Monday, October 5, 2009

unabridged: my 2009 western states 100 race report

warning. it's long. you should probably snack up. i wrote this more as a reference to me for future runs, so it's filled with lots of details that may not read very smoothly. i apologize in advance for any bleeding eyes, bonking or saddle sores. this is my 2009 Western States 100 race report

the buzz started as a low ebb...a little more pep amongst the group in our final, traditional track workout. then, final "cultural experiences" at the YMCA sauna. meetings with crew members and trips to the store to stock up on supplies. i relished and enjoyed all of it. the ebb grew at a pre-race gathering at dano's where our departures were punctuated with knuckles and the words "see you in squaw" driving home a further sense of reality. packing the car and final preparations. over packing and over thinking. it wasn't agony waiting to leave, but an acknowledged part of the process.

making that drive was extra special. hitting the traditional stop in ashland to see friends and pay homage to the cougar and the soul patch. a beautiful drive through lassen, some random oregon plates with cars stuffed with eerily similar gear to mine, i finally found myself checking into my cabin in alpine meadows resort on a cold, clear night in lake tahoe. the buzz was everywhere. my envelope with the map of my cabin had a note on it from a friend and fellow competitor. this was exciting stuff, and the excitement was everywhere. pre-race i wanted to soak everything in. catching up with friends. hugs exchanged. names to faces. goodie bags, medical studies. old traditions of the weigh in and blood pressure check, new traditions like the mug shot for the online tracking. hundreds of very ripped, excited and beautiful runners were littering squaw valley with enthusiasm. it was a nice scene to be a part of. dinner with friends at the sunsweet house that night was a social occasion. i had to bling the black on my toes, thanks to lc's wife. oregon beer was shared. lasagna, salad, dessert was prepared by crew members. downstairs we'd sneak away to catch glimpses of the track meet on tv. it was great to be amongst friends. i walked home and made final preparations. filling bottles, checking and double checking. watched a tribute to michael jackson, then spent 90 fitful minutes sleeping before my body woke me up 41 seconds before my alarm was scheduled to go off.

the next 45 minutes were a series of whirls and clicks. coffee, food, deuces. short drive to squaw, get the number, get the chip, change the clothes, head outside...wait a minute. it's only 4:30. i've got 30 minutes.

siiri was awesome. we sat outside in the calm and watched the nervous ballet of jumps, squats, loud talking and body glide application. folks making friends. a guy putting on a new pair of shoes that he had never worn before because he had forgotten his shoes back in truckee and could go back to get them. wow. (i double checked my feet to make sure i wasn't sitting there in my flops.) i sipped my coffee, warm in my wool and took in the scene. with 10 minutes to go, i picked up my gear, walked to the line and said my hello's. i wish you could see the smiles on every ones faces.

i will never forget those 10 minutes for as long as i live because i truly believe i have never experienced so much happiness and excitement. hugs, photos and soon it's 3 minutes to go. it was going to happen, we were going to have to go through with it. 10 seconds to go, the whole crowd is counting down in unison and with a blast, we're off.

my first impression is of how blinding camera flashes are. my second impression is of how quickly the trail goes upward. i finally clear the humanity and we start climbing and i'm alternating walking and jogging.

i had divided my race up into 4 parts. squaw to robinson was the high country, and the only part of the race course i had never spent any time on in preparation. i'm following the mass up this mountain when all of the sudden in see people wild eyed and running back towards me. i hear a very familiar voice yelling "wrong way" and turn around just in time to see lb and bili leading the western states 100. if there was any tension in the air, it was broken with that move. i see the favorites go zooming by like it's a 10K road race. most of them taking themselves way too serious. i fall into a rhythm and watch the sunrise reveal the mountains to me. man, this is awesome. i use jizzle wizzles booming voice as a beacon from behind me and start to slowly make my way up to lb and bili. andy and i run a bit with graham cooper before i see an open area and i catch up with krissy, nikki, and jenn running with the men of oregon. i meet neil olsen and slf on the climb, we exchange good morning and i can't stop looking around at the views. the double track turns to single track and after a sharp pitch upward, we have a steady ascent to the escarpment. i summit with lb and he remind me and victor ballesteros to turn around and take in the view. well worth it, for sure. with that, the noise of the climb is done and instantly we are on single track and heading gently downward. i easily fall into a rhythm with lb and soon we are caught by the thunderous descent of the one, a jizzle wizzle. i make a comment about knowing that foot slap anywhere and we all smile and comment about how rad it is that we are doing this! jizzle wizzle takes advantage of the downhills and it's the last time i will see him until the awards ceremony the next day. the morning is still cool and the single track carves into the granite chief wilderness. i'm excited to see dave and beth van winklin drinking coffee and camped out just as friends of the race. no aid station, just fans of the event. lb and i run together and soon we were catching folks who were settling into their own race rhythm. patagonia teammate mark godale was first, making a shoe adjustment, then we caught up to michael wardian and krissy moehl. mike seemed curious to know about what pace we were running and i had no good data to give him. we talked about the 100k he had just run and soon i felt myself being lulled into a rhythm that was not going to be maintained. i stopped for a pee and let lb catch up with me and we settled back in. wardian soon disappeared out of sight. my mindset for this section was based on the advice lb had given me where he said he ran as if he was "holding back the entire time". it was easy to keep this in mind.

