Wasatch Dreams: Steve Brown's Wasatch Front 100 Race Report

Stephen Brown is an attorney with Garlington, Lohn & Robinson in Missoula, Montana. Here Steve recounts his experience at this year's Wasatch Front 100 -- his third hundred miler -- in raw yet poetic prose. The gold standard of race reports. The Montana Trail Crew encourages mountain and trail race report submissions from Montana runners.

An elated finish (photo credit Joe Azze)

“Man it's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot.” – Eugene Morris Jerome (Biloxi Blues)

Lamb’s Canyon, 7:10 pm, mile 53.13, and it’s still well over 90 degrees.  I’m done.  I’m completely exhausted, mentally and physically.  I’ve just staggered up the hill into this aid station, checked in and stepped on the scale for the mandatory weigh-in.  I’m down nearly ten pounds from my pre-race weight, seven of it lost in the last 13 miles.  I spent 23 minutes at Alexander Ridge, the previous aid station guzzling water and Coke to no avail.  Since leaving Big Mountain and my crew at mile 39, the fun evaporated leaving angry salt lines all over my shirt.  It’s taken me four plus hours to cover slightly more than a half marathon distance, much of it downhill.  This race is too brutal to continue.  At this rate my fried brain tells me I’m risking not even making the 36 hour race cutoff.  The signs on the trail leading up to Lamb’s tell me my only competition is the little voice in my head that wants me to stop. These signs mock me. I’m not in a mood to be mocked.  The voice in my head is screaming at me.  Quit, quit, quit.  Go find a nice cool place to lie down and sleep.

The carnage is surreal.  At Alexander, the guy next to me kept turning his head and vomiting over the back of his chair like that’s totally normal.  The best part of the last hour was him not turning his head the other way and puking on me.  On the trail from Alexander to Lamb’s I stumbled across some other guy in a worse stupor than me, sitting on the side of the trail.  I offered him S-caps, but he just stared at me with unfocused eyes.  When I put a couple in his hand, he seemed completely dumbfounded by my instructions to put them in his mouth and swallow them.  An eerie, stinky dust storm filled the late afternoon sky.  On the first downhill after Alexander my quads screamed so bad that I turned around and tried walking backwards, which didn’t help a bit.  I occupy my brain by rationalizing my decision to drop. I’d heard the stories about the Western States inferno, but can’t imagine heat any worse than this particular moment at this particular place.  I’m done with this race.  I’m done with races forever.  Running sucks.  I step off the scale.  John and Amy lead me to a chair in the corner of tent.  I put my face in a cold wet cloth and sob.
And then somehow I get up.  So here’s my story.  

I divide this race into four parts.  They are not equal, nor are they likely the normal Wasatch lines of demarcation.  They certainly aren’t what I’d planned, but in retrospect all races seem to fall into phases, and this is my race in four acts.

Act I –– 39 Miles of Mostly Euphoria (Start to Big Mountain – mile 0 to mile 39)
"Wake up.  Wake up. Wake up, sleepies.  We must go, yeeees, we must go at once." –Gollum (The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King)

I knew the moment I stepped off the bus into the warm, dark morning at East Mountain Wilderness Park that Wasatch was something special.  Like all races, the nervousness of the runners was palpable.  But this nervousness felt different.  Like the people who had run it a bunch of times already were nervous.  We all milled around in the dark for the half hour or so until it was time to start.  Nick Clark, Ian Sharman and the other celebrity runners moved to the front.  The rest of us sort of found some place comfortable in the pack.  Headlamps switched on.  And then like that, the clock struck 5 a.m. and we moved in unison into the bush and down the Bonneville Shoreline trail. 

I had no illusions for a fast start.  I was quite nervous from several nights of bad sleep, so I just sort of started somewhere in the middle and tried to hold back.  "Manage your race" I told myself. That ended up being far easier than I imagined because the first few miles along the Shoreline Trail were a complete slog.  But the pearly line of headlamps ahead and behind was beautiful and I settled into my spot in the mule train, not really minding the slow pace and the occasional bottlenecks.  It wasn't really worth the effort to try to pass anyone this early.  I also was uncomfortably warm before there was even a hint of dawn in the Friday morning sky. 

