Monday, September 17, 2012

enjoy the process: 2012 wasatch 100 mile run

"whatever you do with your running, you only cheat yourself by pushing, pressing, competing. there are no standards and no possible victories except the joy you are living while dancing your run."--note i shared with 0j0 on june 8th, 2012

i am having a hard time deciding where in the timeline to start this story. i feel like it should be begin long before the starting line in kaysville. maybe i haven't run enough of these to be able to break them down into a single movement between point a and point b, but nonetheless, it feels wrong to simply begin with the starting line words "get out of here..."

wasatch has been on my mind for a couple of years. i was in the race in 2011, but my year fell apart last summer and i wasn't in a good place to be able to train and manage my life, which was far more important at the time. the emotional connection between the spirit and the physical has been well documented by me on this blog and i wasn't in any shape to be able to "train" for an event that is as physically and emotionally demanding at wasatch and it wasn't the priority.

i am fairly certain that when the applications to run went live this year, i was one of the first one to print it out, send in my check and wait the two plus months for the lottery to take place. it was part of my rebuilding process. i spent several hours running this winter shrouded in motivation with thoughts of tackling 100 miles on this trail. i had several reasons for seeking out this race. i wanted to get out of my comfort zone of running. i'm not talking distance, but style of event. wasatch is very different from western states, my muse for most of the last 7 years. i wanted tough. i wanted moderate altitude. i wanted the style of the race to force me to rethink and challenge myself in training in ways i hadn't done before. i needed for the event to be associated with personal growth, in some ways. i wanted it to be a classic event. indeed, this year was the 33rd running. i also wanted it to be in a location where i was outside my "cocoon of comfort". i didn't want to know the racers or volunteers at the aid station, very little about the course and it needed to be a location where i hadn't raced before.

south sister summit with great group of friends
training this year has gone well. i traveled a good bit and ran in the rockies, the sierra's and even some running on the last 47 miles of the wasatch course. light snow year here in the cascades opened up our proving grounds in may so i was able to spend a good amount of time training for specificity. i had no alibis for the physical aspect of the task at hand. 20 days out of wasatch, i had my first gut check. i had trained through to the waldo 100k, with only a 4 day mini taper and ended up pushing a tight hamstring a little too far and strained my calf right at the hamstring/gastroc attachment. i was on crutches for 4 days to totally unweight the tissue. i rehabilitated with the idea that i had time for this to resolve itself kept mentally in the game. i would have been tapering during this period, anyway, so nothing to lose. i did a training run 7 days out, albeit very, very slowly, that showed me that i was able to run on it and a massage 3 days before the race confirmed that the tissue was sound. i was ready.

i didn't have a split card, but had an idea of two benchmark times i wanted to hit along the way at miles 53 and 75, otherwise, my goals were keep my stomach working all day. not lose weight. keep my core temperature managed and have legs to run strong the last 25 miles of the race from brighton to the finish. most of all, run with joy and enjoy the process of running 100 miles in the mountains.

view of francis peak from howard and kathy's
a fellow runner and friend, dave town and his crew/pacers and i stayed with friends at a ranch in kaysville about 4 minutes from the starts. beautiful setting. 20 acres with a view of the course. horses. family style large dinner the night before. very relaxed. i slept 5 hours the night before the race which is unheard of for me before any ultra, much less a 100. i woke up relaxed and ready to roll. we drove to the start and i did my lebron james chalk toss with some trail dust to appease the spirit of monkeyboy and was stoked and thankful to be standing on the starting line.

dave and i at the starting line in kaysville
"have fun out there. be nice to each other..."
-john grobben, race director

countdown from 10 and we were off in a stampede of headlamps and too many slow guys standing up front. after 200 yards of elbows and collisions, i settled in. the trail follows roughly 5 miles on the bonneville shoreline trail and is very smooth running.

headlamp start art. photo by lori burlison
i was in a group that seemed to be clicking and of the same mindset, so we ran along nicely until the climb up chinscraper. headlamps clicked off and we started talking to each other. i was running with paul terranova and mike leroux amongst others. both of these guys were running the grand slam and paul adding ironman hawaii to his grandkonaslam for 2012. the most amazing thing about paul was that he had never done a 100 miler prior to western states and he decided to put on this adventure. it was great to meet and chat with them as we shared the early miles. i started noticing what felt like a little rock in my shoes and stepped off to remove it and found the rock to be a blister. 6 miles in and i already was dealing with my first blister of the year. okay. we'll deal with it. resuming the climb we popped out on the ridge with beautiful views of salt lake and antelope island and a city waking up to a friday commute. i wondered how many folks down low knew what was going on in the mountains above.

