There is always so much to try and fit into a race report, but reading through past reports I realized I spent way too much time on the end to end details and not enough on the experience. I'll try and highlight certain portions of this race without overwhelming you, as the reader, with unimportant details.
It is impossible to talk about Wasatch without mentioning the BBQ at Matt's the night before. Now in it's third year it has gone from a group of maybe 10 to a full house and backyard of 50. It has become the 'place to be' the night before the race; allowing racers, pacers, and friends to meet new people, talk about race strategies, and share funny past stories and experiences. Thank you so much Matt and Alicia for opening your homes to us for dinner and a place to stay the night before (they live 2 miles from the starting line).
Race morning felt a lot like last year. In fact, the whole first 4 hours felt a great deal like it did last year, except that my climb up Chinscraper was a lot lonelier this year than last. With the largest field ever you'd think I would have been surrounded by other racers, but by mile 5 I basically found myself alone and already fighting demons about my ability to go sub-24. It was 80 degrees at 5am at the starting line and didn't really cool off until we were almost at the top of Chinscraper.
My goal for the first 40 miles was to avoid the slump I went through last year and I think I did extremely well overall. I ran more from Bountiful B to Sessions aid (miles 24-28), felt better from Sessions to Swallows (28-35), and basically flew from Swallows to Big Mountain (35-39). Everything felt good, I was managing fuel, hydration, and electrolytes with precision, but regardless my goal to run that first 40 faster than last year just didn't happen. I didn't want to push too hard, just stay consistent. But even with all of that I found myself on the exact same splits as last year and it started to frustrate me coming into Big Mountain. Enough so that with a couple of miles left I started pushing harder than I probably should have. And because of that pushing and the increase in temps (now reaching 90+) I was starting to have issues with overheating.
As I came into Big Mountain, in the blink of an eye, my world changed. I felt OK as I weighed in, but in the few seconds from the scale to the aid station table everything broke down. I leaned over the table and just kept repeating "I'm so hot, it's so hot, I can't handle it". Jennilyn, my pacer, immediately started soaking me in water. I bent over to one of the water bucket catch trays and started scooping water into my face and neck. At the same time Jennilyn grabbed a huge bag of ice and put it on my neck. She urged me to sit, rest, and recover, but it's against my own rules to sit in the first 50 miles. There comes a time and a place when you need to bend your own rules and this was one of those times. I should have stayed longer, should have sat down and allowed my core temperature to drop before heading out again, but I was caught up in the excitement and concern for being on last year's splits, so we took off earlier than was likely safe.
Hanging over the table at Big Mountain
Over the next 30 minutes I consumed 40oz of water, 24 oz of coke, and 5 popsicles. I saw friends and other runners come and go in that time. Some stayed even longer than me. But within the full 40 minutes I was there I completely recovered. Never once, not on the trail, not when I was concerned for my safety, and not when I was scared to go back out from the aid station into the heat did I ever, EVER, consider quitting. My shot at sub-24 was gone, but I felt good again and I was happy and having fun. Jennilyn and I walked out of the aid station and started to move. We ran when we could, but never pushed. I felt like I had control of the heat again and all of my faculties back. Once onto the dirt road down to Lamb's Canyon aid, mile 53, my diaphragm cramps came back (too much Coke), but we were still able to do some good running in there. On the single track I even tried to drop her (which I knew I couldn't do, but it was fun) and we were flying. We came into the aid station looking and feeling awesome. Unfortunately, no one else there did.
The last few steps into Lamb's Canyon, finally feeling good
Weighing in at Brighton. Only down 3 lbs since starting
After Pot Bottom the course is new. Instead of heading north, it goes south on dirt roads. Then a short climb up and over the ridge and down ATV trails to pavement. We didn't rush this section, but ran a solid chunk of the downhills, that's for sure. Once on pavement we ran east to the stop sign, then walked south to the next stop sign. From there Matt wouldn't let me walk another step to the finish line. We ran and moved well all the way up the hill to the finish line. Even over the embankment and the final dash to the finish were with strength and power. I crossed the line in 28:15:14 to friends, runners, and OH! my mom. What a treat.
Finishing with a thumbs up to friends
Hugging my mom after crossing the line