Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Year That is Coming Together

by Craig

Several months ago I was inspired to start writing again; not the remedial journalistic stuff I drop on here, but real, meaningful writing that expresses a deeper side of me. Sometimes it comes out in the form of poetry, other times as a short story or even just a random series of words and incoherent sentences. None of it really sees the light of day. But it has become important to me again. This exploration into deeper self-evaluation has seeped into other aspects of my life, including running.

This year, after some running soul searching I have chosen to do a few things differently than the last couple of years. And as long as I can stay injury free and get in some good training, I plan to be very busy.

First and foremost my focus this year will be to make (TAUR) as successful as possible. We have refocused the store on selling our own brand. We currently sell hats and stickers, will move into buffs in the next week, and will introduce shirts and sunglasses in the next month. As advertising on our site increases and revenue grows the plan is to start growing and visiting the community we've worked so hard to build. We firmly believe in brand authenticity and will continue to strive to protect that.

Because of that focus on TAUR I have decided not to take on any sponsors that I feel would be in conflict with the work I'm doing there. We do a lot of product reviews and it would be ungrateful of me to review and promote several brands, while at the same time representing an obvious bias towards the one that is sponsoring me. Therefore, the only actual product brand I will continue to represent in 2015 is Gnarly Nutrition, a health nutrition company. Since we don't review, sell, or promote any recovery nutrition brands there is no conflict and I am happy to once again be a part of the team. More importantly than that, they are a brand I truly respect and I know understand and respect my vision towards running.

The one other sponsor I have taken on this year is Ultra-Adventures. These races, directed by Matt Gunn have always been a favorite of mine. At first glance it might just seem like an easy way to race without the weight of heavy fees, but it is so much more than that. I have gotten to know Matt over the last few years and it is his running philosophy and race direction attitude that really makes me want to represent the company. I would encourage all of you to go to their site and read their What We Do. They are much more than that and I plan to spend this year expounding on the relationship they have with some of the most beautiful places in this country.

With that relationship I plan to do the following races (UA races will be indicated as such):

  • February - Antelope Island 50 (UA)
  • May - Grand Canyon 100 (UA)
  • June - Bryce 100 (UA)
  • August - Tushers 100 (UA)
  • September - Wasatch 100 (acceptance pending)
Unorganized adventures are where my heart truly lies, therefore I also plan to do a bunch of adventure running (no surprise there). Much of that calendar is still up in the air, but I can say that the adventures of 2015 will be much bigger and more aggressive than ever. My current plan is to push to new distances (hoping to get close to a 150 miler) and do bigger peaks. More to come on that later.

Skyline Drive (photo by Scott Wesemann)

In all, 2015 should be an absolute MONSTER year and one I hope to bring to all of you. Much of what I write and focus on will be on TAUR, but I do plan to share all of my adventures here, along with the rest of the Refuse 2 Quit crew. Best of luck everyone and I can't wait to see you all out on the trails.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

119 peaks in 2014: By Scott Wesemann

I've been a peak bagger for over 20 years now. When I stood on my first major summit, Lone Peak,  back in the early nineties I had a series of emotions rush through my body. While standing on that lone summit rock filled with adrenaline I took in the 360 degrees of vistas and I knew right there and then that I wanted to climb 'em all. I spent the next several years making lists of peaks and slowly bagging them. Fast forward to early 2009. I was out of shape and fat. I was reading the intro to one of my favorite books, The Chuting Gallery by Andrew Mclean and I was inspired by this motley crew of back country skiers that got up in the middle of the night a few times per week to climb up their favorite chutes in the Wasatch for a good ski before work.  If they could do it so could I and I decided I would get up early a day each week for the rest of the year to climb a peak in the Wasatch. My good friends Craig and MVH were with me on most of these climbs. My lack of fitness prompted me to start running to get into better shape and within a year I had discovered trail running and the rest is history. Since the start of 2010 I've stood on 467 summits.  Each peak has been an adventure and I can say without question that I've enjoyed every one.
Fat me on the top of Colorado circa 2000

