Thursday, October 22, 2015

100 Facts & Realizations from the Summer of Slam

100 Facts & Realizations from the Summer of Slam
1. Four (4) oldest 100-mile trail races (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch)
2. ~77,000 feet of total elevation gain
3. ~81,000 feet of total elevation loss
4. 11 week span from beginning to end
5. 17 work vacation days
6. 11 plane rides
7. ~80 hours of riding in a car
8. ~30 puking rallies
9. 1,000s of prayers
10. One (1) black toenail
11. One (1) left tingly foot and toes (lasted ~10 weeks)
12. Attempted two (2) 100-mile trail races in 2014, completed one (1)
13. Attempted four (4) 100-mile trail races in 2015, completed four (4)... barely!
14. 42 people started The Grand Slam
15. 25 people remaining after Western
16. 22 people remaining after Vermont
17. 16 people remaining after Leadville
18. 13 people remaining after Wasatch (Class of 2015, ~31% finishing rate)
19. 280 people to ever finish the Grand Slam
20. 315 times that the Grand Slam has been completed (multiple finishes by same people)
21. 30th anniversary of the Grand Slam
22. 100-mile runs are hard
23. Thankful for the countless new friends
24. Lifetime of memories
25. Mouthwash at mile 80 is heaven in a bottle... Thanks Jobie Williams
26. Nine (9) months of planning
27. The struggle bus is real... I rode it all summer
28. The Grand Slam is an expensive endeavor... especially living in the east
29. Capturing a photo of someone when they are battling through a dark low speaks a thousand words (Jobie is very talented)
30. You can run 40-50 miles on nothing but Coca Cola & Water... thanks Daniel Scott Hamilton
31. 1 expensive handbag for my wife (payment, aka "reward" for the Summer of Stress)
32. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
33. I still don't understand this sick sport
34. I missed out not having a "mule" at Leadville
35. Not sure how Brian Costilow has run Leadville TEN times!!... mental issues
36. My favorite race was my most challenging... Wasatch
37. Realizing that the girl at Pinhoti who said it was just as hard or harder than Western was an IDIOT!
38. Wanting to punch Joshua Cole for ever talking me into my first trail race
39. Wanting to kiss Josh Cole when realizing I was going to finish the last race of The Grand Slam
40. No sunscreen and Breathe Right Strips make funny nose tan lines
41. Clothes smell really bad after 100-mile races
42. Clothes smell even worse when you leave them in a Ziploc bag, in the back of truck while driving across America, in the middle of the summer!
43. Eating ice cubes can fool your brain into thinking you're eating real food
44. Sleep is overrated
45. Trail runners are the nicest people in the world
46. Just because you run a "fast" 50-mile time does not mean you can do that two times in a row to run a fast 100-mile time
47. Finishing a 100-miler is a HUGE accomplishment
48. It's hard to breath above 12,000 feet
49. Poles are good for hiking and for leaning forward to hurl
50. Isaiah 40:31, "But those who put their hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will sore on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint."
51. Running Badwater 135 in the middle of The Slam is just insane... Joshua Holmes
52. Lots of different body parts hurt during and after 100-miles
53. A massage after a 100-mile race is worth every penny!
54. 100-mile races are humbling
55. The Rocky Mountains are one of God's most beautiful creations
56. Running with horses sounds cooler than it is
57. My family/crew work harder than I ever do during a race... I am so thankful for each of you!
58. Trying to pee and run at the same time is hard to do
59. People who don't live in the southeast don't know what real humidity is
60. New weight loss idea... run four (4) 100-mile races in 11 weeks or be the spouse of someone running those four (4) races
61. Pacers do a LOT of work with little reward or recognition
62. Crews do EVEN MORE for little reward or recognition
63. How to stay cool with a homemade Jimbo bandana and ice in arm warmers
64. That God truly does listen and answers prayers
65. The beauty of seeing two sunrises during one race
66. Sometimes smelling bad is better than bathing in a lake with a bunch of crawdads biting your toes
67. Taco Bell is an awesome post-race recovery food
68. Naked Stormtrooper dancing is acceptable at mile 80 @ 11,000 ft up and 25° outside
69. Finding the energy to run the last 5 mile stretch faster than any other miles in the race
70. Katy knows best!
71. Teaching life-long lessons to my girls even if they are too young to understand them now
72. The word "run" is very loosely based when speaking of a 100-mile run
73. Sometimes taking the time to stop and rest will save you more time down the road
74. There are not enough toys to keep kids from getting bored when waiting at aid stations
75. People look at you funny when you tell them you got into The Slam after only completing one (1) 100-mile race
76. Saw the; 'Cary Long in the headlights look' from some girl doing her business in the middle of the trail
77. It's really hard to keep going when your 4-year old is telling you it's okay to stop
78. Anything worth doing is not necessarily easy
79. I finally understand eating early and often
80. It's very, very dusty at Wasatch
81. The pre-race meeting at Leadville is almost better than most standup comedy clubs
82. Smiling does make you feel better no matter how crappy you feel
83. The only way out is through... (Billy Simpson)
84. Words of encouragement are the best medicine for a busted spirit
85. The love and support from my family means more than my family could ever know
86. A fresh pair of socks during the middle of a race can make a world of difference
87. I completed The Slam in 2015 in ~105 hours...
88. Ian Sharman completed The Slam in 2013 in ~69 hours (record holder)... mind blowing!
89. Despite swearing off 100-mile races numerous, NUMEROUS times over this summer, two weeks later I'm already scheming of my next 100-miler adventure
90. Seeing how strong people really are and what we are all capable of doing with the right mindset and determination
91. My crew is my greatest asset during any race
92. Without risk of failure we have no opportunity for success
93. Squirrels in Utah will in fact scream at you
94. Challenging yourself physically and mentally will only make you that much stronger for life's journey
96. Pain is easily forgotten
97. 100-mile runs are more mental than physical
98. Nothing tastes good after running and puking for 10+ hours
99. Rule of 3's... In any 100-miler you can expect at least 3 things to transpire that you weren't planning on (Ken Niemimaa))
100. The bald eagle trophy for The Slam represented in Isaiah 40:31 (see #50)
‪#‎TheGrandSlamofUltrarunning‬ ‪#‎N8_GrandSlam2015‬ ‪#‎Holland2015‬‪#‎GodsGloryOurJoy‬

