Wasatch 100 recap

You must know by now that I completed this hard and unforgiving race. Before the race started I was baffled about the challenging course, knowing there was no qualifier to enter and why someone would choose this course as their first 100 miler. I met quite a few of those people out there.

The week leading up to the race I found myself scrambling for pacers. I had one nailed down, but I knew I could have at least 2 more and I knew by looking at the course I would need them. I posted on social media, my pacer posted also. A couple leads came in, but timing didn’t work out. Finally, I got one and made plans to meet ahead of time to go over my expectations and what I would need from her.

I went into the Wasatch 100 confident. I felt recovered from Vermont, about 7 weeks prior. We flew to Utah within the 48 hour altitude window, and I got to sleep in a real bed. Wednesday night upon arriving in Salt Lake, we met up with Valorie my pacer for the last 33ish miles. She came recommended by a friend of a friend, and boy was I glad. She has volunteered and paced this course before so having her in my arsenal was awesome. Roger and her made plans for him to pick her up, I tried not to listen because my job was to run.

We then drive to Park City to stay with my dear friend Liz and her family. How crazy that less than a year ago, I hadn’t even met her yet. Thank you Kara Goucher Podium Retreat for creating some pretty great friendships! She grocery shopped for us, fed us, and we even got our dog fix! Leaving Roubaix at home was hard. He is my race companion, but the strict rule and a $1,100 ticket for having a dog on course was enough of a deterrent to leave him home. The two labs at the house made it more bearable!

Thursday morning I met with my other pacer who also thank you to the power of social media, I found. Her Instagram account is pretty famous, and she is just as great in person. She was planned to pace me from Lambs Canyon to Brighton where I would then meet Valorie. Locked, loaded and plans made for the meet up with Roger. We go back to the house and pack my drop bags. There are 8 drop bag locations, and only 3 areas where my crew(Roger) could reach me. Needless to say I would be relying on the drop bags heavily. Talked to my coach and took a hard hour and a half nap before we needed to leave for the meeting. The race meeting was at 4pm, and lasted about 9 minutes. Dry, Hot, and Smoky was what stuck with me the most. What a great race day description. We met up with the only other person from WI racing, Guy. Wished each other good luck and hope to see each other at the finish.

Liz was amazing and made salmon and homemade sweet potato fries for dinner, then I went off to bed about 7:30pm. We had a 2:15am wake up call for a 5am start. I slept hard for about 2 hours, and was in and out for the rest of the night. I am usually a hard sleeper, but I think I was afraid to miss the alarm. Breakfast consisted of 8 pieces of bacon and a yogurt for the road that I would eat right before the start.

a little yogurt 15 minutes before the start

I slept the 45 minute drive to the start, bathroomed once, and ate my yogurt. It was go time. I had been afraid of this course since Vermont. I knew that within the first 5 miles that we would be climbing for 4.5 miles with 4,300ft of elevation. Remember I live in Wisconsin, I don’t see that kind of climbing, ever.

 

The word go, and I am in the middle of the pack, knowing that this upcoming climb would be slow going for me and with the race being almost entirely single track, I didn’t want to hold anyone up. Roger was there, telling me that I could do it and got the start on video. I don’t remember a ton about the course in that first section. I was about 65 degrees at the start, there were a few creek crossings, some nice cold air pockets. Then we started climbing, I was pushing it. I felt anaerobic, I was dizzy. I found myself moving off the trail to let people pass and then hurl in the bushes. I did this way too many times to count.

ready to go

I could tell from the get-go that I had no legs. That was the biggest blow, I knew i was strong climber, where are my legs!?!? I have never thrown up in race like this. It wasn’t my stomach, it was my head. I think it was the altitude, because I could still eat, and i was trying hard to get calories because I knew it would only get worse if I couldn’t fuel. I could climb for about 10-15ft before I was out of breath and needing to stop.

It was 12 miles to the first aid, which was only a water stop. I was questioning everything. It was 4 more miles to the next real aid station: Bountiful B. I knew I was behind schedule. I sat, ate multiple Otter pops(this was my aha moment of otter pops). I have heard many stories about them, not knowing what they were. They are freezies folks! Here in the Midwest they are called freeze pops. i had at least 2, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes. I was there for 15 minutes wanting to quit. I decided I would get to Roger.

