Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pacing and crewing duties, IMTUF 100

This past weekend I had the chance to do something that I really like to do, but don't get much of a chance to do.  Pace and crew friends in their 100-mile races.
Several of us drove from Utah up to McCall, ID to crew and pace a couple of friends, (Breein Clark and Jeremy Achter) at the IMTUF 100.  This race is a seriously tough, remote, and long race.  It's advertised as a 100-mile event.  We think it actually runs around 108-110 miles total.
the race starts and finishes at Burgdorf Hot Springs.  Think very rustic, no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing in the cabins.
I got up there around 8:30 Friday evening, found the cabin we were staying in and moved in.  The rest of the evening was spent drinking beer and engaging in high school age humor.  In other words, fun.  We did get to bed at a reasonable hour though since our runners had to be at the start at 6am.  No moon or clouds at night, and being well away from the city lights meant that the stars were absolutely spectacular.
I didn't sleep too well, but neither did anyone else, so 5:15 came pretty early.  Up, make some coffee, get our runner ready and walk to long 50 yards down to the starting line.  Once the runners started, we headed back to the cabin, ate breakfast, loaded up all of our stuff and hit the road to the first place we could see our runners.
It's a rugged trail out there.
It was a beautiful day for anything, the sun was out, it was warm, and the leaves are turning.
We first met our runners at about 13 miles in.  They were both doing well and we got them fed, hydrated and out.  After that, we had several hours to wait, so we headed into town to grab some lunch and harrass people on facebook.  Then, back out to the aid station at 33 miles. 
Upper Payette Lake
Feed and hydrate our runners, get them what they needed and kick them out again. 
Just waiting for our runners at the Upper Payette aid station
Jeremy and his pacer Mike heading out from Snowslide aid
Next up was the aid station at 47 miles.  Here, runners were able to pick up their first pacer.  Both Breein and Jeremy still were doing very well.  We got both of them out in short order, then headed for the next crew aid station. 
At Lake Fork, Breein and Jeremy switched their pacers.  Aric had paced Breein for this section and Mike had paced Jeremy.  Now it was Jared (Jeremy) and Harrison's (Breein) turn to take them through the night.

Breein looking happy and good at Snowslide aid
The section from Lake Fork back to Upper Payette Lake was supposed to be 25 miles.  We figured around 8-9 hours.  Nope, that didn't happen.  Both runners took right at 12 hours and the actual mileage was closer to 35.  That helped from my perspective since it allowed me to get a bit more sleep.  I did manage to get around 4-5 hours of sleep while sitting in a nice warm truck.
Jeremy showed up first at around 8:30 and picked up Mike as a pacer for the last 15 miles.  Jeremy looked really good other than being tired.  Breein didn't roll in until around 11:15am.  I had gone for a short run down the dirt road hoping to find her and Harrison and I did manage to about 3/4 mile away.
Breein getting ready to head out with Aric from Snowslide aid
Breein still looked pretty good, was actually running sections but also looked pretty tired.  At this point the offcial distance was supposed to be 88 miles.  What we figured was that it was over 90.
We got Breein squared away and the two of us set out for the remaining 15 or so miles.  Over the first four miles or so, she moved very well, running long stretches, chatting.
Random log cabin we came across in the middle of nowhere
Then we hit the steep part of the climb.  And it got warm.  And there was no breeze.  And Breein doesn't do well in the heat.  Still, she plugged away and eventually we made it to the final aid station.  Ice in the pack, under her hat, and half a beer and we were out.
Stomach was still bothering her, but she kept everything down.  By now we were traversing along a ridge and the scenery was gorgeous.

Now we had the final eight miles or so, and it was all downhill.  Awesome, easier running......oh wait, some of that downhill was steep and very rocky.  I'm glad she had some poles to use.  I kept an eye on the watch and the mileage and tried to push where I thought I could and back off when I needed to.  About a mile or so from the finish we met up with Harrison.
Showing off her finisher's belt
He ran in with us, taking pictures and chatting.  Breein ran across the finish looking strong.  Final time, 35:15, good enough for 7th female.  I'm super proud of her.  She never once voiced anything about quitting.  She was determined to keep going.  One tough lady.

