Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wasatch 100 2011 Race Report

                                                             (The best game face I have)

Read all about it! Wasatch 100 2011 is in the books. It took me a few days to finish up the report because I needed it to sink in. Not sure it has still but if I wait too long I may forgot some good schtuff. This report may be a little lengthy but it is my blog so I can do what I want…right? Okay, we agree and now we can move on.

Leading up to the race I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t feeling very confident for a few reasons. One- I had to take off the month of July due to my separated shoulder. Two- I DNF’d at the Swan Crest 100 in July of 2010 and not sure I recovered mentally from that. Three- I hadn’t run longer than 47 miles since my Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim slog in April. August proved to be a great month of training- probably my best month ever. I got in some quality running, great hiking and lost 20 pounds. The days leading up to the start I made sure I was getting all my plans in order and my gear ready. I didn’t want to share my goals too widely because I didn’t want the added pressure. I didn’t post on my blog for the same reasons.

As my wife and I drove to the 5 am start time I began to process some things and discuss something that had been on my mind for a few days. I had been receiving quite a few texts, emails, phone calls and post on Facebook and Twitter wishing me luck. The reason it was consuming my thoughts was because some were from people I have never met and some from people that I haven’t seen in years. For so many people to take the time out of their day to send a quick little- “Good Luck” or “we’ll be following online” was pretty moving. I was actually very surprised and must admit it felt pretty nice. So thank you to everyone who help lift my spirits. As I parked and got ready for the start, memories of my 2008 Wasatch came rushing back. It was all too familiar and it sure hadn’t seemed like 3 years ago. I saw some friends and we all exchanged our well wishes. I joined the herd and awaited the start.

3-2-1 and we were off. I knew we had to cover some trail before it filed down to a conga line and we would begin our climb after Fernwood. I knew I wanted to get out a little quicker so I could make better time up to the top and through Chinscaper. The climb was pretty slow and go with so many people lining the mountainside. The wind was picking up but the temps were already into the 70’s. After the climb up Chinscraper we hit some very overgrown singletrack. The late snow melt made it nearly impossible for the trail to get worked on before the race and it made it a bit slower for me.

I got into Francis Peak about 30 minutes faster than 2008 and was feeling good. I got the pleasure of meeting Jeff from PA and ran with him for 4-5 miles. It was his first hundred miler (Jeff finished in 32 hours!- great job!). As I approached Francis Peak I hear a familiar voice yell out- “come on Manners”. Huh? Who was up here? None other than Mr. Rick Robinson- the guru of ultra crewing. Rick knows more about Ultras than most of the runners. He has been crewing his son-in-law for years at some of the greatest ultras in the US. He had my drop bag laid out and reminded me to make sure I was eating. It was such a mental lift to see him. It was only 20 miles into the race but man was it much needed. Rick got me out of there pretty quick and I was on my way to the Bountiful B. This has some pretty amazing views but I don’t care for a few of its climbs. I arrived at the “B” ahead of my 2008 times but I wasn’t about to look at my splits yet. I was in and out of there pretty quick. After I left the “B” my focus shifted from running to finding a nice little spot in the woods to take care of some business. Little did I know I would need to take care of business a whopping 13 times over the next 75 miles. Sure made for a long(er) day!

It was pretty uneventful through the next few sections other than finding some nice hidden spots in the woods. I felt good and my legs seemed to be in good shape. The only issues I was having was with my left big toe. Earlier in the race on some very over grown single track I decided to go back to my soccer days apparently as I tried to kick a 20+ pound rock. It felt like my big toe just exploded but I was pretty apprehensive to look. Uphill and flat sections it felt fine but going down was pretty painful. Lucky for me the last 75 miles there was almost no downhill…..HA!

                                                          (Weighing in at Big Mountain)

When I pulled into Big Mountain I felt good. I got to see my family and this is where I picked up my first pacer- Alicia. This was also the first weigh in on the course. The scale showed I was down 10 pounds after 39.4 miles. The volunteers barked at me to start eating more or they would make me. My nutrition and hydration had been spot on all day so I really didn’t want to mess with that in any way. My crew took great care of me and had me back on the course in no time. I shared some thoughts with Alicia to make sure we were on the same page. She did AWESOME. Over the next 2 sections I felt fantastic! I ran pretty hard and felt great.

                                               (Kids giving me love before I left Big Mtn)

Pulling into Lamb’s I was running strong and the legs were working like a charm. As I came up the hill I saw my next pacer- Breein and she was all smiles. I went through the weigh in and was down 2 more pounds (12 total after 53 miles). I leapt off the scale and tried to get lost in the crowd so they wouldn’t say anything. Breein got me all taken care of for the next section and my wife and kids got me fueled and motivated. Alicia did such a great job over those 2 sections. Her first pacing duties and she definitely earned and “A” from me!