Grand Slam of Utlrarunning Award

Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Class of 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Are you Nate's wife?" - 2015 Wasatch Front 100

"Are you Nate's wife?" guest blog (within a blog) Grand Slam series: Volume 4 - Wasatch 100!

The Final Chapter

Ahh... The Wasatch Front 100 - the coveted last race of the Grand Slam series! Boy was I happy to be at this point! This is the race that Nathan had most been looking forward to from the very beginning and me too, I guess, since this meant that the months of planning and stress were about to be finished! Just kidding, but really!

The little bit of time that we were able to spend at home in between Leadville and leaving for Wasatch (12 days to be exact) were busy with trips back and forth to Heidi's preschool as her classes had started again while we were in Leadville, gymnastics classes, and Wasatch strategizing. Before we knew it, it was time to leave again to head out west for our final trip. Our girls are complete pros at flying now and I couldn't tell you how many times people told me how amazing they were on the plane rides! 
We arrived in Salt Lake City on Sunday night and made the quick 40 minute drive to our condo in Park City. Our amazing friends/family Josh & Candice Cole and their two cutie kids, Jude & Erin, had made the trip out the day before and we were all going to be spending the week together out in Park City! Josh and Nathan have been best friends since high school and Josh was actually the one who introduced Nathan and I all those years ago! (We owe him a lot more than just the thanks and praise for this race, I assure you!!) He was also the one that convinced Nathan to run his first ever Ultra back in 2010!

The week wasn't all sunshine and rainbows though. Everyone had a touch of some kind of cold, we dealt with 24-hour stomach bugs, lost luggage, and stolen bank information. But no matter what cards we were dealt, just being together for the week was a wonderful blessing for all! 

On Thursday we got the opportunity to go and explore the walking trails around Silver Lake - Cottonwood Canyon and we actually got to see some Moose!!! That was a highlight of the trip for me! It was beautiful up there and the company made it even better!

Female moose on the left and bull moose antlers on the right

After we left the lake we made our way to SLC and the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up. There was a playground nearby and Candice was a trooper and watched all four of the kids so that Nathan, Josh, & I could go to the race meeting. The meeting was short, sweet, and to the point! Just the way I like it. After the meeting we went back to the condo where Joshua Holmes joined us and our parents (who had just gotten into town that afternoon) for some amazing pre-race dinner. Candice and I cooked up some homemade fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and rolls! It was delicious and the boys ate well! With bellies full it was time to try to get some sleep before the last race start in the morning!

It's officially race day!
Our condo was about an hour drive to the race start so no extra sleep for this race! We were out the door and on our way by 3:15-3:30am. There weren't a ton of parking spaces at the Start but we found a spot on the road not far from the line and made sure the guys had everything they needed! One of the things that made me most anxious about this race was the fact the we were only going to be able to see Nathan three times for the entire race, with the first time being all the way at mile 39, so making sure Nathan had whatever he might need was crucial. Once his pack was stuffed and ready to go we went up to the Start line (which was a thin piece of material strung loosely across the entrance to the trail) and got a few pictures before the countdown began. 
Once again, it was time for the 10 second countdown, and this one was going to be the last one. 3...2...1... and they were off! We cheered for all the runners and then headed back to the condo to try to get a little bit of rest! 
Josh fueling up to do some pacing!

