Wasatch 100 Recap

Arriving at Brighton (mile 67)

Arriving at Brighton (mile 67)

It has been exactly a week now that I was here, at Brighton, focused and fighting for the Wasatch 100 win. As I review the pictures and sort through the memories in my head, it’s hard to put everything into words. The experience was surreal, every 21 hours of it. So many runs, so many miles, so many hills had lead up to this moment. I had arrived. I had experienced this race last year and came up short in second place. Once I got into the lottery for 2018, I knew I had to plan ahead to beat my old time and placement from last year. After a recent DNF (Did Not Finish) at the Beaverhead 100k in July, I became even more determined to finish well.

My racing year started in April with the Zion 50k. There I was able to stick it out and place 2nd, finishing 10 minutes behind Levi Hawks. The course was speedy and there was a lot of fast running involved. I figured it would be nice to start the year by really getting my legs used to running fast. Levi and I were head to head until about mile 20 when my energy plummeted and I had to back off. Next was the Trails de la Vesubie race outside of Nice, France. I randomly selected this race because it was close to where I was staying at the time (Marseille, France) and I really didn't know what to expect. The course was an monstrous 70k with over 17,000 feet of vertical gain. Due to snowy conditions, the race was reduced to 60k. There I was able to win, which was my first official win of my running career. I was ecstatic and became more confident in myself. After France I came home and prepared for the Beaverhead 100k. My brother Eric and I had signed up for this race together to prepare us for the Wasatch 100. Neither of us had planned very well for this race, and it showed on race day. Our parents came with us to support and were simply following our lead. Long story short, half way into the race our parents missed the aid station in which we were planning on refueling with gels and other food. I was having a pretty good race but it went downhill pretty quickly without proper nutrition. I misled my parents into thinking it wouldn’t take as long as it did to get to the aid station. Both Eric and I dropped. That was my second DNF and I was pretty torn up about it. However, thanks to that DNF I came up with a new training plan and I was more motivated than ever to train my butt off for September 7th.

September 7th arrived. Eric and I were brought to the start line by our mom, Shelley. She’s always been the one to take us to the start. 5am hit and we were off! I’ve actually come to really appreciate the first, long ascent of the race. During the first 2 hours of the race I had great conversations with the other runners as we climbed single file up Bair Canyon. I saw many familiar faces from the previous year and it was great to share miles and talk about our lives and running. From Bountiful B aid station (mile 17), I split off from Joe and Trevor and took the lead. I was feeling good. Comparing my times from last year, I arrived at mile 17 at the exact same time as last year, but feeling significantly more fresh. I knew what was still up ahead, but I felt good so I ran relatively hard. I didn’t have much of a gap at this point. As I was leaving aid stations, someone was coming in. Approaching mile 30 I was passed. It was hard to let go of the lead but I was actually relieved to have a break from the pressure of the front. As I arrived to Big Water aid station (mile 33) I grabbed my drop bag and refueled for the upcoming hot section. By the time I left Big Water I was then in 3rd place. With my wet cotton tank top and bandanna around my neck, I was ready for the heat. The next 12 miles proved to be very difficult as expected. The sun blazed down on me with little to no shade. However, my strategy to beat the heat and get out front early paid off. I didn't overheat nearly as much as last year and got through to Lamb’s Canyon feeling okay. The only problem that had come up was an irritated stomach. Before meeting my crew and refueling again at Lamb’s Canyon, I had taken two bathroom breaks. About a mile before Lamb’s Canyon I noticed there were some flags missing for a turn that I recognized from last year. I went with my gut and took the turn not knowing for sure if I had made the right decision. Sure enough I was on the right trail, but as I sat down at the Lamb’s Canyon aid station I had found out 1st and 2nd place had taken a wrong turn and gone off course. I was then the new leader. I certainly wasn’t feeling satisfied by being in first due to the situation. From that moment on I told myself, “if you’re going to win this thing, you better give it everything you’ve got to really earn it.”

Leaving Lamb’s Canyon I was feeling good, but my stomach was still giving me problems. I decided to take off my race belt to relieve the pressure from my belly. It was difficult to cram everything I had into my small short pockets, but I made it happen. The relief was instantaneous and my stomach aches diminished. I remained consistent throughout my day all the way to Brighton (mile 67). Although my stomach pains came back and I have to relieve myself a few other times, it didn’t slow me down. Coming into Brighton I was greeted by my family, friends, and pacer George. We set a timer and I was determined to get in and out of Brighton in 8 minutes. Several tasks were going on at once as my crew was helping me change shoes, socks, and my shirt. My brother Coulson was on the side feeding me fig newtons, bananas, and watermelon while everything else was going on. It was fast and efficient. I left Brighton feeling rejuvenated. Earlier in the day I decided I would take the climb out of Brighton quickly. I figured there weren’t many major climbs after so I would take advantage of feeling good and go for it. During that time I gained roughly 45-50 minutes on second place.

I was so stoked to have a pacer with me for the remainder of the race. George especially, who had already won this race a few years previous, was great company. After the climb out of Brighton I was still feeling energetic and kept up a good pace. Not 2 hours later I started to loose momentum. Energy began to plummet and my stomach was getting worse. I was still moving but the gaps between aid stations took longer and longer. Although I was continually eating, my stomach would just reject anything that I ate. Unfortnuatley there would be no come back for my stomach at this point. At about mile 85 my breathing was getting worse, which in turn made my heart rate increase. The uphills had to be taken slowly, but downhills were still feeling okay. I was looking at the time and it seemed like under 21 hours was very realistic. I told myself to listen to my body first, then if I felt well enough, I would go for my time goal. As we came out next to the lake around mile 95 I knew the finish was near. George helped push me to run pretty hard those last miles. Once we reached the road with only about 1/2 mile remaining, the emotions began to hit me. I knew I had won, I knew I had given it my all. Nothing else really mattered. My family was cheering me in as I finished. It happened and I made it. I crossed the finish line in 21:07, just shy of my goal. After finishing I was having some coughing fits and put down some hot water. Laying down felt so good. I enjoyed the warm blankets and company as I rested my beat up body.

I don’t think I will do the Wasatch 100 again. There are so many races out there that I would like to experience. I left everything I had out there and I will never forget my Wasatch 100 experience. I am so grateful for all of the support that I received during the day. I couldn’t have done it without all of those amazing individuals who were with me throughout the day.

Jesse Rich