Friday, March 25, 2011

The Last 35 miles of Wasatch - Of course there was 47 miles to go.

First, I borrowed some of these pictures from Chihping Fu of Fremont, California.  He was thoughtful enough to take pictures of the aid stations in his race in 2007.  He finished.  I will use them in this post and in the next.

I arrived at Lamb's Canyon aid station at 10:17PM and left at 10:38.  I spent 21 minutes at the AS and I am not sure why.  I did have to take my shoes off and put on running tights.  Marye Jo had everything ready for me but I was still slow.  I do remember being very tired but I was also excited about the climbs to come.  I was anxious to get up to the ridges above the Canyons and Park City Ski Resorts.  After a little regrouping, I headed out, under I80 and up the Lamb'e Canyon Road. 
The Lamb's Canyon Aid Station and I80.

I remember hiking and running up what seemed like miles on a paved road.  I did not know where we turned off the pavement and I kept thinking I had missed the trailhead.  Then I would see the course flagging and know I was on route.  The wind was howling in the tree tops and occasionally I was hit by a blast of cold air, but in general, there was just a light breeze on the road.  I finally reached the end of the road and there was the trailhead.  I had not seen a headlamp since leaving Lamb's aid station and it seemed pretty lonely out there.  Before Lamb's, there were several other runners in front and behind me but now no one was in sight.  I think they had stayed at the AS longer than I did.

I knew the trail climbed up (1,500 feet in 2.1 miles) and over a ridge and back down to the Upper Big Water (Mill Creek) Aid Station.  As I climbed I began to see other headlamps and ended up following someone up the hill.  Finally we crested the ridge and started down a rocky, more difficult section for a few miles.  We finally came out on a paved road and again I stared hiking and running up pavement for 5 miles.  I passed several people going up the road and after what seemed like hours reached the Upper Big Water AS.  The aid station was out in the open and as I approached I became much colder.  A volunteer found my drop bag, which was frosted over with ice, and I went over in front of a  heater and warmed while resupplying.  I arrived at 1:57 AM and stayed 21 minutes.  I seem to be stuck on 21 minute stops.  I sat in the warmth of a propane heater and ate a cup of hot soup.  Then I gathered my stuff and headed out for Desolation Lake

I remember being very cold as I started up the 5.3 mile climb to Desolation Lake but soon warmed up as  I hiked up the trail in the dark.  It was a spectacularly clear night although I never turned off my headlamp to enjoy it.  As I climbed, I came up behind more runners.  I felt like I was crawling up the hill, but I guess others were as tired as I was.  Soon we crested a small hill (the moraine) and there was Desolation Lake and the aid station.  The "bowl" the lake sat in seemed to hold the cold night air.  It was noticeably colder at the aid station than it had been just a couple of minutes earlier.  They had a large fire burning over about 50 feet, but is was off the trail and I wisely never went near it.  

Desolation Lake (mile 66.9) is a very remote aid station, accessible only by foot or ATV.  In an earlier post, I talked about skiing over to the ridgeline to the right of Lift 9990 at the Canyon's Ski Resort and looking down at Desolation Lake, covered in snow, 1000 feet below.  I filled a couple of Perpetuem bottles, ate more hot soup and headed on out.  I arrived Desolation AS at 4:31AM and left at 4:41, I was doing better.  I could see a couple of runners sitting over by the fire but the guys I had been following started up just ahead of me so I followed.  Now there were 10 or 15 headlamps visible winding up the trail to the crest of the ridge.  I didn't feel alone any more.
Desolation Lake from near the location of the aid station..  
And from above.  I think the aid station is located about where the trail to the right disappears in the trees.  
This picture was probably taken from the trail climbing up to the ridgeline.

We left Desolation Lake and climbed about 1000 feet to the ridge where the lights of , probably Kimble Junction, were visible over the other side. After reaching the ridge "Red Lover's Ridge" we headed southeast following the ridge.  Somewhere near the upper part of the climb is, I think, were I slightly twisted my ankle.  I do remember thinking,  "That would have been trouble last year."  I guess it had not healed as much as I thought it had.
Sunrise in the Wasatch near Scott's Peak Aid Station

After several miles along the ridge, we reached Scott's Peak AS at mile 70.8, just as it was beginning to get light at 6:12 AM.  I ate a cup of soup, again, refilled one Perpetuem bottle and picked up a banana.  I remember being very disorganized and having to search for one of my gloves.  I ended up staying there for 14 minutes.  I don't know what I was doing for that long. I don't even add any water to the bladder.  

