It seems a bit counter intuitive, but it makes sense if you really think about it. That Wasatch Front has the lowest drop rate for GS runners of all the Grand Slam races is really about survival, fitness and cut offs.
If you are running the Grand Slam, it might be helpful to know that if you make it past Western States (26% drop rate), there is 9% chance you'll drop at Vermont, a 29% chance you'll drop at Leadville, and only a 7% chance you'll drop at Wasatch. Of course take these stats for what they are...just stats (based on the last 10 years of Grand Slam runners, excluding 2008 when Western States was cancelled).
What is the biggest take away here? Well, I put them together to prove a hunch that I had since running the Slam in 2014 - that Leadville is the hardest of the four and has the highest drop rate.
Here's my two cents.
Make it through Western, you have a good chance of going the distance. But your biggest challenge is Leadville, for several reasons. The first is altitude. My guess is most slammers, coming from around the country (or the world for that matter), don't have the time to properly acclimate to Leadville's 10,000' starting altitude. This is a huge factor that, combined with Leadville's 30 hour cutoff, creates a insurmountable hurtle for nearly 30% of all runners who never make it through this gauntlet.
The secret? Acclimate! If there is any possible way, spend at least two weeks at 7,000' or higher before Leadville. Hike a lot. Get high and reap the platelets. You'll pay the price if you don't. Leadville is a very runnable course, but not if you don't acclimate. You've got to get over Hope Pass and back, and getting this done takes more than guts. It takes more red blood cells. Wasatch, a much tougher course, is at a lower altitude and
gives runners 36 hours to complete, six hours more than Leadville.
One other tip for all you GS runners. Don't worry about running between races. Just get out and hike, stay on your feet, and enjoy the outdoors. It's a long summer and you need to give you body some time to rebound. By the time you reach Wasatch, you will have much more fitness than when you started Western States. Let the journey take its course, and enjoy the ride!!
Keep it real GS runners!