Stories of Age Group Runs at Wasatch Front 100 Mile 2021 – iRunFar
My friend John Pitts and I’m just past the Big Mountain Pass refreshment station, about mile 34 des Wasatch Front 100 miles. I walk up and down and the afternoon sun and warmth feel wonderful to me as we walk the high mountain trails. I think about how good it is to live on the weekend and leave Texas. John, on the other hand, who is more than a foot taller than me and weighs nearly 80 pounds, feels hot and defeated on the exposed terrain.
I know John will come back to life in the cool night air. He just has to keep moving for the next five hours to get there. The Wasatch 100 is blocked for 36 hours. Runners must achieve an average pace of 21:30 minutes per mile to finish. John moved at a good pace for the first 50 kilometers of the race, but now we’re going at a pace of 23 minutes per mile. I look at my watch again. Twenty-six minutes per mile.
It’s as if John’s expectations of his ability to move faster are putting a strain on him. The slower it wanders, the greater the weight of unfulfilled expectations and the slower it wanders. In addition to the burden of these expectations, there are the miles that he still has to travel. Sixty-six miles to go. At three mph, the time ahead probably feels like a roadblock. He stops and quietly begins to dig deep. Tom Remkes, 59 years old and 23-time (now 24-time) Wasatch 100 finisher, walks past us. We tell him: “Nice work!” And watch him run away.
At this year’s Wasatch 100, 10 runners over 45 crossed the finish line with 11 or more goals. Tom Remkes was one of two 24-time finishers. thanks to Davy Crockett for the compilation of this multi-year finisher list:
- Max luck – Age 53, 24 finishes
- Tom Remkes – 59 years, 24 finishes
- Jeff Holdaway – 62 years, 22 finishes
- Colleen Ford – 59 years, 19 finishes
- Carter Williams – 63 years, 19 finishes
- Shane Martin – 54 years, 19 finishes
- Nicholas Bassett – Age 76, 19 finishes
- Mark Christopherson – Age 53, 12 finishes
- Guy hardcastle – Age 53, 11 finishes
- Rich McDonald – 45 years, 11 finishes
Tom Remkes is 20 years older than John. As John struggles through this dark spot, I wonder if Tom or any of the other Masters runners on the track today are burdened with the expectation that they can move faster than they are currently moving. As you get older, does it become easier to accept what your body is (or not) capable of right now? In his book The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds – Not Crushes – Your Soul, Brad Stulberg writes that the acceptance of “… For success. Stulberg didn’t specifically talk about ultra running, but is it easier for older runners to separate their identities from their mileage than younger runners?
I stop thinking about the benefits of old age because whether suntanned and mentally troubled or not, John is starting to move forward. His pace will surely reach the overall average again. It ends in an impressively good manner in 34:39:13. This was his first 100 mile race.
After the race I spoke to Anatoly Ross, a Canadian runner from Ontario who finished the Wasatch 100 in 33:31:11 that year, about lows and questions I had pondered during the race.
Anatoly is a 57-year-old ultra runner who has been running since 2012 when he started his career with the Canadian death race. Since then, he has participated in many rocky and rooty ultras on the US East Coast, including Eastern states 100 miles, Cruel Gem 100 Miles, Grindstone 100 miles, Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miles, Vermont 100 miles, Old Dominion 100 miles. Anatoly also finished UTMB, and has competed a few times Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra and often at the Barkley Fall Classic 50k.
[Editor’s Note: The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.]
iRunFar: What were your expectations for the Wasatch 100 this year?
Anatoly Ross: This year is actually not a good year for me. If I told you my volume on the Wasatch 100 was 20 miles per week, how would that sound? I suffered a hip injury a few years ago. At first I thought it was a strain or a sprain, but it didn’t heal. An MRI showed some cartilage changes in my right hip joint. I have an operation in October for a tear in the cartilage lining the right hip joint. When I got the diagnosis, I took the mileage back.