coming into the first aid station at lyon ridge, i handed off my bottles to a volunteer and quickly raided the buffet line. i was hungry. payday bar, watermelon, pb and j sandwich, some pretzels, and a chug of gu20 to wash the sandwich down and soon lb and i were walking up the hill out of the aid station. it was great to have someone there who is not only a mentor, but a training partner. i could tell he was equally as vested in my race as he was his own when he started holding me accountable for what i ate at the last aid station. it was good for me, as i have had a habit in the past of glossing over the food and hurrying out. 100 miles is a different story, though. take the time. from lyon's ridge, we started really opening up and descending a bit. elephants trunk, cougar rock and views of french meadows reservoir were just stunning. i felt eye level with snow capped peaks and we skirted the ridge fairly easily. i was already starting to catch people again. lb and i soon found ourselves in a group including lon freeman and victor ballesteros. through most of the high country, i would pass victor on the descents, he would motor past me on the climbs. lb stopped to take a bathroom break just outside of red star and i was on my own. i was mindful to eat, drink and really enjoy the views. my body felt great despite the increasing presence of the sun and i knew soon it was going to be getting hot. coming into red star, i drained both my bottles and caught three more runners on the descent and we arrived together. a volunteer named steve took my bottles and told me he would meet me at the end of the table in 30 seconds. gu20 and water, i made another sweep through the table inhaling solids and steve was there. i heard others calling for drop bags and caught a glimpse of lb as i was checking out of the aid station. there is a short single track section out of the campground through the trees and from there we got our first big exposure of the day. victor soon caught up with me again and we resumed our journey towards duncan canyon. this section, i really got to see what the fires did to this area. lots of burnt out mountain sides, exposure and really rocky, dusty trails. despite this, it was easy to settle into the nice flow. the mountain air was clean. flowers were blooming. the sky was clear. it seemed no different than just a beautiful day for a trail run. a horseshoe climb on the trail let me see who was in front of me and behind me. i was able to catch a glimpse of lb, graham, alan abbs, tracy moore and tony d'allesio not far behind while jenn shelton, wardian and special k were just up ahead. it wasn't long before we caught jenn, she seemed stoked to be out here and was doing okay. in the prerace briefing, mark falcone had talked about this 3 mile section in duncan canyon that had been improved with a trail machine, and while i ran through the shale rock and twisty single track, i kept expecting to come up it. catching up to victor again, he gave me the trail and soon i was in this ankle deep, dusty, loamy single track that seemed to just pour down the mountain. checking my watch, i knew this was probably the descent to the duncan canyon aid station. i have fallen in love with descending since moving out west, so i really flew into this section. it wasn't long before i started noticing the air was dusty which meant that runners were not far ahead. a mile or out of the aid station i latched on to the train of krissy moehl and sean meissner.

(photo by gtach)
i started to ask to pass, but remembered that the temps were rising and we still had a lot of running left to do on this day. we chatted and descended and soon caught a glimpse of glenn tachiyama, camera in hand, which meant that the aid station couldn't be far away. a quick bottle exchange with meghan's husband, brian, and i was at the buffet eating another small sandwich and watermelon. i checked out and caught one runner almost immediately. soon, i came upon another runner. it wasn't until she stopped and let me by that i realized with was nikki kimball. i ran most of the gentle climbs and soon started on the downhill section towards duncan creek. up ahead i see a familiar gate and within minutes lewdogg and i are doing our best impersonations of david caruso and his absurd acting voice. we hit duncan creek together and end up ankle deep in the water after trying some nifty rock hopping that went horribly wrong. screw it, i scooped up a handful of water and splashed myself and soon was running up the switchbacks out of the creek towards the summit and robinson flat aid station. victor soon made up time on me on the climbs and graham cooper was not far behind him. i let victor go and settled into a nice pace. i caught dan barger first, then marco olmo, michael wardian was next, not feeling too good and out of water. i soon spotted brian robinson and jean pommier and caught them just as i was coming into robinson flat. i don't have words for a what a scene this place is. i was 2 minutes ahead of my projected split of 10:20 to robinson when i stepped on the scale. i was trying to focus, but taking in the enthusiasm of the place. i heard my name called a thousand times when i finally recognized the voice i was looking for. my crew chief, friend and pacer, john ticer, was there and with clarity amongst the throngs let me know he was set up in the shade just beyond the crowd. i passed through and soon found myself surrounded my oregonians. the exchange of bottles, specific food and supplements was quick was precise, a chug of ice cold ultragen and i was walking towards that little wooden bridge, sandwich in hand and ticer with me. he was giving me some final instructions on what to expect on the climb ahead and a strategy to get there. i fell in behind marco olmo and victor who had passed me while in the aid station and soon heard michael wardian catching up. the walk/run up little bald, tropical john directing traffic back onto the trail and soon we were treated to the expanse of views as the trail starts descending towards dusty corners. full exposure here, i could instantly feel the heat starting to rise for the first time. it was great to be back. i remembered the views from training on the course and it was just as beautiful today. it was great to be on familiar ground. i soon caught victor, and we did our usual exchange, wardian stayed with me when we passed another runner, from australia, and soon we were alone.