By the numbers: I climbed 27 unique peaks throughout the year with 119 total summit ascents. Mt. Wire had the most summit visits at 26. Here are some of the highlights:

- January group run from Tibblefork reservoir in American Fork to the summit of Hidden Peak. With an approach of 10 miles on a snow packed track we made our way to the backside of the Alpine ridge. It was very cold, but we never noticed except when we stopped for a quick break. It was fun to see the looks on the faces of the Snowbird employees that were in a shack high on the back side of the mountain when they saw us there. We took a direct route straight up to the peak, going off the groomed track and hit the top in the middle of the night. 11,000 feet in the cold dark night can be intimidating 10 miles from your car, but we took a few minutes to warm up in the shack before the run down. Incredible.
Hidden Peak with Leslie, Craig, Me, Jennilyn, Jen

-In April I climbed Dude Peak with Jennilyn and MattW from City Creek Canyon. We had great conversation and a lot of laughs on the way to Dude and then from there stayed on the ridge hitting two more peaks covering terrain where I had never been. Then we did a bush-whack descent back into City Creek that was far too long and arduous, but full of laughs and colorful language. We also found poop on a stick and a moose rack that Matt carried back to the car. 15 miles of awesome.

-Mt. Mahogany/Big Baldy with Jennilyn and Craig on June 1st- One of the best runs of the year. I loved seeing Jennilyn's face when I told her we were going straight up the steep loose shale/scree slope on the south ridge of Mahogany. This run had it all: Mountain meadows filled with wild flowers. Craig and I taking engagement photos. Fast downhill ridge running. Singing in the meadows. Moose. Not another soul in sight. Multiple summits. Fun downhill trails and a shower in the cold falls. Heaven.
Sometimes its not about the summit at all

-In July I took my wife Kristina up Squaw Peak for the first time. We had a blast talking and laughing on our way up and the views from the top are always good. Summits are always sweet, but enjoying that view and solitude with my girl was one of the best memories of the year.
Kristina on Squaw

-On July 24th MattW and I celebrated Pioneer Day by climbing an old friend, Kessler Peak. It had been 15 years since my last visit. What was I thinking? Kessler has one of the best views in the Wasatch and Matt and I laughed while we explored some old mines and playfully bounded across the summit ridge smiling the whole time.

-Hidden, AF Twins, Red Baldy with Craig & Jennilyn- Pre-dawn start from Snowbird. In typical fashion we made our way up the service road laughing and chatting away when someone yelled COUGAR! With Craig as our human shield we pushed ahead only to find a small deer just off the trail. All of the smoke in the valley made one of the best sunrises of the year from Hidden Peak. The next few hours we spent laughing and scrambling across the rocky ridges tagging the AF Twins, Red Stack and Red Baldy. Views. Smiles. Bliss. We ended with a dip in White Pine lake and then smiled all the way back to the White Pine trailhead. One of my all time favorite trail runs.
American Fork Twins

-Timpanogos: I tagged Timp 4 times in 2014. If you go at the right time to avoid the crowds this is the best run in the Wasatch. I was fortunate to see mountain goats 3/4 trips up and the most memorable summit was an early weekday morning with Craig, MattW and Brent. We laughed so hard from the saddle to the summit and then our jaws dropped on top as the clouds that had enveloped the summit parted just in time to expose the incredible views below. Wow.
Just below the summit of Timpanogos

-Mt. Raymond: This summit provides some of the sweetest vistas you can taste in the Wasatch. An early morning run with Bob, Craig and Ashley was one of the best of the year. An early morning storm brought clouds and the threat of bad weather, but we lucked out and missed just about all of it. What we did have were lots and lots of laughs with new friends. Bonds were formed, friendships made. Another perfect morning in the Wasatch.
Mt. Raymond

