Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hundred in the Hood Race Report

The Hundred in the Hood

As I was planning my race schedule for the 2009 season, I read somewhere that Oregon was going to get its first 100m trail race. I have always thought to myself that if someone put on a 100m race in OR, I was going to do it. I grew up in Portland and I still feel a strong connection to the area and I have already done a 50k and 50 miler in OR in 2006 and 2007. I checked the date and it worked out perfectly because I wasn't planning on running the Wasatch 100 this year. I also noticed it was on the same general area of my first 50 miler I had done in 2007, the PCT Ultra 50 Miler. Another great feature was the course was going to be run on the Pacific Crest Trail which I knew from experience was really nice single track through nice older growth forest. The route was also two out and backs sections so it was going to be fairly easy to crew which was important because I was going to ask my wife to crew for me again.b

The were two aspects of the race I was worried about. The first was the course is flat, at least for the type of races I was used too doing. As I've stated in previous post I don't consider myself much of a runner, more of trail slogger. This course only has 12,000 feet of vertical gain. The question to myself was could I turn myself in too a 100m trail runner instead of 100m trail slogger? The next issue which I was less worried about was what kind of problems would come up with the race being put on for the first time.

Marge and I spent Friday before the race checking out the aid station locations, checked in for the race and then went for a short hike on the course. This turned out to be a great idea. The trail was very, very dusty. I decided that there was going to be no easy warm up in the morning, I needed to get myself into the top 10 or so unless I wanted to spend the first 1/2 hour choking on dust, not a great way to start a 100m race.

Race directors Olga Varlamova and Mike Burke set us on our way promptly at 5:00am, I let all the guys with sponsor shirts go ahead and slotted in behind two ladies, I was perfectly placed somewhere in the top 10, it was little dusty but not to bad. I can't image how bad it was back in the main pack, it must have been brutal. I could tell that the two woman ahead of me were determined about making time as there was absolutely no chit chat at all. In fact in the first 14 miles not a word was said between any of us running together. As I came into the second aid station at mile 14 at 2:20 in the race I realized I was 30 min. ahead of my schedule. I didn't worry about my pace as I didn't feel as I had pushed at all. After this aid station we would reverse course and head back to the start finish area.

The return trip was uneventful, I ran into the Horse Camp aid station mile 28 at 4 hours 40 minutes, now 40 min ahead my schedule. Marge took great care of me and I was off, I wasn't expected to see Marge again until mile 55. I was now basically back at the start finish line and was headed south for the next 37 miles then would retrace my steps and return to the start finish. It was starting to heat up but most of the trail was covered with shade and for once I almost looked normal instead of being covered head to toe in drenching sweat. The miles went quickly and I arrived at mile 44 aid station still 40 min. ahead of schedule.

This is when things started to get a little weird. When I arrived at the mile 44 aid station they asked me if the other aid stations had been set up and if they had water yet. They had for me but I guess for some of the front runners the aid stations had not been set up in time. Earlier at the mile 33 aid station the lady there had said I was at mile 28. I said that's funny because I left mile 28 an hour ago. She just looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about. Then I was informed by the mile 44 aid station attendant that the next aid station was not going to be there. No big deal I thought 10.5 to get mile 55 aid station was not going to be a big deal. I took a little extra time to fuel up and headed out.

I was still moving good and had expected to cover the 10.5 miles in around two hours. Two hours came and passed, I had run out of water and it was the hottest part of the day.I thought maybe I was just moving slower than expected, then I ran into another racer Mark Tanaka, and he was not happy . We both knew that we had to leave the PCT to get to the aid station at mile 55 and both had been looking for it. Mark's GPS was saying we had gone 14 miles since the last aid. We both realized we had missed the aid station. A few minutes later we arrived at the mile 58.5 aid station. Now 14 miles with out aid is no big deal if you know that going in, 14 miles not knowing kinda throws you for a loop. Plus now I had missed Marge with my lights, jacket and of course my energy drink and power gels. I was also really worried about her. Would they give her updates as to were I was? Would she try to come up the rough road to the next aid station and miss me somewhere? It was a bad scene with angry runners and the aid station people trying to do all the could to take care of people and get in contact with the missed aid station. I decided to try and focus on what I could control grabbed some gels and took off.