first water only aid station at grobbens corner and the RD was there, himself, to fill my bottles. i was told i was in 38th place here and it didn't seem to matter. i was sticking to my plan. a group of 8-10 guys panicked and took off on the single track. i got to the dirt road descent down to Francis Peak and while i was running 7:15's very relaxed down the hill, this group put 4 minutes on me in 3 miles. at francis peak i had a drop bag. i refueled, swapped my headlamp for taproom cap and swapped out empty flasks for full ones. the blister had popped but wasn't painful, so i kept moving. physically, i felt like i hadn't done any running and was very controlled. i passed a few folks leaving the aid station and noted it was starting to get warm. i started passing runners almost immediately. a few short conversations revealed some lofty goals on their part so i took stock to check in and make sure i wasn't moving too soon. i then remembered that usually only 8-12 people break 24 hours here each year, so i took kept moving along. i came to an intersection to see mike leroux popping out of the woods and we both started the climb up the ridge line. i asked after 5 or so minutes whether he saw ribbons and right as he answered, 3 runners came back towards us from uphill. we were off course. running together back down we connected with jay smithberger, also a grand slammer, right at the correct intersection and ran as a group of 7-8 on the climb up to bountiful b aid station. tension broken, we chatted our way up this climb introducing ourselves and dealing with the trail that looked like it hadn't been used since last years wasatch. we arrived en masse at bountiful b where friends mark and sierra postle were volunteering. i took time to refuel, eat and douse with water. i got a few photos with mark and then hiked out chewing potato's and salt with jay and mike. we would share the next 4 miles together before i got away for good on the climb out of sessions aid station. my legs were full of run and i started moving in this section. the course is open and exposed, mostly ridge running with stunning views. you can see runners for miles in front and behind you. it is nice to be engaged and know your making progress. i caught up to three guys as we were going into swallow rocks and i recognized one of them as sean andrish from virginia. refuel and right out. i doused again heavily here and ran into paul again just out of this aid station. he was jamming to music so we just exchanged smiles and i moved along. i knew i would be seeing siiri at big mountain so i really checked in and throttled back. descending down, you can see and hear the aid station for almost a mile before you arrive. i calmly dropped in and noted the pain in my big toe on my right foot. feels like another blister. okay. manage the downs. crossing the road to the scale and aid station, siiri was there to greet me. i hopped on the scale to find myself only down a pound from starting weight! Yes. stoked. changed flasks, refueled, coconut water, ice in my cap and my secret weapon for the hottest section of the course coming up, my ice bandana. i hiked out with a potato in one hand and a popsicle in the other. i walked the climb out making sure i got everything in and washed down with plenty of fluids for digestion and started running.

view of alexander ridge from little dell parking area
i was 24th leaving big mountain and started passing folks almost immediately. exposed, hot, rocky. i saw karl running the course back towards me and he updated my placing to 20th. the ice bandana was money in this section. i never felt overheated and it gave me confidence to keep my effort measured. i read lots of reports where this section cooks people who push here, so i was mindful of that. i got to see two young badgers fighting over a shady spot, which was very cool considering how rare it is to see these in the wild. the trail was a mess. i knew why karl is called speedgoat after running in this stuff. your foot never hits the ground straight or evenly. your constantly off camber. one of the descents was like running downhill at 30% grade on pool balls. controlled crashing is the best description and my toe nails were letting me know they were unhappy. i knew i had blisters galore and started forming a plan to deal with them at lambs canyon. i arrived at alexander ridge right behind another runner, who quickly raced out of the aid station like it was a 5K. i got my bandana refilled, mountain dew, potato's and salt, doritos...yes, doritos and slowly made my way into the serengeti section of the course. dirt road along powerlines with waist high dry, dead grass. i noted the grade of ascent. the exposure and went into self preservation mode. i allowed racer X to drill the climb. he must have looked back 10 times. it seems like it took forever to run/walk this section before making the turn onto singletrack that would lead us down to the aid station the virtual "halfway" point of wasatch. this trail was rad and the shade was really nice. i would pop out into open sections as runners cork screwed their way down to lambs canyon. the terrain changed and they actually run you past the station before allowing you to climb up to it. cruel, but funny.

