Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run 2012
|Elevation||+18,090 feet / -22,970 feet|
|Rank||119 of 389|
|GPS Analysis||Garmin Connect|
If I was perfect, then this would be easy...
I went to bed the night before the race pretty calmly and slept very soundly. I awoke on my own about 30 minutes before my alarm clock. I felt ready to race. Spent a lot of time slowly eating some breakfast while putting each piece of gear on just right. All in preparation for what was going to be the 2nd coldest WS100 in history.
Glenn, Natalee, Eric and Angela accompanied me to the start line in the village for the 5 AM start. We arrived and checked in and got my bib and chip. Natalee and I spent several minutes folding and positioning the bib just right. This all probably looks and is very anal but it was just a way to keep busy and feel like you had done everything you could do prior to the start. We hung out in this building with all the other runners staying warm until it was just minutes before the race.
Outside, everything was still dark but you could see that the sunrise would be soon in the east. Music was playing and everything was a buzz. DJ AJW was in charge.
Oddly, there was no real countdown or announcement. There wasn't even a star spangled banner. A voice came on with a minute or so to go and said such. Then the runners counted down around 10 seconds to go until 0 and we started filing out. I very purposely stayed in the back of this pack as to have the slowest time out of the gate to reverse my fate from my last 100 mile outing. You can't go out too fast when you are nearly last out the gate.
Start to Red Star Ridge
We started making our way up the Squaw Valley ski slopes via a crushed gravel and dirt road. This road would take us pretty much to the top of the high point of the race. It was a bit anticlimactic for being the big climb of the day. Everybody was just walking and talking. I am not much for conversation in races so I started a moderate power hike and just focused on the climb. I wanted to regain some of that ground I lost at the start without breaking a sweat. Maybe 2 miles up I stopped passing people and finally was in the mix with people traveling around the same speed and felt at home there.
This is when things started to suck a bit. The weather just flipped on us. Things went from nice and calm to hella breezy. We were getting huge noisy gusts of wind that were blowing rocks and dust everywhere. Not fun but just a small distraction. We breezed right through the first aid station called Escarpment and moved on. I was just in a singlet with arm warmers so I was a bit on the edge of cold. It was tolerable though. I heard it was 33 up top. I thought this aid station was the top but we had to do a little more up and then a rock scramble to get to the final top. The scene looked like one out of Lord of the Rings. Everything was fogged out. We were being hailed on. The black rocks looked wet and difficult to climb. The fun begins.
After topping out there, we dropped down the backside and found some single track. The winds were not blowing this way. Fog was still everywhere so you couldn't see very far. No lake views at all. The trails were moist from the rains. I needed to find my groove.
We entered Granite Chief Wilderness which sounded like a cool part of the trail. But I found it to suck. Lot of oddly placed upright rock. Lots of runoff coming down the trail. Lots of mud. Goes with the territory but I had hoped to keep my feet dry for at least a few miles today! For whatever reason, I just wasn't moving well and the rocks and I were not getting along. I was moving along and made one innocent left foot plant and twisted my ankle fiercely. Pulled off and kept hobbling along while runners whizzed by. I was pissed at myself for allowing it to happen. Dial it in! Got it loosened back up and started moving again with much more focus. Within minutes, I did it again. Boy was I pissed. It only takes a couple nasty weight loaded foot plants like that to ruin your day. I felt like the dream was in jeopardy. But I got it together and the ankle came back around and we moved through that section with no further issues.
Many portions of the race are kind of a blur to me. The terrain was either unremarkable or similar to another portion of the trail so it blends together. But through these next few spots I think I gained some momentum and a bit of a groove. The weather was not the greatest. My shirt was soaked. My hair was totally wet. Water was dripping off the corner of my iPod. What happened to that hot California race I was promised?
As we continued on, I felt like I was gaining spots. Turns out I picked up 12 in this area. I was running all the ups. They were runnable stuff. Just windy ups and I was passing many just hiking them. I didn't feel ready to use that gear yet.
Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon
I was excited that I had a drop bag here at Red Star Ridge. I reloaded on gels and changed socks. Nobody else was really stopping much while I was there but it took me a few minutes and I probably gave back all those gains. But I figured some dry socks might help out so I did it out of comfort and just to reset. I had eaten all but one of my planned gel block sticks through that first section. Felt decent about that. I had eaten more than expected off the aid station table so that was the trade-off. I was gravitating towards the bananas big time. After eating all that gel sugar, the bananas were re-coating my mouth with a more basic taste.