After a pee break in the woods I started chatting with another runner, who just so happened to be named Guy(a different one). He was a race vet, doing this for his 9th finish. This is a runner I needed to stick with, I was whining about how I wanted to quit, i wanted to drop. He told me he wasn’t going to let me, lets just get to the aid station. When we got there, I called Roger. I explained that I fell hard, I was throwing up, and defeated. He was happy to hear from me as i was over hour and a half behind my 28 hour goal. Just get to Big Mountain he said. It will be better when I can see you and help you. He assured me that i didn’t want to quit.

Guy and I left together, with him knowing the course, he gave me play by play of each section between aid. He would stop and point into the horizon and say “see that little line on that ridge, that’s where we are going.” Oddly enough, breaking it up into sections like that helped. We climbed the inclines at a Steady Eddy pace, we ran the flats and downhills. We talked about our kids, our jobs, our lives. I cried. i explained how frustrated i was with myself, that I was letting my mind get to me. I pride myself in being strong and today i was not. He was my trail angel. I know I never would have made it without him. He stated again, he wouldn’t let me quit and lets just get to the next aid station.

Swallow Rocks was next, I don’t really remember it. I do remember that when we would traverse the ridgelines the wind was glorious. It was hot and no clouds. I was constantly spitting water on my arms and onto my neck buff. The cold air mixed with the wind cooled me off tremendously. I didn’t want an actual ice bandanna, I learned my lesson from Vermont. The ice melts and then you chafe. The wind blew most of the smoke away, but it was still very dry and very dusty.

The notorious “moondust” tan and of course ramen

The Big Mt. aid station was about 32 miles in and the first spot you could have a pacer. I wasn’t getting one until Lambs at 45ish miles. I asked Guy if I could leach on his pacer with him. i got there at about 3:20pm, according to my targeted pace I should have been there by 1pm. It had been over 10 hours since the start. I knew i was behind on calories. i downed about 3 applesauces, one ice cream sandwich, countless amounts of watermelon and cantaloupe, ramen, and gingersnaps. Roger changed my socks and shoes, lubed my feet with Brave Soldier and baby powder. He told me this next section to Lambs was flatter and that I should change into my race flats. He told me Tara was on her way. She was coming there, and not waiting until Lambs. I left with Guy and his pacer, not knowing how far we would go until Tara caught us. 2 miles, that was it.

I said goodbye to Guy an told him I’d see him at the finish. I still didn’t believe it though. We were off, she pushed me. They were right that this section was flatter and faster. We passed people, never got passed. I think there was some laughing and few smiles. The things you talk about while trying to occupy your mind from the pain and hurt. Tara is from the area and people would recognize her or vice versa, that was fun to see. Alexander Ridge aid was a bit of a blur, except I think that is one where they were all wearing tutus?  A few times out of nowhere,”I’ve got gas in the tank and money in the bank” would be shouted with arms up by Tara. My response was something like, I am glad you do!

We arrive at Lambs, clearly behind schedule. i knew I wasn’t going to make that time up. so to finish was the goal, well still not even at that point. I was convinced I would drop at Brighton. I met the aid station fairy, who was a friend of Taras and volunteered with Valorie. Missy, my sweet Missy. She fed me she made me laugh, she told me a lovely story about a trip to Wisconsin she made as a child that involved a Lincoln town car with air conditioning and orange crush. She was a breath of fresh air. Roger changed my shoes again, back to the altras. I ate more ramen. Then we took on the 2 mile climb on the road. I slowed here, once we got onto the single track trail up, I seemed to hit every rock with my sore foot.

Upper Big Water, I grabbed a jacket. It was cold there, you are in a bowl of cold air. But, don’t fear there is an awesome steep climb right out of there that will warm you up. i remember telling someone as i was sitting down that I was planning to drop at Brighton, Tara heard this. Nope. They say just wait til it gets light again. Don’t make rash decisions in the dark. I know.

The only thing I remember about Desolation Lake was the moose. We were maybe a mile from the aid when Tara stops in her tracks and points out a huge moose. It sees us and starts walking towards us. We hide in the trees and stop the people behind us. We form a conga line and ran past quick. Not today moose, not today.