(photo courtesy of

the single track opens up to double track and wardian pulled up for a conversation. it was good to have company and mike is an easy guy to run with. we talked about the race, the heat, some strategy for staying cool and within a short time, found ourselves taking the turn off the dirt onto the singletrack for millers defeat. the sign at the trailhead indicated that it was another 0.8 miles to the aid station and the new location was ideal. shade, great volunteers and lots of enthusiasm. i got ice in both bottles for the first time today and used the cold buckets of water to squeeze cold water over my head and neck. it cooled me instantly and it was then i realized how hot it was getting. i noticed hiroki sitting in a chair with ice on his ankle. i wished him good luck, thanked the aid station workers and checked out in step with mike. the trail soon heads downhill and mike and i found ourselves moving fairly well. we soon came upon a foreign runner in 3/4 tights, a long sleeved shirt, and hat. he looked hot, i spoke when we passed him, but he said nothing in return. the first part of the descent we were moving well when the urge to pee came up. i slowed to my squiggly pee shuffle while mike pushed on. in minutes, i was descending into dusty corners and was greeted by a large crowd of oregonians. brian was there again with bottles, but i declined having lost my taste for sports drink for the moment. i was craving ice water, so i stuck with that. i used the buckets and spray of water again, and was soon checking out of dusty corners and looking forward to pucker point section. mike was gone. i got to the intersection at pucker point and was surprised to see it unmanned. the singletrack was great as it gave me a chance to use some different muscles after running on dirt roads/double track for the last hour or so. i love this section from training on it, but man, was it getting hot. i started seeing runners ahead of me and found myself in the company of josh brimhall first, then brian morrison, then finally, david james. i was sad for all of these guys because i knew they expected to do well and if i was passing them here, the race was not going as they had planned. i checked into last chance 7 minutes ahead of goal split and caught a glimpse of wardian leaving the aid station. i was starting to loose weight, 3 pounds down in that last section, but i was still hungry and eating so i figured it was just sweat and effort. i continued to enjoy the cold watermelon and other foods and soon was checking out of last chance. i caught glimpse of an eerie sign on the side of the trail. something about the quads being evil and they must be punished. dan o signed mom and dad. huh, i wonder if they are talking about tapeworm? just like that, i saw blue shorts and voila, tapeworm appeared. he was laboring and working out some salt/hydration issues but his spirit seemed good, so i pressed on past the rusted mining equipment, picking up speed i knew what was coming and looked forward to it. making the turn onto the singletrack just before pacific slab, i let the brakes off for the first time today and really flowed the descent down to the swinging bridge. i felt good. nimble. quads were well in check. i saw mike wardian taking a break and eating about halfway down and said hello and expected to see him again. i hit the swinging bridge in an strange silence, crossed over and caught back up to lon freeman as we both got to the spring at the bottom of devils thumb together. i filled both bottles, dunked my visor and poured water over my head and started my ascent drenched like a drowned rat. i could hear ticers words in my head about climbing with enough effort to stay moving well, but not so hard that it drives my temperature up. the climbing felt easy and soon i heard and saw dano and lon ascending right behind me. i was stoked at how good my legs felt at this point, but was noticing i was sweating a lot. i didn't feel hot, but rather was moving a lot of liquid. i drained both bottles on the climb and popped out to a large, loud greeting at devils thumb. my watch said i ascended in just under 35 minutes, so i was stoked.