The next section of the course was spectacular, high alpine lakes and views of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and of course Mt. Jefferson itself , and finally some nice rough trails and some climbing to make me feel at home. This took my mind off worrying about Marge and I moved along nicely. I hit mile 65 and the turn around aid station still 40 min ahead of schedule. It looked like I was hour to and half behind the front runners. The two girls I had run with at the start were running around 30 minutes ahead of me and I figured I was still somewhere around 10th place. On the way back I started to feel some pain in my left knee, not terrible but enough to make me worried. I started to slow down no so much from the pain but more from trying not to pound the knee too bad knowing I had a long way still to go.

As I neared the mile 75 aid station which was now marked as though a crazy person had been given 1,000 feet of flagging I was praying that Marge was there. It was getting close to dark, I had one very tiny emergency light, no jacket and was not sure what I would do if she wasn't there. She was! Wow what a huge weight off my shoulders, I have never been so happy to see Marge during a race. I decided it was going to pay off later in the race to take a good break and sit down for 10 min and eat some soup which is what I did. I was in good spirits and realized I had 7 hours to make my goal of 21 hours for the race. I knew I had a good chance of beating that time. Marge had me all set up and I headed out in feeling revived, my only worry now was my knee, would it hold up for the next 25 miles.

I passed two guys soon after I left Marge, than ran alone for the rest of the race.(in fact I ran almost the whole race alone) The 10.5 miles seemed to take for ever before I hit the next aid station. Its was one of those great aid stations that seems to really put you in a good mood. It was manned by ultra runners (you can always tell) Talking Heads was blasting on the radio, and they kept trying to get my to drink some booze which kept me laughing the whole time. After 5 min I figured I better get moving or I was going to sit down by the fire and start drinking rum and cokes.

The next two hours were very hard and I had a huge motivation problem. My knee was giving me problems but the pain was not that bad I just couldn't get myself to keep running. I kept talking to myself asking were the motivation was, where was all that drive I had earlier in the race, I actually felt embarrassed for moving so slow. I thought of the other guys in the MRC and how they fought through their low points in this years Wasatch 100, which just made me more mad because I really didn't have any major issues, so I didn't feel I had excuse for moving so slow. I think a good pacer could have been a great help at this point to say the least. I slowly started moving at a good pace again and was surprised nobody had caught up with me.

I hit the last aid station and was feeling better. I was 18:40 into the race and thought I still had a chance at a 19:30 finish. The aid station attendant told me I had 4.5 miles to go. I took off with a quickened pace thinking the race was in the bag, 4.5 miles of mostly downhill, no problem I thought with a smile on my face. 4 miles later I was sitting on the trail staring at my head lamp that was 5 feet off the trail in the bushes wondering if I would manage to find my water bottles. I had just taken a great rolling fall going downhill on a perfectly smooth trail. I picked myself up, found my bottles(but lost my jacket) and thought no problem .5 mile to go. Nope, wrong again, turns out the mileage from the last aid station to the finish was 6 miles. Oh well, the finish came soon enough, just not at 19:30. I crossed the finish line at 19:50, got a hug from Olga and buckle for going sub 24.

Even with the glitches I loved this race, the trail was awesome, scenery fantastic and the aid stations when functional, were great. First place overall went to Ray Sanchez in a time of 16:56, first place women and 6th overall went to Shawna Wiskey her first 100M race in a time of 18:26. 41 people went under 24 hours! Full results here. For a behind the scenes report check out Olga's R.D. report here. Its gives great insight to what R.D deal with. Thanks to Mike and Olga and all the volunteers. On a final note even though I told her of course, a big thanks to my wife Marge who come through with flying colors and not only took care of me but also many other runners as well. I can go with out a pacer but would be hard pressed to tackle a hundred without her.

