After completing the Leadville 100 I was in a pretty euphoric state, having overcome what I saw as the biggest obstacle standing in my path to finishing the Grand Slam. That race decimated the entire field with DNF’s and took 11 people out of their Slam journey, with 10 other slammers finishing in the 30th and final hour. In all, 19 of us were left with the opportunity to move on to the final stage at the Wasatch 100, which starts literally in my own backyard. Knowing that while Wasatch is the most difficult course of the four, it isn’t necessarily the hardest to finish because it is the only race in the slam with a cutoff of 36 hours, which meant 6 more hours over the 30 hours that we were allotted in the previous three events. In addition, I knew that I would sleep in my own bed, eat in my own kitchen, be surrounded by my friends and family, and would have my parents waiting for me at the finish for the first time in a 100 miler so I felt ready. In the short two weekends off between Leadville and Wasatch I often imagined my dad standing up and cheering me in as I finished, and I knew that nothing was going to prevent me from making that image a reality. It was time to cap this summer of running off, and I was going home to do it!
If the time between Western States and Vermont felt like it went by faster than expected, the time between Leadville and Wasatch was a mere blink of the eye. It was an odd feeling because on one hand I was feeling the cumulative drain of racing three 100 milers and certainly could have benefited from more recovery, yet I almost couldn’t wait to start running again just so I could get to the ultimate finish line and allow myself to soak in the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that had been pinned up since December when I decided to take on this wild ride in the first place. My body was feeling better than between any of the previous races, and in fact I would even say that from a physical standpoint I was healthier than when I started Western States, although I was certainly fatigued which is very different than being injured or dealing with the bumps and bruises that we all face in training and racing. It’s hard to explain it all to someone who hasn’t been there, but anyone who has taken on a huge endurance event (or really anything completely overwhelming in life) can probably sympathize with the fact that it’s so much more than just the running part. It’s the time, emotion, brain drain, sweat, anxiety, passion,…. I’m running out of words but it’s just EVERYTHING that goes into something so big…and you have to do that FOUR times! The emotional dump and endorphin roller coaster of just one event often leaves me out of whack for months at a time, and each of these events was no exception at all. One could say I was completely drained and oddly energized at the same time.
Look at that CREW!! ^^
Race week came quickly and I was fortunate to assemble an all-star crew and pacing team featuring Ashley Maudsley, Eric Johnson, and my superstar wife Kenzie. In all seriousness I think I fielded the best looking crew in the history of ultra. I also had the chance to share a dinner and conversation with Gina Crosswhite who was in town to race her 2nd 100 miler, and by no coincidence I decided to meet up with her at the same pizza place where Joshua Holmes first explained to me what the slam was just one year prior as I was prepping for my first 100 miler at the Bear 100.
Thursday and the pre-race meeting came quickly, which was the shortest of all 4 races, then we hurried home for some smoked beef and chicken on the Traeger with the legendary Crimson Cheetah Matt Van Horn and family. In bed and trying to sleep by 10 PM….staring at the ceiling and heart pounding!!
I never sleep well the night before a big race and this was no exception. I think I managed about 3 hours of real sleep and another 2 of so-so rest, and if I were wearing a heart rate monitor for the entire Wasatch experience, I am quite certain that it peaked at 3:45 AM when I could FINALLY crawl out of bed and get this thing started.
As always, I started my morning by applying about a pound of Rock Tape on my knees, hips, hamstring, and back. At the last minute I decided to throw on my ¾ crop white tights to help manage the heat and keep my legs from the brush on the trails. Mostly I didn’t want to jinx myself because they had treated me really well in all my previous 100 milers and I’m a little bit superstitious. I take a lot of flack and ribbing from other runners for my odd attire (not wearing shorty shorts) but it works for me so I just do my thing. For breakfast I ate a blueberry bagel, some fresh fruit, and started sipping some Gatorade. Out the door by 4:20 and headed over to the start!