on the scale again, down about 4 pounds total now, i went over to the buckets to cool off with cold water. while i was bent over, the best aid station food ever popped up in front of my face in the form of a popsicle. man, this tasted good. bottles filled with ice, i drank cold mountain dew, ate some and took off out of the aid station thanking everybody. i was fired up. i moved well for about 200 yards and when i started the short downhill out of the thumb, my stomach just emptied it's contents. whoa. where did this come from? i thought i had eaten too much, maybe it was the cold popsicle, who knows. don't panic. i sipped ice water and it stayed down, then i popped an s-cap to balance out my sodium in my stomach and was soon moving again down to the pump. it felt weird running by here without stopping, but i knew what lay ahead. i was able to drink my water still and my stomach had been settled since the vomiting, so tried a gel right at deadwood and it lasted about 45 seconds on the first part of the downhill before it came back up. i knew something was wrong. i repeated the water, then s-cap on the stomach and it held. this canyon was tough. it was hot and even though i was moving well and still running fast, my mind was on my stomach. i let out a little whoop when i splashed past the pipe, which many consider to be the unofficial halfway point of the race. i had been running for just under 9 hours and physically, my legs were continuing to respond and feel great. the further i fell down the mountain, the hotter it got. i was using one bottle to sip, one bottle for dousing and it didn't seem like any relief was in sight. a felt a slight breeze and even noticed that the wind was warm. yep, this is the heat everyone talks about. i rolled across the bridge to the el dorado aid station and noticed that most of the staff was down in the creek cooling off. my bottles were filled with ice, questions were asked of me about how many people i had seen dropped out at devils thumb, and that was when i found out i was in 16th place. i started climbing up to michigan bluff in silence. i remember someone at the aid station asking me if i knew the way and i had to smile. i didn't hear any noise coming from the aid station as i started making my way up the climb. i was hot again as soon as i started moving and within 5 minutes everything i had eaten at the aid station was by the side of the trail. my stomach was cramping badly, now and my back was starting to hurt from not standing on level ground while puking. i know, sounds silly, but trust me. it makes a difference. i was moving, but heating up, and i kept slowing down to try to keep my core in check. i was able to repeat the water sip, s-cap formula to keep something in my body, my stomach still hurt and my energy was fading fast. i was surprised to hear a my name called and see mr. dan o right behind me. he looked great. he had recovered and was moving well. he offered up good wishes and kept pressing on. i was excited for him. seeing him revived gave me hope that i could solve my problems and get back going again. i started seeing folks near the top of the climb, despite the exposure i was happy to have those two canyons behind me and also excited to get to the aid station.

(photo courtesy of pete zinsli)

i knew ticer and siiri would be there, but also carol hewitt, who is an amazing host and friend to us oregonians. she's like family and i was excited for her to share in my day. i weighed in 6 pounds under and we started talking about my issues. i was wisked off to my chair for my planned stop for the day. new socks and shoes, sandwich, ultragen, fresh bottles. the cold, wet towel on my head was like flicking sweat on hot rocks in the sauna. i swear i heard it sizzle. soon, medical was at my side trying to get me to drink broth and flat soda. he kept trying to ask me questions while my crew was getting me my stuff and taking care of me. i felt rushed. hurried. the 4 minutes passed, then another and was up and walking down the road out of michigan bluff. i got some food down and started running and it wasn't long before the contents were evacuated again. crap. this is no good. psychologically, this was the first time today i was dealing with a down mentally. in my mind, michigan bluff was going to fix it, and i was having a hard time dealing with not having any calories. you can finish a 100 without food, right? i resumed my sipping of water, s-cap formula and even that wouldn't stay down at this point. i continued up and down the road, shifting from exposed doubletrack to singletrack, i started descending past paragon mine and noticed my dexterity and decision making was going away. my legs just didn't want to respond. i almost had to come to complete stops to make turns in the trail and the sun wouldn't leave me alone. i strategized that i should pick up the pace so i could get down to the creek and shade faster. i continued to puke all along this section until i arrived at volcano creek. lon freeman, who had passed me while i was in michigan bluff, was crossing the creek. i got in, sat down, layed back only for a second, and then got out and started walking again. i could barely put one foot in front of the other. i was in real trouble. both of my bottles were empty. i could barely move. i was a mile from the bath road aid station and it was hot. then, to my horror, a train of folks started coming past me. lon freeman, again. bev abbs and mike wardian. victor ballesteros, tony d'allesio. it was like that dream where you feel like your running in mud and everyone is passing you. except this was real and i was walking, not running. i noticed my heart beating rapidly in my chest and i was having to stop and catch my breath on the final climb up to the bath road aid station. ticer was there and he looked really concerned. tommy nielson was there also, calling out for his runner and offering encouragement. he engaged me, asked my name, where i was from. then he asked me if i had seen a rat? i thought he was messing with me till he pointed to the back of his shirt with a smile. he told me that i still had lots of time, get things worked out and he'd see me in auburn. truthfully, at that moment, auburn seemed like it was still 100 miles away. i saw members of lb's crew there waiting on him as he wasn't far behind and everyone was trying to help me. cold water to cool me, ice towel, i needed to get out of this aid station. i was becoming comfortable and my demons were playing havoc with my mind. i told ticer i needed to get out of there and he helped me stand up and start walking. my bottles were full of ice and water and we started the long, slow hike up bath road. my race day plan had called for me to run this section, now i had broken my immediate goals down to getting from one turn in the road to the next. my heart rate was still too high, and i had to stop several times to catch my breath. i barely noticed crews coming down the roads toward other runners or runners passing me on the road up. i was rock bottom on that climb. speaking of roch, he and krissy passed me and slowed to offer encouragement just before we got to foresthill. i was determined not to walk into foresthill, so i started to shuffle knowing another aid station was just ahead. the crowds were thick but i couldn't hear much more than the sound of my pulse pounding in my head. my ears felt like they had cotton in them and my jaw ached. i saw volunteers waving me over to the scales and the first words out of the womans mouth were that my lips were white. i stepped on the scale. 132. my starting weight was 141. before i could even process what this meant, ticer was back at my side. he had gotten siiri to set up a chair in the shade with some ice and they were waiting for me. he guided me to this spot where i sat down and they went about the task of cooling me off. wet towels of ice, were draped all over me. ice water. ice chips. i felt like i was being asked a lot of questions, but it was just folks around me talking. i couldn't hear or think straight. my patagonia teammates, rod bien and julie fingar came over and helped to get me put back together. i saw so many faces intent on helping me resolve my issues. all of them so positive. my core temp was 104 and my stomach had shut down. most of the blood used in digestion was being used to try to cool my body in the skins surface, so everything i ate came back up. as i cooled off, i was able to eat some plain rice and saltene crackers. drink more water and ice, and eventually, some really watered down gu20. after 45 minutes, i was actually getting chilled, so ticer had me re-weigh myself. i was now 135 and headed in the right direction. i felt like i could move and wanted to get going again. rod got me a plastic baggie filled with rice to take with me. siiri filled both my bottles, put s-caps and powergels in my waist pack and i started walking, then running gently down the road out of foresthill. i had been down for 52 minutes after a 1:40 split from michigan bluff to foresthill. ticer follows me to the singletrack, and i am on my own. mentally, it's an instant boost from the staggering walk and fog i was in an hour prior. i'm back in the game and it feels good. i do a diagnostic and realize that while my stomach still rumbles, my legs feel great.

