Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run

Ahhh, the Wasatch 100, the race that sucks you in. One of the toughest 100 milers out there. Almost everyone I know that has run it has sworn to never run it again, but very few follow up on that promise. I'm one of those. In 2005 I ran and failed miserably by dropping at 61 miles due to cold weather. I still don't regret that.

But I had to go back and finish that race, so I signed up for the 2006 version. When I crossed the finish line after over 34 hours on the trail, I swore I'd never run it again. It just take so much out of you just to finish. So I didn't run in 2007 and found that I really missed being there. I was hooked on a race that about does me in every time.

So I ran it in 2008, vowing to improve my time now that I knew what to expect. And I did do better by over 2 hours. Now I'm really hooked and have this idea that I can run it in under 30 hours. So, Wasatch becomes my key race for the year. All training and racing is geared for this one event. I figure that if I can just cut the time I spend sitting on my butt in aid stations down, then 30 hours was in the bag. In 2008 my total aid station time was over 4 hours.

My training to date has been greater than in the past couple of years. Over 1500 miles YTD, but I'm thinking this isn't enough. Oh well, it is what it is.

Race day - This year the race started on Friday. This is a change from past years, so Karen has to just drop me off and get back home to get ready for work.

0-18.8 miles - Start to the maintenance shed. This went well. I feel good, the climb up to chinscraper was made in about the same time as I usually do, the run down to the maintenance shed felt good. I got into the maintenance shed aid station about 10 minutes slower than last year. No big deal. In and out in 4 minutes. The one thing I did do was slam an Ensure Plus. Trouble is, it was warm. That stuff is icky when it's warm. For the nex 4 miles my stomach was protesting.

18.8-24 miles - I usually dread this section. It involves three separate steep climbs, not real long, but not a whole lot of fun. Still, I made it into Bountiful "B" about 15 minutes behind last year's time. I fueled up on fresh fruit, drank plenty and hit the trail again. By now my stomach is back to normal and I feel fine.

24-28.8 miles - This section to Sessions liftoff is pretty easy. Mostly dirt 4 x 4 road with not much elevation change. Along here is where my left knee started acting up. I didn't fall, twist it or anything, it just started hurting on the inside. I took a couple of Ibuprofen and limped along waiting for those to kick in. Once they did, I found that I could run. I got into the Sessions Liftoff aid station 20 minutes down from last year. I was a little concerned, especially about my knee. I was wondering how bad it would get. Would I end up dropping due to injury? I hoped not.

28.8-35.7 miles - At the Sessions aid station I met up with Ernie Floyd. Usually he's much faster than me, so it was nice to tag along with him for the next 7 miles. My knee felt much better and by the time we got the Swallow Rocks aid station I found that I had made up the entire 20 minutes. I didn't feel like I had run any faster, but there it was. I was happy. By now the day was getting really warm, well into the 80's. At least there was a breeze at times.

35.7-39.2 miles - This section into the Big Mountain aid station is pretty easy. Mostly downhill and easy cruising. Still, my knee started acting up again and at some points I was limping along and not running. A couple more vitamin I, hobble for 20 minutes and start running again. When I got into Big Mountain, Larry Mangum was there and gave me an ice cold Ensure. I didn't think this was a good idea, but drank it anyway. It tasted a lot better than the last one. By now the weather was really warm. I later heard that the high for the day on the course was 98 degrees. I believe it.

39.2-47.4 miles - This section into the Alexander Ridge aid station was definitely the hottest part of the course. The middle of the afternoon and very exposed,hardly any shade at all. Usually I love running in the heat, but on this section I did find it a little overbearing. Not only that, but my knee was still giving me issues. I was seriously wondering if I was going to end up dropping. After thinking about it for awhile, I decided that the only way I was going to drop was if I either timed out or the pain became so unbearable that I was reduced to crawling along the trail. I got into Alexander Ridge over a hour behind last year's time. Still not a big deal since my aid station stops were very short. At Alexander Ridge I saw my friend Jill just sitting in a chair trying to cool down. She was having some real issues with the heat, but then so were a lot of people. This was probably the low point for me during the race.

47.4-53.1 miles - The run into the half way point at Lamb's Canyon in mostly downhill and fairly easy running. This section was pretty uneventfull and I managed to not lose any more time. While I was running this section, I called Meghan, my pacer to let her know where I was. She was supposed to meet me at the Upper Big Water aid station and needed to know the approximate time I would be there. Lamb's Canyon is where I started spending more and more time at aid stations last year, so I knew I could make up some time by just getting out of there as quickly as possible. Once I got in, I ate some real food, a grilled cheese sandwich. Good stuff. Meghan called me while I was eating and told me she decided to meet me at Lamb's rather than Upper Big Water and if I'd wait ten minutes she'd be there. She only lives a couple miles from there and I wanted some company, so I waited. I ended up spending about 27 minutes at Lamb's, about the same amount of thime as last year. What a boost to have my pacer show up early. When Meghan showed up, we took off.

53.1-61.7 miles - This section is usually pretty slow since most of it is uphill. Meghan had brought me some Aleve so I thought I'd try that to see if it helped my knee. It really did when it finally kicked in. Along this section is when it usually gets dark for me, and this year was no exception. By the time we got to the top of Bear Bottom Pass, it was completely dark and we could see the lights of Salt Lake City off in the distance. The weather was still warm and promised to be all night, which is fine with me. We dropped into Millcreek Canyon and started making the trek up to the Upper Big Water aid station. Usually Upper Big Water is the coldest part of the course and I was determined to get in and out as fast as possible. So, in and out in 16 minutes, downed some spaghetti, and up the trail we went. Next stop, Desolation Lake.

