Elizabeth Azze's 2010 Wasatch 100 (77) Endurance Run Race Report

Here is my race recap of the Wasatch Front 100 or 77 miler...

40 days after the completion of my 2nd 100 mile race and 3rd ultra with in 5 months I decided to keep the train going and take the opportunity given to me earlier in the year when I was lucky enough to gain entry into the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. The Wasatch Front offered an elevation gain of 26,882 ft as well as a cumulative loss of 26,131 ft which is the most climbing I have exposed myself too since my past mountaineering experiences in Alaska. Joe and I arrived in Utah 6 days before race day to camp at altitude and explore the race course. During our 4 days spent camping I thought I was adapting fine to the altitude, of course I knew it was not nearly enough time to fully acclimate but it was all the time we had available. The other option would have been to fly in a day or two before the race when altitude has less of an effect on most but since we were traveling all the way from New Jersey we wanted to enjoy some vacation time and celebrate our engagement. I was actually very surprised by how well I was dealing with the altitude at first, my breathing didn’t feel compromised, I was sleeping well, however my appetite was severely lacking. I was really trying to play the mind over matter trick or pretend It wasn’t going to have an impact on me even though deep down I knew.

In the weeks leading up to the race I started doing everything I could to make sure I was as strong as possible to deal with the lack of oxygen. In addition to my regular vitamin regime I made sure my iron, ferritin, and B vitamins were at the correct levels especially since I am chronically anemic. My hemoglobin had to be normal in order to get enough oxygen from my lungs to the rest of my body. This process was not just about taking a couple of pills a day, it was a strategic plan. The timing and combinations of food intake can effect the absorption or aid in the absorption of iron. A couple of examples are, not having caffeine within a four hour period before or after iron intake and eating something naturally rich in vitamin C like an orange which helps greatly with the absorption of iron. I took a food based liquid iron supplement called Floridix plus a vitamin. I increased my red meat intake (organic free range beef of course) spinach and pretty much every food that is naturally high in iron. I was not taking this race lightly we were very aware of the risk associated with high intensity racing at high altitude.

The next subject that came up during my time in Utah was racing during my menstrual cycle. Endurance racing or training during your cycle for some can be a very tricky thing especially when it comes to electrolyte balance. As endurance athletes whether in a race situation or during training we are always trying to balance our electrolyte intake and energy level. As for me, due to that time of the month, trying to balance my normal routine of electrolytes, hydration intake and the effects of altitude all became very challenging. Many different hormones are being introduced into the body at this vital time of the month but the four hormones that I feel had a direct impact on my performance during this endurance event were the Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH), Arginine Vasopressin), aldosterone, progesterone and estrogen. The roles of these hormones could be very complex but after doing further research I will be able to explain this in more detail in a future article.

Yes, this was another challenge but again as I always say, the wonderful thing about ultra running is that its not just about distance, its about the mental game to push the limits. We embrace the physical,mental and spiritual journey, the challenge of the environment and the balance behind keeping ourselves moving forward. For me this is the ultimate challenge in sports.

I loved the low key energy of this race. The race meeting was quick and to the point, almost leaving me worried especially after reading several descriptions of the race that stated things like, the course is loosely marked and you will be traveling on uneven game trails that can be hard to follow. With this information, I shrunk and laminated a copy of the course descriptions to make myself feel a little more at ease.

Eastern Mountain Wilderness Park:

It was chilly! I started with a layered top long sleeve with a short sleeve underneath, gloves, hat and a hydration pack. I wasn’t going to see Joe until Francis Peak maintenance shed at 18.76 miles so I thought I better be prepared. No matter what I had to battle through I was psyched as ever to explore this beautiful area. 5:00am we were off into the woods I started pretty modestly hanging in the back listening to conversations about different physics theories of why you shouldn’t run uphill during a 100miler, oh my god I thought, I better get moving, I was either going to have an argument or fall asleep. We slowly started making our way up to Chinscraper Summit, the first of many mountains. The first couple of miles were very runnable, then it turned into a fast paced hike with an occasional jog when the grade got a little more manageable. I started passing people here and there while seeing views of Salt Lake City lit up.

We were finally above tree line and the mountains seemed to be swallowed by clouds from the previous nights storm. I was surprised to feel so good while climbing, my legs felt strong my heart rate felt like it was under control my stomach felt bloated but ok and I didn’t have a headache. I said to myself, “ok I know this is just the beginning but I feel great”. On the way to the summit at 9,200ft 9.60 miles into the race there were intermittent breaks in the clouds that allowed for a glimpse of beauty that surrounded us. I would take moments to pause to be present to take in the scenery and realize just how lucky I was to experience this. I realized I was a part of this ultra running parade cutting through the mountains on a single track. I would look up and see 50 or so other people making there way up the knife edge switch backs to what looked like the top but probably wasn’t. I was one of 250 attempting to make this journey across the Wasatch Mountain Range, it was extremely exciting. We got to the top and low and behold there was snow and the views were indescribable. I would periodically yell out “woo-oho...!”, so awesome! You know, its been a while since I have stood on peaks of this magnitude. I took off down a slippery single track that hugged the side of a an exposed mountain side. I was passing people saying hi, feeling confident in my footing. I don’t remember a time where I felt so alive and free. I came up on another climb while chatting with folks about the beauty of our surroundings. I ended up meeting this great gal, Suzanne from Salt Lake City who was running this for the 2nd time. We had a great conversation and decided to stay together for the bulk of the race.