Now its time to get back to a course with some climbing! Christian and I will tackle the HURT 100 in Jan.Can't wait

P.S The Swiss knot rocked, perfect for 102 miles!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One More Wasatch Report

Chasing the Cheetah

On a hot dusty Saturday afternoon sitting on the side of a trail completely whipped from swinging a Pulaski, I asked another Wasatch trail work “volunteer” if he had a goal for his race. He said both proudly and reluctantly that he was aiming for a sub-24 hour finish. I internally grimaced. He was a tall fit guy, probably a fast marathoner. I wanted to tell him that he should just be happy with a finish for his first ultra. Honestly, I felt threatened, I was just now going for my first sub-24. Until this year I had not publicly or privately aimed at a sub-24 finish. In 2001, before my 3rd Wasatch, I commented on the ride to the start that I had the race "figured out". “The Rocket” laughed and turned around seriously and said "Those are dangerous words." I got it. There are so many variables at play that a good race sometimes doesn’t happen despite the best preparation. With this in mind my first goal was to finish. The final time, according to Dave Hunt is just icing on the cake. So with my pace chart set for 23:48, Dave’s time from last year, I set out to finish, and hopefully Chase the Cheetah.

As is tradition, Wasatch Fred (Riemer) and “The Rocket” (Errol Jones), drove Erik, Christian and me to the start. Fred, who says that he is not responsible for anything, is responsible for introducing me to the Wasatch 100, and getting me to the start on time. For both I am forever grateful. On the ride to the start, Erik said that it would be great if we could all stay together. I wasn’t sure if he was expecting a bad day for him or a great day for me. At least we would all try to run together for a few miles.

Erik, “Armani” Jay and I all found each other at the start. Erik’s misfortunate drawstring break to his shorts minutes before the race was comical, but I really was worried that he might be running Chinscrapper bare-bottomed. (He ran the first 40 miles with shorts that would barely stay-up. The picture above shows him at Big Mountain running to change.) Christian it turned out was cutting it close (time-wise) in line at the Porta-John. (Shilling would eschew this as frivolous since there is plenty of time to take care of business just off the trail.) Within minutes though, Christian caught up through the tight traffic of runners on the first section of trail. By the first major climb, Erik and Jay took off ahead of Christian and me. As we climbed the temperature stared to drop, and there was a pleasant chill that I tried to remember and enjoy. The day was going to heat up. We passed a few ambitious folks who started out fast only to slow down. Christian thought he knew one of the guys that we passed, and asked his name. Christian introduced the two of us by first name. The guy asked if I was Peter Lindgren, which shocked me. I

certainly didn’t think that I had any type of name recognition, but used the ego boost to send us down the trail.

Christian and I ran the first 18 miles together to the Francis Peak aid station. We hit the aid station about 8 minutes earlier than I wanted, but with very little effort. We both fumbled around in our drop bags, got rid of headlamps, picked up supplies of food (gels, sports bars, etc.), and filled water bottles. As we got going again, Christian returned to the aid station to throw away his wrappers. I walked a little and he quickly caught up, and we were running again.

The sun was now up and we were both very conscious of staying hydrated. Christian drank a full bottle more than I on the initial climb, and I started to worry that my strategy of keeping my fluid status even and my energy stores up was already falling short.

The next 5 miles I kept pace with Christian, and we hit the Skyline Road aid station together. Rich was there and offered some cold bottles and encouragement. He told us that Goeff Roes was 5 minutes ahead of Karl, but with a salt-caked face. We couldn’t have imagined that Goeff would not only hold Karl off but destroy the course record.

We caught Shane and Carter shortly before Sessions. I was starting to have trouble keeping pace with Christian, and knew that I shouldn’t push any harder than what felt was an easy pace. I consciously let go of trying to keep up, but at the same time was able to keep the gap to a few minutes. During the section between Sessions and Swallow Rocks the terrain was hot and exposed. I regained time on Christian and was able to catch him at the Swallow Rocks aid station. We both enjoyed popsicles, and ice in our bottles. We were caught by “Uncle Dave” before Big Mountain. He greeted us as his two favorite nephews, put his arms on our shoulders and lifted his feet off the ground for a ride. After a few yards of being carried, and a few laughs, he was gone.