When arriving at the start line I was feeling really excited, but noted that my stomach was turning over and over from the nerves. I’d be a liar if I said there wasn’t a ton of stress going into the final leg of the slam and knowing that everything that I had poured my body and soul into was coming down to this final 100 mile jaunt over the Wasatch range. Again, it was a bipolar feeling because I was supremely confident that I would finish, yet I was terrified to think that if something really bad happened it could blow the entire summer. I think that I added some to the stress level by having decided that I would go for a 24 hour finish. It was something that I knew would be very improbable because it had only been done 13 times at Wasatch to complete the slam in 30 years, and those who did it were really elite runners. At the same time I am a dreamer and a fighter, and I knew that although I could have run a managed race and broken 26 hours without entering the pain cave, there were really only two benchmarks that I cared about: 1) finish the slam in under 100 hours which I had given myself a 30:40 finish cushion by running the previous 3 races well and 2) Run every race in the slam in under 24 hours which only the best have managed to do and was NEVER on my radar as a guy who started trail running just 2 years ago. Since I was in a position, there wasn’t a reason to not go for it because I knew that if I blew up I was tough enough to drag my butt across those mountains and finish in 30:40 or better. This was also a suggestion that grand slammer Jeff Stowell had made and I agreed that it was worth it. It was exciting and terrifying because I knew that if the wheels fell off on this course I would be hurting more than any other race, but I was going to give it all I had and see what was there. YOLO and you likely only SLAM once!
Soon enough the countdown was on and we were galloping down the paved road. Wasatch started this year by bombing down the road to the highway, then climbing back up the road to the Bair (Baer) Canyon trail. I positioned myself just behind the first 25 runners or so and clipped at a good pace. I don’t know what that pace was because I knew that I had to manage whatever stress I could, so I elected to only use the time of day function on my watch—no GPS. I knew that the start of the race was so hard and slow that it would jack up my average pace from the get-go and I didn’t want to have to do any math or calculating splits while running. Growing up I hated two things: Math and Running. Now I just hate doing Math while running. So the plan was simple—run a steady manageable pace and see what time it is by the time you hit mile 50. In my experience after 50 miles in I know pretty much how the race is going to pan out anyways. If I was around 11 to 11.5 hours I had a shot at the Cheetah, and if not it would be all about managing the finish to break 100 total hours. I also knew that I had to be at mile 60 by 14.5 hours so that would be my second check point if I was still gunning for my own little claim on history. I know what my body can do in the last 40 miles so I really didn’t have a checkpoint after that. Anyways…we were running quickly down the road and then back up to the trail head, and before I knew it I had settled in with Jadd Martinez (the other slammer with a shot at all 4 sub 24 hours-he was consistently the fastest runner in all 4 events and ended up 1st overall in total time and barely missed the Cheetah) and we started the massive 4,300 ft climb in 3.9 miles that kicks off the nonstop vert fest that is the Wasatch 100.
Bair Canyon went better than expected for me, largely due to the fact that I had gotten ahead of the conga line and that Jadd is a funny guy so the conversations helped me ignore any early suffering or anxiety. A couple of times I asked him to pull ahead of me but he insisted that he was going to sit tight and be patient, which I told him was a great plan as we were moving quite well. After a little over an hour in, I pulled aside to get some calories out of my pack which was part of my nutrition plan—getting them in early and often treated me really well at Leadville and I hoped that I would have another good stomach and nutrition day. I kept Jadd and 3 others who passed me in sight all the way to the top which I reached at 6:50 AM. Seeing Lane Bird’s yellow SUV and hearing the Eminem blasting was an amazing feeling- captured nicely by Lane here:
After the monstrous climb, you plug away around Francis Peak and the Radar Balls of OZ, then hit a 4 mile downhill stretch that I have ran dozens of times. Many people caution against blowing our your quads on this section but if there is one thing I trust 100% in my running ability it’s the downhill running that my legs are very well adapted for. I cruised down to mile 11 at Grobben’s Water Shed passing a few runners and slapped Jadd on the butt wishing him luck as I knew I wouldn’t see him from that point on. With my water filled, I knew that the following sections included a good amount of flat, then some downhill, followed by a pretty steep climb to the Bountiful B Aid Station. The flats are my biggest weakness in trail running so I popped in my headphones and was content to plug along while getting passed by people like Ian Farris and Justin Anderson. They both commented that I shouldn’t be feeling this good at this point in the slam, and I assured them that it was a long day and that I knew my struggles would come, and I would eventually be caught by the residual fatigue. I continued to go slow through the flats, would put time back in the bank on the downhills, then typically held my position on the climbs. Just before reaching the B, Craig Lloyd and Bob Kain cruised past me with big smiles looking like they were legit ready for a sub 24 hour finish. At the aid station I was stoked to see familiar faces including my buddy and crew chief from Leadville, Mike Allen. The volunteers were awesome- sorry to Tara and Marnie for spraying my secret mist in your Coke ; ) Jenna Bradford was smiling ear to ear and I might have been hallucinating but I think I saw Taralyn Summers on a hand bike wearing a unicorn mask…..anyways it’s always awesome to see people you know when you are running these crazy races.
