Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moments

by Craig

Either my wife hates having me around or she really, really loves me. I'd like to believe it's the latter. It was only two weeks ago that I completed a tough 100 mile effort in Zion National Park. Now, barely recovered I was getting into a car with four other people (and two more who were in another car) and heading down to the San Rafael Swell to run the up-to 31 mile Good Water Rim trail at the Wedge, part of the Little Grand Canyon, a beautiful area about 25 miles south of Price, UT.



Either I hate spending time with my family or I really, really like running with amazing friends in the desert. I can say with certainty that it is the latter. When I started running I had about 2 friends that also liked moving speedily up mountains. Now I have more friends than I can count, quite literally. On any given day or weekend I am able to jump into a group run from 3 - 10 people or bigger. I have the privilege of running just about anywhere in the state on any given day and not run alone. Fingers might be pointed that my magnetic personality draws people to me. But I know better. The simple truth is that I am surrounded by the most incredible and accepting community of runners you'll find anywhere in America. And I know this for a fact. So at 5:30am I found myself driving four other people (and two more in another car) into the desert.



A life is filled with a series of short moments. Even experiences that last days are looked back upon years later as flashes in time. It is up to us to determine how we live inside those moments and how we allow them to impact future moments. On a 40 degree day in the middle of the Central Utah desert I spent 4.5 hours running 22 miles with people that, if I couldn't have said it before, can now assuredly state are some of my closest and cherished friends. Needless to say, I chose to spend that moment in bliss.


I will linger back, years from now, on simple memories from that day; sitting under a blanket eating a thawed burrito on the edge of a cliff, watching others do stupid human tricks, and the hugs - oh so many hugs. And there will be one or two additional memories that I won't share, ones that are now special enough to me that I choose to keep them to myself. Those are my favorite moments, the ones that I choose not share with others. And they might be the most simple of all.


Running with the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers is always a good time. No run or day will disappoint. But there are other times when a special group of people get together and it becomes something more than just a day of running with friends. This was one of those days.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zion Double Crossing - Again

by Craig

Some pictures can't be taken, only seen. Visuals so clear, so delicate, in situations so intimate - that moment between yourself and nature - that they can't be duplicated outside of that one instance in time. Likewise, some experiences can't be retold. The immensity of it all is so great there simply aren't words to describe it succinctly enough to pay it the appropriate amount of respect. Yet, allow me to try. 


I never planned to return to Zion for another double crossing. The single Zion Traverse (48 miles and approximately 9000 ft of climbing) has become a goal and/or memorial run for many  ultra runners. In 2012 I became the first person to do a full traverse and then immediately return the opposite way to my original starting point. Unlike a race where you have aid stations or crews every 5-8 miles, Zion offers only a few places along the route where crews have access to you. Beyond that runners are in extremely remote parts of the park where few travelers go. If an accident were to occur it could be hours or days before help were to come. While I felt that the time I put up of 26:55 was extremely soft, I knew it was respectable and felt enough closure with the accomplishment that I had no plans to return. And yet, for some strange reason, when my friend, Jennilyn Eaton, approached me about taking a trip to do the Zion Traverse, I instinctively said, "we should do a double". How short my bewildered memory is. 



My goal for this attempt was nothing more than to have a great experience running through Zion National Park with my friends. I didn't care about speed, an FKT, or any notoriety. All I wanted was "the perfect day". We started our run at 5pm on Friday, November 7th. Our plan was to do the first crossing under the light of a full moon, then return early the next morning with two friends in tow to spend a beautiful Fall day in the park together. Running so early in the evening came easy, effortless. We cruised down into Laverkin Creek as the sun and light faded behind the cliffs to our southwest. Hikers and backpackers stared at us in awe as we cruised by in tiny shorts and even smaller hydration packs. You could see in their eyes that they couldn't comprehend the enormity of what we were doing, starting so late in the day. And then darkness.

As we ran into the night we were greeted by the rising moon. Like an old guard keeping vigil as we ran we pressed on into the abyss. The backcountry of Zion, normally an envelope of black became a painted canvas of every shade of gray. We frequently stopped to appreciate the spectacle, even stopping once in Telephone Canyon to sit and give thanks for that moment, for that site, the one that could never be duplicated through the lens of a camera. Crew stops at miles 13 and 35 were more like reunions than race pit-stops. We stayed to chat, eat, and most importantly, laugh. Matt, Jen, Josh, and Derrick, always so positive, made sure we stayed and left with everything we needed. Their contribution to our journey is incalculable. 


We completed our first crossing in a little over 11 hours, something like 11:14 (I haven't uploaded my GPS data yet). After a relaxing and lengthy stop we set off for our second crossing, this time with Josh and Jen in tow. Josh was there the first time we ever tried the traverse back in 2011. We dubbed that one the Zion Trainwreck because we got caught in a rain and snowstorm, with an overwhelming amount of mud, and had to turn back. Josh had unfinished business. Jen completed the traverse for the first time earlier this year in an uninspiring time. Both of them, like us, had a goal of enjoying the park and the company and nothing more. While we left under the illumination of our headlamps, it was only little more than an hour later that we had them turned off and running under the glow of a rising sun. 


When we dropped into Echo Canyon the alpenglow lit up the topmost spires of the highest points in the park like a torch on fire. We snapped picture after picture trying to capture the moment, only to look back with disappointment at what simply couldn't be duplicated as well as what we saw with our eyes. Instead, we stood inspired, mesmerized, and thankful. Now, 60 miles or more into our run and we were being rejuvenated with the heating rays of the sun. 

Up to this point I had yet to go through any type of low point. My energy was always high, my spirits high, and my attitude positive. My stomach never got upset and I never went through a true "bonk". Only twice did my energy taper as I got slightly behind on calories. Each time I pumped myself full of calories and I was back and flying. Jennilyn had a goal not to throw up for the first time in a 100 mile run and was doing great. While she battled an upset stomach a couple of times, for the most part she felt great and moved with methodical strength. She is truly an inspiration.