After eight miles of undulating trail along the ancient shoreline, we started to climb up the famous Chinscraper climb.  The air cooled slightly, and the runner train started to decouple ever so slightly.  It now was light enough to switch off headlamps and enjoy the first of two sunrises that I’d see in this race.  At Cool Springs (aid station zero, mile 8.82) I gulped down some delicious, cold orange something, and filled one of my water bottles.  I wanted to fill them both, but a line was forming and the trickle of water from the spring seemed too slow to make others wait.  Keep moving.  Don’t run out of water.

The final push up Chinscraper was steep, but short.  I remembered the race manual and tried to be careful.  I didn't want to be the guy who dislodged rocks, and sent them tumbling them below onto other runners.  The warning seemed legitimate.  Standing at the top shouting at us was Mr. Enthusiasm with his cowbell.  How early do these people get up?  Do they even sleep? He told us it was all downhill from here.  He politely declined to mention the four vertical miles or so of uphill embedded in the 90 miles of downhill still ahead.  It wouldn’t be the last time that a gloss would be put on facts about the trail.  When I crested Chinscraper and started to run, I had a momentary hypoxia blast.  It passed quickly.  I never noticed the altitude again. 

The trails and jeep roads that meander from Chinscraper to Francis Peak were pure unadulterated fun.  Nothing in this stage of the herd felt competitive. The views of the long morning shadows off to the west over Salt Lake were stunning.  Much of the trail was tucked into the shadow of the eastern ridges.  On the road from the Francis Peak towers down to the aid station I passed several people and almost started worrying that I was going too fast. But the cool morning air felt great, and at that point it seems to make sense to cover miles before the air heated. 

At some point in every race, I have this moment of realization that I'm actually running the race instead of just daydreaming about it.  I remember thinking that at some point along this stretch.  Soak it in, etch some memories, because it will blur with time.  Not having run a step of the Wasatch course before, I knew there would be pieces I'd remember clearly, and big chunks that would get shoved into the unrecallable depths of my brain until triggered by either returning again someday, or by other runners’ race reports and pictures.

And so it went from Francis to Big Mountain.  Those hours of running now are a series of pleasant mental vignettes.  Roads and trails, and back to roads again.  The steep, dusty drop into and the steeper, dustier ascent out of the Right Hand Fork of Arthur's Creek.  A heavenly popsicle and a cold washcloth at Bountiful B.  Some guy charging down a hill at us on a horse (too early in the race for a hallucination, but that was weird).  Chatting in awe with grand-slammer Terry Sentinella.  A bag of fresh fruit for the climb out of Sessions.  Steep climbs up, and steeper drops down between Sessions and Swallow Rocks.  The really sweet runnable turn into Swallow Rocks.

My crew for this race were my wife Amy and good friend John Hart.  The way I understood the crew setup, John and Amy had to be held in a hot parking lot down the hill a ways until I got to Swallow Rocks.  This evidently was to prevent mass chaos at the Big Mountain aid station.  I really wanted to get to Swallow Rocks so they could get out of the parking lot.  My goal was to get there by around noon, but it ended up being more like 1:30, which made me feel bad.  The Swallow Rocks aid guys were especially good.  It was really windy there, but they had it all set up to keep things from blowing away, and were super attentive.  They also had popsicles, so I had another.  More bliss.   Popsicles were very key at Wasatch this year.

I liked the 4.5 mile stretch from Swallow Rocks to Big Mountain because the views are great and the trail was cut nicely into the side of a hill.  Some professional looking photographer was on the trail shooting pictures.  (Joe Azze, I think – amazing photos.)  I chose that moment to try to choke down an espresso gel I'd been packing from the start, thinking a little caffeine jolt might be good.  Bad idea as it sent me into a bout of impressively loud dry heaves. Mercifully, he didn't take pictures of me.

Cruising into Big Mountain aid station.

