The 2009 Wasatch Front 100 Endurance Run - This is no catered hike.My first goal for the WF100 was one that I hijacked from my friend David Hayes: let's first get to the starting line. This means getting accepted into the race, staying healthy, and selling your soul for the summer to stay true to a training program that would physically and emotionally prepare you for the task at hand: 100 miles and 26,131 feet through the Wasatch mountains. My second goal was to improve upon my previous time of 34:05 when I finished the WF100 in 2005. Early in the summer, I enlisted Matt Hart as my coach to help me attain these goals. Three months later found Matt driving me to the starting line for the WF100 and in jeopardy of missing the start altogether owing to some bad map beta from, um, yours truly. Matt had kindly agreed to come out to Utah for the race to watch the spectacle, hang out with Karl Meltzer, and even pace me through the last, and perhaps most grueling, 25 miles of the course.
Needless to say, Matt got me to the start in the nick of time, snapped a photo of Darla Askew and I buzzing with anxiety, and within minutes we were all off and running. I had planned to follow split times from two previous WF100 wonderwomen, Liz Irvine and Krissy Moehl, both of whom had completed this gnarly course in less than 24 hours. It was a lofty goal, but I was mainly eager to learn how to run smart, as these two incredible women had done, and I chose to try to follow their example for as long as my legs and heart would allow. So when I pulled up on Francis Peak 20 minutes ahead of the 1st split, I was concerned that I had once again gone out too fast and could expect to begin paying the price rather soon. At this point, I was behind Betsy Nye and Prudence L'Heureux and I knew that I needed to SLOW down. It felt like arriving at a party too early in that it was eerily uncomfortable and I was a little embarrassed.
Over time, I fell into a rhythm and started to get closer to landing the splits so that I was tracking quite nicely through the day. My goal now evolved to just make the splits for as long as possible and have a good time. Chatting with the kids at the aid stations was a special treat because they have no expectations of you whatsoever, except maybe that you'll be smelly and dirty, which I was. At most aid stations I was told that Betsy Nye was "right in front of me" and I was in 2nd place. Prudence had dropped and Betsy had her eyes on the prize of a sub-24 hour finish. I was just thrilled to be feeling good, still smiling, and reveling in the delight that there was no place I'd rather be at that moment. It was a joy to be cruising along the Great Western Trail, in my backyard, knowing that I was on track to improve upon my previous time. I was eager to get to Big Mountain at mile 39 to see Matt and reassure him that I felt great and was having an awesome time. When I finally got there Matt and Krissy lubed me up with sunscreen, rations, and hearty pats on the back to keep me trucking.
Upon reaching lambs Canyon (mile 53) at 4:30 pm, I was grateful to be out of the sun and psyched to pick up my first pacer, Bryon Powell, the barrister turned blogger d'ultrarunners. An incredible cadre of friends was on hand to load me up with love, good thoughts, homemade cookies, and whatever else my heart desired. Master puppeteer Matt kept everyone focused on getting me in and out of the aid station and soon I was off and running again, this time towards Millcreek Canyon and eventually, the Wasatch Crest. We had a brief stop at Big Water in Millcreek Canyon where I was honored to witness Matt Hart putting his dance moves to use as he helped me don my headlamp and long sleeves. Still laughing, Bryon and I motored with good speed and good humor all the way to Brighton (mile 75.6) where I took the steps to the lodge two at time because I was so excited to grab Matt and get moving through the remainder of the course. The best part about Brighton on the WF100 course is leaving it, which is exactly what Matt and I did as soon as possible so as to commence the 25 miles and crushing 9000' drop to the finish line at the Homestead in Midway, Utah. Matt had his game face on and was ready to get me to the finish with style, a good time, and fast feet. I was simply elated to be so far ahead of my time from the first WF100. David Hunt had told me that the race begins at Pole Line Pass. He couldn't have been more right.
So shortly after midnight at Pole Line Pass I toed the "starting line" of the real race that was to come. We had just pulled up on "Team Legend," Betsy Nye and pacer-to-the-stars, Roch Horton. My heart rose, then sank. I appreciated that I was in a good position to acheive my goal of making Krissy's splits. I was amazed to be in Betsy's proximity as she was handily reeling in her sub-24 hr finish so long as she stayed connected to her goal, and to Captain Roch. However, I admit that I felt totally intimidated by being in a position to overtake Betsy. I was honored just to be in the race, but scared to actually begin racing. I can not say that I even know what scared me. I was just overwhelmed and mentally unprepared to duke it out with five-time WF100 winner, Betsy Nye. Four years ago, I was hiking through Pole Line Pass at nine in the morning with my pacer, Ari Menitove, who had an iPod connected to mini-speakers. We were hiking and rocking to James Brown and taking full advantage of the plush aid stations. This year, I realized that I was in a race, not a catered hike. So I tried to race, and temporarily moved ahead of Betsy, but my stomach and my nerves didn't buy into the idea. I stopped eating well and starting hitting the ground with regularity. This shook my body, my confidence, and my will. Regardless, Matt pulled me along with words of encouragement and the occasional hard candy. Before I knew it, we had hit the road to the Homestead. Matt thought that the finish was right there upon reaching the road and I wordlessly communicated to him that he was sorely mistaken. Upon crossing the finish line at the Homestead, I was sure I would cry. I still can't believe that I didn't. If the whole team had been there I most surely would have. I owe it all to my crew, Shannon O'Grady, Kirsten Bruns, and Christy Clay, as well as my pacers, Matt and Bryon. I was so sad that it was over. It had been the most intense, entertaining, collaborative, and inspirational 23 hours and 25 minutes of my entire running career. Everyone, except me, believed that I could meet and perhaps exceed my goals and I owe them everything and then some for their faith in me. Running is indeed a team sport and I had the most amazing team. I can't wait to shed the compression socks so that I can crew and pace my team and friends as they pursue their respective endeavors. So with lots of love, gratitude, and respect, thanks to everyone who carried me in their hearts at the 2009 WF100!
It goes without saying that my coach is the world's best. He took over 10 hours off of my finish time. Insane!