blister draining face. photo by bryon powell
i looked at my watch right as i checked in on the scale, it read 4 o'clock. i had hoped to be leaving here at 4, but was fine with where i was. physically and emotionally, i felt great. no lows. i only had to get my shoes and socks off and see what my toes looked like. scale had me another pound down, to 143, but considering the heat and exposure, i was happy to have managed. lambs looked like a mash unit. runners dealing with carnage all around me. right as i take my shoes off and start popping and taping blisters, bryon powell shows up with his camera and smile! roch and siiri put cold, wet towels on my neck to keep me cool while we cleaned and taped the blisters. i knew the right big toenail wouldn't be long for this race, but relieving the pressure from the blister underneath really helped. we got it taped up, moleskin and tape on both achilles, fresh socks, coconut water, recoverite, potato's and a half sandwich, and i was walking out with a refilled ice bandana (thanks, meredith terranova) and mr. irunfar for conversation.

working the road up from lambs. photo by bryon powell
i steadily hiked/jogged the two miles up lambs canyon road pavement talking to BP about his trip to europe, finding balance, beer and training. the talk was so good, we continued to stay with me heading up bear ass pass on the trail and immediately slipped into pacer mode. we both have spent considerable time pacing the jiz, so it was cool to have him keeping me accountable while we were discussing pretty much everything except wasatch. grateful for the hour distraction, i left him on bear ass pass and started my descent to millcreek full of stoke and feeling good. i knew i was in the shade and the worst heat of the day had passed. i caught one runner as soon as i hit the pavement for the 3 mile climb to upper big water and soon caught peter lindgren and his pacer. i moved well, keeping momentum right into the aid station at millcreek. drop bag, shirt change, watched a friend vomit 3 gallons of chicken soup into a trash can while his pacer and i hazed him. i was relaxed and enjoying myself. nobody else seemed to be in the same mindset. i grabbed my headlamp, flasks, gloves and made sure i took potato's with me and started running my climb out of millcreek. i caught the last of guys who had blasted away from me earlier in the race almost together and immediately made a wrong turn at the intersection of dog lake and great western trail. the markings were minimal and someone had sabotaged it. i knew i was off course within minutes and retraced my steps. repassed the two who i had just seen and continued to climb up to dog lake and the descent down to blunder fork. starting the climb up to desolation lake, after the second wrong turn, i had my only mental low point of the day. the grade and footing just seemed to be un-runnable for me at that moment and i couldn't get any momentum going. paul terranova, who i hadn't seen in hours, came roaring by here with his pacer leading into the aid station at the lake and this snapped me out of my mini-pity party as his enthusiasm was awesome. i stopped, got calories in as quickly as i could to try to restore some blood sugar to see if that would make the difference and watch paul and his pacer disappear into the distance. i was heading for sunset, red lovers ridge at 10,000 feet and i knew it was make or break time for my race. my stomach responded nicely. i took in all my calories and even realized i was a bit hungry. okay. we got this. i hiked the climb up to red lovers ridge making sure to check out park city and allow my stomach to digest the contents before breaking into a nice run on the crest trail heading to scott towers. i could see headlamps going on in front of me and plenty of them coming into desolation lake behind me. i knew the race was on! twizzlers and mountain dew at scott pass before starting my descent to brighton. twilight, dust and darkness made the single headlamp less than ideal in this technical section before the road, but it was manageable. my legs were ready to run. i saw 2 sets of headlamps in front of me when i hit pavement and a fan asked me if i was scott and told me i was 11th
looking back at brighton from climb out of aid station. no. i was not there in the daylight, but bronco was. shit. okay. he then proceeded to run the next 100 yards down the road with me in a full marching band suit shaking a cow bell. i only hoped the next 200 plus runners coming through would get the same reception.

