Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wasatch 2009

15 minutes before the start of this year's Wasatch 100, I was sitting in the port-a-john reviewing possible complications that could arise during the next 24 hours, and how to fix them. Then I stood up, pulled my shorts up, and the drawstring to my shorts broke. THAT was a complication I hadn't planned on. Well, shorts or no shorts, it was time to run.

The first 40 miles were fairly uneventful. I spent time running with Christian Johnson, Peter Lindgren, Shane Martin, Jay Aldous, Corbin Talley and a few others. About halfway up the first big climb, Jay and I settled in together, and I wondered if this was to be a repeat of Kat'cina Mosa, running the whole race together. The sunrise was spectacular lighting up the Salt Lake Valley to the west, and the Morgan valley to the East. As we neared the Francis Peak Aid Station(mile 22), I was a little concerned with our pace. We arrived 10 minutes before my earliest split estimate, and I felt like we hadn't pushed it at all, and I was feeling great. I decided to back off just a little bit, and about halfway to Bountiful B, Jay slowly started to pull away and I had a hunch that this was the last I'd see of him. I pulled into Bountiful B and what a treat it was to see Tom Nelson, Dan Hendrickson and Rich McDonald with his daughter Savannah there. They were rocking out to Eye of the Tiger and I felt like Rocky as I climbed the little hill into the aid station.

Somewhere between Bountiful B and Sessions, I passed Corbin Talley ( I don't remember when, where or how) and that was the last runner I would see for the next 40 miles or so. From there to Big Mountain things went smoothly. The only issues I had were trying to keep my shorts from around my ankles, and dealing with the contusion on my left upper thigh from a fall in the rocks 10 miles into the race. It really hurt when it happened and my thigh was starting to stiffen up.

For those of you who have never run a 100 mile race, let me tell you that there is NO better feeling than coming into an aid station and seeing the smiling faces of family and friends. There is no bigger boost to a runner. Big Mountain was no exception. When I heard Brooke and family and friends yell my name and the horns blowing and bells ringing, I was slightly overwhelmed. The tears were flowing a little bit and I couldn't wait to see Brooke and my kids. It happens every time, I'm a softy.

Kevin Shilling was waiting to pace me from Big Mountain to Millcreek and I was looking forward to some good company, and a pair of shorts with a new drawstring. Despite it's bad reputation, I really enjoy the section from Big Mountain to Alexander Springs. From Alexander to Lambs is another story. I was drinking a lot trying to catch up on my fluids and I fear I may have overdone it. My stomach started feeling a bit sloshy on the ridge down to Alexander Springs, and that, combined with the heat, were enough to eventually cause me to pull over and throw up for the first time that day. Why didn't I get that over with sooner? As soon as it was out, I felt like a million bucks-a classic case of "vomitus euphorious." After Alexander Springs, I did a lot of walking to Lambs Canyon. Kevin was good company and kept me moving through the heat and we arrived at Lambs just a few minutes behind my estimated split for that section, but still doing good. From Lambs to Millcreek was awesome. It felt so good to get out of the heat and into the shade. While taking a pitstop at the Lambs Canyon trailhead, Neil Gorman from Richmond, VA came motoring by looking strong. I had passed him about 40 miles prior to this and he was wondering if he was going to be able to make because of the altitude. Apparently the altitude hadn't affected him at all!

One of the best parts of the race came when Kevin and I were heading up the road from Elbow Fork to Big Water. I saw a poster taped to the trees and realized it was a picture of my kids! And that wasn't the only one. For the next mile or so, there were 4 more posters with huge pictures of my kids on them that said stuff like "May the force be with you Dad" (picture of Sam and Andrew in Star Wars costumes holding light sabers) and "My daddy runs faster than your daddy". Have I got an awesome wife and kids or what? Thanks Brooke, that totally made my day!!

At Big Water, I said thanks to Kevin and met up with good friend Erik Badger who would run with me to Brighton. Erik was perfect. I wasn't feeling too peppy at this point and about halfway up to Dog Lake, I threw up for the second time. Again, a classic case of "vomitus euphorious" and we were able to make some good time from there. I still wasn't feeling 100%, but better and Erik was the perfect calming help I needed. He encouraged me when I needed it, didn't get too in my face about eating and drinking, and had good stories to keep me entertained while I didnt' have to talk back. As a side note, if anyone reading this has not seen a sunset from Red Lovers Ridge above Desolation Lake, go do it tonight! It's one of the more beautiful things you will ever see in your life, and this night lived up to my expectations.

