I love what Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber says:
“You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
The race itself was only a small part of the journey to 100 miles. The journey began over three years ago when I ran a small section of the trail and was completely blown away by the beauty of the Wasatch Range. The thought entered my mind that if I ever ran a 100-mile race, it would be the Wasatch 100.
Fast forward two years latter my friend John Ryan told me he was planning on running the Leadville 100, and he had never run over 8 miles in the past two years. My gears immediately began to churn. My first thought was, I would love to pace you during the race! I still wasn’t thinking about actually running a 100 myself, but after some discussion with my wife she actually encouraged me to go ahead and run Wasatch, so that December I put my name in the hat and was one of the lucky 300 runners to get to participate in this historic Ultra Marathon.
Lots of people think I’m crazy for running 100 miles, but lots of people also thought I was crazy for starting my own energy bar company. The reality of this is, if you set your mind to something, you CAN do it. Anybody can run 100 miles that really wants to, it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work and training. It’s just like a good marriage. You have to put in the time and effort to make it that way.
I’ve discovered through this journey that I’m capable of great things. But great things don’t come without difficulty and pain. Throughout the race there were several times I doubted weather or not I was going to finish in time. I started off the race really strong, but Mother Nature decided to throw some heat our way, and since I hadn’t trained in heat all summer, I really felt it. Up until about mile 18 I was still on track to finish in around 30 hours.
As I got further and further into the race my projected 30 hour finish fell further and further behind, to the point I was barely going to finish in the allotted 36 hours. I could have given up at any point in time, convincing myself I didn’t have what it takes to go on, but I never let that sink in and get me down.
I think the same can be said for lots of things in life, weather it’s starting a business, trying a new hobby, or working to save a marriage. What seems difficult is ultimately worth it. I love the Theodore Roosevelt quote:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Training for this 100 miler (and starting my own business) has come with lots of pain and difficulty. My family has sacrificed a lot of time for me to train, my body has sacrificed comfort for pain, and I could have certainly been spending my time doing other things, easy things such as sleeping in, sitting on the couch with a book, or even spending it with family. But the sacrifice has allowed me to do something that very few people will even consider. It has even showed me just how capable I am of achieving a goal. It even has me thinking a lot about other fears I have I life, such as scary things I have been avoiding to take my business to the next level.
The race itself was the most challenging thing I have ever done. My quads began to hurt before I even reached mile 18, which scared me because I had completed 35-mile runs with little to no lasting pain. The climbs in Wasatch were brutal though, and the descents were equally as difficult.
I made the decision pretty early in the race to not try for a particular time goal, but just finish. The heat of the day was affecting me, and causing me some nausea, which led to difficulty eating. So I decided it was best to just keep moving and not worry about speed. It was this decision that allowed me to conserve enough energy to finish the last 25 miles strong.
Most of my day was filled with ups and downs. One moment I would be feeling great, the next moment I would want to vomit. The biggest thing that kept me moving was thinking about the sacrifice my family had made to let me train. I kept thinking if I just keep moving I will see them at the Big Mountain aid station (mile 39) and then just 13 miles after that I would meet up with my first pacer, John Ryan.
Coming into the Big Mountain aid station really was the boost I needed. Descending into the aid station I could here the commotion, and then heard, “RUNNER” followed by the blowing of horns and ringing of cowbells. The ascent down seemed like nothing, and I was greeted by my daughter running to me before I even entered the aid station. It was a huge boost!
After a kiss from my wife and kids I was back on the trail and headed to the Lambs Canyon aid station to meet my pacer. Most of the next section was in the dark, which gave things a more lonely feeling. But I was motivated to get to Lambs and pick up my pacer. Those 13 miles seemed like eternity, especially when I started getting pains in my knee and thought for a moment it was going to put me out of the race, but looking back on it I think it was just my body trying to trick me into quitting, but I never let that thought set in an endured on.
After arriving at Lambs I was in for an unpleasant surprise. My pacer and his wife, Bethany, were nowhere to be found. I frantically went around the aid station calling his name, but never found him. So I did what I had to do and got myself ready to go back out into the dark alone. I was scared, but knew I had to just keep going. Just as I was about to get up and head back onto the trail, JR and his wife came running around the corner! I was SO relived. The timing crew had made a mistake updating the website, and it hadn’t shown I had crossed through the previous aid station, but the update came through just in the nick of time for them to find me.
After being doused in essential oils to help my aching muscles. JR and I set out to conquer the night portion of the race. We had A LOT of climbing to do in this section of the race. I’m not 100% sure but I’m pretty sure those 22 miles had the most cumulative elevation gain. JR did a fantastic job at keeping me motivated, encouraged, and most importantly MOVING.
