Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bad Soup and Chafing - My Wasatch 100 Race Report

As the great American poet Ice Cube once wrote, “I gotta say that today was a good day”. While he might not have been writing about the Wasatch 100, his words certainly sum up my feelings about the 2011 Wasatch Front 100.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I really want to run Hardrock, a notoriously brutal 100 mile race in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado. Getting into Hardrock requires some skill coupled with a bit of luck. First, you have to qualify for the lottery by completing a designated mountain 100. Then, you must enter the lottery with hundreds of other people and hope you name gets selected among the 140 participants. For the past 2 years, I have come away empty. Since my last 100 mile finish was in 2009, I would need to re-qualify this summer to be eligible to enter the lottery for the 2012 running of Hardrock. Knowing this, I again put my name into the Wasatch lottery, and was chosen to run. Knowing how difficult this race would be, and really wanting to earn a qualifying spot for Hardrock, I decided that I needed to run another mountain 100 to ensure I had the finish necessary. I didn’t want to put all of my Hardrock eggs in the Wasatch basket. So, I ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July, finishing and guaranteeing my spot in the Hardrock lottery. This took some of the pressure of Wasatch, as I now could just relax and enjoy the run, knowing I already had my 2011 mountain 100 finish.

2 years ago I put my name into the lottery for the Wasatch 100, not thinking I would get in. As luck would have it, I did get in, and I ran the 2009 Wasatch 100 as my first 100 mile race. Since then I have completed one more 100 mile race (Tahoe Rim Trail this past July) and DNF’d at mile 70 of another (Pine To Palm in 2010). Since then I have run several 50 mile races and training runs, 2 100K races, and countless “long” runs on trails. I figured my fitness heading into the 2011 Wasatch 100 had to be better than 2 years ago. In addition to all the races, I had logged 6 weeks of mountain running earlier this summer and had paced 50 miles at high altitude in Leadville just 3 weeks prior. I felt strong physically heading to Utah.

Unlike most 100 mile races, Wasatch begins on Friday morning, meaning I would need to take a couple days off from school before the race. I would have preferred to leave on Wednesday, but school obligations kept me working late that night, forcing me to arrive on Thursday. We flew into Salt Lake City and headed to the grocery store with Larry Pearson, a good friend and fellow San Antonian who would be running Wasatch as well. We stocked up on all the necessities, as well as many items that would never leave the grocery bag but sounded good at the time. Loaded to the gills, we headed to Park City, where my mom was waiting for us. We unloaded, grabbed some pizza for lunch, and packed my drop bags before heading to the race briefing.

(Wasatch 100 course profile)

The weather was beautiful, the air warm (low 80s in Salt Lake City), and the mood jovial at the pre-race briefing. I dropped off my bags, picked up my number, and weighed in for the race. After a quick trail briefing, we headed off for one last meal. Of course, we picked the restaurant not for its food, but more for its selection of beer, a necessity for me the night before an ultra. After a couple of nice stouts, I was off to the hotel to finish packing my bags and to crawl into bed for a few hours sleep.

I awoke at 2AM, having slept fitfully for 3+ hours and still tired from the 4 hours of sleep I got on Wednesday. Oh well, no time to think about being tired. I had a race to run. I loaded all my gear into the car and headed off to pick up Larry, who was no happier to be awake than I was. We made it to the start at the perfect time, as the busses weren’t there yet, meaning we had the port-a-potties all to ourselves J After gearing up for the start (temps were nice, and I wore shorts and my customary button-down shirt), the RD sent us off onto the trails in a cloud of dust.

(Larry and I before the start)

As usual, I had mentally made note of 3 goals for this race. My “A”/dream goal was to run sub 32 hours. My “B” goal was to break 34. My “C” goal was simply to finish, get my buckle, and notch another mountain 100. I had splits written down for a sub 32 hour finish, as well as my times from 2009. My goal was to start out easy, run where I could, hike the uphills, and try not to catch up to Larry too early (he planned on starting out faster). I settled into a comfortable rhythm on the rolling dirt trail that would undulate ever so slightly before we hit the first big climb of the race, which would take us up to Chinscraper and cover over 4,ooo vertical feet in 6 miles. I was taking in a gel every 20 minutes, washing them down with water. My plan was to continue this (along with an S!Cap or 2 every hour) until my stomach said no. I figured this would take at least 6-8 hours. Then I would switch to Gu Brew and whatever solid foods my body could handle. I knew there would be soup to get me through the night, as well as Coke and Mountain Dew to keep me awake.