dropping out of foresthill, the exposed sections of the top of cal street pass quickly and i am on the singletrack that i know so well. in my head, i had broken down cal street into a series of sections and i went back to my race plan. i started catching other runners and pacers immediatly. i kept with drinking water and dousing in this section and arrived at cal 1 to get my bottles filled. i looked at my watch and saw 29 minutes since i had left foresthill...whoa. okay, i guess i'm feeling better than i thought, but i better chill out a bit. i took my baggie of rice for the climb just past cal 1 and ate a couple of spoonfuls before putting that away, i got over the top and continued to descend. my legs felt like we were still in the first part of the race. i just couldn't believe it. i hadn't had much to eat the last few hours and my body was continuing to respond. i held back because i knew i still had a long way to go, but spiritually, it reinforced to me that i was "going to auburn". i kept catching runners, passing the australian, chris wight, graham who was still moving well on a broken leg, jean pommier and his son? and matt lavine. the shaft was great to run down, i know cal 2 was only minutes away and another section down in my run to the river. my stomach acted up a bit on the descent, but kept everything down and soon i could see white christmas light and people cheering. i entered cal 2 alone and stopped to take out my rice and get my bottles refilled. the volunteers here were awesome! very helpful, you could tell this wasn't their first dance and they expected a certain emotional/physical runner coming into the station. bottles filled, soon the other runners were trickling into cal 2. it was strange to be in the aid station with 3 other runners, and as i was checking out, one more was checking in. i wanted to get going again while my legs still felt good. the descent out of cal 2 if probably one of my favorite sections on the western states trail. i relaxed and really opened up and the legs were responding once again. it was also the first time i really noticed that the temperature was dropping and sun was going down. i put the carrot out there that i still wanted a daylight river crossing and that was motivation the rest of the way. coming to the 6 minute hill was a reality check. this climb is hard. you are over 70 miles into this deal when you hit this and it's just hard. i relaxed and climbed, drinking water and taking an s-cap and could feel emotional high of cal street starting to wear off a bit. for some reason the climb seemed longer than i remembered and had a few more turns than i remembered, but the end finally came. pulling into cal 3 i was expecting far worse than what i saw. younger volunteers. ice. lots of enthusiasm, white lights and lots of smiles. it was a great boost. this brunette there was doing of good job of passing out little white lies by telling me how great i looked. i saw one runner on a cot there getting worked over verbally by his pacer. whew, bad scene. i still wanted that daylight river crossing, so i got out quickly and was soon carving along the hillside leading down to the dirt roads along the river. i was excited to catch another runner and his pacer quickly. when they stepped aside, i noticed it was tuk. jed was pretty conservative on his chances the day before. he had been injured and was hoping adrenaline would take him to auburn. he had been in good shape, but was dealing with injury. here he was 72 miles into this deal and still moving. we spoke a few words and i moved on. descending down to the grassy section which is probably one of my least favorite sections on the course, i was surprised to fine open, cut back singletrack. someone had been through here with a weed eater or something. it was the first time i had actually been able to see the dirt underneath the weeds in all my training runs on this section. wow, this course was fast today. what a treat. i noticed that the creek beds were dry and moving was still easy. i could tell the sunlight was starting to get low everytime i hit a shaded area and my pace would increase. i caught alan abbs and his pacer just before the dirt roads. he was still moving. still doing the headband proud. hitting the dirt roads, now. i knew what to expect. i hiked the climbs and was able to run most of the descents, but i could tell my lack of calories was affecting my flats. the drive was waning. up ahead, i saw a figure in blue moving back against the grain of the course. i know that running form anywhere. it was my pacer, john ticer, coming to meet me. a quick update on who was in front of me. i told him about my wish for a daylight crossing and we went about checking in on my body and what i was able to eat and drink. i knew a couple of more rises and falls and we would be there. i could see the cable on my descent into the aid station and the sun was still up. whoop! section 3 was almost down for me, and now it would be the home stretch. my split on cal street was eerily close to what i had planned on run for my race split and that was very, very encouraging. stepping onto the scale, i was alarmed to see 134 for my weight.huh? i had been eating and drinking the whole time. i stepped on the scale next to it, and it read 136.

