A Painful Wasatch PR

I was very excited for and had very high expectations for this year’s Wasatch 100. I had been training hard and had a good Bighorn 100 (100 miler PR) and really learned and practiced things that I needed to improve on from there.

I ran the entire Wasatch course and some parts multiple times over the last few months. Also, my long runs 3 weeks out were just short of the total miles I was planning but they were from 10,000 to 14,000+ feet in Leadville, CO, and included three 14ers so I felt like they were good miles.

I also spent a lot of times with determining my splits. I took my last year’s splits and chunked off time that I thought was appropriate. I run a little different from others in that it takes me a little while to “warm up” then I stay pretty steady the entire race. I was bummed that I was going into this race and would not have Chad, my number one pacer, with me on the course due to his back injury in Leadman but knew I had great pacers and would have him there at the Aid Stations.

     Start line with Amy Blackham

The race start was a warm and we headed off from East Mountain Wilderness Park in the dark at 5a. I always find the first 40 miles quite difficult. Coming into Francis Peak (m18.76), I was about 10 min slower than my goal pace but still 20min faster than last year’s time. I continued on through the other aid stations to Big Mtn (m39.6) and came in about 20 minutes behind my goal time.


     Running into Big Mountain

     Getting in and out of Big Mountain Aid Station

I came into Big Mtn feeling very strong. It was great to see Chad, Anny, Emily S, and to pick up Ann to run with me through the next 13.5 miles of the journey. It was pretty hot but I was keeping ahead on my eating, drinking, electrolytes, etc. This section went really quickly as I had great company and I know this section very well. I’ve actually run the last 3 miles into the Lamb’s Aid Station about 15 times this summer and that really helped me on this section.

     Smiling coming into Lambs

    Fueling quickly at Lambs

     Heading out of Lambs – Chad informing Meghan how to keep me going

I had an absolute amazing number of friends at Lamb’s to cheer me through (thank you to Emily S, Corrie, Christian, Berkley, Mischa, Andy, Anya, Brooke, Amanda, Jenny, Kristin, Ray, and anyone else I may have missed). I had a quick stop to get some food and dry cloths and off we went. It was great to head out with Meghan Hicks as I knew she would be great for me and I was excited to hear about her recent UTMB adventures. We headed up Lamb’s and passed a number of people. We kept a great hiking and sometimes running pace up Bear Ass Pass then ran down the other side. We then fast hiked and even ran a couple times up the road to Upper Big Water (m61.68). It was one of my goals to get up to that Aid Station when it was still light out and I made that (rather than 3 miles earlier in 2011). On this section we were exactly where I wanted to be on my splits and made up time from what I had lost earlier in the race so I was super psyched.

It was just after Upper Big Water where my stomach really turned. At first it felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach and then kept getting worse when I was exerting energy. This race turned into nothing I’ve ever experienced where the uphills became very painful and the downhills were actually where I could pick up the pace and not feel quite as much pain – this is very different from my normal uphill strength even at the very late miles of big races. I also started trying everything to fix my stomach – ginger, eCaps, electrolyte Enlyten, energy Enlyten, real food, broth, coke, bars, gel, chews, etc. It was frustrating that I felt like I had these races “figured out” with what works for me but nothing was working. Meghan and I just kept the pace as fast as I possibly could without “falling off the fence”. With the fact that my stomach had never hurt as bad as it was now we had a couple serious conversations about not continuing at Brighton because I couldn’t imagine being in this much pain for another 25 miles (little did I know it would get worse). I decided that, because my legs were good and my mind was perfect, there was no reason to not keep running and hope my stomach would “reset”. I was also looking forward to running with Roch Horton and knew he would have the answer to my issues.

We got into Brighton (m75.61) at 12:32AM and Chad and Roch got some soup, Ensure, and hashbrowns into me, then Roch and I took off. About 3 minutes out of Brighton I threw up about 4 times. I was nervous about losing what I’d put into my body for fuel but Roch said it was OK, that we would replenish, and hopefully I got out of my body what was causing the issues. My stomach was a little better for a while but I still had to hold it back a little with the exertion. We were able to fly down from Point Supreme to Ant Knolls (m80.27) passing about 5 people so that was super and gave me good confidence. At Ant Knolls, I had some broth and coke and not 5 minutes later I threw that up too. It was a constant battle to put a little food in my belly and keep moving as fast as we could which was a lot slower than my planned times which was extremely frustrating. We “grinded” up the hills and ran down as fast as we could on the other sections “slaying dragons” whenever possible. We just kept plugging away at the miles while Roch pulled every trick out of his sleeve and my stomach did not respond to anything – it was so broken. We finally made it past the last climb after Pot Bottom (m93.13) and it was go time. I had made a promise not to leave anything on the trail and this was the time to push it to the limits. I know my speed wasn’t what it should have been but I gave it my all to the very best of my abilities. I only stopped to walk a couple seconds a couple times when I again felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach but when we hit the pavement there was going to be only running Homestead and sprinting to the finish line from there. It was great to see Chad, Ann, and Anya waiting for me to come off the trail and great to have Chad join Roch and I running the final stretch into the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 27:45 which was a half hour better than my last year’s time but it was still a bummer that my stomach held me back and I could not have taken more time off.


     Running in the last mile with the Master (Roch)

     Crossing the finish line

     Happy to be done

     Fantastic pacers

I feel good about my race and know that I ran as fast I as could given the circumstances. The frustrating part is that I’m not sure what caused my stomach to be so upset. I really felt like my fuel up to that point was correct as I was paying close attention to my eating, drinking, electrolytes and didn’t try anything “new”. A couple items that could have come into play were the high temperature, talk about some “bad water” somewhere as many others were sick. One item that I thought would do good but actually was quite the opposite is drinking a recovery drink with protein going out of Brighton that probably upset my stomach more. I’ve got some new things to try for next time and will chalk this up to a fluke experience and hope that it does not happen next time.


     Getting my 3rd Wasatch 100 belt buckle

Thank you to Ann, Meghan, and Roch for taking care of me and keeping me company on the course. Thank you to all of my friends and family who cheered me on in person or in spirit. Thank you to all of my friends that I train with and make running fun. My deepest gratitude goes to Chad for all of the support in training, every other aspect of my life, and crew extraordinaire.

2 thoughts on “A Painful Wasatch PR”

  1. Simply Amazing Emily! Sorry your stomach turned against you. A HUGE thanks to you for coming to the marathon immediately after your finish to cheer on everyone. Don’t know how you do it – extremely impressive.

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