(Early section of trail)

After 4-5 miles of runnable dirt trail, things went up, and up, and up. The trail was extremely overgrown in areas, making this ascent even more difficult than I remembered. The views of the Great Salt Lake in the distance were spectacular. Mountains reflecting off the water, coupled with the rising sun, made for some memorable photo ops. I stopped along the way to soak it all in and snap a few pictures. Soon I was staring up at the final pitch of Chinscraper. I literally had to get on all fours to summit the rocky peak. I looked behind me and saw other runners doing the same thing. It felt great to be done with the toughest climb on the course, and the mild dizziness I had experienced earlier seemed to be fading. I slammed down another gel and trotted along the ridge, admiring the views.

(Chinscraper in the distance)

(Salt Lake City)

We had several miles of ridge running, a small section of snow, and a few short but steep climbs before we reached the first water stop of the race, over 13 miles in. As I was filling my bottle, I noticed a figure behind the truck who was taking off his bandana and putting on the kind of hat someone running Badwater might wear. This mysterious figure was none other than Larry Pearson. We chatted a bit and headed down the rocky, rutted road that would take us to the first real aid station at mile 18.6. This road reminded me of something you might find at Bandera. Lots of rocks, and they all move. At least it was all downhill. I had to remind myself that it was still early and that I needed to keep things easy. The last thing I wanted to do was trash my quads on this descent with over 80 miles left to run. My legs felt great and my dizziness was gone. Things were perfect. And then I popped my 12th gel of the morning, and it happened….I threw up. I knew this would happen, but I didn’t expect it to happen so early. After a few more trips to the side of the road (I’m getting pretty good at this), I cruised into the Francis Peak Aid Station nearly 20 minutes ahead of my projected pace. I was pleased about this, but especially so since I felt good. Other than the throwing up (just got tired of gels), all systems seemed to be working well.

(Larry hiking early)

(Heading up Chinscraper)

(Looking down from Chinscraper)

I lingered a bit longer here than I had intended, Larry arriving just as I was leaving. The next couple miles were runnable, and I made decent time trotting along at a comfortable pace, passing a couple people along the way. We son departed the rocky road and hit singletrack trail. Well, I guess technically it was singletrack, but it looked more like “zerotrack” to me. Words can’t really do this scene justice. Imagine someone pointed to the thickest, most tangled section of forest you could find and said, “run up that”. Well, that’s pretty much what we did for the next several miles. I could barely see a foot in front of me, and I certainly had no idea where I was putting my feet. The large snowfall in the Wasatch Range had provided ample precipitation for the vegetation to grow rapidly, and the late snow melt meant few had traversed through the area to stomp down the trail. And so I climbed. The temperatures were rising, nothing like what we were experiencing back home in Texas, but warm enough to be uncomfortable. This marked the first (of 2) really bad stretches in the race for me, and I still had 78 miles to go! No food sounded good, my lungs were burning, and the trail was seemingly invisible. After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at the Bountiful B aid station, 24 miles into the race.

(Overgrown trail)

(Can you find the trail?)

I quickly topped off my bottles (making sure I got ice in them as well) and was headed off down the road, totally exposed to the warm sun. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there were numerous construction trucks driving this road, kicking up clouds of dust. While my stomach wasn’t preventing me from eating, nothing really sounded good. I popped a few Clif Shot Bloks and drank some Gu Brew, knowing I needed to continue to consume calories. This section included dirt road, as well as a few exposed climbs on singletrack trail. I was still feeling low, but I soon made it to the Sessions Aid Station (mile 28), still a few minutes ahead of schedule.

