When I found out I got into Western States, I was super pumped. I was watching the drawing live and stood up and shouted when my name was called. PUMPED! I immediately opened up my calendar and spreadsheet and started putting together my 18 week training plan. In it, I would include a marathon, a 50k, and a 50M race in Colorado.
Everything was going according to plan. I was feeling strong and well prepared when 9 weeks in I was running the roads in my home city and stepped in a hole in the grass section between the road and the sidewalk and heard/felt a “POP” in my ankle. Ugh! I continued my run with a slight limp and was pretty concerned. I was able to continue my training mileage on flat surfaces for the next month or so and it seemed to be getting better. My big test on the ankle would come almost 4 weeks later running the North Fork 50M in Colorado. I ran the race conservatively and really enjoyed it. I ended up placing 7th with a time of 8:39:35 and feeling great. Thank God!
The other challenge started shortly after turning my ankle. I started feeling this weird burning pain and numbness in my right butt cheek and partially down my hamstring. SCIATICA! Ugh...for the first time in my life. It didn’t bother me much while walking around, but hurt like crazy when I was sitting down. I visited Dr. Barnes at Tensegrity Chiropractic a few times and he made some adjustments gave me some exercises to do. Man...these setbacks sure mess with your brain. When I ran the North Fork 50M in Colorado, it didn’t bother me too much except when power hiking the climbs. Not good since I would be power hiking many climbs during WSER.
Well, I completed all the training mileage on my plan and before I knew it, it was race week! Jen and I flew to Reno on Thursday and drove to Squaw Valley for the crewing seminar. This turned out to be a big help for us. Lots of insight for Jen and myself. We met lots of people we previously only knew online and enjoyed taking it all in. That night we would meet with the other Altra Team Members for a meal and some time of hanging out. We had a great time visiting and tried not to fanboy too bad with all of the elites. I ended up visiting with Dave Makey whose inspiring story I had read and was really impressed with. (You can watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1988521444777268) He was a quiet and soft spoken. This was going to be his first Western States since the accident and subsequent amputation. We finished up that night, returned to our room and tried to get a good night’s sleep.
On Friday, I got up and got my 2 mile streak/shakeout run in before heading to Squaw Valley to do runner check-in while Jen stayed behind to do some work. I met up with my friend Jeremy from Oklahoma who was there to help crew and pace another runner. After a visit with him and a few other people, I headed back to the room for lunch and a nap before the mandatory runner pre-race meeting. Jen and I got the pre-race meeting done, met with Camille Herron(if you don’t know who she is, google her records) and her husband and took a picture together as the only 2 runners out of Oklahoma. She was genuinely sweet and Jen and I had a great visit with her. Then, it was back to the room for supper, race equipment check, and an early bed time to sleep….or lay there and try to sleep….
2:30AM - Wake up! The race started at 5AM. Runners had to check in between 4 and 4:50 and it was a 30 minute drive from our condo. 2:30 came quickly and I didn’t sleep all that well due to excitement and nerves. I had my coffee, turkey sandwich, and poweraid. I took a shower, shaved, lubed up potential chafe areas, prepped my feet, and got dressed to go. Jen got up at 3 and got ready for her long day. She was geared up for an all day affair of driving and waiting hours for her needy husband at remote aid stations for 5 minutes before he ran off again…. rinse repeat.
We arrived at the race start, checked in and waited. My nerves! I was ready, but nervous. We sat down for me to put my bib next to a tall dude with a mustache. Turns out it was Matt Daniels, the first sub 4 miler to do this thing. He was super cool and we had a good visit with him and Joshua, his crew captain/pacer (he ended up taking 4th place in his first 100!)
Jen and I prayed together, then went to line up at the start. It was much cooler than normal and everyone was excited. I found myself a spot toward the back of the crowd. We listened to a few inspirational words, counted down with 10 seconds to go and took off! Well, we ran about 50 yards and started power hiking up 4 miles to the Escarpment. We ran a few short flats, but this was mostly a grinding upward march to the top. After a couple miles, we hit snow. There would be about 10 miles of it. I’ve never run in snow. It was hard on top, mostly. That was good and bad. Good because we didn’t sink, bad because our feet would contort and ankles turn to the ruts or existing footprints that were left in the snow. The high country would be a game of “find the flag” and “stay upright in the snow”. I was using muscles in my legs that I was not accustomed to using while slipping and sliding up and down the snow mounds. This would bite me later. It was fun though! 🙂
The first aid station was a stop at 10 miles in, Lyon Ridge. I refilled my bottles real quick and continued on. Everything was fine at this point. I spent some time running and visiting with Dave Makey on and off early on. He was beast on the uphills and would pull away. I’d catch and pass him on the downhills. This guy was killing it even though he was using a prosthesis below the knee on his left leg. At mile 20, a cramp in my left hamstring stopped me dead in my tracks. I stretched it and tried to continue on a few times without success. “This is too early to be having these issues!” Quite a few runners passed me while I stood on the edge of the trail stretching my hammy. Ugh!! I took a few licks of my Base salt and hydrated more while I stretched. After about 5 minutes, I was able to continue carefully. I dialed back my effort for the next few miles to make sure all was well.