My preparation for the Wasatch 100 was done on a treadmill with a 20% incline. My treadmill is an old one and I don’t want to invest in something new so it’s only 12% but I put a brick and plywood under it to bring it down to 20%. I ran at about 8 km / h and my heart rate was typically 180 beats per minute. I worked to maximize my cardiovascular fitness by going uphill, with as little stress on my hip as possible. I also lost 10 pounds to take some pressure off my right hip. It’s just physics. They didn’t let me flip my entry so I had no choice.
iRunFar: So there was never a point in the race where you felt that you were not fulfilling your expectations of yourself as a runner?
Horse: No, my goal was to stay conservative and get done. It was pure preservation to get a qualification for that Hard rock 100 and Western States 100.
iRunFar: How did the race go for you?
Horse: I performed my best skills well and stayed conservative when my hip hurt the most. I started the first ascent quickly because Mother Nature made me a very good climber. But when it came to relegation, I was very conservative. I also have a lot of cramps. It was due to a lack of training, so I had to be very careful. At my age, I can’t touch under 24 hours, but under 30 is possible with good training.
iRunFar: At 57, do you find it easier to accept what your body is capable of at the moment? Is this acceptance more a factor of age or running experience?
Horse: We’ve all heard that ultra running is 90% mental and 10% physical. I disagree somehow. I think it’s 80% and 20%. The mental game has to be there. Getting older makes you tougher mentally, which allows you to better deal with all experiences. I am still competitive. However, you have to be realistic.
iRunFar: When did you have low points during the race?
Horse: I couldn’t find my girlfriend at the Brighton Lodge refreshment station at mile 69 for 30 minutes. It was raining and I was cooling off and my legs were frozen. It took another 30 minutes before I could get started again. You want to sleep. You want to lie down. But in an hour or two I was fine.
iRunFar: Has your training changed a lot since you started running ultras?
Horse: My volume was huge when I started. I ran up to 200 km a week. Sometimes I ran two 50 km on the weekend and 32 km a day during the week. Now I will probably only cover a maximum of 100 miles a week.
iRunFar: Do you think some older runners have an advantage in hill climbs because they are more willing to hike early in the race and also more likely to spend time training to hike fast?
Horse: Being able to hike fast is a key element in completing at least a race like the Wasatch 100. If you hike fast, you can even drive under 30 hours. [Author’s Note: That would be just under an 18-minutes-per-mile pace.] But you shouldn’t lose any time at the refreshment points. Different muscles are used when hiking. It puts stress on the joints differently than running.
iRunFar: Do you train to hike fast?
Horse: Not in general. But this year, my girlfriend and I spent the three weeks before the race in Colorado doing a 14-meter hike. We hiked up and down very quickly.
Wasatch Front 100 Mile Age Group Results 2021
- Women aged 45 to 49 years – Erin Hill, 29:36:56 (recording: Heath Culig, 25:38:02)
- Age group of men 45 to 49 – Jeremy Hurl, 26:33:52 (recording: Jay Aldous, 22:03:40)
- Men 50 to 54 year olds – Steve Leichty, 24:48:10 (recording: Jack Pilla, 21:47:43)
- Women aged 55 to 59 – Colleen Ford, 35:30:40 (recording: Deanna McLaughlin, 29:10:37)
- Men 55 to 59 year olds – Nick Mastrodemos, 33:00:49 (recording: Alfred Bogenhuber, 22:56:00)
- Men aged 60 to 64 – Carter Williams, 31:03:37 (recording: Rick Miller, 27:25:19)
- Men 65 to 69 age group – Carl Tippets, 35:27:33 (recording: Richard Opsahl, 31:28:00)
- New age record for men between the ages of 75 and 79 – Nicholas Bassett, 35:30:40
Call for comments
- As you get older, do you find it easier to accept what your body is capable of at the moment?
- Do you think this kind of acceptance makes it easier for you to maximize your performance?
- Is the acceptance of a situation a function of ultra-running experience or age?
- Has it become easier for you to separate your identity and your emotions from your mileage over time?
- Did that help your ability to compete in and / or finish races?
- Do you train to hike fast?