Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wasatch Front 100 2014

Fred advised keeping your heart rate at 60% on the first climb.
Phil said to run both road sections between Lamb's and Brighton.
Use a headlamp at the start.
Use poles.
Nobody should use poles at the start.
It'll be hot.
It'll be cold.

Whatever anyone tells you, what you get on the day of your goal 100 mi race is the unexpected.

An echo of that feeling of facing my first 100 at Leadville nibbled at my heart for this, the Wasatch Front 100. The unknown. A hard test. A chance to see if I can. Pictures from someone's adventure years ago showed mountains, running on them, across them, and being surrounded by them. It was a good hook, though it took 6 or so years for me to enter the lottery. Which I did on the day I didn't get in to Hardrock 2014. I think I said, "Wahoooo!" when I won the Wasatch 2014 lottery, but in my head I was thinking, "Finally!!  I win a race lottery!"

 Intentions were good, and early training went great. I did long runs. I did hill workouts. On race day, though, all I could think was that my volume was much lower than for any other 100, and I was a little too well tapered.

Andrea convinced me early on that we should go for a "sub-30 hour" buckle. That sounded like a great challenge! absolutely! and then I do my  planning and research... most years, only 10 women get an under 30 hour buckle. Some years, a lot fewer.

That's a challenge.

Methodically, I looked up other runners splits who finished between 28:40 and 30 hours in 2013. With that I had data from twenty runners, and good estimates for the split times I'd need to be under 30.

But was I an under 30 candidate? I pulled out my 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100 splits and the elevation chart. I mapped my pace from that race to Wasatch over similar terrain taking into account early miles and end of the race miles. Answer: I would finish in 30 hours and 50 minutes.

Yikes....well....  yikes.

On Race Day Eve, the antsy feeling buzzed in the background of my thoughts. I couldn't help reaching out to Ken for a hand, an arm, something to hold. I wanted quiet and calm, but couldn't stand the silence. Puttering around in the hotel room while Ken picked up my Crew (the fabulous DreadPirate, Chris, Mark, and Miki) I managed to lay out clothes and food for the 2:10 am wake up, I painted my toenails and packed my suitcase. I made a few notes for my crew, though I didn't think they'd need them. They trooped into the room with a stern, "We only have 10 minutes, then you have to sleep." A few details, pointing out my crew bags, handing them my notes, and they were gone waving and smiling out the door. I wouldn't see them again until my race was 1/3 done (nearly 10 hours in), assuming I could hit those splits. Many things could happen between now and then....

I felt good at the start. Nervous - how long would I be out here today (and tomorrow)? 30 hours? 36? We ran in a line across the base of the foothills, sometimes dipping into a canyon before coming out again to the lights of sleeping Salt Lake. Sometimes on easy trail like this, I hear Sean Martin telling us the Navajo belief at the Canyon de Chelley 55K, that mother earth will carry your feet, and father sky will fill your lungs, and you are connected, are the connection between the two.

I didn't bother passing people, I knew we'd be headed uphill soon. No use spending that energy here.
The climb starts easy enough, through trees and scrub, switchbacking up. The climb stays easy, too - too easy. hm. There's no room to pass with scrubby brush lining the trail and a line of 50 people directly in front of me. After an eternity, or maybe 2 hours, the line came to a stream crossing and everyone stopped to fill up except for me, Andrea, and the antsy guy behind me. Thank goodness.

Just in time for Chinscraper - a steeper section that you have to scramble up.  :)

The trail traversing form the top over to the road is a little brushy and rocky, but I can finally stretch my legs. I run it, thinking I'm probably pretty far off my splits already. I get to Grobben's Corner, where Sir Grobben himself fills my little 10 oz pink water bottle. My pack is still half full. He looks at me with a gleam in his eye, "Are ya sure you want me to fill this all the way up?"
"Well, I don't know, can you spare that much water?"
"It's gonna get pretty heavy..."