I'm thinking about running this one next year.  Gorgeous scenery, really hard race.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sixth time is a charm

Prologue -
Ten years ago I moved out to Utah for a job.  I had already run a couple of 100 mile races and had heard of the Wasatch 100.  I knew it was one of the toughest 100's in the country.  I also knew that if I was going to live in Utah I would have to run it at some point.
I ran my first Wasatch in 2005.  It was a lesson in reality.
I DNF'd at 61 miles due to being cold, really, really cold.  2006 I was better prepared for the cold, but I wasn't prepared for the asthma that dogged me for the last 25 miles.  I think my pacer thought I was going to die at some point, but I finished.  It was brutal, but I finished.
Since then I've always had it in the back of my head to finish with a  sub-30 hour time, but it wasn't until last year that I really had that as a goal.  Last year I came so close, finishing with a 30:06.  This year was going to be the year....I hoped.
All my fueling and drinking strategies worked really well last year, so I planned on repeating it as much as possible.
I had my pace chart setup with last year's splits and my usual optimistic splits for this year.

Aid StationDistanceAltitude2013 Actuals2014 Goal Out2014 Actuals
East Mountain Wilderness Park0 mi.4880 feet5:005:005:00
Francis Peak18.4 mi.7500 feet9:349:309:49
Bountiful B23.81 mi.8160 feet10:5810:5511:08
Sessions Lift Off28.16 mi.8320 feet11:5911:5512:10
Swallow Rocks34.61 mi.8320 feet13:5013:4514:10
Big Mountain39.07 mi.7420 feet15:0614:5515:31
Alexander Ridge46.90 mi.6160 feet17:1717:0017:42
Lambs Canyon52.48 mi.6100 feet18:5918:2519:11
Millcreek60.94 mi.7660 feet21:4621:0522:05
Desolation Lake66.02 mi.9170 feet23:4323:0023:56
Scotts Pass71.15 mi.9910 feet1:040:201:18
Brighton Lodge74.63 mi.8790 feet2:321:402:54
Ant Knolls79.13 mi.9000 feet4:393:404:49
Pole Line Pass82.31 mi.8925 feet6:055:106:07
Staton North87.28 mi.7658 feetN/A6:257:34
Decker Canyon93.89 mi.5910 feetN/A8:009:10
Soldier Hollow99.96 mi.5509 feet11:0610:0010:40

I have to get my outfit together, this is important

I was somewhat nervous because I didn't think my training was where it needed to be, yet when I would check my training log, I had more miles in than last year.  That helped alleviate some anxiety.
Weather?  Weather is always a factor at Wasatch.  Last year was very warm, even overnight and up high in the mountains.  this plays to my strengths.  Cold weather does not.  this year the weather looked to be similar to last year, just a bit cooler.

Race -
Start to Francis - 0-18.4
As usual, the start came way too early for me, but oh well.  I managed to get caught in several conga lines.  These frustrate the hell out of me, but also serve the purose of keeping me from going out too fast, so I just went with the flow and didn't really worry about passing anybody this early.  Unfortunately, I got caught way in the back of the pack.  This meant I would be slow right out of the gate and possibly not make my goal times.  Could be a problem later.
The trek to Francis was pretty uneventful.  I felt fine, the sun came up, scenery was beautiful as usual.  There were a couple of folks a Cool Spring like last year, handing out Gatorade and water.  There was a guy at the top of Chinscraper cheering and ringing a cowbell.  He had gone up the night before.  I'm always glad to get the longest and, to me, most difficult climb out of the way early.
I got to Francis about 15 minutes behind last year's time, and 20 minutes behind my goal.  Not an issue at this point. 
The HUMR's were running this aid station and it was wonderful to see a bunch of friends there.  I would see many of them later as several were going to be pacing other HUMR's later in the race.
HUMR Nation running the Francis aid station
My fueling strategy here was to get my Ultragen, drink some Coke, grab my burrito and baby food and get out.  I ate my burrito as I left and began the trek to Bountiful B.

