Sunday, July 8, 2007

WS recollection and report

Guest Blogger: Jeff Riley a.k.a: Bilirubin

You’ve probably digested about 30 reports apiece already, so I'll try not to overdo it... but no guarantees. 2 weeks post-race, I'm still floating. Sure, it wasn't perfect but it was good enough. I think I've worn a States shirt for at least a portion of every day since the run.

I've never been more excited to run. Well, maybe my first 100 (WS 2004), but, as a two-time loser, I felt a tad eager. For the last three years, I've spent a little time on the course with Craig, AJW, Ed, Chris, Lewis, John and Scott, respectively, and the race has got in my head, to put it mildly. I crewed and paced the last two years, and the prospect of wearing a number again had me downright giddy.

My training partners are the best, and I'm indebted greatly to them for anything good that happens in my running. Craig, Tom Atkins, Lewis, John, Ed, and Scott have simply made me a better runner. Any victories I have are theirs, as well, and I know they feel the same. We have a special, leave-your-ego-at-the-door group, and our happiness for each other is genuine. Craig, especially, is a giver. He's equally generous with both wisdom and wisecracks, and his love for the race is infectious. Thanks to my group I laugh more now than ever, and this trumps any performance achievement. I really love to train. And recover. TV is underrated.

Mentally I broke the race down into 5 sections:

Start to Robinson. It felt fast early, and the high country felt less than comfortable. Also, my stomach gave me grief as early as Lyon Ridge. Normally I have little to no problems with my gut. After a couple of pit stops I thought I had it solved by Robinson. Coming into the aid, I felt in a groove and ready to get after it.

Robinson to Devil's Thumb AS. I wanted to run this section in under 3 hours, feeling all the downhill played to my strengths. I met the mini-goal. More important, a feeling of strength pervaded, and the stomach seemed much better. I was moving up in the field and pretty stoked. Arrived within a few minutes of the pre-race plan.

Devil's to Foresthill. Although the downhill to El Dorado Creek is my favorite on the course, I wanted to let it flow, maybe even hold back a little, save something for later. Reappearance of gut problems ensured this. 2 more trips into the bushes. Still, coming into Michigan Bluff, with AJW right behind, energy levels were good. Seeing my crew totally boosted me and I couldn't wait for Volcano Canyon. In 2004, this canyon obliterated me, and I wanted another chance. Although AJW went flying by before we hit the trail to Foresthill, I exceeded the goal split, energy was still great, and the legs were ready for a fast Cal St. Tom met me at the base of Bath Rd. and ran me into the aid. Only question: Can I shake this gastro-intestinal problem?

Cal St. I chose to get to the river sans pacer, thinking I'd crank the I-pod at Cal 2 (hadn't turned it on all day) and really start running. It sounded good on paper. What really happened is that Cal 1 went by and multiple problems started to develop. My stomach/intestines whined and a left adductor (groin) started to cramp a bit. Until now, I'd been somewhat conservative with S-caps, as my gel is sodium-loaded. No longer - I thought of Craig pounding 4 caps in 20 mins at Way Too Cool to hold off AJW, and I ended up doing about the same. My weight was right on, I'd been drinking all day, but there was definitely some sloshing in the stomach. Combined with the continual squatting-alongside-the-trail, the equation seemed to be adding up to dehydration, regardless of what the scales said.

The I-pod experiment lasted about 10 min. The way I was running, I knew people would be gaining fast. Sure enough, it seems I heard Nikki and her pacer behind me on most of Cal St. Coming out of the bushes a bit after Cal 3, she catches me and I try to latch on. At least I'd passed a runner (Jae-Duk Sim) a bit earlier. Nikki is such a solid finisher, and there will be hope for me yet if I can just stay close. Plus, she's just downright pleasant, cool to hang with. I cross the river right behind her, missing my 2:40 goal split by about 13 min. Still in the top ten, barely, and the quads were great. Hope springs eternal.