By the time we got to Potato Hollow, mile 73 (mile 27ish for Josh and Jen), everyone had settled into a groove and were feeling the distance and vert. I took it upon myself to play a little joke on them, so I ran ahead, sat down on a log, and started crying. When they approached they could tell something was wrong. Jennilyn put her arm around me while Jen tried to encourage me to get up and get moving, both without success. At the right moment I dropped the charade and laughed. They were good sports, gave me the hassle I deserved and we were off again. Within an hour we were running along the West Rim trail towards Lava Point when Jen went down, falling over a bush and off the trail. As I approached she sat holding her knee and wincing in pain. I felt bad for playing a joke on her as I tried to help her up. She was unable to weight her leg and the outcome of our run was now at risk. When I asked if she might be ok after a few minutes she said "Yep" and took off bounding with laughter down the trail. Retribution had been granted. 


Our fourth and final crew stop came at Hopp Valley with only 13 miles left. We picked up another friend, Becky, to run the final miles with us. She was a quick reminder of how tired we were as she kept running ahead and turning around to wait, uncertain as to why we couldn't keep up. The sand, water, and miles of Hopp Valley were weighing on us, but we were closing in on the certainty that we could complete our trip in under 25 hours. As we dropped into Laverkin Creek the sun was setting once again. Like the night before, in the same place, we ran below the splendor and majesty of a place so aptly named, Zion. 





With four miles left we turned west to climb up to Lee Pass. I couldn't run anything uphill at this point, but Jennilyn could and pulled ahead. I came up with reasons for why I couldn't keep up and settled into my first true low in attitude. A mile later, now on the home stretch, I got tired of my own excuses and took off, leaving everyone behind me. I was running the final miles at or below an 8 minute mile. I could have easily run into the finish by myself, beating Jennilyn by a couple of minutes, but that's not why I was there. I didn't care about my time or an FKT, I came to start and finish with my friend, so I waited atop the final climb for her. We ran in the last quarter mile together, as it should be, before darkness had finally settled in. There, waiting for us, were friends and family. We had done it, completing the Zion Double crossing in 24:50, over a 2 hour improvement on the previous Fastest Known Time. 

More important than any formal time was the experience I had with Jennilyn, Josh, Jen, and Matt. I had the perfect running day, my best feeling 100 ever, with some of my closest friends. There are moments I didn't share and won't because they are sacred to me. There were visions that can't be duplicated, pictures that were impossible to take but will always remain in my mind. And finally the words, the laughter, and companionship of my friends. I thank them for simply being themselves and allowing me to share that experience with them. I'm a better person, not because I ran 100 miles, but because I spent time with them. And I will be forever grateful. 


I would be remiss if I didn't thank my sponsors who's products allow me to achieve my goals. Without them I wouldn't have accomplished what I've wanted to.

Altra Running - Lone Peak 2.0
Gnarly Nutrition - Alternated Boost and water, a perfect combination
Ultraspire - Omega hydration vest. Perfect for what I needed to carry

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Returning to Heaven

Everyone should have a place they unquestionably love above everywhere else. That one place that makes them happier and more at home than anywhere else. For some it is a building, others a mountain top. And for many it is their physical home. Mine is Zion National Park. I doubt anyone would find this a surprise as I talk about Zion as though it were actually my park. I love every aspect, every cliff, canyon, stream, and trail. Whenever I return it's like visiting an old friend and I'm immediately welcomed with open arms.


This weekend I'll be traveling down to my favorite playground again in hopes of completely the Zion Double Crossing for a second time. Along with Jennilyn we will trek from west to east through the night, then return the following morning with a few friends in tow.

A single crossing is approximately 48.5 miles with up to 8500 vertical feet of climbing (direction dependent). From the west entrance in Kolob Canyons all the way to the east entrance of the park we will pass sandstone walls standing more than 1000 ft above us and drop hundreds of feet into canyon bottoms, crossing streams and sandy desert. We'll run among the cactus and Ponderosa Pines. In our entire trek we'll likely pass only a few people except for the time spent in the main part of the canyon.




What makes Zion so special to me isn't simply the beauty of my surroundings, but the comfort I feel in the backcountry. Having gone to Southern Utah University, Zion was my backyard and I became familiar with the trails and slot canyons. I knew how to read the weather and local conditions. I feel comfort in Zion the same way hardcore mountaineers feel on the biggest peaks in the world. So whenever I return I know I'm going home. And I'm at peace.


When the chaos of the world overwhelms me and I feel buried by the minutia of the daily whirlwind, Zion becomes my escape. With a relatively short drive I can be at Zion's door in just a few hours. And minutes later I can get lost in my own mind. Zion is what I need now, especially now. She calls to me and I heed her subtle whispers. See you all very soon.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Wasatch 100 report: By Scott Wesemann

The Wasatch 100 mile endurance run is my favorite race. I love everything about it. I had the opportunity to run and finish my 4th consecutive Wasatch and it was once again an incredible experience.

2011- This was my first Wasatch and while I had an idea of what I was getting into, I really just wanted to finish. The terrain ate me up and had me limping to the finish in a foggy exhausted state. I was thrilled to get that 32:40 finish.

2012- I was trained, fit and shooting for a sub 30 hour finish. Once again the course destroyed me and after doing well for 75 miles, the last 25 were a total nightmare and I came in hobbling in just over 31 hours.

2013- I came into this race more prepared than any other. I was strong, fit and determined to get that sub 30 buckle. We suffered through the hottest start in the history of the race and I was a complete dumpster fire. I spent over 4 hours throwing up, whining and sleeping at aid stations until my pacers finally gave me a kick in the rocks and pushed me to my slowest finish yet. 34 hours.

