Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Wasatch 100- By Erik

I frequently hear runners prior to a 100 mile race comment that they are "ready to lay one down", "crush it", that they feel as prepared as they have ever felt, etc,.  Maybe this is their way of pumping themselves up, or of "psyching out" the competition, or maybe they truly feel that way.  

Me...... I don't think I've ever gone into a race with those feelings.  I typically feel under-prepared, under-trained, and wonder if I'll be able to make it through the next 100 miles and 24-36 hours.  Could be that I sub-consciously minimize my expectations, possibly I'm not a very confident person at heart, who knows?  All I know is that I was fairly apprehensive going into this year's Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run.  

Why? I'll try to keep it brief.  Last summer I suffered a strain to my left posterior tibialis tendon, and rather than stop running all together and let it heal, I merely reduced my running, and over the next few months ran less and did other stuff more.  It got to the point that in November I was in a boot for 3 weeks following fluid aspiration from the tendon sheath with a cortisone injection to the same area.  I was optimistic that I would return to full strength and took my recovery very slowly, starting with 5 minute walks on the treadmill.  By the time I ran the Squaw Peak 50 in July, I was feeling fairly fit and running about 90% pain free.  Unfortunately, Squaw Peak was not the recipe for continued recovery and while I ran well, by the end of the race I was hurting.  Stubbornly hoping that I could "run through it" without any changes other than daily icing and wearing compression socks almost 24/7, I continued running, and tackled the Uinta Highline trail in July with Peter, Ben and Jason.  We had a great time, but contrary to my plans, the foot hurt even more during recovery.  After wearing Altra's as my shoe of choice for the past 1 1/2 years, I decided that maybe I needed a little change in footwear for a bit.  I began wearing Hoka's every other day as a "recovery shoe" and lo and behold, my ankle started feeling slightly better. Following the theory that if it works, keep it up, I went for a BIG change and 3 weeks before Wasatch, started wearing the Hoka 100%.  I finally had to admit that, while I LOVE the Altra shoes, and they have done so much good for my running (no more black toe nails or blisters, good bye plantar fasciitis, better running form and economy) the current selection is not working for me right now.  One of Altra's basic premises is that the arch is a natural shock absorber. Unfortunately, I have no arch-I'm completely flat footed- it kept me out of the military- and over time this put an over abundance of stress and strain on the posterior tibialis. I started wearing the Hoka's with a Montrail Endro-sole, my foot felt better and better, and by the time of Race day, I was feeling more confident.  Don't get me wrong, the ankle still hurt, and I knew it would be a long day of hurting, but I was optimistic things would hold together.
OK, the prologue is over, now you know why I was hesitant about how Wasatch was going to pan out.  Plus, it was going to be HOT.  Oh, and it was 100 miles. That's a long way for things to go wrong, no matter how you feel or the number of times you've run that far.

Start Line with Rich McDonald
Photo: Barry Miller

My two goals going into the run were to slow down, especially through the first 20-30 miles, and then just run on how I feel.  Too often I get caught up too early with "racing".  This year I would run my race, not worry at all about who was in front or behind me, and see where that put me at Soldier Hollow.

The race started out just like that.  I enjoyed spending time running with good friends, and meeting a few new ones.  I stuck to my plan and ran a more conservative pace than normal, arriving at Francis Peak at 8:40, right on schedule, 15-20 minutes behind "normal" times.  By this time, I had separated from any other runners, and besides pacers, this is largely how the next 80 miles would be run, solo.  However, until Lambs Canyon, I played some leapfrog with speedy Robert Mueller, who had an outstanding finish after spending some time at the Lambs Canyon aid station recuperating from the heat.  I felt really good all the way to Big Mountain, with my only "incident" being a full water bottle that dropped and cracked halfway to Ant Knolls.  Not a great time to be stuck with 5 oz of salvaged water and 45 minutes of heat to get through, but I made it to Ant Knolls, savored a popsicle, and left with extra water to get to Big Mtn.  
Down to Big Mtn.
Photo: Derrick Lytle

