Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts on the Wasatch 100 New Finish

With some friends, I ran from Brighton to the New Finish of the Wasatch 100 on Saturday.  We have all run Wasatch before, some more than others, and some on different courses than the most recent version that finished at the Homestead.  We all came to the same conclusion after the run:  We didn't like it.

The reasons: 

1) Safety-As I ran the miles of pavement and dirt roads replacing the beautiful singletrack from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom, I couldn't help but think of how dangerous this section could be during the day.  Imagine a nice fall day, with hundreds of people driving the Cascade Springs road, and hundreds of runners and their pacers trying to share that road. Imagine a hot fall day, 85 miles into the experience of a lifetime, plodding along in the heat with NO shade or cover of any kind.  
2) Simplicity-The Wasatch 100 website states: "Due to issues related to crossing private land the Wasatch 100 will no longer be able to finish at the Homestead in Midway." I understand that the private land issues are in Lime Canyon, which is located after the Pot Bottom Aid Station, during the last 4-5 miles of the course. So why did the course change all the way up at Rock Springs?  Why not keep it the same to Pot Bottom, then go right (down canyon) on the Wasatch State Park road, and join the new finish to Soldier Hollow?  I have limited map reading abilities, but it only took me a few minutes to see what seemed to be a much simpler solution.  Are there other issues at stake? The two I can think of off the top of my head deal with the Rock Springs Aid Station and the Dive and the Plunge.  If there ARE other issues, it would be nice to gain clarification on what they are.
3)Reputation- Wasatch has the reputation as being one of the toughest 100 mile races out there.   A good part of it stems from the brutal toughness of the last 25 and last 15 miles of the race.  While the race will still be one of the toughest out there, the new route definitely tames it, and I feel diminishes some of the aura surrounding the Wasatch 100.

Now, this is my own opinion.  I know there are a lot of other opinions out there, and there are plenty of people who may think I am being nit-picky, ungrateful to the efforts of the race-committee, a "snob", and so-on and so-forth.  Others will say "Who cares, what's the big deal? There are other hard races with lots of dirt roads, pavement etc,."  Many of you will never have run Wasatch.  Others will have run multiple versions of it. There are many opinions out there, and I welcome hearing them all.

I am grateful to the Race Committee and John Grobben for their tireless work in creating and maintaining one of the coolest yearly events that I know of.  I feel extremely fortunate for the opportunity to participate in something like this that has completely changed and helped define my life since my first running in 2005. Regardless of the finish, I look forward to Chinscraper, Alexander Ridge, Bare Ass Pass, Red Lovers Ridge, Catherine Pass and everything in between.  I am just confused and a little concerned as to why this incredible section from Rock Springs to Pot Bottom has to change.

I would love to hear any and all opinions.  This has the potential to ruffle some feathers, so please keep the dialogue civil, and don't make anonymous comments, if anyone cares to respond. 

Here's a map with the new route, and the route keeping things the same until Pot Bottom.
Old route-Yellow. 
New Route- Red. 
Possible connector from Pot Bottom to to New Route- Blue and/or Orange


Rob M said...

Thanks for the update on the new course. During my time at western states when people heard I was from Utah, they asked about the new course and they generally expressed the feeling that the race will no longer have the same challenge/appeal. I like your suggestion. I also wonder if they keep the ending as planned why not make other parts harder say add Clayton peak and the ant knolls for starters. From what I've heard all the permits are more or less done so I think any further change is out for this year.

Jay said...

I ran the new finish this past weekend with mixed feelings. Part of me got excited at the prospect of being able to finish 45-60 minutes faster than on the old course. If one still has legs at 85 miles, then the last 15 miles will be FAST and can be run on autopilot. The other part of me was saddened by the loss of some fantastic single track, scenery and challenging terrain. I think the new course will result in some extreme differentiation - the course record will fall and front of the pack runners will clock some very brisk times. Middle and back of the pack runners will likely suffer due to the exposure (no shade), the mental mind f*ck of long open stretches of road, and breathing the dust from heavy vehicle and ATV traffic on Saturday. Despite the last 15 miles arguably being much easier, these runners will not see a time advantage. The change benefits those who will finish before dawn, and potentially penalizes those who finish later in the day on Saturday.
Change closes some doors and opens other doors. On the positive side - going sub 24 will be considerably easier, the race may draw new runners that in the past may have been intimidated by the difficulty of the course, and for old people like me - perhaps an opportunity to set a personal Wasatch record (while deliberately avoiding the question was the PR on the old or new course).
No denying I will be one of those old farts regaling new comers to the sport with "back in the day" tales of The Dive, The Plunge & Irv's Torture Chamber.