medical was concerned. i told them about foresthill and how i had actually maintained weight for this last section, but they were not convinced. i was escorted to the buffet and told to eat. i was handed some salty broth and watermelon while my bottles were filled. i sipped the broth and knew as soon as it hit my stomach that it was a bad idea. i told ticer, lets go and started walking towards the check out. 5 feet from freedom, despite my hand being over my mouth, the contents were coming back up. CRAP! i was escorted back to medical and put on a cot. i could hear Ed Willson howling my name from across the river. i saw the sun going down and my hope for a daylight crossing fading. i got the usual from medical. the aid station personel were great. suggesting things to try, bringing me saltenes and some "plain" stuff to put on my stomach. one guy filtered the rice out of the chicken soup hoping that would help. i never got his name, but he was really positive and helpful. if you read this, you know who you are, thank you. i felt bad for my pacer. i sat there trying to eat watching runner and runner come through the aid station. everyone i had passed on cal street, plus many more. darkness. my stomach was still in the same shape it had been when i got there, every time the doctor came over, he was saying "ten more minutes". finally, at an hour. i was through. nothing was getting better. i had run 16 miles with my stomach feeling like this, and then sat for another hour. i was getting out of there. plus, that runner and pacer from cal 3 had shown up. his pacer was making me angry. i looked at ticer and he just knew what i was thinking. i grabbed my bottles, walked out of medical and check out of the aid station.