The next aid I remember is Scotts peak. This is the last aid before Brighton. It was a steep climb up to 9882 ft. I was so windy and cold up there. They had lights and were cheery. They had peaches and fig newtons! We knew it was all downhill to Brighton. We made an insta story, we laughed at how we kept trying too cover our lights to be seen in the video, but then couldn’t see while running. We get to the road almost to the lodge and i hear some rustling in the grass next to us, sure as shit there is another Moose, bigger than the last, just chomping away.

We get into Brighton, where you go inside the lodge. Roger is ready. Valorie is ready. I’m not ready. I know there is the last big climb almost immediately out of there. I was so done climbing. I sit, take my pack off, and to my left my aid station angel appears with an egg and cheese sandwich. What? Where did you come from? I ate it of course, sans bread. I had multiple hash browns, applesauce, ramen. Coffee with creamer or milk. I don’t really know. Roger again with the socks. Oddly enough I was in and out in under 20 minutes. At 3:24am we left with about 30 miles to go.

Coming out of Brighton, I had to tell Valorie that the uphills were slow, like really slow for me. It was like climbing out of a boulder field! You were climbing using your hands over big rocks. I started to feel weird. I told her that I was having a hard time focusing. I have seen this in other runners, I have not however experienced this before. i was sleep running. It’s a thing. I would got a few paces and not know how I got there. It was very stressful because it was very rocky and if you fell, you’d be done. At the top of this climb was also the highest point on the course at about 10,500 ft. Maybe that had something to do with it, because by the time we got to Pole line I was feeling better. 

Pole line I had a blister forming on my big right toe, so they lanced it. I drank coffee, took a bunch of cheese quesadillas to go. Valorie took off her cold weather gear and left it in my drop bag. It was starting to get light. The guy who lanced my blister told us it was 10 miles to the next bigger aid station. We thought that was Stanton, where the next drop bags were. First it was a climb then traverse to a water stop in 5 miles. We left at about 6:45am. This section was very sandy and we had to stop a few times to empty our shoes of tiny rocks. i remember repeating in my mind that we were just past the 75 mile mark, that i couldn’t quit now. By the time we got to the drop bags it would be 85 and the last 15 miles were all downhill.

The water stop was strange. I had a powdered tomato soup and some cheese quesadillas. We met a man who had been sitting there since 2 am, it was now 8am. He was going to drop. They said when he came in, he was top 15. Valorie needed a bathroom, in the mountains, you get a toilet seat on a bucket. Somewhere around here we got to see the sun rise and hit the top of the mountains. I got to glimpse Timp, the highest point in Utah. It was beautiful. It made this suffering worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We knew it was little over 6 miles to the next aid station. We ran into a woman that Valorie recognized. She was in rough shape, throwing up and VERY swollen. She hadn’t taken any salt the whole race, i offered her mine and some Stinger waffles, and applesauce. I knew i had more food in my bag at the next aid.

After passing them and dealing with what seemed like a forever section, I was breaking. My feet were hurting so bad. The issue that has plagued me in every 100, “tender foot,” was back. With all the super steep, rocky downhill I was putting extra pressure to brake on my heels. I thought by changing shoes to Altra with more padding, I could eliminate the issue. I was so wrong. I was getting desperate, I even voiced it out loud to Valorie and started to choke some tears down. i was losing the glimmer of hope that I had just seemed to gain. Then, I see it. The tents of the aid station. I start letting the tears of relief appear. We get in and Valorie tells me that this isn’t the drop bag station. My hope of changing socks and getting some respite for my feet was gone. I lose it, straight bawling now. I also have more blisters on my right heel, which a very nice man lances while I chase Advil with chocolate milk.

Another aid station man, asks if I want to know what is coming. Yes, just tell me. It’s a straight uphill climb for 2 miles then a nice downhill into Stanton. I start crying harder at the thought of climbing again. 15 miles to go. We took off my socks and Valorie rubbed my dirty feet, I got sunscreen sprayed all over, and tiger balm rubbed on my calves. Pot Hollow was kind, but ruthless. They took care of you but told you to suck it up and get going. Less than 5 miles to Stanton.

For a drop bag station, Stanton seemed small. I told Valorie that we should get in and out. To my dismay, I had stupid wool, colder weather socks in my fucking bag. So once again, no socks. I took them off, Valorie rubbed them again. I grabbed food and changed my shirt. We got word that Roger would be at the 91 mile mark waiting for us. Valorie and Tara talked about dropping any unnecessary weight with Roger there. jacket, light, etc. I was out of salt. My hands were so swollen. It was downhill and I couldn’t run. My body was good other than the bottoms of my feet. 8 miles.