Leaving the aid station I was feeling tired, but it seemed on par with how I felt at Leadville at around mile 16. People were passing me but I wasn’t overly concerned, and while my body felt fine from a physical perspective considering aches and pains, I was feeling like I wanted to take a nap. After this point in the race, things in general seem pretty hazy to me as I try to remember the moments so as a disclaimer some details may be inaccurate from here to the finish! I knew that I had 15 miles to go until I would see my crew and pick up my pacer so I turned the volume up and kept moving forward while trying to keep on pace for the 24 hour finish. Soon I had Scott Frogley, who was another sub 24 hopeful, pushing me from behind and we did a little leapfrogging for a bit until I couldn’t hang with him any longer. I recall at one point when I had made a pass and was in my downhill mode he was asking me how much weight I had lost in the slam…which is the number one question I get at my office. Apparently I look like a cancer patient. I also shared miles with the king of of Timp, Scott Wesseman as we yo-yo’d quite a bit. I remember telling Scott how emotional I was feeling, because several times I thought about my dad and his battle as a recent amputee. I would literally break into tears at times mid-stride which would probably weird most runners out, but I knew Scott could handle it because he runs a lot with Craig Lloyd who is probably the only runner that cries more than me. From there it was a lot of rolling hills, then before I knew it we were at another aid station. I saw local ultra legend Kelly Agnew who was always supporting me throughout the slam and Jennilynn Eaton leid me. Normally I would have been super bothered by the plastic lei but I ran with it around my neck for the next few aid stations and was actually enjoying myself quite a bit until things made a pretty sudden shift towards the suck. I was cruising along on the trail and abruptly came upon a FRIGGIN HORNET’s NEST (cue Jack Black) that was swarmed by angry yellow and black demons. One stung me right in the fetching face, just below my right eye and I was pretty shocked at how bad that sucker burned over the next couple of miles. I honestly don’t know if there is a correlation, but this is when I started feeling nauseous….a feeling that wouldn’t stop again for the next 70 miles. At the next aid station I saw Jason Eichorst and was a little bummed that I was feeling so crappy because I wanted to make him proud with a “Jazzy Speed” run to sub 24 and at this point I could start to feel that my body wasn’t cooperating.
The course through this section was warming up but it wasn’t awful and certainly didn’t come close to past experiences at Western States with 102 degrees or Ironman CDA at 108 degrees. As I approached Big Mountain there was a nice descent that helped me gain a little of the lost time back, as well as some much needed confidence. Making some of the switchback turns I started to whoop and yell at the crowd below, then saw a sign that said “you are awesome”, and I said out loud to myself…”dang right you’re awesome”.
