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2018 Races…TBD!

Friday, September 18, 2009

One Hundred Miles of Heaven and Hell

Ah, Wasatch, Wasatch, Wasatch. Where does one begin? Here are the basics: Geof and I peaced out of work mid-afternoon on Thursday to head home and grab our luggage. I got home first so I caught up on some schoolwork, a nap, some Patagonia magazine reading, and inhaled a PB&J for lunch. Once everything was set, we walked up the street to catch the bus to hop on the train that would take us to Midway, where our adventure would begin…! Our flight was just glorious, and when we arrived in Salt Lake City, we were greeted to Gary and Jen (Gary’s lady) leaping across the hallway to us (literally, leaping. They were imitating some other people waiting for someone.).

Jen informed us that the weekend’s vehicle was named “Molly” and not “car” :) “Molly” was HUGE! I’ve never seen such a massive SUV before, but it would turn out to be a fantastic crew vehicle, moving aid station, motel, the site of a massive grasshopper attack, narrow trail negotiator, red fox attractor, dinner table and laundry rack. Oh what a weekend we were going to have!

We headed straight for Layton, UT, where our evening’s hotel was, did some last minute organization of things (of which there was very little to do because Jen was a total rock star crew chief and had thought of it all!), and then got to bed. We had a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call and it was already after 10:00, yikes! When we awoke the next morning, Gary realized that he had inadvertently packed all of his good running socks in his drop bags…it’s a good thing Geof wears the same kind of socks, so he was able to lend Gary a pair to start out in. It seems it’s always something in these kinds of races. I can’t recall what it was I forgot at Vermont, but it was something :)

Layton was a hop and a skip from the start line, so we got there in plenty of time for the 5:00 a.m. start. Wasatch is a seriously old school event (at least compared to what I’ve experienced): the start line was a piece of orange tape strung across two trees, and there was one dude sitting at a plastic table with one little bitty light checking people in. Runners began to crowd around the start area and without even a countdown, they were off (well, there may have been a countdown, but I didn’t hear it) down the dusty trail, through an iron fence and quickly disappearing in the darkness. Cool. I had chills, and not because it was cold out, because it was so neat to witness such a big deal of a race. I couldn’t wait for the rest of the day to unfold.

Standing at the starting area was none other than my favorite lady ultrarunner, Krissy Moehl. Geof and I both really enjoy her blog so we were both kind of star struck :) Geof decided we should get a picture, of which I was resistant of at first because I felt silly doing that, but then we saw a chance to say hi so we walked over. What a cool chick, totally down to earth and nice…and tall! So we got a picture:Now we were all hungry and cold, and since we had some time to kill before the first crew aid station, Geof, Jen, Gary’s parents and I decided we should head back to the hotel to get a couple hours of sleep and some food. Best nap of my life. After we grabbed breakfast from the hotel lobby, we were off! Gary got to Francis Peak (18.76) a lot quicker than we expected so we were behind in getting to him, but he decided to hang out until we got there so he could get his sunglasses. What a good sport! By now it was getting warm out.
Francis Peak AS

Gary leaving Francis Peak
There was trash alongside the road, heading down the mountain...trash run!!

Our next stop was going to be Big Mountain (39.4), where Geof would jump in to start pacing. We made sure to get there early! Since there was limited parking, we had to wait down the road a bit at the Watershed until we got word from the radio dudes that our runner was about a ½ hour away from Big Mountain, then we could head up to the station. It was a loud station! Lots of cheering and noise, runners, crews everywhere, it had lots of energy! Eventually, Gary arrived, and we got right to work on him. Changing socks, shirts, refilling bottles and packs and getting him ready for the next portion, which would put him into Lamb’s Canyon (53.13) after dark.
Geof and I at the Watershed, waiting to head up to Big Mountain AS
Gary at Big Mountain AS
Our little friend :)

Now, it was time to wait some more. Lamb’s Canyon was close by and had the same parking restrictions, so we had to wait down at the Watershed again until the radio peeps told us when we could go. It’s a beautiful area, so it’s not like it sucked or anything. We drove down closer to the water and made some dinner and aired out some of Gary’s smelly shirts :) While I was making sandwiches for Gary’s next stop, a little dude decided he wanted to make friends! How cute! Perfectly harmless red fox, and he was clearly looking to get some of my goldfish. He hung around awhile (much to Gary’s mom’s dismay), but never got too close for comfort.