Fast forward a few hours and it was finally time for Dennis, Josh, & me to make our way to the interim parking lot to wait for the okay to head up to the Big Mountain (mile 39) aid station. It was a quick 20 minute drive from the condo to the interim parking. They had a big mobile command center set up and you had to get the okay from them that your runner had made it past the last aid station before they would sign your pass to send you on to the crew aid station. (Although, to be honest, I never saw anyone that was checking passes at either of the aid stations.) 
In the short amount of time between Leadville and Wasatch I tried to set out my hopes and intentions for Nathan's last GS run. I was hoping for no sickness, to feel great, and really just to have fun! With no more pressure of more races to come and finally being able to visualize the completion of the 'Summer of Slam' I was just hoping that this race might be different from the last three. So when we finally made it up to the aid station I was full of excitement and energy! They could pick up pacers at this aid station and Josh was excited and ready to go! He and Nathan had decided beforehand that if Nathan was feeling good when he came in here and didn't necessarily need Josh yet then he would save energy and just meet him at the next crew station. Well, the aid station was situated at the bottom of a short decent and if you knew what to look for you could pick out your runner coming down the switchbacks and Nathan was easy to spot because of his orange R/C race shirt. He was jogging and not walking (which is usually a good sign) but gave me a shake of the head when he came in that told me he wasn't feeling good. Already?? I mean come on! He checked into the aid station and then made his way to the port-o-potty where he spent the next 5 or more minutes throwing up, dry heaving, and struggling in between both to tell me what he needed to continue on. When he finally came out of the bathroom he went to sit in the chair and said he had started throwing up around mile 30-33 and that it had hit him out of nowhere. He wanted to lay down and rest already but after sitting for a few minutes and managing to keep down a popsicle he decided to keep going and that he would rest at Lambs Canyon (mile 52) aid station instead. He wanted Josh to go on and start pacing and I was glad. I told him that he was doing great and could pull out of this. We filled their sleeves up with ice, wrapped their Jimbo bandanas around their necks and they checked out of the aid station to tackle the next 13 miles before they would see us again. 
Big Mountain Aid Station - mile 39
Dennis and I made our way down from Big Mountain and we had some time to kill before we could head to the next Crew aid station and didn't want to just sit in the interim parking lot. Our conversation went something like this... "Dennis: We have some time to kill so we could go get something to eat if you're hungry. Me: I'm not really hungry but we can get something for you if you want. Dennis: Yeah, I'm not really hungry either." The worry sets in more when Nathan starts getting sick and we could tell the toll it takes on the both of us. It was a pretty silent trip as we made our way back into Park City to find a gas station with some ice to refill our cooler. But even though our mouths were silent - our hearts and minds were working overtime sending up lots of prayers!
My Mom was hoping to bring the girls and meet us at the Lambs Canyon aid station and it broke my heart to call her and tell her that I thought it would be best if the girls weren't there. It was terribly hard on them and Nathan at Western when they were there when he was so sick. 

Once we got our ice and some soda for ourselves we made the quick trip back to the interim parking lot to set in and wait for permission to head on over to Lambs Canyon. Around 6:00pm I got a text from Josh that said they were about 1 mile from the Alexander Ridge aid station. Dennis and I patiently waited for the tracking website to update so that we could go and get our pass. By 6:45 the website still hadn't shown they were to the aid so I went over to the command center to see if they knew more than me. The man was really nice and said that he was expected to be through almost 45 minutes ago and he would go on and sign my parking pass so that we didn't miss him at Lambs Canyon! I was extremely grateful. 

Lambs Canyon is only roughly about 5 miles and 1 exit away from the interim parking and situated on the road that runs underneath the overpass for the interstate. We made a quick pass by the aid station and decided to park just on the other side of the overpass pointing the direction that the runners were going. Dennis did some quick calculating and told me that the sun was due to set soon and we needed to say some prayers that they would make it to us before it got completely dark because they didn't have any lights with them. I quickly passed along the prayer request to our wonderful prayer group and sent up a bunch of prayers myself. When it started getting close to time for them to come in I walked down to the aid station to watch for them. The runners come up a dirt road before hitting the aid station so it should've been easy for me to see them coming. Well, all of a sudden I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and there is Josh almost to the aid station. I ran over to meet him and tell him where we were parked and so forth. He said Nathan should be coming so I ran back over to the ledge to watch for Nathan. I had only been standing there a few minutes when I hear Josh calling my name. He tells me that Nathan had already been through the aid station and was heading towards the car. Crap! How had I missed him! Josh and I head towards the car and find Nathan leaning against the car losing what little stuff he had in him. He was cold and wanted to rest. I threw his dad's jacket on him and got him situated in the backseat of the car. It was about 8:15pm. I asked him how long he wanted to rest and he told me 15 minutes. As if! I told him I would wake him up at 9:00pm. He agreed and was asleep in seconds.
While he slept I tried to help Josh any way that I could and get them both prepared for the long night ahead of them. 

It's taken me a long time to write this next section because the emotion is still so raw. I am finally at the point that I can retell this part of the race with only a few tears streaming down my face. 

It was getting close to the 9:00pm wake-up mark and Josh and I were talking in the front seat when all of a sudden Nathan woke up in the backseat and quickly threw open the door to throw up/dry heave onto the road. He was in awful shape. Even worse than his worst at Western. He said that he needed to get moving. His entire body was shaking... and I don't mean like a little shake, I mean like big uncontrollable shaking all over. His eyes had big dark circles under them and he had a spaced out look on his face. I would have to repeat some of my questions because he would look at me all spacey like he didn't even hear me the first couple times. I was worried. Big time. I started out with polite suggestions like "are you sure you don't want to rest a little longer?" and "you've got plenty of time, maybe you could just stay here a little longer." But he was resigned to leaving. He just kept saying that he just had to get moving. My whole body was in knots. I didn't know how I was going to send him off into the dark night abyss and the hardest part of the race when he was so sick and out of it. It just didn't feel right. I remember walking to the trunk of the car where Josh was getting some final stuff together, putting my arm around him, and telling him that he had final call. That Nathan wasn't in the right state of mind to pull himself from the race and that it would be in Josh's hands to make the decision if it got to that point. I remember Josh looking at me and telling me that I was putting a lot of pressure on him and I said, "I know and I'm so sorry." I went back to Nathan and helped him get his warmer clothes and stuff on. I remember feeling so torn. He was so close to his end goal - the thing that we had all worked so hard for and put so much into this summer and I just wanted him to stop and stay here with me where I knew he would be safe. Every single race of this GS series he has been sick and every single time I have tried my best to build him up and tell him he could do this, just keep pushing! But not this time, one more look at his confused face and I said the thing that I had promised myself that I would never say, "Please stop. Please just stay here with me." But he just kept saying that he had to go, he just had to go. 
I held Nathan's hand and walked with him & Josh up the road about 20 yards or so. Had Josh not been there to go with him I never would've been able to let him leave that car. There are unique times in our lives when God puts the right people in the right place at the perfect time... and that is exactly what he did when Josh decided to pace Nathan for this race. We said a quick goodbye and Josh promised me that he would take care of him for me. 