Erik and I rolled through Scotts Pass feeling pretty good, and then, as soon as the pavement started at Guardsman's Pass, the wheels came completely off. I was a train wreck. All I wanted to do was get to Brighton, sit down, have a cup of soup and take a 10 minute break. I got to Brighton, had my cup of soup, and tried to take my 10 minute break, but my new pacer, Drill Sergeant McDonald, would hear nothing of it. The biggest temptation to drop out was right there. Rich and Kevin were trying to pry me out of my chair, there were all sorts of friends and family there to say hi to (thanks everyone for being there!!) and then Andrew, my 2 year old came sauntering over in his pj's with his favorite blanket and stuffed animal and crawled into my lap. Aaaaahhhh. I completely melted. He was so warm and soft and cuddly and I just wanted to sit there with him the rest of the night. Brooke started yelling to people to get him out of my lap, and Andrew told me I was stinky. Suddenly, the magic was over, and I found myself walking up the mountain for the last 25 miles.
I had 7 1/2 hours to break 24 hours, and I had serious doubts that it would happen. That climb to Sunset Peak was the longest 40 minutes of my life. I was staggering around like a drunken sailor and couldn't get anything in my mouth, let alone down to my stomach. I even had a porcupine shuffle in front of me and my first thought was "It's my lucky night, if I kick this porky and stick my foot full of quills, I'll have a legitimate excuse to drop." Luckily, Rich got me to the top without completely falling apart. Thanks Rich!! The mental turn around started at the Beach when out of nowhere, we saw a light and heard music and there was my good friend Preston Aro (Preston paced me Brighton to theHomestead my first Wasatch and completely saved my bacon), partying with reggae music, beach umbrella, hawaiin shirt and cold Corona's. It was so good to see him and from there on I was a different man. I made it into Ant Knolls with a whole train of lights coming down after me. It looked like 8-10 people were on my tail, and I wasn't going to get passed by any of them! I left Ant Knolls with a cup of broth and some hot chocolate in me just as Dave Hunt and Carter Williams came in and they told me that Rich had stopped to fiddle with his lights and would catch in a second.. The climb up the grunt was a grunt, and Dave and Carter were still on my tail about 1 minute back. From there to Pole Line, I felt like I had wings on my feet and I didnt' see any more lights behind me, including Rich's. I got out of Poleline with more broth and hot chocolate, and wondered what the heck had happened to Rich. (It turns out that he tweaked his hip right after Pole Line and had to walk to Rock Springs-Sorry Rich and thanks for getting me up to Catherines Pass!!)Going around Forest Lake to the Point of Contention, I could see two lights ahead of me by only a couple minutes (woohoo!), and a bunch behind me, now 5-6 minutes back. At Rock Springs I caught up with Mike Foote and his pacer, and then just after the dive and the plunge I caught up to Neil Gorman, who had passed me many long miles before. (Another side note-I understand that the dive and the plunge will be bypassed in future races, and I'm truly sad to see them go. I love technical, crappy stuff like that, and I will miss that part of the race.) Neil and I played leap frog for the next few miles until Pot Bottom. He left a minute before I did, and after more broth, hot chocolate and coke, I caught up to him on the long road climb and we ran together for about 15 minutes. I tried to eat something when we got to the top of the road which did not sit well at all, so I threw up for the third time that night. No vomitus euphorious this time, but I felt a little better, I knew I only had an hour to go, and I could smell the barn. So I told Neil I was going to run while I could and he would probably catch up soon and I ran for it. Woohoooo!!! All I could think of was getting done, and I was STOKED that I was going to finish under 23 hours. I got off the trail, onto the last 1/2 mile of road and the wind went out of my sails. I trotted, shuffled, then hobbled that last little bit and then it was over.
What a day. 22 hours and 42 minutes. That really surpassed all my expectations and I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Thanks everyone for all your support and encouragement! One of the neat things of the day was that in the back of my mind I knew I was running to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Thank you everyone that supported this great cause. So far we've raised over $1000.

Congrats to all the finishers and especially to good friends Peter Lindgren (23:46-First Cheetah in 7 finishes),Christian Johnson (who toughed it out through the miserable heat of the day for a 27:11), and Jay Aldous (who ran an amazing and inspirational 22:03).
Thanks Brooke, Sam, Andrew and Kate for providing inspiration and motivation, to all the family and friends who were there during the day, to Wasatch Running Center for their continued support and expertise, and especially to the race committee and all the volunteers who make this great event possible every year. Now....... it's time to rest.


Manners said...

Congrats Erik! Amazing run.

MOCKBA said...

Woohoo nice pace and nice story, Erik! See you next May at Grandeur's, I hope?