61.7-66.9 miles - This section is one of the most beautiful parts of the course and unless you're a front runner, you go thru it at night. Nonetheless, since the night was clear, the stars were beautiful. My knee was feeling better, or at least no worse and I was able to run sections of this pretty well. We got into the Desolation Lake aid station about almost two hours later than last year. I figured that a 30 hour finish was out of the question with my knee the way it was but a sub 34 might still be possible. In and out of Deso in 5 minutes.

66.9-70.8 miles - After you leave Desolation Lake, there's a short but steep climb up to Red Lover's Ridge, then a fairly flat to rolling section at 10,000' until you get to Scott's Transmission Tower aid station. I wasn't feeling too bad along this section. It did get a little cool since there's always a wind across the ridge you're running on. But still, not bad. In and out of Scott's in 3 minutes and heading for the downhill into Brighton. A couple of times along this part of the trail Meghan and I just shut off our headlamps and stopped and looked at the stars. A crystal clear night and no city lights made for lots of beautiful stars.

70.8-75.6 - Brighton Ski Area Lodge, the black hole. More people drop out here than any other aid station because it's nice and warm, hot food, etc. Be very scared of this place. When I got there I had to weigh in. I think I was within 2 pounds of my starting weight. I had Meghan get me some scrambled eggs with lots of ketchup, salt and pepper. Wonderful stuff. I ate plenty then we hit the trail again. In and out in about 25 minutes.

75.6-80.3 miles - From here to the end is where my lungs always fall apart. I end up with asthma, and probably a little HAPE every time I run this race. I can run this section in training and nothing happens, just on race day. So needless to say I was a little nervous going out of Brighton and up the trail to Point Supreme, the highest point on the course at 10,500'. Well, this year I was pretty much fine. We made steady prgress up to Point Supreme and I didn't have to stop once to catch my breath. I was a little excited. While we were going up the trail, we heard a rustle off the trail. When we turned our headlamps over, there were four eyes and two very large shapes looking back at us from about 40 feet away. Two moose bedded down in a meadow, one of them a good sized bull. We hoped they would just stay where they were. Once past Point Supreme you have to go down a really knarly downhill for a couple miles. Steep, narrow, deep dust, lots of loose rocks. Not a lot of fun after 75+ miles. Made it into Ant Knolls aid station just before sunrise. Had a pancake and piece of sausage. Good stuff. In and out of Ant Knolls in 9 minutes.

80.3-83.4 miles - The trail out of Ant Knoll's goes up a short but brutal climb called the Grunt. Made it up that just as the sun was hitting the peaks around us. Stunning. Along here is where I noticed the little tickle in the back of my throat that signals a cold coming on. I finally caught Karen's cold, but at least it held off for the rest of the race. Made it into Pole LIne Pass aid station a little over an hour behind last year's time, so I had made up some time, probably on the trek out of Brighton. Grabbed some more food and left Pole Line in 12 minutes. Maybe I still could go under 33 or 34 hours.

83.4-87.4 miles - This was a long section. Mostly uphill to 10,000' again with a couple of steep climbs. The one site that was definitely worth seeing along here was the morning sun hitting Mt. Timpanogos across the valley from where we were. The Rock Springs aid station is really small, they have to trek everything in except the water. Got into here at around 10am, well behind last year's pace. In and out of here in a minute.

87.4-93.1 miles - Not a section I was looking forward to. We were going along a level portion and I could feel myself falling asleep on my feet. I told Meghan that I just wanted a 10 minute nap. She wouldn't let me, something about being on the side of a mountain. Finally we got to a little wider level place and she relented, gave me 12 minutes and I was asleep instantly. After that little nap I was good to go and wide awake. Now came the dive and the plunge. Two very steep, narrow series of switchbacks. Motorcycles have really churned the dirt and rocks up and it's very treacherous. Both of us went down on our butts more than once as we slid down. Then it was time for Irv's torture chamber, a series of seven short ups and downs that are not fun at all. Finally, Pot Bottom, the final aid station, 93 miles, the race is in the bag. Got some more food and out of there in 8 minutes. Now for the final push to the finish.

93.1-100 miles - A fairly short climb (700') on a dirt road and the rest is downhill. Hurray! Once we hit the downhill, I tried to at least do some trotting. Eventually we hit the last section of trail. I broke into a run here. One mile of trail, then on the road and 3/4mile to the finish. No matter how tired I am, I always run this last section on the road and run across the finish line.

Finish - At last I cross, 33:57:07. Not my fastest, not my slowest, but I'm done. I shake the race director's hand, kiss my wife and hug my pacer. I feel good. I looked down at my knee and it was pretty swollen. I hadn't noticed that before. Well, I figure it'll heal in a week or so, so no big deal. Other than the knee, I felt pretty good, the legs weren't really very sore at all, not like they usually are. I love doing these races, but I'm always glad when they're over. Many thanks to Meghan, my friend and pacer. She kept me on task, got me in and out of the aid stations much faster than last year and was good company to have for almost 20 hours.

Will I run Wasatch again? Who knows. Probably. For some deluded reason I still think I can go under 30 hours. There are other 100 mile races that I want to run and Karen has told me that I need to do some of those before I do Wasatch again.


  1. Way to go Jim! Great report. Now I got the bug back.

  2. Great report, Jim. Good luck with your sub-30 goal this year. I'm seriously considering giving Wasatch a go in 2011, so it was helpful to read your comments about each section. Let me know if you ever want some company on any training runs on the Wasatch course.