After a couple hours, we headed towards Lamb’s, checked in “Molly” and then set up shop at the trailhead, waiting for the guys to show up. It got COLD! The sun was setting and was already behind the mountains so the temperature dropped quite a bit. I wrapped myself in two blankets, but could not get warm. Jen and I both changed into our running clothes here as we weren’t sure who was going to jump in to pace next. If Gary was still lucid, Jen would jump in, but if he showed any signs of being overly tired or off, I was going to take over. I was sitting on a low boulder thinking warm thoughts, when I decided to grab something from my bag so I turned, and that’s when I…crashed! Go figure, I fall sitting down! I’m not sure how it happened, but I was no longer on the rock, and was instead on the ground, my right arm throbbing. Nicely done!

Anyhow, the guys finally show up some time later, Gary’s doing pretty good so Jen takes over pacing duties from there. Somewhere, there was some massive miscommunication and it was said that the next stretch was flat, so we had no qualms sending Jen out (this was her first trail run, I believe). Turns out, it was uphill the ENTIRE time, and not just a little uphill, but a shitton uphill! Oh boy, how did we miss that?!

From Lamb’s, we stopped at a grocery store to clean up a bit and grab some more snacks. Next up, it was Millcreek (61.68). We guesstimated it would be right about 1:00a.m. when Gary would get in there, so we decided to take a nap in the care while we waited. Bear in mind, Millcreek was over 7,000 feet up, and we hadn’t stepped out of the car yet. After a restless nap, with no legroom, I got out of the car to start getting this ready for Gary, and for my pacing duties. Holy crap, it was REALLY cold now! I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into, it was shivering, blue lips cold, and all I had were shorts. Thank goodness I brought a hat and gloves for “just in case”. I threw on two more shirts and a jacket and at 1:03, Gary and Jen appeared coming up the hill to the station, hand in hand :)

As soon as Gary sat down in the tent he began shivering massively so we covered him in blankets, fed him hot soup and then got to work again. Then, it was time to head out into the night! I was now excited to get going and see what this course had to offer. My portion was heading up to 9900 ft. (Scott’s) and as I’ve been above that I knew I wouldn’t have problems with altitude, but I was really looking forward to the views. The trail immediately headed upwards on a wonderful soft dirt trail. Gary got warmed up pretty quickly once he was moving and got in much better spirits. Going uphill kept me pretty warm and I was feeling good, keeping the conversation flowing for the most part, Gary quietly following behind. There were some silent stretches were we just charged ahead uphill, stopping here and there to let him catch his breath. It was taking some time to get to the next station, and Gary was getting edgy, but I did my best to try and keep his mind off of all the climbing, it was a lot! I had to keep reminding myself I was on fresh legs and to ease up a bit. Desolation Lake came finally, and we were able to smell the bonfire for awhile, so it was great to finally get there. I told Gary to walk around for a bit until his heart rate came down before he sat by the fire. He did, and when he sat down he had no problems with shivering again. I filled up his pack, my bottles, got him some soup and hot chocolate, then we headed out. We had just a little more uphill, to Scott’s, and then we were going to be treated to a lot of flat and downhill running into Brighton. Gary wasn’t happy about even the little remaining uphill, but considering how much he’d already done throughout the day, I couldn’t blame him! I have to blast him for this, because it was just too darn funny (don’t be mad, Gary!).

As we left Desolation Lake, I was walking in front of Gary, and after a few minutes, the quiet is broken by Gary’s voice, “Oh NO! No way, no way, huh uh!” I turned around thinking he saw a snake, or a bear, or a dead body. He was just standing there looking upwards, and I asked what the problem was. “I am NOT going up there, eff that. No, I’m done!” I turned to see what he was looking at and I was confused, so I asked what he was talking about. “See all those headlamps, WAY up there? No, I’m not.” I started giggling, then full on laughing when I realized he was looking at the stars, just above a ridge. “Um, Gary, those aren’t headlamps, those are stars.” I’m not sure, but I think he turned red and just smiled when he realized what it was he was seeing. I made sure to make fun of him for that a few more times. It was too funny! This stretch was much more talkative and Gary seemed more alive, responding to questions, laughing, smiling. I felt better seeing that!