                              (Pacer exchange- Breein (L) Alicia (R)- Alicia doing a Popeye impression)

Breein did an amazing job getting me up over Bear Ass Pass and into Millcreek. She made sure we kept a pretty good pace and she kept my mind occupied. I was starting to feel a little heavier in the legs but not bad considering. Once we hit the road to Millcreek I walked. My toe was killing after a nice downhill section from the pass and it felt like I developed a good blister on my heal. Breein was very patient with me as we continued to walk up the longest road on the planet!

Once into Millcreek I decided to sit down and take care of a few things. Up to this point I had tried to get in and out of the aid stations fairly quick. I changed my socks (my left big toe was sticking out and looked pretty sweet!). It also revealed a nice blood blister on my left heal as well. Since both my pacers are nurses- yep certified nurses- they took care of my blister and patched me back up. Melony did a great job of making sure I got my socks changed (Sami and her actually cleaned my feet) and got my cold weather stuff for the night ahead. I could of swore I was an Indy car at points of this race- it was awesome! Mentally I think I started to shift here as well. My legs were starting to get more tired, the trip to the port-o-johns and the woods were really taking their toll and my feet were starting to show signs of going south. My wife and kids gave me words of encouragement and parted by saying- “see you at the finish tomorrow”…..bitter sweet for me- seeing them at the finish- sweet, the fact it wouldn’t be until “tomorrow”- bitter!

         (Sitting at Millcreek while Melony and Sami clean my nasty feet-fantastic smile and hair—eh?)

Breein was still with me as we made the trudge to Brighton. I wanted to run but it just didn’t feel like a good idea. Going into the race I had a real vague game plan- run when you can and when you can’t….don’t. Breein was a champ as she literally pulled me to Deso Lake and then up to Scotts Pass and down to Brighton. The descent to Brighton was on the road but we actually made pretty good time and it was just a beautiful night out! We pulled into “the morgue” and I must say I felt 1000% better than 2008. In 2008 I spent over 1 hour 30 minutes in a race induced coma before I got up and crawled to the finish. This time was different. My stomach was starting to go but man I was happy to be there and be able to function on my own. I thanked Breein for all she did (which was a ton) and said hello to the man that was going to get me to the finish- Larry. Larry answered the call to show up at Brighton in the wee morning hours and get me to the finish.

As we left Brighton I told Larry it may take me awhile from here since things were starting to rally against me. He got me up to Catherine’s Pass before we went down the nasty section to Ant Knolls. At Ant Knolls I grabbed a pancake with nothing on it to hopefully serve as a sponge in my stomach. I was hoping it could settle everything going on in there. The grind out of Ant Knolls…SUCKS! Poor Larry is training for the Bear 100 in a couple weeks and thought he was getting in a nice 25 mile run…surprise Larry- we were hiking. I couldn’t gather the zest to get my legs going. I wanted to run but just didn’t have the energy. The sun came up and we both had our heads on a swivel looking at how the sunrise kissed the mountains. Ahh---this is life I thought until I realized what the hell I was doing and how far I still had to go. The calming thought for me at this point was I was confident I would at least finish. That was a good feeling. At Pole Line my stomach was worse. I was starting to feel more nauseous and knew my goal of a sub 30 was gone but my back up plan was sub 32. After all, it took me 34 hours and 51 minutes in 2008 so a sub 32 is definitely an improvement. Here Larry handed me a ginger chew. I have seen them and heard great things about them but I hate ginger. I thought I might as well give it a shot. I sucked on it for a good 45 minutes and by damn if that little sucker didn’t calm my stomach. SA-WEET- tasted nasty but worked. It was still slow and go and I kept apologizing to Larry- he wanted to run and I just couldn’t. I think I was now in survival mode. We hit Rock Springs and I sat down for a minute to gather a little composure before we went out on the nastiest, scariest and most intimidating part of the course…for me at least. The last miles of the Wasatch 100 has quite a reputation and in 2008 it lived up to it with me and crushed me!

I wish I could put into words the last 12-13 miles but there is no way I could do it justice. As Larry and I approached the plunge and dive I started doing some math in my head. I looked at my split card and Rock Springs and saw just how far off I had gotten for a sub 30 (my goal). I accepted a sub 32 but then I started to think a sub 31 was in the cards. Here is where I really feel my dad came into to play major role. I lost my dad 7 years ago and he never got to see me run. I wasn’t that crazy in the head….. yet. As I approached that nasty descent a thought came in…..what if I tried to get to Pot Bottom fast as I could and then see where I was with 7 miles to go? I told myself to pull up a recliner in the pain cave cause I was going to have to get “really comfortable at being uncomfortable” (obviously not my saying but it s spot on). I knew I was going to have to endure some major aches and pains this next section, maybe more than I have ever felt before. I took a leap of faith and was off. I was pushing the red line for most of this section and I kept looking down at my watch. I was passing people through here and they all looked shocked. I had my head down and had one thing on my mind. I kept thinking about my goal- sub 30 and how truly close I was. What if I never run Wasatch again, what if I never get this close again, what if, what if, what if….. I kept repeating all the neat little mantras I could. Partly for motivation but also to keep my mind off how much I hurt:

Why are you here?

Can I give more…YES!

Go out there and see who you are?

