Skip to main content

Wasatch 100: the pace-race report (what really happened)

Disclaimer: this is all true. for REALz. I think...

My general thoughts/goals on pacing:
"tell me what you thought about when you were gone and so alone,
the worst is over, you can have the best of me"
 -The Starting Line, Best of Me

The moment my buddy Jim got into Wasatch 100 I get the email "I want to claim you as a pacer." Since it was about 9 months in advance, I felt a bit flattered.

Closer to race day (read: 2 weeks out) I got the chance to tack on a second pacing job with my tall buddy Craig. "I usually bonk there, it won't be pretty," he told me.
"Nothing I haven't seen before!" I laughed.
pacing Craig in a bad spot
earlier this year

I am a wee bit of a pacing junkie. As much as I don't love racing I do love races. I love the excitement, the energy, the camaraderie. I love helping my friends. I've also got some stuff coming up and unfortunately it's time to start logging the big miles.

So, I get to Little Hell Dell to get the parking pass to meet my first pacer. Except, the pass volunteers are going on some sort of power-strike. At this point in the race the "live" updates were updating predictably about 40min late. A runner who was hauling and on it could run from the aid station before to where we needed to be in 40min. It was a 15 min drive to the parking spots. Oh, and you couldn't get a pass until it showed that your runner had left the aid station before. Do the math.... X+Y=You miss your runner.

Like any good pacer I threw I hissy fit. "Give me my pass!" I boomed thunderously. (Ok, I squeaked it in my high pitched 12 year old voice, but you get the picture). Amy (aka the trail angel) told me to just leave, she barely made it by 30sec the year prior after a failed attempt to get her pass. "Give her the pass!" said the other volunteers. But NO, Mr. Pass Man said NO, my runner didn't check in yet. I was about ready to unveil the wrath when someone handed it over. Phew. Since I was getting a ride over I didn't want my ride to get in trouble for not having a parking pass!

So I'm hanging out waiting... and in rolls Matt Van Horn. I filled his bottles and offered him some food but he had his own fuel and his crew showed up, and I knew at this point I'd just be in the way. He looked tired but good, and it was nice to see a friendly face. Other notable celebrity sightings include a radiating Erik Storheim who blew through with Jared Campbell on his tail, Sarah Evans rocking it (racing only her watch, since no one else was within what seemed like hours), and masses of other people.

I missed lunch to hurry up there, so I went to sneak some sandwiches while I waited. Carrie was there with her broken foot. She was supposed to be racing today. She told me she was bitter so to get over it she came up to volunteer. Seriously, how amazing is that... her pity party became a volunteer opportunity. She's great.

In the nick of time I'm handed a GoPro on a monopod and told to film Craig. Reluctantly I accept, only because I see the value in a heavy object mounted to a heavy pole. If my runner gets out of line, I've now got a weapon to beat him with. The footage of a GoPro smacking a tired ultrarunner should be valuable, right?

So in rolls Craig and he puts his head on the table but refuses to sit. We get him stocked with lots of ice, and get rolling out.

He should have sat down like I told him to. He should have done this like I told him to:

But why would he listen to me? I'm just the "tiny devil" and had yet to develop I legitimate pacing strategy for him (other than said camera-beating-stick).

So off we go! He seems chatty but hot and tired.

Then not so chatty.

Then slurred speech, dizziness, and him mumbling about passing out.

Then we run out of water. I let him have "some" of mine, to which he downs my very last bit of water (he claims I only had a sip left. Right.) "Oops" he says. Yeah, whatever. Better him than me, I was thirsty but ok. He was amid severe dehydration and I legitimately worried.

So the slurred speech and slow moving is all fun and games til the water is gone a couple miles from the aid station, and your runner (who can't seem to stay on the trail and is falling all over the place) says it's because he can't see. Oh, and we're going a 40min/mile pace walking downhill.

"Leave me here," Craig says. "You can go get water and wait at the aid station."
Pretty sure if you look up DEHYDRATION in the Boy Scouts First Aid Booklet, it says: Don't leave your dehydrated person on an exposed sunny ridge to bake in the sun alone.

So I stuck with him, telling him a couple weird jokes that I don't think he got, trying to help him just know it would be ok. Craig just wanted to shout"NO" at me before I could get any words out. My jokes aren't that bad, really...  OK, maybe they are. A sitting break was necessary a third mile from the aid station. But I guess sitting is better than blacking out, which at the point was very likely for him.

I get him in a chair (finally!) at the aid station and ask about how long we're going to be there. With eyes half closed and rolling around so I only see the whites he mumbles, "Wehrrr not leavfing til I fleelll better!"