Climb the wall, descend into a gully of steep sections filled with sand and rocks. Coming into Decker Aid(the last), Guy appears. Surprised, but happy to see i was still in it, he passes us. We spend 1 minute here. For the next few miles we are maneuvering around cow pies while descending on a trail that didn’t seem to exist. We almost had to bushwhack the trees. But they were beautiful, a shade of red that didn’t seem real.

The last 4 miles seemed to take forever, mostly because I couldn’t run, I tried. I was altering my gait so much that I knew that if I continued, I would cause some serious damage. We walked, watching people pass us and time click by. When you come out of the trail and onto the road you take a left onto a County HWY. You can hear the finish, you can see the finish. We are still walking. A guy comes up behind us. It’s the guy from the water stop who was going to DNF, they convinced him not to. We round the last corner and I run the last 10-15ft, visibly in pain. I did it. Fuck 33:51:41. 5 hours after I wanted to finish.

I can’t believe it. I have never wanted to quit a race. I have never doubted my ability to that extent. I knew though that if I quit because it was hard, I would never forgive myself. The weight of a DNF, lasts forever. I enter these races to find my breaking point, digging for the thing that will cut me down. Wasatch, you came close. I kept saying toward the end that i needed to finish it so I never had to come back. Now I don’t HAVE to, but do I WANT to?

Special thanks to Roger my rock. His crewing skills got complimented many times throughout this race. Not many people show up to a race across the country with a 1 man crew who can run circles around a group. He listened when I wanted to quit, he fed me salt and ramen when I didn’t want it. He hugged me and believed in me. I take this all for granted in the moment and complain a little about the videos and picture taking. But, I sure am glad he doesn’t listen to me, because those are priceless.

To Liz, Chris, Reese, and Ella. Thank you for opening your home to us. Providing a safe and comfortable place to rest and call home. Thank you for your support and encouragement the entire time. Thank you for making me feel like a rockstar even though I felt less than.

Tara: Whew, girl. I was running a race a in February when the names got chosen for Wasatch. I had won the 50K and was greeted with an instagram message from her saying I got picked! I then immediately asked if she wanted to pace. In June she finds out she has a broken femur and her pacing duties may be finished before they even start. August, we got the go ahead. Thank you for meeting me earlier than anticipated and running an extra 14 miles to the 22 you had already planned to run. thank you for pushing me past a place I didn’t think I could go. Thank you for knowing I could do this when I was doubtful. The image of your Injin reflective socks and the reflective pieces on your pack looking like a cat are forever burned into my memory.

Valorie: It takes a pretty brave person to say yes to pacing a complete stranger. Pacing a section of the course that you have not paced yet. Thank you for letting me lose it without letting me give up hope. Thank you for making me see the beauty in the darkness. Thank you for rubbing my dirty feet multiple times. Thank you for getting me across the line that I couldn’t envision alone.

Guy, not the other Guy: What can I say. I truly believe if I hadn’t met you on the trail, I would be nursing much deeper wounds. You took me under your wing. You set aside how shitty you were feeling to lift me up. i think you threw up more than I did. I cried more, so maybe we are even. I can’t express the gratitude i have for your help. 17 miles doesn’t seem like alot of miles, but those hours I will never forget. Thank you.

Coach Tommy: Thanks for the pre-race chat. It helped me get centered and focused beforehand. I know most of it went out the window early on, but it helped. Reminding me about altitude and breathing and to take to slow and smart. Knowing you were watching and following even though you were flying to another country.

To all the people following along and commenting on social media: Thank you. At a particularly low point Tara pulled her phone out and read aloud the comments. yes, I cried. Happy tears, tears of fear. I didn’t want to let anyone down. it really meant alot to know that people back home were watching.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Wasatch 100 recap

  1. You are just simply amazing! it was a weekend of amazing feats for all of my athlete friends. Between your 100 mile race and Ironman, I am lucky to know such strong and determined souls! I’m also slightly glad to know you’re human and you do breakdown and want to throw in the towel. But what the mind can accomplish the body can too! Keep it up Nora!! Thank you for sharing all of these details of what it’s like to run Wasatch 100!

    Like

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