Steamboat women conquer Wasatch 100 with podium finishes

Sarah Pizzo, left, and Callie Cooper celebrate their podium finishes at the Wasatch 100 on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
Callie Cooper/Courtesy photo

In December, Steamboat locals and training partners, Sarah Pizzo and Callie Cooper signed up to compete in the 42nd edition of the Wasatch 100 in Utah. 

The one-way 100 mile course began north of Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 9, and finished just south of Park City on Sept. 10.

Pizzo and Cooper endured 24,000 feet of climbing, physical pain and natural elements, but both crossed the finish line with podium places, Pizzo being the first female finisher and Cooper not far behind in third. 

This was Cooper and Pizzo’s second time competing in a 100-mile race and though they knew roughly what to expect, the course was a major challenge to overcome.

To train for the event, the pair ran a lot together. Pizzo covered between 60 and 70 miles per week for the eight weeks leading up to the race, which she says is on the lower-end of a training regimen.

The two of them made a pact prior to the race to run the first 30 miles together to help support each other. That 30-mile mark is where the athletes were allowed to run with a pacer to help them stick to their tempo. 

“The most special part to me was sharing that much time and mileage with Callie,” Pizzo said. “We did a lot of our training together and we’re very compatible runners which is hard to find when you are an elite runner.”

Callie Cooper, left, and Sarah Pizzo take in the mountainous backdrop while trekking the opening 30 miles of the Wasatch 100 on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022.
Callie Cooper/Courtesy photo

The women agreed that a 100-mile race is more of a mental challenge than anything else. While physical fitness is required, competitors also need to be mentally prepared to endure the pain and keep pushing for over 24 hours. 

Pizzo came across that pain about halfway through the race. She began overheating and felt nauseous from her lack of sustenance but her friends and family cheered her back onto her feet to keep pushing. Pizzo attributes a great deal of her success to them. 

Reaching the 70-mile aid station was a major moment for both Pizzo and Cooper. 

It was there that Pizzo regained a lot of strength and was ready to make the final 30-mile push to the finish. 

“When I left that aid station I felt really good and started to pick up the pace,” Pizzo said. “At that point, the leader had a 45-minute lead on me and at each aid station after that, the workers were telling me I was getting a little bit closer to her. It gave me more energy and excitement and I knew I could catch her by the end.”

Pizzo caught up to the female leader and passed her around the 15-miles-to-go mark. From there, it was up to Pizzo to manage herself as she finished strong with a time of 24 hours, 47 minutes and 50 seconds, completing the race on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 5:47 a.m.

Pizzo felt a great deal of relief and was shocked that she had won. She could not believe what was happening and said it took a while for reality to set in.

Callie Cooper, right, Sarah Pizzo, middle, and another racer in the Wasatch 100 climb a mountain side early in the race on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022.
Callie Cooper/Courtesy photo

With a converse experience, Cooper’s hip gave out around the 70-mile mark and that was when she saw the majority of her friends go ahead without her.

For Cooper, the physical toll made the mental struggle even more intense but she fought through and crossed the finish line 22nd overall with a time of 27:51:55.

On top of all the personal injuries, Cooper said the course was extremely difficult with elevation changes, bushwhacking and smoky mountaintops.  

“The only big bummer was that the smoke really rolled in the night before so the air quality index was at 150 for the whole day,” Cooper said. “I think that also added to the brain fog and fatigue because we were just inhaling smoke all day.”

Though Pizzo and Cooper are unsure if they will run another 100-mile race, they are proud of their accomplishments and ecstatic with their placing. 

“We don’t get very many opportunities in our lives to really push our limits in today’s society,” Cooper said. “To do so with other people, the commiseration is real and the camaraderie that you experience from volunteers, the crews, the pacers, it is really something special.”

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