Mile 39 Big mountain Pass Aid station to Lambs 53.17:

I picked up my pacer Mr. iPod, its been along time since I’ve ran with with music and I was looking forward to grooving. Suzanne picked up her pacer Dave as well and we seemed to stay together until mile 50, thats when we wished each other good luck and went our separate ways. I began to feel like I wasn’t processing my nutrition or hydration adequately, my stomach was bloated my weight was on the rise, I wasn’t sure what was going on? I was using my normal routine but things just didn’t seem right. In my mind I was constantly running the checklist of the timing and quantity of my nutrition, hydration, electrolytes etc. to be sure I was on track. It looks like the two unknowns for me during this race situation were playing tricks on me, the altitude and my cycle. I slipped into moments of low energy but seemed to get myself back on track.

Lambs 53.17 to Millcreek 61.68:

I was feeling good moving along at a nice pace although I was still outrageously bloated my energy level was great. I made good time from lambs to Millcreek. This section had a nice climb and then a couple of miles of pavement that took us to the Millcreek aid station. I would run/hike for much of it here, I wish I could come up with a fun term to describe what we do in an ultra like ruhike or something silly like that. I noticed a person coming towards me, oh look its Joe, he came down to meet me to let me know he was going to crew me just before the proper aid station due to parking limitations. The sun was beginning to set, the temperature was dropping quickly, I had to change my clothes, I put on a hat, gloves, running tights and a headlamp. I fueled up and headed back out on the trail as I was leaving I looked down and realized we forgot to put my number on, “shoot!”. I continued on at a good clip while Joe ran back to get my number. I didn’t slow down because I knew he would catch back up, after all he is the REAL runner in the family :).

Millcreek 61.68 to Brighton 75.61

To be honest other than mild weakness and bloating I felt good. The sun had set and I felt fine to be without a pacer, the course was decently marked there were just enough glow sticks to keep you from straying to far. There were even enough headlamps behind me and in front of me that would keep me on track which usually is not the case during most 100milers where I often find myself alone. I made it to Desolation Lake aid station, had some chicken soup and quickly moved on. Leaving here was pretty cool as we climbed out of a bowl and onto a knife edge ridge. This section offered awesome views and you could see the Brighton Ski area 75.61. My legs were feeling great, I was able to run down hill at my normal pace and seeing Brighton, even though it was 8 or so miles away, offered a bit more motivation. Scotts Transmission Tower aid station came up pretty quickly which was at mile 70.79. I was sure not to stop here for long, the temps were really dropping. You can always tell how cold it really is when you look at the volunteers covered up with winter gear like there part of an Arctic expedition. I quickly left motivated by the lights of Brighton, “it must be getting closer”, I said to myself. It seemed to be all down hill from here. I listened to some great music and had a blast running down what seemed to be a gravel road that turned into pavement. I kept a nice steady pace. I was eager to see Joe because he was planning on keeping me company for from Brighton through Catherine Pass. I was happy my quads were not shot and I was able to run down hill just fine. I finally got to the stop sign at the end of this road, this section was familiar from the prior days of camping and exploring. I walked the slight uphill to brighton and eagerly waited for Joe to come towards me and there he was. We discussed how I was doing I told him about my bloating etc. and how I was beginning to freeze. We met a couple of other runners who knew of our business during the run into the aid station. Its pretty fun to know our website is being enjoyed by others across the country.

Wow was its cold, I made it into the lodge where runner check-in was. I had to get weighed, holy smokes I was 8lbs up. What the hell is going on I felt like an exploding sausage. The lodge was filled with runners lying on the ground sleeping, some were even foam rolling. I stood there taking in nutrition and used a real bathroom, which I have to say is really weird after coming from 18 hours of being in the woods. As I waited for Joe to bring a bag back out to the car, I began to get really cold and severe nausea followed. We checked out, I bundled up and we began to make our way up underneath chair lifts to begin the climb up to Catherine Pass. This is when everything started to spin violently. I began to shiver uncontrollably and my nausea got worse. I stumbled around then dropped to the ground. I laid on my back for a bit and then tried to get back up, then laid down again. A couple of minutes passed by, I was trying to explain to Joe my symptoms but he was having a hard time understanding my slurred speech. We made the decision to go back down to the car to try to warm-up and re-evaluate things. We slowly made it to the car, we must have gone a mile before turning around it took forever to get back down. As soon as I sat down I began a 3 hour puking and dry heaving session. I have never felt so terrible in my life. We had a very brief conversation and decided this was a good time to call it a day and drop from the race.

My body from the start was having a hard time digesting anything due to the altitude and my situation. Altitude sickness ended up getting me pretty good and Joe joined me with a little altitude sickness himself the next day. It seems like we are still recovering since getting back from Utah but we feel good about everything. We had an awesome time in Utah, I loved every minute of my experience and we’re looking forward to going back soon to finish this magnificent race or possibly to live. It truly was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I loved the fresh air moving against my skin, I loved being encompassed by nature, I loved the adventure it provided me and most of all, I love the challenge and the strategy behind completing 100 miles. Its so much more then simply placing one foot in front of the other. Thank you to the wonderful race volunteers, race directors and Joe for everything.

Elizabeth