(I love this course)

(Beautiful aspen grove)

I knew the next section would be tough. There are several steep climbs and plenty of exposed sections where the sun can drain your energy. In 2009, this was one of my worst sections. I remember puking several times, but I also remembered the magical popsicles they had at the Swallow Rocks Aid Station. The thought of eating one of these would carry me through the next few hours. I was passed by quite a few people on this section, but I wasn’t worried. I was in survival mode, trying to make it to mile 39 where my first pacer would be waiting. Before that, I needed to get to Swallow Rocks at mile 35. Up, down, up, down, up, down, repeat…That is basically the best way to sum up the Wasatch 100 course, and this section was no different. As I was approaching the aid station, I saw a sign that “advertised” popsicles. This was music to my ears. I snagged 2 banana popsicles, re-filled my bottles, and took off down the road. Just a few minutes outside the aid station I was passed by fellow Texan Fred Thompson, who seemed to be having a good race so far. I finished off my popsicle, threw on some tunes, and jogged down the trail. After a short, but very steep incline, we were treated to some nice rolling terrain. I was able to run this and really picked up speed on the final descent into Big Mountain Aid Station (mile 39), where I would pick up my first pacer.

(Swallow Rocks Aid Station)

I had paced Dave Brown 3 weeks before as he ran a smoking fast time at the Leadville 105 mile race. I know what you’re thinking…”hey, isn’t Leadville only 100 miles long”? Technically, yes, but Dave was having so much fun that he decided to take a detour and run an extra 5 miles. Even with the bonus trail, he still managed to finish under 25 hours and earn a “big” belt buckle. Pretty impressive. Fast forward 3 weeks…Dave, despite having a sore foot, agreed to fly out and pace me for 36 miles at Wasatch. I was excited to have Dave accompany me, partly because I knew I would need some company and partly because I wanted him to experience the beautiful trail that the Wasatch 100 has to offer.

After a quick restroom stop, I grabbed new bottles and my Ultimate Direction pack and headed up the mountain. I knew we had a few climbs immediately ahead of us, but I also knew we would have some fantastic ridge running before the sun dropped and darkness set in. Since I was still feeling pretty good, I was able to push the pace to a fast hike going up and a slow trot on anything that was flat or downhill. If you see Dave, ask him how his first trip into the bushes to use the bathroom turned out J

(Dave and I leaving Big Mountain)

It was great having Dave with me, as we talked and passed the time. He took tons of great photos (I almost felt like I was running for team Salomon), and the views were stunning. I was able to pass several runners on this section, as I ran most of the flat/downhill sections and quickly hiked the ups. Overall I felt pretty good. I even managed to scarf down part of a turkey wrap. Any solid food I could get in would be a huge bonus at this point. Soon we could see the tents at Alexander Ridge below, so Dave ran ahead to fill my bottles as I followed behind.

(Lots of ridge running)

The mood at Alexander Ridge (mile 47) was festive, and my legs felt good. I was happy that I was still ahead of my 2009 pace, but my excitement quickly faded when I learned there was no soup at the aid station. Oh well, there would be soup at Lamb’s Canyon for sure. I grabbed my bottles and a handful of food and walked away. I decided now would be a good time to eat a Lara Bar, as I still needed to take in some solid calories. As soon as the bar hit my mouth, I knew what was coming. In a matter of seconds, everything I had consumed over the last hour was lying on the side of the trail. I felt fine, but apparently my stomach didn’t want a Lara Bar.

Dave and I continued on down the power line trail, which wasn’t steep but certainly wasn’t flat. After a couple miles, we veered to the right and headed into the deep woods for a climb that would eventually drop us down to Lamb’s Canyon. The climb was tough, especially now that I was behind on calories, but Dave urged me to push on, and soon we could see the lights of the aid station below. This section is deceiving, much like the last mile heading to Nachos Aid Station at Bandera. You can see the tents below, but the course snakes its way back and forth on the descent, making it a much longer trek than expected.

