training started with a few cautious steps out of carol's driveway running backwards to meet casey and the queen who were continuing the old tradition of running into kamp from foresthill. the previous weekend had seen my achilles swollen so badly i couldn't fit into shoes and had a week in flip flops. i was done. i wanted some time on the trail and to support my friends in their training, but planned to be at kamp as a soigneur. i had gotten into the 2013 race via an aid station spot it was going to be my first time racing the event since 2009. it's hard to be in michigan bluff and not run, so a few steps on the dance floor were worse than no steps. tree to tree. right, ann?
i had been battling an achilles issue since completing wasatch in september. the blisters on each achilles had been so bad they had gone completely through the skin to the tendon and the resulting scar tissue caused constant inflammation to the tendon. i endured massage, extremely painful graston that aggravated some nerves in my soleus and lots of painful strength training to to restructure the tissue into a functioning mechanism. all of it hadn't seemed to work. i was still swelling regularly and unable to do any running of more than 20 minutes.
a funny thing happened on that run. you see. i also believe in the healing powers of michigan bluff. 64 days later i was standing in line at check-in with a fantastic twietstache collecting schwag and getting my vitals recorded.
|"just make sure it turns the corner" -tim twietmeyer|
kamp had been great. memorial day weekend, jimfest and some solid weeks of training had brought me to the line under trained but fresh in mind and body. ajw, family and i did our usual squaw routine of the squaw valley condo. thursday brought on incredible veterans panel and the pre-race briefing giving thanks to shannon, mo and recognizing all of the volunteers and people who make this race possible were the high points. a few of us had decided to honor twiet in a way that a few of the eugene crew had discussed back in 2009, but we didn't have a good feel for the temperature of the honoree. rest assured when the twietstache journey began, so also did a period of unforced abstinence for about 5 or 6 of us. personally, i believe the stache was as clutch as making sure you select the right sling for race day. further proof that running well at western states begins in choices we make long before dr. lind fires the shotgun.
|more "clutch" decisions. the real reason for ajw's 7 straight top 10's|
|good morning, lake tahoe (photo by luis escobar)|
i reached to top somewhere at the back half of the first 100 people, turned around for a stunning view of tahoe and then slipped onto the trail with andy right behind me to begin making our way toward lyon ridge. the high country was totally snow free and already dusty. some of usual wetter areas were still slick and creek like approaching granite chief wilderness, but nothing like the snows and cold weather i had heard about the previous 3 years. it was already crowded and ajw and i let momentum carry us around folks who were unfamiliar with technical single track and those already second guessing their pace. the views up high were unreal! sun creeping up and lighting up the granite. it was getting warm quickly. i hit lyon comfortably and settled into a conga line aping ajw all the way to red star where he stopped for a drop bag. leaving here, i had the trail to myself for the first time all day. it was here i paid attention to my split for the first time and found my 3 hour split to exactly what i was hoping for. it still felt relaxed and resembled what it felt like to run with LB in this same section back in 2009. it didn't take long before my training partner for most of the 64 days leading into this years race, the queen, slipped up behind me. she had told me earlier that she imagined us running together through parts of the race and i wasn't surprised to see we'd found each other. there was something different about her running this year and i had made it known to my very close friends who i believed was gonna win the ladies race this year. meghan is like some of best wine i have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. better with age and enjoyed more and more with each passing year.