At the Big Mountain aid station, mile 39, I was met by Jessica, Astrid, Mats, Greg and Greg’s wife, Marge. They took care of getting a few things together and I was off with Greg as my pacer. While I felt pretty good, the day continued to heat up. I was not peeing. I downed my bottles pretty quickly, and then used an extra bottle of water that Greg carried to pour water on my head. We made it to Alexander Ridge in almost exactly the time I had

expected for that section. I caught up to David Hayes and left before him. In retrospect I should have hung around and had more to drink. I didn’t though and in addition to a headache, started to feel sleepy over the next several miles. I wondered if I had consumed too much free water and not enough salt. I wondered if I was starting to have cerebral edema from

hyponatremia. Next, I thought I might have a seizure on the side of the trail. That would certainly make an interesting story that I didn’t want to be part of. I took an electrolyte capsule from Greg to be on the cautious side, even though I had little to no peripheral edema. By the next aid station I got my diagnosis from the 12 year-old checking runners in on the scale, dehydration. My weight was down 6 pounds. My very excellent crew of wife and children, fixed me up with fluids and food, and again Greg and I were off for another climb, finally escaping the heat.

Christian I found out was still at Alexander Ridge dealing with his “damn stomach” (Betsy’s description). This was almost an exact a replay of his race a two years ago. This time though I knew that he would allow and make things turn around. Even with a few hours lead I thought he was capable of catching up.

Climbing up Lambs Canyon, I really started to fade. I was passed by three people, Betsy Nye, Mandy Hosford, and another guy that I would catch much later. It was little consolation, but as I climbed this 3 mile section, I was able to catch Corbin Talley. He was in pretty bad shape, so all I could do was offer feeble encouragement as we slowly went by. After some vomiting, Corbin seemed to get better and passed me at the top of Bare Ass Pass. Coming down to Elbow Fork Greg and I encountered two woman and a pack of no less than 8 dogs that were barking uncontrollably. I was glad to make it through the pack unscathed, and hoped that any hikers and runners to pass these morons and their dogs would be safe as well. We passed Corbin again just before the road. I thought, as a fast marathoner, he would for sure catch and pass on the road, but we never saw him again.

By Big Water, mile 62, I was 41 minutes behind where I thought I needed to be for a sub 24 hour finish. I was met by Jessica, Astrid, and Mats with smiles and encouragement. I put on a new short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve capilene top, that I quickly removed after the Millcreek aid station and had Greg carry the rest of the way to Brighton. While the day was too hot the night was proving to be very comfortable for running. I didn’t yet feel great, but I was starting to pee, my headache was gone and I passed Dog Lake without lying down on the ground for a nap.

At Desolation Lake, mile 66, I was now 49 minutes behind. By Scott’s, mile 70, I had only made up 4 minutes. I was still 45 minutes behind the pace. The good news was that my legs felt great. Greg kept encouraging me that we would make up some time on the ridge to Scott’s pass (mile 70). While we hadn’t made up much time, a few pieces started to fall into place. Greg started to work on my energy stores and gave me sesame seed cookies to eat. At this point I was still trying to eat nauseating gels. No energy in meant little energy to run. Now I had some fuel, and we were headed for 4 miles of downhill and another 0.8 miles of a gradual climb on the road to the Brighton Lodge. This was the now or never point, and I decided I had little to lose. I ran down the dirt trail as quickly as I could without breathing hard. Once we hit the road, I slowed down some, but was still able to pass one runner. This would be the last runner I would see the remainder of the race.