River to Finish. My brother, Tom, picked me up on the far side and he was eager to run. Also, my twin, John, was down there and it was awesome to see him. Nikki was just ahead starting the climb to Green Gate, and I couldn't wait to get there to see Laura, who I knew was ready to square me away for the final 20. We had a very good pull up to Laura, who joined us near the top and ran me into the aid. Fun. Sean Meissner, Rod Bien's pacer, was kind enough to lead me to the portable toilet at the aid station, and it all felt quite civilized.
Until ALT, Nikki and I take turns leading, but I just can't hang with her after that. Go win. Getting conflicting reports about my place, I knew I was clinging to the cusp of top ten. I held to the hope that there'd still be some carnage ahead. Glen Redpath, who'd dropped his pacer, goes flying by. Then, Tracy Moore. Both of them looked quite zippy, and, uh, it looks like I'm the carnage. The dream seems to be slipping, but I still have decent legs, and Tom is great with calm encouragement. Also, he doesn't coddle me or comment, at all, as I'm making multiple pit stops. I appreciate it. It is what it is.
Still drinking and taking gel (reluctantly), I try chicken broth at Brown's Bar. Not much different than gel, really: immediate gut-cramping and subsequent stop. The pull to Hwy. 49 is good, however, and I'm feeling confident that the finishing 7 miles is gonna be OK.

I take the tangent to the porta toilet as soon as I come into the aid station - an encouraging sign for Laura and my crew, I'm sure. Another shot at broth, and Laura tells me I'm battling for 9th/10th as Hiroki joins me at the AS. I leave a bit before him but he passes on the climb to the meadow. Tom and I settle into a steady, pretty solid pace, with me continually asking him to look for lights.
Laura tells me at No Hands that I can do it, and I believe her. I tell Tom, "Let's get it done." We do it. 10th place, M9, 18:22.

Greg Soderlund offers his hand as soon as I stop, and I promptly hand him my flashlight. Thanks, dude, I'm tired. In retrospect, I'm relatively confident he wasn't looking to relieve me of my gear. A handshake, I believe, would have been more appropriate. My crew and AJW greet me. I am overjoyed.

- Leaving No Hands, I think of Ed Willson's finish in '05. He ran a top-5ish split to get his silver buckle (23:58). Without a doubt, it was the most inspiring running I've ever witnessed. A total sob-fest for the eight of us that were there. 'Run like OD,' I told myself. Not sure of my split, but the running was very good and we distance ourselves from the lights Tom had seen coming into No Hands.

- Once we hit pavement at Robie Pt., my place looks assured. Climbing the hill, running well, the street-side partiers were goin' nuts, yelling that I was top ten. Tom says something like, "You better enjoy that." No doubt. I raise an arm and pump my fist, just ecstatic.

- Laura joins us near the track and runs me into the stadium. I'm telling her, "We did it, I love you, we did it!" Yeah. I know how proud she is, and, man, am I proud of her. As a crew captain, she's tops. As a wife, even better.

- My twin, John. We spend far too little time together (thanks to my running). He's lost 40+ pounds since January, he's running now, and I'm very proud of him. Thanks to some course sabotage he nearly missed me at Rucky Chucky. Totally spent after running around for 30 min. at the wrong beach on the river, he made it in the nick of time. A bit shaky, the far-side volunteers aided him. Sweet.

- Alec, my 16 year old nephew, joined us as he did in '04. He takes direction extremely well from Laura, and he's learned what the whole deal is about. Everyone who meets him during the day comments on how into the race he is, and just what a positive and polite young man he is. Like me, he's coming back next year, and he wore his new WS100 jacket nearly all weekend.

- My Coburg neighbors, Dick and Karen Smith, made a fly-by-night trip south just to watch me run. WOW, how humbling. Along with their grandson, Sterling, they're like my personal fan club. I'm happy to have given them something to smile about.

- Aid stations, especially with crew. Most of the day, I'm woohooing and smiling big coming into the aid stops. Seeing the good people I've met through running, like Californians Tom Lyons, Tim and Diana Fitzpatrick, lifts my spirits big-time. Tom Lyons says at Duncan Canyon, "Running with the big boys today, huh?" Yeah, I hope. Tim and Diana, at the far-side river crossing, give me added incentive to run strong to Green Gate after a shaky Cal St.

-Tim Twietmeyer is near the top of Devil's Thumb and he tells me I'm running great, looking strong and moving up in the field. Hearing it from him, well, holds a bit of credibility.
- Finally, being cheered for by crew, volunteers and spectators, alike, is simply awesome. Anyone who's never been cheered for, it's a shame.

Highlight of the day:

In the tent at the track, I open my eyes after about 3 hours sleep. Laura and I are facing each other, our heads nearly touching. It's 6:29 AM, and I don't at first realize where I am. Then I hear the P.A. announcer and it hits me. We did it, it really happened. Looking at Laura sleeping, tears form. I cannot remember feeling more content.


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