I really didn't know what to expect coming into the race this year, but I was well trained and feeling great. Matt Williams and I decided to run the first 39 miles together and then hopefully go as far as we could as long as we were both feeling good. We decided to take a very conservative approach to the first 50 miles and save some juice for a faster push on the last 50. After 4 straight finishes I will say that the most important thing that will lead to a good time in this race is to get to Lambs Canyon (mile 53) feeling good. That was our goal and we executed it perfectly (See Matt's report below).
Going up Chinscraper. Photo by Lane Bird

The first 25 miles of the race were fun. Matt and I did not go out fast. We spent a lot of time chatting with good friends and making new ones. The weather was perfect and we really enjoyed the morning climbing up to Chinscraper where Lane Bird was waiting to cheer us on with his cowbell. What a great guy. I was taking a gel every 45 minutes and staying on top of my electrolyte replacement by taking an S-cap every hour. We took the descent to Francis Peak aid station (mile 18.4) very conservatively and rolled in feeling great. The next section to Bountiful B aid (23.8) is always tougher than you think. We grinded it out with a few new friends and came into the aid in great shape. We picked up KendallW and KenzieB there and shared some laughs and fun and then KellyA joined in the party after a few miles. Around mile 27 our good friend Matt Van Horn had set up a living room in a high mountain meadow and had signs for each of us. What a stud! I jumped in his lap and gave him a juicy kiss on the cheek (sorry for that) and a hug. That really lifted our spirits for the next few miles.
MVH. Photo by Kendall Wimmer.

Miles 25-53 might be the toughest section of the entire course. This is exposed mountain ridge running without any cover from the sun. Even though the temps were cooler than in years past it was deceptively hot. There are some brutal climbs from Sessions aid (28.1) to Swallow Rocks (34.6). This section seems to take forever and it is a total grind. We made some new friends and tried to lighten everyone up with some inappropriate humor at times which always seems to help. Just before Swallow my stomach went south and I felt a bit nauseated for the next 30 minutes. We took a few minutes at the aid cooling off and walked out to settle my stomach. After a few climbs we picked up RyanL and all of us picked it up as we ran into Big Mountain aid (39.1). This is one of my favorite sections on the course, as you hear the crowds cheering and cowbells below. The adrenaline flows and it always makes me smile.
Our running train. Photo by Aaron Williams.

At Big Mountain we picked up Tara and Aaron and they were great pacers. Tara filled my bottles, grabbed me food and was such a big help. The next 14 miles are tough. It is probably the most exposed section of the course at the hottest time of day. We had a really good train with DJ joining in. We kept up a pretty good pace and just listened to Tara and Aaron telling stories and grinding out the miles. We took some extra time at Alexander Ridge (mile 46.9) to cool off and get some calories. There were some runners there that looked horrible. Luckily we all felt good. Out of the aid we picked up Kenzie and Kendall again and had a great time riding the train for the next several miles. What a fun group. Eventually Ryan caught up and we all ran into Lambs (mile 53) together feeling good. Goal accomplished.
A few miles before Lambs. Photo by Tara Summers

We picked up CraigL and JennilynE at Lambs as they would be pacing us to the finish. While the mood stayed jovial and fun for the rest of the way, they went to work like a skilled physicians making sure we were on top of everything. We were given strict instructions in regard to how we would be moving and how we were to approach each aid stop. It worked great and we moved efficiently and quickly for the remaining 47 miles.

Photo by Tara Summers
While the night tends to be very difficult for a lot of ultra runners our night seemed like a party. We are all great friends and know each other well, so we laughed a lot and had a great time. Matt and I took turns pushing the pace when we felt good while Jennilyn and Craig mixed in the perfect doses of love, fun and ass-kicking.

We arrived at Brighton (mile 75) feeling great and in good spirits. We took our time eating, hydrating, changing clothes and applying glide. This was one of our strategic stops where we knew we would take a little more time to make sure we were in great shape for the last 25. The climb out of Brighton was tough with Matt pushing what seemed like a fast pace. I was out of breath and really working hard when we hit the 'beach' just below Point Supreme where MattV was again waiting for us with some great music and a beach set up. I had been totally dreading the descent to Ant Knolls and seeing Matt gave me the juice I needed to tackle that thing feeling good. Thank you Matt for the kindness. It was the highlight of the race for us.

The descent to Ant Knolls (79.1) is one of the worst on the whole course. It is steep, rocky and comes at a time when your toes and feet are sore and tired. It hurt a lot and I tried not to whine and just focus on each step. We finally hit the aid and it was such a relief. The MRC boys were manning the aid station and I only remember a few things. I had some coke and sausage and made the guys laugh with a comment about sausage in my mouth. The climb out of the aid (The Grunt) is one of the toughest you do on the course and Matt decided he was going to hump that thing hard. I couldn't keep up and luckily he waited for me as I was panting and out of breath at the top.

We hit Pole Line Pass where Davy Crockett shared some laughs with us and I choked down some calories and Coke. It was good seeing friends there and the aid station was perfect. The descent down to Pot Bottom was rocky and tough on sore feet and I was so happy when we hit the bottom. I was even ok with the climb that followed. The course was altered this year and we were expecting it to be much easier the last 15 miles and while I think it was a little bit faster it was not easy. Those roads were so rocky and it was tough to get into any sort of groove, but we continued to have an excellent time laughing with good friends while we suffered.
We finished! Photo by Lane Bird.

The descent down to Decker Canyon (93.9) was rough on my feet and Matt and I really slowed down. It was the first time I think we weren't moving with purpose and the miles were taking their toll. After the aid station the sun was up and getting hot and we just wanted to get done. The trail by the lake was actually pretty decent and we were able to get running again and picked up our pace. It felt like we were running fast. Eventually we popped out onto the pavement and we could see the finish which always gets the juices flowing. Jennilyn and Craig ran ahead and Matt and I ran in together. What an incredible experience. We spent 28:29 together laughing, making new friends, hanging out with old ones, suffering, sweating, grinding. We had a plan and had executed it perfectly. We ran a near negative split the last 50 miles and both got our sub 30 buckle.
That was hard. Photo by Lane Bird.