Bottle after bottle of ice water, iced coke, and snacks. I laced some popsicles with magic voodoo drugs, he really seemed to like those, so he had 17. Maybe it was 27. Every time I'd act as pacer-slave and go get more I'd get a look from the aid station volunteer- she had a limited supply and was already not offering them to the other runners. But my runner was a popsicle-whore, so what's a good pacer to do?

Others at the aid station begged for IVs so they could be disqualified, peed blood, and otherwise moaned and complained. Poop frequency is a pretty hot topic at aid stations. Did I mention ultrarunning is fun?

bad runner!

Craig became his usual cheerful self telling jokes, posing for pictures, and goofing off, so we headed out. I insisted we spend the next hour discussing my truly positive qualities as a pacer. Ha. I knew Craig was better because he insisted on mimicking my fresh legs and jumping over everything I challenged him to do. Maybe I shouldn't do that...

Lah-de-dah we had fun chatting, eating, and enjoying life all the way over to Lambs. I was so proud of myself for having a runner who talked AND ran. I've never gotten to run with Craig while he was actually happy at a race, what fun this was!

still beautiful after 100 miles!
Once we got to Lambs cameras were all over Craig and I was stuffing my face with pierogies, I saw Andrea Stevens literally SKIP and GIGGLE past the aid station. For reals. That chick is tough stuff! She ended up flouting her beautiful fairy dust and kickin' booty to take a clean 2nd at Wasatch.

Matt was going to be pacing Craig from there, but I followed along, I needed to get to Millcreek canyon to get back to my car.

In Millcreek I come across Amy the trail angel again, she was handing out ice waiting to pick up a dropped pacer. She's a doll. She sat me down for some solid conversation and even fed me some peanut-butter-chocolate-covered-pretzels. Amazing. I saw her melt the hearts of every runner that came by with her attention and smiles.

I decided to hitch-hike down the canyon (oops, did I spend 45min eating and chatting?) I was offered a ride halfway down by a strange man, which I didn't want to take, but ended up accepting a ride in the truck bed. I felt safe knowing I could jump out the back if he didn't stop where he was supposed to. After my ride was over I finished the run over to my car, a little tired. 23ish miles, mostly in the heat of the day, sunburnt and exhausted and hungry. So I did what any logical girl would do: I begged my husband to buy me a pizza. He told me to eat the whole thing. I reluctantly shared with my children and pounded it. Yum.

Jim and Jacob on a fun run earlier this year
When my alarm went off at 2am I was confused. It said "Run!" I wasn't running today, silly alarm. I went back to sleep. Then I got a text message. Jacob and Cheryl were discussing when we needed to be up there for Jim. Oh, yeah, I was running! After they (Jacob) changed his mind 50,000 times rudely interrupting what could have been 10 more mins of sleep, I was picked up 10 minutes later.
Jacon's like "leave at 3"
"leave at 3:30, he's whining"
"leave now, it's all downhill"
"I think we'll be late, leave later"
LOL! Poor Jacob was trying to pace, text, and stay awake in the middle of the night.

Cheryl just decided to come pick me up then, so we'd have time to set up and be ready.

I stopped by Maverick to get Jim one of their cinnamon rolls he likes but they didn't have any. There went my secret bribe for later...

Jacob was texting more than running once we got to Brighton, which made it hard for me to eat and shoot the breeze with Scott's pacer Rob. Jacob was convinced Jim would drop at Brighton.

why Jim was reluctant to leave Brighton
Jim looks at me when he got into Brighton, teared up and hid his head in his shirt for a while. Silly man. I didn't even say a word to him while everyone tended to him, and he ended up dragging me out of Brighton (I was worried about a very sickly Scott who had just come in). Apparently Jim didn't want to disappoint me, and I didn't have to say or do anything to get him to leave other than just show up. Easy peasy.

But before I left... a note on my dear friend Scott. He was staring off into space looking like (and puking like) a drunken sailor. He looked kind of like this:

Somehow (after doing that for 3 hours) he decided to leave the aid station and PR'd the last 25 miles by 3 hours. Say whaaa..? Not only did he have a super come back, he crossed the finish line looking fresh and like a stud:
and that guy in the corner on the right? That's Josh. He left Brighton with his Dad pacing him, what an awesome memory to share! He too wanted to drop with severe ITB issues, but somehow trucked out a solid finish. He's also the nicest person in the world and it made my day to visit with him at Brighton. (I literally sprinted in from the car when I saw online he might still be at Brighton).

Anywho, back to Jim. He took a weird cocktail of asthma meds and couldn't get his heart rate down, and the blisters on the pads of his feet were bigger than the pads of his feet.... so I switched pacing strategies. No pushing food and salt (he's pretty good at self-regulating) no pushing pace. Just keep him happy and let him do his thing.