Upon leaving Red Star, I noticed a sign showing the mileage facts like distance to here, distance to next, time if 24 hour pace, time if 30 hour pace, etc. This was great. I was going to have to dig out my little pace chart thingy but my gloves were soaked and my hands were numb. This was better. I recall being like 2 minutes over and I thought that wasn't bad so far given my slow starting line launch. Think I am right on pace as planned.
Blur....as I came into Duncan Canyon I think I looked cold and wet. I didn't feel too bad though. Probably just focused. Each aid station seemed to have the same protocol. Volunteers were lined up and as a runner came in, the next volunteer was assigned to you. They took your bottles and filled them. Then they were good about trying to shove food into you. The girl had soup ready and I pounded that. I had her get me bananas. This might have been her first day on the job here. I told her to peal the banana and shove it in my mouth. She did with an odd look. Then I had her go into my shorts and retrieve my S-cap (salt capsules) baggie. She did and opened. I had her put 2 in the palm of her hand. Then I proceeded to just eat them right off her hand to which she says, "I will never forget this." Thanks! My hands were ice cubes and so I said thanks and ran off to try and build body heat.
Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat
Just as I left the aid station, I caught the pace sign and saw the 24 hour time. I think I was 5 minutes over time. Now, I have a whole day to make this up of course but I was not rational about it. I got pissed off. I started crying. Mentally, I thought I was executing the plan but the plan is NOT WORKING. I am losing time! This sucks. Why is this so hard? What did I do wrong? Did I not train hard enough? What is your major malfunction? It was a good little piece of emotion that lasted about a minute and set me off on a path to try and make that back up and finish what I started.
I was really excited to get Robinson Flat to see my crew for the first time. This was about 30 miles in after 6 hours of running. In Leadville, I would have seen them 3 times by now. So I was excited to make the turn in the pouring rain and see them yelling and hooting at me. I went and did my aid station checkin business. They weighed me and I was just down 1 pound from pre-race weight. I quickly ran to my crew who had a poncho thrown down in the dirt as a seat for me. I changed socks again. I was spoon fed my rice meal. We talked and caught up. I got on a dry shirt and they gave me my jacket as a rain deflector. It was a good stop and it helped get me warmed up.
Robinson Flat to Miller's Defeat
I lost 24 places in about 5 miles. Why? I had to take a dump. Yeah. This was the first and only dump of the day. I took time with it and made it count. Some combination of all the things I did right pre-race had paid off. It cost time but I figured everybody probably stops once.
Miller's Defeat to Devil's Thumb
This is where we started getting into the canyons. Pretty much constantly descending to some type of watery bottom the climbing up the other side. Figured these wouldn't be too bad. But I wasn't killing the downs. The rocks and I just weren't getting in sync and I didn't seem to be floating downhill today. I was passed more than I would have liked. However, once we hit the ascending side of the canyon, I put my skills to work. I would tuck my bottle in, hands on knees, head down, and push. I would regain the positions I had lost on the descent. Other runners I passed looked like I used to. Sort of this tired zombie march uphill. It was exciting to have a key improvement pay off. The numbers showed it too. One aid station had me about 5 minutes behind on my 24 hour pace. But then when I came into Devil's Thumb, I was 15 minutes ahead of pace! I thought to myself....I wish this race was all uphill!
Devil's Thumb to Michigan Bluff
I probably should have stayed at Devil's Thumb but I don't think I stopped moving. My foot hurt. Somewhere in the climb a blister on my right big toe developed. I had to position my foot just right in my shoe to take the pressure off of it. Maybe I should have just dealt with it but I knew my crew would have a change of socks, shoes and a blister kit at my next stop so push on. I didn't roll too well through this next section because of it.
I came down the road into Michigan Bluff and saw Kim and Eric waiting on me. It had been hours and I was glad to see them and take what ended up being my longest pit stop of the day. I was able to sit and towel off. Kim had been reading the blister guide so she was ready to operate. However, after one poke of the needle I took control of that part of the process. Then let her do the rest. Decided to go with the Injinji socks and the Hokas from this point. My feet hurt and I figured this would be a whole new sensation. Plus, if it wasn't working I could swap back out at Foresthill. I ate a bunch of food. Got my watch charger. Dropped the coat and shirt I had been carrying since Robinson Flat (god). This was my longest and probably best stop of the day. I wish it could have been at Foresthill with the family as planned but I needed it early.
