The Wasatch Front 100 is the premier ultramarathon locally. It is in its 31st year and is a labor of love for many of the founders of ultrarunning in Utah. It is thrilling to just watch and observe their dedication and efforts to pull off an amazing event like this. This was my 3rd year running Wasatch 100. I don’t run it every year, some years I have run other races in its place. But it is great to run on the trails with so many local runners and others from out of state who have flown in to experience the majestic Wasatch mountains.
Last year I felt good about my performance, finishing in 28:32. This year I felt that I could improve on that time by at least one hour. But this course is tough, tough, tough. It can chew up and spit you out when you aren’t looking. Any finish is very good, and finishing in less than 30 hours is great.
After the short race briefing at Sugarhouse Park, while waiting for my ride, I enjoyed talking with others and watching the preparation efforts of many volunteers. You could feel the excitement in the air and could hear enthusiastic comments as they made plans to camp out in the mountains waiting to serve all the runners. It really warmed my heart.
My crew chief, David picked me up and we went to spend the night at his uncle Harold’s house in Kaysville. He lives only a few blocks from the start line and is a great host, always very excited to hear about the plans for the next day’s race. I was able to get a little sleep, and arrived at the start line in time to chat and keep warm in a truck with Tom Remkes and Cory Johnson who would be run amazing races.
The weather turned out to be fantastic for running. It would be cool this year and cold at night, but much better than blazing hot afternoon conditions in years past. The start was crowded. I didn’t push myself to the front, but after we got running with our lights bouncing, I made my way forward. I noticed Phil Lowry ahead and approached him, calling out, “Sir, can I pass you sir?” (Using proper military lingo). He was focused and tuned into his music but let me pass. I enjoy the first few rolling miles and made good time, arriving at Fernwood Picnic area in 34 minutes, about as fast as usual.
In about another mile, still dark, I could see Phil catching up. Last year he didn’t catch up until mile 20 and I was able to hide behind a bush and scare him like crazy. This year, he was going out much, much faster and I knew I wouldn’t see him again. So when he caught up, I just turned and let out a roar to get my scare in. He laughed and went on to finish in less than 24 hours. Amazing!
While making the huge long climb up the mountain, again this year, Dave Hunt caught up to me. He had several runners in tow behind him. He remarked to them, “Get ready to sing!” They replied, “what?” He then broke out into the “Davy Crockett” song. I let some of his train pass and then joined in with the Dave Hunt train. I wanted to see how long I could keep up with this train. This year I did even better than last year and kept up well past Chinscraper Summit which I reached at 2:17, a couple minutes faster than last year.
It was much different on the high ridges this year. We were greeted with fog and cold temperatures. During the climb, I had wished that I had been in short sleeves, but on top, I was glad I had long sleeves and wished that I wore gloves. My hands would get very cold and numb.
Snow appeared on the single track portions of the trail. For some reason I was rather timid on the downhills. A pattern started that would last all race. I would fall behind on the downhills and pass people on the uphills. That was odd and totally backwards from the usual pattern.
On the fast downhill toward the Francis Peak Aid station, my bad knee started to act up. I had no choice but to back off the pace and be careful. Several runners passed me. I arrived at Francis Peak (mile 17.7) at 4:01, on schedule and the same pace as last year. My aid station stop was very fast. I was determined to keep them fast. All day I would catch up to or pass many runners in the aid stations.
The next section to Bountiful B is a real challenge. Some sections are more like a bushwhack and are difficult to run fast. No one passed me on this section but I still was just too timid. I reached Bountiful B (mile 24) at 5:28, ten minutes slower than last year. I recognized that I needed to speed things up and felt confident that I would. By the time I reached Swallow Rocks (mile 34.9) I was back in the game, just one minute slower than last year at 7:57.
The huge difference this year was the cool temperatures. In past years for the next 20 miles I suffered somewhat because of the heat. Not so this year, so I pushed it up a notch. I enjoyed chasing after runners and keeping ahead of packs chasing me on the ridge tops. My uphill strength really surprised me. I watched other runners walking uphills that I could continue a strong run on.
