Aspen runner Andy Wooten talks about finishing his 10th 100-mile ultra
Aspen’s Andy Wooten wasn’t having much fun last month when competing in the Run Rabbit Run 100-mile ultra in Steamboat Springs. Midway through the race, he questioned the very reason he was there.
“I was at about mile 52 and I was taking inventory about what was going on and how the legs are doing and how you are feeling overall,” Wooten said. “I really just wanted to quit. I’m not having any fun. And I started thinking about it. ‘Andy, you were only supposed to do Leadville once. You weren’t suppose to turn it into a career.’”
Once he committed to enjoying the race, everything fell into place. Wooten backed off the gas pedal, even taking an hour and a half break at one of the aid stations, knowing he could still finish within 30 hours. The goal now was simply to finish, and that he did.
Wooten finished the 100-mile trail race in 29 hours, 50 minutes, 19 seconds, taking 49th in the “tortoise” division, as opposed to the speedier “hares” division, won by Littleton’s Jim Rebenack in 18:44:48. The finish was big for Wooten, 49, as it was the 10th time he had completed a 100-mile ultra in his lifetime.
“I wasn’t going to let myself quit. The thing about running 100 miles is something is going to happen. Even if you finish, you had to deal with something,” Wooten said. “A PR would have been great, but only if it was going to come to me. I wasn’t going to force it. So I decided to just finish under 30 and have a smile on my face when I’m done.”
Wooten ran his first century race in 2009, where he failed to finish the prestigious Leadville Trail 100, barely making it halfway. He returned in 2010 and finished, the first of his now 10 completed 100-milers.
“It was significant because I learned so much that day,” Wooten said of that first DNF. “I never set out to do 10. Just like with the Leadman series in Leadville, I always thought that was an impossible dream and I’ve done it twice.”
Wooten, a mental health case manager for Mind Springs Health, moved to Aspen in 2013 from the Front Range. His trail running career began in the mid-90s, when he competed in the Pikes Peak Ascent, as that was the “crazy thing” to do back then.
More than a decade would pass before Wooten competed in his first 100-mile race, something he never thought possible. All told, he’s completed the Leadville 100 six times, the Run Rabbit Run three times and the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas once.
He was going to compete in the famed Hardrock 100 this year as well, but pulled out of the race in May. He said bad running weather in the spring wore him down to the point where he didn’t want to push his training through the summer.
“I woke up that Saturday morning, got ready to run, and the skies opened up and I said that’s it,” Wooten said. “I was actually in Vegas nine hours later. I looked at my fiancé and said, ‘I’m done.’ We loaded up the Jeep and drove to Vegas and I spent Sunday in a pool eating In-N-Out Burger, happy and warm.”
The good part about finishing RRR this year is that it is a Hardrock qualifier. Wooten said he should have at least a 75 percent chance to have his name drawn in the lottery, allowing him to finally race in the Hardrock at age 50.
And running in one of the country’s most notorious 100-mile races at that age might be a good way to go out, should he decide to do so.
“I’ll be able to do Hardrock when I’m 50, which for me is a lot more motivating than 49 — 49 is a weird year. You are staring down that half century mark and there is no denying it anymore,” Wooten said. “I know better to say I’m stopping or I’m retiring. There are still a couple of races I want to do at the 100-mile distance.”
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