I have a 2012 Wasatch finish but heard that the second buckle is the hardest. It was! My training went well. I ate better and as such raced on race day at my lowest weight in 15 years. I prepped early by packing drop bags and figuring out logistics two weeks in advance. It helped me to rest and focus on the race.
Each race I run I write a note or two to myself on my arm. This year I wrote "GTM" which meant "Get To Midway". No matter what came up I was going to get to Midway. Little did I know how much I would need that note.
My wife Sarah, daughter Riley, sister Suzy and niece Grace all drove me to the start line. It was fun and we kept the mood light. Once we arrived we saw QB, Kara and Jeff all of whom were running and all of whom I consider some of my best running friends. A quick check-in, a few pics and I was ret to go.
I love the anti-climatic start of the Wasatch. A brief countdown, a shout of "GO" and hundreds of runners walk into a bottleneck like cattle. Once the bottleneck works out real running can occur. I ran with a great friend over to Fernwood. There is always a small group of cheerleaders at Fernwood. Even though you are only 3 ish miles into the race the support and cheers really help.
I settled into the conga line for the first big climb. I started my shuffle and the good tunes seemed to carry me up the hill. I felt much better about this years first climb and found myself dance/hiking in some spots.
As I started up Chin Scraper I put both ear buds in and decided to grip into the climb. As we were in the second to last switch back I looked up to see panicked runners waving there arms and yelling. I ripped out my music and heard them screaming "ROCK"!!! I looked up and saw a rock a little smaller than a bowling ball making its way down the hill right at me and one other runner in front of me. We both backed up about ten feet down the trail. Right as the rock was about to safely pass us, it kicked off the hill and missed us by about 2 feet. Heart now full on pumping.
I popped the tunes back in and started to make the final approach to the top of Chin Scraper. About 50 yards from the top Drake's "Started From The Bottom Now We Here" came on shuffle. It was a perfect song to hit the top of the first big climb that day. Today will be special.
I checked in and out of Francis in the exact same time from 2012. To the minute! Climbed well to Bountiful B - no ice. Made decent time to Sessions - no ice. Battled the heat and lost a lot of time from Sessions to Swallow- two ice cubes. Battled discouragement of lost time and heat into Big Mountain.
Once in Big Mountain I was almost an hour off of 2012 pace and the race was eerily resembling 2014's DNF effort. GTM!! After some amazing support and cheers from my crew, I left with my pacer Christian Hampshire. We made decent time but I could tell the clock was still slipping on us. Half way to Alexander Springs we passed a runner who was laying down and puking his guts out. It looked like his pacer was on the phone calling for help. We asked if they were okay or needed anything and they said they were fine. The sound of his vomit made me want to vomit. So I did! Big time!! About ten feet beyond this poor guy I emptied my entire stomach! Puke and rally!! I felt so much better. Christian and I made great time all of the way to Alexander and eventually to Lambs picking up 15 minutes on 2012 pace. Rally started!!
At Lambs the crew fixed me up quick and new pacer Luke Larsen and I took to the trail. Luke lives in Bend, OR and flew in just to pace me. He and I have shared countless trail miles together. Almost every training run in 2012 was done together and we both finished the race. Luke in under 30 hours. When I would tell people that Luke would be pacing me, they would react like the Beatles were getting back together. Luke and I planned to not see each other prior to the race so our reunion on the course was more than sweet. This was the start of the most euphoric trail night of my life!
Our strategy was to manage the always difficult Lamb's climb and push from there. We climbed Lambs well passing the one and only dude we saw. On our descent into Millcreek the passes started to pile up! We made it to Elbow and climbed the road well. Luke kept me on task. We shut off our headlamps and walked the road in utter darkness, viewing the stars only to switch on our lights when the sporadic car approached.
We made a great stop at Upper Big Water which was the crime scene of 2014's DNF. We saw our friends Kara and Scotty here. This race is hard and we shared a special moment with them. It is the kind of moment that you only get 60 plus miles and 20 plus hours into a difficult mountain race. KJ and Scotty took off as Luke and I wrapped up our stop.
On the climb to Dog we passed several other people and climbed well until right before the lake. We spent about a mile in a dark place but came to with some extra calories. My stomach was uneasy again. Luke pushed me to Deso. We continued to pass people. I don't pass people. I get passed. This was starting to get fun but I knew it was necessary if I wanted a shot at the the finish.
Our neighborhood scout troop had hiked to camp at Deso so they could cheer runners on and see me come by. The scouts were asleep but the leaders welcomed us to the fire. My good friend Eric even changed batteries in my dying headlamp. Off we went. Luke and I climbed to Red Lovers and my stomach grew more and more uneasy. I began to dry heave. Luke asked me if I cod gag myself. "Never tried!" So now on the crest I gave my throat the two finger salute and violently puked my guts out AGAIN!! Everything gone. Puke and rally part 2.
We ran well to Scott's passing several people along the way. Luke would holler out 19, 20, 21 as we passed people. Finally he said " this is stupid! I hate counting!! You have passed a lot of people!!!"
After Scott's Luke said " I am gonna get you to Brighton by 7:00 AM" I was excited about this because that would mean that we would have made up all of my lost time and would be back on 2012 pace. A major moral victory. He pushed and I gave him what I had. As we made the turn to Brighton from the bottom of Guardsmen's I asked Luke what time it was.
"Do you really want to know?" He replied "Please"
What a night! We caught up, laughed, strategized, puked, passed loads of good runners and made up a grip of time!! Luke was a CHAMPION pacer.
The crew made sure I did not stay long at Brighton. John Peterson, pacer number 3, and I hit the final 25. We managed the climb to Point Supreme. I did struggle a bit. I was hoping I didn't push too hard through the night that I would have nothing left for the back 25. Only time would tell.
Once over the climb we ran most of the way to Ant Knolls. It was already getting hot! I had lost time on 2012 pace. This was not going to be easy! We were going to have to battle every mile to the finish. We climbed the Grunt and ran into Pole Line playing leap frog with several runners. We made a good stop at Pole Line and it was nice to see some familiar faces aiding there.
The descent to Pot Hollow took a second to find a rhythm but we eventually did. It was here that John told me we had no time buffer and that we would have to push to even make cut-off. Discouragement and doubt hit a record high! I know me. I know what I had left in the tank. I could not reconcile what I had left inside and what I had left in miles. We ran into Pot Hollow and made our way up the road climbing good overall. I took one break due to the heat but this climb went better than anticipated.
We made our way to Stanton with the finish still in doubt. It was HOT!!! I kept eating ice, dousing myself with water and drinking all I could. It didn't help. Nothing did! The heat was was winning. We death marched to the top of the wall and used gravity to get us to Decker. 6 miles to go. Plenty of time to do it. Race still in doubt. Heat still winning and at this point unable to eat anything else.
We ran then walked then stumbled along the rail trail that NEVER ended!! Each corner only exposed more trail. Please make this stop. FINALLY we saw my good friend Craig and then Camden, Cooper and Annie. Less than a mile. Race finally out of doubt. Here comes the emotion even though I had very little motion. The boys looked relieved. Riley soon joined us and together we all crossed the finish line for the second time.
My support crew is really second to none! It was so good to see and hug all of them. I could tell by the look on their faces that I did not look well. This one hurt!
In hindsight this finish might be the most meaningful. I had to battle all of the normal physical ailments that come with a 100 miler. I had to battle the heat. Twice!! I had to battle doubt for dang near 70 miles. GTM!!
Major thanks to crew and pacers who did so much to help. I could not have done it without you.