The drop into the Big Mountain aid station is a rush.  It was dry and dusty.  From way up above I could hear the cowbells, vuvuzelas and cheering.  The pink flamingos were out and there was a party going on.  I couldn't wait to see Amy and John and that energized me even more.  It was growing hot, but I really didn't notice.  Instead, I tried to bomb down the dusty switchbacks and cruise into the aid station looking like a million bucks.

At Big Mountain, I got my first weigh-in.  Down just three pounds from the start.  Not too bad. Amy and John found me a folding chair, stuck it in the shade of a big U-Haul truck.  They waited on me, scrubbed the salt off my face, and we discussed logistics and instructions for the rest of the race.  It all seemed to be on track.  I was a little gassed, but after 40 plus miles, nothing really hurt.  I was behind where I wanted to be, but I wasn't going to win anything, so it didn't matter.  Getting through the next stage to Lamb's is all that mattered.

Act II – Hell (Big Mountain to Lamb’s Canyon – mile 39 to mile 52.5)
"You look terrible, Mr. Waturi.  You look like a bag of shit stuffed in a cheap suit." - Joe Banks (Joe Versus the Volcano)

Looking back, I now know I left my positive mental attitude at Big Mountain.  Losing the PMA was a major reason why I looked and felt like a bag of shit when I stumbled into Lamb's more than four long hours later.  The afternoon is always the worst part of a race for me.  I had it in my mind that it was just ten miles to Lamb's, but I looked at my mileage chart and discovered it actually was like 14.  A half marathon and a bump.  I just wanted to get through it and get to familiar faces again.  And it was hot.

The heat wasn’t exactly blast furnace heat like the stories from this year's Western States. No, it was sneaky heat.  Insidious heat.  Heat that tried to disguise itself with a breeze that had started somewhere before Swallow Rocks, but didn’t really kick in until after I left Big Mountain at 2:45 in the afternoon.  Heat that seemed to sap every bit of moisture from what little foliage there was making it crinkly dry.  Heat that sucked the life out of unsuspecting runners like me.

From Big Mountain to Alexander Ridge (mile 47.4) things got ugly.  The runner pathos in that stretch was impressive.  It wasn't just people walking.  It was walking hands on hips, and even hands on knees.  It was people sitting on logs or rocks with blank stares on their faces.  It was people leaning on fenceposts while their pacers pleaded with them.  It was people gingerly tiptoeing down easily runnable slopes.  It seemed to get more freaky the longer into that stretch I went.  My brain baked.

The worst thing about the Big Mountain to Alexander stretch is turning the corner at Pence Point and breaking into the open to see a serpentine, naked ridge dropping west, straight into the afternoon sun.  It's one of the longer sight lines on the course.  I also could see the cars parked down at the Little Dell waiting area, and thought of my crew John and Amy again roasting in the sun waiting to get released again (turns out they actually got to go straight to Lamb’s).  This is where the last of my PMA evaporated.  Letting your PMA go MIA before mile 50 in a 100 mile race is not a good thing.

I'm glad it wasn't easy to quit at Alexander (mile 47) because I'm afraid now that I would have if it wasn’t such a logistical challenge.  The aid station workers at Alexander were quite pleasant in their jailbird outfits. They had the tent set up with the wall on the west side, open to the east, which provided a really nice sunblock.  The row of chairs set up against the wall and endless supply of ice water, soda and fruit.  It was no wonder it was hard to leave.  It was like Pleasure Island.

I obviously sat too long at Alexander because my quads burned bad as soon as I stood up. Right away is a long downhill, which is where I tried the awkward backwards walk method for about 20 yards, before realizing that never would work.  I actually quite welcomed the walk uphill through the tall grass and away from the sun.  This is where I found the guy sitting next to the trail, just before the railroad grade.  In normal times, the run down the railroad grade and the loops around Parley's Creek would be fun, but my mind had become pickled enough that it simply felt like the end of the race.  It also seemed cruel to get close to the aid station, but then have to loop away from it before finally getting to it.  I couldn't wait to see Amy and John at the aid station, even if at that moment I was ready to tell them I was quitting.