The night went by fast! JR is a great conversationalist, so there was never a dull moment, which helped me stay awake when I felt like sleeping on my feet. I remember crossing the Desolation Lake aid station during the night and seeing runners gathered around a roaring fire. We nick named it the DNF (Did Not Finish) fire. When we left the aid station he said he was glad I never went over to the fire. I knew in my own mind too that if I gave in to that temptation I might never leave. I see another life analogy there too. There are often distractions that keep us from achieving great things. I love the Jon Gordon quote, “distractions are the enemy of greatness.” And that night I’m sure that fire kept some people from finishing.
The last few miles of our run together where by far the best. We had some descending trails/roads to work with and the sunrise gave new energy, and awe of being out in God’s creation: it was an amazing sunrise, full of oranges and blues. Upon leaving the woods that led to a road that descended to the Brighton aid station we joined up with the Big Cottonwood Marathon. They had just begun their run and were about two miles in. The marathoners gave all sorts of encouragement throughout those two miles. It was a huge boost! Many of them were asking what mile we were on, and all were amazed when we told them 75! I even saw a fellow Austin runner, Jeannete Spears. She was actually the first person I saw when we popped out onto the road.
Upon arriving at the Brighton Aid station, JR’s wife Bethany was waiting with more essential oils and my drop bag. Next, Mike Place, who was my second and final pacer for the day, greeted me. He prodded my crew along to get me out fast, and was happy to see I was there 15 minutes ahead of what he thought I would be.
The whole stop at Brighton was probably about 10 minutes long, and about 5 minutes longer than I would have liked, but Mike was an experienced Wasatch runner and knew what we had to do to finish. As we were leaving he told me we could be friends when we finish, but for the next 25 miles I might not like him very much. I was fine with that though, I just wanted to get it done.
Upon leaving the aid station I immediately began to climb to the highpoint of the course, Catherine Pass: 10,222 ft. that ascended from 8,765 feet in about 3 miles. At the top of the pass is a “right of passage” in Wasatch… kissing the Great Western Trail sign. Mike had just finished pushing me hard up the climb so gave me a quick moment to kiss the sign and then enjoy the view. But we had lots of time to make up so we began what was the toughest rugged descent of the whole course, down to Ant Knolls aid station, then immediately began a tough ½ mile climb. Mike pushed me out of the aid station fast and took care of my water and nutrition needs while I kept moving, he then caught up to me at the top of the hill. This became our method for moving through the aid stations the rest of the day.
The rest of the run was pretty much a blur, but Mike really got me through and made sure I stayed on pace. At times I felt like I had all new quads and was pushing sub 12-minute paces on the downhill sections. If Mike told me to go faster, I went faster, if he told me to hike harder, I did. There was no argument on my part. He later told me how impressed he was with that, saying that most runners would have given some push back.
Once we got to mile 90 I knew the race was in the bag. Only 10 more miles, of what I thought was mostly downhill. Those last 10 miles didn’t go by nearly as fast as I wanted them to, and the sun was full-on baking again, so that only made things more difficult and slow. Even though it was mostly descent there were a lot of rollers sending you uphill. But even with that and the blazing heat I stayed focused and kept moving.
After leaving the last aid station there was only 6 miles left. Mike had looked over at me at one point and said can tell you just want to get this done and see your family. I did indeed, and we did our best to lay down sub 15-minute paces the rest of the way in, which proved to be far more difficult than I thought. Though the overall elevation was descending, there were still a lot of rollers thrown in there. Every part of me wanted to just RUN in those last 6 miles, but my body just wouldn’t let me. I eventually settled down though and became content with the pace we were on because as long as we kept it up I would finish with time to spare.
With about ½ a mile left in the race Mike set me off on my own to cross the finish line with my family. When I got to around .25 miles I thought I saw my family in the distance and began running again, but even as excited as I was I couldn’t keep up the pace. So once gain I slowed down a bit, and when I came around the corner to the finish line, there was my wife, and two kids waiting for me. With great excitement we all crossed the finish line together.
I finished in the time of 35:19…. 40 minutes to spare. My wife thought of everything too. At the finish she had a chair for me to sit in, had water, and even a couple beers. She took my shoes off for me, gave me a bit of a massage and picked up some food for me at the finish line aid station. I just sat there enjoying the hard earned victory, and listening to the crowd cheer on the final runners. It was beautiful to see a huge crowd of people cheering in the last runner, who came in with 5 minutes to spare.
What allowed me to finish this ultra endurance event was not so much my fitness level as it was the mental strength to keep pushing on. I recently heard a statistic about how 66% of small businesses fail, but it’s not usually because of cash flow problems, or lack of income, it’s usually emotional issues. People give up to early. They simply decide in their mind that they are done. If you choose to endure, you can do anything! Trust me!