Running down into Big Mountain aid station (mile 39.4) is always a hoot. They really let out the cheers as they see you coming. I was running alone, so all the cheers were for me. I let out loud “whoops” as I was coming down so they could hear me and I arrived with a smile on my face. I was feeling great. I arrived at 8:42 (1:52 p.m.). I was 3 minutes ahead of my schedule and 17 minutes ahead of last year. I was very pleased. Most runners spend way too much time here as they are greeted by their crew. I didn’t waste any time and was out of there in only three minutes, feeling good about passing several runners still in chairs. I was running in about 39th place at the time.
The long next section to Alexander Spring his usually hot and hard, but this year I really enjoyed it. I was all alone but eventually saw a couple runners on my tail as I was climbing Baldy. A runner in red would be chasing me for the next ten miles. I reached Alexander Spring (mile 47.4) at 10:53, a couple minutes ahead of schedule and 23 minutes ahead of last year. After another quick stop I raced on up the grassy slopes that follow a pipeline. I tried hard to keep a strong uphill run going. It worked well, but my downhill pace on the other side was lacking and the runner and red joined me in arriving at Lambs Canyon (mile 53.1) together. Leland Barker and Roch Horton were sitting there and cheered my arrival. I came in at 12:15 (5:15 p.m.), 40 minutes ahead of last year! I was concerned that I was ahead of schedule and would miss my crew chief, David. But he arrived just in time and helped me get out of there.
Next up was a pavement climb up Lambs, and I was determined to run most of it. It worked out well and I caught a runner ahead of me. I heard a shout behind me, looked back, but my poor eye sight couldn’t tell who it was. (It turned out to be Cory Johnson and his pacer Leland Barker). I just ignored them and pushed ahead up the tough climb up to Bear Pass. Each year I usually can push this hard and again this year it went well, but I just could not shake those two guys behind me. Who were they? They were just a couple switch-backs below. The run down into Millcreek Canyon is fun, but a nagging blister started slow me down some more on the downhills. It wasn’t bad enough to stop for, so I just ignored it. As I reached the pavement, I heard the familiar voice of Cory Johnson. I had great fun running with Cory and Leland up the Millcreek Road. We were able to chase and catch a couple more runners. Cory and I both remarked that this was the first time we had reached Big Water before dark. We were in high spirits. I arrived there (mile 61.7) at 14:47 (7:47 p.m.) eight minutes ahead of my schedule. David was there all ready for me. He had a burger for me the chow down and I put on a jacket, gloves, and ski hat. It was already getting very cold.
Soon I was away and very worried about the next section. For some reason, I usually bonk bad during this section and lose a ton of energy. At first, things went well and I enjoyed running up the forest trail, but then again, I could feel the bonky feeling coming. I tried eating and drinking more, but it couldn’t be avoided. About a mile before Dog Lake, my stomach was in full rebellion and wouldn’t let me push the pace hard. Several runners passed me and asked if I was doing OK. It was nice to arrive at Dog Lake soon after sunset, I knew my pace was still good, but the climb up to Desolation Lake was tough again this year. At one point I had to stop and sit on the trail for a few minutes, watching about four runners catch up and pass me. After that rest, I was able to keep up, but still not run very fast. I arrived at Desolation Lake (mile 66.9) at 16:43. I didn’t realize that I was 12 minutes ahead of schedule and nearly an hour ahead of last year. That would have perked me up. My stop at Desolation was rather long. I rotated my body in front of a huge bon fire to bring life back into it. By the time I left, I did feel a bit better.
The run along the high ridges to Scotts Peak was rough. The cold got to me. I was still in shorts and that was a mistake. I could feel energy being lost. I did my best to at least maintain pace with others, but I was passed by about five runners or so. I reached Scotts (mile 70.8) at 18:08, still ahead of schedule at almost an hour ahead of last year. There were several very cold runners there.
As I pushed on ahead, new life arrived on the downhill into Brighton. I was able to blast by several runners who kindly gave me words of praise for my renewed pace. Once I hit the downhill pavement, I turned off my light and ran by the stars. That gave my eyes a rest and also is great fun to sneak up on the runners ahead. As I made the turn to Brighton, I saw someone on the road heading toward me. I turned on my light in case it might be David. It turned out to be buddy, Craig Lloyd. It was fun to see him and he ran (walked) with me the rest of the way to Brighton where I was greeted by David.