Thank you to my incredible pacers. They were perfect and helped me so much. Thank you to the volunteers. I can't say enough bout them and how stellar they are. Thank you to the race committee for all of your efforts that allow us to do what we love. Most of all thank you to my wife, Kristina and family. They have always supported me with my crazy passions. I love you!

I love this race. I love everything about it. The trails, the rugged climbs, the incredible views. But most of all I love the people. The great friends and volunteers that come back year after year to make Wasatch the best race in the world and I can't wait to go back and do it again.

KSL did an article on our race. You can see it Here: KSL article

Check out a #reallyneat video of our run here: Wasatch 100 2014





Friday, September 19, 2014

Skyline Drive FKT - a 112 Mile Run

September 13, 2014 - 2:30am
Is that my alarm or my ringtone? I immediately recognize it as my ringtone and know exactly who's calling. Friend and running partner, Jennilyn Eaton, is attempting to become the first woman to complete the incredibly difficult Wasatch Ultra Ridge Linkup (WURL). I've only been asleep for two hours, but I'm immediately awake and talking her through a tough technical section about 2/3 through the course. I worry for her safety and have difficulty falling back to sleep.

4:30am, only two hours later, and my alarm is going off. It's time to wake up and begin my own journey. 

Matt picks me up in front of my house 15 minutes later and we are to Scott's. 20 minutes later and we are all on our way toward Salina, UT, a remote and very small town in central Utah along I-70. After a quick stop to top off our gas tank Matt points his FJ Cruiser east and 8 miles later we are at our destination. One of the things I enjoy most about adventure running is the lack of fanfare at the beginning or end of the run and Friday did not disappoint. I gathered my things, said my goodbyes, high-fived the Mile 0 post and started running. My goal was to run a series of dirt roads representing Skyline Drive all the way to Highway 6, approximately 110 miles away.


In 2011 I had attempted this same run with good friend and running mentor, Davy Crockett. We had attempted it nearly a month earlier following one of the biggest snow years in decades. After miles of thick mud we called it quits; me after 50 miles and he after 68. Skyline Drive might be a dirt road, but it's no joke. Of the 110 miles 55 are above 10,000 feet elevation and 85 above 9,000. Acclimatized or not, altitude takes its toll. But with beautiful mountain vistas, wildlife, and pristine alpine lakes, this run isn't about the road, it's about every but.

After what has felt like a year and a half of runs and races not gone well, usually due to weather, I felt as though on this run Karma was smiling upon us. The forecast was for bluebird skies and mild temps. We couldn't ask for a better day. During the day I sent Matt and Scott ahead 5 miles at a time allowing me to get by with carrying a single hand held water bottle and a few gels tucked in an Ultraspire Quantum. The miles flew by, some quicker than others. I hit a relative low point around mile 20 during a long 4 miles climb to my first break above 10,000 ft. After an extra rest at mile 25 above one of the most beautiful parts of the course I was back to feeling great and enjoying the solitude. Both Matt and Scott had run the Wasatch Front 100 the week before, so neither of them were in any shape to pace me. I was on my own, exactly how I wanted it. 


Only five miles later and I was at 12 Mile Campground. The next 2 mile climb would land me at the high point of the course, 10, 897 feet elevation. The next 10 miles or so are some of my favorite along the whole course. Wide alpine vistas give way to the San Rafael Swell to the east and glimpses of the southern Wasatch Mountains to the northwest. Wide plateaus offered a home to summer grazed sheep and cows, while hunters and campers cruised by on ATVs or in their trucks. I would make eye contact only long enough for me to see confusion register in their eyes as to why someone was outside of a vehicle and not carrying a gun (and in tiny green shorts). This was territory I was not accustomed to being in, and I'm not talking about my geographic surroundings.


As daytime turned to dusk, so did my energy. I was now 55 miles into my run, the halfway point, and I needed a break. I sat in a chair eating potato chips and watermelon and contemplated running in strange mountains during the night. I know that wild animals abound in these mountains. Mountain Lions and bears are not uncommon. In the Wasatch I know what to expect and have no fear of the dark, but in a strange place so far from civilization and a crew car miles ahead I found myself trepidatious of the forest. As I wound my way through Ponderosa Pines and Aspens, near cliffs and large boulders, my mind started to play tricks on me and I would frequently spin around to look behind me, certain something was going to sneak up and attack. As time went on and the forest gave way to alpine plains, so did my fears. I found comfort in the darkness and companionship in the stars. 

Climb after climb I pressed forward, always certain that I was climbing my 'last major climb'. Each descent was met with another big climb. For a run that has only 12,000 feet of climbing it sure felt like it was more like 20,000. The night grew thicker and colder and my lack of sleep the night previous was taking its toll on me. Sometime around mile 80, after getting caught in a low point where the temps were around 35 I started to fall asleep while on my feet. I would for myself to run because it would keep me focused, keep me awake. The minute I stopped I would close my eyes and literally be asleep on my feet. I'd awake moments later in the weeds along the side of the road or in the middle of the road itself. It was hunting season and people were out on these roads, even at 4am, heading towards their favorite hunting spot. I got scared that if I fell asleep and wandered into the middle of the road a half-asleep driver wouldn't see me and run me over. As dawn came around 7am my confidence grew that I would get my wits back. But the energy wasn't coming back and I was stumbling around like a "drunken zombie". I was determined to sleep, even if just for 15 minutes. As I came to my next crew stop, mile 99, I told Matt and Scott, "either let me sleep, even for 15 minutes, or I'm quitting". They laughed at that because they couldn't care less if I slept or not, they were there just to have fun, eat food, and listen to Katy Perry. They set up 2 chairs for me to stretch out in and let me sleep for 30 minutes. I woke up feeling fresh, hungry, and ready to run. Sleeping was a smart move.