Kate-cheering me up as only she knows how!!
Photo: Brooke Storheim

At Big Mtn, I was met by my incredibly supportive, patient and #1 fan Brooke, who brought along a fan club.  A kiss from Kate, an ice-filled handkerchief around my neck, and a kick in the butt from Brooke, and I was out of there with my first pacer, Kendall.  My only goal from here to Lambs Canyon was to survive. I didn't care if I got passed or passed anyone else.  I had 70 oz of water on my back in my Gregory Tempo 3 pack, 20 oz of GuBrew in a handheld, and my thoughts were to empty them by the time I got to Alexander Ridge, then repeat to Lambs and arrive in good shape.  Kendall was the perfect companion through this section, telling me fabulous hunting stories of the big bull elk that got away a couple days before, and adventures such as hiking with skis on his pack from Death Valley to the top of some 11,000 ft mountain in the Sierra's and then spending an extra day bivying while cliffed out on the way back down.  A great companion, the time went quickly, and thanks to the ice on my neck and the slight breeze, I never really felt the heat.  Somewhere through here we linked up with Robert Mueller again and we made a nice train heading into Lambs. 
Photo: Joe Azze

I spent a few minutes at Lambs making sure everything was feeling good, changed packs to my Gregory Tempo 5 with Black Diamond z-poles stashed in the back pocket and with another kiss from Kate, a full reservoir, and Brooke's caring but firm instructions to get out of there, I left Lamb's in the good company of my good buddy, and younger brother, Matt. Again, I wasn't in any particular rush to run the Lamb's road, I just wanted to make sure I kept a steady pace, and make it to Millcreek feeling good and ready to start to push it just a little bit.  Matt updated me on his kids football games that morning, assessed my overall condition, and then I took a sip from my bottle of GuBrew.  Pphhhwttttthh.  It went spewing from my mouth.  Disgusting!!!  I took a sip of water from my reservoir.  Blecchhh-just as bad.  Everything I had filled up with from Lambs was bad.  It had a horrible chemical taste to it and I could only think that whatever container it was stored in had some kind of residue in it that tainted the water.  I was in a pickle.  Luckily Matt had a bottle with his own concoction in it that I was able to drink, but 20 oz wasn't really going to get me to Big Water in good shape.  We still had cell reception so Matt called his wife and asked her to meet us at Elbow Fork with fresh water. I figured I could make it that far on 20 oz.  We made it up and over Bare Ass Pass to Elbow Fork in fine form, and I even started sipping from my tainted water with no more ill effect than a disgusting taste in my mouth.  At the Elbow, I re-filled my reservoir with fresh water (if this is receiving aid outside of an aid station I guess I'm dis-qualified) said good bye to Matt and hiked off up the road.  
Erik and Matt at Lambs Canyon
Photo: Brooke Storheim

I trotted some, power hiked even more, and arrived at Big Water feeling really good and ready to join up with my good friend and neighbor Jesse Harding.  I think there were one or two other runners in the aid station when I got there, but they quickly left and I don't remember who they were.  

Jesse and I had a great time over the next 13 miles.  While climbing up to Dog Lake, we noticed a weird mist filling the canyons below and by the time we got to Desolation Lake it had dropped 15 degrees and it dawned on us that we were smelling the lovely sulfurness of the Great Salt Lake.  How weird was that?  The only downer to this phenomenon was that it obscured the beautiful sunset from Red Lovers Ridge I was looking forward to seeing, and that it got dark 5-10 minutes earlier, preventing us from making our goal of getting to Scott's Pass without headlamps.  
Hazy Desolation Lake Aid Station
Photo: Jesse Harding

Up Red Lovers
Photo: Jesse Harding

Looking for a Sunset. Sulfury haze in the distance.
Photo: Jesse Harding

The 5 miles or so to Brighton went quickly and while I didn't necessarily feel perky, I didn't feel trashed either, and felt like I would be able to make some good time over the last 25 miles.  I felt like a celebrity as a good 20-30 people were waiting when Jesse and I made it to The Great Western House, Jay's property at Brighton that he generously made available to friends and family to wait for their runners.  I tried to quickly brush my teeth, change into a dry shirt, and top off my supplies to get moving again.  Brooke told me that Peter was about 25 minutes behind me and Jared was only a few minutes back.  I remember telling her that it didn't matter how far back Peter was, he would catch me somewhere between Forest Lake and the Dive and the Plunge.  Little did I know....