|enjoying the high country (photo by michigan bluff photography)|
|approaching robinson flat with the queen (photo by firepotter)|
|enjoying pucker point (photo by michigan bluff photography)|
cal st called for a conservative split and julie did a excellent job of keeping me in check on the early downhills. i think she could tell i was fired up and made a point to remind me of all the running that was going to be needed after the river. she's been a top finisher at this race before and lives locally, so despite all the miles i've run on cal st, i knew her advice was sound. i also knew she had seen how everyone looked who came through before me...it was an uneventful trip into cal 1, but shortly after cal 1 i passed veteran dan barger at the base of mackey hill and told julie i wanted to get out of his sight as quickly as possible. dan's a local and recent top 10 finisher at WS, so knew there would be a good chance of seeing him later. making our way through the rollers to the top of the elevator shaft, i started the game of counting them off out loud. julie again reminded me to keep it cool. a conservative descent down the shaft and making good time into cal 2, i felt stoked with the split. i arrived seeing jake and his pacer recharging at the aid station. we exchanged encouraging words and after a quick refill, i was out of there. i quickly told julie i wanted to let momentum carry me to the base of 6 minute hill and we flew down the switchbacks. i thought this would be key because i knew how exposed the later part of this cal st section before the river would be. a nice smooth hike up 6 minute hill in just under 6 minutes we hit cal 3 alone and ready to keep moving. julie reminded me to keep drinking in this section as i hadn't pee'd for a bit when on cue i had to go for the first time since sitting in the creek under swinging bridge. my weight had a been a tad up at foresthill but i think that was due to the scale being off a bit but didn't want to take a chance. making good time down to sandy bottom, we saw two runners who quickly stepped aside; flashing smile told me it was big cat. i was sad to him down, as i thought hal would win the race, but he and his pacer, josh were so encouraging as we scooted by. soon after, i noticed the heat was getting to julie and she was starting to tighten up a bit. it was pretty clear to me up to this point that we were moving much faster than my split card on this section, despite her keeping me in check and it was catching up. hitting the two lane dirt road near the river, she prodded me to move on and she would catch up to me while i was at the aid station. i hated to do it, but i moved away quickly. this section was totally exposed. i hiked all the climbs and moved smoothly on the downhills. i took a quick look back on the last climb and saw julie hanging in there and knew she would catch back up while i was on the scales and she could join me on the river crossing. i cannot describe how that descent into rucky chucky felt. the sun was up and i knew i was gonna get my daylight crossing that had eluded me in 2009. jumping on the scale, my weight was 1 pound under and i was stoked to see i was back on track. watermelon, salted potato, quick shot of coke i made my way down to the...boats?! shit. i had been looking forward to cooling off in the river and was sad to see the boat. julie caught up to me as i was getting in and i took to leaning over the edge and splashing. i saw dirty steve waiting on the other side as the boater seemed to be having trouble getting control of his rig. i was getting frustrated and entertained grabbing the oars and doing it myself before he finally got us turned the right way and made our way back to the volunteers waiting on the other side. i took my time getting out, submerging into the soaking hole near shore for a bit and made my up the bank into the aid station manned by my club members. they were stoked to see someone flying the tamalpa colors and let me know that as i arrived. as much as i wanted to stay, i was across the river and it was time to start thinking about chasing.
like most of the day, i used to climb to conserve. i ate, drank a coconut water and a bottle of recoverite while making my way up the climb. i "posed" for luis by running a short section but like the last section of cal st, this was mostly exposed and in the sun. i still had 25 to go, so i knew a few minutes up to green gate lost by not running shouldn't hurt. we saw several pacers and crew making their way down, including hutty, who was the jiz's pacer so i knew he was on track and possibly on the hunt. coming into the green gate aid station, i noticed a considerable change in attitude from years past when i had been here as a pacer. they made a point of welcoming myself and my pacers into the aid station and certainly put themselves up for "most improved" aid station at this years race. dirty steve was taking over as pacer, so we took the time beyond the gate to change out flasks, chomps and get my headlamp around my waist. whit and julie got me setup and ready for the next section to auburn lakes trail. the sun was still up and i checked out with dirty steve still of the mindset that i wanted to take it relaxed. it didn't take long to start catching folks. jorge and his pacer, brett were first and they were both very encouraging. i knew jorge was not having the day he wanted, but i was proud he was heading to auburn. he made the point of letting me know he would see me there. i told dirty steve i wanted to hammer for a few