The first time I would see Jen would be at mile 30.3 at the Robinson Flat aid station. There, I would change my shoes as we had crossed a few creeks, some thigh high. I started off wearing my fresh pair of Altra Timp 1.5. They were great in the ice and snow. I would change into my trusty Altra Lone Peak 4.0 for the rest of the race. They are a great balance of cushion, ground feel, and protection. Duncan Canyon was right before Robinson Flatt which meant a gnarly climb. At the Crewing seminar, crews were warned that whereas at other races, aid stations are at the bottom of easy downhills, Western states put their crewed aid stations at the top of steep climbs. The warning was, “your runner will look rough, be prepared.” Well, Jen is used to seeing me come into aid stations all smiles and positive, happy, and ready to go. This day was not that day! I was really happy to see her, but I was feeling less than ecstatic. I actually took a few minutes to sit in the chair and fight cramps while I changed my shoes and socks. We went over all I would need until I saw her again in 25 miles. I loaded my pack and headed out for the next 2 canyons.
2 More Canyons
I cruised along, taking in as much of the scenery as I could without falling. SO. MANY. ROCKS. I ran over pointed rocks, round rocks, flat rocks, rocks that moved under my feet, rocks that stayed put when I kicked them. All the rocks. I stayed upright until shortly after I left Jen at the Robinson Flat. We ran down a nice easy gravel road. I took time to look around since the footing was easy and ended up eating trail pretty hard. I fall on my right hip/butt in the rocks. I sat for a second laughing at myself and mad at the same time. I remember looking ahead at Dave Mackey and hoping he hadn’t seen that graceful display. I don’t think he saw….good! I got up, surveyed the damage and continued on my run. Thankfully, nothing hindered my running from the fall for the rest of the run. Here I sit, almost a week out and I still have the road rash and big bruise on my tush.
We made our way into the next canyon after Last Chance aid station. Thankfully, it was overcast and the oppressive heat that is usually the case in this area wasn’t an issue. I cruised along into the bottom of the canyon, then the climb started. HO-LY SMOKES!!! Two words: DEVIL’S THUMB. Slowest miles ever! This sucker was so steep and relentless. For over 2 miles we would take slow, methodical steps. We could hear each other’s heavy breathing up this crazy steep ascent. I could not imagine tackling this climb in the 106 degree heat from the previous year. I took a few minutes at the Devil’s Thumb aid station at the top to regroup. THEY HAD POPSICLES! I was so excited. I took my popsicle and ran with it. That gave me a big boost.
The final canyon was tough, but knowing that it was the last one and that once it was done, knowing I’d see Jen made it a little more bearable. I finally made it through and made it to Jen at mile 55, Michigan Bluff. I would see her again in just over 6 miles (Mile 62) in Forest Hill. We kept this visit short. By this point, I was getting cold water poured over my head at all of the aid stations and getting shots of Mountain Dew for a little boost. My base nutrition was mainly eFuel in my bottles (about 210 calories/hr). I was also eating watermelon at most aid stations. I saw Jen again at Forest Hill. This area was kind of cool as it was in a small town. People were hanging out cheering. Some of the were regular people from the town, others were crews waiting for their runners. It was really cool. At this point, many people would be picking up pacers. Not me though. I had a few offers, but we decided that I would just do my thing on this race. Jen helped me reload my pack and clear my foggy head. I got a kiss, and started on my way again. I would see her again in 16 miles, at Rucky Chucky, mile 78 where I would get a boat ride.
I honestly don’t remember much of the next miles and aid stations. Every aid station was great. One person would meet me, ask me what I needed, fill my bottles, and make sure I was good before moving on to the next runner. Top notch for sure. Even met a guy who looked down at my bib and said, “334?? That was my number last year!” I said, “Well, how’d you do?” He said, “Sub 24 baby!” I told him I was going to keep the streak alive if I could! At this point I was about an hour ahead of 24 hour pace and hadn’t crashed and burned yet!
I met Jen again at Rucky Chucky where I drank most of at Starbucks cold coffee for the caffeine and calories. It went down nicely. After a short chair break, I got up, kissed my honey, and headed down to the boat. They buckled me into a life jacket and I painfully climbed into the raft with a few other runners. We joked around and enjoyed getting to just sit and ride for a few minutes. The ride ended quickly and we had another climb waiting for us. It was another slow grinding climb to green gate.