Pretty soon I was rolling into the aid station where I was greeted by Kenzie and my crew and was able to get in some solid food, ice, and pick up Ashely for pacing duties. We made quick work of the aid station and headed out to tackle the next 14 miles which is a section I had planned to move quickly through given that it was likely the most tame terrain of the day. We started slowly as I was trying to let the food digest and I told Ashley that even though we were still on the 24 hour pace chart, I was going to have to take it easy and that she would need to be patient…..and patient is about all I can say we were through this section. I felt like I did OK on the hills but the flatter and more gradual grades were really slower than I had hoped. Even some of the downhills were pretty bad by my standards. Ashley did an incredible job at keeping me moving forward and reminding me to take ice and water to fight the heat. I was still putting in around 200-250 calories per hour, but it was becoming more difficult to do so as my stomach continued to turn south. I found myself feeling overwhelmed at the mileage checks that Ashley was giving me- 2 miles felt like 4 and hearing about 7 miles between aid stations felt like it would take all day. At Mile 39 we came into the aid station and I used the kiddie pool they had to get my tights and shirt wet which helped with an evaporative cooling effect. I took in some food, a full cup of gingerale and some watermelon. As we started heading out I could see the trash can and I wanted to throw some garbage into it, but then suddenly I started feeling the quakes and shakes of a convulsive vomit dance coming on. In a split second I was on my knees puking out the contents of my stomach. I think I actually laughed and joked about how Craig and the other guys would no longer consider me one of the hottest Wranglers if they could see me in this pile of puke (it’s a funny inside joke- we are all very much straight dudes). Ashley was great at letting me regroup and we got back to our feet and started a long gradual trudge deathwalk forward. I wanted so badly to run but knew that from my Western States puke-out at mile 32 that if I got it all out of my system and continued to believe in myself I could still turn things around- maybe not sub 24 but maybe still something respectable. I just needed to be patient, so on we went…
At this point in the race I started cutting back on the calories because I knew I couldn’t afford to lose what I did have in my body, and knew that if I pushed too many I would be in the same spot on my knees. Eventually we were on the ridge above Lambs Canyon and Ashely reminded me that it looked much closer than it was. I feel like we managed the best 2 miles of our stretch together at that point because I was able to run the whole path down at an OK pace, and arriving at the aid station I had caught up to a couple of people that were previously a ways in front of me. At Lambs Kenzie wasn’t allowed in but she told the team we were still within 3 minutes of the 24 hour mark so Eric was anxious to keep me moving, still believing it was possible. I had doubts, but wanted to believe so I loaded up on some broth and a little gingerale again and we started the shuffle out towards the road. I told Eric I had been puking and that I needed to be careful so he was good to allow me the walking and power shuffling that was going on. I tried to take a small bite of a cheese quesadilla and immediately did the pukey dance again…this time was much worse feeling than the first and I had to drag myself over to the roadside for a second round of chucking chunks. I remember seeing a female runner (maybe Erin Clark??) watching me puke and saying “bummer” while looking at me the way other runners were at Western States…the look of “that dude is done”. This is where I wondered if it was possibly the end of my slam. The puking had not gone away the way it did at Western…I still had 55 miles to go and couldn’t see myself being able to put in enough calories to deal with the course ahead. To say that it was hard to want to push on is a massive understatement as I felt like it took all I had just to get back to my feet. With Eric’s encouragement I got back up and kept moving forward.
On the climb out of Lambs I was surprised that more people weren’t passing me. At one point we caught up to Yassine Diboun and his runner Ian Golden that was having some stomach issues as well. Ian had left me in his dust super early in the race. We would move back and forth with them, losing time on the flats, gaining on the downhill, maintaining on the uphill climbs. Eventually we pulled away from them and didn’t see them the rest of the day. Further along the course at some point on the trail I pulled over to let a runner pass and it was Tyler Hall, who insisted that he wouldn’t pass me because he knew what I was undertaking with the slam. It was really a pretty cool gesture that I will never forget— a sort of showing respect from one runner to another. I told him what was going on and he offered some papaya enzymes to me. The “smart” runner in me blurted out a “NO”, knowing that the first rule of racing is to never try anything new on race day. The really smart runner in me knew that if something didn’t change I wouldn’t be going much further and that it couldn’t get much worse. I chewed those puppies up and honestly did feel some relief which was enough to keep the slow drip of calories coming and my feet plodding along.