minutes in case jorge found his legs. you can never count anyone out. i told dirty my short term goal was to get to ALT aid station before i had to turn on my headlamps and we set about doing it. i felt great in this section. legs had plenty of dexterity for the few technical sections. i was tired, but felt good. 80 plus miles of racing, you take it as it comes. i had made a point of not asking what place i was in during the entire day and coming into ALT, as i asked for my drop bag, i asked if anyone knew what place i was in. i heard 18th, i heard 20th. i heard 7th. ok, fair enough. thanks. my weight was down another pound and they said it was 97 degrees at 9 o'clock. clicking on my headlamp, grabbing handful of potato's and a popsicle, i walked out chewing and told dirty i wanted to make sure i got the food down before we started running. a few bites of the lime popsicle made me gag, so chucked it and flushed with water. the potato's went down easy and we walked all the way until the turn onto the old wtc course and crossed a dry creek and started running. shortly after starting the run, the urge to pee came up again and had my most satisfying wiz of the entire race. color was good, volume was good. ok, lets go. moving towards browns bar, i told steve i wanted to keep the momentum we had kept going into ALT and we easily settled back into a rhythm. about 20 minutes into it, we saw headlamps snaking through the canyon in front of us. i wanted to reel them in quickly and picked it up. making contact with the tallest pacer i've ever seen, he stepped aside to reveal a kid i remembered from asheville standing there in his pearl izumi singlet. i remembered brandon for not only running races like black mountain marathon, but also for his famous crawl across the finish line at boston several years before. he'd come a long way since then and was still running well this late in the race. we made quick greetings and i stepped on the gas to put space between us. i knew in this section you can see lights in front of you for a long way and i wanted to get us out of sight pronto. it wasn't long before robert palmer started echoing through the canyons and i expected to see models with swimcap hairstyles wiggling next to the trail in the darkness. lots of beady eyes as we saw two or three foxes on several occasions that provided solid adrenaline bursts. robert palmer switched to foghat and i knew the lights and sounds of the rob cain and the rogue valley runners browns bar aid station was just around the corner. i knew they didn't have internet service so they wouldn't know who was coming and i wanted to surprise SLF. popping up the short climb through the christmas lights into the aid station, i could tell they didn't expect to see monkeyboy. big hug from rob and i set about getting fed. i asked how long had been since another runner had left and was told 10 minutes. i still didn't know what place i was for sure, but felt like 10 minutes was enough that i should keep moving with purpose. getting some soup with ice in it, two slices of watermelon and refilled bottles, i couldn't believe how nice the aid station now was. brightly lit. sober volunteers. friendly, enthusiastic workers. while green gate was improved, browns bar was, by far, the most improved of all the stops. what can you expect from a town that only a short while ago had upped it's cougar count from 3 to 4.
starting the descent out of browns, the lights started playing with me a little and i couldn't get into a rhythm. it felt awkward and i kicked several rocks on this section. catching myself, i took a few calming breaths and relaxed. smiled and cracked jokes with dirty steve about being trail smear. i knew i could open up the legs again once i hit the quarry road and made my way down the descent. popping out on the dirt road, i told dirty i wanted to keep momentum down the road until it flattened out and then settle in. i was tired and looking for those headlights. i saw none and settled into a slower rhythm than we'd had going into browns bar, but moving. it was 93 miles in, i guess the fatigue was catching up. i couldn't help but notice how it still felt warm and that the cool relief that usually comes from being near the river just wasn't there this year. clicking off my headlamp, i relied on dirty steve's torch and a waning moon to guide us along the quarry road. i hiked some climbs and ran the flats and downs and was surprised how quickly we got to the trail turnoff up to hwy 49. hitting the technical single track, my legs actually felt better and we were running. i ran/hiked/kept momentum up the climb and started to really feel my legs coming back. the change in how i was moving the legs felt good and i was feeling like i could start thinking about racing. hitting some familiar checkpoints on the climb it wasn't long before i started hearing cars and knew we'd be hitting the road crossing and last significant aid station/crew point during the race. I knew that getting through 49 means you can start smelling that barn a bit. flying into the aid station with traffic stopped as i moved quickly to the scale. i wanted to leave a good impression with the crews in case anyone was chasing me down. weight was down another pound. a quick bottle exchange and nuckles with whit, i noticed ajw's crew howling and screaming. having been a part of that crew for so many years, it was great to see how excited they were. shelly and those boys mean a great deal to me, putting a point on the sentiment that western states is truly family.
