Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grand Slam Adventure Part 4, Wasatch 100

Wow, the last race of the series.  Finally.  It’s been a pretty grueling summer running wise, but one I wouldn’t trade away.
After Leadville, I had three weeks to rest up, do a little running, and anticipate running Wasatch for the 5th time.  I wasn’t apprehensive at all, I was excited.  I know this course, I’ve done it before several times, I know what to expect at every point.  Bring it on.
During the three weeks between Leadville and Wasatch I did very little running.  I took a complete week off after Leadville, then basically ran every other day until the week before, and took most of that week off.  I did manage to take Joel on a preview run of the course from Brighton to the finish, but we cheated and took the Sandy Baker cutoff, thus shortening our run by about eight miles.
I went to the prerace Thursday, saw lots of friends, met with my two pacers, then headed home.  My wife and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant for some carboloading, then home to bed.  This time I slept like a baby, relaxed, no worries, no being all keyed up.  It was nice to say the least.
I had huge plans for a sub-30 hour run and had made up a pace chart to reflect that.  I also told all sorts of people that I planned on going sub-30.  Best laid plans and all that.
The race started at 5am and we were off.  I took a nice relaxed pace for those first few miles before we started our climb up to Chinscraper.  The legs felt pretty good, not tired, my attitude was good.  I was excited to be out here and get this last race done.
Looking down from the top of Chinscraper

Little bit of snow left over from last winter
As I went up the climb to chinscraper, I chatted with Charlie Vincent.  He did the Slam a couple years ago and we had a good time running the miles away.  Once on the ridgeline, I got stuck in a conga line of about 10 runners.  There really wasn’t any good spot to pass, so I just went with it.  A few people stopped at Landis spring and I was able to get by them and make a little bit of time.  At about 11 miles, I saw something I’ve never seen while running Wasatch.  A nice big snow cornice left over from last winter.  It must have been 3-4 feet thick still.  We actually had to cross it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is still there when the snow flies in a month or so.  On past Grobben’s corner, past the radar towers (passed Joel here), and down the gravel road to the Maintenance Shed aid station.  Since Farmington Canyon road was closed, the race wasn’t allowing crew or spectators there.  It seemed really quiet and subdued with only a handful of cars and people.  Nice and quiet.  Not only that, but there weren’t any motorcycles or 4-wheelers to raise all sorts of dust.  Very nice.  The section between the maintenance shed and the Bountiful B aid is one of my least favorite sections, a couple of steep climbs, some almost bushwacking, just not fun.  However, I persevered and managed to keep on a sub-30 hour pace.  I felt pretty good to this point, but in a couple of miles after Bountiful, my attitude went south.  I felt ok, my stomach was fine, it’s just that my legs were tired, heavy, and so was my brain.  Once I left the Sessions aid, Karen called.  First, I was surprised that I got cell service there, second, she got really worried after hearing me complain.  At this point, it just wasn’t fun.  It continued to not be any fun all the way to the Swallow Rocks aid.  Here I got a couple of popsicles, some potatoes with salt and bolted.  The good thing was that I was still on a sub-30 pace.  A couple miles past Swallow Rocks something clicked.  It was instant, my attitude changed 180 degrees, I felt better, I took off for Big Mountain at a little quicker pace.

Descending to Alexander Ridge
At Big Mountain (39.4 miles) I met Britta, my first pacer.  She brought me a Coke Icee, and that hit the spot.  That, coupled with more potatoes and I felt like a new man.  We took off for Alexander Ridge and Lamb’s Canyon.  I have never run the section between Big Mountain and Lamb’s in under four hours.  We did it in 3.5 hours.

Lamb's Canyon for a few minutes
At Lamb’s I picked up Meghan, my next pacer.  Meghan has paced me for the last 47 miles before and we always have a good time, so I was looking forward to a few miles of interesting conversation.  We took off up Lamb’s Canyon at a dead……walk.  It’s uphill and just steep enough for me to not run when I’m tired.  Still, I managed a pretty good power hike up the road and up the trail to Bear Ass Pass.  My goal was to get there before dark.  Our headlamps were on when we got to the top of the pass, but Meghan pointed out that it was technically still light since you could still see the remains of sunset.  I’ll buy it.  Down Elbow Fork Trail and up Millcreek road to Upper Big Water we went. 
Upper Big Water is always a cold spot.  It sits in a bowl and collects cold air.  During my first attempt at Wasatch I dropped here due to the extreme cold and not being prepared.  My plan was to eat a couple of bowls of their spaghetti, put some dry warm clothes on and get out.  We were out in 15 minutes.  Going up to Dog Lake, and ultimately Desolation Lake I started to slow down.  I had no climbing legs left.  I could do the downhills and flats just fine, but if it was uphill, I was going slow.  I saw my hopes of a sub-30 finish slipping away and knew that I little chance of getting it back.  My uphill legs were gone.  I knew I would finish, but my time would be less than spectacular.
The Desolation Lake aid is always an interesting place.  Another cold spot at over 9000’, it’s easy to sit by their nice big campfire and warm up.  Since I’ve wasted time doing that before, we left after about three minutes.  By now, the moon was out and it was almost full.  At times along the ridge above Brighton we would turn off our headlamps and just run by the moonlight.  The shadows were bright and it was pretty cool.  Running by moonlight at 10,000’ is something that most people will never experience and one of the reasons I do these things.  Park City lights off to the left, Salt Lake City lights behind, Brighton lights off to the right.  Very cool in my book.
By the time we got to Brighton, I was slowing down even more.  I had been looking forward to Brighton for some time because I knew I could get some scrambled eggs with ketchup.  Scrambled eggs with ketchup at 3am after running 75 miles is some of the best tasting food there is.  I just wished they’d have had some Tabasco sauce.  That would have been awesome (next time in my drop bag!).  I decide to take a little break here and we stayed here for about 45 minutes.  I did manage a short nap before we took off a little after 4am.

