a great time. We talked, we laughed and I even sang several songs when I was feeling good, but the section to Alexander was long and it really took a toll. By time we hit the aid I had to take several minutes to cool off. I drank almost two full bottles of ice water and ate some watermelon. There were several runners there that looked terrible, including one guy that was crashed on a cot and not moving.

The next section to Lambs Canyon actually wasn't that bad. It finally started to cool off some and I ran a lot more than I did last year. As the temps dropped and my energy returned I was feeling really good about the rest of the race. We ran the last 3 miles into Lambs where I would pick up my next pacer, Zac Marion. At Lambs I had a full crew of folks there helping me out. Kelli Stephenson, Missy Berkle, Jared Thorley and others grabbed me food, drinks and helped me get my gear sorted out for the next section. They were awesome. Zac was the perfect pacer from Lambs to Brighton. We moved well up Lambs and passed several runners. I was feeling really good and my energy was coming back. Zac kept me on track with my gels, salt and made sure that I moving with purpose with every step. We powered up the long climb to Bear Pass and passed a lot of runners there as well. It was now dark and Zac and I rocked out on some 80s music to keep the energy up. We ran pretty well down to Elbow Fork in Millcreek Canyon and then made decent time up to Upper Big Water aid (61.6) where I had caught up to Josh and Brian B as both of them were having issues. It was a long stop for me. I ate, changed clothes and Zac spent some time trying to work out my cramp that had now gone up my calf to the backside of my knee. It was painful and annoying, but I could mostly ignore it.

We moved well up to the Desolation Lake aid (66.9) running and briskly hiking and I was feeling pretty good all the way there, but that is when things took a turn for the worse. I ate some mashed potatoes, soup and some other concoction of gu that Zac gave me and I nearly threw that up. As I sat in a chair at the aid I started feeling sick, so I asked Zac if we could walk it up to the ridge so my stomach could settle. It never did. I had a pretty big bonk and we walked nearly every step to the Scott's Pass (70.7) aid station. About a mile from the aid I mentally gave up. My calf/knee were hurting and I felt pretty crappy. Major doubts crept in about my ability to run the last 25 miles in this condition and I wanted to get to the aid station and throw in the towel. At Scott's I found a cot in a tent and crashed. My body was achy and I felt feverish and weak. Food did not sound good and this was the low point of the race for me. I quit. I was mentally done. After an hour and twenty minutes Zac convinced me to get moving and I fully intended on slogging to the road and catching a ride down to Brighton. I have never had a DNF in a race and I was on my way to my first. Zac had other ideas.
Puking my guts out at Brighton

When we got down to the road Zac kept trying to get me to run and move. My knee/calf hurt a lot, so I would stop after 30 seconds or so and then he would get me to do it again. I kept waiting for a car to come down, so I could get a ride and a few cars came up the canyon and I asked Zac if we should flag them down, but he ignored me. I finally just decided to get to Brighton where I would call someone to pick me up and crash. All I wanted to do was find somewhere to lay down, but when I got into Brighton Jennilyn, Zac and my other pacer Rob went to work on me. Every time I mentioned quitting they ignored me. They just sat me in a chair and started trying to get me to eat something. Nothing sounded good and mentally I had checked out at Scott's. The last 25 miles of Wasatch might be the most brutal section of any 100 mile course in the country. The climbs are numerous and nasty. The descents are rocky, loose, steep and plentiful. I had completed this section twice before and thought there was no way I could do it in the condition I was in. I had convinced myself that it wasn't possible, but my crew had other ideas. Over the next 2 hours and twenty minutes they put just about every kind of food available in front of me. The only thing that remotely sounded ok was ginger ale and saltine crackers. I nibbled on a few of those and got down some ginger ale, but eventually my stomach protested and I puked pretty hard in a garbage can, but that didn't stop my crew. I asked the aid station doctor, Mark to evaluate me because surely he would know I couldn't make it. Mark went to work on me and after about 20 minutes he sat me up. He told me I could do it. He said he was going to see me at the finish line and that my stomach could come back. All of the sudden I'm standing up and Mark looks me in the eye and says "You can do it" at that moment something clicked and I said "Let's do it". The whole place erupts in cheers and I got the biggest adrenaline rush I've had in a while. It's on.
Finally getting my mojo back the last 25 miles

With no food in my stomach and only 9:20 before the cut-off I found myself power hiking with my pacer, Rob Bladen up to Point Supreme. Last year it had taken me 10:06 to do the last 25 and the clock was ticking. I decided right there that if I was going to do this I was going all in. I was going to give it everything that I had and we did. The last 25 miles were magical. My calf/knee hurt, but I could ignore it. I was able to get down a gel and by time we hit Point Supreme I took got down another. I took two S- Caps and my appetite came back. I wanted food and I started craving pancakes and sausage that I knew they would have at the Ant Knolls aid (80.2). We moved fast and I started feeling great. At Ant Knolls I got my pancakes and sausage washed down with a Coke (the best food at Wasatch) and we were in and out in 5 minutes. We powered up the Grunt (700 ft climb) and over the next 20 miles everything clicked. We passed group after group, powered up all of the hills and ran anything flat or down. I felt better than I had the entire race and it was definitely the high point of the 100 miles.

The two previous times I had run Wasatch the last 25 miles had been horrible. My blistered feet were in constant pain as I went down all of the steep slopes, but this year my feet felt fantastic. The Altra Lone Peaks were money and kept me from getting any blisters and I actually felt great, even in the "Dive" and the "Plunge". We passed several people through Irv's Torture Chamber (multiple steep climbs in a row) and made good time into Pot Bottom aid (92). By now it was once again incredibly hot and it made the last 8 miles a lot harder, but we continued passing people all the way to the finish. At the Station Cut-off aid (94.6) I was pretty sure that we were going to make it, but I still didn't even stop. The last few miles are always hard, but I couldn't help smiling. I couldn't believe it. I was dead and had given up. I had mentally quit, but with the help of my fantastic pacers and the aid station doc I was going to get my 5th hundred mile finish. I was elated.

There is always a sweet rush of adrenaline crossing the finish line, but this time it was extra special and there to greet me were my best friends, parents and the doc, Mark that told me I could do it. This was my slowest 100 mile finish, but felt better than all the rest. Rob and I were able to finish the last 25 miles in 7:27 which is over 2.5 hours faster than last year. We left Brighton in 209th place and finished #150. I didn't get my sub 30 hour finish, but I did learn some pretty incredible things about myself and about the human body. We can do amazing things. Sometimes it takes the help of others to show us what we don't think we are capable of. To my pacers and crew and all of those that helped me along the way, thank you! Your kindness was part of the heaven that helped me get through the hell.


Anonymous said...

Epic write up Scott ! The heat was terrible and just about everyone had issues . I was trying to throw in the towel @ Big Water , but my crew would not even entertain it . Very stoked to hear about your last 25 miles , sounds very familiar to mine . Congratulations !
Danny Widerburg

Matt said...

We were asking for updates all day on you, knew you were having a rough go, but kept on pulling for you, knowing that you weren't a quitter and that you had it in you.
So awesome to have the support of pacers and friends that believed in you more than you did yourself - and then you went out and did the work.
Watching the times it was looking like you were going to be cutting it close to the 36, but as you got closer the times just kept dropping and dropping. Amazing.
Way to get it done.

Scott Wesemann said...

Danny/Matt- Thanks for the comments.