When I got back to the car I was crying. I had held in the tears to try to be strong for Nathan but I couldn't do it anymore. Dennis was packing things up and when he saw that I was crying he looked at me and asked me if I could catch them. I said, sure I guess. He told me to run down the road and tell Josh that we would wait here for 30 minutes. If Nathan got worse or wasn't any better then he was to turn him around and bring him back. So I took off down the road, running with my crappy headlamp once again, trying to catch them. My lungs were burning and I didn't know how long the road went before they got back on the trail. I finally saw two headlamps up ahead of me and started calling out their names. After a few tries they seemed to finally hear me and stopped so that I could catch up. I was sobbing as I threw my arms around Nathan and told him I was sorry and asked him if he was sure that he was okay to do this. He held me while I cried and told me he didn't know. He didn't know if he should keep going or if he would make it to that finish line. He suggested that we say a prayer because he didn't know what else to do, so the three of us huddled together in the middle of this dark road and asked the Lord for the wisdom to know whether he should keep going or stop, here and later on; for energy and a calm stomach; for peace with the decisions either way; and for overall protection and safety. That would have to do for now. I relayed the message about staying for 30 minutes to Josh and then I left them there, continuing their way on the road and I turned and took my time walking the mile or so back to the car. On my walk back I had a deep, sincere, honest heart to heart with God. I asked him to take all of it from me because I just couldn't do it anymore. I was so worried that it was literally making me sick. I had a headache that was entering into migraine land. I could feel every heartbeat in my eyeballs and temples. I was so sick to my stomach I felt like I was going to throw up at any minute. I asked the Lord to give me that 'Peace beyond all understanding' (Philippians 4:7). 

I got back to the car around 9:45pm. I don't know if Dennis will ever understand what this next hour and 15 minutes would mean to me, but let's just say that I have am blessed with an amazing, God-fearing Father-in-law that was able to talk me off the cliff. Another answer to prayer from God I do believe. He told me that a lot of times when we put our trust in God (like the prayers that we had prayed after Nathan came through the first aid station sick) then we expect things to get better or, at the very least, not to get worse. So when things get worse it's easy for people to think that God doesn't care or isn't listening; when really, God wants to know: Do you still trust me? Those simple words were exactly what I needed to know that God had truly heard my crying out to Him. He knew that I still trusted Him and I knew that He would take care of Nathan. Dennis said lots of other wonderful things to me during this tense time while we waited to see if they would turn back and most of the things he said I can't clearly recall. But I know what that time meant to me and it is special. 
We ended up staying until 11:00 (1 hr 15 min from when I got back to the car) before deciding that since we hadn't heard from Josh that they must still be moving in the right direction. We drove the 15 minutes back to the condo and once we got settled God answered my prayer for peace. Normally in a race I am too anxious to sleep. I was still feeling rather ill and as I laid down in bed I prepared myself for a long night of worry. But the good Lord allowed me to sleep - which ended up being the greatest distraction for me. I fell to sleep almost immediately. I remember waking around 3:30am, looking at the clock and turned over when I got a text message from Josh. (God had woken me up right on time!) He told me they were through one of the aid stations (I honestly can't remember which) and that Nathan was craving a cold peach or apple and a slushy. I forwarded the message to Dennis and Candice and we decided what time we would need to leave to head up to the Brighton aid station. Mom came down and stayed with all of the sleeping kids so that Candice could come with Dennis & me to this aid station. 

About 4:30am we headed out to see them at the last Crew aid station Brighton (mile 75). Half a mile from our condo was a 24-hour Fresh Market so we ran in quick and got him a peach and a nectarine to throw into the cooler and around another corner was a gas station where we got him a cherry slushy. Hopefully these will be what he needs to keep some food down! It was about a 35-40 minute drive from our condo to the Brighton aid station. It's only about 13 miles but it's mostly curvy mountain roads and I felt bad for Candice because she got a little car sick on the way up. While we were driving Candice and I saw a real life porcupine. It was weird and cool all at the same time. That is officially the first and only time I've ever seen one in real life! 
When we made it to the aid station we sat in the car to wait for a little bit. We had been following the projected times on the tracking website and they had been pretty accurate so far. We knew that our friend, Joshua Holmes, was a little bit ahead of Nathan so we decided that once we saw him come into the aid station then we would get our stuff and get set up. I saw someone come in that I thought might be Joshua so I got out of the car and walked up the stairs into the aid station to see if it was or not. Lo and behold it was! He looked good but really sleepy. He had already gotten his drop bag so I helped him get some food and washed out and refilled his bottles for him. I talked with him for another minute then headed back out to get Candice & Dennis so we could get all our stuff ready. I had just made it back to the car when Candice and I both thought we saw our Josh walking inside the aid station. All three of us grabbed our stuff and ran up to the aid station. Nathan was only a minute or two behind and we worked quickly to get all of their supplies refilled. Nathan was looking forward to the slushy but a couple sips in it ended up coming back up. So we quietly put it in the garbage. Joshua Holmes stopped to say hey for a second before he headed back out and offered Nathan a sweet tea that he had in his drop bag. It was perfect for Nathan! We knew not to keep them any longer than absolutely necessary at this aid station because it was indoors and they say it is a bad trap if you stay too long. You get all warm and comfy and don't want to leave. So after a few hugs and kisses and lots of praise we got them out the door. 
Leaving Brighton
Dennis took this picture at Brighton and at the time I had no idea that he even took it. It is the most special picture of this entire race and GS series to me! How hard it is too send the one you love back out... "Love lifted me"

