This is going to have to be a series of posts on my Western States experience... I cannot possible sum up the fun of the events leading up to the race, the LONG race write up and then afterwards in one blog post. I am just too damn wordy for that. This is the first... and it starts with the start of the race. It's kinda out of order but I wanted to get the race write up down while I still remembered it.
Never thought I'd be writing this race report... Western States 100 is one of those "dream" races. It's so hard to get into, that even after I received the confirmation emails and booked hotel rooms and trained hundreds of miles and done umpteen hill repeats getting ready for it, I never actually thought the day would get here. I assumed it was going to be a bad version of the movie Groundhog Day... race day would never actually happen... so when I woke up at 3:30 am on Saturday June 25 and realized that THE day had actually gotten here, I was pretty astounded! Luckily, I had been preparing all along like it was going to happen so I was good to go. I crept into the bathroom, trying to let my crew sleep for a few minutes more and relished the last few minutes of quiet. I took my time getting dressed, lubing, brushing my teeth, and putting in the pigtails. As soon as I stepped out of the bathroom it seemed like time took a leap forward and moved into triple speed... and I hadn’t even had coffee yet! I got my coffee made, my fruit smoothie together and then in no time my friend Danny Miller and his crew and family were knocking on the hotel room door. Danny and I walked the couple yards to the start area and picked up our numbers, timing chips and had one last weigh in. Somehow I had gained a pound in the 18 hours since I had had my medical bracelet put on... I don’t care if you are about to run 100 miles, no girl wants to hear she gained weight!
We returned to the room, made sure we had everything in our packs, I attempted another bathroom break, gulped some more coffee and then as a large pack with lots of flashing cameras, we all headed off to the start. A million photos were taken, I hugged my most amazing crew chicks Debbie and Deb and pacer Raven and all of the assorted Kansas folks that had made the long trek to California and Danny and I headed off to find a place in the pack. I am used to starting in the back but Danny suggested we find a spot in the middle and since we were planning on sticking together for awhile I followed him. It was a very different view then what I had been used to seeing...the pictures and videos from the start are always from the spectator side of the line.. the runner side looks very different! All too soon we got the shotgun blast and the pack of runners slowly moved up the mountain. It was pretty dark still, but not dark enough to require headlights and with 375 starters, you just had to follow the humanity. The start in Squaw Valley is at 6,229 feet and you immediately head straight uphill to the highest point on the course of 8,713 feet in about 4 miles. The legs are in for a VERY rude awakening. My calves had some things to say to me pretty early on.. nothing I care to repeat here.. but let’s just say they were NOT happy with me. Danny and I kept an easy pace, we were able to have a conversation going without gasping for air although I could feel the altitude in the back of my throat. Danny was wearing his Garmin and so was keeping an eye on our pace and a few times had us back off a bit... blowing up in the first few miles of a 100 would be bad. I am grateful for his restraint.. I was so jacked at the thought of being there that I would have probably gone screaming up the mountain had I been alone.
The first aid station is at 3.5 miles and due to the massive amount of snow and the course changes because of it, the next aid station wasn’t until 15 miles, so people were stopping and filling up. We were both wearing packs so, with a shouted Thank You, we both kept on going. After the aid station was the steepest part of the climb which also coincided with the start of the snow. WS doesn’t allow for yaktraks or screwed shoes so there was much slipping and cursing... which would remain the theme for the next 10 or so miles. We hit the top of the climb and turned and looked at the AMAZING views around us... it was incredible. I reminded Danny that this particular view was a famous picture... and we were ACTUALLY in it!
I said a silent goodbye to Squaw as we started to drop down the other side on our way to Auburn. The snow was icy and slick in most spots with the occasional deep, slushy sections. I decided early on, that I wasn’t going to fight the snow... there was no way around it, and heaven knows we had run in enough of it this winter so I was going to embrace and enjoy it. As I took my first fall, my resolve was tested but I laughed instead of cursed and got up and whooped. I stopped counting my falls after 5 but thanked my lucky stars that none of mine were bad. There were sections of bloody snow where it was obvious that the ice had torn open more then a few legs and hips. But I must say that the next time I go running around on that much snow, I will practice the art of self arrests beforehand and I will wear a skirt with longer shorts underneath... 2 words: Snow Enema. Yeouch!
This section was probably the noisiest of the day... lots of cursing and laughing and screams and yelps. There was also a whole lot of assistance... the part of ultrarunning that I love so very much. When someone slipped and fell there were outstretched hands to help them up, there were many shouted warnings of slick spots and deep holes. People alerted others to the best routes though snow and in general helped each other in every way possible. We may have been racing but it was mostly against the course and our own minds.
It was great to finally it some dry ground and be able to stretch the legs and actually run.. the mincing half run that we were doing on the snow takes a toll on the legs and muscles after awhile. I got off the snow feeling fairly banged up.. I had some funny aches where I don't normally get them during running, especially not that early into the race. We hit a deep stream crossing that luckily had a nice thick cable stretched across for us to hang onto since the water was moving pretty darn fast. The water was breathtakingly cold and it took a few minutes after getting out to be able to feel the legs and feet again. It was like running on pins and needles for a bit. It was shortly after the water crossing that we hit the Talbot aid station... actually I believe there were 2 water crossings first but I may be wrong.
Talbot was our first introduction to a Western States aid station... and let me tell you there is nothing like it. You run in and are immediately greeted by your own "servant" (for lack of a better non offensive term).. these WONDERFUL folks grab your pack, fill everything up, direct you to the food and in general wait on you hand and foot. The aid station buffets were AMAZING... there was more fruit then you could shake a stick at. The benchmark for me is watermelon... if an aid station has watermelon, that race automatically gets bumped up high on my favorites list. They not only had watermelon, bananas, and oranges but grapes, strawberries and cantaloupe. HOT DAMN! I was in vegan heaven. I assume that had other very tasty stuff too since every time I looked over at Danny he had his cheeks stuffed full of food. I could have stayed there awhile, but we got in and out fairly quickly and since there was no snow and a pretty flat surface we trotted. Danny was wearing the Garmin and kept us taking the odd walk break but I felt like we made up some time on this section. I remember chatting with a few people through here, mostly while we were on our walk breaks but for the most part everyone had their heads down and was going for it.
The next aid station at Poppy (more amazing fruit!!!) came on fairly quickly and then there was some gorgeous running to Duncan Canyon... it was super soft footing and along a lake and I felt like I could have run all day right there. Danny and I were having a great time yapping on and on about all sorts of random stuff... every once in awhile he would devolve into some esoteric med school speak and I would have to fart to bring the tone back down. I had totally forgotten about a "bear" incident that occurred in this section, but he tells it better in his race report which you can read here. After this beautiful running, the course started climbing upwards where sadly a fire had ripped through this section not too many years before leaving it exposed and barren. It was starting to get pretty hot here too and I think this was the beginning of my stomach's downfall. We were both pretty damn glad to see the Duncan Canyon (23.5) aid station and I was thrilled to eat more FRUIT! We were directed out of the aid station by a very white Mr. T.......
To be continued......
( I can take no responsibility for any of the pictures.. I know a few were taken by my crew and Bob from Drymax socks, but I have no idea where some of the others came from.. I apologize!)