At the Brighton Lodge, mile 75, I quickly weighed in, changed my shirt, and drank a Red Bull. Greg gave Alan an update of how we had done and my general improving condition. Kevin Shilling gave me a bag of gum drops, which at the time I had no idea would taste so good or be as easy to tolerate. I hopped up and headed for the door, knowing that I needed to run the next 25 miles in 6 hours and 45 minutes or less to finish under 24 hours. This was substantially faster than the 7 hours and 8 minutes that was my previous best and the amount of time I had built into my pace chart. As Alan and I headed out, I had a sense of urgency to get going. Alan, who is 60 years-old, and has been with me the last 4 years on this section of trail was breathing hard. I knew that he would warm up, but immediately he was concerned that I was going to out pace him. We made the climb to Catherine’s Pass and Sunset Peak (10,500 feet) quickly. My legs were strong enough that I ran some of this section, which is something I have only been able to do in training, and never with 75 miles in my legs. The long downhill was easier on Alan, and we settled into a conversation. We reached Ant Knolls in 75 minutes. I was now only 10 minutes behind my projected pace.

Alan was already plotting his detour to cut around the mountain and let me go as fast as I could to Rock Springs and Pole Hollow. This would leave him 8 rather and 17 miles from Pole Line Pass. We climbed “The Grunt” a 380 foot climb that is not so long, but steep. Alan struggled to keep pace, but held close. I knew that I would need the company later on and didn’t want to lose my pacer altogether. Together we easily cruised into the mile 83 aid station, Pole Line Pass. I was now 3 minutes ahead of schedule with one of the toughest sections of the course that I would run alone.

Usually I am timid about running alone in the dark deep in the mountains, but I really enjoyed this. The glow from my lights lit a little world in front of me, and I was in a trance dancing along through the night trying to run as much as I could. The moon was rising in the East in an orange glow. There was some magic to being alone on the trail in the middle of the night. I was comfortable. I made the last climb to “Point of Contention” and was finally able to see Mount Timpanogos in the distance. At Rock Springs, mile 87, I was 9 minutes ahead of my pace chart. I picked up a few Ritz crackers with peanut butter. I stowed these for later, and headed off for “Irv’s torture chamber”.

“Irv’s torture chamber” looks to be downhill on an elevation map of the course. There are however 7 climbs that follow some very technical downhill runs in powder like dirt. “The dive” and “the plunge” are not favorites for most, but I personally love these downhill sections that may have had their last running as the course may be rerouted next year. This night I filled my shoes with their dirt, and decorated my shirt and face with some dirt on a couple of little spills. My count on the seven climbs was quickly confused as my brain was running on fumes. I met up with Alan again at the top of the Pot Hollow trail. I was happy to see him, and he could tell I was in need of a few calories. I tried to eat the Ritz crackers and was able to down 4 or 5, before my stomach violently objected. I felt great (vomitus euphorius?) and was able to run right along to the Pot Bottom.

With 7 miles to go I was 10 minutes ahead of my pace chart, and now barring disaster a sub-24 was in the bag. Alan was entertaining the idea of chasing down the runners in front of us. I was too afraid of blowing-up and opted for a cruising pace. As we hit the road with less than a mile, Alan pushed the pace. I struggled to make the transition to road, but was able to keep up. About 1/2 a mile from the finish, Alan asked if I could smell the barn. I told him that I wasn’t ready to be done. My legs felt great, I was running fast and I wanted to keep going. As I ran into the finish Jessica, Astrid and Mats were awake and cheering from their sleeping bags. I was welcomed in by Erik, Dave, Dave and Carter who had finished ahead of me. I finished in 15th place, running the last 25 miles in 6 hours 22 minutes for a total time of 23 hours 36 minutes. (Incidentally the guy doing the trail work finished quite respectably in the 30 + hour range, and looked happy as he crossed the line.)

After a shower I came back outside and slept along side Jessica, Astrid, and Mats under the moon and stars, occasionally waking up to welcome runners who were coming in. I slept well, satisfied and happy to be back in one piece with my crew.

At the awards ceremony John Grobben’s daughters solidified what I have known about this race. It is about the all people that all come together to pull off an amazing feat, and form the bigger family of this race. It is the friendships that mean showing up to trailheads on cold mornings at hours that are usually unspeakable. Not to mention sacrificing a day of work and a night of sleep to accompany a friend along the trail. (Greg and Alan I am again in your debt.)

I am truly grateful to Jessica for supporting this whole endeavor. I really couldn’t do it without her.

