I again ran in the Wasatch Front 100 that runs in the mountains from Kaysville, Utah to Midway, finishing at the Homestead Resort. This was my focus 100-mile race of the season. I really wanted do well at this home-town race. In 2006 I struggled to a 34:15 finish and that has bugged me for three years.
This is a very tough 100 mile race with nearly 27,000 feet of climbing. Any finish is great, any finish under 30 hours is super. I set what I thought was a realistic goal of 28:30.
At the pre-race meeting on Thursday afternoon, buddy Matt Watts joked and mocked my goal, but it did get me thinking? Was I being unrealistic in my expectations?
I don’t often use pacers in my 100-mile races, but for the races close to home, I like sharing the ultrarunning experience with my friends. I signed up four guys, two back-packing buddies, and two runners who I have been helping get into ultra distance running. During the week before the race, lots of fun email bantering took place as I claimed that I would leave all of them behind, that they wouldn’t keep up. The guys in return mocked my past attempts and occasions when I ended up sick on the trail, hardly moving.
Drop Bags at pre-race meeting at Sugarhouse Park
Pictures by Andrew Barney, Catra Corbett, Craig Lloyd, Tara Tully, and Tara Moreland
I spent the night at pacer David Hansen’s uncles’ home just a few block from the start. Mark Swanson from California joined us. I only slept for about 3 hours. We arrived at the start with 15 minutes to go. I was somewhat nervous because of several aches and pains that cropped up during the past week. At the start, I could sense all the nervous energy among the runners and the fans watching the start.
The Start – me in second row, second from left, white shirt.
245 runners started running up a dirt road in the foothills. For the first few miles we would run on a rolling trail with the bright lights of the city below to our left and the dark mountain to our right. I started out fast as usual and was pleased that my legs felt fine and the aches and pains quickly disappeared. As we turned sharp corners, I would look behind and see a long line of headlamps bouncing in the pre-dawn dark.
View of the valley after sunrise
I was traveling light. I only carried two handheld bottles for fluid, and several gels in my pocket for energy. I did worry about running out of water during the first big climb, so right before the start I chugged down 32 oz. I also took with me my phone which contained my music collection to keep me company. My pace continued to be fast, but at a couple of intersections I had to stop, go back, and make sure I was still heading the right way. I wasted a couple of minutes doing that which can be frustrating, but that is silly because there is some much time to make up for that.
Heading toward Chinscraper
As the first big climb started, I was very pleased how strong I felt. I recalled that three years ago, I had quickly faded on this first climb, but not so this year. I wondered how long it would take for buddy Phil Lowry to catch up to me. In 2006 he caught up at about mile six. This year, Dave Hunt caught up to me leading a train of runners at about mile seven, right after dawn. He tapped me on the back and said, “Here’s who I was looking for!” Usually in races I just watch Dave Hunt go on ahead. This time, I thought to myself, “I wonder if I can keep up for awhile?” That I did!
Looking down from top of Chinscraper
I stayed closely behind Dave as we weaved in and out of oak scrub and made our way toward the base of the crazy climb called Chinscraper. I refused to give up my position in the train of runners and kept up nicely. I asked Dave about the springs ahead because I was starting to run low. The spring below Chinscraper wasn’t running fast, but Dave assured me that the next spring would be gushing. So I stayed in line as we made the steep climb up Chinscraper. The course description warns about this section: “PLEASE BE CAREFUL NOT TO DISLODGE ROCKS AND SEND THEM TUMBLING BELOW ONTO THE OTHER RUNNERS” I reached the top at 2:19, one minute faster than I predicted.
Climb where I fell behind
As we continued our climb up the baren ridges, I fell behind a little but later was able to catch up. Once we reached Landis Spring, I took my time filling up and at that point watched Dave Hunt disappear for the last time. He and the other runners around him would go on to finish in under 24 hours.
I reached Grobin’s Corner at 3:18, quickly filled up again and started the run along the dirt road, around Francis Peak. The dirt roads slowed me down somewhat. I just couldn’t find the fast downhill footspeed because my bad knee started to ache. I decided to hold back, let a few runners pass, and save my energy for later. I arrived at Francis Peak aid station (mile 17.7) at 4:01, four minutes ahead of schedule. I knew my friends would be following my progress on the Internet. This would be the first indication that I was doing fine. I did notice that my phone started to chime as emails came in. I never checked them, just kept racing. David Hansen emailed my pacers, “Team Crockett” with this update: “Looks like he was four minutes ahead of his pacing goals as he arrived at Francis Peak. It will be interesting to see how he holds up during the day.”