At Lamb’s Canyon (mile 53), I repeated my ritual of handing bottles to Dave to fill while I used the restroom. Last time (in 2009), I had changed socks here, but I was determined to get out in as little time as possible this time around, which meant no clothing changes. I grabbed some warm gear and a headlamp, and Dave and I crossed the highway to the uphill road section that led to an even steeper climb on singletrack trail. Dave had grabbed 2 cups of soup for me, but to my dismay I found out they weren’t the standard chicken noodle variety I was expecting. Rather, it was some lukewarm concoction that included peas and carrots. I felt like I was at Pei Wei. Oh well, still better than nothing.

(Leaving Lamb's Canyon Aid Station)

The sun was setting, and the views were amazing. This is why I love the mountains. On one side we had the sun setting, casting a wide array of beautiful colors. Up ahead the now full moon was cresting the ridge, glowing down with magnificent brightness. We were soon joined by a man and his wife, and upon learning Dave and I hailed from Texas the talk soon turned to politics, specifically Rick Perry and his run at the Presidency. I’ll spare everyone the details, but opinions were shared all around. As it turns out, this fellow had run Wasatch many times before (10 if I remember correctly), and had once finished in second place (and ahead of Karl Meltzer).

(Larry scouting out the Lamb's Canyon trail on Thursday)

After nearly 2 miles of hiking up the paved road, we came to the turnoff for the Lamb’s Canyon trail. The trail would take us up over 1700’ in a little under 2 miles. That’s steep! This is where things turned ugly for me in ’09, and I was determined to not let that happen this time. As we turned onto the trail, we switched on our headlamps and began the steep climb up through the trees. In ’09, I had to stop numerous times, usually every 20+ yards. I would double over, catch my breath, and continue on. With Dave encouraging me, I was able to hike the majority of the climb with no breaks. In fact, I was surprised when we got to the top, remarking that it didn’t seem too bad at all. Dave asked if I thought I could run, slowly at first, then picking up speed (relatively speaking) on the descent down to another paved road. I felt really good at this point and was able to maintain a steady pace heading down the mountain. Once on the road, we decided to power hike the 3 (paved) miles uphill to the Millcreek aid station. We passed several more runners, soon leaving us with no one in sight. I was pleased to be passing so many people this far into the race, knowing I would need all the time I could bank for the last (and most difficult miles) of the course. Dave continued to be a great pacer, taking photos and keeping my mind off the race itself.

After 3 miles of steady uphill hiking, we began to see lights and hear the voices drifting down from Millcreek (mile 61+). Brighton (mile 75) is known by many who have run Wasatch as the “morgue” because “dead” runners can be found strewn all over the aid station. That is where many drop out of the race. Well, this year Millcreek could have been dubbed the morgue, as many runners were bundled up, trying to stay warm. After seeing the look of despair on the faces of so many, I knew I had to get moving before I became a victim. I sent Dave off for soup and a bottle of Coke (time for some caffeine), and I hit the restroom (without getting too personal, let’s just say that I could have shaved 30 minutes off my time without these frequent trip to the can). When I came out of the restroom I began to shiver, noticing just how cold things get when you stop moving. I downed a cup of soup and took another (not good soup) for the hike up the mountain. Once I was moving I started to warm up, but I struggled a bit as well, needing to stop a few times to regroup and catch my breath. I knew we had 1,500’ or more of climbing, so I put my head down and pressed on. This is also the point when I really started to noticed the chafing I was experiencing (read my Tahoe report if stories of chafing excite you). Luckily I had a product called “Butt Paste”. This is used to combat diaper rash in children. Sounded like a winner to me.

(My secret weapon)

After nearly 2 hours of steady movement, we arrived at the Desolation Aid Station (mile 67). I’ve been told by Larry that there are several stunning lakes nearby, but it was way too dark to tell. I wanted some Mountain Dew, but they didn’t have any (another aid station disappointment), so I settled for some (funny tasting) Coke. In 2009 I had lingered here too long, warming myself by the fire. This year I was determined to press on, knowing we had another climb up to the ridge, then over to the next aid station, so Dave and I grabbed what we needed and headed out.