My stay at Brighton was way too long, over a half hour due to a bathroom break and a change into warmer clothes. I left with a full belly and kind cheers from good friends at the lodge. I set my sights on the long climb up to Point Supreme. I started slowly but got stronger as I went. Once up to the higher lakes, I was able to put it into gear and pull much further ahead of the runners behind me. We came upon one runner with a pacer who was puking his guts out. Poor guy, not much can be done to help.
The rugged run down to Ant Knolls was timid and too slow. I just couldn’t figure out why I feared pushing the downhills. Perhaps I have just had too many face plants recently. (It probably also didn’t help to have Dave Hunt show me his broken arm X-rays at the pre-race meeting). I reached Ant Knolls (mile 80.3) at 21:26 (2:26 a.m.), now six minutes behind schedule, but still 43 minutes ahead of last year. My stop was very fast because the runner behind me caught up. He would be on my tail for the remaining 20 miles.
The crazy steep climb next up, slams you, but I got it over pretty fast. It seemed like Pole Line Pass would never come. I arrived there at 22:38. I was pleased that they had breakfast ready there. The last aid station, Ant Knolls had told me that I was running too fast for breakfast, that I would have to slow down. At Pole Line Pass, I chowed down on a bunch of bacon and warmed myself by the fire for a few minutes.
My race fell apart on the next section to Rock Spring. The hills seemed to never end. It took me 20 minutes longer than scheduled. I even had to lie down next to the trail to rest my eyes and bring my heart rate down. More runners passed me. I knew I let my goal slip away. I reached Rock Spring (mile 87.4) at 24:18, 27 minutes ahead of last year.
Last year, I enjoyed the next grueling section. This year I despised it. The trail is steep, rough, with never-ending rolling hills. The dark makes it even tougher. I started to get hot on the ridges but just a few minutes later, down in a valley, I would feel bitter cold. It was a wild night!
My motivation for a fast finish was lost. I was just happy to plod along and get the job done. When dawn arrived right before I reached Pot Bottom, I was further on the course than ever. That was a small victory. As I limped into Pot Bottom (mile 93.1) at 26:31, I was greeted by Dennis Ahern. He said I looked thrashed. I was. He did the right thing, offered some help, but just let me alone and rest for a few minutes. He said I sat there with my eyes closed and my mouth hanging open. The aid station guys said it was 24 degrees there. I drank some Coke, but it was slushy. It was just too cold there, so I didn’t stay long.
OK, the home stretch was ahead. I had run much of this section four times before, so I knew it wasn’t that bad. I was thrilled to reach the top of the last huge climb. It was mostly downhill to the finish. With about three miles to go, I checked my watch and realized that if I stopped being such a slacker, I could beat my course PR time of last year and salvage a small victory. So, I quit feeling sorry of myself, looked around for someone to give me a kick in the pants, but couldn’t find anyone, and started running fast again. It was now a race again. I couldn’t remember my finish time for last year, but knew if I beat 28:30, I would do it. I set checkpoints. I needed to reach the single-track above the golf course by 28:00 and at the latest reach the pavement by 28:20. My legs started to move fast again. The morning sun finally shined on me in places to warm me up.
I reached the pavement at 28:20. I only had ten minutes to go! As I passed a runner ahead, I actually apologized, explaining that I was trying to beat my PR. I flew down the road going at least at an 8-minute mile pace. That stretch was done in no time. I turned the corner onto the Homestead grass and heard cheers calling out my name as I continued to run at a stupid fast pace to the finish. I did it! 28:28:47. A Wasatch 100 PR by five minutes. I felt pretty well at the finish. My body asking, “Is it over?” Yes, it was over and time to rest.
I have mixed feelings about my race. When I look at the results, I see people I ran with at mile 60 who finished two hours ahead of me. I wish I could have solved my issues and pushed harder. But still, I beat a very good time from last year, finished in 48th place out of 244 starters. Not bad for an old man. After a nice long rest at my Dad’s home, I returned in time to watch the last finishers cross the line. That is the most inspiring moment of the race. Thanks to all, my crew, friends and family who helped make the 2010 Wasatch 100 a very remarkable event. I appreciate all the help and kind words.
This was my 34th career 100-mile finish. In 2006, when I first finished Wasatch, it was my 6th 100-mile finish. I vowed at the finish line that I would never run it again. Irv and others just laughed at me. They knew the truth. Wasatch blood is in my veins.