The Ultra Experience
Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or backpacking but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Short version: I ran the Wasatch 100 mile foot race on Sept 8th-9th 2007. It hurt really really bad. I finished 53rd in a time of 29 hrs and 53 minutes. Did I mention how painful it was?
Wasatch 100....this race was difficult. Why I chose to do this race at the young age of 25, who knows. Looking back my preparation wasn't as good as it should have been. With me not being able to train in the month of June, since I was on my NOLS course, I didn't get the base I needed. July I trained great but after running Katcina Mosa I didn't get much training in and then 12 days after Katcina I did the Highline Trail. My blisters were so bad from the Highline trail that it took them two full weeks to heal up at which time there was only one week until race day. Not ideal but I still felt I could run close to 25 hrs. 26hrs would have been a better goal. My splits were set and I prepared as well as I could. The beginning of races are so much fun. Everyone feels good and you can just talk and relax. I ran the first few miles with Dave Hunt and than the next few with Christian Johnson, Peter Lindgren, and Roger Smith amongst others. I settled into a comfortable pace. At the first aid station I was right on pace as I was at the second and third aid stations. But heading into Sessions Lift Off, the balls of my feet started hurting. Same place where I got the blisters from the Highline Trail. This was a bad thing. Remembering those last 7-8 miles from the Highline run and realizing that I had seventy miles to go was not a great realization. Within two miles out of Sessions the blisters were fully blown and I was slowing down. By the time I got to Swallow Rocks I was limping and in serious pain. The five miles into Big Mtn were slow and painful. I just couldn't run downhill very well with 3 inch blisters on the balls of both my feet I was slowing down. By the time I got to Big Mtn I was almost in tears. My dad and wife were there and obviously worried because I had fallen 45 minutes behind my goal time. I sat down, took off my shoes, and all I heard was gasps from both my father and wife. "There's no way you can go 61 more miles on those feet," they said. I was adamant about still going. I decided to tape the blisters up and put on a fresh pair of socks and shoes. By the time I stood up and was ready to go their concern had caught up to me, as they were still expressing their doubts and concerns. I hesitated and finally told them that if at Lambs Canyon I was still hurting this much or worse that I would drop. After a long 27 minutes, I left Big Mtn. The first quarter mile I was careful on my feet but the tape job and new shoes were incredible. I felt almost back to normal. After a mile or so I ran into a guy heading back towards me with a race number! He asked if he had missed a turn and I assured him that he hadn't. We ran the next 11 miles together. His name was Kelly and he was a year younger than I. My blisters felt 100 times better and off we went passing quite a few people. It was my most memorable section of the course but tape doesn't last forever. I got to Lambs in great time and there my wife was ready to pull me off the course but our agreement was IF I was feeling better I could keep going, and I wasn't about to quite with my feet feeling that much better. Unfortunately my wife called both my pacers about the blister problem and she was so sure that my feet were past repair that she told them not to come. Luckily, I chose good pacers. Tommy Schlosser decided that if nothing else he would come and talk to me about the first 53 miles even though I was suppose to drop out. Needless to say he had to get dressed quickly because I was excited, feeling better, and ready to keep going. Tape doesn't last forever and the miles of asphalt over and into Mill Creek Canyon were taking their toll. My feet were starting to get sore again but I kept making good time. The climb out of Mill Creek wasn't too bad but once I started trying to run along the downhill section next to Dog Lake my right blister had had enough and tore right open. For those of you who haven't had the skin from the ball of your foot rip entirely off I would highly recommend never having that experience. If was incredibly painful. I came to a sudden halt. Luckily I carry athletic tape wrapped around a pencil -brilliant!-. I wrapped up my foot and within minutes was hobbling along again. After a quick cup of soup at Desolation Lake I was off and soon heading up Red Lovers Lane when my left blister ripped open. This time I wasn't stopping. I didn't have much tape left and I decided to stomach the pain all the way to Brighton. I was determined to make the best time I could regardless of the pain. Brighton was actually somewhat fun. I was able to stop and really fix my blisters, talk to my pacers, and family, eat some soup, and know that I only had 25 miles to go. Unfortunately I had no way of knowing what this would entail. I left Brighton feeling good and confident. The only problem I had experienced up to this point were blisters. About half way up Catherine's Pass I started getting nauseous. 5 minutes later I was throwing up everything I had eaten at Brighton next to the trail. Man it felt good afterwards. Although my stomach was still weak I felt good heading into Ant Knolls. With a weak stomach yet feeling good (still limping on raw feet type of feeling good...it's relative, you might not understand) I did possibly the dumbest thing I could. I stopped eating. I couldn't stomach gels and I was only moderately successful at eating some fruit at Ant Knolls mile 80. Shortly thereafter I went through an energy crisis. I just couldn't get my body going. I took a long break at Pole Line Pass (83.4) eating and drinking not nearly enough and after 20 minutes I resolved to keep going much too early. The next section was the hardest of the race. My stomach felt awful, I had no energy, my feet hurt worse than I could describe, and I was SO COLD! It took me 1hr 39min to go 4 miles! Several times I had to stop and sit next to the trail. Finally at Rock Springs with minimal supplies I took the rest I should have had at Pole Line. The volunteers were amazing. Thank You! They wrapped my shivering body into a sleeping bag and made me slowly sip some soup. I even fell asleep for about 10-15 minutes. After vomiting a couple more times, a nap, and some soup I finally started feeling better. After a long much needed 55 minutes I left with a resilient determination to get to the finish regardless of how many people passed me (which seemed quite popular over the last couple of hours). My pacer Danny, who I picked up at Brighton, and I came up with a brilliant plan to keep food inside my stomach. Every 20 minutes I would nibble 1 Clif shot blok. It's all my stomach could handle as the Plunge and the Dive tortured my tender feet. Finally I got into a rhythm as we approached Pot Bottom Pass. I was able to tape my blisters one last time and I ate quite heartily as my stomach had finally settled down. As I was doing all this, Derek Blaylock came into the aid station. I guess I didn't need to feel so terrible about my place after all! He came and left quickly and I wasn't about to sit there all day letting people pass me. I followed Derek as long as I could and although I couldn't quite keep up with him I passed 4-5 people myself as I cruised to the finish. Sadly I felt great that last seven miles. Where was this energy 3 hours ago? My pacer and I looked at our watches and calculated how far we had to go. It didn't take us long to realize that I would be close to breaking 30 hours. This motivated me to push as hard as I could regardless of the pain. Once we hit the pavement my pacer ran on ahead to notify my wife I was coming in. After 99 miles I was going to finish. It was an emotional experience. But soon I was angry....why would I put myself through so much pain and discomfort? I was sure this was the stupidest thing I had ever done in my life. Funny how my emotions were all over the place. I finished strong though. 53rd place in a time of 29:53.00. I was glad to be done.
Well, although it was stupid, I'd finished. Why I did it, who knows. What would have happened if I hadn't had blisters? When would the stomach problems have happened and what would my time have been? It's impossible to know exactly. But...we will see what happens in the future. Stupid, yes, crazy, definitely, incredible, absolutely! Maybe next year I'll do Leadville...or the Bear....or both! Happy trails everyone and here's to persevering! :)