The pavement roads in this section seemed like an eternity. When we hit Millcreek canyon Eric was doing an amazing job of keeping cold water on me from the river and encouraging me to take tiny bites of my Gu Stroop waffles, which seemed to be the only thing my body could tolerate as long as it was only 40 calories at a time. We both knew that I needed more, but I also knew that if I pushed it by taking more I would be back on my knees which is a hard way to finish a 100 miler. We kept moving and I was looking for distractions from the problem at hand and soon found myself joined by Amie Blackham and her bf Seth. Those two know how to pace a race better than anyone in the local running scene, IMO, and here she was just cruising up the canyon. I told them how much Kenzie and I look up to what they have both been able to do and they were off! Although I never saw her again, she ended up finishing about 7 minutes ahead of me and 4th overall female. Congrats!
Somehow we finally made it to Upper Big Water, and while it was still plenty light out, it was cooling off. Being super calorie depleted and sick I started to shiver uncontrollably. I removed my wet clothing and begged for a shirt and hat from Altra runner Michael Mcknight. He was kind enough to find me an XL t shirt from their van and took the beanie off his own head, giving it to me with the warning that if I lost it he and I would both be dead because his wife had knit it for him. It was sad to see my ‘merica hat go, because I had run every race in it this year, but it was a necessary switch to keep me from coming to a halt. Local runner Curt Bentley and his pacer were in this aid station, as was Sean Bowman who I had run TONS of miles in every race of the slam with. Sean joked that although I was in a bad spot at the moment, he had seen me dig out of every race after this point so he was telling everyone to not worry about Tommy. I ran into Tyler again and he asked how I was doing. I told him I was feeling crappy still but that I would definitely take more of those enzymes if he had them, and he was awesome to spare me 2 more. Eric and I hit the trails again and I didn’t get to see Sean the rest of the race, but Curt and I would literally leapfrog from here to the finish which was a total miracle for me because I know where my body was and I know how strong Curt is. He must have been struggling too, and having him close by was a huge lift and motivator for me to keep moving.
From Upper Big Water to Desolation we had light and I was happy that Eric got to see some of the most beautiful sections of the course before we needed headlamps. By the time we reached the top of the Crest Trail it was dark and you could see the lights of Park City and SLC which I think was a perfect experience for me. I recalled being there a couple of years ago with Kenzie and singing Salt’ N’ Peppa “push it” as she dragged her body up over that mountain. I think I cracked a smile for the first time since mile 39. I continued to move quickly through the aid stations because I knew that I couldn’t get much benefit from them other than more water, a little bit of coke, a friendly cheer, and then it was back on me to get moving. The climb to Scott’s Pass seemed longer than I remembered and we found ourselves almost alone for a bit there. I remember thinking that other runners were either flying out in front of me, or taking more time at aid stations because we would group up with around 4-5 runners then thin out in the space between aid stations. We walked the flat spot on top, letting some broth settle in my stomach a bit and I remember thinking that it was much warmer than I thought it would be. When we hit the downhill I felt like we moved pretty well until we got to the paved road and there were spots where I had to slow to a power hike to stop from puking. The climb up the road to Brighton seemed to take super long, but we kept the runners that I had caught up to on the downhill in our sight the whole way up so I was feeling fine about things. Eventually we hit the lodge and I stumble up the stairs into a mass of people- runners and crew-but all I wanted was to get Kenzie and keep moving. I was feeling like I was running on fumes and couldn’t spare any extra minutes on this course.
Inside the lodge I first declined a sock swap, then looked at my feet and made the good decision to throw on another pair and switch from my Hoka Challenger ATR 2’s to my Hoka Clifton 2’s. I don’t recommend road shoes for the last 33 miles after having some time to look back, but it felt great on my feet to have a changeup at the time and more importantly I was able to dump a ton of dirt and dust out that could have caused issues. The good doctor was patting my back and getting me some broth and chips, people were saying my name but I was pretty faded, Aaron Smith said “hey Tommy- it’s me, Aaron”, lots of Wrangler faces…but I can’t remember much. I hid the chips behind the chair but Kenzie saw them and scolded me. I pounded half a redbull and told her I wanted to get going so we got out in pretty good time. As we left the lodge I started to shiver again so I sent Kenzie back for a long sleeve that I had declined. By the time we started the climb up to Catherine’s and the high point of the course I was warming up some and had stopped shivering. I had another emotional breakdown and told Kenzie how happy I was to finally get to her and sobbed as I told her how much I love her. Moving up the hill I told her that I would give everything that I had in my body and we both were convinced that no matter what, we would make the sub 30 hours needed for the sub 100 hour slam.