I'm smiling until I glance at my watch, and my smile falls off my face with a thud. I'm about 42 minutes off my pace which means even being a steady second half runner probably won't save me. I lost my race to the sub thirty buckle in the first 3 hours of Wasatch.

Well, bugger. I'm not giving up yet. That's going to mean a little bit of work right now. I run, pushing just a little but trying to think relaxing thoughts. Four miles plus to Francis Aid Station.... no, no, no - relaxing thoughts.....admire the view (Wowza up there! I'm telling you!).

The detached part of me starts making notes - interesting, at Leadville when you were trying for sub 25 and went too fast down sugarloaf, hurting your quads, you gave up much sooner than this...

Great, now I have an armchair psychologist in my head.

I'm in and out of Francis quickly, because I have to be. Sunscreen, food bag, empty trash, fill water, GO.

I'm moving pretty well, I don't feel stressed, but I'm doing more work than usual. I think. Ok, you can move a little faster. Push a little up this hill. Holy cow a lot of people are passing me. Geez my legs feel heavy. Ok, ignore that, look at the view! ... I'm in the trees. But they're pretty trees! Really! Wow, I just do not seem to be making any progress. Head down, now. Breathe, good posture, use your butt muscles.

ok this isn't working! I am just slowing down!

wait, when was the last time I ate something? hm. I still have 3 of 4 bars, and all my gels.... and I'm nearly 5 hours in.

dumb. So a salt tab. A gel - its the fastest to absorb. Water. oh, hey I was thirsty.  (eye roll from the direction of the armchair). I backed off a little. More people streamed past me, but the job in front of me was not the trail anymore, or my watch, but the food in my pack. In twenty minutes, I ate a bar, and I started feeling a little better. That tiredness though seemed to hang on. I pointedly ignored it. I drank and drank. Between Sessions Lift off Aid Station and Swallow Rocks Aid Station there's a beautiful traverse and ridge line trail. I caught on to the back of 4 runners, two I had met at the race start - Wendy and Matt - and I decided it was time to start working again. I stayed with them all the way until 1/2 mile from Swallow rocks. I had found my groove again, and I passed the train as it slowed a bit, and cruised through Swallow rocks - which was the first AS to have any kind of protein - turkey sandwich (thank goodness! I was craving that.). I headed out looking forward to seeing my crew at Big Mountain. I was clueless as to how far I had to go - something between 4 and 8 miles. This bugged me. I always know how far it is. So many parts of this race were just way outside the norm for me. I knew my job, though - get there well hydrated, well fed, and ready for more. And in decent time too - I was still behind the curve from the mornings goofs, from what I could tell. I hadn't made up any time.

Into the Aid Station and my crew has food and ice. A cupcake (yum). I eat as much as I can, trying to get some protein, but there isn't much at this Aid Station. I drink 1/2 of an ensure. (blech) Then they tell me I'm doing great, to which I say, "No, I'm 40 minutes behind!" I was here at 3:13 and I wanted to be out of Big Mountain Aid Station at 2:45 pm. Ken says that I'm ahead of my split though. I don't know what that means. Well, either way, there's more Wasatch to be had. And I was still behind overall and really uncertain about where I could possibly catch up.

The last 25 miles of wasatch has been known as the hardest 25 miles in ultrarunning. To cap off an already tough 100 mile run - full of mountains, big elevation gains and losses, tough technical trail of every kind, the course dragged runners down "the dive" and "the plunge" - wickedly steep loose rocky trails, and then through the knothole of "Irv's Torture Chamber."  For 2014, the course had been re-routed. These challenges were a part of the race no more. The last 15 miles were now reported to be smoother, faster - 20 to maybe 40 min faster than the 2013 course. Now that I was hunting time, maybe this change seemed like a good thing. I didn't want to need the help, but without any real choice in the matter, I'd take it without complaining.

