Monday, November 18, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

White Rim 100 - A Pacer's Story

by Craig
This is tough for me. How do you tell a story that isn't yours to tell? A race that wasn't yours to run? As a pacer everything is about the racer, but when you are 'pacing' the full 100 miles it becomes a race of your own, with all of the ups and downs that go along with running the full distance. And this wasn't even a race, but an attempt to beat the current Fastest Known Time (FKT) on a significant trail in southern Utah.

Jennilyn Eaton, a Salt Lake City local, had been planning for some time to attempt a women's FKT of the 100 mile long White Rim trail in Canyonlands National Park. A couple of months ago she invited me along for the full ride, hoping to help her run faster end to end. I'm sure she was relying on my experience in races and long adventure runs to get her through the "tough miles". She had never run 100 miles before, but had put up solid performances in the 50 mile and 100k distances. Going into the run she was looking fast and strong. But now I'm wandering over to her story. You'll have to see the video to get the full details on her experience (forthcoming).

I didn't make a big deal about my running 100 miles to anyone prior to leaving because I figured it wasn't mine to share. I knew if she wanted to make a big deal of it, she would. I also knew she wouldn't. For Jennilyn this experience was about something deeper than just an FKT, it was personal and defining and I didn't want to tread on that.

I haven't been to Canyonlands since I was a kid. I couldn't tell you anything about a national park that is close enough to be almost a day trip. What I did know was that the route had a casual 12,000 of vertical climbing, most of it runnable. I also knew it was entirely a dirt road with about seven miles of pavement. It seemed fast and I was optimistic that her aggressive goals were achievable. For me it would be about hanging on for the ride. I would need to have a good day to be of any real help to Jennilyn, as the course would test not just my endurance, but my speed.


We started our run at 6:20am at the bottom of Mineral Basin. In the first two miles we had an amazing switchback climb of over 1000 vertical feet. And then a long 18 miles of gently rolling uphills until we dropped into the Schaefer Trail inside of the park proper. We took it easy, had great conversation, and cruised along in the morning light. Our crew (Jennilyn's husband Ben and Matt W) would periodically stop to take video and photos, but there was no planned aid stop for the first 20 miles. It was a long way to go without stopping, but turned out to be a very wise decision. I felt great and looked forward to the amazing views ahead.

Running pavement early on - mile 18
Dropping into the canyon via the famous Schaefer Trail is like falling into a world of Wonderland. The entire landscape changes; hoodoos, arches, and islands of floating rock mesmerized us as we rounded every bend in the road. It was now nearing 11am and starting to warm up. My stomach was turning a little south and I was having problems eating. Jennilyn was pulling ahead at times, her focus solely on her goal and not me - right where it should be. With each stop (about 10 miles apart) I would take a little longer while she would go ahead. Mile after mile I felt like my condition was worsening and she would continue to pull ahead. My focus was completely on helping and being there for her, so I would push to catch up, sometimes catching up a mile or so before our next aid, other times coming in a few minutes behind her. At mile 56 I finally started feeling better and caught up with her just as her stomach was turning the other way. She couldn't eat and started getting low blood sugar. Our aid stop at 58 was focused on getting us both strong again and we left in good spirits.

 Just before dropping into the switchbacks on the Schaefer Trail

Looking down at the Schaefer switchbacks

 Not feeling well around mile 45

Running on the moon

I was finally in a position where I felt like I could be an asset to her. We talked and laughed as we made our way towards Murphy's, one of the two remaining large climbs. We ran smooth and climbed strong and found ourselves at the top of Murphy's - mile 66 - eating pickles (Jennilyn, not me) and other goodies before starting into a long 15 miles of rolling downhill. Jennilyn pulled ahead for a while before she got very sick again. Now she was unable to keep anything down. I had been running an even pace, still dealing with some tummy issues and a diaphragm cramp, yet my focus changed to keeping her moving and upright. We were well up on her goal time and could take extra time to get her right, but at mile 80 we had to spend a bunch of time trying to get her feeling better without success. Most people would have laid down and either waited till they felt better or quit. Jennilyn got pissed for having puked on her shoes and took off running faster than I could keep up. I did catch up (more like she waited for me) four miles later and stayed with her the rest of the way. By this time I was rallying and felt strong in the cool night air. I did have my first ever puke-while-running experience just before mile 88. I sure wish that would have happened 40 miles earlier because I came away feeling like a million bucks. Unfortunately for Jennilyn, her throw up sessions did not leave her feeling better, but even worse and she had to push through regardless. Amazing.

We finished the run just after 4am in a total time of 21:52:33.
 We just ran 100 miles

 Satisfaction that it was over

I spent my day doing everything I could to keep up with her. At my lowest points my mind would wander to the possibility of having to give up and hand off duties of pacing to Matt or Ben. My fear of failing Jennilyn drove my ability to not lose her and catch up when I felt horrible. It guided my attitude and shored my emotions when I needed to be there when she was having her lows. More than anything it allowed me to truly savor the success she would have in this accomplishment. I'm proud to have run 100 miles on such a beautiful course. More so I am honored to have witnessed Jennilyn accomplishing a goal she has had for herself for so long. It was truly amazing to watch.

Thank you to my sponsors whose gear continued to exceed expectations. And to the other companies whose gear was also incredible. I ran in and ate the following:
Altra Zero Drop Lone Peak shoes - I never took off my shoes, never felt the need to.
Ultraspire Revolution Vest - While I didn't use it the first 40 miles, it literally saved me the last 60.
Gnarly Nutrition Boost - This water additive is the best thing to happen to me in ages. So amazing.
Vfuel Gels - For long distance running, there is no better gel.
SPOT GPS Tracker - I carried the new Gen3 the full 100 miles and never knew it was there.
Injinji Trail Socks - Normally I change socks at 50 miles. Not this time. 

Head over to in the next few days to see an interview with Jennilyn as well as the feature video.

**All photos by Matt Williams