I must say that even though the worry was still there - it did diminish slightly after seeing him at this aid station. Was he miles ahead of where he was (technically yes)? No. But he was still pushing forward and I knew that there was no more "what if" when it came to him finishing because he was definitely going to finish! With lifted hearts Candice, Dennis, & I made our way back to the condo. We were just able to see the sun starting to peek over the mountains as we were arriving back and it felt to me like God's way of saying, "I told ya I've got this!"
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5 

The rest of the morning was spent getting our stuff together since we had to check out by 12:00pm and constantly refreshing our phones and tablets to see how he was moving through the aid stations. We left the condo and made our way towards the finish line, stopping on the way at a McDonald's so the kids could eat and play for a little bit. We got to the finish line in plenty of time to find a nice spot in the grass close to a huge tree and relax a little in the shade while we waited. The runners have to run about a 0.5 mile on the road to the finish and Dennis had his big zoom on his camera so he was able to see when they were coming! Before long we saw them making their way up the road and the happy tears were streaming down all of our faces as we ran over to see them cross the finish line! 

In conclusion:
This summer has been one of the best and worst summers of my life. We got to travel to places we had never been and see beautiful and amazing things that some people will never get the chance to see. I also had to see the one that I love go through some really tough times and I had to learn to deal with the fact that I couldn't do anything else to help him. The only way I can put that into perspective for myself is to see the similarity between this and natural child birth for me. I now know how Nathan must've felt to see me in so much pain but still resigned to my final outcome. 
Above all else this summer, my faith has grown exponentially. I have learned to truly and wholeheartedly trust God with everything and anything. The things I can control and the things that I cannot. As I was recounting this story to my good friend Jenny (you may remember her from my Leadville post) she told me that she has often heard stories from others about God really showing up and showing what He can do and she wondered to herself how she could get that to happen in her own life. Her conclusion was that a lot of the time these people (including us) were taking some really big risks without being completely certain of the outcome, but putting our trust in God regardless. I agree 100%. Our shirts say it all - "God's Glory - Our Joy"!! 

I want to say a quick thank you to everyone and anyone, people we know and don't know, for all of the prayers, thoughts, and well wishes through this entire journey! We couldn't have done this without y'all! 

It still doesn't quite feel like it's actually over. Maybe once we stay in town for a solid 6 weeks with no traveling it will finally start to set in! ha ha

Now I am going to go take a nap! 


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wasatch 100 - A Pacers Perspective - by Josh Cole

An American Tail, Nathan Goes West. Wasatch 100 – A pacers perspective

I have known Nathan (N8) since we were about 14. Playing soccer year round was our thing then. I actually knew his wife before becoming friends with him. Like many, many others, I have been following his progress through the Grand Slam series, praying and nail biting the whole way. Fast forward many moons and both our families are in Park City, UT letting our kids run around like the wind. It was a little stressful for my wife, Candice and I because we have a 7 month old daughter, Erin, and 3 year old son, Jude. We managed to survive, minus a 24 hour stomach that thankfully only plagued Jude.

The day before the race flew by with a little site seeing then pre-race meeting / playground for the kids. Candice was super mom while she watched 3 toddlers and an infant so N8, Katy, and I could attend the meeting. How lucky I am to have a spouse that supports my crazy adventures and still tells me she loves me at the end of the day! After the meeting, we all went back to our room and picked up another Grand Slammer, Joshua Holmes. Candice promptly started making her famous homemade fried chicken and Katy got the sides together: mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and some tasty rolls. What a nice southern meal before the expedition began. After supper, there was about an hour left to let the kids get their shenanigans out before the 8 pm bedtime.

Race day: Seeing that the 5am start was ~1 hour away, I decided to sleep in since Katy and Dennis were going to the start. I ate a big breakfast and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee. Dennis, Mary, Katy, Candice, and I all chatted while the kids were keeping themselves entertained. Before we knew it, it was time to see Nathan at Big Mountain aid station (AS), mile 39. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I had run my first 50 mile race almost 10 months prior in December 2014, then another 50 miler 3 weeks after that. Chattanooga Mountains Stage race in June that ran 60 miles over 3 days, and multiple 20ish mile runs over the next couple of months. I felt somewhat confident that I could “run” the last 60 miles with him, at least in theory.

After I drank my hospital approved strawberry Ensure and ate a banana, Katy, Dennis, and I drove over to Little Dell Reservoir to wait until we got the ok (due to limited parking) to head up to Big Mtn AS. There was not one cloud in the sky and it was super windy, so that made it hard to know exactly how hot it was. While we waited on N8, Katy talked to me about what to look and listen for when he isn't feeling good. I started getting very nervous then; what did I get myself into? 60 miles, ~15,000' of gain and loss... was I ready for that? Maybe if he was feeling good, I could stop at mile 75 (36 miles for me). I had also been suffering from plantar fasciitis (mainly on my left foot) on/off since the 2nd 50 miler. I rolled my feet with a golf ball all week and put some super oil my wife made on my feet.