I was in and out of the Brighton Lodge at about 9:30, with my neighbor and good friend Pete Stevenson ready to help me through the next 25 miles.  This was Pete's first experience with Wasatch and I was looking forward to him getting a first hand glimpse of the fun the last 25 miles dishes out.  
Ready to have some fun with Pete!!
Photo: Brooke

As usual, the climb to Catherine's Pass was long, and I struggled getting into a good rhythm. My stomach felt a little rumbly and rather than fight the queasies like I'm prone to do, I decided to embrace it and initiate Peter into a true late night climb with a stomach emptying.  He observed in silence, and I chuckled silently to myself.  I could see lights catching up to me as we climbed up towards Catherine's Pass and I knew that it had to be Jared. If he caught me on this first climb, than it would be hard to hold him off.  I gave it all I had, dropped towards Ant Knolls and the lights got farther away.  This was our game for the next little while.  He would get closer on any little climb and I would put a little distance on the descent.  I started subsisting on my usual late night/end of race caloric intake of a cup of broth, a cup of hot chocolate and a cup of coke at each aid station.  It's what my stomach handles, and it seems to work  The only downside is that I end up spending more time than I should at aid stations.  Peter was super positive through this whole experience, continually reminding me to look at the stars, enjoy the night air, live in the moment. Even though I spent most of the time in silence, not having the mental energy to start or carry a conversation, it was great to have Peter along for the ride and feed off his enthusiasm.  Just after leaving Pole Line Aid Station, my stomach rebelled again, and I bent over to make an offering to the trail gods. Unfortunately, the Coke, Hot Chocolate and broth had mostly cleared my stomach and there wasn't much to leave on the trail, just a lot of noise to alert Jared that I wasn't too far ahead.  Sure enough, as we started our way around Forest Lake, Jared came bouncing by in his good natured way, and then a few minutes later, Peter Lindgren popped out of nowhere right behind us.  I swear he had been stalking us with his headlamp off, but he denies it.  I tried to hang with Peter, and it was here that I arrived at an interesting observation.  My stomach had normalized, my energy and spirits were good, but I didn't have another gear to switch to to chase Peter with.  All summer, due to my irritated ankle (by the way it hurt for the first 75 miles, then everything went numb and nothing hurt.  Interesting how that happens, but it's almost universal for me when I run Wasatch), I hadn't been able to do much intense running.  No tempo runs, no intervals, just a bunch of long, moderate paced runs with LOTS of hiking.  So when it came time to chase, there was nothing to chase with, however, I felt fantastic keeping my same steady pace.  So I held to it, and as we made our way through the Dive and the Plunge and entered Irv's torture chamber, we came upon Jared, emptying his shoes of rocks and dust.  He thanked me profusely for lobbying to keep that wonderful section of the finish intact and then we parted ways.  I knew I had to make some time if I wanted to stay ahead of him with all the little climbs left. Arriving at Pot Bottom, I finally told Peter what I had been trying to calculate over and over as we ran.  Barring any un-forseen problems over the last 7 miles (turns out there were 8!), I might be able to PR if we could keep a good pace.  We ran as fast as I could with Peter's marathon training pulling me along.  Jared was in back, Peter somewhere up ahead, and more important was the time goal of 22:42 to beat.  After the climb to the Staton aid station and the long ATV road down, we were finally on the homestretch with 2.5 miles of pavement ahead of us and a 20 minute window.  I could see glimpses of Jared's light behind, but couldn't see Peter anywhere ahead on the big loop of pavement.  We ran what felt like a 6 minute pace which in reality was more like 9-10. Down the road, past the big barn, then up the road, time was running out. I could hear Brooke and my family cheering, we criss-crossed the meadow and then it was done.  A handshake from John Grobben sealed the deal and I could sit down.  22:40:43.  A PR by 2 minutes.
My #1 Fan. Thank you Brooke!!!
Photo: JoAnn Miner
While there were so many things throughout this day that could have gone wrong, for whatever reason, they didn't.  I ran a steady pace.  Never had any huge highs, but never had any lows either.  I stayed hydrated, stayed cool when I needed to, kept my head when water bottles broke and water was tainted. Had awesome pacers and company along the way.  Had the best support crew and fans along the way. Thank you Brooke, Sam, Andrew, Kate, Mom, Paul, Kathy, Jack, Dad, Denise, Kendall, Matt, Jesse, Peter, Ashley, Erin, Becky, Bryce, Pieper and everyone else that I know I forgot about along the way. 
Thanks to the best group of friends anyone could be lucky enough to train and spend time with. Christian, Greg, Jay, Kevin, Peter, Rich. Thank you to everyone else who intentionally or unintentionally imparted of their wisdom and advice, served to motivate and inspire, and who otherwise helped out in another great adventure.  Thank you to John Grobben and the Wasatch 100 Race committee.  Without your tireless commitment to making this race the best it could be, without listening to runners and spectators, without working closely with land-owners, federal and state land agencies, none of this "fun" would occur every year.
Thank you to the Wasatch Running CenterAltra shoes, and Gregory packs.
Thanks most of all, again, to Brooke, Sam, Andrew and Kate for putting up with and encouraging this strange, addictive behavior!!
With Peter at the Finish
Photo: Brooke

