Western States 100- June 25, 2011
Elevation gain: 18, 040 ft.
Elevation loss: 21, 970 ft.
Highest Point: 8,720 ft
Unbelievable! Incredible! Awesome! Fantastic!
These are words that you use to describe completing the Western States 100 run- especially when you do the race report a week later. I am so happy that I completed the run, did not have any significant injuries or issues, and am already looking up other 100 milers on the web. :-)
The race started in Squaw Valley on Saturday morning at 5:00 am. I did not have a lot of pre-race jitters- surprisingly. I think that was mostly due to my level of confidence in my preparation for this event (Thank you coach, Tim Neckar); or, (more likely) it was due to my ignorance of how difficult this race would be to complete. That said, I was much better prepared for this 100 than I had ever been for any other race. Either way, I set out blissfully calm to hike up the 4.5 miles to the first aid stop. I remember that I got there much faster than I had expected, so things were going pretty well. Then- SNOW. I was not worried about the snow because I had run in snow all winter. My buddies from Virginia had prepared me for the snow sections- so I thought. What I was not prepared for was the snow fields with 1 foot deep snow and no real "trail" to follow. I remembered back to the pre-race briefing when the RD said, "count how many times you fall in the snow- it will amuse you." I arrogantly thought I would not be falling- I know how to do this! I must have fallen more than 10 times in the first 10 miles-- at least it was a soft landing. I could not believe it- the snow was deep and powdery in some places and steep. I "skied" down many slopes with my running shoes as skis. It was an interesting start. Unfortunately, I was more tired at 15 miles than I should have been. But, this is Western States- it is not supposed to be easy.
|Team J.E.T.T. at the Escarpment - Thursday June 23, 2011|
The next sections were the new course sections that were pretty easy to run. I made it to the 31 mile (50k) mark at just over 7 hours. I was beginning to think that this was not going to be so bad after all....until the canyons. I had been warned about the difficulty of the canyons and dealing with the heat. The heat was not an issue (it was much cooler than previous years) but the climbing, my God, the climbing! I was really starting to suspect that this was an all uphill course. Devil's Thumb was the most incredibly hard climb that I have ever experienced. It just seems to go on forever, it is so steep in places and it seems like it will never end. It is only 1.7 miles- but it is a difficult climb. I was not feeling well at DT- my quads had cramped up on the climb up and I felt I had a blister forming on my left pinkie toe. I had the medical professional check it out. He said no blister- just an "angry" toe. I ate a Popsicle and headed out. I wanted to get to Michigan Bluff ASAP, since this was the first place that I was going to be able to see my crew (mile 55.7). Oh yeah, and the climb to Michigan Bluff is the second hardest climb in the course. At this point, I was far behind the time that I (and my crew) were expecting- but it was definitely the best I could do at the time. I came into Michigan Bluff- got a chance to see Denise and Bruce. What a pick-me-up! I got some food, and rehydrated and headed down the trail. I wanted to head out as soon as possible, because they told me that Allen was waiting at mile 60 for me. I could not wait to have a buddy on the trail!