We saw N8 coming down the hill to the AS, I ran over to him and asked how he was doing, “Threw up at mile 33.” And he looked very tired. Fittle sticks... I walked him through the aid station over to Dennis and Katy. He excused himself to talk to the port-a-king... Katy talked to him and he said he wanted to change his pack so he can carry more water. Katy got him a blue popsicle, rubbed some zofran on his arms, we donned some sleeves and jimbo bandanas, stuffed them with ice, and off we go.
Providing shade when there wasn't any
Big Mtn AS to Alexander Ridge AS (46.8 mi): My goal was to get him to recover and not just survive like he did in the previous three 100 milers. I had complete confidence we could do it. Take it slow. “I just want him to have a good race, enjoy himself, and smile,” Katy told me multiple times. I could help make that happen...! Thick brush and some rolling hills covered most of the terrain as we made our way to Bald Mtn. What a view! It had been about 30 minutes since we left the aid station, no throwing up for N8, he was sipping water and coke, even some jogging. Looking good! 45 minutes with no throwing up, awesome! We had a steady thing going, then he had to make a pit stop... made it 1 hour with no throwing up... Tried to give him some silence for a bit because I know he gets mad at himself for not being able to keep stuff down. I took that time to make sure I was keeping up with my nutrition (mainly Perpetum and Honey Stinger chews at this point).
Making our way down Bald Mtn was what I expected to see in big mountain running. Big, rolling ridges and very open. It was pretty cool to see other runners a few miles up and down the ridges. Then, another pit stop... dang it! All our ice had melted, it was hot being totally exposed even in the wind! N8 wanted to sit down for a minute... not a good idea, pit stop. Back to making our way down the ridge and still no shade. “About 2 miles to the next aid, and more ice!” I told him, trying to lift his spirits. Praying for him to keep food or liquid down. I felt bad for eating my chews because it made noise when I got them out of the package...

Finally, the AS! I told him I would get his pack and refill it with water and coke. He said he was getting a blue popsicle and sitting down. I ate some glorious, cold watermelon and almost everything else they had (pretzels, grapes, M&M's). Got our packs filled and stuffed the bandanas with more ice then head over to N8, he looks exhausted! ...pit stop in the chair, dang it! I was failing at helping him recover. I put the icy bandana around his neck and off we went.
View from Bald Mtn

Coming down Bald Mtn
Alexander Ridge to Lambs Canyon (52.48 mi): After a slight down hill, we had around a mile of running through a grassy field. It felt very nice with a slight breeze and ice cold water running down our back. I continued to try to stick to my nutrition of Perpetum and chews.

The valley gave way to a thick forest and quick/steep climb. We started our descent to Lambs Canyon AS. We were moving now, probably a solid 10min/mile pace. Felt good to stretch the legs. ...pit stop... Guess the increase in speed was too taxing on his gut. I have to give it to him, after every time he threw up, he immediately started drinking water. I would only have to remind him every 10 minutes or so to drink, but he did really awesome trying to get rehydrated with the quickness. The sun started to disappear as we continued our descent. He told me when he got to the aid station he wanted to change his shoes, socks, shirt and lay down for a quick nap. I talked him into taking a zofran, hoping that it would start to kick in by the time he got there.

We were about a mile out when I told him I would run ahead to tell Katy and Dennis his plan. I found Katy and informed her what he wanted. She told me where they had parked the car so I could go tell Dennis. Dennis was already walking towards the AS so I talked to him for a minute and told him how N8 was feeling. Then N8 popped out of nowhere... without Katy; guess they missed each other. Dennis took him to the car while I searched around for Katy. We hurried back to the car... another pit stop, shoot! Katy helped him change and get warm in the car so he could “nap.” The three of us started getting everything ready for some night running. Dennis made sure to put an extra head lamp and the Nao backup battery in our packs; he thinks of everything!

I ran to the aid station to satisfy my inner goat and proceeded to eat almost everything they had (watermelon! Oreos, chicken broth and noodles, chips... I'm never like this during a run, I will enjoy it while it lasts). I took a warm cup of chicken broth back for N8 when he woke up. About 45 minutes after he laid down, he started getting cold. Another pit stop or two... “I just need to get going, I'll warm up when I get to moving,” I believe I heard him tell Katy. He seemed very dizzy and TIRED! Dennis gave him a stern “pep” talk and I could tell Katy was upset with how he looked. “I won't let anything happen to him,” I told her as I gave her a hug.

Lambs Canyon to Upper Big Water AS (60.95): Katy walked with us for about 20 yards. We had about 2000' of climbing over ~3.5 miles. Around 2 miles of that was on a paved road. We used that time to let N8 get down some mountain dew. “It's going down easy,” he told me. Awesome! Haven't heard those words about any nutrition in about 6 hours. We started hearing someone yelling, I turn to see a couple of head lamps about 50 yards behind us. That runner and pacer must be having a good conversation, I thought to myself. Then I heard someone yelling “Jason.” We stop and turn around. “Josh, Nathan!” It was Katy. We had gone maybe around a mile or more so I didn't expect to see her. I felt so bad, because she was running. She told Nathan that she was very worried about him and if he wasn't feeling better in 30 minutes, then I was to turn him around and he would be dropping. Nathan lead a prayer asking that he or I would know if he needed to quit, the strength to carry on, and for all the other runners. Such an emotional time! With another long embrace and kiss, Katy sent N8 off to run through the night.