ticer had a plan for me. we crossed the river slowly, getting the legs going again. the water felt great. i saw chris and darla waiting for their runner on the rivers edge and was stoked to see bilirubin and t-bag crossing just in front of me. in making my escape, i hadn't noticed them coming into the river. it was great to see them. bili's nephew, aric was helpful in that he provided us with a headlamp for the climb out. we started walking up the road to green gate and the feeling of wanting to run was returning. mentally, i reloaded a plan to get to the finish. about halfway up the hill i noticed this green and blonde flash coming down the hill at a fast pace. siiri had heard i was in medical from meghan and her pacer, so now she was coming to find me. she knew we didn't have headlamps and was coming to wait by the river. you could tell she didn't expect to see us, but was relieved to see me up and moving. she and ticer had a plan for me and were very positive. we got to green gate and it was a mini partay. bili checking in with his crew. ticer and i getting geared up to run. i talked to bili about running to auburn together, but when time came for me to leave, i needed to go. i was able drink down some ultragen again and it felt like it was going to stay. siiri loaded up my waist pack with s-caps, some clif bars she had broken up into small bites and a real treat. beef jerky. i tore off a piece before leaving the aid station and just let it sit in my mouth. the meaty salt taste was good. i have never been a "dipper" but i'd imagine this is kinda what it's like. checking out of green gate, i was able to break into a run for the first time in 90 plus minutes. i told ticer i wanted to lead this section and that i was going to run until i needed to walk. like before, we started catching runners again. friends from ashland, for the 2nd time. one very skinny 50 plus year old runner from ashland who was still moving. i hadn't seen rob cain since the escarpment and was excited to see him handling such a tough day. heading into the night, it seemed like there were lights ahead of us all the time. i was on familiar ground and felt like i was moving well. it felt great to run and i was getting an energy boost from the taste of the jerky. my legs felt good for having gone 80 plus miles at this point and i was surprised at how the body is able to respond. i like racing. it was important for me mentally to have those runners in front of me. i tapped back into my visualization and soon could hear the generators of ALT echoing through the valley. lights ahead , i caught up with eric johnson and his pacer, mark hartell. mark made a comment about seeing me in foresthill and how it was amazing to see me running now. i got a boost from it and john and i got onto the scale just ahead of those guys at the aid station. john had asked me about what i was planning on eating when i got here, so when medical freaked out again on my weight, i had a plan. i told them about my two holds, and found that i was maintaining my weight just fine. i found the boiled potatos on the table and ate under the watchful eye. i saw the doctor on his walkey talkey radio to the checkout to watch for vomiting. i smiled at him. "not this time...". bottles filled with ice water and watered down gu20, i left the aid station chewing my 3rd salty potato. i told ticer i wanted to walk until we got to the creek crossing we used at way too cool, then it was going to be time to run. this worked well, the potato's stayed down and settled and we started running. picking up where we left off, i felt invigorated. my stomach was coming back. i didn't feel the but pains anymore and for the first time since just before devils thumb, i actually had to pee. i tore off some more jerky and set about running to browns bar. the number of runners on this section was a lot smaller than heading to ALT, so i worked on sections. i still seemed to be moving well, though making sharp turns were proving to be difficult. i was focusing in on "running on eggshells". staying lite and rhythmic despite the undulation. finally, lights ahead of us, ben berkowitz and his pacer for a 2nd time. these kids were in such a good mood. i knew ben had hoped for a faster race, but it was good to see younger racers making lemonade out of lemons. the section to browns bar is deceiving, you run into these pockets and at night, you can see lights, but they might be a half mile ahead of you. ticer and i saw one set of lights, then seemed to run away from them, rather than towards them. my mind and body still positive, i started seeking those red lights on browns bar. i heard flashes of music carrying through the valley, using my watch to gauge my fluid intake, i knew we were getting close and i was intent on catching those lights we had seen. there were crickets in this section that sounded like helicopter rotors, so i played in my mind that i was running away from a medivac. soon, i heard the whooping and hollering and flew into the gradual downhill towards the bridge to browns bar. i saw a set of lights leaving the aid station, moving well, and came up the hill to see my favorite australians enjoying some soup and drinks. "you again, mate?" chris wights pacer was a hoot. he asked if my slow twin and i were doing a relay because one of us could run and the other was good at sitting. i nibbled some more boiled potatos while my gu20 and water was refilled. ticer also suggested i try the soup. it was hot, but good to eat. i ate about half of it and checked out just behind the aussies. they playfully stepped aside and said they'd hoped to see my twin again soon sitting at hwy 49. i knew i had seen lights when we were getting into browns bar, and i wanted to continue to chase. ticer and i swapped the lead in this section. i could run, but turning and dexterity were a little clapped out due to tight hips. this section was also a lot rougher and rockier than i remembered. i kept kicking rocks. i slowed my roll some to preserve. i still had 10 miles of running and knew that was still a long way to go. i was surprised to see the creeks dry but i knew with every creek bed i ran through, i was getting closer to the river. the trail seemed to get steeper as we descended. man, i was thankful for my training partners and the quality quad work we had done. my quads felt great and did the job of getting me to the river intact. i have never been so happy to see smooth ground. hitting the quarry road, the route continues to descend. i prompted ticer to get me off this road as quickly as possible so he took the lead. i had to ask him to walk once, but for the most part, we ran the flats, gentle ups, and hiked the steeper hills. i finally saw a set of lights and passed two very cheery canadians, gary robbins and his pacer. i read that he had hoped to run well, so it really embodies the spirit of this event to see him so positive towards other runners at this point in the evening. It didn't take long to see another set of lights. i passed silently and quickly and kept asking ticer on every uphill if we were at the trail yet. finally, the lights showed us the way and were on the way to hwy 49. i was able to run most of the lower sections. it actually felt better than walking, but soon the technical, rocky sections of the trail slowed me to a hike after one near miss too many. at this point, the mind was sending the signals, but the muscles weren't getting all of them. i knew this section from training pretty well, but it was my first time on it at night. the going seemed a lot slower than i remembered, but i felt like i was still moving forward. i started the mental games of running to trail signs, trees and gate posts. i also imagined the reflectors on the back of ticers shoes were lightning bugs that i used to see on my night runs in the north carolina mountains and that calmed me somewhat.