I came into Bath Road (mile 60) and Allen (aka PigPen and the GQ Runner) was waiting for me- with a cheering section. He and I started the climb up to Foresthill- and within the first 100 feet- there was Bruce! He had ridden the bus back and then hiked down the road to meet us. The three of us hiked, chatted and caught up on all of my adventures that day. Foresthill was the 62 mile mark and one of the biggest aid stops. I knew I was going to change clothes and take a long time at this stop. I tried to minimize my stops at aid stations, as I know that you can waste a lot of time at aid stations. Becky and Denise were waiting for us with dry clothes and plenty of food. I changed, got my gear all packed and headed out with Allen. We only had 18 miles to go and we knew that this was a pretty "easy"section. Later in the night, we could not understand where all of this uphill came from. We had run this section in the training run and it seemed like it was downhill and easy- now in the dark- it was uphill and difficult. This was the beginning of one of my "low" points in the race. I lost energy and was having a difficult time getting back on track. Allen did a wonderful job reminding me to eat and drink. I wanted to strangle him then- I am so grateful now. :-) We chatted, stopped for a lot of potty breaks, took lots of walk breaks and made it to Rucky Chucky for the river crossing. The river was too high for a foot crossing, so we got a ride over in a boat. Those guys were amazing- they got us across the river so fast! When we got to the other side, Bruce was there waiting for us! He had hiked down the 1.8 miles from Green Gate to "run" (Ha- NO running this section) with me and Allen to Green Gate (mile 80). It was another grueling uphill section. This was a section that I really had a hard time. I was so tired, it was the middle of the night and I was having some balance issues. I had run out of plain GU and they did not have any plain at the aid stations. Of course, now that I need it- suddenly plain is popular! We made it to Green Gate and got to see Becky and Denise. I got some nutrition and headed down the trail. Next stop Auburn Lakes Trails- 5.5 miles.
I cannot express how far 5.5 miles can seem like when you have been running for 23 hours. I was trying to run the downhill sections, but my feet were really hurting. The outside of both of my feet felt raw- not the mention the "angry" pinkie toe. I knew that my foot issues were likely due to the fact that my feet were wet all day. I had changed my socks and shoes at some aid stations, but the course had so many water crossings, that when you left an aid station, within 1/2 mile there would be a water crossing and you would get your feet wet again. We actually made good time getting to the aid station, but then I asked the medical personnel to look at my feet. You know that you have world class blisters when the medical personnel are calling each other over and saying, "WOW, incredible- best color we have seen all day!" I had a couple of giant blisters on the outsides of my heels and some really cool bloody ones between my toes. It took 2 medial persons 20 minutes to work on my feet. In this time I watched a lot of people come and go at this aid station. This motivated my competitive spirit and we headed out of there on a mission--reclaim my former position (I am happy to report that we were successful). I was so mad that it took so long to take care of my blisters, but I would not have been able to finish as strong if I had not stopped to have this issue corrected. Thank you medical team!
By this time it is 5 am and I have been running for 24 hours. I know that there is only 15 miles to the finish, but I also know that I am tired, there is still a lot of climbing and - well, 15 miles is still a long way. Bruce was great - he stayed there with me and gave me encouragement along the way. I tried to be pleasant, but I know that I was really crabby at times. We just powered up the hills and ran all of the downhill sections that I could. Unbelievably, I got another surge of energy. This lasted all the way until mile 98. At that point, I knew that the rest was uphill and that my crew was waiting at Robie Point (last aid station, 1.5 miles to the finish). I told Bruce that I was "done" and going to walk the rest in, he was understanding and did not push. He knew that I was tired. When we saw everyone at Robie Point, I told them that I was walking the rest, no one argued. Then, I started running again-- not fast -by any stretch, but more than a walk. Bruce stayed with me all the way around the track (until be had to peel off) and I was never so happy to see a finish line. 28 Hours and 15 minutes after I started, I had finished Western States.
|Bruce and me in the final stretch before the track.|
As a flat-lander I learned that there are some things that I cannot adequately train for- but you can go out there and do your best and be happy with what you have accomplished. The breath-taking beauty of the trail is worth every minute of the pain. You have an opportunity to get to know yourself and experience nature in a way that many others are never able to do. It was a very well- run race, with a LOT of cool swag. Tim Twietmeyer was encouraging as I went along- I saw him at mile 25, 27, 62 and 98 (I don't think that man sleeps). He is an inspriation to runners like me- thanks Mr. T!
Finally, a BIG THANK YOU to my crew and pacers. You guys stayed up all night, hiked in the woods, and did not get any of the glory. I could not have done it without you! Great news- my completion of WS 100 is a qualifier for next year!! See you in Squaw Valley! :-)
That is me at the end- in the green.....