I used vile orange essential oil on him a few times (under nose to inhale and on wrists). He swore it did nothing but was happy as a lark after I put it on and seemed to move better.... so I kept putting it on! It has magic powers, really.

look at how happy he is! you'd never know about his feet...
The pretty pink clouds also helped. Really. Like THE WORST RUN EVER could be happening- barfing, snow up to your belly button, hands are frozen, little blonde people are throwing hissy fits... and Jim will be like, "look at those perdy pink clouds. Doesn't this make it all worth it?" I hate it because he's usually right. When we both saw the view above with the storm clouds and sunrise on sunset pass... it was rather breath-taking. I was so glad to be where we were right then. What a perfect moment.

looking awesome.
For all his complaining (there really was hardly any) I don't think I've ever seen Jim smile so much on a long run. Maybe it was me battling off the motorcycles with my death sticks (trekking poles). Maybe it was all the candy we ate, the loud music we played, or the dumb stories we told. Who knows? As the finish line got closer he started going faster. Jim doesn't stop at aid stations, so I was left to fill bottles, fill my pack, carry pack/bottles/trekking poles/music(phone)/whatever I'm trying to eat while sprinting to catch up and pass his bottles off. Yeah, I looked pretty awesome.
I ate lots of chocolate (ok, that's all I ate.... weird, I don't usually like chocolate on a run but that's all I could eat while pacing). But I was moaning and groaning about wanting Einstein's bagels. So, remember how Wasatch has THE BEST aid stations on the face of Utah? I swear they're catered by little woodland faeries who shop at Costco. Anyways, At Pot Bottom.... EINTSTEIN'S! I was so happy I took a picture and felt like it should go up on intstagram or something.
While I promised Jim I wouldn't hit him with the death sticks trekking poles more than 5 times, I never even hit him once. New record!

what 100 looks like
Bringing Jim in was exciting, confusing, and tiring. turns out (as usual) that when I think I'm invincible I'm not. Running back to back marathons (with half a pizza and 2 hours of sleep in between) is actually really hard.... especially on that unrelentless course! Way to go all those who stuck it out and finished!
refuse 2 quit crew happy at the finish after slaying demons

As for what I learned this year at Wasatch 100 :

It doesn't matter why someone breaks down, or at what point the harsh brutalities of life and suffering gather against them and it becomes too much to bear. It only matters that they realize they're not alone to be buried underneath it, and move forward to face it.


Popular posts from this blog

a new year; a wasatch akitu

“Think now history has many cunning passages, contrived corridors, and issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, guides us by vanities. …The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.”
another new year startled us today. somewhere between the late night meandering into a warm bed, after the clock already struck a replayed chime marking the change of calendar (for, we can DVR the change of year and play it in every time zone,) and after the morning coffee, sunrise, prayers, or routines—the time has changed, and so have we.
the Wasatch is a flurry, the new recreational pursuits settling into it as the heavy snow settles onto it. it has been a dense year of both snow and increased use of the snow.
although this mountain range sits above a major metropolitan area, it retains pockets of wild refuge still hidden from its’ own mountain refugees. these pockets of frozen time are still filled with change. no man steps into the same Wasatch twice, for it is not the same Wasatch, nor is it the…

that WEIGHTY issue

It's been said to us climbers that what we do is dangerous, and irresponsible. How could we risk our lives like this? And distance trail running, if it compromises our health why do it? How dare we take that time away from our families? And yet, to even make mention about a different lifestyle, one of weight, obesity, and all of the very dangerous and risky components it involves is socially disgraceful, insensitive, and cruel. I bring this up only to show how much weight, in general, is not "ok" to talk about. It's a sensitive subject, even, no, especially, for those of us already at a healthy weight who use our bodies to their fullest daily...

Now, this blog is about running, ain't it? Yep. So while there's a lot of "weight" we could cover in this "weighty" area, we'll just go over one. Running.
Running and weight are intertwined. I'd like to say that this post is primarily for the ladies, because we typically store more weight t…

standhope 60k

it seems like the last few years I've aged, and I've grown. I lost my identity as a runner. if I didn't run frequently, if I wasn't in the mountains, if I wasn't pushing my own limits, what was I? 
I'd retained the identity as a mother, daughter, sibling, friend, student of literature and wilderness. this was a shift - less time, less comments, less messages with the running community that I didn't know well, a deepening of friendships and relationships with those closest to me.
it felt odd, going into standhope. I didn't have goals, I wasn't sure where I was at with running, I wasn't in shape for racing. I had this idealism, that if I raced hard, I could inspire others, not to run, but to pursue life with passion. but, what about when I can't race hard? when life is racing too hard for me to train?
earlier this year my Dad was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma. visits to the hunstman increased, my mileage decreased. when looking at anoth…