Act III – The Magical Night (Lamb’s Canyon to Pole Line Pass – mile 52.5 to mile 82.3)
"All night ramblers, let's get rambling!" - Joe (Reservoir Dogs)

I sat at Lamb's for more than 50 minutes, but it saved my race.  Amy and John poured liquids and shoved food into me.  I tried to hold it in my stomach and not wretch it back up.  Amy read texts of encouragement from friends in Montana and my daughter Meaghen in New Mexico. John knew better than to accept my faint mumblings about quitting.  They did their work flawlessly because after about 40 minutes the switch switched, and decided I wanted to see more of the course, even if it meant walking a good portion of the next 48 miles. I couldn't quit now.  So I changed shirts, packed for the night, and away we went up the canyon in the gathering darkness.

I left Lamb’s with my pacer John Hart.  If you’re going to have a pacer, get one nicknamed after the race.  In Missoula we call John “Johnny Wasatch” for no other reason than he picked Wasatch as his first 100 a few years ago.  Who does that?  John does, and he saved my race.

Johnny Wasatch - pacer extraordinaire.

After leaving the pavement of Lamb’s Canyon, we climbed the trail up Bare Ass Pass and quickly developed a routine.  We’d catch runners ahead of us.  John would tell them we were visiting dignitaries from exotic Montana, out to enjoy a lovely Friday evening in the high Wasatch.  No place else we’d rather be.  We first would decline the invitation to pass, choosing instead to chat for a couple hundred yards, before politely asking to slip by.  It seemed like we did this dozens of times over the course of the night.  I love night running, and I especially enjoy that bond you get with other runners deep in the night.  We were lucky to get to talk to a bunch of people like that, mostly between Lamb’s and Brighton.  All of these little conversations did wonders to get the race back on the rails. 

We reached Desolation Lake at 12:22 a.m.  They had a big handwritten sign out announcing that we were 66.02 miles into this thing.  At that moment I knew that, barring something like a compound femur fracture, an open head wound, or the onset of a complete brain cloud, I was going finish.  I felt great.  The 14 mile afternoon Alexander Ridge meltdown was now a distant memory, like it happened in some other race a very long time ago.  John pointed me at the fire at Deso and told me and to warm up.  Nope.  That fire was built by the DNF gremlins and was too warm and inviting to be real.  Resist temptation.  Four minutes in and out and we were on our way to Scott’s Pass.  There would be no desolation at Desolation Lake.

The climb up to Red Lover’s Ridge is achingly beautiful, especially with a sky full of stars, the twinkling campfire at Deso far below, and a line of headlamps behind us.  Once on the ridge, it became even more stunning, even in the depths of night.  To the east twinkled the little lights of the Canyons.  To the west, urban glow of the Salt Lake valley backlit the whole Wasatch Range creating a dramatic silhouette of peaks.  Through the deep gap Big Cottonwood Canyon forms between Kessler Peak and Reynolds Peak I could see the pool of city lights stretching far off to the west.  It was magical.

Perhaps because delirium was setting in, I began to formulate a new goal on the way to Scott’s Pass.  If we could get in and out of Brighton by 3:00 a.m., maybe, just maybe, I’d still have a shot to break 30 hours.  I had no idea if that was realistic.  I had no idea how long it would take to get to Brighton.  I had no idea what The Dive and The Plunge would be like. But I did know that now two-thirds into the race, a sub-30 buckle would more than salvage my Wasatch.  I didn’t tell John, but I suspect he knew something was up by the quick entry and exit at both Deso and Scott’s Pass (mile 70.8).

We arrived at Brighton at 2:48 a.m.  Brighton was Hemingway's clean, well-lighted place.  I could see why people didn't want to leave.  Once again, spent runners splayed out everywhere.  I suspect some had been there for hours.  It was easy to see why.  Real bathrooms, toothbrushes in the real bathrooms, chocolate milk, home style potatoes, more chocolate milk, phenomenally friendly staff.  How could anyone leave this place?  It was like a womb.  My self-allotted 12 minute time budget ended up being more like 25 minutes.  A bit too luxurious, but in that time Amy and John once again got me completely retooled with a fresh headlamp and a full belly.  John and I charged back out into the night.  Mentally it felt like all I had to do was waltz over the ridge south of Brighton and it would be an easy dance to the finish. More delusion.