-Ben Lomond/Willard: With MattW, Jennilyn, Bob and Ashley- This is the second year in a row that we have made an early morning visit to these two incredible peaks. This is one of the best runs in the Wasatch, probably in my top 5. We had a perfect day laughing and running on stunning single track trail with views in every direction. The run from BL to Willard might be the best ridge running I did all year. We spooked up a herd of mountain goats just below the summit of Willard and enjoyed one of the best peak bagging days of 2014.
Willard Peak

-Devil's Castle with MattW, Aaron and Cait: This is one of the best ridge scrambles in the Wasatch. With some early fall snow we had a few dicey sections on our way to the ridge, but from the saddle conditions could not have been better. We had a stupendous time tagging all 3 peaks from west to east and then enjoyed a little spice on the snowy descent back to the cars. It was another perfect day.
Me and Aaron on Devil's Castle

-Box Elder Peak- In 2013 Craig, Jennilyn and I thought we tagged Box Elder on a really fun early morning fall run. What we tagged however was South Box Elder, so we had to go back again this year on another gorgeous Fall day. The colors were absolutely brilliant, probably the best I have seen all year in the high mountain meadows. This remote summit doesn't see as much action as her next-door neighbor, Timpanogos, but the views might be just as good. It was definitely a stunning day in the hills.
Jennilyn just below Box Elder Peak

-Mt. Wire/View Benchmark, #118 and 119: With a few days left in 2014 I decided to count up my peaks for the year. Mistake. I discovered that I was one short of tying my record for ascents in a year and two away from breaking it. The problem was the forecast until the end of the year was the coldest weather of the winter so far and high winds. Tara, Jennilyn and Matt met me at the Mt. Wire trailhead early on Dec 31st. The wind was howling. I noticed one of the street signs swinging wildly and the temperature was reading 1 degree. Somehow we all got out of the car and found our way on the trail. This was crazy! The wind chill had to be in the negative-thirties or somewhere in that range. The wind gusts were over 50 mph and we suffered our way up the snowy slopes. The final push up the ridge was surreal. Wind so strong it was pushing us over. Cold. Unlike anything I have ever felt before. On top we fiddled with my pack to find my phone for a picture. I took my glove off for 30 seconds to snap the shot and my hand went numb. Then tingly. It felt like a surge of electricity went through it for the next 10 minutes. Even in the harsh conditions we all laughed and had a great time and I'm sure none of us will ever forget it. After we finished Wire I was done. There was no way I would go back up to break my record. Not a chance. After talking with my wife she convinced me to go tag another peak, so on my way home from work I met KendallW for an ascent up View Benchmark from Vintage View in Draper. For every peak I count I have to gain at least 1500 feet of vert and with this run I'd get over 1700. We had a fun time chatting and grinding out the final summit of the year on snowy trails. It was still bitter cold, but nothing like Wire earlier in the day. The final day is what it was all about for me in 2014. Great friends. They rallied at the end to help me achieve my goal in spite of the harsh conditions. Heck, it's hard enough to get MattW up Wire in perfect conditions, so it meant a lot that they stayed and went up with me and Kendall joined me up VB with almost no notice.

It was a great year, an incredible year with new friends and old ones. I'm psyched for 2015- More adventure, good times, great friends, laughs and peaks.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 - Finding the Love, Again

by Craig

I think I'm on year #5 of writing this post. It's odd to think that I've been running in the mountains and deserts for this long, that I have this much to look back on. Gratefully, I'm not looking back on the entirety of those 5 years, only the last 12 months. And then looking forward to 2015.

This past year I only ran one race. Hard to believe, even for me. And it was early, March, to be exact. I went into the Buffalo Run 100 with high hopes, only to walk away disappointed with the result. No excuses, it was my race to kill and I didn't, simple as that. Not every race is going to be stellar, unfortunately this one was the last in a long line of poor races. So much so that I chose not to race anything for the rest of the year. Instead, I made adventure running my focus and by so doing rekindled my love for not only the trails and deserts of Utah, but also for the 100 mile distance.