i cruised towards brighton. my crew. my blister kit. my food. i was ready to get the final push underway. i rolled into the aid station just behind paul and another runner and climbed on the scale. 145. starting weight! i had asked my crew to set up outside heeding the advice from the wasatch veterans, but my feet were a mess. i could see the blood soaking through my bondi's and i knew i needed a warm, dry place to get them resolved. back of the lodge was the medical room and we had it all to ourselves. mark postle and siiri cleaned, dried, drained and got me re-taped. duct tape used to cover up the moleskin, cotton tape combo to keep them intact and i switched to compression socks for warmth. added a buff, a second black diamond spot headlamp worn around my waist and my nine trails jacket. finished a full bottle of coconut water, recoverite and ate some honey stinger chomps. the stop was 18 minutes, but totally necessary. i walked out and noticed several sets of runners who i had passed since lambs canyon all there in the lodge, and checked out in 14th place with 3 runners right behind me. It was 9:50, and i knew i needed to be out by 10 pm to have a shot at breaking 24 hours. i was on time. i gently hiked the climb and let the food digest, i was quickly passed by two runners and pacers. i remained calm. i knew my legs were good but wanted to keep my stomach working. my body was feeling great except for my feet. i had good legs, albeit tired from 75 miles of running and i was moving fluid out regularly. so kidney's and hydration were good. i recaught one of the runners on sunset pass at 10,400 feet and started the descent towards ant knoll. i could see my breath in this section, so i knew it was cold. i was glad for the jacket, gloves and wool base layer. the breath mixed with the trail dust, mixed with shitty horrible footing made this descent a bit of a carnival ride. one runner freaked out and thought we lost the trail. i had run this in training and assured him we were correct, it was just that nasty. i never saw him again until the finish. shortly before ant knoll, peter lindgren and robert mueller came rolling past me! it was great to see them rejuvinated and moving well again. i knew peter was a veteran and runs this race with ninja like precision. he ended up finishing 4th. i took my time getting potato's at ant knoll and fueled for the grunt climb out of the aid station. this climb seemed longer and tougher than in training. i didn't panic, i just kept moving. topping out to great views of park city again, i jumped a grouse right off the trail and it scared the shit out of me. hello instant adrenaline and i broke into a quick run. the grade is rolling through here and i ran every step. i could no longer make out headlamps  behind me or below me, so i was alone. i came into pole line pass aid station right after midnight and was told two runners were right in front of me. i got some coke, twizzlers, potato's and was told i looked great. truthfully, i was in good spirits and felt fine. i took left the station with a whoop and tried not to get too caught up in racing. i saw headlamps again quickly and could see groups of 3 or 4 making their way above me on the climb heading towards rock springs. slowly but surely, we were coming together. i caught up to robert mueller right at the rock springs aid station and we would yo yo back and forth for the next several miles. the dive and plunge were not good sections for me. it was so dusty, i couldn't see. i was slipping and sliding and busted my ass several times in this section. keep in mind, trail runners don't maintain this part of the course. OHV folks, do. having rocks and dust in the trail makes it more appealing to folks on moto's, less appealing to runners on foot. i watched headlamps dance away from me and just tried to get down it without breaking anything. i kept saying "enjoy the knew this was here". it was far dustier and slick than my training run, but soon i was through it and back into running mode. heading into the section known as the seven hills of babylon i was running. the grade was classic bend, oregon and my legs responded to this familiar terrain by moving. i re-passed robert for the final time, caught up to another runner and pacer going through a low (i later learned this was brendan trimboli) and was full of run heading down the decent of irv's torture chamber. i could see two or three sets of headlamps through the woods snaking down towards teddy bear junction and heading down to pot bottom. i was thankful for my patience early in the race because now i had exactly what i wanted...legs to be able to run strong the last part of the race. i made the turn at teddy bear junction right as my headlamps started to flicker...uh oh. i knew i had 2 miles of descending, and spare batteries in my waist pack. i made the decision to try to bomb the descent and get my batteries changed at the aid station while i ate so i didn't have to stop twice in two miles. my waist light and headlamps were dying at a consistent rate, so i was flying blind on this descent. i took a deep breath and tried to visualize what i remember this section to look like from training and just trusted my balance. headlamps were worthless and barely on so i ran on feel. i could see i was catching a group of two and finally saw the lights of pot bottom with a runner leaving and runner and pacer going in right in front of me. i recognized paul terranova and his wife. they left quickly while i dug out my batteries and went about getting some night vision restored. i drank two cups of coke, ate a potato and salt again and was able to get things changed, despite cold hands, and left 4 minutes after paul. i saw two sets of lights making the descent into pot bottom right behind me, so i knew i'd have to look forward, not backwards.