leaving 49, i got a report i was only 8 minutes behind yassine, but still no idea where i was overall. i dug down and ran most of the climb up to cool meadows, which was the first time all day i forced myself to run something i wanted to hike. the fatigue was setting in but i wanted to give myself a chance to race these folks and put away anyone who might be chasing. popping out in the meadow, it was a beautiful night. waning moon, lights of auburn but no headlamps in front. i saw a rider on horseback well off the trail and then when i looked back for it again, it was gone. so i nipped from my gel flask. sensing some mental fatigue i told dirty i wanted to really lay it down on the descent down to no hands and asked him to get in front for the first time. i thought a change in stimulus would refresh. steve set the perfect pace on the descent. getting into the trees, a few moths buzzed around my headlamp and right as i noticed it, one went right into my mouth. it flapped a bit and i started gagging immediately and vomited. steve heard me and stopped. i retched 3 or 4 times, emptying my stomach and started running. i went about another half mile or so and then told him i needed to stop and eat. i stood there fishing honey stinger bites out of my pockets and sipping water and steve suggested we start moving, slowly. i started jogging, then running, slowly picking up the pace and within sight of the bridge, i started to feel like i had earlier in the race. hitting the bridge, i was disappointed to see how much time i had taken to get down there, but was happy to be back on track. two cups of 7-up while walking across the bridge to put in some quick, easy calories i lost puking back in and i told dirty we'd be running when we left the bridge. there were no lights behind us or in front of us and it was strangely quiet running along next to the river with only the rhythmic scratching of our feet on the dirt and bobbing of steve's torch. it was a ritual that so many had shared before and i was instantly emotionally grateful to be in this position. it was starting to hit me, where i was from 3 months ago to where i was on this day and all the people who had taken time to be there for me. i knew i wouldn't have much time to myself once i got close to robie, so i thanked steve for the day and everything he had done. steve had offered to support me early in december and stuck with me through injury. i was proud to be sharing the trail with him...but we were not done. leaving the quarry double track and onto the single track climb, i started feeling good. i saw lights from houses overhead and moved off the single track and through the intersection prompting me up to robie point. i was running this entire climb and a volunteer made his way down to me asking what i wanted. i asked for sprite and nearing the gate near the aid station, it was here that i was told i was 11th male and that karl had left about 10 minutes earlier looking "horrible" and barely moving with shot legs. my entire crew; whit, julie and carey had all come down to robie to join me but i couldn't explain to them how that news changed how i was feeling. i moved into one of the quickest hiking paces i have ever had up the first part of the pavement and felt my crew melting behind me. looking at my watch, i told carey out loud "i think i can break 19" to which he replied "is that a question?" and i knew his answer was the statement i needed.
jim howard told a story at jimfest about getting to hwy 49 and all the pain going away from his legs when he ran his unreal 58 minutes split from 49 to the finish in 1983 catching jim king just before the white bridge to win the race. the feeling in my legs as carey and i were running up the hill to the mile to go sign was exactly what jim howard described. the party at the mile to go sign was pandemonium! i saw tyler curley and tyler curley's beard leading a throng of drunks, gypsy's, stock brokers and cowgirls into a massive frenzy urging us to the finish. i heard the words..."karls walking". i didn't know two words could draw anymore excitement and energy out of me, but i was wrong. i was flying. bottles empty, running tangents, right down the middle of the road. i was going so well that cars pulled over to let us by. i meant business and a mile of being selfish was fine by me. moving up the street, carey set an awesome pace. popping up the small rise and making the left turn down towards the white bridge my eyes scanned for any sign of a runner. i knew karl would be sans pacer so i didn't want to miss him. i cut off my headlamp to go stealth and couldn't get down finley street fast enough. a car pulled over and yelled "go, scott!" out the window. approaching the stadium, i heard cheers and the baritone sounds of tropical john and i knew i had run out of race course to make the catch. i quickly thanked carey for his help and waved to a few outside spectators and entered the stadium and onto the track. for a short time i was alone on the back stretch and i couldn't contain the smile. hearing the words "monkeyboy" wafting across the auburn night from the microphone of tropical john and i let out a full laugh at how absurd our sport is. making the final turn and seeing LB waiting, medal in hand, was a very satisfying completion to my day. 18:55:51 and a finish before midnight. hugs, handshakes. photos. the final scale of the day.
|greeted by the new rd :-) (photo by irunfar)|
|first tamalpan (photo by cindy goh)|
|brother meriwether (photo by larry gassan)|
|dirty steve, carey and julie (photo by larry gassan)|
top: tamalpa wicked lite shirt by mountain hardwear, modified for hillbilly cooling techniques
shorts: custom patagonia strider pro shorts
shoes: montrail fluidbalance
socks: injinji run 2.0 lightweight mini-crew/black
hat: patagonia 5 panel duckbill mesh cap/white (0-78)
headlamp: black diamond spot
accessories: ice bandana x 2, traser p6500 type 6 watch
hydration: mix of nathan,ultimate direction bottles and handhelds. one with gu brew/roctane, one with water until the river crossing, then went to water in both bottles.
powergels in a flask, honey stinger organic energy chews, coconut water mixed with hammer recoverite. I took 9 s-caps the entire day. i also ate boiled potato's dipped in salt, twizzlers and watermelons and drank mountain dew and 7-Up at every aid station. i was able to digest all of this by balancing out my stomach potassium with coconut water.
|see you in 2014 (thanks, dirty steve)|