No, I'm not racing Wasatch 100 this year. I did it last year. After three DNFs, I finally got my belt buckle. I don't ever want to see the last 25 of that course again unless I'm racing, and I'm not sure when I will be racing Wasatch again ~ yeah, it's that good. That's not to say that I won't try and do 100 miles again, but maybe just not that particular 100 miles.
Needless to say after that many times out on the course I know the first 75 miles of the Wasatch course really well. So when my friend Amy emailed me Wednesday afternoon and asked if I might want to join her on part of the course the next morning, I decided to help her out. You see, Amy is just a little bit, uh ~ how shall I put it and be all politically correct about it? She is map-challenged. I think she is the type of person who can look at a map and make just about any location on said map fit where she is standing at any point in time. But she would likely be wrong. She did show me this sweet map-App on the iPhone (called "Peaks") which helps as a locator. You could also use Google Earth, but if you don't have cell service, you're kind of SOL. And a lot of the course is out of cell service.
Amy had planned to run from the Bountiful B to the Big Water trailhead in Millcreek Canyon (38 miles). I wasn't planning on doing that much for my long run this week, but I told her that I would plan on picking her up at Big Mountain and running the rest with her (22 miles). The pace would be conversational and easy. We planned for a hot day. I think we were both a bit nervous about her running the first bit on her own, but thankfully at the last moment, another friend (Steve) stepped up and decided to run the first 16 with her. I also told her that she could call me at any point along the way and I would try and talk her through it.
As it turned out, she did call me at one point, and we had a discussion about Hardscrabble Canyon, and after figuring out that they were not actually in Hardscrabble, but that it was below them to the left, it turned out they were in the right place.
I drove up to Big Mountain at about 8:30 am, after missing my chance to shuttle up there with Amy's boyfriend Bryce (who was sick the entire day with a virus, and when I stopped by Amy's house to meet Bryce he was conked out in a febrile state and didn't hear me at the door). Just as well, Amy's first pacer Steve took my car home to his house, which is my neighborhood and it was easy enough to get back.
So I hung out with Bryce at Big Mountain once he arrived, and once Amy and Steve got there, I surprised Amy with a fried egg sandwich and some fresh coffee (those would be the first brownie points of our day together).
We headed up the ridge towards Bald Mountain, and I kept thinking to myself that the turn-off to the west should be coming along "any minute" and it's kind of easy to miss if you are not paying attention (and we were chatting along happily, so I was thinking that the chances of missing the turn-off were actually quite high... ) but after seeing a guy running with his two standard poodles, we confirmed that the turn-off was actually a bit farther, and past Horney Toad ridge.
We found it easily and cruised along down to Alexander Spring, and I pointed out to Amy that this is where one of the aid stations on race-day is. Then we started the endless climb up the pipeline double track. The endless, hot climb. Thankfully there was a bit of a breeze (as oftentimes it can be dead calm). To say this section was hot is an understatement. We could feel the waves of heat radiating off of the ground. It was, in fact, one of the hottest experiences of my entire 40 years. We had been sucking down our water steadily, and thankfully I had the foresight to call Bryce just before Alexander Springs and report that we were about halfway to Lamb's from Big Mountain, and asked him to meet us at the Lamb's Canyon exit with cold drinks, ice, and snacks. All I could think about for the entire section was how good my ice-cold Coke was going to taste. I think it's what got me through.
It was so hot in this 4-mile section that we almost didn't even talk about the heat for fear that it would make us want to give up. Instead, I told stories of my recent trip to Scotland and of Wasatch races past, and I don't know what all else. Suffice it to say that when I have a captive audience, I come up with a lot of witty babble that makes the time and the miles go by more quickly. (Not once was I asked to be quiet, and that is my evidence attesting to the fact that my stories were much appreciated!)
We got to the land-bridge just before the trail parallels I-80 and gave Bryce the "heads up" call that we were getting close. He wasn't quite at the underpass when we got there, so we sucked down the last few drops of our water and waited patiently in the shade while semi-trucks rumbled over our heads on the bridge above (freaky). But at least we were in the shade now instead of the full sun, and it was probably about 10 degrees cooler there. Right on schedule, we made it from Big Mountain to Lamb's in exactly 4 hours.
Bryce came and surprised us with club-soda, Pearson's Nut Rolls, Salsa Sun Chips, lots of ice (lots), and best of all (for me) Coke! Oh, it tasted so good. I filled up my hand-held water bottle with ice cubes and coke, filled up the other water bottle with club soda and ice, filled my water bladder with ice and water... ooh, sweet ice! I scarfed down about a quarter of the bag of Sun Chips and after 15 minutes or so, we decided we had better get moseying up the Lamb's Canyon road.
There is a God in Heaven who blessed us with some clouds that built steadily as we climbed up out of Lamb's Canyon to Bare-Ass Pass. We stopped about halfway up to take a snack break, and I was stopped on a nice flat section of trail. I asked Amy to come around the switchback that she was on because it was a really nice place to stand. We ate our snacks for about 5 minutes and then Amy looked over my shoulder and said, "Oh, my Gosh. Turn around. There's a mother moose and her baby right behind you." And sure enough, about 50 yards away stood a mother moose, looking right at us, munching on some leaves. Her baby was a softer shade of brown and was nuzzled right under her chest. What a magical moment. We quietly crept up the trail and hoped that mother moose would not find us threatening, as we didn't really have the energy to be chased by a moose at that point.
We continued up the trail and almost without even realizing what was happening, we became increasingly aware of the plethora of butterflies in the flowers on the sides of the trail. Talk about magical moments! There were hundreds if not thousands of them. We didn't take many pictures along the day, but we did stop to take photos of the butterflies. It was awe-inspiring and incredible. We couldn't believe our eyes.
Before long we were at Elbow Fork at the Millcreek Road. We had mentioned in passing to Bryce that "when we walk up the Millcreek Road... " and he replied with, "What? You're not going to run up it?" and we looked at him with dull stares. As it turned out, we did run a little bit of the road up to the Big Water trailhead, but mostly we speed walked it. I looked down at my pace clock on my watch a couple of times, and we were walking 4 miles per hour. I was pretty impressed with us for walking that fast after so long and hot of a day!
We passed some road bikers on the road who were debating quitting before the end, and Amy shouted some encouragement to them. I told them how far Amy and I had come today (38 and 22 miles, respectively) and they looked at us like we were, oh, I don't even know what. It's almost like it didn't even register to them what we were doing.
We reached the end of the road, literally, at the Big Water trailhead. Bryce was not there to meet us to pick us up yet, so after congratulating each other, Amy said, "Well, should we start walking down?" Amazing. Here she is, after 38 miles and she wants to keep going. I have got to tell you, I was really impressed. She didn't complain about aches and pains or being tired or anything the entire way.
Bryce came hauling up the road and we waved him down and quickly jumped in the car, because there was another car hot on his tail trying to get (too) quickly up the canyon. Bryce drove us back down and after dropping him off to get some much needed rest (he really was looking pretty sick, and we were so lucky to have him helping us out even though he felt awful) we went to Este Pizza in Sugarhouse for some slices.
We sat inside in the cool air conditioning and complemented each other on our badassery. What amazing girls we are. What an amazing place we live in, and what an amazing community of runners in this town that, as Amy pointed out, we can email someone the night before a big run, and not one, but two people step up to come along for the run.
Warm up for Wasatch ~ the fun has only just begun.
On the day (for me) 6 hours 51 min, 22 miles, 5500 feet elevation gain.
On the day (for Amy) ~12 hours, 38 miles, and a lot more gain.