Francis to Bountiful B - 18.4-23.8
Let's just say this isn't my favorite section of the race.  In fact, I rather don't like it at all.  Forest roads follwed by a steep climb and it's not fun.  However, I actually didn't do too bad thru this section and made up some of the time I had lost going to Francis.  I actually was faster than last year thru here.
Quick stop here and i was down the road again.

Bountiful B to Sessions - 23.8-28.1
I have had some bad spells thru here in years past.  Today was a bit different.  I felt pretty good for most of it.  Managed to run a few of the miles with Curtis and Ryan.  As we were coming up and over a slight rise, we saw something totally out of character for the race.  There along side the trail in the middle of nowhere at 9,000' was a living room.  Yep, recliner, rug, bookcase with books, end table and lamp, and Matt Van Horn sitting there holding up signs for runners. 

Coolest.thing.ever seen during Wasatch
 One of the coolest things I've ever seen at a race.  Anyway, about mile 26 I could feel myself start the mental descent into race purgatory. 

Showing my wife the picture of Matt
That point where you get a case of the "I don't give a shit", you want to call it quits, your legs hurt or are tired or both.  the thing is, there's nothing you can do about it except ride it out.  When you've done these things enough, you realize it's just part of the deal.  You will feel low at some point.  Well, this started just before Sessions and lasted for about 10 miles.  I just kept going. 

Sessions to Big Mountain - 28.1-39.1
Eventually, about 1-2 miles past the3 Swallow Rocks aid, I felt myself come out of my funk.  It was strange to just be able to feel my mood lift, my legs feel stronger and less tired.
anyway, I came into Big Mountain feeling pretty good.  Karen was waiting for me, had my next pack ready to go, got me my food, forced me to eat plenty and kicked me out.  Just what I wanted her to do.

Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon - 39.1-52.5
this section is mostly downhill and you'd think that would make it easy.  Nope.  There are some uphill sections, you're running thru here in the heat of the afternoon and exposed.  The downhills are steep and have large quantities of loose rocks.  Still, I managed to really make up some time here.  Like 20 minutes faster than last year.  About 2-3 miles before Alexander, Rayn lauck caught up and we had a good time running together.  About 1 mile out of Alexander, Curtis Thompson cuaght up to us.  I had been trading back and forth with these two since the early miles and it was fun to run a few miles with them, see how they were doing (great), just chat about stuff going on etc.  We all went into Alexander together and left a few minutes later.  the run down the pipeline trail is always kind of drudgery, not scenic, mostly uphill and still warm.  About a mile after leaving Alexander, however, I felt great and pulled away from Ryan and Curtis.  Usually I walk most of the uphills along here, this time I was running.  Good times.

Lambs Canyon to Brighton - 52.5-74.6
Karen was waiting for me at Lamb's and had everything ready to go.  I think I spent about 10 minutes here.  The least amount ever.  I also picked up Breein, my first pacer for the race.  My goal was to get to the top of Bear Ass Pass before dark.  I was leaving Lamb's about 10 minutes later than last year and I wasn't climbing quite as strong and had to turn on the headlamp about .5 mile from the pass.  Oh well, I felt good and we kept going.  Along here we saw Matt Van Horn again at the Lamb's Canyon trailhead.  This time he was dressed as a homeless guy holding a sign that said "Will work for ultra entries".  Pretty funny stuff.
Rolled into Upper Big Water (Millcreek) around 10pm, sat down, ate some food, pulled on some warmer clothes and got out.
The climb to Dog Lake went well, strong.  Dropped down to Blunder Fork, then up the trail to Desolation Lake.  This is always a steep rocky grind, but there has been some serious trail reqork going on and with a couple of switchbacks and smoother trail, we made pretty good time.  Got into Deso and got out after a bit to drink.  The climb up to Scott's Pass took about the same amount of time as last year, so no worries.  It was a lot windier across the ridge this year, and a bit colder, but for the second time, I stayed out of the tent at Scott's.  If you go in, it's warm and inviting and you stay longer than you should.  I drank some Coke and left.  Along this section I always stop for a couple of minutes, turn off my headlamp, lay down and enjoy the stars.  I also make my pacer do it.  I love to run out here at night and part of it is just looking at the wonders around you, even during a race.  The moon was alomost full and looked gorgeous peeking out from the few clouds that were out.  The run down to Brighton took about the same amount of time as last year.