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wasatch 2013, Peter's Race Report

2013 has been a tough year.  We have had some bad luck. My wife fractured her femur skiing.  When the pillar of the family has a broken leg, things tend to unravel.  We also chose some disruptions, like taking on a puppy (a lifelong dream of my daughter).   Being grounded with a puppy meant no summer travel, which translated into my taking no time off over the summer, not a day.  September 6th was my first vacation day of the summer, and it was going to be a good day! 

Photo by Derrick Lytle

Unlike most years, I had no pre-race nightmares.  Sure I was nervous about how the day would unfold, but I had done everything I could to prepare given the constraints I had on my training.  Besides I had the relatively fresh perspective of being “crew” and “pacer” following a serious injury for my wife.  100 miles is not that far, and it is after all just a race.  

I prepared well most of the summer, including an 85 mile run/hike of the Uinta Highline Trail, that was complete with an unforgiving beating of the feet and a prolonged high altitude headache as I tried to keep pace with Erik.  While none of my weekly mileages were anything heroic, I kept up about 50-75 miles a week with about 13,000 feet of vertical during my biggest weeks.  During my weeks of hospital rounding and weekend call I cut back to around 40 miles a week.  
Running Lab at TOSH, photo by Astrid Lindgren 

Early in the summer I took part in a running shoe study at TOSH, comparing running efficiency, economy and gait mechanics whilst barefoot, with a minimal shoe, and a traditional running shoe.  At the end of the study I sat down with Jim Walker, Director of Sports Science at TOSH, and talked about my gait mechanics and some training strategies.  I took home some pearls about upper body movement, stride angle, and gait with respect to running efficiency and economy, and a personalized speed work-out plan. Our short conversation prompted a few more speed/threshold work-outs than I would have otherwise done, though I never made it to the track for the true speed work-outs.  That was left for the backyard sprinting after a puppy and playing soccer.  Incidentally, 3 weeks before Wasatch I broke a rib playing soccer with a bunch of 11 year-olds.  Unfortunately, I had no one to complain to at home as my wife felt I deserved such an injury for deciding to horse around with the little ruffians.  

This was the first year that our entire MRC group was running the Wasatch, and partly because of that I chose not to have a pacer.  While we didn’t have specific plans to run together I did imagine that we would spend a little time together on the trail.  In the crowd at the start we found each other, and formed a nice congo line to travel the rolling first miles and the first climb.  The temperature was in the mid 80s at the start.  I felt like I was struggling to keep up with Jay, Kevin, Greg, Erik and Christian.  I dropped back and fell into another small group with a shirtless-due to the heat David Hayes on our climb towards Chinscaper.  Eventually, while keeping my effort level in check, I caught up to Greg, Erik, Kevin, and Jay before we hit the ridge.  Christian was a few minutes ahead of us.  After Grobben’s corner, mile 13ish, we ran together off and on to Francis Peak, mile 18, occasionally holding hands (seriously we held hands). Erik was a few minutes ahead and would steadily get further and further away.  While the pace seemed reasonable I was behind my previous year’s splits.  The group think, however, was that running slower was more reasonable than trying to keep pace with splits from much cooler years.  Ben Lewis stopped me at the start to say that these conditions would play right into my strategy of holding back and dealing with the diminished state of other runners late in the race. 