3:00 a.m. - Enjoying the luxury at Brighton.

I’m sure the climb from Brighton up to Point Supreme was beautiful, but it was too dark to appreciate it.  We passed a few people, then got passed by a very fit and rested runner who I later learned was Nick Lewis.  At one time he apparently had been top 5 in the race, but had major problems resulting in a several hour stop at Brighton.  But he refused to quit.  I have utmost admiration for people like Nick who refuse to quit, but instead pull themselves back together to finish, even if it takes hours (and even if it wreaks havoc on their Ultrasignup rating).  He was the only person to pass us between Lamb’s and the finish.

I looked for the sign to kiss at Point Supreme, but never saw it.   Instead we crossed over the top and began a ridiculously steep corkscrew descent full loose rocks and dirt.  After a while of this John says he hasn’t seen trail markers in a while.  Not what tired runner wants to hear from pacer, especially deep into a nasty descent.  I did the same thing to John when our roles were reversed at Hardrock last year at approximately the same time of night and recall his crushed expression.  I tried to recreate the course directions in my head.  All I could think of were the terse warnings in the course descriptions not to miss particular turns or become lost “for a very long time.”  I did not want to become lost for a very long time.  I did not want to become lost at all.  Were we in Albion Basin?  Would we start seeing Alta ski lifts soon? Thoughts like that aren’t pleasant at 4:30 a.m. when I’d already entered and exited my dark place for this race. Thankfully, angels suddenly appeared in the form of runners to tell us we were on track and Ant Knolls and pancakes were just below.

Ant Knolls (mile 80.3, 5:10 a.m.) did have pancakes.  That’s all I remember.  Then came the Grunt.  The best thing about the Grunt was the view back to the campfire at Ant Knolls. Otherwise the Grunt pretty much sucked.  At least it was fairly short and before long we were at Pole Line Pass in the predawn glow.

Act IV – Euphoria Redux:  The 17 Mile Sprint (Pole Line Pass to the Finish – mile 82.3 to mile 100)
"You're entering a world of pain, son." – Walter (The Big Lebowski)

Pole Line Pass.  83 miles down, 17 miles to go.  Time to cowboy up.  I quickly choked down a breakfast burrito, poured a Starbuck’s instant coffee packet in about four ounces of lukewarm water, chugged it, chewed it, changed into a spiffy clean shirt from my last drop bag, and we skedaddled out of there. 

We departed Pole Line Pass at  6:37 a.m.  John announced that we were going to do four miles each hour until we were done.  He didn’t ask if I wanted to do four miles per hour and he didn’t say why four miles an hour was relevant to anything at this point.  But I knew.  After nearly 83 miles, a good pacer becomes something of a dominatrix (sorry John), and the runner’s only job is to not ask questions, accept it, and try to enjoy it.  We had just over four and a quarter hours to do about 17 miles and I’d break 30 hours.  After an 83 mile warmup, my race finally was on.  This wasn’t a race between me and anyone else.  It wasn’t the race I’d envisioned 26 hours ago, but it was a new race and gave me reason to run and run hard. It was the race those signs at Lamb’s correctly told me to run.  The race against my mind, and now the race for a suddenly meaningful buckle.  My Lamb’s Canyon pity party seemed like ages ago.  This would end up being the part of the race I will always look back on as pure enjoyment, not at all the pain cave I was envisioning.

I normally don't like to use my Garmin during long races, partly because I have a puppy Garmin (Forerunner 10), which usually only has a 4 hour battery life, so it’s pretty much worthless for long races.  Plus I hate seeing the pathetic pace it announces to me each mile. But with 17 miles and a four mile per hour goal, I switched it on.  First mile out of Pole Line - 13:51, then 14:49.  Maybe we could do this thing.  Third mile 18:45.  Maybe not.  Math in my head:  four miles per hour is 25 hour pace, and this is supposed to be the hardest stretch of the course.  And so it went for the next few hours.  Silently swearing at the ups, rejoicing at the drops, but in a zone.

