Just when I thought this summer couldn’t get much better, it did! This past weekend was the 30th running of the Wasatch 100. For the past few years I have been a pacer/support crew, running with Jenn Kuhlmann from Brighton to the finish 3 years ago, with Ryan McDermott from Lambs to the end 2 years ago, and with Ryan from Brighton to the end last year. I really enjoy being a pacer, but I was excited to be toeing the start line myself this time. The line-up was very exciting with some big names like Karl Meltzer, Hal Koerner, Geoff Roes, Josh Brimhall, Jon Anderson, and the amazing local talent of Mandy Hosford, Erik Storheim, Christian Johnson, David Hunt, and Jay Aldous to name a few. Almost all of my running since Hardrock had been weekend-warrior trips for adventure runs in the beautiful Tetons, so switching into “race” mode was different and exciting.
At 5AM we took off and I took stride right behind Karl and Geoff for the first ~5 mile warm-up section. Then we started the climb, mmmmm uphill… tasty. I lead up to Chinskraper and then a mile or so more, which was fun. Since it was a big uphill climb I didn’t mind being at the front of the group, knowing that once it opened up the testosterone freight-train behind me would start going rediculously fast on the ripper descent road to the Francis Sheds. And I was right! Once the climbing let up a group of 4-5 dudes passed me at a very fast pace and I let them go, figuring that I’d see several of them before the end.
I had a remarkably peaceful run all the way to Big Mountain where I was super-happy to see Mindy and the throng of cheering folks. I knew it would be bloody hot and dry for the next ~13 miles to Lamb’s Canyon so I soaked myself well, drank a bunch, loaded up on water and then took off. My good friend Chaz kindly decided to join me and we had fun chatting while we ran along the ridge down to Alexander Spring aid station. Climbing up the “oven” was the standard hot, dry, and not very scenic. But, I was in good company so it didn’t matter.
I was so excited to start the run up into Lambs and then Millcreek as I knew the temps would drop by ~20 degrees. I was right! The climb up to Bear-Ass Pass is fabulous and the descent to Elbow Fork probably my favorite part of the whole race. I was having such a good time that I didn’t even mind the road up to Big Water. From there I had a pleasant jog up to Dog Lake, Desolation Lake, and then up to Scott Pass where I saw several folks I work with who are the HAM radio gurus. Cruising down to Brighton I was feeling pretty darn good. Also, I knew that my good friend Pat McMurtry would be waiting there with a custom “light vest” with something like 100 LEDs strapped to his chest. My support crew at Brighton was unbelievable, especially since I only said hi for about 30 seconds. Almost all of Mindy’s great family came out to cheer me on, a cousin of mine, my sisters… it was awesome.
I quickly weighed in and then took off bound for the finish line. Pat and I switched to a fast hike up to Sunset Peak since it didn’t make sense to push it on this section. Tyler Knoles joined us for part of it and as usual kept me entertained with his enthusiastic stories. Near the top Pat and I saw a light… it was Hal. He was hurting a bit on the descent and looked like he could have used some companionship. I felt bad, really. Here I had a great friend lighting the way for me, we were enjoying good conversation, laughing, enjoying ourselves, etc. and Hal was alone and not in his usual form. In hindsight we should have been more friendly and insisted that he come with us. Sorry Hal. 😦
Pat and I didn’t stop long at Ants Knoll, climbed up the Grunt, and then on to the Pole Line aid station. I had a bunch of grapes at Pole Line, which my stomach quickly informed me was the wrong decision. Okay… back to what had been working before: EFS, water, Nuun. I slowed down a bit from the stomach episode, but not to the miserably-slow pace that I had assumed during the last 25 miles of Hardrock this year. From here to the end Hal, Jay and I did a small amount of leap-frogging. By Pot Bottom I was feeling like myself again and I could smell the finish line. My goal all day had been to break 22 hrs and it was within sight. So, Pat and I pushed pretty hard on the last 5 mile descent and crossed in 21:48, good for 4th place overall. I was pleased. And, my fabulous family was at the finish line at 2:48 AM to cheer me in. I’m a lucky guy!
Of special note: Geoff Roes and Karl Meltzer both went under Kyle Skagg’s previous record time. Geoff was on fire and finished in a screaming 18:30, Karl in 19:12. Betsy Nye logged a PR and the win at 23:15 with Mandy close behind her in 23:25. Absolutely amazing! It should be noted that this was Mandy’s SECOND 100 mile run ever. And, she shaved 10 HOURS off her first Wasatch time. This could only happen with the combination of her incredible talent and great coach/crew/pacer Matt Hart.