DreadPirate and I left Big Mountain AS, headed up a rocky slope. She asked me what the trail had been like so far. "It's beautiful: rough, rocky, techy, and every time you leave an Aid Station, the trail goes up. Like this!"After topping out though, it was pretty runnable. We chatted a bit more. "Ken says you're a closer." she says, into a deepening break in the conversation. Could she feel me worrying about time? Could she see my shoulders tightening? Ok, I can do this. Ken thinks I can, DP thinks I can. I know I can.

Lets go.

The trail turned down slightly, and I ran and let the momentum carry me and lift my legs. Straighten up, I don't run bent over. (thanks Kathleen & No Limits Fitness). On the next slight up hill, DP catches up and reminds me to eat. (Right.)   And she points out the incredible colors - the maples are turning on the next ridge over - beautiful. We're moving right along. I pull ahead a bit on the downhill sections, and DP takes pictures and catches me on the uphill parts. The trail gets rockier. It takes longer for DP to catch me - she doesn't like rocky trails. I'm beyond caring about rocks.  Catching a few people fires me up and I let myself work a bit more. And the trail gets rockier, and steeper. I don't hear DP behind me anymore. If I can get to the aid station, I'll get water and ice and everything, and she'll come in right then and we can go. I held on to this thought, and tailed a couple of runners down a steep scrabbly pitch. I worried. She's not going to like that descent. Looking back, the trail was empty.

It was getting a bit hot. Coming into the aid station, I looked over my shoulder before filling my water. I grabbed some chips, and watched the trail as I ate. Should I wait? I couldn't decide what to do. I grabbed more chips, but I didn't really want them. Ok, settle down. She wouldn't want you to wait, there's an Aid Station here if she needs help. Keep your head screwed on. I told the Aid station people that my pacer was a little behind me, but that I was going to continue.

I followed the two track under the power lines out of the aid station, and the heat built. Rolling again, but now the trail is rolling up. In a straight line disappearing into the folds of the mountain. Hot. Totally exposed and no relief in sight

..... some days when times aren't so tight...
when the day goes down on water town.....

Ok, it's really hot, I'm singing Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Aw crap, I forgot to get ice. No wonder.

DP would tell me to drink something, so I do. and eat. Keeping my effort controlled, I really try not to look up, not to get caught in that head game of trying to figure out how far I go on this trail. When I finally make the turn I'm so excited for it - cool through forests! Amazingly wonderful! After a short uphill, the trail descends and winds - great running, in the shade, soft trail. I feel good, and can't wait for the aid station.

There's a slight uphill getting into Lamb's Canyon. My crew is at a fenceline cheering and they lead me to a seat with food piled around it. "DP's still out there.."

"we know, it's okay. we'll take care of it. How do you feel?"

"You know? I'm fine. How...?"

"Eat something."

I shove a quantity of food in my mouth that I am astonished by. There's a croissant, there's some sports drink, there's a cake type thing, and a waffle dipped in chocolate.. Holy cow. Ken gets me a ham sandwich - I'm still craving protein and salt. And apparently my stomach is having a ball out here, because I can eat like a horse.

I need resolution, though - "so you guys will wait for DP?

Thank you crew for putting up with a rather dense and stubborn version of me.

They force a little more food on me, I throw on a long sleeve shirt and grab a jacket, ditch the cap/sunglasses, grab a beanie and gloves. Ken tells me my time - I've caught up. Really? Really. Mark leads me out. I'm ready.