At some point before Bountiful B, mile 24, we caught up to Christian, and had the whole gang together minus Erik who was blazing ahead.  While I failed to notice it, Christian was already starting to have problems (he would eventually drop at Big Mountain).  By 10 AM the oven was heating up.  There was a pleasant breeze that made it feel comfortable, but I knew what was ahead in terms of weather and exposure.  Mindful of Tim Noake’s book, “Waterlogged” I took the simple strategy of drinking to thirst, careful not to take in too much.  While I wasn’t peeing very often, I figured I was staying well balanced with my sweat losses, and didn’t overdo my intake.  Between Sessions, mile 28, and Swallow Rocks, mile 35, I ran out of water.  This seemed like a bad day to miscalculate the amount of water in the pack between aid stations.  I dropped off the pace even more.  

The Swallow Rocks aid station was run by the Cottonwood Canyon Foundation. Last year’s Wasatch 100 runner up, Cottonwood Canyon Foundation Outreach Coordinator, and former soccer star, George Grygar, was there with plenty of ice and encouragement.   George noticed my “soccer legs”. Thinking of George, I responded that former soccer players make the best trail runners, which for the last 25 miles of Wasatch I think is true. 

Worried about making the mistake of running out of water again, I left with nearly 2 L of water in my reservoir to run just 4.5 miles to Big Mountain. I very nearly finished it before rolling into the Big Mountain aid station where Jessica, Astrid and Mats met me. It had been a stressful morning for them with a dead car battery adding to the urgency of getting to the aid station on time.  Even so, they focused on the task of getting me in and out.  In 3 minutes I had everything I would need to survive the oven that I was about to run through.  

My strategy, if you can call it that, was to go slow and use a bottle of ice water on my head along the hot exposed ridges.  It was fantastic... while it lasted.  Somewhere along the ridge I saw the “Wizard of the Wasatch,” Bob Athey, who snapped the photo below.  (If you haven’t looked at his website, do.  Bob captures the big and small beauty of the Wasatch mountains in his photographs.)
Photo by Robert Athey

Somewhere on the way to Alexander Ridge I was passed by a runner (Andy Johnson) who apparently was using my previous year’s splits as a guide.  His voice was strong as was his pace.  My response was thready and weak as was my pace. While I was flattered, it did little to boost my energy level as we climbed up hill.  He and Damian Stoy quickly left me in the dust.  My legs were starting to feel the miles, and I was wary of going any faster in the heat.  Mick Jurynec was resting off to side of the trail in some shade; he would later drop out.  In retrospect I feel quite bad that I didn’t stop, though I was not in any shape to be of help anyone else. 

By Alexander Ridge, mile 47, my quadriceps were feeling the effects of the downhill running.  The uncertainty of whether my legs would recover and being behind my anticipated splits was a stress, though I knew that I only had a few more miles in the heat before the temperature would drop to something more comfortable in the shade of Lambs Canyon.  On the last little climb before the descent to Lambs, Jared Campbell passed me with arm warmers on.  Jared is an inventive guy, and had stuffed them with ice to aid his cooling.  I wished to be as clever.  As he went by he commented that he was just trying to survive until Lambs Canyon.  Weren’t we all.  

Lambs Canyon came quickly enough, though the ability to see the aid station from a few miles away is always mentally challenging. At the aid station I weighed in a few (7) pounds down.  No big surprise.  Jessica, Astrid and Mats again surrounded me like a focused pit crew with a cold wet towel, watermelon, and supplies to get back on the road. Robert Mueller passed by and gave me a fist bump on his way out and encouraged me to catch him.   He spent 20 minutes in the aid station drinking fluids as his weight was down (7 or 8 pounds).   Interestingly, my weight was down a similar amount, but I was not held to hydrate, which I suspect would have hurt me more than help.  I caught up to Robert on the road going up Lambs.  His legs were great.  Mine were not.  My stomach was great, his was not.  I have to think that a fast intake of water, even an electrolyte solution when your body is trying to hold onto water, just leads to fluid retention and hyponatremia.  

In any case, Robert and I hiked together from Lambs to Millcreek.  We were frightened several times by cyclists flying down the Millcreek road. Once we hit the trail most all of the mountain bikers were exceptionally courteous in their passing, which I took as an indication of how beat at least I looked.  When we got to Dog Lake Robert offered me 10 dollars to have a drink from the lake.  At the time if I had the legs to move down to the lake and back up, he would’ve been 10 dollars poorer.  At the time I had nothing extra. My legs were heavy and plodding even on the descent to Blunder Fork.  As we climbed to Desolation Lake from Blunder Fork, I fell off the pace a few times, but kept Robert close.  I got to Red Lover’s Ridge at twilight a minute behind Robert, but was about to experience something of a rebirth.  There was a light rain, a slight chill, some downhill, and my quads were all of a sudden downright peppy.  Suddenly I was calculating how fast I would need to run to get to Brighton before 10 PM.  A sub 24-hour finish was starting to look possible again.  With this in mind I set off.  50 minutes from Desolation Lake to Scott’s Pass.  45 minutes from Scott’s to Brighton.  

