“We had done this thing we had set out to do, and instead of becoming larger because of the experience, we became smaller, more humble, more aware of how little we know: about the world in general, about ourselves specifically.” – Rich Benyo
If this image is too much for you, then consider that fair warning that the rest of this post will be raw as well. I originally told Spike that I wasn’t sure if I could blog the race, but it turns out it was a huge event in my life, and thanks to some of the best friends I could ever ask for, I ran an amazing race. It is in these races, as you break down, you become stronger, a process of rebuilding grows inside of you without you even knowing it. You must be broken by the world, to grow strength and grace and be who you want to become.
I set out to run Wasatch this time around because I volunteered at Ant Knolls aid station (mile 79), last year and caught the bug of nostalgia and inspiration. I was overcome joy when friends who were there for me the last time around immediately said they wanted to pace me after the lottery drawing in February. While it seems crazy from the outside these runs become a part of your soul, your character and sharing that space, that exposure with someone is sharing a piece of yourself. Training runs, races, hikes alike; we have good days and bad days, and just plain mundane days. Every time you go out you risk failure, you risk exposure, and you break yourself down; sometimes just physically, sometimes only mentally, every time though, you build a little bit of strength. With that exposure comes the views and the beauty and the reflection; the trail runs in your own backyard and the shared experience of a sunrise on this earth. For all the runs I’ve had, whether it be a huge failure or a short easy jaunt watching the puppy dog, I’m grateful for everyone of them that I’ve been able to share with friends and family.
This year my runs leading up to the race made me stronger. I didn’t set out to run specific things, I just set out to run and enjoy the year, enjoy my mountains and enjoy all the company I had. This summer I ran with a lot of weight off my shoulders, I can’t pin point it, but even being broken down I felt stronger. Despite having the worst taper of my life, I carried that strength through to Wasatch, to my first sunrise of the race.
Experience paid me well this time through, I climbed faster and with less effort than before. I quickly wound up with runners who were telling me they would finish in 24-26 hours, a time significantly faster than my 30 hour target. My brain said slow down, but my feet just found a rhythm and went with it. By mile 24, I was lacking in calories and nauseous due to the sun, but I felt great and kept clicking along. I just soaked in the views and eagerly ran to meet my friends at Big Mountain.
The sun in the next section beat me down, but Emina’s cheery spirits kept me moving as well as I could between bouts of nausea. The fall colors had come out to play for us creating a spectacular backdrop overlooking the valley. Eventually, we made it to Lamb’s canyon, where I picked up Jenny for round 2 at pacing this section. Greeted by wonderful friends and family, I was sent on my way.
Jenny grabbed on to my energy and worked like a slave driver to get me to Brighton as quickly as my feet could go. A stark difference to the long, cold night we walked through two years ago; we made incredible time, and despite the persistent nausea I still felt amazing. I surprised Jenny, and most certainly myself, when we walked into Brighton Lodge about a full hour before my optimistic projection. It was at this time that I began to wonder what my limits were, how far could I push? I was surrounded by people who loved and believed in me and there were some pretty fast numbers that seemed within reach. 20 minutes and a bit of coffee later, Kelly and I were out the door into the cold of night for the last big climb.
Fatigue began to set in as we made the climb to Point Supreme, one of my favorite places in the Wasatch. I kept moving, always one or two steps behind Kelly, there was a faint familiarity to this routine by now, and my body remembered exactly how to do it this time around. We sailed down through Ant Knolls, where I briefly caught up with the crew I volunteered with the year before. Getting back on our way, we moved purposefully through to Pole Line Pass, then taking a brief minute to let my stomach settle, we turned off our headlamps and soaked in the stars. I finally started to break, falling few times on the way down to Pot Bottom, I sat on my ass and wondered if that was all I had left. Kelly didn’t miss a step, she kept gently pushing me back up and kept me going. Climbing our last real climb, I finally started to find a rhythm again, amidst a constant fight with my digestive tract, as we kept running towards the second sunrise.
Like clockwork, the sun came up and brought some life back in to my soul. I swapped Kelly out for B and we proceeded to fly through the next 4 miles, with 5 miles to go the course flattened out and B kept me running as much as he could, challenging me to pass people and to move faster. I ran into the finish line in a time of 27:24; 6 hours faster that my previous time. I felt amazing, and strong; something I’m still in disbelief over, as I didn’t take in even 1/4 of the calories I should have. By all rational reasoning, I should have bonked, yet every step of that race, I gained something inside of me.
I have the most amazing crew, friends and family for supporting me, for believing me, for challenging me, and for pushing me. With any large feat like this, your body and mind will break down and I am again broken. I am at a loss with what was the most significant relationship in my life right now, perhaps the one which has seen me the most exposed and broken, as well as inspired and strong. I gave myself to that but I wasn’t strong enough, it wasn’t strong enough to survive. I am bewildered, as the world I knew is vast and different than I once thought; yet I am grateful I am surrounded by amazing people and friends. I will be stronger and a better person because of it. The world I emerged out of Wasatch from is different than I expected, yet beautiful and challenging and waiting for me.
As Mike Place commented, “Wasatch isn’t special by accident.” So once again, hats off to the race, all the volunteers and even Matthew Van Horn who made all of our days with his special appearances along the course. I hope this race can stay small and special.
Ali, Adele, Emina, Jenny, Kelly, B, seriously I could have done it with out you, but it certainly would have sucked a lot. Thank you for being in my life and for everything.
Wowasatch has some spectacular photos from the race, for your viewing pleasure.
More of my edited photos can be found here