Michigan Bluff to Bath Road
It was a slow crawl out of there trying to get my legs moving a bit and getting used to being in high heels. The trail was this windy dirt road and it wasn't too exciting so I just fast walked it. Any uphill was putting pressure on my big toenail on the left side. The top of the shoe was bending down and tapping on my toenail. This isn't going to be good I thought to myself.
Just a bit later, I hiked up to find Glenn standing at the gate onto Bath Road. He was perky and ready to run. But there was no running up that road. I was power hiking while he scampered back and forth taking photos and cheering me on and telling everyone spectating my name. If I ever had a cheerleader, its Glenn.
Bath Road to Foresthill
We jogged down through Foresthill as Glenn gave me the lowdown on what to expect up ahead. I knew the whole family was there so that was exciting. But I was at some sort of energy low. It was 7PM and I just felt like I was tired of moving. I did my weigh in and fought off the aid station volunteers as Tim picked me up for the jog down to the crew. Its quite a long stretch of road with crews everywhere. Plenty of room to spread out for once.
I pulled in and greeted the kids, my parents, my wife, and all. The "working crew" and I got our business done and then it was just standing around time. We took a few photos but I could see Tim anxious to get going. Every minute spent here was a minute we had to make up on the trail. I knew it too but I wanted to pull energy from the moment.
Foresthill to Cal Street
As Tim and I were about to peel off the pavement to return to the trail, a gentleman comes out of his truck and tells us something like "keep moving...use that daylight". It was none other than Tim Twietmeyer, 25 (yes 25) time sub-24 hour finisher of this race. I merely said, "Your Tim, right?". "Yes", he said. "Legend", I replied.
I wasn't really sure what to expect on Cal Street. I hadn't quite got my mojo back. Tim and I talked a bit as I wanted to hear a bit about leaders and such to get some motivation from that. Tim started quizzing me on my eating. I hadn't been the best eater but this was the best I had ever eaten in a race. I was getting most of my blocks down before reloading. I was eating real food at the aid stations. My stomach was good all day. Probably just more tired of eating. I was looking forward to that point where you can safely stop eating because you are close enough to the finish. But clearly that was not now and Tim reminded me of it. I probably would have finally bonked if left alone.
But we kept moving mostly. We caught up with some other runners Tim knew and the conversation kind of took my mind off the clock, the pace, the race, whatever. After running with music and mostly alone for 14 hours, it was good to have humans around to listen to. So I started zoning out and it helped me regain. The night was starting to creep in too. Of course, its nice to run in light but the night can bring new excitement and a break from the glaring sun. So we got out our headlamps at one of the Cal aid stations. I had my new handheld Mag light ready to go too. I hadn't tried it out in practice which was a no-no but that left some excitement for a new toy on the trail.
Tim also had me take 2 IBs at that point. I can't say I ever have in a race before. You get spooked out of using them through article and other medical director talks. But I felt on my game today and thought I could give it a shot. Tim was confident that my legs would ease up in no time with these in me.
Cal Street to Rucky Chucky
Some combination of the night, the IBs, more fuel, and the pacer got me moving a little more swiftly again through this section. We were not burning up the landscape but we were moving nicely. I had a big smile at one point because I knew that I had never run at this point in a 100 so swiftly before. We started to reel in other groups. We just rolled up on them and blew by when they let us. We started finding a little bit of carnage. Runners sitting off the trail with head in hands while pacers stared off into the distance wondering what the hell to do now. I said in passing, "Been there. It sucks." But not today. We hit a few small ups through this section and I was hiking them well. I thinking I was even talking to Tim during them. He smartly took my conversation as a sign that I had more to give. I wasn't smart enough to communicate that but he was smart enough to pick up on it. There is a tradeoff though that the talking does help pass the time and zone you out a bit. Dull silent running eventually wears thin.
We had been hearing the river down below but could not see it. Then out of nowhere we saw lights down on the water. Lights across the water. Lights in front. The famous Rucky Chucky crossing. It was time to get wet. I stopped at the aid station to get a little food to chew for the crossing. Then the volunteer escorted me riverside and told me the water is up to here...as he pointed to the spot between my belly button and nipples. What? That high. That's fun and all but I sort of expected getting my shoes wet...not my shorts and shirt. So I took my pack and strapped it around my neck and went in.