We now started the 4.9 mile descent to Brighton Ski Resort at mile 75.6.  Marye Jo would be there waiting for me.  I was a little concerned because she was going to drive over Empire Pass above Deer Valley's Empire Lodge, a well maintained gravel road, but pretty remote for several miles after leaving Deer Valley.  Two or three miles from Brighton, we were back on pavement and that is where my ankle problem began to show itself.  I ran all the way to the lodge and passed several more runners, but my ankle also began to hurt.  As I came in sight of the building where the aid station was located, I called Marye Jo and told here I would be there in a couple of minutes.  She decided to run out and meet me.

We had driven over to Brighton the day before the race to location of the aid station.  She ran back the the way we drove in (the road circling through Brighton is one way.)  The trouble is, the race came up from the other side and we never saw each other.  When I got in to the Aid Station, I found my stuff, but no Marye Jo.  I looked around for her but could not find her.  I went outside to see if she was out front waiting for me, but she was not.  I finally called her.  By then she was about 1/2 a mile down the road I had just run up.  I had no choice but to gather my stuff and go.  It was now 7:45 AM and I had 9 hours and 15 minutes to reach the finish.  I had no time to waist but at my present pace, I would reach the finish safely ahead of cutoff.  
Below are two shots of the Brighton Aid Station outside and inside

Above is Brighton Ski Resort and the Climb up Catherin's Pass.

This is a shot of the climb up Catherin's.  Lake Mary is the flat spot about 2/3 of the way up.  I think the pass is actually on the right side of the picture, but I am not sure.

Some woman at the AS was rushing me and said I would really have to hurry or I would never make it.  She rushed me so much I left my sunglasses and lost my gloves.I was now in a panic, thanks to a well-meaning, member of another team.  I thought she was a race official and that she knew what she was taking about.  I was not thinking clearly enough to realize I was actually fine on time.  I have always finish the last 25 miles faster than other section and after the climb up to Catherin's Pass and on to Point Supreme at 10,480 ft. there were only three minor climbs left, one of about 600 ft and and two, about 800 ft.  The rest was almost all downhill.  She had me convinced I would never make the 36 hour cutoff unless I went all out to the end.  I was so discouraged going up Cathrin's Pass I almost turned around and came back down.  I will never listen to anyone like that again.    

The descent from Point Supreme is very steep and rocky and by now I realized my ankle was going to be a problem although I was still able to run downhill.  I was very tired and started eating Honey Stingers and drinking Perpetuem on a regular basis to recover. I was trying to hurry and reached Ant Knolls Aid Station at 10:10am and spent exactly 3 minutes there.  It was now getting hot and the sun was intense.  I had no sunglasses so I did pull my cap down over my eyes.  I reached Pole Line Pass at mile 83.4 at 11:17am.  This is a drop bag AS so I sat down and took time to sort through my bag and add water and NUUN tablets to the hydration pack.  This time I didn't leave all my supplies from Brighton.  I kept a couple of extra Honey Stingers I had not eaten.  I thought I might need them later.  As usual, I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana and started off.
Pole Line Pass Aid Station

After Pole Line the trail climbs for a mile or two before hitting a very steep section that just about did me in.  The climb was probably no more than a 400 or 500 feet, but it was brutal and I was pushing as hard as I could.  After that climb the trail descended about 1000 feet before starting back up to Rock Springs.  This descent was the "final straw."  My ankle hurt going down hill and I could only walk, and slowly.  The uphill was becoming a problem too.  I finally reached Rock Springs at 1:14 PM.  I sat down on a rock to rest and cool off under the tarp they had rigged over the trail. (They have no chairs since everything has to be carried in over a very rough, 2 mile trail.)  I was wearing compression socks and when I looked down at my ankle, it looked like I had wrapped a donut around my ankle under the sock.  I think the compression socks held all the fluid that had accumulated right in place rather than letting it drain down around the lower part of my ankle and foot.  I sat there a few minutes evaluating the situation.  I now had 3 hours and 46 minutes to finish the last 12.3 miles.  Normally, that should be no problem since it is almost all downhill.

Rock Springs, in 2007, they did have chairs, and two tents.

Trouble was, I could not run down hill at all and walking was painful.  I thought I had two aid stations to go and 15 miles.  To this day, I have no idea why I thought that. I was also afraid I would do some really serious damage and really didn't think I could make it to the end.  I wisely decided to stop.  I think that was a good decision.  My ankle still is bothering me a little, and I am doing all my running in an ankle brace.

Next, I am going to post pictures of the aid stations in the first half if the race (since I found Chihping Fu's pictures)  I will also post aid stations from Leadville.  They are an interesting contrast.

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