Sunday, September 08, 2013

Wasatch Front 100-mile Endurance Run, Sep 6-7, 2013

What a long strange trip it’s been! Back from Utah and the annual running of the Wasatch Front 100-mile Endurance Run. My only goal was to finish. With no 100-mile finishes since 2011,I needed another current finish if I want to try for Hard Rock or the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2014. With no support (race crew or pacers) besides the aide stations I had to plan for all contingencies—that called for a drop bag for every station that allowed them--dry socks in each bag, ample food, gels, powder, even a couple asthma albuterol breathers, Hydropel for waterproofing the feet, jacket, extra clothes, headlamp, sunscreen, and so on.
Out on the course I was in defensive mode—that meant no getting exuberant and pushing the pace early on as I am wont to do. It meant changing socks often and monitoring the feet, applying sunscreen, and most importantly staying hydrated, fueled, and taking salt caps.

About five miles into the run--still dark at that point--I took a severe tumble with a knock on the noggin, bruise on the shoulder, scrapes on the elbow and right knee, and a terrific gouge on my right palm—with copious amounts of blood flowing. 15 miles later I finally got to an aide station to get it cleaned and bandaged up. Then a few miles after getting it fixed up, I fell again stabbing my hand on a root poking up--in the exact same place on my palm! Now I had a veritable fountain of blood spurting about. I took one of the extra gauze pads they had given me at the last aide station and applied pressure to staunch the blood flow, but it was another five miles before I could get it cleaned up again and re-bandaged--that bandage job was not very good though and I had to make another pit stop later to get it re-bandaged.

The run initially climbs nine miles from the desert floor near Kaysville, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City, up to a highpoint nicknamed “Chin-scraper” before leveling off along a ridge, then following utility roads to the Francis Peak aide station at mile 19. Despite my throbbing hand, I was doing well; staying hydrated, fueled, and running conservatively. By mile 39 and the Big Mountain Pass Aide Station the wound had to be re-wrapped because the bandage was slipping down—at the previous aide station rather than wrapping the bandage around the thumb and around, they had wrapped it straight across the palm. Coming in to the Big Mountain Pass aide station a volunteer asked me if I had a crew—no, I did not. She started yelling “runner without a crew!” and told me to have a seat. I thought someone would help with my hand. No one came though and after seeing the first aide guy tied up, I had to get up and continue down the trail, hoping to get it re-wrapped at the next aide station.

The stretch to Alexander Ridge, in the full heat of the day was draining. At one point I was so exhausted and over-heated I went off trail, found some shade and lay down for ten minutes. Not long after that, about 45 miles into the run, I became nauseated and lost all my water and fuel. A runner named Rodger came by and asked if I needed anything. “Rolaids or Tums” I answered. He dug some Tums out of his pack, and then asked if I needed any water? “Yes, if it’s pure water.” He pulled out a big bottle and told me to take a pull. I did and gave it back to him and he said take another one. Then another. That is pure runner’s spirit, helping out another runner when he’s down. I saw him again later that night on the course about 65 miles along and thanked him again for his assistance. Looking at the final results, I think it was Rodger Smith from Orem, Utah—he finished about an hour after me.

While getting fixed up at Alexander Ridge two friends from Colorado arrived, Wes Thurman and Bogie Dumitrescu. Wes looked like a salt factory and Bogie said he was feeling terrible. I wouldn’t see either one again. Leaving the aide station we had a long climb through a grassy meadow. I walked nearly every step as did the other runners around me—about halfway into the segment we had a long downhill run to the Lamb’s Canyon aide station and I got my running legs back on. Lamb’s Canyon is a major aide station with runner’s crews, lots of people, and it’s well-stocked and provisioned. When I stepped on the scale it read 147 pounds—a shocking loss of nine pounds since the prior day’s weigh-in—I’m 6’2” tall, and I don’t like to go below 156, so 147 is dangerously light. I still couldn’t eat though because of the nausea. Was I going back to the same syndrome that has caused me to drop out of my last two 100’s, Hardrock last year and Western States last June? Determined to finish, I asked a volunteer if I could lie down on a cot for half an hour to see if I could settle my stomach down. She thoughtfully put two blankets over me, and then went to her car to get her personal sleeping bag and put it over the blankets. I was warm and soon in a deep sleep.

She came to wake me up after half an hour as I’d requested, gave me a pasta concoction with potatoes and cheese and two cups of hot chocolate. I re-weighed and now up to 150 pounds felt like a million dollars. And I picked up a pacer! Andrew Hegewald, a local marathon runner wanted to experience the course and was looking for someone to pace. He turned out to be a perfect fit, keeping me going, reminding me to drink, and he knew the trails! He stayed with me for the next 22 miles all the way to Brighton Lodge. His knowledge of the trail system was fantastic, as he was able to point out Brighton Lodge across the valley some nine miles before we reached it, and once on an unmarked intersection (probably sabotaged) he knew the right turn to make.

At Brighton Lodge I took another 15-minute power nap and discovered the only fuel I could keep down—orange juice and orange slices were my sole source of calories from mile 75 to the finish. Coming out of Brighton at about 5 AM it was still dark and now I was alone again. After an hour I found myself staggering--a quick pull-off from the trail for a final 10-minute catnap and I was ready for the final push. Running all the downs and power hiking the ups I felt better and better and the finish line approached—finally on the last five miles of downhill into Midway Utah and the Soldier Hollow golf course I was accelerating, gaining nine positions and finishing the final segment 34 minutes faster than my predicted time from the online race calculator.

It wasn’t a great finishing time--32 hours 45 minutes--but it was a finish, and I accomplished my goal. Now all I had to do was get to the airport—a rather expensive proposition after inquiries found no one making the trip--I called a cab, setting me back $130.

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