Surprisingly I climbed stronger than I thought possible at that moment and we found ourselves way ahead of a guy who had started the climb around the same time as me. The beach was a drag through the sand, but I don’t think I ever stopped on the climb to Supreme. I had been on that section so many times before and the familiarity was somewhat comforting. I finally got to kiss the sign! While my confidence was high at this point, I still wasn’t getting in the calories needed for the battle ahead. One nibble here of a waffle, a sip of coke there, a mouthful of water….it couldn’t possibly be enough. The next 7 miles were incredibly difficult and I had no familiarity since it is a course change back to the old days of the Plunge and the Dive, and Irv’s torture chamber. I tried pushing in more calories and just before hitting the ??? aid station I had a tiny bit of waffle hit my mouth and within a split second I let out a sound that Kenzie mistook for a seizure, convulsed, and dropped to the ground. As the pukes were coming out of my mouth I saw someone moving towards me with a radio in hand. Looking back, this was the funniest moment of the day and probably the slam. My brain was obviously not working properly because I was certain that this guy was giving my bib number to someone and telling them that I was done. I told him “dude I’m good—don’t tell anyone anything”!! In fact, he was just giving the aid station a heads up that I was coming in, just in case they needed to get a drop bag ready for me. Once I realized that he was just there to help we had a good laugh and I made my way back to my feet again and trudged into the aid station, again with no calories in me and no appetite to force more.
The leap-frogging continued with Curt, and earlier Eric Nelson (my candidate for most improved Wrangler) had joined in the action as well. The three of us would ebb and flow- all while Kenzie provided serenades that would make a baby weep….in a good way. I needed more calories and was able to start putting small nibbles of waffle back in my mouth but literally nothing else would work. I even had to slow the coke intake to a very small sip—like I was living on an IV drip. Flats continued to be my goat, but hill climbs started to be my friends because it bothered my stomach less than any of the jostling that running caused.
The Plunge was insanity. I kicked a rock that caused my toenail to fully displace from the nail bed. I had several stumbles with my minimal traction road shoes but somehow caught myself time and time again with my poles. On a side note- there is no way I would have finished where I did and maybe not at all without my poles. Time and time again I pulled my body over mountains with my poles. If you know how to use them they are a major advantage in a mountain 100 miler. We worked out way to the water station which I thought would only be water, but the amazing aid station volunteers had hauled up a make-shift aid station and pointed me to a fallen tree that had food spread out on it like a table. I had held off trying to eat on the climb so I sat down and knew I couldn’t take another waffle bite. Nothing on the tree looked like it would go down without a fight either so I pulled out a nut butter packet from my pouch. As soon as I put one little gob to my tongue I lost it. Puke to the left, puke to the right, puke between your legs! It was the most backwards game of Twister I have ever played, and more embarrassingly this was right where other runners would be coming to get nutrition. I stared down at the dirt and rocks, dejected that my body was trying to sabotage me. I needed those calories to be in my body, not on the dirt. I was now in a worse deficit than when I had reached the climb. I thought of DJ Lorchester’s trick where he would put skittles in his mouth and his body would release some energy stores even though he couldn’t get in anything. I looked to my right and there was a bowl of Reeces Pieces. Those would have to be my Skittles…so I filled up two pockets and started to walk out. My first go at the experiment yielded a positive result with three in the mouth- a quick chew and spit. No puke. Mentally believing that this would somehow get me across the line.
