In the true spirit of American ultrarunning, when you do something tough, you look for something tougher. Inspired by the Western States 100, five entrants ran the first Wasatch 100 in 1980. Two of them finished after 35 hours. The next year saw a 40% increase in participation with seven people starting the race. No one finished. Now, after 31 years, one of the most difficult 100 mile runs in the US will see 250 “lucky” lottery winners lining up at 5am this Friday morning to start yet another odyssey through the jagged, rocky trails of the Wasatch Mountains.
The Wasatch 100 has nearly 27,000 ft of climb and about the same descent. The temperature can range from freezing to smoldering. The rocky, technical trails can leave you begging for pavement. It’s a true mountain 100 that can break the will of even the most experienced ultrarunner.
For very few, like course record holder Geoff Roes, the pain ends in less than 20 hours (he ran the current course record of 18hrs 30mins in 2009). Everyone else enjoys two sunrises on the course and many ramble through most of the second day. The cut off is 36 hours. Roes gives his perspective of the race, “The Wasatch 100 is basically two separate runs. A 75 mile warm up to Brighton and then a 25 mile race from Brighton to the finish. The route has so many tough climbs, rutted; dusty; sandy; rocky trail, and shockingly steep drops in the last 25 miles that it almost feels like you’re not running in the some mountain range anymore.”
With that description in mind, let’s take a look at the contenders for this year’s edition, in predicted finishing order:
Timmy Parr – For the majority of events, one can simply pick the fastest runner to win. Timmy Parr is the fastest runner entered in the Wasatch 100. However, the gritty mountain 100 specialist wins this race… usually. Timmy is due for a big run (again) and with the help of two-time Leadville 100 champion and friend, Duncan Callahan, crewing and pacing, I’m going with Timmy for the win.
Evan Honeyfield – Evan has been racing well and infrequently this year and, in his first and only 100 miler, the Bear 100 last September, he nailed the race with a 19 hour 2nd place finish. Bear is the sister 100 to Wasatch, so I’m giving him the same finish he nabbed at Bear.
Jared Campbell – After his DNF at his focus race, Hardrock, in July, Jared has to be fired up to run well. Not many people know these trails and the mountain range better than he does. He, along with the other grizzled vets will be on the heels of the two guys above, one mistake and they eat them like hungry wolves.
Erik Storheim – The tough workhorse of this group, which is what works for this race. He always shows up ready and fit. Erik cracked the top 10 in 2009 with a 7th place in 22:49. He’ll PR this year.
Troy Howard – I ran with Troy for 6 hours in the Indian Peaks region of the rockies a month ago. He’s mountain trained and ready.
Luke Nelson – Had a knee injury take its toll on him at last year’s race but still finished 13th in 23:30. With the knee healthy, he’ll be flying this year.
Christian Johnson – Consistent and tough. Knows the trails well.
Peter Lingren – 9th overall in 2010 in 23:05. Has only raced one ultra since then and it was a mediocre finish, so we’ll see whether he can repeat with another strong one here.
Becky Wheeler – Should have an easy time (if anything about Wasatch can be called easy) with this one.
Suzanne Lewis – Thanks to an astute reader of Inside Trail for pointing out my omission of Suzanne. She nabbed a distant 2nd place behind Darcy Africa last year and should be able to improve on that time.
Emily Judd – Sub 24 hour at Bighorn shows she has what it takes to contend.
Linda McFadden – With over 200 finished ultras, her consistency and tenacity should carry her in for a solid run and propel her to the win if others have a rough day.
Sarah Evans – Has finished this race sub 30 hours, so she knows what to expect and how to deal with it.
“One Hundred Miles of Heaven and Hell.” The race slogan makes sense to those who’ve finished it. Enjoy.