John Pieper escorted me into the Brighton Lodge where Jessica, Astrid and Mats had just arrived to prep me for the last 25 miles.  Mats knew the moment we looked at each other that I was feeling good and was going to race hard to the finish.  Piep did the unenviable task of helping me change my socks and shoes.  The Hoka Bondi B’s were perfect for the first 75 miles.   A fresh pair of Drymax socks and a pair of Hoka Evo’s for the last 25 miles seemed downright luxurious.  It was the first time all day that I got to see my painted toenails (“My Own Private Jet” was the color applied, thanks to Sarah Polster).  Jay promised that I would be at least 20 minutes faster with painted toenails.  I figured that I could run the last 25 miles in 6 hours, which would get me close to last year’s time.  The 20 minute bonus from the toenails would help me set a personal best, though more than the toenails, I was carried out of the Brighton Lodge with the most amazing feeling as a parent and husband of having been sent off by my wife and two kids with their complete confidence and pride.  Now, I just had to get to Soldier Hollow on my own.  

The climb to Catherine’s Pass seemed altogether short.  Everything was holding together.  I was able to run short sections  of the uphill. While I didn’t know it at the time I was starting to close in on Mike Mason, Erik Storheim, and Jared Campbell.  Erik left Brighton 27 minutes ahead.  By Ant Knolls (mile 80) his lead was only 16 minutes.  The Ant Knolls aid station volunteers encouraged me to chase Mike and Jared.  In truth I wasn’t interested in chasing anyone, I just wanted to better my own time, though from years past I knew that if I was close to anyone before Rock Springs, I would catch them in the Dive or the Plunge.  

At Pole Line Pass (mile 83), I caught Mike Mason.  We left the aid station together, though I quickly left him and his pacer, so I could again run alone with the songs I had listened to earlier in the day still playing in my head.  My trance of trail dance was interrupted when I caught up to my dear friend and dentist, Erik.  I joked that I was so relieved to finally catch him after chasing him all day, as I had something caught in my tooth.  Erik’s stomach was like many others on the trail, in a state of mild revolt.  I figured as much, as there are only few things that can slow a guy like Erik.  This summer, I have been with him for a dislocated finger (which I reduced on the side of the trail), countless sprained ankles including a severe snapping injury with 9 miles of technical downhill running to go on our 85 mile Uinta excursion, and a damn good case of the “runs” all of which were minor issues that he powers through.  Erik and I stayed together to Point of Contention where I decided it was again time to run.  

The last nightlight that I would catch belonged to Jared Campbell, who was also having stomach issues.  Jared was filling a bottle at Rock Springs.  While I said hello and wished him well, I wasn’t certain that he heard me go by.  While my legs certainly could feel the 87 odd miles that I had run, there was a certain odd pleasure running down the perfectly retched technical downhills known as the “Dive” and the “Plunge”.  This was where my soccer legs would come into play, dashing around imaginary opponents trying to knock me off my feet.  At times there isn’t a trail as much as a groove in the hill with a lip on either side that narrows and widens in a frustrating way so that you end up hopping and skipping from side to side scrambling in loose rocks and dust.  Given that I had lobbied hard to keep this section of trail as part of the race, I was going to enjoy every little last bit of it as it might be the last time this section is run as part of the Wasatch 100.  Before I knew it I hit the turn for my final descent into Pot Bottom (mile 92).  I ran the last mile more conservatively than usual, as I didn’t want to blow up and allow someone to catch me over the last 8 miles.  

