Saturday, July 16, 2011

Western States part 2

OK... seriously, I've had part 2 done for a week or longer but needed pictures for it and kept forgetting to put off pictures.. so here it is with a few random stolen internet snaps!  Part 3 has lots of pictures so I just have to write the damn thing!

....After we left Duncan Canyon aid station, things got a little hazy for me... it's impossible to remember every section of the course and this one is coming up pretty blank for me.  I do remember trying to be friendly to a guy wearing headphones but he was lost in his own world.. which is fine, I do it myself sometimes during races  .  At one point we hit pavement and a course marshal was giving us directions and headphone dude yelled "what did he say??" to me a few minutes later.  Seriously dude, if you see a course marshal (and at WS they are pretty damn obvious, wearing bright WS shirts) turn your freaking headphones off or down so you don't miss anything.  Danny joked that I should have told the guy wrong directions.  I have issues with headphone etiquette especially on single track... I either just wear 1 earbud or keep the music down low enough so I can hear people talking to me or coming up behind me, nothing is more annoying then not being able to get by someone 'cuz they have no idea what's going on around them.  /rant over.

Back to the race... this section was about 8 miles and you hit both the marathon distance and the 50 K distance before another aid station.  I usually hit a bit of a low point right around 28 or so miles but having Danny around was a huge help, I didn't feel the mental letdown although my stomach was giving me grief.  In hindsight, after looking at how few salt caps I took over the course of the race, I think this was the start of my problems.  In KC, where it's hot and humid, the amount of sweat pouring off of you reminds you to take a salt, in a dry state like California, I kept forgetting that I was hot and sweating.  We got lucky this year and it was relatively cool (upper 80's) but I should have been sticking to my 1 s-cap an hour routine instead of randomly when I thought about it.  (Thinking is a dicey proposition at best during a 100).  The climb into Mosquito Ridge Aid Station was long but up to this point I was enjoying the climbs.  I really don't mind long, steady uphills (*remember this quote).  I kept my mind on the aid station ahead where I had my first drop bag and could restock my dates and hopefully get more watermelon.  The day was heating up nicely and watermelon was sounding better and better.

Mosquito Ridge aid station was a medical checkpoint which meant a weigh in.  I was down 4 pounds from the start of the race which is nothing to worry about.  My wonderful personal volunteer handed me my drop bag and took my pack to fill with water and ice.  I believe it was at this Aid Station that I got yelled at by a volunteer for the first time for not drinking enough.  I had my big Nathan pack filled with water, but I was also carrying a small handheld with Succeed Amino in it.  My handheld was empty but apparently my pack was still too full for my volunteers liking.  Bless him!  I refilled my pack with dates and swapped out bandannas which I then had my volunteer fill with ice.  Grabbed some more fruit.. grapes were great!  Danny was near the exit of the aid station so I figured he was ready to go and headed in his direction.... I have no idea what he did at this aid station but apparently he forgot to get anything out of his drop bag.  What were you doing Danny????

The next section of course was a 4 mile loop thing that was tacked on to make up for missing miles due to all the snow.  This was probably the least fun section of the course.  Not scenic,  too exposed and boring.  I kind of got in a zen mindset here and trotted along with my head down just taking life one step at a time.  I realized after awhile that I had dropped Danny so I walked for a bit and let him catch up but then dropped him again when I started trotting again.  I wasn't going to leave the next aid station without him but he caught me just before heading into Millers Defeat at 35.3 miles.  I was DAMN glad to get off that section of the course. Danny perked right back up too once we got back under the shade.  The next few aid stations kinda blended together.. I know there was lots of downhill and lots of uphill.... 'cuz really that's what the whole course seemed like.

 It was somewhere in here, before Last Chance that my quads really started to complain... which worried me to no end.  I had always heard that if you can get into Foresthill (62miles) with your quads intact you can really blaze the rest of the race.  I had a bad feeling that I wasn't even going to get into Michigan Bluff (55 miles) with quads.  (And this is the point in my race report where I could complain that it's impossible to get any decent downhill training in Kansas where a 1/2 mile of downhill is a LOOONG stretch.  This is also where I say I got lazy and didn't do anywhere near the amount of lifting and plyometrics that I should have been doing to make up for the lack in downhills.  (STOOPID Coleen)) There was also a ton of dust being kicked up that was making me very slightly wheeze on some of the uphills... this would return in the days after the race as a hacking cough that would bring up some wonderful looking lung cookies.  I would also be blowing dirt out of my nose and picking it out of my ears, eyes and bellybutton for days.

The next section of the course that I remember is the Devils Thumb climb.... this section is seared into my mind.  It's where the wheels fell off and Danny Miller became my rescuer.    The aid station worker at Last Chance (get it.. last chance to drop before the devil!) told us that it was a 45 minute climb and it was tough, but once we were done with that everything was easier.   I'm pretty sure Last Chance was the aid station where they had fresh mango and papaya in addition to all the other afore mentioned fruits.  (I am SO spoiled for all other races).  I was not feeling so great but after a really long downhill stretch that further ruined my quads I was kinda looking forward to going uphill.  How bad could it be right?  I have done Hope Pass.. and that's murder AND at 12,000 ft.... really can't be THAT bad.  Famous last thoughts.  36 switchbacks later I wanted to die.  Poor Danny put up with a whole lot of me walking slowly for a few yards and then stopping and bending over trying not to puke on my shoes.  And repeat over and over for over 45 minutes.  I kept telling Danny to leave me (in a totally melodramatic tone).... it went something along the lines of "leave me.. save yourself!"  but he refused and for that I owe him a lifetime debt.  I might still be struggling up that darn hill if it wasn't for his encouragement.  It was definitely my lowest point in the race, but even when I was dying and struggling, I still knew that I was going to finish the darn race... there was never an iota of doubt in my mind.