After a LONG and steep climb, we crested another mountain. No pit stops going on another hour or so. Things were looking good. The climb warmed us up quite a bit and the breeze was nowhere to be found in the trees. I shed my sleeves and we slowed down for N8 to take off his jacket and put it in his pack. He still had tights on over his shorts and wanted to take them off. That meant taking his shoes off, which meant sitting down, that meant risking puking... We tired the make a it a quick process... not quick enough... pit stop.

We could see some city lights during the long and steep descent. I continued to drink my Perpetuem and snacked on some beef jerky. We reached the bottom of the ridge and immediately started a 1000' climb. “Aid station in couple miles, slow and steady. Focus on just sipping that water and coke.”

This was the first time I've run all through the night, I cannot recall much in between these sections. I do remember filling my 7 oz flask MULTIPLE times for N8 with cold river water for him to douse his face. It was quite chilly already and that was keeping him awake. I remember turning off our head lamps and looking up at the millions of stars! We worked our way up a paved service road and started to see lights to the aid station! He was just going to grab some mountain dew, ice, and head up the trail. I had to work quick. I fumbled around the aid station with semi-frozen hands trying to get his pack refilled. Now, to get mine refilled... “What do you have hot to eat?” I asked. “Grilled cheese,” “Um, no... any noodles/broth?” “Yes!” “Bring it on!” With both our packs filled, and warm broth in my hands, off I went. Runners had to check in and out of each aid station, so as I was leaving, I told them I was with runner 167. “You're about 10 minutes behind.” Dang it!

Upper Big Water to Desolation AS (66.02): I settle into a nice jog since I was trying to scarf down some broth and noodles while holding his pack and trekking poles... trekking poles, where are the trekking poles... Crap, back at the aid station. I had made it a couple hundred yards up a big climb and had to turn around... At least the guys checking runners out got a good laugh at me for that... I had to laugh a little too, what else could I do. Back on track, I see a puke pile next to a tree, hope that's not his.

I finally catch up to him. “Did you throw up?” “Yeah, mountain dew didn't sit good.” Well Richard... Another big climb... We chatted about lots of past events in high school, our kids, job stuff, listened to other's conversations. I bet this forest would be beautiful during the day. We pop out into a field containing a small aid station. They had a nice fire, but we had no time to enjoy it. I quickly scarfed down half a banana and peanut M&M's. No coke, very limited supplies; we were in some back country.

Desolation AS to Scotts Peak AS (69.94): “Just over 3 miles to the next aid, we got that easy.” A short climb and we were atop a ridge with some fantastic views over Park City, Brighton, and Salt Lake City.  We settled into a nice run/jog down a gravel service road. We start to see a bright light in the distance, “That's the aid.” Time seems to go by a little faster and “running” seems a little easier when there is more human interaction. This AS had more selection of nutrition. I ask N8 what he wants, “I don't know, I'll look.” I gorge myself on most everything; most of the time in between AS, I was drinking water, Perpetum, chews, and beef jerky here and there. I ate a couple slices of oranges. “Feel like some oranges?” I ask N8, “I'll try some.” Back in the saddle again.

Scotts Peak to Brighton AS (74.63): N8 told me the oranges were quite delightful and went down easy. Awesome, maybe things are looking up. I stop for a pee break, then catch back up with him. “Have you peed in a while?” He told me no, so I start hounding him a bit more about water even though I feel like he has been doing really good. “You have to pee by the next aid.”

This section went by a little quicker too. We saw many military personnel, maybe reserve, doing middle of the night/early morning hikes. We said hello to all of them. From the gravel service road, we popped out onto a paved road that goes up/down the mountain. As we are crossing through the gate, a man asks us, “Which way does the race go?” I'm thinking to myself, sir, its 5am in the morning, we're doing good to keep our feet in front of us, don't ask us questions like that... I believe he was talking about the Big Cottonwood road marathon. We passed MANY school buses with loads of runner going up to the start.

This road was seriously hurting my feet, they felt like pimples ready to explode! N8 stopped to pee, didn't look very concentrated either, God sure has his hand on him! He has been throwing up on/off for over 12 hours and ~35 miles, how is he even remotely hydrated. God is good all the time! I start asking him what he wants at the next aid. He rattles off: pack change, plain water to mix perpetrum, coke... maybe he told me a shirt too... He had also told me a slushy earlier, which I sent Katy a text, hoping she may have gotten it. Off I go, “running” like the wind. My feet hurt, I want to quit. I know I can push myself.

I get to the AS and start searching for Katy. Can't find her anywhere, crap. I run back out side, they were running up the steps! We go back inside and I start rattling off what all N8 wants. Candice woke up early so she could see us, what an awesome wife! I steal a glorious kiss then down a strawberry Ensure, that sure hit the spot! I try to hurry and change my socks because my feet are throbbing! I drench my feet in some of Candice's magic oil and put on some new socks, what a wonderful feeling! I look over to see N8 throwing up the slushy they got him... he said it was too sweet. BUT I am happy to say, that was the last time he threw up! He did drink some sweat tea that seemed to agree with him though. Another embrace from the wives and pep talk from Dennis, then off we went again.