Brighton to Pole Line Pass - 74.6-82.3
I stayed at Brighton entirely too long, about 20 minutes.  I wasn't wasting time, just trying to get lots of food down.  I love having scrambled eggs here, something I look forward to.  Once again, Karen had everything ready to go for me.  I picked up my second pacer here.  Jackie is training for her first 100 (the Bear) and had never paced anyone before.  Breein just told her that I knew what I was doing and to just watch and learn. 
Telling my wife I warned Jackie about pacing me
Jackie actually did a fantastic job of pacing.  She would be in front setting a pace just a bit faster than I would have and I kept up.  Exactly what I needed.
Brighton to Pole Line went well.  Faster than last year, but I felt better this year.  I saw one thing I saw that made me happy.  I had seen Andrea Martinez sitting at Brighton with a bum knee talking about dropping.  Now this chick took second last year and is a good friend of mine.  As Jackie and I were descending into Ant Knolls, she comes absolutely flying by with her pacer, all sorts of happy.  She had her knee worked on by a PT and a chiro and was feeling great.
Got into Ant Knolls about ten minutes behind last year's time, no worries, I felt great.  Made the climb and descent into Pole Line Pass only two minutes behind last year, that made me feel really good knowing that I had at least caught up to last year's time.

Pole Line to the Finish - 82.3-100
This section was way different than last year.  No dive or plunge, no Irv's torture chamber to deal with, mostly downhill dirt road.  I had 4:50 planned for this section as a time.  I ended up running it in 4:30.  The downside to this section was the last few miles were on a well graded, exposed hiking/biking/horsey trail that meanders along Deer Creek Reservoir. 
Coming down the road from North Staton aid
Not my favorite section and it seemed to go on forever.  Eventually we got to the trailhead, made our way up the little bit of paved road and across the finish line.  For some reason I really like finishing this race in the morning rather than the afternoon.

Aftermath -
I felt pretty good this year for the entire race.  I only had the one low point and ran pretty steady the entire time.  Not sure I like the new section from Pole Line to the finish.  It seems kind of anticlimactic to have an "easy" 17 miles after being put thru the wringer the previous 83.  I'd like to see some changes that will throw some more stuff at us later in the race. 
Shoes-I wore my Altra Lone Peak 1.5's and Injinji toe socks the entire time.  Never changed shoes, never changed socks.  Not one blister was to be found and I think I'll only lose one toenail.  That has to be a new record for me.
Food-I pretty much relied on my drop bags.  I had a dose of Ultragen (320 calories) in every drop bag.  Put a bit of ice in it and it's easy to drink.  I did have a PBR at Big Mountain and a half a turkey sandwich.  As usual, the PBR made me smile and put me in a happy place.  I did have frozen burritos in every drop bag as well, but after eating the first one at Francis, I wanted nothing else to do with them.  I also put a container of mini ravioli's in my drop bag at Upper Big Water.  I did a few gels from the start to Francis.  Those worked fine, but no gels after that.  Scrambled eggs at Brighton are always a hit with me, as is the sausage at Ant Knolls and Pole Line Pass.  Lots of Coke was drunk.
I never felt sleepy to the point of doing the drunken sailor march down the trail, probably the constant intake of Coke had something to do with that.
Oh, my time.  29:40:24
One other thing.  This was my sixth finish and my golden ticket to bypassing the lottery from here on.  Yay!
Many thanks to my wonderful wife Karen for her help crewing this year.  She's never crewed me at Wasatch and she did it perfectly.