Considering the terrain and mileage I had covered up to this point, my legs felt pretty good. The chafing, however, was bordering on criminal. Forget waterboarding, this is way worse (ok, I have no way of knowing that for sure). I was applying Butt Paste every few miles at this point. On a side note, maybe the kind folks who make Butt Paste would sponsor me. I can already see the possibilities. Aside from the chafing, this section was rather uneventful. I did eat my second Payday bar of the run, something I bought almost as an afterthought the day before. Thanks for the recommendation Chris!

At the Scotts Tower Aid Station (mile 71), I ate some hot soup (still not the good stuff) and filled my bottles. It was windy on top of the ridge, so leaving the warmth of the tent was difficult. The next few miles take you down a gravel road to a short pavement section that leads to Brighton Ski Lodge, where I would pick up my second pacer. I hobbled (think massive chafing) down the road, wincing with every step. When we hit the pavement, I noticed a truck parked on the side of the road with the name “Larry” written on a window. We found out later that this was Larry’s pacer. He was catching a little shuteye before picking up Larry Legend. I enjoyed the last few miles of Dave’s company, thanking him for getting me through the middle miles. I honestly couldn’t have done it without him.

I entered the warm ski lodge (mile 75) and was greeted by my crew. Dace relayed my needs to them while I hit the restroom. Even if you didn’t need to go, it’s hard to pass up a nice restroom during a 100 mile race. I sat and rested my legs and feet (I was feeling pretty beat up at this point), ate a great egg sandwich, and tried to collect my thoughts for the miles ahead. As anyone who has ever run Wasatch will tell you, the last 25 miles are the hardest. Not only does the cumulative mileage and elevation catch up to you, but the terrain you encounter on the last section is arguably the toughest in the race and some of the toughest I’ve ever run. Reluctantly, I stood up and bid farewell to my crew, turning to my new pacer Ben and telling him to lead the way out.

I first met Ben in 2008 when I attended the Leadville 100 training camp. We kept in touch, and I paced him for a section of the Leadville 100 that year. He had recently relocated from California to Utah, so I asked him to pace me. I was looking forward to catching up with him and having him join me for the last 25 miles. We chatted as we climbed up towards Catherine’s Pass, the high point on the course at 10,240’. In 2009 I ran into 2 bull moose fighting on this section of trail and was hoping to not have a repeat performance this year. All we saw were 2 large mule deer off to the side of the trail. They looked at us and seemed to be thinking what most people do – what are these idiots doing? I was sleepy and grouchy at this stage, and I’m sure Ben was questioning his decision to pace me. We trudged up the mountain, finally hitting the summit and starting our long descent down to the Ant Knolls Aid Station (mile 80), where I was hoping to gorge on some pancakes.

Ants Knoll is similar in some ways to Nachos, Bill Gardner’s station at Bandera, because you can hear the music well before you arrive, and you know there will be a party waiting for you. Just as we shut our headlamps off, we saw the lights of Ants Knoll in the distance, followed by the sounds of loud music. This seemed to re-energize me, and I began to hike faster (the chafing had relegated me to walking more than I would have liked). Once there, I plopped down in a chair and sent Ben off in search of pancakes. What he brought back was way better than I had expected. In addition to pancakes covered in syrup, Ben found scrambled eggs and sausage. I don’t normally eat sausage, but it sure sounded good at this point. I devoured everything on the plate and smiled. I knew a short, steep climb called the “Grunt” lay ahead, and I wanted to enjoy the moment before things got tough again. Reluctantly, I got out of my chair and set off towards the steep hill, ready to get this race over with.

Chafing continued to be a major issue for me. I felt ok, but my legs were on fire, making running nearly impossible. Uphill, flats, downhill – it all hurt. I kept applying my Butt Paste, but the relief was temporary. Up and down, up and down, the course was relentless. The sun was up, and I could feel the temperature rising. Rain was in the forecast, and I pleaded for clouds to come in and provide much-needed shade. I became even grouchier, often only answering Ben’s questions with a grunt or mumble. He was great to have around, reminding me to eat, drink, and take my Scaps. I’m sure I would have slowed down even more without Ben there to push me. I can’t thank him enough. Somewhere on this section we saw a man coming down the trail towards us carrying a large gun. Maybe he was here to put me out of my misery, I thought. It turns out he was out hunting bears. I hoped we would see one, but he didn’t seem to think we would have much luck. We chatted with him for a few minutes and continued on. After what seemed like hours, we arrived at Pole Line Pass (mile 83), where my last drop bag awaited me. I packed away my night gear and grabbed a few necessities from my bag. Nothing sounded good to eat, but I knew I needed to stock up for the final push. I grabbed as many Shot Bloks as I could stuff in my pockets, and off we went.