I was holding up just fine so far. As I was leaving Francis Peak, I saw Phil Lowry arriving, barking orders. Yikes, he was catching up! I high-tailed it out and got back on the road. We eventually left the dirt roads and went through some very rough new trail. The bushes were thick and it slowed us down. Eventually I could hear Phil behind, chewing someone out for not running, “This is a race!” I decided it was time to dish something back to Phil. I pushed on ahead fast and finally found a good thick tree to hide behind. Phil tells this story: “Crockett then raced ahead on the steep climb. I was surprised, until I saw his ulterior motive: he hid behind a bush and popped out to startle us all. “Roaaaaaahhhr!” Dork. I immediately switched on the video and announced that after only 20 miles we had chosen the A$%$% of the Wasatch: Davy Crockett. Good stuff.” Phil also said, “I hope that was worth wasting 90 seconds!” It was. Tom Remkes was with him and we all laughed. These kind of pranks make this sport fun.
For the next 14 miles, I ran with Phil. Tom Remkes and Rodger Smith fell behind. I was feeling fantastic and fast. I could have sped far ahead of Phil, but I was content to stay close, going fast at times and then letting him catch up. Phil wrote, “For the next five miles the two of us played tag, running along the ridge line on the dirt road. At one point I told him he was just toying with me, like a cat. I knew I was holding back, but even so, he looked very good to stay with me so well.”
Bountiful B Aid Station
We arrived at Bountiful B (mile 24) at 5:18. I was 13 minutes ahead of schedule. Phil was in good spirits being loud, which a volunteer didn’t appreciate for some reason. “That’s just Phil Lowry,” said someone. “Get him out of here.” Said the volunteer.
Phil continues his narration: “We arrived at Sessions (Mile 28) after a short but wicked downhill, which Crockett told me really surprised him. He never had seen me cook on the downhills before, and he told me later that he abandoned any hope at that point of staying with me (he had always used the downhills to catch me in the past).” We came into Sessions at 6:10. I was 20 minutes ahead of my schedule. Brian Beckstead was there and gave me personal attention. I was somewhat confused and asked Brian, “Which station is this?” Brian laughed, “Sessions.” I realized that I was 20 minutes ahead. “Wow!” was all I could say. Phil was already leaving, I had to quicklky follow.
Team Crockett had noticed my arrivals at the stations from reports on the Internet. David Hansen wrote, “Wow! Mr. Crockett is 17 minutes ahead of his pacing goal going into Bountiful B, and he only stopped 1 minute at the aid station! Way to go Crockett. Getting ahead of his goals now will give him some room in case challenges come up later.” Mark commented, “I hope Crockett’s pace means he’s having a great day, and not that he’s caught up in the excitement and going out too fast.” Brad, one of pacers started to get nervous that I might have too much energy when they started running with me. David assured, “He’ll wear himself out long before then. I’m actually planning to get him lost for a while.” Brad replied, “Excellent! That way he’ll be both tired and grumpy when you turn him over to me.” David chimed back in, “I too need him tired so I can keep up with him during my leg. Craig, we’re all depending on you to ‘properly condition’ Sir Smelliness for his later legs with us!” Craig, my first pacer noticed my arrival to Sessions: “Wow. He’s flying. 20 minutes ahead of Schedule. 11:10 in.” Yes, my phone continued to chime as these silly emails arrived, but I kept on running.
After running with Phil for 14 miles, I just couldn’t keep up with him any longer. The heat was slowing me down and Phil was running the downhills faster than me. I stopped for my first bathroom break and watched Phil and a couple other runners disappear. Phil went on to finish in just under 26 hours.
A hot and exposed climb
The heat was becoming bad. I went into defensive survival mode instead of offensive race mode. Many runners started to pass me. I just concentrated on staving of dehydration. I came into Swallow Rocks aid station (mile 34.9) at 7:56. I was now 24 minutes ahead of schedule. David, from his nice cool office reported, “Mr. Crockett is maintaining a good pace. He checked into Swallow Rocks at 12:56 – 24 minutes ahead of his pace goal. He left Swallow Rocks at 1:00, so he had a 4 minute stop – not bad after running for 39 miles and 8 hours.”
Above Big Mountain aid station (center)
But right after that station I took my sweet time walking down the trail, pulling out my phone and calling Craig. I looked forward to having company, but my urgency for speed seemed to be gone. I arrived at Big Mountain (39.4) to loud cheers at 9:09. My pace had slowed and I was now only 11 minutes ahead of schedule.