i started hearing car noise and knew we were close and started picking up my run/walks. the grade slackened some and i was able to find a nice running rhythm and could hear OD yelling for his runner. This told me that Meghan was just ahead. The trail opened up and while everyone was paying attention to Meghan getting into the aid station, ticer and i slipped in behind them. i needed water, potato's again and felt like drinking a cup of mountain dew with ice. my bottles were filled quickly and i was anxious to get out of there. with ticer showing me the way, i was stunned to a halt by what i saw sitting in the chair on the way out. oh man, dan o. he was seated, headlamp still on and pointed up at the sky. his pacer, matt and wife, courtney were massaging his legs underneath the blanket that covered him. he had that thousand yard stare. he looked at me, recognized me and told me was done...that look told me he spoke the truth. i could feel the tears starting to well up inside me, so i had to turn and get going. i saw meghan coming over to dan as we were leaving. i think she was just as shocked as i was. i tried to shake off the emotion and refocus. ticer and i were in the same frame of mind with regards to dan. we acknowledged it and i planned to run hard to the finish for both of us. i could hear meghan and her pacer behind us early in the climb out of hwy 49, but soon the noise faded. ticer and i ran the flats and hiked strong on the climbs. i could feel my legs getting stronger. coming up to the open field, we formed a plan again. ticer would get me to the downhills, then i would take over and set the tempo so i didn't have to deal with dust from his steps. total veteran leadership right here. john had truly thought of everything. i could see the bat signal lights coming from downtown auburn and i wondered if that was the school. i could smell the barn, but knew from bonking on a training run here a few months prior that i still had to take care of business with my body. heading downhill, the quads again responded. picking up the pace, i started seeing lights ahead of me. i passed alan abbs and his pacer, again just before what jizzle wizzle refers to and the 15 minute turn. i looked at my watch and knew that if i kept moving well, that's how long it would take me to get to no hands. this section really contours to the road and i could hear crew filled cars and fans whooping and hollering as they made their way towards the school on hwy 49. i knew siiri was meeting me at no hands, and i really wanted to surprise her. she had yet to see me in this race moving well. every time she was having to deal with a needy, hot, clapped out runner and i wanted her to see strength and happiness at this point in the race. ticer warned me about the trickiness of the descent leading down to no hands, it kinda sneaks up on you. you catch yourself looking at the lights and big screened tv instead of the trail. i resisted the urge and picked my way into the aid station. the look on siiri's face was awesome! she had changed into what i call her "ill style" outfit on knee high red striped socks, patagonia shirt and shorts. the aid station captain was like "i doesn't look like your going to have to wait as long as you thought..." the smile on her face was a huge boost, she was excited. i hugged her, she told me she'd see me at the school and with bottles filled again, i started my walk across the bridge still chewing my food.

(photo courtesy of esther holman)
i passed the thornley puke throne without contributing to it myself and broke into a run. i asked ticer to find me some lights and soon the noise of the aid station left me alone to the silence of the trail and the american river. above me, cars continued to honk and holler. i was thinking that maybe someone was moving well behind me and i needed to get moving. i didn't look back, i just ran. i found that moving from double track to singletrack, my hips were still not liking twists and turns. i was still able to descend just fine, but my pace was slowing. i was tired, for sure. i mentally broke this section down into 3 parts and spent time focusing on a plan to get through those parts until i hit the pavement at robie point. ticer could tell i was slowing and prompted me to stay focused and keep moving. the course was well marked here and i could tell we were still making good time. breaking this section down really helps when your fatigued. this was a jizzle wizzle trick and it was helping me. soon, after a twisty climb, the trail opened up to double track and i could see the bat signal lights overhead. i saw a headlamp running down the road towards us and asking me what i wanted. was i at robie point already? i saw little phalic shaped lights glowing in the middle of the dirt road and got a chuckle out those. my cup of ice water was brought down to me and i downed it as i neared the gate. i didn't want to linger in this very dark aid station. this may sound strange, but the pavement felt really, really good. i found power in hiking up this section past the horse trailer. i lamented to john that it had taken me so long to get here, that the parties had already ended or everyone had passed out. i moved along knowing a party awaited me at the school and with one mile to go, i came around a corner and was rewarded with a very animated party still going on at the mile to go sign. they knew everyones name and were screaming congratulations! it brought such a smile to my face. i broke into a run up the last little grade to the top and then opened up when the grade turned flat and down through the neighborhoods in auburn. i looked up and saw 5 people walking up the road. it was hard to tell if they were spectators or runners. i asked john, do you think they are runners? he said he didn't know. i told him i wanted to find out and picked up the pace. as i drew closer, i saw headlamps, running shorts and tired, hunched over walking. i didn't wanted the pass to be decisive so i went right through the middle of them and found myself eye level with the white bridge. making the turn and heading down i could see the stadium lit up brightly. i wanted to howl and celebrate, but not yet. moving down the road, it felt great to be running fast. ticer warned me of the transition and step down to the track and i picked my way through the gate and into the lights i could hear someone being announced as a finisher ahead of me and i kept the pace up.

it was so rewarding to be on this track about to accomplish my dream of running the western states 100. i came off the curve, thanked ticer and he let me cross on my own. lots of cheering and noise, i was surprised that it was over just like that! Twiet was still awake, handing out handshakes and medals. it was an honor to get mine from him.

In the end, i couldn't have done this alone. i needed my competitors, my training partners, my crew, the thousands of volunteers who did trail work and helped out on race day. I celebrate this finish with all of you.

gear list
top: patagonia prototype team singlet, cap 1/2 blend.
shorts: patagonia long haul runners.
socks: patagonia ultra endurance ped socks.
visor: first endurance headsweats.
sunglasses: rudy project zyon team issue impact x clear/photocromic
shoes: adidas adizero xt

hydration and nutrition: combination ultimate direction hand helds with nathan bottles. nathan elite race waist pack, green apple and plain powergel, s caps, first endurance ultragen, beef jerky, clif bars, salted boiled potatos and avocado, ham, cheese sandwiches.


mkirk said...

Nice. Thanks Scott! This tale is a good reminder of what it takes to run a tough 100 miler. Great job!

Scott said...

thanks, matt. it's funny how reading something like that takes you right back to that moment. i can even taste the soup from the browns bar aid station. what a journey...