I had a big 2 miles climb in front or me, then rolling road across the last of Skyline Drive, followed by a long descent down to Highway 6. Part of me hoped the course would run short. Matt estimated it might only be 108 miles long. I hiked fast and ran consistently along the flats and downhill. I estimated the descent road would be approximately 5-6 miles long, so when I got to my last aid stop and was told I still had 5 miles left (I was already at 107 miles) I couldn't do anything except shrug my shoulders and create new tactics for getting to the end - run for 2 songs then take a walk break. Run .9 miles then walk .1. Then, with only a half mile left I committed to running it in and doing it fast. Ok, I didn't really have a choice, I had to hurry or my watch battery was going to die. Highway 6 came into view and I turned on the jets. I ran the last .2 miles at a 6:30 pace and as I came to the highway I made sure no cars were coming then knelt down and smacked the road itself. 

I had done it. 112.5 miles and I had accomplished something no one else had ever done. It took me 27:13:09. I was hoping for about 24 hours and I think I could have done it had it not been for my reaction to sleep deprivation (not an excuse). I still believe it is a good time on a brilliant course. Most importantly, I feel like I finally got out of my 100 mile funk and had a good day. Sure, I had my energy lows, emotional lows, and stomach issues, but those are expected. Ultimately, I had a great day on my feet. I never had issues with my legs or an inability to run all together. When I needed to and wanted to I could run and do so well. I know I came away from this adventure with a renewed confidence in my 100 my abilities. 

While the run itself is an accomplishment, it isn't mine I cannot claim alone. Without Matt and Scott sacrificing their weekend to come and crew me I could have never done this run. I owe them everything and am incredibly thankful for their support and wit. Coach Schmitz will linger in my mind forever. Thank you fellas, I couldn't ask for better friends. I would be remiss if I didn't recognize my sponsors either. I ran in a pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.0s the entire run (except for 4 miles in a pair of Olympus, which I hated) and never had any foot problems. Additionally, Ultraspire for the amazing new handheld water bottle and Quantum 2015 belt. Simply amazing. I also wore the Revolution vest the last 55 miles, my favorite vest. Finally, I have to give huge respect to Gnarly Nutrition Boost. I can't imagine running without that stuff. It gives me everything I need in an electrolyte drink. 

Thanks everyone for your support and maybe someday I'll even turn this into a race. It would be a good one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Wasatch 100

By Matt W


Pre-race meeting - Drop bags


Weigh in. 

Pre-race meeting. 

Home. 

BBQ. 

Chat. 

Sleep...no...sleep will not come. Snooze. 

I'm up. 

Dressed. 

Hydrating. Calories. 

Start Line. Nerves. 

"Go!" 

No Nerves. 

Just Running. 




The night leading up to the 'big race' seemed to move at a blur. I appreciated the distraction, as I now seemed to find myself running along the very familiar Kaysville section of the BST. I've probably run this section of trail 100 times, nearly every time thinking about this day and wondering what it would feel like to run it on race morning, sharing the trail with 300 other runners. Well here I was. 

Scott Wesemann and I had been training together quite a bit this year, and on our many runs had decided that we would try and run together at least as far as Big Mountain. As this would be Scotts 4th Wasatch finish, my plan was to just stick with him at least until then and never get ahead. I also planned a conservative start to facilitate a strong finish. 

Climbing to Chinscraper - Photo my Matt Miller

The climb to Chinscraper was fairly smooth an uneventful. I refused to increase my pace to pass someone. If my current pace happened to be faster than someone in front of me, then we would pass away, but I couldn't justify the expended energy just so I could hike in front of someone rather than behind them. We passed a few people that were already pulling off to the side - hands on hips, eyes looking hopelessly upward toward the seemingly never nearing destination...I felt bad, it was much too early to be feeling that way. As we approached the base of Chinscraper, I heard my name and saw fellow WMW Matt Miller there snapping pics and cheering people on. Always a nice surprise to see a familiar face. Then, nearing the top, Lane Bird was hootin' and hollerin' Scotts name as we pushed the climb to the familiar ring of a cowbell.


Topping out on Chinscraper - Photo by Lane Bird

Gathering our legs from the climb, we settled in to a nice rhythm and cranked out the rolling miles. At the base of Thurston I pulled off to adjust my shoe and Scott pulled ahead a little, but always remained in sight, me catching back up at Grobbens while he made some shoe adjustments of his own.
From Francis peak to the Francis aid station, you have several miles of perfect downhill dirt road. It's a very easy section to let your legs go a little too hard, so Scott and I purposefully took it easy and joked around as we caught some runners and were passed by others. We ran just behind and with John Brown, who would be a familiar sight for much of the first half of the race. Brian Beckstead caught up to us here as well, so a good group of us all got to Francis aid together.

Francis Peak AS (18.4) - 9:27am arrival - Elapsed Time 4:27


I refilled my bottles, grabbed a spare bottle from my dropbag, had some Coke and grabbed a Nutella Quasadilla.

The next section is mostly Forest Service roads, and we took our time meandering along our way, chatting with a few familiar faces as they passed. Once we pulled off the road and onto some singletrack, I knew we were coming up to the section of trail where Scott and I (and others) had done our trailwork. It was nice to see it on race day - the switchback we had put in was still intact, and we spit on the rock that we had unsuccessfully tried to dig out of the trail. Having been here before, I was glad (in a weird way) to know that we had a decent climb up ahead of us. We just put our heads down and the Bountiful B aid station was in our sites before we knew it. 

Bountiful B AS (23.8) - 10:52am arrival - Elapsed Time 5:52

The selection at the aid station was a little sparse, so I drank some Coke, grabbed a couple of pieces of fruit and filled my bottles. Kenzie and Kendall both showed up here, so we left together. Kendall has had a killer schedule this year and just wasn't feeling the day, so was nice enough to hang back with us for a bit while Kenzie was feeling good and charged up a few of the hills on ahead. Kelly caught up to us here as well, so we had a nice little crew cruising along. 