Before I knew it I was at Pot Bottom. I looked at my watch- 9:13 am. Yikes, I had 1 hour and 45 minutes to cover 7 miles. Looking at that you would just think- no problem. Heck a 12 minute a mile pace is 1 hour 24 minutes. I can do that. Reality check- I had already run 93 miles and the last 6 were absolutely brutal. The next section isn’t much easier on the quads or jacked up feet. I refilled my bottle and told the guy I needed to go. He asked- “you going for a sub 30.” I replied- “gonna try”- he said- “think you can do it, you gotta go hard.” I said- “we will know within the next 2 hours.”

I really felt I had my life passing through my mind here. So many people have helped me get to this place and now it was up to me. I thought of my family and everything they need to put up with, my pacers who took time from their family and lives to come and aid a friend, all the well wishers who took time from their lives to shoot me some encouragement, past experiences of pain and triumph, my training friends who helped me get to the start line and lastly…ME. I wanted this. I really wanted this. More than ever I wanted this. It was my chance to prove a little something to myself. My chance to put my one and only DNF to rest. My chance to erase some negativity if only for awhile. I made a commitment to myself that right then and there I was going to hurt more than anyone else to go sub 30. It was time to attack the course that crushed me 3 years ago.

Well, I DID IT! Final section 1 hour 30 minutes. I crossed the finish line in 29:46.30. I covered the last 2 sections in 3 hours and 10 minutes. My kids came sprinting over to me and all the pain was gone if only for a moment, I heard people cheering but I never looked up. I was talking to my last and final pacer of the day- my dad.

I realize that it was a trail race. I realize it took me 29 +hours (but not 30 :)). I realize I came through in 76th place. I realize I was 9+ hours slower than 1st place. But I PR'd it by 5 hours! I also realize I learned something from it and after all, isn’t that why we do it?

I want to congratulate all the people who toed the line and especially my friends who ran it- BJ Burlison (sub 30) - his 1st ever 100 miler, this kid has talent and I was so happy to see him already finished. Jim Skaggs- Mr. 2011 Grand Slammer!

Thanks to my pacers- Alicia, Breein and Larry. I couldn't have done it without you 3. You were all so amazing!!!! Thanks to everyone who cheered me on from where ever you are. Thanks to everyone who believed in me even when I didn't. And to my family- there is nothing more I can say that hasn’t been said. This was for you- our team! I know I am truly a lucky guy. Not sure why or how but I am so thankful to be surrounded by such amazing people. Pride filled me after the race not just for the time but because I am proud to know all of you and call you my friends...thank you............

                                                             Gathering my composure at the finish line (above)

(At the finish line. Never thought I could feel that good after 100 miles of Heaven and Hell!)

Ahh….the material reward!


Erik said...

Great report, and congrats on a superb finish!! It gave me chills as I read your finish. Pot Bottom to the end in 1:30 is a smokin' time, no matter if your finish time is 22 or 34 hours. Congrats again and happy recovery.

Aaron said...

That's epic Aric. You nailed those last two sections! to give you an idea, I paced Steve Young who was 6th. He was super steady and finished in 22 hours even, but you were 16 minutes faster than him from Rock Springs to the finish and 7 minutes faster from Pot bottom. That's freakin' awesome. I love how you laid it all out there for your goal.

Danni said...

A 5 hour PR is incredible. Way to kill it!!!

Jon Allen said...

5 hr PR and sub-30. Wow, Aric, amazing. Sounds like you are rightfully proud. Nice work.

FastED said...

Yep - you effing did it! YOU my friend! The Aric that I've known for the last 20 years is someone who never gives up till the task is done. Congratulations Aric! See you soon - proud to call you my friend!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the details of your 100 mile journey. You did it! And you did it with style (well... minus the bush squatting portions) I laughed... and I cried. Your Dad would be wowed at the man his son is today, and not just because he finished a 100 miler. Thanks for sharing Aric. Well done.
Lori - BJ's mom.

peter said...

Wow. Seriously impressive. Great writing, great running. One hour 30 minutes from Pot Bottom is freakin fast. Inspiring story. Congratulations!

Manners said...

Erik- thanks and a huge congrats to you. Can't imagine coming close to a time like that- well done.
Aaron- great catching up with you at the finish. Good Luck with the Marathon- I know you will hit that goal.
Danni- thanks- can't wait to hear about the Highline trip. I did it a few years ago and still is one of the best trips I've done.
Jon- thanks- gotta get you back to these parts for some running.
Eddy- what can I say. This started with you in 2005 and I love it more everyday. Thanks for everything.
Lori- I apprecaite what you said. Thanks. It is gonna fun to see what Bj is going to keep doing!
Peter- thanks- great job to you..WOW! Maybe one day I can get quick enough to join the MRC crew for some new trails....
Thanks again to everyone.

Jon Allen said...

I sure miss the mountains there, Aric. Sure do. Especially how close they are- I have to drive 60-90 min here each way to find trails. Maybe someday. First, UROC.

Hope your recovery is going well. Remember, be lazy!