After a ton of suffering through unknown terrain we were finally back on the old course. Aid stations were still just a quick water stop with foods that only mocked my stomach instead of feeding it fuel so I made a point to “170 OUT” as quickly as possible. The terrain mellowed and soon enough we were climbing the last real climb of the course. More hills, rumors of Cougars and Bears, breathing obnoxiously loud, listening to Kenzie, Curt, Eric and their pacers seemingly having a good time. I was suffering quietly, just holding on for a hopeful end in sight. The descent down the mountain reminded me of my time spent pacing Matt Van Horn last year. He was in the hunt for a sub 23 hour finish and we couldn’t get down the cow pasture and overgrown trail fast enough.
At Decker aid station with 6 miles to go I remembered Matt getting a hot chocolate and it sounded strangely tempting so I made the same request. I don’t know why or how but this seemed to be an elixir from the Gods…my stomach came unknotted, the sugar rush put life back in my mind, and I felt like a had a tiny bit of energy in the tank to finish this out. I had to walk some and watch Curt and Eric make their charge to the finish but I wanted to make 100% certain that I wasn’t stepping into a trap that would end my slam by collapsing in a mad rush to the finish….but inside I started to feel like running all the way to the finish was possible.
The thought of getting around the reservoir quickly seemed much more appealing than the experience that I shared with Kenzie two years ago where she could hardly take 20 steps at a time in a slow jog. Then Kenzie pushed me over the edge…by telling me that if I ran it in I could somehow break 27 hours. This seemed stupid at the time because somehow in my head with things not working right I was certain that the start time shifted from 5 AM to 4 AM, and that we would have to run to break 28 hours. That was the time that I had relegated myself to much earlier in the day, but suddenly a finish time that started with 26 was on the borderline of possibility. Along with my legs and body, my ego awoke a bit as well and I thought…”I could finish the slam at Wasatch faster than Scott Jurek’s 27 hour finish” hahhaha!! So we ran!!
FOLLOW THIS LINK for Video along the final stretch
I won’t say that I didn’t suffer, but it was more pleasant that the previous 60 miles. My legs had some decent movement in them despite having done lots of hiking and climbing and had a lot of time to get tighter. I ran down to the trail, then onto it. I ran the flats, the hills, the rollers…nearly every step of it. I kept thinking that it was impossible to break 27, and that the course was actually longer from last year’s experience where I thought we had Matt on pace for sub 23 only to miss by 8 lousy minutes, but we kept moving anyways. When we got to the last point of the trail where we could see it heading to the road I quit thinking about the time goal of sub 27 because suddenly a new emotion hit me…. HARD….
” I DID IT!! OH MY GOSH I DID IT!!” The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning was done- I only had about a half a mile left. This thing that seemed impossible was going to be under my feet and DONE!! I had gone from 0 to 5 100 milers in less than a year…first timer to grand slammer! I can’t tell you what that feels like. Part of me doesn’t even want to try because it’s an experience unique to every individual. All I can say is that I was so proud of myself, my physical body, my mind, my spirit, and of everyone who helped me get to that place.
We kept running and were soon on the pavement. I had the thought to slow and walk because now I had 20 minutes to get under 27 hours, but I saw my dad’s car near the finish in the distance and kept running up the hill, looking for my hero. As I approached, he was standing on his prosthetic leg and I fell into his arms like I’ve done so many times in my life. My dad has the greatest hug in the world. We were both shaking. I remember feeling his whiskers on my cheek. We couldn’t talk as we were both choked up like Barlows do. I wish I had captured this in a picture or video but I will never forget it in my heart and mind. Next I hugged the rest of my family and with my kids we walked across the finish line of the toughest 26:44 of my life…but I was still on my feet and finished well beyond my “stretch goal” of a sub 100 hour slam!
I was officially the 282nd individual to complete the Grand Slam, and the 18th from Utah. So happy to have finished this around my friends and family and humbled to have had this opportunity to put my body and soul to such a comprehensive test. Thanks to all who took part for your encouragement, kindness, and selflessness. I’ll never forget this experience and would encourage anyone to look for your own impossible, and then run it down.