We hike the road with another runner (after a little route finding - no markers near the interstate?) who outpaces me after a bit. I thought I might run this road, but now that I have caught up to my goal times I'm happy to hike and let my food settle. On the smooth trail, we go up and up. people seem to be passing me non-stop. I pass one or two, and then 4 come by me. In the dark now, we chat but it can't distract me from the fact that I am falling through the field. Ugh. Milcreek A.S. comes finally. They have grilled cheese sandwiches which Mark falls in love with. I get some lube on my feet - I finally remember that the balls of my feet are hurting when I can do some thing about it. After too long a stop - I start getting cold - we head out again. I'm looking forward to Desolation Lake - it just sounds cool. A screech owl calls eerie in the stillness as we come up to Dog Lake. It's hard to keep the momentum now, the steady uphill is grinding. When we get to Desolation Lake AS, I walk right through - I feel like I am moving so slowly.  Best not even to stop. I don't need anything. Mark stops to fill up. When he catches up to me suddenly I realize I never checked out. With a short laugh, Mark turns around and runs back down the trail. We get to the ridge a little later - I remember the race reports saying this next little bit was runnable, and not to stay up here because it can be cold. Let's go then! I'm anxious to start moving faster again - anything uphill seems like a struggle. We mix running and hiking on the rolling ridge, enjoying the lights of Park city on one side, and Salt Lake City far off on the other side. Scott's peak AS is brightly lit. I grabbed a little something and ask Mark to catch up to me - I'm kind of enjoying this little game of "catch-me."
Soon, we start heading down. The trial isn't to techy, and then we hit a road. I'm excited to get to brighton, and to Ken. Have I maintained my time? I have no idea. So many people passed me on that climb. Dang it.

The ski lodge is an incredible bustle. Filled with people, I can't tell runners pacers or crew. DP takes my to brush my teeth after pizza and other food items. Then, Ken and I are out.

The trail leads us up through large rocks, whitish in our headlamps. I can't see any markers. "Do you see any markers?" Ken says, "we're on the right trail."

"But do you see markers?"

"we just past one."

This sounds suspiciously like pacer double speak to me - when your runner is asking you pointless questions and you will say anything to get them to... well... shut up.

In the end, though, he was right, and we were on the right trail. A couple runners passed us going up. Man was I tired of being passed. The trail turns down finally, and I thought I'd really be able to run this part - it was described like smooth bike trail. That person, whoever they are, they are on crack. Erosion has turned that trail into a steep v, so either your feet are at an angle on the sloped sides, or you're crossing your steps to plant your foot in the bottom on scrabbly rock. ARGH! I'm having to tip toe down this, Ken is right behind me, obviously not having any issues with the stupid trail, and all of a sudden I have totally lost my cool. Expectations will do that to you.

I let out a yell, and then accept what I can do and keep moving. Into the aid station, and I treat a blister on my toe, put on another layer, and attempt to eat the hot things Ken has brought me. I'm so lucky to have him with me.

We don't stay too long, as I am not sure what kind of trail the new section will really be - who knows how long it will take me? I'm cutting it pretty close.

As dawn seeps into my consciousness, we're on a jeep road descending steadily. I see the second to last AS, and cannot wait to get there. They don't have any protein, but are pretty friendly anyway. I force myself to run as much as I can. Even uphills, I try to run. I'm working hard, Ken encourages me, telling me I'm making my race, this is the time and place. Head down, things are uncomfortable, but I'm still running.

There's a final turn onto single track for a short 1 to 1.5 miles, but holy cow it feels like forever. The last aid station I can hear through the trees, but we turn away from it and I could just about throw a tantrum. I want it to be HERE right NOW.
(deep breaths.)

Through the aid station, and the morning is getting hot. The gravel road we're on now rolls a bit and reflects the light and heat. My head throbs a bit. My stomach turns a bit. I look at my watch and know that I'll make it under 30 hours with at least 30 min to spare. I only have 5 miles to go. I'll make that goal. A woman passes me, moving like I wish I was moving.

I could trot along this easy undulating road and I'd be fine. And people would pass me. And I'd be slower, I'd have given in again to that cautious mouse on my shoulder. Who cared if I got sick in the last 5 miles? So what if my stomach goes now? Why not?

"Bugger" I said. And sped up. I drank more and wet myself down a little to help cool off. I picked up my head. I tried to lift my knees. It actually felt BETTER for crying out loud. Better to move like I meant it.

To the pavement, and a last little rise pushed me to gasping. I held on though to the finish, so happy to see 29:05 above my head.

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