After Pole Line, I got all confused about the direction we were heading, but at some point we came around a corner (the aptly-named Point Serenity) and were greeted with the second sunrise of this race.  The fresh sun bathed the east face of Mt. Timpanogos with pure golden light.  As my buddy Kenya would say, it was drop-dead gorgeous.  Had I been any faster or slower, I’d have missed it.  Point Serenity became Point Serendipity. 

I also don’t normally carry my phone with me, but for some reason I’d shoved it in my pack.  About this time, I heard it beep, so I pulled it out and saw two messages on the face.  One was from my friend Dean McGovern at home saying “Go Steve Go!  It gave me a huge lift to know that at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning in Missoula people were still following along online.  The second was from Amy saying I’d “moved up” to around 80th place.  Moved up?  After passing people all night, I didn’t even want to think about how far back I must have been when leaving Lamb’s.

On the long stretch after Pole Line, John didn’t say anything, but I knew The Dive and The Plunge were still to come.  These are not the typical race features named for people or geography.  No, these features are named for action verbs.  Verbs with definitions like “to become pitched or thrown headlong or violently forward and downward.”  Or to “drop down precipitously.”   The Dive and The Plunge are the spots nearly 90 miles into the run where runners get the joy of dropping down  35% pitched, rutted, dusty chutes filled with unanchored rocks that resemble chickenheads, while desperately trying not to go ass over teakettle.  Mission Control tried to eliminate the Dive and the Plunge as part of the necessary adjustments to the course this year, but the faithful rebelled and amazingly, they found a way to reroute the course without losing these two gems.  I would have felt cheated to have missed them.  I did not want to do the jello salad version of Wasatch. 

I expected that once we finished diving down The Dive and plunging down The Plunge all we had left to do was sashay down some nice buttery singletrack through quaking aspens before being spit out onto a bit of road that would deliver us to the finish.  It wasn't quite like that. There's a stretch called "Irv's Torture Chamber" where I vaguely remember telling John that this trail was engineered by sadists.  There are the ups and downs of the seven hills of Babylon.  This ten miles is the soul of Wasatch.

At some point we rounded a corner and almost ran into troughs filled with cool clear water flowing out of a pipe.  Ruminant Springs.  I had no idea this was coming but it was nectar.  I washed the salt off my face, soaked my hat, and poured sweet cold water over the back of my neck.  I was so refreshed that the next mile down to Pot Bottom felt like the fastest mile of the course.  We reached Pot Bottom (mile 92) at 9:11 a.m.  An hour and 49 minutes to cover a little over eight miles.  In normal times, that would be nothing, but these were not normal times.

The last aid station is at Staton.  Between Pot Bottom and Staton, several roads split off the main dirt road and it got a little confusing.  At one especially confusing junction near the campground some guy sitting on his dirt bike, dressed like an Imperial Storm Trooper, pointed left.  Do we trust him?  Yep.  Angels might be disguised in strange attire, but they still are angels and we accepted his directions without question. 

At Staton, we didn’t stop except to gulp more water.  John told me to suck down more gel, but I was done with gels, preferring to live off their fumes by that point.  The long descent down the rutted dirt road from Staton finally dumped us out on the pavement above the Soldier Hollow golf course.  The juxtaposition there of the neatly pressed Saturday morning golfers teeing off on one side with dirty, sweaty, bloody runners on the other was stark. 

Once we hit the road, I saw the finish.  Tantalizingly close, agonizingly far.  In one last stroke of torture, instead of sending us straight to the finish, the course made a big clockwise loop, kind of like how a plane circles before lining up for the runway.  We were going much slower than a plane at this point.