It always seems to be right around the marathon/50K mark that reality starts to set in. You've already been out for quite some time, done some good climbing, you're body is kind of ready to be done for the day - and you realize that you still have over 70 miles to go! Well, today was no different, but just as I was letting my mind wander a little too far down that path, I see a living room in an open field. A living room? "What the..." As I'm trying to figure out what and who in the world has a living room set up at mile 27 of the Wasatch 100 course, it hits me - it's MVH and he's got a sign for each one of us! I don't think he was planning on 4 of his friends coming through together, so it was fun to watch him frantically move through each one of the signs for Rocky Mountain Slammer Kendall, Scott and Kelly, along with one for me - Matt Williams "Your mom runs wasatch". We stopped briefly to say hi and snap some pics, and left Matt immediately lifted. Running into Sessions I was now happy and feeling great - AND - they had Popsicles! My rule is to never say no to a Popsicle! I had at least 2 or 3, along with my usual helping of Coke.


Sessions AS (28.16) - 12:01pm - Elapsed Time 7:01

      
A month or two ago I had run this section with Aaron, as we summited Grandview Peak, so I knew we had a nice little climb ahead of us, and was mentally prepared for it. As we approached the climb, a nice guy named Woody pulled in and asked if he could run with us for a while, to which, of course, we agreed. The climb was good, I felt just fine as Scott and I joked our way to the top. I absolutely love this section as it winds you through a dense stand of aspens. We topped out on the climb and then had a quick, steep decent, followed by an immediate and equally steep climb. 
I could see Kenzie moving up the hill just ahead, and looked over to see a runner laying in the grass off the trail. Too early to be feeling that way. Again, I felt bad and trudged on. We caught up to Kenzie and she fell into line with us. John was nearby as well, and set a good pace throughout this section, as I chatted with Woody. Once we passed Grandview I would now be in new territory until Lambs, and that certainly made this section feel a lot longer than the 6.5 miles it (supposedly) is. 
While it was much cooler than usual, the exposure and time of day was taking it's toll, and we rolled in to Swallow and took a few extra minutes to cool things down (Popsicles!). 

Swallow Rocks AS (34.6) - 1:57pm arrival - Elapsed Time 6:57 


Scott was still feeling a little rough as we pulled out of the AS, but we still headed out with John, Kendall and Kenzie in tow - the group of us roughly hung out for the next few miles. Only 4.5 miles to major milestone AS Big Mountain, the first opportunity to see family and crew, as well as pick up a pacer, seemed to fly by. A mile or two out we caught up to Ryan Lauck, and spent some time enjoying the views and talking about the race. 
You start to see the road and know you're getting close, and then you can hear the crowd and see the radio towers that are near the AS. I was feeling good and just floated down the handful of switchbacks until I was crossing the road and getting weighed in at the AS. I was happy to see that my wife Alicia, two boys and brother Aaron were all there. 

Big Mountain AS (39.1) - 3:07pm arrival - Elapsed Time 10:07



Picking up Pacers - Photo by Taralyn Summers

We had agreed to spend a few extra minutes here to make sure everything was right before heading out on the hot and exposed section to Alexander. I ate some, drank a bunch, hit the bathroom and changed my socks. Then finally made our way out. Aaron would be pacing me, with Tara joining in the fun as Scotts pacer. 
The climb(s) out of Big Mountain surprised me. I don't know why - typically in Wasatch if you're not going up, you're going down. As would become familiar, I just put my head down and marched up the hills, then ran down the others. This section contains some particularly steep and rugged descents, with large rocks filling the v-shaped trail. Somewhere in here we caught up with DJ (or he caught up with us...) so we had a pretty good train going for a while, with Tara telling stories to keep everyone entertained. To keep up with it's reputation, this section was HOT. No wind, exposed running along the ridge in the hottest part of the day. I could see the AS below and the legs were feeling good, so I gave myself an extra minute or two at the AS by showing up a little early.

Photo by Aaron Williams


Alexander Ridge AS (46.9) - 5:31pm - Elapsed time 12:31 


These guys were great, and they treated us right - Aaron and Tara were doing a bang up job running back and forth grabbing stuff to cool us down. There were a couple of runners there that had the look of defeat in their eyes. Hopefully a little of our irreverence cheered them up and got them back out there.

Leaving Alexander - Photo by Aaron Williams

Again, we left in a bit of a train with Kenzie and Kendall (and Scott and I) and the group of us made the monotony of that powerline trail go a little quicker. A mile or two into it, DJ came flying by, looking good and moving strong...until a few minutes later we heard some yelling and went over a rise to see that DJ had missed a critical turn and another runner was yelling to bring him back. Well, DJ had his headphones in and was just cranking. Aaron was feeling spry and sprinted off after him while the rest of us made the turn and the small climb up and over. Topping out we had a nice couple of miles to run it into Lambs. I was feeling really good and we set a pretty good clip for being 50+ miles into a run. We caught up to Ryan again, who was moving well, but out of water, so I shared some of mine - he appreciated the Camelbak insulated bottle that was able to give him some ice cold water even after an hour in the heat. Kendall was up ahead and moving well, so I settled in behind him as he took us right to the base of the AS. A couple hundred yards before we could see the aid station, we startled a yearling moose, and it sounded like momma was nearby rustling in the bushes. 
Scott and I gave a little jog up part of the hill to show we were still feeling good, but hiked in the rest to the Lambs Canyon AS.

