Nye rides steady trot to fifth Wasatch 100 win
On race days Truckee ultrarunner Betsy Nye compares her rate of travel to that of a tortoise, as opposed to a hare.
Everyone knows which critter won that fabled race.
Like the fictitious character who plodded along to beat his speedy competitor, Nye has dialed her steady trot to outdistance her competition over the course of 100 miles ” her preferred distance.
“I like 100-milers because I’m better at endurance,” said Nye, less than two weeks removed from a first-place finish among women in the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run in Utah. “The longer the better for me. In the shorter races I don’t have as much speed as some runners.
But while Nye claims she is not fleet on her feet in short-distance races, there’s no denying her cumulatively blazing speed in ultramarathons.
Since her first 100-mile run in 1998, the 43-year-old has tallied five wins in nine Wasatch 100 races, while never placing outside the top three in the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado ” widely considered the toughest 100-miler in the country, Nye said.
This year she finished third at Hardrock in her eighth try. She won in 2003.
Hardrock, Nye’s favorite ultramarathon, is more difficult than most because of its high elevation, which reaches more than 14,000 feet at its highest point and sends runners over several 13,000-foot passes. Much of the course is void of trails as well, leaving athletes to negotiate dicey cross-country terrain, Nye said. It has a total elevation gain of approximately 33,000 feet.
The Wasatch 100, with its 26,882 feet of elevation gain and 10,450-foot peak altitude, is no cake walk either. Nye said the run starts on singletrack and climbs 5,000 feet in the first five miles. But it’s the final 25-mile stretch that is most taxing, Nye said, describing rocky trails and one particularly brutal descent called The Plunge.
In a sport with a high percentage of dropouts ” only 162 of 241 Wasatch runners reached the finish line within the 36-hour cutoff time this year ” Nye has failed to complete only one 100-mile race in 20 attempts. That was her second Wasatch 100 in 1999.
“I’ve been smarter since then,” she said, explaining that she went out too fast at the start of that race and had developed hypothermia by the time her pace person essentially forced her to throw in the towel.
Paul Sweeney, Nye’s fiance and a fellow ultrarunner himself, said it’s that determination and will to fight through pain that makes her so successful.
“She’s really stubborn,” said Sweeney, who has completed about a dozen 100-milers. “When things get bad she overcomes it and perseveres. And she trains hard. When she goes out, she goes out for hours. She won’t even bother with a one-hour run.”
That brand of toughness was on display in her most recent win earlier this month.
“I had an upset stomach for about 80 miles,” said Nye, who raced Hardrock just six weeks earlier. “I wasn’t feeling good, but I just kept pushing through it.”
Nye typically competes in two 100-mile races a year ” usually the Wasatch and Hardrock ” yet she has slipped in a third 100-miler a couple years. Like this one, as she and Sweeney raced the Coyote Two Moon Ultra in Southern California in March. Nye was the first woman to finish.
She competed once in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn, in 2006, and took on the Bear 100 in Idaho in 2003. She and Sweeney ran and finished the Bear 100 together.
“He probably could have pulled away, but he stuck with me. He’s faster,” Nye said of her fiance, who has had his share of success as well. “If he has a bad day I might be lucky to beat him.”
Nye’s goal is to notch 10 finishes in both the Wasatch and Hardrock. She also hopes to eclipse the 24-hour mark in the Wasatch. This year she finished in 25:36:56, about 10 minutes off her personal-best time in 2005 of 25:26:18.
“I’m going for 24 (hours),” she said. “My 10th try I’ll break 24. It’s doable.”
2008 – 1st (25:36:56)
2007 – 2nd (26:35:31)
2006 – 1st (26:20:02)
2005 – 2nd (25:26:18)
2003 – 1st (26:36:53)
2002 – 1st (26:34:08)
2001 – 1st (26:17:29)
2000 – 2nd (25:26:31)
1999 – Did not finish
1998 – 8th (28:57)
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