The roving medical team caught up with us near the top of the climb and gave me a ginger chew to settle my stomach.  I must point out that Danny had been offering ginger the whole climb but I was being a total brat about taking one.  He must have been ready to slap me upside the head.  I was pretty darrn happy to see the El Dorado Creek aid station (52.9 miles).  Sometimes just some enthusisastic, new faces are all you need to feel better.  It was also great to know that we were over halfway done and the hardest climb was behind us.  Ice in the pack... ice in the hat and some more fruit and I was almost a new person.. unfortunately the aid station table was fresh out of new quads so I had to continue on with the wrecked ones.  I think both Danny and I were just hanging on and hoping that the next miles would go quickly since Michigan Bluff (55 miles) would be the first place where we could see our crew.

The climb into Michigan Bluff is about 1700 feet over about 3 miles.  Remember how I said that I didn't mind uphills?  Yeah, I was struggling with nausea on the uphills and screaming quads on the downhills...     not sure which was worse.  I was definietely frustrated by the time we got to Michigan Bluff.   Danny was thrilled since he knew that he would see his crew there, but I had told mine not to bother coming to Michigan Bluff, just to meet me at Foresthill (mile 62).  I have never been so freaking happy as when I rounded a corner and saw both Raven and Deb at Michigan Bluff... I almost cried.  They left Debbie at Foresthill since she was going to be my first pacer, just in case they didn't make it back in time.  It was so fantastic to sit for a few minutes, talk with them, grab stuff out of my drop bag (headlamp, iPod) and dump my sun hat.  I had some cold caffinated peppermint tea which helped the stomach a bit and discussed my stomach issues with Deb.  She promised vegan boullion at Foresthill and access to all my gear and food.

 It was here that Danny headed off on his own... before he left he made sure that I was going to be continuing on and not dropping.  But there was NEVER a point in the whole race that I ever considered dropping or even feeling like I didn't want to be doing this anymore.  I was in a fantastic place mentally  the whole race even if I wasn't physically.  Danny was rarin' to go and I wanted him to have a fantastic rest of the race... I knew that he too was going to finish.   I marched out of Michigan Bluff by myself but with determination, stuck my iPod on and within minutes ended up turning it off so I could talk with a couple of guys that I had been playing leapfrog with.  I know that carrying a big hydration pack is looked down upon by some of the runners, but I was able to help the guys out with lipbalm, salt and ginger.  Items that I might not have been carrying in a handheld.   I had my iPod on for about 15 minutes but was enjoying the sights and sounds around me so much that I ended up turning it off and not using it again for the rest of the race.  For me, this was quite unusual, I like some loud music late at night to wake me up, change my attitude and add some spring in my step... but didn't even consider it this time.

The miles to Foresthill where I would pick up Debbie went surprisingly quick, I was glad I had stashed my headlamp in my drop bag at Michigan Bluff since by the time I pulled into Foresthill it was dark.  I got weighed again... and may I point out that except for the very first weigh in.. I stayed within 1 pound of my starting weight the whole race.  I grabbed a piece of fruit from the aid station, but really just wanted to get to my car and crew.  Debbie guided me down the long, long row of cars... I'm glad she was there since I probably would have gone right past it in my somewhat dazed state.  I sat down and Deb and Debbie immediately started handing me food... I was eating and popping blisters and taping feet and changing socks all at the same time.  Now I think back on how very gross that whole thing was.. pop a blister, wipe off goo.. shove food in my mouth.  Wash hands??  Nahhhh.  What doesn't kill me makes me stronger....

Anyway, this was a very weird stop, it was the longest of the race and I was pretty bamboozled after being fairly alone for the day.  To all of a sudden have a mass of people around me, Greg, Raven, Erin, Deb, Debbie, Danny's parents and a surprise visit from a friend who used to live in KC but moved to Cali and just randomly stopped by the race, was great but I was having a hard time concentrating.  I finally got my feet taken care of, some food in my gut, grabbed a long sleeve shirt just in case, swapped out my headlamp for my good one and grabbed a handheld flashlight.  Debbie and I headed off down the road and after a few minutes I stopped and went... uhhhhh... do you know where the HELL the course is???  Apparently just marching down a random road in the town of Foresthill is not the best way to get to Auburn.  At least not if you want a belt buckle.

Part 3 to come!


  1. Great post, Coleen! Can't wait for part 3!

  2. The blisters, the nausea the screaming quads, you make it sound so appealing.

  3. Ultrarunning... it's a glamourous job... not everyone can do it! (HA!) At least I have kept the bathroom talk to a minimum!

  4. My favorite part is the drama queen section! LOL. I feel like that a lot! Like my drive home from Lunar Trek.