Other than a several mile stretch spend bushwhacking through the early miles of nastiness, I hadn’t had a severely low moment during the race. Sure, there were times that I didn’t feel wonderful, but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind. The next 10 miles would change all of that. The rising temperatures and the increasing lack of calories I had ingested finally started to take its toll on me. I staggered around the course like a drunk on New Years. I would stop, catch my breath, trudge on. I repeated this process over and over for what seemed like an eternity. There were only 4 miles between Pole Line and the next aid at Rock Springs, but it took nearly 2 hours to get there. Rock Springs was remote, and aid was minimal. I drank water and sat on a log until I was chased off by a swarm of bees. My feet hurt, I was tired, and we still had 2 nasty downhill sections to go. Where was the shuttle off this god-forsaken mountain???

The last 2 noteworthy descents on the Wasatch course are known simply as the “Plunge” and the “Dive”. Imagine going straight down a dusty, rock-strewn chute/rut. All of this after running 87 miles in the Wasatch Range. I detested this section in 2009, and this year was no different. Dust was flying everywhere, getting in my shoes and socks despite my wearing gaiters. The sun beat down on my exposed body. I was defeated. It took well over 3 hours to cover 6 miles. I knew I would finish, but mentally I was done. My goals were out the window. I just wanted to be done. I had zero energy and was totally fried. I sat down several times and poured water over my head. I questioned my sanity several times, but somehow still managed to make it to the next stop.

At the final aid station, Pot Bottom (mile 93), Ben made me sit and drink/eat for 15 minutes. After 10, I started to get up to leave, but he forced me to sit and continue to fuel. In hindsight, this was the smartest thing I could have done. He convinced me that we could either sit another 5 minutes here or have to sit somewhere out on the trail and lose even more time. I reluctantly agreed. Not long after I sat down, Fred Thompson arrived at the aid station. Then Larry came trotting in. 3 Texans, re-united at the final aid station. There was also another guy there who came in swearing and yelling, saying the volunteers at the last aid station gave him bad info about mileage. This guy was hot. It bordered on the ridiculous to listen to him complain.

I was the first of the 3 Texans to leave Pot Bottom, with Larry not far behind. The first mile took us up a jeep road that was exposed to the hot sun. I checked over my shoulder every few minutes to see if Larry was still coming. Sure enough, there he was. If he beat me I would never hear the end of it. That motivated me to keep moving. When we hit the next junction, Mr. Complainer and his pacer were there, debating whether they were supposed to take the turn or keep on going straight. After reading the course directions, they decided to turn. We agreed that this was the correct move. Now we were in front of them, and the guy yelled at my pacer about us trying to pass them. Really??? We played it off and joked, but this guy was annoying. At this point Ben looked at me and asked if I could run at all. “No”, I replied, but I would try anyway. I started to jog a little, and a funny thing happened. Because this section was on trail that was a bit wider than we had been on, I was able to spread my legs out a little, minimizing the pain from chafing. My legs felt good. I gradually increased the speed. Ben mentioned that if we kept this up, we could distance ourselves from the annoying guy. That motivated me even more. The more I ran, the better I felt and faster I went. Before I knew it, we were passing runners headed down the hill. I think I passed at least 6-8 people on this final stretch. I felt great. Honestly, this was the best stretch of running I had done all race, and I was now 95+ miles into it!!! The road was rocky and tough, but I felt like I was floating. At one point Ben had to tell me to slow down so I didn’t burn up all my energy.