Best of luck to Greg this weekend at the Hundred in the Hood.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One More Hundred

Just wanted to give a shout out to fellow MRC'er Greg who is heading up to the great Northwest for the Hundred in the Hood.  May you feel light on your feet and have the race you envision.  
Looks like there won't be a live webcast but if anyone will be tweeting or such please post in the comments.  I'll post something as soon as I hear.

Also, good luck to all the runners getting ready to tackle the Bear 100 this weekend.  Looks to be ideal conditions, if not a little on the warm side.  Take care and drink plenty throughout the day.  The section before between Right Hand Fork (mi. 37) and Temple Fork (mi. 45) is completely exposed and gets awfully hot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wasatch 100 2009 - Christian's Report

I stumbled into the Alexander ridge aid station at mile 47 and turned my focus on the camp chairs situated in the shade. My vision had become slightly blurred and I was seeing double. I remember thinking I had to be careful as I sat down, if I missed the chair and fell on the ground people might think there was something wrong with me. I was in bad shape. My stomach had been incapable of holding anything down for hours and I was terribly dehydrated. I slumped down in the chair, facing the ridge that was trying once again to ruin my race. Two years prior, in my first attempt at a 100 miler, I had sat in this exact spot, defeated. Again, I wanted to quit, I just didn't say it out loud.

I closed my eyes and dug deep to find the willpower just to convince myself I could finish this damn thing, but there was nothing there. When I opened my eyes I was holding a cup of sprite. I had no idea how it got there until I saw Clark, my friend and pacer peppering me with questions about what I wanted to eat. I closed my eyes again and this time I started hearing familiar voices and their encouraging, if not demanding words. Phrases such as "Don't let me down", "I'll be disappointed if you don't finish" and "Whatever you do, don't quit". Those words from my family and friends were the only thing keeping me in the race at this point.
Clark chimed in again, "What can I get you?".
"I'll try some of those grapes and cantaloupe", I replied.
I drifted off a few more times, eating and drinking in between, slowly gaining some strength back. Then I watched as a runner and his pacer walked off the ridge in the wrong direction, quitting the race, just like I had done 2 years prior. Something switched inside of me at that moment as I turned all my focus on eating and drinking. I let go of all my time goals and placing, thinking only of eating, drinking and the next aid station almost six miles away. My family was waiting for me there and I knew that seeing them would give me a big lift. For the first time in an hour I stood up.
"179 out", Clark suddenly announced to everyone at the aid station.
I turned so I was facing east, the direction of the race course and with blazing sun at my back I walked out of the aid station, bound for Lambs Canyon. As my strength slowly returned so did my confidence. By the time we reached the top of the next climb I was finally ready to run. The descent down to Lamb's Canyon is pretty easy and it felt good to get my legs turning over again. By the time we made it to the aid station all doubt of finishing had been erased. Even though I had 47 miles left, it felt like a formality to me at this point. I couldn't believe the turnaround. I owe a large part of it to Clark who had kept the fluids and calories flowing for the past several hours, along with the encouragement I received from everyone I saw along the way. Matt Connors deserves a big thanks for taking time out to give me some pickled ginger, it did wonders to calm my turbulent stomach.

Just before the wheels came off, trying to cool off at Big Mtn.
Once we got in to Lamb's it was great to see my incredibly supportive family, who immediately sat me down and presented me with every food and beverage option available. Between my family and Christy (Clark's wife) they had every base covered. I tried to apologize for keeping them waiting and explain what had happened but they were only interested in getting me going, moving me closer to the finish.