Saying hi on the trail - Photo by Taralyn Summers

Lambs Canyon AS (52.5) - 7:10pm - Elapsed Time 14:10

Craig and Jennilyn were waiting and cheering for us, along with my wife and her mom. Everybody helped get us weighed in, fed and changed. This was another major aid that we had planned on taking some extra time to reset and get ready for the trek to Brighton. I changed my shirt, hat and used the POP, regliding while I was at it. I was starting to get a little chilled, so I knew it was time to head. Scott had already left, so Craig and I jogged up the road to meet them. Scott and I had been talking all day about getting to Lambs feeling good. While we had arrived a little later than I thought, we had achieved that goal, so I just hoped it would pay off. 
Heading up Lambs - Photo by Craig

We hiked most of the road, with a few pacer-forced running spells, until we reached the top of the road, where some bum was there offering free body massages. Sicko! Actually we knew it was just VanHorn showing up again, bringing smiles to our faces as we turned off the road and hit the trail. 
We were able to make it nearly to the top without headlamps, but turned them on shortly before the pass. Near the last switchback, I noticed my energy wasn't great. I still felt OK, just a little depleted. Craig had me try to eat some cherry cola Honey Stinger chews, and my stomach wanted nothing to do with it. In the past I would have hiked on and tried to fight the feeling. Not anymore. I pulled off the trail and just let the puke fly (some appropriately timed inappropriate comments from Scott did help). One minute later I was done and felt like a million bucks. I jogged to the pass catching up with Scott and Jennilyn, and then we cruised on down the other side. Craig and I ran through a full volume rendition of "Stars" from Les Mis, which had me a little out of breath by the time we finished the song, but it was a quick jaunt and we hit the road at Elbow Fork in Milcreek.
Hats off to the runners that can run this road at this point in the race. For me it seems to be just too steep to run without expending more energy than it would be worth. We did run a few sections and eventually (as happens as long as you keep moving) we found ourselves at Upper Big Water. 

Upper Big Water AS (60.94) - 9:58pm - Elapsed Time 16:58


I love this AS. I think it's the grilled cheese. Ate one of those and had some hot broth with noodles, a couple of Cokes and some water. We saw DJ here, he was having some knee problems, but continued on. Probably spent a little too long here, and I started to shiver - that's my alarm - time to go. 
After all of the climbs you've been through (and still have) this climb from Big Water to Dog Lake was rather pleasant. We certainly weren't pushing the pace, but we kept moving well and before I knew it, we were running down, and passed Dog Lake. The steep descent from Dog to blunder fork was slower than a normal run, but that was expected. As we turned up the trail towards Deso, I was very happy with the trail work that had been done - it took a little bit of the sting out of that climb. We told stories as we moved along and it seems like just a few minutes before I looked around and realized we were in the meadow just below Deso. Sweet! We passed DJ here and wished him well as we ran into the aid station.

Desolation Lake AS (66.02) - 11:58pm - Elapsed Time 18:58

On the climb up to Desolation we had all made an agreement - no more than 2 minutes at Deso and Scotts would buy us a couple of extra minutes at Brighton, where it really mattered. So that's just what we did. Craig refilled my bottle while I knocked back two cups of Coke, grabbed a cup of hot soup, and started walking. Jennilyn and I chatted our way up to the sign at the bottom of red lovers ridge, and then waited for a minute while Scott and Craig caught up, before tackling the ridge together. We made quick work of it and were on the Crest trail in no time. Scott was out front and just started laying it down. We walked only briefly on some of the steeper uphills, but otherwise ran almost everything to Scotts, getting there almost exactly an hour after leaving Desolation.        

Scotts Pass AS (69.94) - 1:05am - Elapsed Time 20:05    

Another quick 2 minute stop at Scotts and we were on our way again. Spent a minute or two walking to let the food start to digest, and were on our way again. Took a brief stop just before the pavement for Craig and Scott to take advantage of the bathroom. We had an absolute blast joking around and telling stories all through the night. Made pretty quick work of the pavement, not walking a step of pavement until we made it to the canyon road heading up to Brighton. Craig and I pulled a little ahead of Scott and Jennilyn on that last stretch to Brighton, running part of the hill and then through the flat parking lot on into the AS. 

Brighton AS (74.63) -2:06am - Elapsed Time 21:06

I love the Brighton AS. So many friends there either running or pacing, and my wife was there to support me. Said hello to everyone while Craig brought me a plate of food (amazing), reapplied some glide and took a minute to regroup. My feet felt good, but I could feel my toes starting to argue with each other a little, so I made a change into Injinjis, which kept everyone playing nice. I heard of a few friends that had been far ahead of me that were still here at Brighton. Derek Ward came and said hi - he looked like he wasn't sure he would continue. I tried to say something encouraging as I finished up preparations. I was now starting to shiver, so I knew it was time to get moving. Luckily we would later find that Derek suited up and finished like a champ. 
Leaving Brighton you start right up one of the biggest climbs of the day, especially considering it's 75 miles in. It was one I had been thinking about all day. The first time I had ever made this climb was two years ago, while pacing Craig. At that time it felt like it went forever. Today I knew what I was getting into, and told myself it really wasn't that big. One foot in front of the other. Keep moving. 
Before I knew it, we were heading towards a light at Point Supreme. There he was again, MVH had set up a beach party right at the highest point of the course - complete with umbrella, frisbee, sunscreen (at 3am) and a beachball somewhere down the mountain. We spent a minute here to hang out and dance with the beach music until Scott caught up. 
From the top of the climb your work is far from over. Dive and the Plunge be damned, this is the hardest, nastiest decent on the entire course. My second step on the steep trail sent my foot jamming into the front of my shoe, smashing my toe...ouch...I guess I should have tightened that up at the top. I didn't push super hard going down, just took my time and kept running. I could hear the clinking of Scotts poles not too far behind. The light to Ant Knolls showed up in our sights and the aid station itself appeared a little sooner than I thought.  