After nearly 3 miles of trail/road, we made another turn onto the final 2 mile section of trail that would take us to the pavement and the finish line. This trail would be ideal under any circumstance, for it was smooth, downhill, and singletrack. Knowing I was almost done made it even sweeter. I continued to fly down the trail (at least it felt like I was flying) and soon passed through the gates that led to pavement. I turned right and knew I was almost done. Just another half mile of open road. My crew met me for the final stretch run, and soon I was on the grass and racing towards the finish. I looked up at the clock as I crossed the line and saw 33:31. I had beaten my previous Wasatch time by nearly 2 hours. What an adventure.

(Final stretch of road, with Ben behind me)

(Almost there)

(Crossing the finish line. My mom is in the background)

(Finally done.)

After finishing, I really felt great. The chafing was there, but my legs felt fine. I had a little swelling, but no big blisters or major issues. I grabbed a beer and waited for Larry to arrive. He finished within an hour, a great accomplishment for any flatlander. We chatted and swapped stories, then headed up to receive our buckles and the best finisher plaques I have seen. I really love this race and these mountains. If they would get better soup, it might be the perfect race J

(Chafing is no fun)

(Dave, myself, and Ben)

(Chatting with Larry)

(Getting my 2nd Wasatch buckle)

(No caption needed)

(Finisher's plaque)

As I reflect back on my Wasatch experience, I take away several things. First, there is no better way to train for a mountain run than to run in the mountains. This was by far my best year of training, and the early summer running I did out West certainly paid dividends at Wasatch. For me there is almost nothing in life that compares to running in the mountains. I love it, plain and simple. Second, I need to find a nutrition strategy that relies more on liquids than gels and solids. I plan on using Carbo Pro at the Bandera 100K in January and hope this will ease some of my stomach issues. Finally, for me to really improve my times at the longer distances, I need to find a solution to my chafing. I have some ideas, but kids might read this, so I’ll spare all the details.

Bring on Hardrock!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wasatch 100

I just got home from Utah, where I spent 33 hours, 32 minutes running up and down the Wasatch Mountains. I have so much to tell, but sleep is more important right now. Until I have time to write a proper report, here are some pictures…

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Sure Are Wearing Some Weird Clothes

I met Tom, Tony, Liza, and Sumnam (new to the group) yesterday to run the paved trails at Leon Creek. This was my first time on these paths, and although I despise running on concrete, I looked forward to the company of running with friends. Tom had organized the run and sent an email earlier in the week. I briefly glanced at the email, gleaning the essential details of the text, like when and where to meet – 5:45AM by the Drury Inn on 1604. As I was driving to the Drury, I began to wonder exactly where I was supposed to park to access the trail. Maybe I should check Tom’s email one last time, I thought to myself. When I did, I realized that we were meeting at the trailhead on Bandera Road at 5:30. Awesome. I was late and in the wrong place.

Once we did get started, things went surprisingly well. I was planning on logging 15 miles, and the cooler weather made this enjoyable, as did the comradery of my friends. We chatted and laughed, and soon it was time for Sumnam and myself to turn around (the others were going 20 miles, and I was in taper mode with Wasatch less than a week away). On the return trip, a lady on a bike passed us and asked if we were training for anything in particular. I like to be as vague as possible, and simply replied yes. She pressed us, asking what I had coming up. I replied that I was running a 100 miler. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went…

Lady on Bike: “Oh, I’ve done one of those before”.

Me: “Really, which one?”

Lady On Bike: “It was spread out over 4 days, in Michigan”.

Me: “That sounds like fun. Mine is in Utah”

Lady on Bike: “You sure are wearing some weird clothes, but I guess you know what you are doing”. (I was wearing a plaid shirt and “normal” shorts”)

Aside from the fact that I was impressed by the number of people out exercising in San Antonio on a Sunday, one thing stood out to me. I always try to say hello to people I pass on the trail. Yesterday was no different. What was shocking to me was the lack of response I got from the people I greeted. I don’t expect (nor really want) to start up a full-blown conversation, but I simple “hello” or nod would be nice. I guess I am spoiled by the trail running community, where seeing others on the trail is a rare occurrence, so stopping to say hello is not uncommon. Although I had a blast yesterday, I am going to stick to the trails in the future as much as I can.