When we got into Scott’s we both happily entered the warm, heated tent, drank some soup and coffee, had some Red Vines (yum!) and after a short spell headed back out. First light was beginning to show and I was getting excited about the sun. Gary was back to being quiet, except for announcing that he didn’t think he’d go on once we reached Brighton (75.61). My heart sank, but I tried not to let on that I felt sad hearing that. All I could say was, “We’ll see. Anything can happen in the next couple hours.” Gary just nodded and looked down as we headed out on the most wonderful flat section I’ve ever seen on trail. It was glorious and I wanted to just fly over it. We were up high, and had the best damn views, even in the dark. I was just about in heaven :) This next portion went slow, despite the flat and downhill trail.

As we descended from high above, Gary mentioned he felt a little dizzy and was seeing spots. I was giving him an S!Cap every hour, and decided to up it to every 45 minutes now. I also gave him my bottle of Nuun to give him a break from the Perpetuem he’d been drinking all day long. He liked that and it seemed to help a little. I also made sure he was eating a gel or Shot Bloks every hour. It was fun to this and I enjoyed keeping tabs on him :) The sun was now rising as we descended further and further down into a canyon, towards Brighton. We were chatting and he seemed to be enjoying himself a little more. I was now employing running games to get us moving in intervals. Run to short stubby tree then walk to the power line pole. Run to that gel pack in the road, walk to the next intersection (we were now off trail and on roads the rest of the way into Brighton). Eventually, the devil on his shoulder began to reign supreme and he didn’t want to move more than a walk. The negative talk was beginning to take over and I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. Be tough, or be supportive? I tried to bridge the gap between the two, but not very successfully. As we circled the one way road towards Brighton, just about in view, Gary said one more time that he was through at the Lodge. I stopped responding to this announcement long before this point, and when he said it again as we entered the Brighton parking lot I said, “I don’t know about Jen, but there is no way Geof is going to let you stop.”

Boy, did I call it or what?!

The Lodge was so warm and cozy, and I was happy have clean clothes to change into. Geof was going to take over from here to the finish line, 25 miles away, and over the most difficult terrain the course has to offer. That’s just wrong, throwing a climb over Catherine Pass, at 10,500 feet, at the end of a 100 mile race. I told Geof what Gary had said, and immediately set about letting Gary know he was not stopping. Witnessing the scene going on was interesting. And when push came to shove, Gary and Geof were heading out the door. Not gonna lie, I felt a little emotional watching them go.

Jen and I, and Gary’s parents, set about organizing the mess we made, I changed into warm clothes, left Brighton and headed to the Homestead, where they were staying the night, and where the finish line was. We knew it would be awhile before we’d hear anything, and luckily Geof had his phone on him, so I took a nap while Jen read on the lawn. We had gotten a text from Geof saying that Gary was doing great and they were moving along, so this eased our minds about pushing him out of Brighton.

After some time, Jen and I decided we’d try to meet them at Pot Bottom (93.13). The only thing was, we didn’t know how to get there, and neither did anyone else. This turned into an exercise in futility, but Jen and I sure had a lot of laughs and interesting encounters along the way to realizing this.

I’m not sure what time it was, but it was dangerously close to the cutoff and we received a call (or maybe it was a text) from Geoff that things weren’t going so well, and that Gary was probably done. Jen and I immediately mobilized and set about getting a plan to get them off the mountain. The communications crew at Wasatch is top notch and they were able to get us good directions up to Pot Bottom so we could retrieve our dudes. There was a lot of back and forth, and plenty of confusion, but we finally headed up, and up and up. Long story short, we intercepted the aid station crew that had closed down the aid station and had our guys in tow. They hopped in the truck with us and made the long drive down in relative silence. Gary was in good spirits and was happy to be done. It just wasn’t his day to run 100 miles, and as Geof put it, “on this day, his race was 93 miles.”