leaving pot bottom, you have about a mile climb with several creek crossings on dirt/jeep road. about halfway up i saw paul and meredith's lights and a single headlamp further up the road from them. i kept nipping from my gel flask and drinking and being patient. making the turn off the road onto the first part of the 4,000 plus foot descent down to midway my legs once again responded. i passed a runner within a half mile, sitting in the trail. i urged him to get up, asked him if he needed anything, etc. he kept talking about getting lost. yep, join the club buddy. however, your almost there and sub 24 is within reach. get up. i felt like i did what i could do here and kept moving. this descent on OHV jeep road is just rude. you don't run down it as much as you slalom down it. quads, as they had been all day, were perfect and full of run. the only thing keeping me from really pressing the throttle were my blistered toes and heels, which were screaming at me for relief. the grade starts to level out and you see the lights of town as it bears to the left on a dirt road. i knew this to be leading towards the water tower and kept running strong in this section. i dropped towards the gate on the water tower and saw a pair of headlamps on the climb. i saw them turn around and look at me and start running. i ran the climb, made the right turn and knew to look for the sharp left onto the beautiful single track at wasatch mountain state park. i saw by how the headlamps were moving that they were racing me. i was thrilled. it was great to be running fast at 97 miles of a 100 miler. testament to executing a good race plan. i was drawing closer to them and finally realized it was paul and meredith. after 23 hours of sharing the trail, it was cool to be with the guy you had pretty much run the first 2 hours of the race with and finishing his grand slam. we broke out onto the pavement and enjoyed the tempo that meredith was setting for us. paul's crew came out to join us and my bladder was screaming for relief and my timer reminded me it was gel time. yes, we were close, but respect the distance and the recovery. i emptied my bladder, took my final gel and had a backseat view of the grandkonaslam celebration heading towards the finish line. straight up, it takes balls to think it up. it takes wisdom, smart and great support to see it through. i happily crossed the line at 4:17 am in 9th place to the traditional handshake from RD, john grobben and bonus hug to boot. then, it was time to celebrate with friends and crew who made up the finish line reception party. siiri, who took awesome care of me all day. sierra and chelsea, crew and pacers for my friends dave, and jeff, who had won in the 4th fastest time in wasatch history. I dried off an waited to see brendan, robert and the guy sitting on the trail all come in under 24 hours, which i was stoked about.

finish line crew. jeff won in 19:33 photo by frau s
i was full of joy. thankful. humbled. wasatch was hard. my calf/hammy injury had tested my resolve and i never lost belief. the appreciation of being healthy and able to run made the day that much more satisfying. i had taken care of myself, managed my body i had truly enjoyed the process. the rewards far outweigh the hardware collected on the day. though. earning my place amongst the royal order of crimson cheetahs was certainly a cool experience.

being received into the royal order of the crimson cheetah. photo by suann lundsberg
cheetah pose
good buddy dave worked hard for his buckle. very proud of him.
top: patagonia airus t (0-65), patagonia merino 1 short sleeve (65-100)
shorts: custom patagonia strider shorts
shoes: hoka one one bondi b
socks: patagonia lighweight merino run quarter socks(0-75), CEP compression socks (75-100)
gloves: patagonia merino 3 liners
hat: ajw's taproom trucker cap, confederate blue (18-75), buff headband (75-100)
headlamps: black diamond spot x 2 (thanks, rocho)
hydration: mix of nathan,ultimate direction bottles and handhelds. one with gu brew, one with h2o.

powergels in a flask, honey stinger organic energy chews, margarita clif shot bloks, hammer recoverite, amy & brians coconut water. i also ate boiled potato's and salt, twizzlers and watermelons at aid stations. i did not take an s-cap the entire race due to high sodium content of gels, blocks and potato's dipped in salt. i was able to digest all of this by balancing out my stomach potassium with amy & brians coconut water.

best part of the weekend. friends: sierra, mark, chelsea, dave, me, howard, kathy and siiri.
the time and support it takes to train and prepare for these certainly extends beyond the miles logged on trails. i can't thank the race volunteers and staff enough for putting on a classic, well run event. runners are treated as adults and are expected to act as such. much love and respect goes out to my fellow runners and crews. siiri was fantastic as my crew chief. she kept me accountable at the three aid stations i could see her at and gave me something to look forward to. her support in this from the start last winter to the finish line in midway is unmeasurable and shares as much in this story as i do. i'm very thankful. mark, sierra, chelsea, dave, howard and kathy. thank you for being a large part of this trip. looking forward to recovery and enjoying fall playing in the cascades. i have a seriously neglected single speed in need of some attention. 


mkirk said...

great report, scott. It honestly, thoroughly documents a well executed 100-mile run. good stuff!

Scott said...

thanks, matt. are the leaves turning yet?

jon said...

Congrats scott. You looked great all day and ran an awesome race! Your words of wisdom (shit talk) helped me get out of mill creek in one piece. Unfortunately I took the same wrong turn toward dog lake and was not smart enough to turn around until after an hour and a half of "problem solving". Nice job on making smart decisions all day to finish strong in 9th place. Inspiring stuff.

Jon Robinson

Scott said...

jon! thanks, man. when i heard voices behind me on that climb up to desolation lake, i was convinced it was you and hewey charging. seems like a lot of folks got turned around at that intersection. i hope you make it back there, i have no doubt you'd run very, very well at wasatch. hope to see you soon.

Meriwether said...

Wow, epic doesn't do that justice. Congrats on the awesome adventure, race, and placing!! I feel like i can somewhat 'get' running that distance from your great writeup!