Wasatch 100

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Running 100 Miles in the Wasatch Mountains

By Peter Fain

Everyone in our area knows of Western States, but few have have heard of the Wasatch Front 100, unless your an ultra runner. I chose this race because it fit in with my knee recovery and that it seems like a right of passage for any ultra runner that lives in Truckee. We have legends of that race that live right here in Tahoe/Truckee; Laura Vaughn, Betsy Nye, Paul Sweeny, Chris Luberecki.... I was lucky enough to bring Chris with me as my crew leader and pacer for the final 25 miles.

            Along with Chris, Sam Skrocke and my parents rounded out my support team. Now, before I talk about the race, one thing is for certain, I could not have finished this race with them. They all played such an important part that I’m not sure how I would do another without the same group.

            With nearly 27,000 feet of climbing, nearly the same amount of downhill and a thermostat that was expected to be at least 15 degrees warmer than previous years, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Trying to be realistic I had a goal to break 24 hours. I had loftier, dreamier goals too but I reminded myself of the true prize when the suffering began, that is to finish.

            At 4:50am the 290 runners began to gather around the starting line. It was already a comfortable temperature. Headlamps were bobbing and nervous energy permeated the air. Not the same as a short race, the energy was about completion more than competition. Then at 5am we were off along the hillside leading away from Layton Utah. The first 5 miles or so are rolling through the trees. I stayed close to the lead pack, more so to steal some of their light. Once the climbing began we all slowed to a power walk. Like Paul likes to say “walk with a purpose”. One after another runners were pealing off to either take a bathroom break or adjust their shoes. Next thing you know I’m leading the way up Chinscrapper. Yeah that’s the name of one point on the trail. Once on the ridge line myself and 4 others cruised along until the trail opened up and led down, that’s when the real front runners turned on another gear. This was at mile 18.

            From 18 to mile 38 there were many vistas, creek crossing and nearly undefinable trails. Large rocks littered every downhill making for difficult descents. Each substantial downhill the leaders pulled away. Call me chicken,  but I’m not really interested in ruining my new knee, yet.

            The temperature was going up and I found I was drinking a lot of liquid. I was also trying to eat often and a lot. At mile 38 I come down this long set of switchbacks and it is the first place I see my crew. My Mom is out front waving a Norwegian flag, Chis and Sam flank me and take my water bottle to refill and my Dad is ready with food and a place to change my socks. I weigh and have only lost 1 pound. That’s OK. I eat, I drink and off for what I didn’t realize is the toughest section of the course.

            It’s mid day, it’s hot, there are no trees and the trail is really difficult. I continue on drinking and moving forward. Next thing I know, I’m out of water. It takes me nearly an hour before I reach the next aid station, but by that point the damage was done. I’m weak, fatigued, a little delirious, and very dehydrated. I sit at the aid station for about 10 minutes, at least if felt that way, until I thought I was ready to go. And when I did I stared into the distance of this long rolling grassy climb that has a breeze blowing down it that is more like a blow dryer. I mentally gave up.

            With less than a mile to go to mile 53 (Lambs Canyon) Sam runs out to meet me. I’m walking. I tell him I’m done. He tries to talk me out of the bad state I’m in and we get to the aid station. I weigh in. I’ve lost 10 pounds. They’re on the verge of holding me there, but I do it to myself. I go sit down by my truck and my mom throws a blanket over me and I immediately begin to shake. I tell Chris I’m done. He ignores me, instead he tears off my shoes slaps a bunch of vaseline in them and continues to prep me to take off. I sit there drinking a recovery drink for about 45 minutes. Finally I say fine, I get up weigh myself again (gained 2 pounds) and head off, this time Sam runs with me.

            Mile 53 to 75 is went pretty well. It took me another 90 minutes or so of shuffling along to get a bit more hydrated. By the time Sam and I got to the next aid station I was feeling  much better, still not convinced I could finish  but enough to convince me to go on to the next aid station. Once I hit Dog lake I began to feel what I could best describe as OK. I was able to pick up the pace and start racing. We were now in the dark and we could see headlamps ahead of us. Our goal was to pick off another headlamp, then another... (while sitting at mile 53, 15 or so people passed me and I was now in 27place). Sam kept pushing me to Brighton, and once there I went straight to  my truck where my crew was waiting to feed and fuel me up. I took a good 15 minutes of eating and drinking before I went to get weighed in. Finally at about 10:15pm I went to get weighed. I gained 2 pounds, still underweight but not enough to hold me.

            Now Chris gets to work and we charge up the ski resort mountain. The trail reminded me of going up Shirley Canyon. Once we crested the top we saw several headlamps ahead of us. We strategically picked off each one, pushing past them so they would not want to hang on to us. With 10 miles to go, the trail became brutal; steep, ruted, rocky and 6 inches of silty dust. The dust was so thick I couldn’t see the footing so slow was the only option. This seemed to be never ending and then the last aid station came in to view. 7 miles to go. I did my best to push hard here. Each mile seemed to drag on. But Chris had the watch and a beep would sound with every mile completed and he would say “another one done.” We finally pop out of the woods and are on a paved road. 1 mile to go. I try to pick up the pace. I run it in to a dark finish line. 

I’m  done. 23 hours 37 minutes. I’m happy. And there is no way I could have finished without my crew. 

Comments:

Dirk, Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amazing tenacity. A real inspiration for the rest of us.

I hope the knee recovery is going well.

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