Sunrise over the Wasatch, love it
The climb out of Brighton on race day is one that always gets to me.  Usually my asthma is acting up a little and it’s a long slow 2.5 mile climb to Sunset Pass.  This time it wasn’t too bad.  My lungs were fine and we made the climb to the pass in a little over an hour.  Once on the other side, it’s a very steep, loose and rocky trail into Ant Knoll’s aid.  Everyone is pretty timid here because of the possibility of a nasty fall.  I hammered it pretty good.  I had run this section two weeks earlier and knew what to expect.  Not only that, but my quads were still good to go as far as downhill running.  I was wearing my Hoka’s to absorb the pounding and away I went.  We made Ant Knoll’s by 6am, spent a couple minutes getting some sausage and took off.  The next climb up the Grunt wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and we made it to Pole Line Pass aid in a little over an hour.  I was so sleepy along this section that I decided to take a 10 minute nap here.  That did wonders for me, but I wish I would have just had some caffeine instead and saved a little time.  The next few miles to Rock Springs aid were uneventful except for the elk we saw up above us on the mountainside.  We were hoping they would just leave us alone.  All along this section we marveled at the sunrise over the Wasatch.  This section is one of the most scenic and I love running through here when the sun is coming up.  Beautiful.  We basically ran through the Rock Springs aid and kept going.  Next up was one of the toughest sections of the course, the dive, the plunge, the seven hills of Babylon.  Very steep and loose rocky downhills followed by short steep uphills.  Kind of demoralizing after 90 miles.  Still, it didn’t seem as bad as it has in years past.  Don’t know why, it just didn’t.
Eventually we made it to the last aid station, Pot Bottom.  From here it was a fairly easy climb, some long downhill miles followed by a short section of road.  Home free!
I did manage to run the last half mile or so to the finish.  The run across the lawn with everyone cheering is something that always is enjoyable, especially this year since I had just completed the Grand Slam.  A good portion of the Utah ultrarunning crowd knew I was attempting the Slam and I got all sorts of cheers, good jobs, etc.  It was pretty neat.
Crossing the finish line I always thank John, the race director for the abuse I’ve put myself through.  He just laughs. 

One tired, but happy little boy
Once again I had a pretty uneventful 100 miles.  No stomach issues at all, no chafing, and shock of all shocks, no blisters on my feet.  No blisters has never happened at a 100.  I finally managed to complete the section from Brighton to the finish in under 10 hours.  I have never been able to do that before either.  This time I did it in about 9:30.  Not too bad for tired legs.
Once again I did 1st Endurance EFS Liquid Shot as my main source of fuel for the first 75 miles.  After that the stuff just won't go down.  I switched to some energy bars that I found at the Outdoor Retailer show back in August.  They're called Journey Bars and they aren't sweet.  They have flavors like Mequite Bar-b-que, Wasabi ginger, Coconut curry.  What I did was nibble on one an hour and that got me 200 calories per hour.  Kept me fueled just fine.
So, I had some good sections, some not so good, but nothing terrible and horrible, just the usual ups and downs associated with something like this.
The 12 Grand Slam runners who made it
I think the main reason I couldn’t go under 30 hours this year was just the fact that I had run three 100-mile races in the past 11 weeks.  Maybe some tired legs?  Maybe I'm getting old?  I don’t know, just a thought.
The nifty eagle Grand Slam trophy
The awards ceremony was pretty neat.  When they were calling up the 12 of us who completed the slam, they announced me as the only Utah runner to complete it this year.  That got the loudest cheer.  I have to admit, I enjoyed the attention.  It’s something when all sorts of people  tell you they’ve been following your progress all summer.  I had all sorts of other runners during the race cheering me on.
I have to say thank you to my awesome pacers, Britta and Meghan.  Not only did I have the best looking pacers out there, they were great at keeping me on task, eating, drinking, moving.
My awesome pacers, Meghan (L), and Britta (R)

By the numbers
Time – 32:35
Place – 114th out of about 240 starters
Calories burned – the same 12,000
Calories taken in – roughly the same 6000 as usual
Time wasted at aid stations – roughly 1.5 hours
Shoes – La Sportiva Raptors for the first 53 miles, then the Hoka Mafate’s for the last 47.

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