Wasatch...a Rambling Account

Wasatch Front 100, 2003

by Jack Andrish

Well, here I am at 30,000 feet, returning home and contemplating another "ultra experience." Some things change and some things don't. My third try at a western 100 resulted in another "DNF." But what an adventure! I don't know, maybe I'm just an 80 miler (I just completed the Wasatch Front 80 miler?....wrong, I dnf'd the Wasatch 100 miler).

But despite the predictable and the unpredictable, it was a weekend filled with a ton of good memories. To begin, the Wasatch course is simply spectacular! I couldn't believe where we were running, climbing and scratching up and down mountain slopes. This course is definitely not for those prone to vertigo. The whole day (and then the next day too) were filled with spectacular scenery. As my daughter Shannon mentioned, "it was like being IN a picture." For starters, the race begins with a 5000 foot climb that ends with a final "assault" upon "Chinscraper." I had of course heard the talk of "Chinscraper," and it lived up to it’s reputation. I am thankful it was in the beginning of the run when we still had fresh legs as it is a shear face of granite towering at 9000'. I was amazed that anyone would even think of including this in part of a trail run course.

Shannon was able to join us at the last moment and that made for a very special time. She and my wife Sue Ellen were able to crew for my son Sean and me; what a difference that made. As for Sean, he has always felt something special about this race and would like to do well here someday, but this was not to be the year. He was in the lead and then had his first seizure of the day; a small one, but it rendered him a bit confused for a while (Sean of course has epilepsy, but has never let that deter him from participating and competing in this sport that he loves). But he got back on track and was "reeling in" the leader (who had passed him when he got lost during the first episode) only to have a second seizure on the Lambs Canyon stretch about 60 miles into the run. This one took him a half hour to "recover" from but got him concerned because darkness was just ahead and he was now apprehensive about running further without a pacer (he had none). So he made the right decision and dropped out. He was disappointed to have dropped, but relieved I think to have come through it unharmed. The moral to this, of course, is that for extended runs he really needs to have someone (a pacer) with him.

As for me, I'm still learning. Thank goodness I'm young and still have so much potential! My goal was to finish in "Badger time." And now after experiencing this race, I can understand that their "cutoff" times are very generous indeed. No one there is intent upon pulling a runner off the course unless they are clearly delirious and a danger to themselves. This time I was "metabolically" the best I have ever been. I think I may have found an electrolyte and nutrition system that is reasonable for me. And my legs did not fail me (amazing with all of the climbing and steep descents). But my Achilles's heel this time were the monster blisters I developed around 50 miles that eventually made it difficult for me to run and miserable on the descents. I hate to be a whimp about a few blisters, but so be it. But I did make about 83+ miles before I gave up the ghost so to speak.

But what a great day anyway! Sue Ellen paced me for the 3000' of climbing up Lambs Canyon (in darkness of course). We had a great time and even had a fellow traveler for a while that we think was a large cat (mountain lion versus cougar). This was on the descent portion of that section and I was stimulated to pick up my pace, but I was a good husband and kept calling for Sue Ellen who was behind me with the cougar to ask if she was all right! Then Shannon paced me up the way to Desolation Lake; now this went down in the memory bank as special. Our ascent up to the Desolation Lake aid station was uneventful except we could see the sky flash in the distance occasionally (lightening?). Then after leaving the aid station, we were climbing up the circ which is at the top of the Alta ski area, I believe, when Shannon and I found out in spades what had been making the sky flash. Yes, we were at the highest point on the ascent; nothing but granite and a mile from the aid station, when we were caught in a typical western "big sky" thunderstorm. But at what ever elevation we were at the time (10,000'?) the storm pelted us with hail, freezing rain and even snow. The winds were fierce and Shannon and I were clueless as what to do. We didn't know where we were nor did we know where we were going. The "trail" at this time was simply a pile of rocks on a mountain top. I must say, Shannon kept her cool much better than I did. The good news of course is that eventually the lightening passed and we could resume our trek (now in just a cold, cold rain), but the bad news is that I was ill prepared. My twenty year old "lucky jacket" that I had brought along as a windbreaker in case I needed it was no rain jacket! It immediately became a frozen, soaked shell intent to lowering my core body temperature into the twilight zone. Shannon was good for me here as she honed her medical skills by keeping me moving and up on fluids and nutrition (apparently needed for the treatment of hypothermia). On the way down from Scott's aid station I rallied from hypothermia but my legs were now trashed and my blisters were over bearing. With the encouragement of Sean, Shannon and Sue Ellen, however, I took off alone from the Brighton aid station and proceeded up and over Catherine's pass and Point Supreme; down into Ant Knoll and then up "the Grunt" and onto the Pole Line aid station where it was clear that the final 16 17 miles with the steep descents were going to make it a very long way home and I dropped from the race.

So all in all, it was a beautiful extended weekend with family and enough good memories to last for another year. Oh yes, next year? How can one pass on the opportunity to do this again. And next year I'll be 60. What could be better than finishing the Wasatch 100 in "Badger time!"


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