2014 transitioned from a year of accomplishments to a year of relationships. It was something natural and nothing I sought after. I solidified existing ones; those so familiar already, but always fragile. Knowing that because of this year they are now immortalized makes me happy and comfortable. Then to rekindle old friendships that I never would have expected to resurface, how invigorating that is. I'm grateful for those. It means that over time, while people can change and be separated by distance and circumstance, friendships can remain and continue. Finally, to create new ones. Creating new acquaintances is simple, we do it every day. But having one develop into something truly genuine and real is rare. These are what I cherish most. This is what running is to me.

My relationship with nature is what drives me to move. 2014 offered moments of such clarity in that relationship that by November I had rekindled a relationship I felt had been tarnished through poor racing results.

Mine and Jennilyn's blind attempt at the WURL (Wasatch Ultra Ridge Linkup) was that first moment of connectivity I had been longing for. I recall sections of the Cottonwood Ridge as I moved ahead of Jennilyn and Ben where I had instances of emotional kinship with my surroundings that were almost surreal. While the attempt itself was unsuccessful, what came from that was the beginnings of what would come to define my year.

Photo by Ben Eaton
Photo by Ben Eaton

Quest for King's is always a highlight for me. I love the community that comes out to attack the Uintas. It  seemed that most people had some plan that differed from running just the actual peak this year. How exciting it is to see people tackle bigger goals than they previously thought possible. While not everyone was successful in their attempts, they definitely learned something about themselves and their relationships with the mountains. For myself, I found a greater love for being solo on bigger peaks. As I ran from King's to Fortress Peak and back to Anderson Pass I rediscovered my passion for doing big mountains solo and hold that as one of the major accomplishments of 2014.

In 2011 I attempted to run the 110 mile long Skyline Drive with Davy Crockett. We got about half way through before we both called it quits due to some pretty severe mud for about 30 miles, so it has always been on my bucket list of things undone. I went back this year with Matt and Scott as my crew and tackled the end-to-end run solo. Running 112 miles alone (crew stops aside) is revelatory and an experience I truly cherished. I faced some demons on that run and came out victorious. Those lessons have and will continue to make me a better runner and person.

Photo by Scott Wesemann

My final 100 miler of the year was a somewhat impromptu Zion Double Crossing with Jennilyn. She wasn't planning for a double and I didn't think I would ever have any desire to do it again, but when she asked if I wanted to go to Zion I just blurted it out. The result was a new FKT and the best feeling 100 miler I've ever run. Beyond that, the moments of intimate connectivity with Zion National Park were so pronounced that I found a flame for running long distances I'm not sure have ever been comparable. Normally, after running 100 miles I am ready for some serious downtime. But after Zion all I wanted to  do was start planning my next big run.

Since that time I've run very little, by comparison. I've been dealing with a foot injury and generally not caring. I've renewed my membership to the climbing gym and have been enjoying what it feels like to have that movement back in my life. The past several weeks have offered me the ability to truly develop my relationships with friends again. I can't express how grateful I am for each of those and I am excited for what the new year has to offer.

Photo by Aaron Williams

I owe a great deal to my sponsors. They have not just provided me with the essential gear I need to be successful, but they have given me the confidence and support to succeed in my adventures. While I'll say goodbye to a couple of them in 2015 I will continue to support them and promote them, as appropriate.
Altra Running - I wore the Lone Peak 2.0 and Torin 1.5 for most of the year. What awesome shoes. Truly game-changing.
Ultraspire - I've always pegged myself as a Spry fan, but if I'm really honest I have to admit that the Revolution is my favorite vest.
Gnarly Nutrition - I live and die by Boost when I'm running. Being able to dictate how powerful I want it really matters. And knowing that what it offers me in the way of electrolytes is invaluable.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


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