JimM said...

I have followed the rather lively discussion about the new ending on the Wasatch 100’s Facebook page, and have to say I am a little disappointed that so many people are upset with Peter for trying to get a dialogue going. I myself feel a little betrayed by the race committee in the fact that we all signed up for one Wasatch and ended up with another. This is not to say I do not understand out of our control issues and that this may be one of those situations. However when I read Claude’s explanation it struck as more of we have one issue and we are going to take this opportunity to eliminate another issue. In my opinion the other issue being how to eliminate the Dive and the Plunge.
This section of the course seems to elicit some of the most passionate opinions on both sides of the ultra-running aisle. There are many good arguments coming from both sides for and against eliminating this section. But like it or not that was the Wasatch we all signed up for and the Wasatch I fell in love with. While the permits may be done for the year I would hope the race committee in the future will look for a way to bring this gawd awful section back to the course. In the mean time I will do what ultra-runners do best and try and make the best of a less then ideal situation.

jun said...

I doubt I can anything more or better than what has already been stated, so I'll make it a little more personal. As one who came within 25 minutes of the coveted Cheetah buckle last year and on my first Wasatch attempt it makes me sad that as I go after it this year it will be on an easier course that likely hands me those 25 minutes in the last 15 miles because it is simply easier and faster. I know that everything has to come together up to that point, but all things considered, if I find myself in the same position at Brighton as last year I know I'll have it in the bag this year, instead of having to change my entire race to accommodate the more difficult ending. Simply put, if I am blessed to have the kind of race that results in a Cheetah buckle it simply won't have the same sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Mike Place said...

Isn't your proposed cut-off considerably shorter? Just from a quick glance, it doesn't look like it adds enough mileage for the full hundred. Do you also propose to add mileage elsewhere on the course or have you measured it and it's equivalent to the current (now changed) course?

Christian said...

If the course were to run to Pot Bottom then head south to get on the new route the total distance for Wasatch would be 100.7. Right now the new route comes out to be 100.8 by my calculations. I'll update the post with a link to the KML with different options.

Greg said...

My two cents

I want the best route possible taking into account logistics and land permit issues. I don't believe we have this in the 2013 route. Best route to me means single track trail whenever possible. I don't even like the Dive or Plunge, but I will take them over pavement or dirt roads any day. In my opinion the Dive and Plunge or not unsafe at least not any more unsafe then the torn up loose trail coming off the top off Point Supreme coming down into Ant Knolls. On the issue of them being a ecological scar this may be true, but the scar is from the motorcycle use not trail runners and I don't see how it does any good to abandon them to the motorcycles and move on down the road.

I don't think its disrespectful or shows lack of appreciation for the Wasatch Front 100 Race Committee by simply asking questions and expressing a opinion at the route change. In fact I think it shows the exact opposite. Yes it is a privilege to run the race, I don't think privilege equals silence or blatant acceptance.

peter said...

When I posted my feelings on the Wasatch FB page, I was expressing frustration and sadness that the course had been altered to something that doesn't embody the "spirit of the wasatch". It is a neutered course, and I think Craig's sentiment that it cheapens a Wasatch finish, let alone a Crimson Cheetah is true, unfortunate and unnecessary, as there are ways to keep us on that damn sacred dirt. There is work that goes into these changes and it is a hassle, but the fix is a lazy one. I wish that we could have sent the landowner in question a very nice note and some flowers and promises to keep everything pretty on the short stretch. Hell, there are enough of us crazies that we could probably just buy the land, make it public, and end the issue.

Nicholas Sourlos said...

Holy Smokes! Nice work guys

Ingeborg said...