Wasatch is nothing to sniff at, that’s for darn sure! It’s a butt-kicking course, but has some of the most gorgeous terrain I’ve ever seen. It was a good old fashioned ultra run through the mountains, with good people, fantastic volunteers, and wonderful memories. After some reflection on it all, I think I might be convinced to run it myself one day :) Maybe.

Gary laid out everything he had on that course and I’m proud of him for getting as far as he did, having never gone beyond 50 miles before this, and having trained almost entirely on flat pavement! That’s amazing! I don’t think he’s done though. I think he’ll be back for more :)

Mind over matter, that’s the only advice I can offer in retrospect. There was a lot I learned in my 15 miles of “heaven and hell” with Gary, but this was the biggest of them all. Not making sense? Well, that’s okay, I won’t delve into it here, but I’m sure you’ll know what I mean should you decide to battle the 100-mile race one day :)

After we unloaded the car and Gary headed into the cottage to rest, Geof’s friend, Rob, and his dog Lucy, met us at Homestead and we headed to Park City with him for the rest of the weekend. FYI, Park City is beautiful; in fact, all of Utah is beautiful! I loved it there! And Rob and Rina were divine hosts. I will most definitely be back J

Crash, out.

Team Guidi at Francis Peak (Dean, Gerrie, Gary, Jen, Geof and I)


Michael said...

Loved the report Crash. That is one bad ass course; kinda makes me want to do it :) Congrats Gary on giving it everything you have. And congrats to the crew - who seemed to do an amazing job trying to get him there.

GTI said...

That's fantasitc, Paige. And a big ole congrats to your friend Gary. After my experience at Burning River, I decided that pacers get an extra cushy seat to sit on in heaven. So I'm sure your seat will be taken care of.

And I'm officially, completely jealous, because (I confess) I have a total runner crush on Krissy Moehl. Not sure I'd have been brave enough to walk up to her for a photo. My knees might have gotten all weak and gushy. Probably would've had a "crash" of my own. ;-)

Nick B said...

Great report, Crash! You did refer to the SUV as car once, though, instead of "Molly"! It sounds like although a buckle was not obtained, everyone had a fantastic experience and you are 110% correct, "Mind over matter." When it gets all nasty late in a 100, that's what it's all about.

Wasatch is on my "to-do" list in the next 5 years and your report just nudged me a little closer to that goal. Perhaps if the stars align, we'll see each other there. :-)

Great job supporting Gary and like him, I had to drop from my first 100 attempt...but that made my 2nd attempt (at Kettle) even sweeter when I crossed that finish line. Nothing like it...period. Of course, getting redemption at Burning River 8 weeks later was the icing on the cake!

Paige said...

Haha, good catch, Nick, on the "car"! Oops :)

Greg, I think you're right, pacers are heaven-bound, lol!

Mike, I think you could do well on this course; it speaks to your strengths...lots of climb and lots of drop, and it's old school fun. Do it!

Old tired guy said...

There are two secrets to finishing Wasatch. Be into Lambs before dark and out of Brighton before light. While the Brighton cut-off is 10 AM very few runners who leave Brighton after 8 finish the race.

Run Home Pam said...

Cool, Paige! Sounds like a wonderful adventure for everyone. It's nice to hear about the race from the pacer/crew perspective. Good to remember that the ultra-running lifestyle is so much more than just running. All the friendship and spirit and support along the way is just as nourishing and just as vital.

Gene Taylor said...

Great post Paige ! You captured the essence of the ultra experience well.
Also, congrats on being "quoted". You are now officially famous.
Have a good time at Glacial,


David Ray said...

Great report, Paige! Love hearing the crew's perspective. Well done!

SteveQ said...

Great report! That race is on my to-do list. The only guy I know who's done it can't stop talking about it (and he didn't see Krissy or a fox).

Paige said...

Thanks my peeps! I'm glad you all enjoyed it!

Old Tired Guy - I believe it! I think even sitting down at Brighton is a recipe for disaster!

Irish Cream said...

I am just catching up here, but wow . . . this was an awesome crew/pacer report! Congrats to Gary on making it 93 miles, and congrats to you for doing such an amazing job crewing/pacing. Sounds like it was an incredible adventure!

I really want to hug your little fox friend--SO cute!! :)

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