A runner (Ryan Lund) and his pacer were about a half mile ahead of us on the paved section. I could see them keep turning around to see if we were gaining on them, and running when they clearly didn’t want to be running any more.  There was no danger of us catching them. We had a half hour of time and a mile to go.  It was time to savor the finish.  I crossed the finish at 10:40 a.m.  I finished at 29 hours, 40 minutes.  20 minutes under 30 hours.  I’d done it, though it really mattered to no one but me.

It's hard to describe the finish of a 100 mile race.  There's certainly elation, but mostly it's just relief.  Amy got me a 10 gallon bucket full of ice water and all I really wanted to do was sit in a chair, soak and watch the next batch of runners come in.  I was very happy to see the woman (Christina Bauer, I think) who we'd passed on The Dive come in under 30 hours too, so I impulsively went over and high-fived her, which is totally out of character, but seemed like the thing to do at that particular moment.  But best of all, was to not have to worry about moving forward any more, and to just enjoy a chair and a bucket of cool ice water.

"Let's do the time warp again." – (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Weeks later in Montana the huckleberry bushes have all turned red, the larches gold, and grassy hills tawny brown.  There’s been snow on the high peaks and summer has faded away.  But Wasatch still resonates.  I continually play out the race over in my head while running over the same Missoula hills that I used all summer to train.  Other race reports and pictures trigger memories of segments that would otherwise be lost in brain fog.  As with every race, the memories of agony fade and the good parts are enhanced.

In my mind Wasatch is the quintessential 100 mile race. The course is relentless and brutal.  I believe Nick Clark when he told Bryon Powell in the  post-race interview that the last 25 miles is one of the hardest stretches in ultrarunning.  I also believe Rod Bien when he calls the Crimson Cheetah (sub-24) the most coveted buckle. Wasatch is a race with a deep soul.  I felt it at the beginning.  I saw it in the people way out in the middle of nowhere shouting encouragement.  It became more evident with every hill and every drop.  It’s there in the bond developed with the other runners who passed me, then let me pass them.  It was there when the sun rose gold. It was there at the end when the storm hit and we all huddled together under the pavilion at Soldier’s Hollow to get our awards. 

Awards ceremony mosh pit.

100 mile races are funny.  On the one hand, they are intensely personal, with the rarified highs, and the pain filled lows.  The trail to Lamb’s Canyon will forever be a metaphor for the depths of despair.  At the other end of the spectrum, Red Lover’s Ridge signifies the moments of pure ebullient joy.  I could never have done this race alone this first time.  John, Amy and everyone in Missoula that got me through this are as big a part of the finish as my own calloused feet.

When I finished, I told myself that Wasatch was a one and done.  But, as always seems to happen, plans change and I think there may be some unfinished business…. 

Running doesn’t suck.

By the numbers:
312 runners started, only 205 finished – 65.7% finish rate.  That statistic speaks volumes when you compare it to this year’s Western States – 72.3% finish rate, Hardrock – 74.3% finisher rate, and UTMB 68.4% finish rate.  Here are my numbers (177 minutes in aid stations – yikes):

Aid Station
East Mountain Wilderness Park
0 mi.
4880 feet
Francis Peak
18.76 mi.
7500 feet
Bountiful B
23.95 mi.
8160 feet
Sessions Lift Off
28.23 mi.
8320 feet
Swallow Rocks
34.91 mi.
8320 feet
Big Mountain
39.4 mi.
7420 feet
Alexander Ridge
47.44 mi.
6160 feet
Lambs Canyon
53.13 mi.
6100 feet
61.68 mi.
7660 feet
Desolation Lake
66.93 mi.
9170 feet
Scotts Pass
70.79 mi.
9910 feet
Brighton Lodge
75.61 mi.
8790 feet
Ant Knolls
80.27 mi.
9000 feet
Poll Line Pass
83.39 mi.
8925 feet
Pot Bottom
91.98 mi.
7385 feet
Staton Cut-off
94.69 mi.
7114 feet
Soldier Hollow
100 mi.
5530 feet


  1. Man oh man! This is awesome. Thanks for sharing Steve! Miss you guys. See you in a few weeks.

    Rock it...Wicks



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