I have been lucky enough to draw out for the Wasatch 100 in each of the last 5 years. Going into the race this year I had several goals, but one thing I have learned with this race is that no matter how well trained you are there will be issues to deal with and overcome. Nothing is a given at Wasatch. Like Mike Tyson said “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth”. This is so true of Wasatch. Last year Matt Williams and I had run a very successful race, going every step together for 100 miles. Our strategy was to take the first 50 miles very easy, leaving us enough energy and steam to push the back 50. We executed it perfectly and ran a fantastic race. This year I wanted to try and push a little harder on the front and run just as hard on the back. I also wanted to cut my aid station time and by doing those two things I hoped to shave off a significant amount of time.
The Williams again hosted the best Wasatch pre-race barbeque and allowed me to sleep over, which they have done every year. They are the BEST! This has been so helpful to my pre-race routine. Waving a greasy bratwurst hanging from my mouth at fellow party goers has a way of getting rid of the pre-race jitters. I found myself at the start knowing exactly what I was in for and really excited for the challenge. I love this race. The first few miles I went out fast to get ahead of the conga line and by time I hit the climb up to Chinscraper I found myself in a group with Leslie Howlett, James Glissold and a few others that were shooting for a sub 24 finish. The pace was steady, but none of us were really pushing it yet. I stayed with most of this group up and over Chinscraper where Lane Bird was ringing the cowbell and is always good for a slap on the rear end. Mark Kreuzer was also there dressed like a sheep. I’ve never butt slapped a sheep before, but it seemed to go over quite nicely.I absolutely love the ridge running from Chinscraper to Francis Peak. It is one of my favorite sections on the course. I found a good pace and groove and everything was feeling very good. After Francis Peak I ran with Chris Pope who was running his first Wasatch and also shooting for a sub 24. I snapped a few pictures of him and we kept a nice pace into the Francis Peak aid (mile 18) where there were several friends working the aid station. I was in and out faster than normal and I also didn’t eat as much food as I have in years past. I have been experimenting with taking in less solid food early on in my ultras to limit stomach issues and for the first time in 3 years I didn’t experience any nausea between Francis aid and Bountiful B. I have also been testing out a new product from Qore Hydration and I was wearing arm sleeves with built in pockets over the radial artery in the arms where I could add baggies filled with ice. I was also wearing their tights as well that have a pocket over the femoral arterys on the thighs. At Bountiful B it was already getting hot and from there all the way to Lambs Canyon I would change out the ice at each aid station. This did take about a minute to do, but it was well worth it as I would be noticeably cooler when it was in.
For the next several hours my focus was on staying hydrated, fueling, replacing electrolytes and making sure not to push it too hard. I like to keep a steady pace, but try not to get my heart rate up. In 2013 I had started cramping in my calf just before Swallow Rocks even though I felt like I had been hydrating and taking salt, so with that in mind I took in more than I thought I would need. I ran with several friends between Bountiful B and Swallow Rocks, but eventually each of them would either push it a little harder or fall back. I found myself alone running into Big Mountain aid (mile 39). Hearing the crowd and seeing the aid station below always gives me a rush of adrenaline and it is one of the best parts of the race for me.
Going into Big Mountain I met Tara Summers who was a last minute add to pace from Big Mountain after my other pacer had fallen through. Tara had my bag and quickly went to work grabbing me everything that I would need. I was feeling great, but very hot and knew I needed to cool down. I took more time here than any other aid station making sure that I had everything right. I’m pretty sure I scarred a few people for life with my semi-covered glide application. Ultras.
Big Mountain to Lambs is one of the toughest sections on the course because it is so exposed and comes during the heat of the day. Tara did an excellent job of pushing me when she knew I could give more. She took care of all of my needs and entertained as well. About a mile out from Big Mountain I was passed for the first time by Steve Newman. For the next 60 miles we would pass each other back and forth several times and really had a lot of fun each time we passed. After Baldy peak we ran with Ashley Maudsley and her pacer Jeff Davis, most of the way to Alexander Ridge aid. I was really feeling the heat here and knew I needed to take extra time to cool down at the aid which I did. Going up the pipeline trail was hot and Tara did her best to push me. This is one of my least favorite sections of the course and I am always so happy to hit the connector trail and get off of it.