Finally feeling better at Lamb's surrounded by my awesome support crew
Clark and I left the aid station heading up the cooler confines of Lamb's Canyon and the long climb up Bear Ass Pass. My legs felt fine on the climb but my energy was still low so we just made slow, but steady progress to the top. Upon reaching the pass we were treated to a beautiful sunset which also meant I was forced to use my headlamp heading down to Elbow Fork. Once again the descent felt great as I got in a nice rhythm passing several folks in front of me. I savored the good feelings because I knew the next section would not be pleasant. The eight mile climb from Elbow Fork up to the Crest is one of the longest in the race, interrupted by the aid station at Big Water. Waiting for me was my family and next pacer, Aric, who would be along for the ride to Brighton. The paved climb to Big Water leaves little to be desired, but since it was dark it seemed to go quicker than I had anticipated.
Once again I got a big lift from seeing my family and friends at the aid station and Brian Beckstead even came over to wish me well. I changed in to a clean shirt, filled some bottles and thanked Clark for pulling me through my dark period, then Aric and I were off. I wasn't exactly moving quickly but I was steady on the climb to the Desolation Lake aid station getting there in about an hour and a half. My stomach was a little off once again, so I took my time at the remote aid and had some broth with noodles that seemed to do the trick.
I left Desolation at around 11:15pm, three and half hours over my pre-race goal of 7:45pm. My mind wandered back to the first 40 miles and how effortless it had felt. I started with Erik, Jay and Peter until midway up the 5000' climb where Peter and I parted ways with Erik and Jay who kept a faster pace on the initial climb. All the way through to Big Mountain the pace had felt conservative, but I realized now that I had only been listening to my legs and not my head. Peter left Big Mountain with Greg, who was pacing him to Brighton, just a minute or so before me. I was sure that I would catch up in mile or so but that's when my stomach backfired and I started my death march to Alexander Ridge. On my way out of Big Mountain I was in 15th place but by the time I had left Alexander I dropped down to 80th. Now I had no idea where I was placed, nor did it matter.

Aric and I reached the crest with a number of headlamps dotting the black space in front of us. I ran quite a lot on the way to Scott's pass where I learned that Geoff Roes had just finished with a new course record in 18:30! I was amazed and a little bit inspired as I decided to pick up the pace to Brighton and get some momentum going. I don't particularly enjoy the pavement leading down from the trail junction to Brighton but I figured as long as I felt good I should get it over with as quickly as possible. Betsy met me at the Brighton lodge with my friend Sandy, who would be joining me for the last 25 miles. Even though it was past 1am Betsy and Sandy were very alert, making sure I was prepared for the last section of the race. I spent 10 mins there and I suppose I kind of got sucked in to the warmth of the lodge that so many runners avoid, but with the toughest 25 miles of the race left I felt that it was time well spent. I glanced at my watch before leaving and told Betsy that I was now aiming for a sub 30 hour finish and to expect me around 10am. She just shook her head as if I was crazy. What I didn't know at the time is that I was completely incapable of performing basic math at this point and I didn't understand the pace I was maintaining. Betsy just told me to keep running and she would see me at the finish. Then I thanked Aric for his help and walked out of the lodge.

The climb from Brighton to Point Supreme (the high point of the race at an altitude of 10,450') has a few runnable sections, but I didn't bother as I shifted into power hike mode. As slow as I felt we were moving I still managed to catch a few people in front of us, partly because of Sandy's enthusiasm. Anytime a light came into view I would feel Sandy wanting to push the pace, a pattern I would get used to the rest of the night. Near the top we passed a group of four or five runners and kept the momentum going on the long descent to the Ant Knolls aid station. Before Sandy and I arrived at the aid station he made sure to get a plan together in order to get me in and out of there a little quicker. Broth and noodles seemed to go down easy but it became apparent on the Grunt (a 400' climb that feels like a wall) that I was still lacking energy to fuel my legs. From the top of the Grunt to the Point of Contention I moved at a fairly decent rate and then looking toward the Rock Springs aid station I saw another group of runners. I definitely picked up the pace a bit because I wanted to avoid a logjam at the tiny aid station on the side of the trail. A few of us all arrived in close proximity but we still got out of there in good time.

