Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wasatch 100 Race Report

by Craig

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

The hike out of the aid station was fine. We moved easily while I ate and drank. Jennilyn forced me to eat and take my salt pills and for a time I felt pretty good. I was still very hot and not moving fast, but I was running when I could run and hiking well in between. As we crested Bald Mountain and headed down the steep rocky ridge the wind was blowing and we started to fly and were passing several other runners. In fact, over the next mile or two we passed several people, but never got passed ourselves. And then the drop over to Alexander Ridge. It was then that everything drained from my body. My energy was gone, my water was nearly gone, and my vision started to blur. Those little uphills onto the ridge drained me of everything keeping me going and I was like a slug who had salt poured on it - moving slow and freaking out at the same time. Every time Jennilyn would tell me to do something I'd immediately reply with "NO" and then mumble something inaudible. With a mile to go Jennilyn forced me to drink some of her water. There were only about four big swallows left and it was gone. Minutes later I broke down, lost it, and nearly collapsed on the side of the trail. Jennilyn consoled me and talked me through it. Minutes later a cloud came over giving us some reprieve from the sun so she made me sit and rest. We were barely more than a quarter mile from the aid station, but I could hardly move. I was actually scared of my ability to get to and then leave the aid station. After only a minute or two I got up though and hobbled into the aid station. My pacer sat me down, brought me some water, Coke, and watermelon, and then handed me a popsicle. My eyes rolled back in my head and I almost passed out. But over the next several minutes I started to drink and eat.

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

Lamb's Canyon was a train wreck. There were people everywhere and they all looked like hell. Grown men were sobbing while other runners were splayed out on cots. Crews, pacers, and volunteers were scrambling to lend aid and support where they could, but I can only imagine how many DNFed there. It was nuts. I stayed long enough to chat with friends and encourage other runners, then I was off with Matt. Jennilyn was still in tow as her car was parked at the bottom of Millcreek Canyon, so she'd run the next 5 miles with us. We had a bunch of fun going up to Upper Big Water and got there just as it got really dark (last year I made it all the way to Desolation Lake, 6 miles farther, in the same amount of time). We hung around for a while eating and drinking before heading out. The next 14 miles were uneventful as we cruised up to Deso, then along the Wasatch Crest to Scott Hill. Once down Puke Hill and onto pavement at Guardsman Pass road we turned off our headlamps and ran in the dark just enjoying the mountains, the stars, and the solitude. There was no one even remotely near us, neither in front nor in back. It was serene and I was at home with a good friend. Matt had graciously agreed to 'not push and just have fun' since my goal time was completely shot. And that's what we did.

Weighing in at Brighton. Only down 3 lbs since starting

The glory of Wasatch is found in the darkness and remoteness of running through the night. We hung around at aid stations longer than normal, ate a ton of their food, and then cruised along single track through the blackness. About 2 miles out from the old Rock Springs aid station (they got rid of it this year) I got really tired and actually fell asleep on my feet and again when I was emptying my shoe. With good fueling I got over it though. And like last year we plummeted down the Dive and Plunge and cruised pretty good through Irv's Torture Chamber and down into Pot Bottom. At one point we had to stop to watch a herd of elk crash through the trees. It was amazing to see how they plowed through there.

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

Normally I would be very disappointed with a time that slow, but in this Wasatch 100 I was just grateful to finish. I watched so many others quit too early in the race when they didn't give themselves enough of a chance to recover. I'm grateful to my pacers and friends who sacrificed to be there to support me. And I'm honored to have shared that amazing course on such a difficult day with so many incredible athletes.


MVH said...

I have a 'no sitting' rule too but I knew I needed to sit or I would feel the consequences later. Great finish and congratulations.


Jennilyn said...

some memories are more vivid than pictures; for me those are the memories filled with more emotion than I usually feel in weeks or months. apparently compassion is one of those emotions.

on the flip side, you can never feel a level 10 joy without knowing what a 0 feels like. so I bet crossing the finish line was a 10 that day. :)

Brian Beckstead said...

There's nothing wrong with grown men sobbing...! Yeah that was me.

Way to stick with it and be smart. You're a stud. Big Congrats!

Matt said...

Well done my friend. Always a pleasure to be a part of it.

I had to at least get some whip cracking pacing in there at the end to the finish, since we took it nice'n'easy the rest of the time (if you can call it that)!

There is certainly nothing quite like Wasatch.