So, let me say this. Everyone was giving the following advice: “Be conservative until mile 62. After that it’s all very runnable.” That’s what I heard anyway. To that advice, I say, “BULL!” The long bad climbs were over with, but there were still some frequent, stupid climbs that needed to be tackled. Every time I came to one of these, I was like, “Runnable my foot!” Then I’d just laugh and power hike as fast as I could. At some point along the way, I ended up running with a pacer and his runner behind me. It was dark so I couldn’t see them, just their lights. A few times, I said, “let me know if you need to pass.” He said, “We are good, man. Like your pace.” A few miles later I realized that the pacer was Ben Light, a fellow Altra guy who I had conversed with on social media, but never met in person. We ended up talking and visiting while we were running. Then his runner said something and had an Australian accent that sounded familiar. I introduced myself and he said, his name was “Dion”. I said, “Dion that I ran with at Tahoe? Finding Gobi Dion?” He said, yeah and realized who I was. Small world! We reminisced about Tahoe which passed a good bit of time. I really enjoyed their company for the next few miles. I ended up losing them after an aid station when I went into the port a potty and they hit the trail.
I kept pushing along. Enjoying the flats, grinding the climbs, and managing the downhills. By this time, most of the downhills hurt. My quads were so sore. I was keeping steady and passing runners as I had been since the canyons. I would drink Mountain Dew and chicken broth with noodles or rice at each aid station. I met with Jen one last time at mile 94.3, Pointed Rocks aid station. I finished my coffee. She gave me a pep talk and said, “Finish this thing!” I, once again, got my kiss and ran off into the dark. The next cool memory was No Hands Bridge. It was all decorated with christmas lights. This was mile 96.4. So close to the finish! There would be one more ridiculous climb that was difficult with so many tough miles on my legs. I could smell the finish now though and moved steadily, running as much as I could. I took a quick shot of Mountain Dew at Robie Point and ran hard. Then I was on pavement! Then into town! It was almost 3:30 am and a few people were still out. It was really hard to tell where I was supposed to run. Then I found the small markings on the road itself that said, “WS100”. Funny, this was the hardest point to find the course, the last mile. Anyway, I crossed a short bridge, ran a short space, and I was on the track! I heard them announcing my name! I ran hard. I don’t walk through finish lines! I ran with what I had left. I saw my time, 22:29:10.....11.....12.....13....14.....15....16...I pointed up in the air to give glory to God as I crossed the finish! I was a Western States 100 silver buckle finisher!!!! I was so excited….and exhausted! I got my finisher medal and Jen met me for a finisher kiss! Richard, who manages our Altra Red team, came and gave me a congratulatory high five and hug! I was excited, tired, and relieved to have gotten it done!
Now, Jen and I would get food, a nap, more food, more of a nap before the awards ceremony.
This was a TOUGH 100 mile race for this flatlander, but I got it done. I learned more about what I would do differently to prepare if I ran this race again, but I also learned that even when I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be, I can still dig deep and find a way to get it done. Jen and I debriefed in the days that followed. She commented again on me being “less than happy” at the aid stations and that was new for her to observe. Honestly, I didn’t realize there was that much of a contrast in my contenance. We recalled at the crewing training that they told us the crewed aid stations were after gnarly climbs. I was still in my “holy crap that was hard and I think I’m kind of dying” mood with no recovery time before the aid station. That was the difference! Funny now.
First of all, Glory to God that He's given me the ability to do these things. My hope is that people realize the potential He's placed in all of us. It may not be to run 100 miles, but He's gifted you with something to do far and above what you can imagine!
Huge thank you to my one woman crew and partner in life, Jen. She not only allows me to do these things, but supports me wholeheartedly. She puts up with my many hours of training and preparing for races. She was up all night to take care of me during and after the race. Thank you so much, baby! I love you!
I want to thank Altra for taking care of my feet. I ran with the Timp 1.5 the first 30 miles and the Lone Peak 4.0 the rest of the race. I had zero issues and my feet, though sore, are happy and doing great! I wore Altra shorts and had zero chafing! Oh and I loved the fresh Red Team top Richard brough for me to wear! It looked great!
Thank you UltrAspire for a great vest and lights. I wore the UltrAspire Momentum vest which was perfect. Not too bulky but enough space to store all I needed. For a light I wore the UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 on my waist. I had a spare battery but never needed it. I used the medium setting and had zero issued seeing the path beneath my feet and it lasted from just before 9PM to the finish!
Thanks also to Suunto for a great watch in the Suunto 9! It lasted the whole race with the best gps settings and heart rate monitoring. Suunto, for me, has been super reliable since I first purchased the Ambit 3 peak!
For base nutrition and electrolytes, I used eFuel and Base electrolytes. After some adjustments at the beginning, I was in good shape the whole race.