Friday, September 13, 2013

My First Wasatch 100

Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run
Friday-Saturday 7-8 September 2012

race shirt
Morning of Thursday, day before the race, I had to pack and prepare my drop bags.  Being a point to point course I had never run before, it was complicated figuring out what to put where, and I ran out of time doing it.  Threw everything into a small carry on suitcase and a knapsack.

I took a local bus to the pre-race meeting.

Sugar Pine Park

with Vishal Sahni above and Jay Smithberger below, on their way to finishing the Grand Slam of ultrarunning.
Someday, if and when I get into Western States, I may try to do the same.

Kuni and Daisie Yamagata from the Sacramento area, who drove me back to downtown SLC where my hotel was.
Watched some of the Democratic National Convention in the lobby, some inspiring speeches.  I felt like a undercover spy, since Utah is so red and Obama's opponent was a Mormon.  In Mormon country, most 100 mile races start on Friday so needed volunteers can get to church on Sunday.  Besides the physical beauty of the region, the Friday starts meab I can get back home either Saturday night or Sunday morning at the latest.

take out Pad Thai

The buses to the start left a few blocks from my downtown hotel.  Convenient but still painful, since it was probably 2:30 am Pacific time when I had to get up.

Early in the race I talked with Paulette Zillmer from Scottsdale, who won the previous year's Angeles Crest 100.  She has just started a PhD program in English, which luckily allows her to go and do these races.  Maybe if she stops showing up these races in a few years, I can assume she is trying to finish her dissertation.  I would almost catch up with her several times during the race, easily recognizable in pink, but she would finish half an hour before me.

Paulette's current Twitter profile pic:
"Avid ultraRunner,scholar, mom, vegan, lover of rainbows!"
Shortly after the easy, nontechnical trail turned right to ascent and head back the other way (south), local Brian Kamm passed me up.  We'd talked at both Zion and Bighorn 100s; both times he beat me by a few hours (i.e. gramping me, since he was already 50 at the beginning of the year), and I expected the same today.  I also chatted with Scott Kunz from Pacifica, who recognized me from some race.

I started the race with one of my Ultimate Direction Wasp packs, since I knew there was no food for the first 18 miles.  The views from Chinscraper were amazing.  Got water from a two springs-- easier to see than the ones at Bighorn.

 three photos by Phillip Lowry
I have no idea where these are on the course, but aren't they pretty?

Usually in these high altitude races, I get continually passed by people starting about 1/3 in.  This time, it wasn't so bad-- more mutually leapfrogging than a continual dropping back.  Also, I didn't feel as sick as normally about 8,000 feet-- maybe my recent two week camping trip in the Sierras helped, despite having returned to sea level for three days before flying to Salt Lake City (which is only at 4,226 feet).

Just like the halfway aid station in Cascade Crest, Lamb's Canyon was a highway underpass.

From Lamb's Canyon to Mill Creek, ran and talked with Brett Gosney, 53, from Durango, CO off and on at the beginning and end of this split (going up the hill he ran ahead of me-- gramped again!)

I had opted not to take a headlamp with me, on advice of fellow runners.  It got dark before I reached my next drop bag (which I though was named Mill Creek, or maybe it is called Upper Big Water, mile 61-- there were lot of aid stations with more than one name in the website), but the last 2-3 miles of the split were gradual uphill pavement-- exactly the surface and grade in which you need a light the least.

At Mill Creek or wherever it was, John Evans of Petzl was there with the new NAO headlamp.  He gave me a crash course in how it worked, which I reviewed after finishing my other aid station business.

John on right.  to his right I think is the race doc. can't remember his name.
John won the HERA Power of One award last year.
The NAO features new patented Reactive Lighting-- so the light brightens when looking at something darker, and dims when pointed at something brighter.  Saves the batteries and makes this more efficient.  This took a little getting used to, but I decided I really liked it.  The only mild glitch is when looking at a reflective ribbon marking the course, the light would dim, but it is not like it was dangerous.

I used the high reactive setting for faster running, level and downhills, and the low reactive setting for slower uphills or nontechnical sections (ie, well surfaced dirt roads or pavement).  The rechargeable USB battery lasted about 9 hours before giving me the warning flashes.  Changing the battery at the next aid station was much simpler than replacing a bunch of AA batteries.

