Well, that was probably the most interesting race I have ever had. I had debated back and forth whether or not to take the early start. If you are expected to finish the course in over 15 hours you have the option of starting the race 1 hour early to give you extra time to make the cut off at Little Valley by 2:30pm. Last year I started with everyone on time, and made the cutoff by 45minutes, my time after that was slower going up Windy Pass, and I ended up finishing in 16:12.
I thought I would be much faster this year. I have been working on my core muscle strength and am a lot fast up the hills, however, the snow reports said there was quite a bit of snow, and I wasn’t sure how I would do on snow, so in the end I chose to take the 4am start just in case. I was a lot faster going up all the way to camel pass, and I was fairly quick going down to Hobble Creak, but once the sun came out it got hot very quickly, and I must have slowed down a lot. Many other people did as well; it was not a good day for the heat!
I have been working with Elena to figure out some of my energy problems during race events, and the biggest thing we figured out is that I need a LOT of salt. The minimum amount I need when it is not hot is 750mg per hour, and if it is very hot 1500mg per hour is sometimes what I need. I have been getting hyponatremic and this messes with my carbohydrate absorption and dehydrates me, even when I am hydrating. In fact, I end up retaining a ton of water, and have breathing problems in some events as a result.
So this time I was prepared to hydrate, fuel, and salt myself properly. I end up deciding to carry 72 oz of water on my back because I have such specific hydration and fueling needs, that in order to stay at an optimum performance level, I have to have all my stuff with me between aid stations.
This worked well, and the only problems I had were the heat. I don’t handle heat well, and need to do more training in the heat! But because my electrolytes were OK, I handled the heat better than I have in the past, and I did have to stop a few times to sit in the shade and cool my body temperature down.
I felt like I was moving pretty fast, and so I was disappointed when I got to the Sheep Creek aid station and discovered that even with starting an hour early, I was going to be racing the cut off! I had 1 hour to go 3.5 miles up Sheep Creek Canyon! It would be tough, but doable on a good day, but in that heat, it would be a push! But I did not want a DNF, so I pushed, and arrived at Little Valley at 2:29, one minute before the cut off! Once I hit the last downhill, I ran as hard as I could. I checked into the aid station, checked out, and the walked up the trail for a few minutes to stop and recover.
Quite a few others had done the same thing it was so hot, there were a lot of us pushing the cut off, and leaving the aid station and then recovering a bit up the trail. There is no final cut off, you just have to reach Little Valley by 2:30 and be out by 2:45.
Pushing it in the heat wiped me out, and the last 16.4 miles of the course are not just a mere 16 miles! You have a 6-mile ascend, in the heat to the dreaded Bozung Hill, where you gain about 1500 ft in 1 mile. Most years we skirt around Windy Pass, but this year there was too much snow, which means you have to summit the mountain, and add about 1 mile to the course. I had to sit for a while and to recover, and then I was moving slow because I felt like I was going to fall asleep! I just needed to close my eyes. By that point, everyone else had passed me because I had taken so much time to recover, and the sweep came upon me. I explained I was taking a 5-10 minute nap and then I would move much faster.
That was all I needed, I closed my eyes, and then five minutes later felt awake, and I started running uphill. I felt great, and thought I would be pushing to still hit under 15 hours, but could maybe get under the 16-hour mark. But as I started winding up the mountain I came across Marc Colman and John Wojciechowski, who were seriously dehydrated and hyponatremic. They were both looking really bad, and trying to help each other up the hill, and quite a sad site to see! I decided two guys who were puking every 10 feet taking care of each other didn’t seem like good idea, I was going to have to push hard at that point to make under 16 anyway, so I told Marc that I was just going to hang back and finish the course with them. This was about mile 35.
Gave Marc one of my pulls, and tried to find some form of electrolyte he could keep down, and was glad I had over prepared for myself, and had a lo of stuff with me. At that point, the extra weight was with me. We slowly made our way toward the hill, stopping every few feet so that they could recover and not over do it. Once we hit the hill we had to stop more often, and it took us about 3 hours to get up that hill, with John throwing up right and left. I was seriously worried about him. But we tried to make the best of it with good conversation and joking, and by that point the sweeps had caught up with us, and all five off us slowly made our way to the aid station. We got into the aid station about 7:45 pm.
After resting a little and getting some fluids, we decided to try to make it down as far as we could while it was still light. At that point, we weren’t dealing with the heat, and so Marc and John were able to move faster. We booked it down pretty quickly, and only needed our lights for about the last 2 miles from the parking lot. My legs and energy were great, but my feet were not! There had been a lot of mud from the melting snow, and my feet were wet most of the last half of the course. The top of Wind Pass is full of rocks, so between wet feet and rocks, I could tell I was developing some large blisters on the bottom of my feet.
I was fine going down the trail except for some rocky patches, and then I was dealing with horrible pain on the bottom of my feet! But I suffered through it and ran down to the aid station, where Marc’s and John’s wives’ were very happy to see them, and Marcs wife took all of our gear so we wouldn’t have to carry it down the road the last 4 miles to the finish line. John looked like he was starting to feel worse again, and all of us were happy to be almost done!
We left the Big Springs aid station about 20:20, and made it to the finish about 23:18. As we turned the corner to the finish chute, we lined up side by side, and ran the last 100 yards and crossed the finish line together. Finishing had been a group effort, and we had pushed each other through the end.
Marc and John got some much-needed IVs, and I was tired at that point. I had been out on the trail for over 18 hours, and awake since 3 am that morning. I also had been with laboring clients half the week, and had not had a lot of sleep, so my body was ready to shot down at that point.
The blisters on my feet were so big, I got sick to my stomach trying to walk on them, and so I had to ask some one to drive me around to my car. I got home, and my hips were sore from pushing down from Windy Pass, and I couldn’t bare to look at my feet! Ouch! I thought I would never walk again normally! But during the night my hip pain went away, and my blisters have shrunk in size enough that I can hobble around!
That will probably go down as the most memorable Squaw Peak in my book, and I made some good friends in the process.
I should mention that both Marc and John and experienced runners, and John has had 9 Wasatch 100 finishes. Bad days can happen to anyone, no matter how experienced you are. I wish them speedy recovery, and had a good time getting to know them better.