Big Mountain Aid Station
Craig greeted me and did a fine job in filling my bottles and getting me ready for the road ahead. So far I was eating mostly gels and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We left Big Mountain and it was great to have Craig along.
Me running ahead of Craig after Big Mountain
Climb up Bald Mountain
Despite the heat, we were able to push the pace pretty well and made the climb up to Bald Mountain. We caught up and passed several runners and Craig would point out how we were stretching our lead.
On Alexander Ridge
But once on Alexander Ridge, I ran low on water. This required me to slam on the brakes and slow down some. We rolled into Alexander Aid station (mile 47.4) at 11:16 (4:16 p.m.) 14 minutes ahead of schedule. Craig recalled, “It was slow going as it was really hot and Davy was really starting to feel the heat and hills, but overall we maintained his goal pace. At the Alenxander aid station it was like a morgue. People where were there just looked completely dejected. From there it is a long 2 mile uphill in the dead of heat. That was really slow.”
Looking back at Alexander aid station (taken later in the day)
Yes, I lost my concentration. The runners around me were going the same slow speed. I also didn’t drink much and soon it was too late, I was dehydrated. But I enjoyed the conversation with Craig. My thoughts turned clear back to Big Mountain. I told Craig that I had many friends just arriving there, back 9 miles. I grinned, “Poor Saps!” Craig commented how cool it was to run through the wheat grass. My reply was “Not if you are doing it for miles all day like I have, they cut your legs.”
Nearing the top of the ridge
Once we got to the top of the ridge, we turned up the speed on the downhill. At one point Craig stopped to go back for trash. I grinned and started running at 7:30-mile pace. Craig let out a yell when he noticed what I was trying to do. I laughed, but it didn’t last long. In my dehydrated state, I just didn’t have the energy to drop him.
Resting at Lambs
We came into Lambs (mile 53.1) at 12:55, greeted by David Hansen. By the time I came into Lambs, I was dehydrated and down about 5 pounds. I was now ten minutes behind schedule. I was grumpy and somewhat incoherent, but I did my best to drink and recover.
It was so good to get into the shadow of Lambs Canyon near the cool stream. The heat attack was over. David now was doing pacing duties and he prodded me along up the road and trail to Bear Pass. The climb was tough. I was still dehydrated, but once over the top we flew and passed several runners. Our speed down into Millcreek was super and I worried that David would face plant on the way down. I was very surprised at how quickly the trailhead came. Once there, I noticed that two other guys stopped running and started to walk up the paved Millcreek Canyon road. No way was I going to walk. My uphill muscles felt great. David and I pushed a good fast run up the road. As we were doing so, Brad and Geri Clements drove by and cheered us on. I’m glad we weren’t being slackers at that time and were running fast.
Right before we reached Big Water, darkness arrived in the canyon and we turned on our lights. We arrived at Big Water (mile 61.7) at 15:23 (8:23 p.m.) and I was now ahead of schedule again, by 7 minutes. I also knew I was over an hour faster than my 2006 pace. Yes!
Now running with Brad, I again felt a bonk coming on like I had at this exact point in 2006. Brad also ran with me here three years ago. Terrible memories came back. I did not want to repeat that night of horror. I did my best to eat, drink, and take S-caps. The full bonk never came and we made our way up to Dog Lake without being passed by runners. But I still struggled on the way up to Desolation Lake. Brad did notice how much faster we were going compared to 2006. He later reported to Team Crockett, “Mr. Crockett struggled with stomach problems from Big Water to Desolation Lake. There was some hurling, but no writhing on the ground.” Thanks Brad.
We came into Desolation Lake (mile 66.9) at 17:38 (10:38 p.m.) We had a long stop there while I taped my thighs to solve a chafing problem. Brad needed to do some foot repair so I left without him. He caught up within a mile. Brad later wrote, “At one point Davy decided to listen to music and sing. What was the first song he started singing? In the darkness, and just a couple of minutes after losing his lunch again, he starts singing “…sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy….”
At about mile 68, I finally recovered and was feeling great again for the first time in about 10 hours. I was back in the race! I pushed up the pace and could tell that I was working Brad as he was doing his best to keep up. We started to pick off runner lights one by one as caught up and passed runners who had passed me going up to Desolation Lake.