There are volunteers in the water in waders and wetsuits all along the cable which is stretched across the river. There was no flow to wrestle with. Just big slick rocks and a slower runner in front of me. I was just cruising across and enjoying the water. It wasn't bad at all.
Rucky Chucky to Green Gate
I had been watching those blasted pace charts all through Cal Street and we were just minutes off of them all the time. But at Rucky Chucky and Green Gate, the statistics finally went my way. I knew at some point I had to make up a big chunk of time. Those times are based on some combination of smart runners and runners that blew up. So I was waiting for a time gain and we finally got it. 30 minutes under! Bam. That took a load off right there. I celebrated a bit on the Rucky Chucky far side by joking at the aid station with volunteers for the first time all day. But it was time to make more time.
I quickly headed out on the 2 mile hike up to Green Gate. Natalee and Glenn were supposed to meet us at the river but they were not present so we went on without them. We dropped that time and they hadn't factored that in. I knew we would see them on the way up though. A few curves later I saw a flashing light and said to Tim and outloud, "There is my family!" Tim thought I was nuts. Natalee and Glenn blew passed us as I yelled at them again to turn around and follow their runner. Shit! They did a 180 and fell in line with us. We all hiked hard and talked the whole way up. I was as strong as I had been all day. Glenn and Natalee were breaking a sweat hiking up that thing. I felt bad that they missed the river but we had a job to do. We rolled into Green Gate and they went into crew mode with "what do you need?". They had it all. I asked for one stick of gels and that was it. No shoe change? No warm clothes? Nothing, guys. We are rolling out.
Green Gate to Highway 49
This part of the trail seemed so boring. It was singletrack through constant non-descript brush winding through hills that I can't see in the dark. It started to suck. I complained many times. It felt like we were going in circles. I think I dropped to the walk a few times in here just because. I was doing math in my head constantly and I kept whittling things down. Miles left over time left. It was things like...I just need to run a X hour 50K, then it become an X hour marathon, to an X hour 1/2 marathon. The paces started getting down to just having to told 4 miles per hour and I had this thing locked in. That was the ultimate goal and I didn't want to sacrifice it. A twisted ankle would ruin everything I told myself. But I ran here and there. Tim would give me some walk time and then start running again. I usually followed suit.
It was getting late into the night but I knew I had one more good crew stop at Highway 49. I could hear cars miles before and that was exciting. I hadn't seen pavement since 5 AM. I hadn't seen a moving car on a road either. Signs and sounds of civilization started to appear. As exciting as it is to run remote all day, its pretty cool to come back to where people are. As we got into Highway 49, I heard them announce my name and hear cheers from my crew. We crossed the highway under police traffic assistance. We made it to the last major aid station of the day.
Highway 49 to No Hands Bridge
As we left 49, my legs stiffened up a lot. I was super gimpy on anything downhills now. I had to watch my step and take some of them slow. I was hiking uphill OK though. My legs were just cooked and given our time and pace I wasn't in any jeopardy so I just went with what I had. Tim stopped cracking the whip a bit at that point. Even though we were ahead of goal pace, he kept pushing me. More buffer is always better. But now we had enough to hit the goal so things slowed down. When we got to the bridge, it was lit up with Christmas lights and they were playing a movie (Unbreakable?) on projection screen up over the bridge. Cool stuff. Tim and I walked across the bridge taking it all in.
No Hands Bridge to Robie Point
The miles were really ticking down. I started looking up on the hillside for the exit from this winding canyon we were in. Finally, I was able to see some crazy lights in the distance. We started hearing music. We started hearing yelling. Robie Point was just up the hill. One more set of switchbacks on the day and I would leave the dusty WS100 trail behind. I took a moment to thank Tim for his energy, sacrifice and knowledge while we had a moment before things got more interesting.
Robie Point to Placer High School
We popped out at the aid station and we didn't stop. There was a hike up the road. We kept moving and saw a street party in the distance. As we approached, Glenn and Natalee came out yelling and joined us for the final miles to the legendary track. The roads in Auburn were dark and pretty silent. I am not even sure if left alone I could have found my way to the finish. The track is buried in trees and you can't even see the lights in the stadium until you are next to it. Everyone was giving me accolades and I appreciated them all. I was able to hold a nice little pace and run those last miles.