I approached the next section known as "Irv's torture chamber" with some caution. Even though I had been running downhill with ease, the Dive and Plunge are never easy. I mostly surfed both of the loose and dusty descents because that was pretty much the only way to get down. I even managed to put some distance between myself and Sandy but it was only because he was forced to drop back and wait for the dust to settle so he could see anything. Once we were back on smoother trail he caught up to me quickly and we cruised into the Pot Bottom aid station (mi. 93) just as the sky was turning pale blue. I downed a Red Bull and some water before heading up last significant climb of the race. Reaching the high point on the ridge I was able to witness my second sunrise since beginning this adventure and it definitely gave me a little boost. Sandy tried to capitalize on my increased pace by mentioning the "sweet" descent coming up but I just laughed because I always seem to curse this section in training. As much I don't like it we still ran pretty quickly passing Corbin Talley and his pacer before reaching the water tank. I caught my breath on the climb up to the water tank and told Sandy about my idea of a "sweet" descent coming up. The tight singletrack that winds down through the maples really is one of my favorite sections of the race, not just because it is so close to the finish but mostly because it is truly fun to me. As soon as I stepped off the ATV trail and on to the singletrack I was flying, or at least that's the way I felt. I think it's funny how a 7 or 8 minute mile feels like a 5 or 6 at this point in an ultra. I suppose it's all about perception. At any rate, I was really getting in a groove when I saw a flash of white in front of me. It was another runner, Matt Galland, and he tried to hold me off but I was rollin and as long I felt like it I was going to keep my pace up. Matt graciously stepped aside shortly after I caught him and for a moment I thought I had left Sandy behind. It turned out that he had stopped to pick up my long sleeve shirt that had fallen out of my waist pack. We were soon dumped out on the paved road with a little less than a mile to go and Sandy decided to keep my downhill pace going on the flat. I had a hard time keeping up and every time I would start to close the gap to him he would just pull away a little more. Once the Homestead and the finish line came into view I didn't have any trouble running with "perceived" speed as I floated on to the lawn and grabbed my kids hands to run across the finish line with me. I gave Betsy and my kids a big hug, shook John Grobben's (Race Director) hand and got a congratulations from Peter and Erik before I finally sat down without having to worry about a clock.

My final time was 27 hours and 11 minutes good for 27th place. Not exactly the race I was hoping for but a finish that I'm definitely proud of. My biggest thanks goes to my family who were so supportive and refused to give up on me. I don't know how I would have done it without them. To all my friends and family that weren't there, but willed me out of that chair and down the trail, thanks. Clark, Aric, and Sandy, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to share some time on the trail with me, your help was invaluable. And finally, thanks to John Grobben and the whole Wasatch family for all their hard work and dedication throughout the year that really makes the Wasatch 100 such a special race.

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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wastach Front 100

The last time I ran the Wasatch Front 100 was in 1983. That year, elite ultra-runner Jared Campbell was just 4 years old. When I finished, I vowed I would never run this race again. As a demonstration of this commitment, I poured gasoline on my running shoes on the lawn of the Homestead, and asked race director John Grobben to ignite my shoes - so that I could never run again.

But things change. Twenty-six years later the shoes came out again (albeit new ones). Was it a midlife crisis? A few extra unwanted pounds? A sense of mortality? Or maybe just an inner sense that we are born to run? Regardless, I started running again and enjoyed it! I wanted to once again run the Wasatch Front 100.

Many things have changed over the last quarter century; the number of runners (who could have imagined the need for a lottery?), the times (anything sub 24 was smokin fast – under 20, no way), the technology (flat Coke with dissolved aspirin was the drink of choice), and perhaps most remarkable, the community and camaraderie among ultra-runners that exists today.

This community and camaraderie has struck me. I know of no other sport where a 48 year ‘rookie’ would be so welcomed, encouraged and embraced. Just 6 months ago I showed up at my first race knowing nobody. Today I consider many of you my best friends. A special thanks to Mandy Hosford who opened the door for me to the Salt Lake ultra community. Jared Campbell who exhibits such graciousness both on and off the course. Erik Storheim who lets me draft him in races. My running buddies Christian Johnson, Greg Norrander, Peter Lindgren and Rich McDonald. And, Ken Jensen who has freely shared his wisdom and knowledge with me (in addition to being the most amazing pacer).

I feel good about my performance this year. I bettered my time by 10 hours, and even managed to place a couple of spots higher. Not bad for an old guy. But more important than the time, and more important than the place is the joy that running brings me. Thanks to all of you who have played a part in bringing me this joy