The Pot Bottom aid station volunteers were in disbelief when I arrived, as there were 3 runners they expected to see before me.  “You must be having a good race,” the woman checking me in said.  There were thoughts in my head about what to say, but I politely offered a quick “thanks,” grabbed a few pretzels and water and was off, knowing that I might need the time to keep my 7 minute lead on Erik.  I would hold this 7 minutes until Staton Cut-off (mile 95).  From there I was cautious, knowing that I had a sub-24 hour finish in the bag and didn’t want to blow up on the road.  The ATV trail finally gave way to a perfectly graded dirt road that turns into a paved road.  While a road isn’t the most aesthetic way to finish a mountain race, it does afford the ability to see a long way in front and behind for runners to catch and elude.  Unfortunately, there was no one to catch as Rod Bien had finished 34 minutes before me in third place.  Erik or Jared could have been closing the gap however, so I still needed to run.  Erik has always talked about running on stealth mode as he is chasing, so I wasn’t entirely sure I would see his light coming  Once I hit the road, I decided not to give him a target to chase, and turned my light off.  

I arrived at the finish line 5 hours and 41 minutes after leaving Brighton, 22 hours and 35 minutes after leaving East Mountain Wilderness Park (12th start and finish, 5th Crimson Cheetah), into the arms of the best crew a guy could ever ask for.  Five minutes later I greeted Erik at the finish line.  Not long after Erik, Jared came running in.  After a few short finish line conversations we made our way back to the Homestead for a bath, a few hours of sleep, and a dip in the pool before heading back to Salt Lake for Mats’s soccer game.  (Despite the lack of sleep he set up 3 of the 4 goals in his team’s 4-0 win.  I couldn’t have been more proud.)

While a few people at the finish were surprised to see me as the fourth overall finisher despite my fourth the previous year, Jessica, Astrid, and Mats were not.  They had a tough day, with unexpected obstacles and had struggled to overcome them.  Jessica has been and continues to be my model of toughness and endurance for many years.  This year after a complex femur fracture requiring internal fixation with a titanium rod, she took one lortab after coming home and not even an ibuprofen ever after that.  That is toughness.  It is impossible feel sorry for ones self or to complain about a little muscle pain encountered on a long run after watching her walk the day after fracture.  Instead I concentrated on feeling every little bit of discomfort, owning it, feeling alive, glad to able to run at 3 in the morning, knowing that this was only a fraction of what she endured.   As finishers of a hundred mile race, we get many cheers and pats on the back, but there are tough folks all around us who conquer life’s ups and downs, traumas and obstacles and rarely if ever get a cheering section, finisher’s plaque or belt buckle for their efforts.  The Wasatch race is a reminder to me every year to make sure to appreciate the amazing things that people do and are capable of doing every day, and to appreciate their supporting crews that make all of these endeavors possible.  Rarely is there a race report that doesn’t end with thanks and acknowledgement of the support that each of us has received along the way.  Truly, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the starting line without the help of many people (Fred Riemer literally gets me to the starting line each year for which I am truly grateful, and inspires me to appreciate the stars that I am running under).  With no pacers, crew was more important than ever.  Jessica, my wife, has been my foundation.  My two children inspire me.  My father has been an active sounding board all summer, as I have prepared for the race.  My mother is the endurance athlete that got me going and gave me the example of pushing limits with careful grace.  My step-father taught me to work.  The MRC has been the best training partners and friends, and are the reason I continue to run.    
Erik and me at the awards ceremony, photo Brooke Storheim.
While I am certainly not a sponsored runner, I do receive some product support.  John Pieper and Gregory have been incredibly generous in their support of designing,  producing, and supplying me with the best running packs for ultra running on the market.  Gregory painstakingly worked with our group of no-names (though Jay is a 100 mile age group world record holder) to design running packs that are the cream of the crop.  John Evans with Petzl has continued to generously supply me with headlamps (Petzl Nao) which made it possible to hop and skip (without falling once) through tough technical sections like it was the middle of the day.

Finally, I am indebted to the race committee for listening to us about keeping the Rock Springs to Pot Bottom section of the course.  Wasatch wouldn’t be Wasatch running down a paved road.  Sure the Dive, Plunge, and Irv’s Torture Chamber are tough, but aren’t these races supposed to be tough?  You guys put on a spectacular race yet again, with probably the best aid stations that I have experienced in my 12 runnings of Wasatch, making it an honor and privilege to run your race.  Until next year...

Pack: Gregory Tempo 3
Poles:  Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z Poles (Lambs to the finish)
Shoes: Hoka Bondi B and Hoka Stinson Evo
Headlamp: Petzl Nao