We popped into the track through a back gate. The stadium is much more empty than when you watch those videos of the winners. Its the middle of the night and I am the only one on the track that I can see. I made my way around and my pacers veered off as instructed. I didn't shed a tear or have any emotions really like in previous 100s. I simply ran until I cross the mat under the arch and heard the beeps. Then I stopped running. Mission accomplished.
Everyone came out to greet me on the field. I was tired but felt OK. I was glad to be done moving. But Tim was the one that looked like he ran 100 miles.
We took some photos and then decided that we ought to get out of there. We walked to the car and made the drive back up I-80 to our house at Squaw Valley. It was sort of a quiet yet surreal car ride. Like 70 miles straight up the interstate up and over Donner Pass. The sunrise was just starting in the east. I started a day ago and ran all the way down there only to get in a car and drive back to where I came from. Just felt odd.
I got home, showered, and laid down. No celebration. Everyone was tired once they let their bodies relax.
Around 11 AM we had to drive back to Auburn to go to awards to pick up the buckle. You can have it shipped but its hard to go home empty handed. So we made the trip and sat through the long ceremony until I got to go up in the 23 hour group to get my buckle. Saw all my Colorado buddies there and was able to chat with them about their races. I felt good about mine so it was fun to be there. Plus, I felt like it was the closing to the experience for the newer members of my crew.
The real reason for me wanting to go to awards? Cause of the post-ceremony meal.
My man, Eric, slugged the camera around all day and captured a bunch of video that I edited together. Its mostly aid station footage of course but if you haven't been there before, this might be fun stuff to watch.
More photos from this event on Flickr.
I can't say enough about my crew for this race. They were spot on. They were everywhere they could be. They had everything I needed. They were anticipating my moves. They were ready. And I think they had fun. While I earned that buckle running that distance on my own 2 feet, I wouldn't have wanted to do it without them.
Natalee - For being totally fired up as always and getting into each of my races like none other. Its been fun to share this adult passion with my little sister.
Glenn - For coming out to his first ultra and putting his big brain and his love of running right into the deal. We were a better team for having him along.
Eric and Angela - For making the trip to see what the fuss is all about. We have gotten to know each other a lot over the last year and it was really great to spend time with you guys and share what I do with you.
Mom and Dad - I was glad that they traveled out to see the race and get a taste of the ultra scene. Maybe my Mom will stop crying now when she sees me race. Maybe my Dad will stop saying how this is an impossible feat. After all these years, its still fun to prove your parents wrong!
Kim - Thanks for allowing me to chase this dream and share it with everyone. I realize sometimes the sacrifices suck and it seems like "he is never home" but when I am out there running that race one of my major motivations is always getting back to you guys. I just have to be sure to cross the finish line before I do.
I can't thank Tim enough for coming out to share that race with me and help me. When Leadville didn't go as I had planned last year, he told me back at my house that he would pace me for Leadville 2012 and get me there. I took that to heart. So then when Western came around and my situation changed with JP, the logical choice was to ask Tim to help me here instead of in Leadville. He kept his word and got me to the finish in goal time.
I had simple goals for this race and I accomplished them. I changed 3 things in my training to prepare. 1) Slower miles; 2) More hiking; 3) Nutrition practice.
I wanted to come back from my Leadville 2011 DNF and finish another 100 miler. Check.
I wanted to achieve big buckle status at this race -- which meant their silver buckle in a sub-24 hour finish. Check.
I finally wanted to have a good ultramarathon run. Check?
So what can I bitch about? Frankly, I didn't eat as good as I could have. I was sort of shocked that it wasn't a bad day so I didn't have the foresight to push things harder. Instead I kept things calm and even and set out to finish what I set out to do. This was exactly the feeling that I had at Boston. I am bothered about what I left on the table. Weird. But I got the finish I wanted before the race started. I also was a little flustered early on that the sub-24 pace was a touch faster than I was running. I thought I would have wiggle room early and just blow those splits open even with nice pacing. But it didn't happen. I was working a bit more than I had hoped to. That bothers me.
I have about 2 months until Leadville. There is time for a short specific training cycle in there. I am excited to return to where my heart is and complete the original goal. Western is nice. But its no Leadville. I have one more 100 miler in me. And I want to finish it like never before.
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