Despite the lamp, I started feeling sleepy during the next split, and started swerving. I knew this would happen sooner or later-- was hoping it would happen later.  I tried to caffeinate, but knew that I needed to get a short nap in.  At mile 66 / Desolation Lake (I was probably too tired to notice there was a lake) one of the volunteers had a tent with sleeping bags and pads inside.  I asked to lay down there for 15 minutes.  Despite never totally losing consciousness, it helped (felt great), and I was warm enough with just one sleeping bag on top of me (too nasty to get in one).  The attentive volunteer came to get me (it felt like the grim reaper rather than a nice volunteer); I bargained for another 15 minutes in the bag.  I got up, dropped a 20-0 mg caffeine pill and got on my way, bringing a garbage bag since I suspected two thin windbreakers might not cut the cold well enough (lots of other runners were putting on fleeces).  I put on the garbage bag soon after leaving the aid station and would quite fashionably keep it on until the morning.

The split to mile 75 / Brighton Ski Resort was another long one, and I had to ask a few drivers a couple of times while on a long stretch of pavement if I was still on course.

There Daisy Yamagata, waiting for her husband Kuni, was so kind to help me.  As bonus, Beth Vitalis from the Bay Area was crewing a couple of friends, and luckily saw me before leaving for the next aid station. My left trapezius/shoulder was all tight from the pack, and she gave me a great massage, then worked on my quads, knowing that a steep climb and descent were coming up.

Beth is no dumb jock ultrarunner...
The last quarter of the race was the toughest.  Cruel ascent, then a descent.  Though the course overall was well marked, this next section could have used a few more ribbons, one where the trail split and another by a lake where some kids were hanging out (and so the possibility of ribbon vandalism).

It eventually became apparent that I could finish the race under 30 hours, but that I needed to work to make it (not that finishing any 100-miler is ever not work).

After the 2nd to last aid station, it was mostly downhill, after turning a corner to the left and changing directions.  The sun was on that side and came up.  I peeled off layers.  The steady downhill ended up being a grueling roller coaster, and with each climb I had to walk up increased my doubts that I could actually make it.

Eventually I came to the last aid station.  To my surprise, (Quicksilver Running Club teammates) Dan Decker and his pacer Toshi, whom I last saw leaving Lamb's Canyon ahead of me were there.  Dan said he was dropping after twisting his knee at mile 60.  Toshi had been urging him on for 30 miles.  My own impression (speaking not as a physician) was that he should get some poles (he'd already been using Toshi's) and walk the last seven miles, but he had enough and didn't want to mess his knee up further.  I couldn't help thinking to myself-- as injured as he was, he was moving faster than I was.

Dan running fast on pavement.
I went out ahead for the last stretch.  About 1/4 mile out, it occurred to me that I could've unloaded my pack or at least most of the contents of my pack (jackets, light, etc) with them to take to the finish, the luxury afforded any crewed runner.  Even using drop bags, uncrewed runners have to carry more for longer.  But I didn't think it was worth going back.  Better training for my next 100.

After the final ascent, the trail started as a crappy, rutted, rocky fire road.  The Forest Service never made transverse or oblique drainage ditches, so there was a big rut in the middle along with a wonderful collection of loose rocks perfect for twisting your ankle and beating up your soles.  It was more technical than I was in the mood for at mile 95, and I decided to take it easy, lest I get injured in the last few miles.  Finally, the crap road gave way to a nice single track that finished as a set of switchbacks above the Homestead Resort.  I finally decided to apply myself, realizing that the altitude was only 5000-something feet.  The last mile or so was pavement, and I sprinted something like an 8 minute mile to the finish.  I had 26 minutes to spare for the sub-30 hour buckle.

I decided I would try to make the earlier of two flights I booked on Southwest.  Since Dan dropped, he wasn't going to stay for the awards ceremony either.  Most of the drop bags were coming in, but two aid stations in particular, though they weren't the latest in the course, hadn't.

I think when I asked the RD for my award, apologizing that I could not stay for the ceremony so that I could get back to my family, he was very understanding and supportive. Good family values!

Still in pacing mode, Toshi tried to keep me moving, rather than wait for drop bags that probably weren't going to come.

finished this year's (2013) race about an hour faster than I did
Dan's sister Pam would drive us to the downtown hotels.  I got the feeling Toshi wanted to hang out, but I wanted to get back to my family. I left Daisie instructions to ask Chihping Fu to bring back my awards and drop bags.  If he had too much to carry, I asked her to take them and mail them to me.

awesome finisher's plaque, which I wouldn't see for a couple of weeks
with buckle on top
Thanks again, Chihping for bringing it back to the Bay Area for me!

Thanks to all the great volunteers!


Garmin Forerunner recorded maps:

part 1 (miles 0-53)
part 2 (miles 53-72)
part 3 (miles 72-100)

results 289 starters, 213 finishers

searchable splits with aid station in and out times (enter runner's name)

Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run WEBSITE

1 comment:

notthatlucas said...

Great plaque! Thanks for posting this. And now I'm REALLY hoping you get into Western States since you've basically committed to doing the Grand Slam. That's guaranteed to be entertaining!