Ant Knolls AS (79.13) - 4:03am - Elapsed Time 23:03 

I barely remember being here. We popped in, Erik Storhiem hooked me up with some sausage and I downed a coke and we were back on the trail. I knew this climb 'the grunt' was coming and I just wanted to get it behind me. I charged that thing with everything I had, marching hard to the top. Said hello to Kelly as we went by on our way up. At the top, we turned our lights off for a minute and enjoyed the bright stars in the dark night - at least that's what I told ourselves we were doing - I needed a breather after the climb! 
With Scott and Jennilyn caught up at the top, we headed towards Pole Line. I was leading the train and really feeling great. We ran nearly everything here, especially since it's mostly flat to downhill. I have yet to see this section in the light (from previous pacing duties) and I aimed to keep it that way. This is one of the few places where the trail seems almost buttery smooth as it weaves in and out of the aspens. We arrived at Pole Line less than an hour after leaving Ant Knolls. 

Pole Line Pass (82.31) - 4:58am - Elapsed Time 23:58  

Pole Line is one of the best. We were happy to see some familiar faces, including that of Davy Crockett. We spent a couple of minutes here. I ordered up a breakfast burrito and felt bad that I could only muster two bites before feeling full. I reluctantly handed it back and we took off, heading down the usual trail until we broke off onto the new part of the course. In no time we were at the turn down to Pot Bottom - the upper section of this trail is a rutted, rocky mess. It's no wonder I had forgotten about it from the last two times pacing. At this point in the race you've been doing so much nasty downhill, you just put your head down and continue on. I was happy to reach the road where the old Pot Bottom aid station used to be, and begin the 'last' climb up to the ridge. We took this climb in stride, and I was actually surprised when it ended - I was expecting it to be a bit longer or harder. As we ran down towards the next aid station, it was starting to get light, so we were beginning to be treated with some spectacular views as the sun began touching the mountains.
Just outside the Stanton aid we heard fast footsteps behind us along with a familiar voice. Andrea, who had been at Brighton earlier, was now feeling good and flew past us with Zac as her pacer. She was moving well and was in and out of the aid station before we even got there. I was happy to see her back on track. 

Stanton North (87.28) - 6:26am - Elapsed Time 25:26

Again, a 2 minute aid stop here. Just enough to refill the fluids and grab some Coke. With less than a half marathon to go, we were really smelling the barn and just wanted to get done. 


We were now in new territory here and didn't really know what to expect. My mind had conjured up a nice, smooth road that blissfully led us to the finish line. While it was a road, it was quite rocky, which made it difficult to get a good pace going, even with the downhill sections. There were a couple of surprise uphills, including one just out of the aid station, and another short, steep climb a few miles later. At this point in the race you just keep going, and we did enjoy the fall colors and the views of Timp and the surrounding valleys. 
My feet and body were tired, and I was ready to be done, but I appreciated the moment, savoring the time I had to spend with good friends in the mountains.
A short while later we turned off the road and basically into a cow field that led down the canyon. There was a trail, but it was rarely used and was full of loose rock. At this stage in the race I was trying to keep a good downhill pace going, but my beat up quads and tired feet were barely able to run faster than a walk on the steep downhill sections. Finally...finally we made it to the final aid station, Decker Canyon. 

Fantastic views of Timp in the early fall colors - Photo by Craig

Decker Canyon (93.89) - 8:05am - Elapsed Time 27:05   

We took a few minutes here to refuel and get ready for the final push, though we didn't take too long. The people there were friendly and had great things to say about the upcoming (and last) section of the course. 
A mile or two more of the trail and then we met up with the recreation trail that goes alongside Deer Creek reservoir. This was a wide, rolling gravel track, that would be easily run on a normal day. We hiked the first few uphills and ran everything that was flat or down, weaving in and out of seemingly endless canyons. As we progressed, we started running more and more, and with a couple of miles to go we could see Kelly closing in on us, and that seemed to give us enough of a desire to finish this thing off. 
So we started running. Running fast (at least it felt REALLY fast) and never stopped until the end. We rounded the mountain and could now see the finish. Down through some trees and a parking lot, and we were now on the road. Craig and Jennilyn pulled ahead to take pictures, so now it was just Scott and I together, as we had been all day, running side by side and pushing hard as the finish line neared. 
I could hear my wife screaming from afar, and was flooded with emotion as we rounded the final corner to the finish line. I grabbed Scotts hand and we crossed the line together, now the second time doing that in 100 mile race.  

Soldier Hollow - FINISH (100) - 9:29am - Elapsed Time 28:29:12



Done! Photo by Jennilyn Eaton

Words can't express the relief and joy I felt as I finished. It was not the simple joy of a tired body now able to rest, but the joy of knowing that the hours, days, months and even years of hard work had paid off. I had run what I felt was a smart and conservative race, and it turned into an awesome day. I was able to run 100 miles with so many friends, and with Scott for the entire time. The weather was perfect, the course was brutal and the aid stations and volunteers were stellar. I had the amazing pacing help from my brother Aaron, Craig and Jennilyn - all of whom have been an inspiration to me.

Above all, I couldn't have done this without the support of my amazing wife - She is more than I could ever ask for, and certainly more than I deserve.  



  

People ask if I will ever put in again - the answer is simple: without question.


Gear List:
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Black/Red - single pair, ZERO blisters
UltrAspire Revolution - Best racing pack there is
Addidas tech tee - x2 - changed at Lambs
Patagonia shorts
Hobie Rockpile Polarized glasses
Teko socks (40mi) - these were good, just started to get a little hot on the bottom
Drymax (35 mi) - Always good, toes were starting to argue with each other
Injinji (25 mi) - probably should have just worn these the whole time :)
Tailwind ~25 servings  - filled a bottle at each AS, that was my sole source of calories between AS, then ate whatever looked good at the AS.

Aid station food (that I can remember):
 - Nutella wrap
 - Coke x20 
 - Ginger Ale x4
 - Popsicles x5
 - Fruit
 - Turkey and cheese sandwich
 - Grilled Cheese x2
 - Sausage x2
 - 2 bites of a breakfast burrito (it was tasty)
 - Broth x2
 - Cherry Cola Honey Stinger chews