Brighton to Ant Knolls AS (79.14): This section would bring us the sun rise and the highest peak in the race. The sunrise hitting the rocks was quite spectacular!
This may have been my favorite section. I am a morning person and love seeing the array of colors that manifest during the sunrise. I remember telling N8, “God's timing has been perfect for this race, we made it to Lambs Canyon and our headlamps just before sun down. Now, we get to see the sun rise on the highest peak.” What an inspiration. The decent was very steep and lots of loose rocks. N8 must be starting to feel good, he's pushing the pace. Wish my feet didn't hurt so much... wait they don't hurt right now! I love my wife's magic oil! We arrived to a nicely stocked AS. I helped myself to some watermelon and other fixens. They were awesome at this AS. Music playing, very lively and helpful! N8 was killing some OJ. Off we went.

Ant Knolls to Pole Line Pass AS (82.31): Right out of the bag we had a serious 600' climb called the grunt... No fun, but I made jokes about grunting which I think helped pass the time. We held a steady climb, no lolly-gagging. N8 was feeling good... or ready to be finished! This section was only 3 miles; these shorter sections made it much less daunting. It was starting to smell like a Waffle House, was I getting that delusional... We arrived at the AS to find them making breakfast burritos! Wow... too bad I couldn't stomach that right now; we had a mission, get finished! N8 was getting his bandana filled with ice, so I spotted a sausage link that looked enticing, YUM! Stuffed my mouth with some cantaloupe and filled my bandana with ice. N8 was asking for more OJ, they didn't have any... More water, ice, and coke then.

Pole Line Pass to Station North AS (87.28): A gradual decent gave way to more of a wash out trail with steep sides, very awkward running. We made our way to another service road and the sun beating down on us. We had a gradual climb to a more frequented service road. We heard some hoodlums in the distance racing up and down the road. We stuck to the side for fear they would top a hill and clip us.   Rounding a corner, we spotted the aid station, and a climb right after... “Are we going to climb that?” N8 asked. “It's suppose to be all down hill from here.” He looked at the tattooed map (given out a packet pick up) on his arm. “Looks like all down hill...”

All the aid stations up until this point were great... The two guys “working” seemed uninterested in carrying on a conversation or acknowledging our questions... Although they did fill up N8's water bottles and bandana with ice. Maybe they were just tired. Ate a handful of grapes, pretzels, refilled with water, ice, and mountain dew and bid our farewells.

Station North to Decker Canyon AS (93.89): We climbed the small, daunting hill, and worked our way around the totally exposed service road; it was starting to warm up! We settled into running the flats and descents to what felt like forever! We saw an aid station down the ridge to our left... we kept running away from it. “Are we going the right way?” We kept seeing markers... We were both ready for some shade and more ice, ours was melting fast! Running further and further away from the last AS before the finish, we started to die a little on the inside.
 Finally a switch back down to a road with about 4-5 cars parked. “Maybe this is just a water station.” Nope, it was the last 'pacer exhange point' at mile 91.7. I thought to myself, “I wonder if Dennis and Katy are there, I could get a ride back to the finish. My feet were starting to hurt again, my legs were thrashed and N8 was running better; he could finish the last 9 miles, no problem. ...No, I'm his pacer and am going to finish with him!” A nice man gave N8 some ice cold water and ice from his cooler. I told him I was fine until the next AS. Behold, another steep climb... steep decent... steep climb... relentless. I remember telling N8 that they should rename the race, the Wastach Hill Monster!

Now we were running a steady downhill... every single step hurt my feet. Just kept telling myself, one step at a time. Push the pain below. We ran through a gate and were now dodging cow patties left and right. I told N8, “One more aid station then its homeward bound!” We arrived at the AS and were greeted with warm smiles, it was so lovely to see. There was a nice lady who rubbed sun block on my reddened face from 4 hours of direct sun. N8 wanted only water and lots of ice. He had been eating ice since the night/early morning. We stuffed a couple pieces of oranges into our bellies and off we went.

Decker Canyon to Finish (99.66): “One last push, we got this!” Little did I know, N8 would be pushing me more to the finish. We saw a huge reservoir, hoping to be able to run close enough to it so we could submerge ourselves and get away from the heat. N8 said he would kill for another iced tea like he had had at Brighton AS. I told him he should take an iced tea bath, what a glorious post race celebration. We had been running for about 30 minutes on a big rolling gravel trail. Every time we crested a hill or rounded a corner, we were hopeful of seeing the finish. I learned A LOT about him this last section. I told him he wins races because he can push himself so hard, especially at the finish! All I wanted to do was lay down or walk, here we were running about a 10/min pace, crazy kid! He pulled me to the finish when I was supposed to be pushing him.

We saw a man and asked how much further, “about 0.75 mile to the road and then 0.5 mile to finish.” What were we waiting on! Even though N8 was able to push me even harder, I left my lungs about 5 miles back. How was I even breathing right now? We made it to the road. “I can see it, we run to those flags” he told me. My head was throbbing, heart pounding, legs crying, how was I running right now? I would be lying if I didn't get a little emotional and had a tear in my eye for N8. I thought about the past couple of months, how much he struggled and grew closer to God and learned to trust Him. What a privilege it was to run the past 60 miles and finish of the Grand Slam with my best friend! I was holding back a waterfall... we had made it!

Post run: I hobbled over to my wife, gave her a sweaty kiss, apologized for my stench and face planted on the grass. It felt so good. After a shower, Candice “made” me get a massage. It was painfully delightful. I think because of this was actually able to “walk” the next day. Immediately after the race, I had another ice cold ensure and a hamburger. I felt a little nauseous after but it was worth it, I didn't throw up. I am thankful that my wife and family came with me so I could kiss her and hold them at the finish!