Brad commented, “I knew his stomach was settling down when he wanted to turn off our lights to sneak up on the guy ahead of us. Well it turned out to be impossible to run without lights at that point. It was very dark (the moon hadn’t risen yet) and we were on a narrow, uneven trail. But we still managed to pass a few even though they would speed up when they saw our lights approaching. One of them seemed indignant about it asking, “Didn’t we pass you several miles back?” We would leave this runner far behind.
When we hit the paved road (about mile 73) that took us to Brighton, we noticed runners down below who kept looking back at us with their headlamps shining, a sure sign of runners worried about being passed. I grinned and told Brad that we were going to turn out our lights. We then ran very hard in the dark toward them. We could see the glow of the center line on the road so never worried about falling off the road. It was great fun to come up on runners unaware that we were coming. We could also look far up the mountain and see many lights on the road near Scotts Peak. I would blink my green light up to them and it was funny to see lots of them blink back. Obviously I was feeling fantastic since I was fooling around. Once at Brighton (mile 75.6), three of my pacers were there to crew me in the parking lot. I was determined to NOT spend any time in the warm Brighton building. They brought up a very tasty cheese burger that I ate while I cleaned my feet. Then I checked in and out of the Brighton checkpoint, only one minute inside. I arrived at Brighton at 1:10 a.m., 25 minutes behind schedule.
Mark took over pacing duties. The climb up to Catherine’s Pass wasn’t anything to write home about. No runners passed me, but my pace was pathetic. By the time I got to Ant Knolls (mile 80.3, 22:09) my energy level was very low and I was pretty incoherent. I sat in a chair for several minutes, trying to recover. I was now 34 minutes behind schedule. At Pole Line pass (mile 83.4, 23:23), after eating two sausages, I started to feel better. I was 32 minutes behind.
The next leg to Rock Spring went very well. Mark writes, “Crockett started off a bit tired and hurting, but seemed to get stronger, run more, and run faster as we went. At one point I said “You must be feeling good,” and he said, “Naw, marginal.” But he was moving along at slightly faster than his goal pace by that point. The two sausages he ate at Pole Line Pass stayed down. He never barfed. We didn’t talk a whole lot, just kept moving along. We started passing quite a few people after Pole Line Pass. Maybe it was the sausages. They really hit the spot. Crockett’s greatest hits included songs by Billy Joel, including the one about the heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack, which seemed appropriate.”
I felt great and could run fast. I was racing again. I noticed that the runners around me were not running the uphills any more, but my legs were ready and willing to run anything. We passed a bunch of runners along this stretch and one guy thanked me for helping him really push the pace. I was enjoying the game of chasing lights ahead. When I would see one, I would kick the speed up a notch. It never failed, once I passed someone, they also kicked the speed up and tried to keep up. We arrived at Rock Spring (mile 87.4) at 24:45 (5:45 a.m.). I had successfully pulled within 20 minutes of my goal pace.
Trail before the “Dive” as seen in daylight. We were still in darkness.
Mile 87-100: I dreaded the next leg to Pot Bottom aka “Torture Chamber”, but it went very well. I really enjoyed it. My spirits were high when I hit the “Dive” before dawn. I had never been at this location in the dark so early, including the years I paced strong runners in 2004 and 2005. Dawn arrived when we reached “The Plunge” and we came into Pot Bottom (mile 93.1) at 7:42 a.m. Wow, at this time in 2006 I was about 16 miles back.
Coming into Pot Bottom
Mark pointed out that my last split time was just as planned in my goal pace. I was now only 17 minutes behind my goal pace to finish in 28:30. We discussed that 28:30 was still possible, but on the climb out of Pot Bottom I lost my motivation. My thoughts started to turn to Bear 100 in only 13 days. I decided to save something in the tank for that race. I told Mark that the goal was now to break 29 hours. I thought I was well ahead of any runners behind me so I started to take it easy. With about four miles to go, Shane Martin flew by me. Wow, he was going very fast! With two miles to go, Eric Johnson passed me and Deanna McLaughlin also caught up. That woke me up. I was being lazy. I hung with Eric for about a mile and Mark struggled to keep up. We flew through the single-track by the golf course. I finally lost sight of Eric, so slowed back down. Once we hit the paved road, I could see that Eric was out of reach but we still ran hard to stay ahead of Deanna.
Me and Mark cross the finish line at the Homestead
I crossed the finish line in 28:33 in 42nd place. Wow, only three minutes off my 28:30. Victory! Only one runner older than me beat me in a very competitive race. 88 runners didn’t finish including many of my buddies. It was my 4th 100 finish of the year and my 26th finish lifetime.