I came into Lambs (mile 53) feeling great. I ran up the hill to the aid and got a few cheers. Sam Jewkes and Matt were there to take care of me and got me everything I needed. I finally ate some solid food, changed my shirt, applied more glide and felt relatively good going up Lambs Canyon.
I usually feel great going up the pass to Millcreek and this year was the same. We passed a lot of people and actually hit the top before the sunset for the first time in 5 years. We finally put on the headlamps on our way down to Elbow Fork and I felt really good going up the Canyon road.
At Upper Big Water I took a bit of a break to put on warm clothes and ate some solid food (3 grilled cheese sandwiches). It is always very cold going out of this aid station and I wanted to run as much of it as I could, so for the first time ever I ‘ran’ the majority of the trail up to Dog Lake. I use the term ran loosely because I most definitely had my ultra-shuffle going on. Tara had to keep falling back and then sprinting up to catch me because as she so politely pointed out “Sorry, I just can’t run that slow.”
The trail up to Desolation Lake aid (mile 66) always seems to take forever and I told Tara I was going to be in and out of the next two aid stations. I grabbed some soup, hot chocolate and kept walking. On the way up to Red Lovers Ridge I downed the soup and started to get cold. I had hoped to run a good chunk to Scott’s aid (mile 71) like we did last year, but it was kind of a low point for me and I really had to push myself to move. I was again in and out of Scott’s and then we found a nice shuffle running the road down to Brighton. As we ran down I noticed that my knee started to hurt which started to worry me a little with the nasty descents of the last 25 looming.At Brighton (mile 75) I was met by several friends and they ran around grabbing me everything I needed and made me feel like a rock star. Craig was picking me up from here and I knew I would be in good hands. Tara had done an excellent job putting up with me and taking very good care of me. She’s a fantastic pacer. This was by far my quickest stop at Brighton ever, about 10 minutes.
Other than my knee I was feeling pretty good leaving Brighton, but I didn’t quite have the steam I was hoping for. I knew that I still had a shot at 27-something and I was motivated to get it. The descent from Point Supreme to Ant Knolls is my least favorite part of the course. It’s bad and with my knee it was horrible. I was favoring it and really struggling, but still kept up a running shuffle. At Ant Knolls (mile 81) Craig announced I couldn’t sit down and we were leaving within one minute. Amiee Maxwell grabbed me some sausage rolled into a pancake, some Coke and we got out of there. The Grunt wasn’t as bad as I had remembered from years past and we were surprised to see one of the female runners getting short-roped by her pacer up the hill all the way to the top.
The drop from Pole Line Pass to Pot Bottom is not a favorite and now my knee was really hurting. On the uphills and flats it felt great, but the downhill was bad. I really struggled getting down that and it was such a relief to see Pot Bottom.
At the next aid station Craig told me I could sit down for a minute and I fell asleep in my chair in seconds. As soon as we saw me he pulled me up to my feet and we were out of there. The next several miles were hard. I was very tired and my energy was low and I don’t think I was moving as fast as last year. The sun finally came up and the rocky road wasn’t my favorite, but the fall colors were stunning and the sunrise on Timp was incredible.
Decker Canyon is about as fun as a prostate exam without lube and is right up there with the Descent to Ant Knolls. This year with my knee it was downright atrocious. I think 6-7 people passed me here including Newman and it was very demoralizing. It was definitely my low point of the whole race. I had been running in about 30th place and on a sub 28 pace, but that descent killed me.
From Decker (mile 94) to the finish I actually ran as hard as I had in several hours. I really wanted to catch Newman, but the bugger sped up when he saw me coming. He’s a strong runner and pushed it even harder to stay ahead. We ran nearly every step of the last 5 miles and I was greeted by several friends, coming in at 28:08, a new PR. Even though I beat my time from last year I didn’t feel great about my time because I know I can go faster and missing the sub 28 by 8 minutes was hard to swallow. That said every runner in this race could say the same thing. At the finish line we are all where we deserve to be. I ended up in 41st out of about 320 starters. Like every year I have run this race I learned so much about myself and the course and I can’t wait to put in for #6. Thank you to my two incredible pacers. They could not have been better. Most of all thanks to my wife and kids for supporting all of my crazy adventures.